The online magazine on the history and operation of vintage scale model trains in American OO gauge

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Interesting Comparison: Lionel OO track and Trix Twin HO/OO track

Over the years I have vaguely noted (from eBay listings) that Twix Twin three-rail HO/OO track resembles Lionel’s three-rail OO track.

Recently I was contacted by a reader who noticed this too, Robert Vale. What he pointed out to me was that actually the Trix product was introduced in 1935, three years before the original Lionel OO track. I had assumed it was a more recent product, and was correct in a sense as it was produced well into the 1950s. But actually it is the older product.

Just as they appear to have taken existing Nason and Scale-Craft OO models and modified and improved them in developing their OO line (even using Scale-Craft models in their catalog photos in 1938!), it seems that what Lionel did was scale up the early Trix track, using it as an inspiration, and improving it a bit in the process.

In the photos with this article are a series of close ups of the two types of track, the Trix photos being from Vale. I matched his views with Lionel track, the track used being their second type of three-rail track. The 1938 style is the same casting but with a spring clip connector, but I don’t actually own any of it to provide a photo. If any reader can supply some similar Lionel 1938 track photos I would be happy to post them as well.

The details that are the most strikingly similar between the two products are the same materials (Bakelite with steel rails), the tie spacing is similar, and note the “legs,” the raised areas on the end of each stick of track that support the track. The middle of each section does not sit on the table. As always, click on any photo for a closer view.

The power connectors and other details are different. Still, the two types of track certainly are similar overall and have a close, family appearance. To see more examples of the Trix track there are lots of photos online, search Google or eBay for plenty of photos.

For more information and suggested reading, this article covers the history of Trix Twin trains from 1935-37, part of a series of articles on Trix that may be accessed here. Photos of the original track from 1935-36 may be seen in the article linked.

Again, Lionel must certainly have seen these models and used their track as an inspiration for their OO track, scaling it up from 16.5 mm gauge to 19 mm gauge.

A final quick note would be what is Trix Twin anyway? Twin? To quote the wording in the current Wikipedia article, “Unlike other manufacturers of the period, Trix allowed two trains to run on the same track simultaneously under independent control, one collecting current from the left rail and centre, the other from the right and centre. This system was known as 'Trix Twin'.”

Thank you again Robert Vale for the clear photos and for noting these similar products! I don’t believe this has been noted before in articles looking at the history of Lionel OO trains, and this sets a context yet again for the development of their line of American OO trains.

UPDATE: And here we have  two photos from Dick Kuehnemund comparing the 1938 and 1939-41 versions of Lionel OO track. Note the spring clip and the casting of the 1938 track end being even closer in design to the Trix track.

His photos reminded me as well that there is an article in this site already on a pair of 1938 track sections in his collection that are apparently engineering samples by Lionel. See this article for more. 

And for even more on early Lionel and Scale-Craft track for American OO see this article. Thanking again Dick and Robert for these photos.

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