Track Identification

IMPORTANT NOTES:

  1. The information on this page has been largely assembled from observation of the track in this museum. It is recognized that this is only a fraction of what was made, although I hope that the track in this museum is reasonably representative. It needs to be noted that it is often necessary to "connect dots" in arriving at a conclusion, and it is recognized that this can have limitations for totally accurate information. Any viewer who has new information or corrections to offer, is welcome to contact me, and I would be most happy to correct or update any information presented here.
  2. The identification of Gauge 2, Standard, Wide and Gauge 1 is usually made readily from embossed, stamped or decalled  markings, or distinctive design features,  on the track pieces.
  3. With the advent of Gauge 0, most manufacturers ceased to mark their track with embossed or stamped markings, with the result that its identification often becomes deductive based on one or more identifying features. "Track identification" is therefore substantially a toy train era Gauge 0 (and 027) issue. For additional identification information for Gauge 0 track, visit the Museum itself and scroll down to "Gauge 0". 
  4. Inevitably, there are pieces that are a mystery in one way or another. Please check the Mystery Department

INDEX
Manufacturers
    Embossed Manufacturer Identification
    Labels and Nameplates

The Track itself
    Track Pins
    Embossed or stamped Track Identification
    Tie (sleeper) Design
    Tie Design (Camber)
    Turnout Throws
    Distinctive Tie Holes
    Distinctive Track Clips
    Distinctive Third Rails
    Turnout Baseplates

Manufacturers

Today, all manufacturers of track imprint the make somewhere on the track, and with plastic as a major component of all types of track, this is of course much easier. In the toy train age (down through to Gauge 0), however, when tin ruled the rails, identification can be rather more difficult. Some major manufacturers, such as Märklin, Bing, Lionel, Ives and Hornby did use a variety of means to identify their track, but the American Flyer family (Hafner, Edmunds-Metzel, Chicago Flyer, American Flyer)  is substantially by association (other than for American Flyer's Wide Gauge), although some versions of the American Flyer turnouts and crossings had labels, from which it is possible (in some cases) to make deductions about their track designs. Similarly Dorfan turnouts had distinctive throw-levers, and again by association it is possible to identify their track. A complication is that early manufacturers freely copied each other's designs, and also some toy firms, notably Bing, had alliances with other firms such as American Flyer, Ives, Hornby and Bassett-Lowke that can make real origins difficult to trace without reference to early catalogs that are now very scarce, if not nigh impossible to obtain.

Embossed or stamped manufacturer identification:

This form of identification was almost universal with all major manufacturers with the exception of American Flyer (other than their Wide Gauge), Lionel 027, Marx and Dorfan, although all of these usually identified their turnouts and crossings, from which it is often possible to deduce related track design by the shape of the ties and clamps holding the rails. It was less usual, if not rare, with lesser manufacturers.

European Manufacturers:

Very early Märklin logo GM "Gebrüder Märklin" (Brothers Märklin)

Very early Märklin logo GM "Gebrüder Märklin" (Brothers Märklin)

Modified early Märklin logo - see left

Modified early Märklin logo - see left

Märklin "bicycle" logo GMC (Gebrüder Märklin Cie [Company])

Märklin "bicycle" logo GMC (Gebrüder Märklin Cie [Company])

Early Bing logo GBN (Gebrüder Bing Nürnberg [factory location])

Early Bing logo GBN (Gebrüder Bing Nürnberg [factory location])

Bing "combo" logo, consisting of both the early logo and its replacement (see right) ca 1923/4.

Bing "combo" logo, consisting of both the early logo and its replacement (see right) ca 1923/4.

Bing: Later logo BW "Bing Werke" (Bing Works), and also stamped "Germany" as an identifier for its considerable export market to the UK and the USA.

Bing: Later logo BW "Bing Werke" (Bing Works), and also stamped "Germany" as an identifier for its considerable export market to the UK and the USA.

Bing Gauge 1 for export "Patent G.B." (Gebrüder Bing [Bing Brothers]) "Bavaria", courtesy Nicholas Lee

Bing Gauge 1 for export "Patent G.B." (Gebrüder Bing [Bing Brothers]) "Bavaria", courtesy Nicholas Lee

Circular Hornby "Meccano Series" logo M Ld L "Meccano Limited Liverpool England" (on a crossing)

Circular Hornby "Meccano Series" logo M Ld L "Meccano Limited Liverpool England" (on a crossing)

Hornby (as at left) Meccano Series, on a turnout tie (points sleeper) ca 1920

Hornby (as at left) Meccano Series, on a turnout tie (points sleeper) ca 1920

Hornby Meccano Series, on a bufferstop sleeper ca 1920.

Hornby Meccano Series, on a bufferstop sleeper ca 1920.

Hornby Meccano Series - a very light "Meccano" stamping around the centre tie hole. Ca 1920.

Hornby Meccano Series - a very light "Meccano" stamping around the centre tie hole. Ca 1920.

Hornby "Hornby Series". Interestingly, Hornby continued with its "Meccano" stamping on the edge of the Hornby Series ties right throughout the 1930s, both on its clockwork and electric tracks, as Meccano Ltd. remained the official firm name right until take-over by Triang-Rovex in 1964.

Hornby "Hornby Series". Interestingly, Hornby continued with its "Meccano" stamping on the edge of the Hornby Series ties right throughout the 1930s, both on its clockwork and electric tracks, as Meccano Ltd. remained the official firm name right until take-over by Triang-Rovex in 1964.

Hornby: After the introduction of its Hornby Series in 1925, Hornby continued to make its light Gauge 0 (BM) track until just after the outbreak of WWII, and this was identified by a somewhat hard-to-read small circular stamping "Hornby series" around the centre hole.

Hornby: After the introduction of its Hornby Series in 1925, Hornby continued to make its light Gauge 0 (BM) track until just after the outbreak of WWII, and this was identified by a somewhat hard-to-read small circular stamping "Hornby series" around the centre hole.

Karl Bub: This firm acquired Bing when the Bing Brothers left Germany in 1933. It continued to make Gauge 0 trains until its factory was bombed in WWII. Its track was identified with an embossed KB on the outside edge of the tie.

Karl Bub: This firm acquired Bing when the Bing Brothers left Germany in 1933. It continued to make Gauge 0 trains until its factory was bombed in WWII. Its track was identified with an embossed KB on the outside edge of the tie.

Jouets de Paris logo "JEP" on a pre-WWII 90 degree crossing. (The letters UNIS above, and FRANCE below, stand for Union Nationale Inter-Syndicale, a national label established in 1916 as a guarantee of a quality toy. Courtesy "Chris".)

Jouets de Paris logo "JEP" on a pre-WWII 90 degree crossing. (The letters UNIS above, and FRANCE below, stand for Union Nationale Inter-Syndicale, a national label established in 1916 as a guarantee of a quality toy. Courtesy "Chris".)

Bassett-Lowke Northampton Make.
Bassett-Lowke had its plant in Northampton, UK, but was primarily a sales and distribution organization, with much of its products contracted to other manufacturers. Judging by the track clip design (see below), this track may have been made for B-L by Bing. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

Bassett-Lowke Northampton Make. Bassett-Lowke had its plant in Northampton, UK, but was primarily a sales and distribution organization, with much of its products contracted to other manufacturers. Judging by the track clip design (see below), this track may have been made for B-L by Bing. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

North American manufacturers:
Ives: name stamp on both Wide and 0 gauge track between centre and outside rails, also on its Gauge 0 clockwork track and turnouts

Ives: name stamp on both Wide and 0 gauge track between centre and outside rails, also on its Gauge 0 clockwork track and turnouts

Ives: Name identification on its Wide Gauge and electric Gauge 0 turnouts.

Ives: Name identification on its Wide Gauge and electric Gauge 0 turnouts.

American Flyer: Small circular "AMERICAN FLYER" stamping on its Wide Gauge track.
Its Gauge 0 was not generally identified by a stamping.

American Flyer: Small circular "AMERICAN FLYER" stamping on its Wide Gauge track. Its Gauge 0 was not generally identified by a stamping.

American Flyer: Stamped logo on both its Wide Gauge and Gauge 0 turnouts.

American Flyer: Stamped logo on both its Wide Gauge and Gauge 0 turnouts.

Marx: Embossed identification on turnout.

Marx: Embossed identification on turnout.

Lionel: Gauge 0 in the centre of a pre-WWII 45 degree crossing

Lionel: Gauge 0 in the centre of a pre-WWII 45 degree crossing

Lionel: Name embossing on outside edge of pre-WWII Gauge 0 track

Lionel: Name embossing on outside edge of pre-WWII Gauge 0 track

Lionel: Embossing in the centre of a post-WWII 90 degree crossing.

Lionel: Embossing in the centre of a post-WWII 90 degree crossing.

Lionel: Embossing on a post-WWII Gauge 0 turnout.

Lionel: Embossing on a post-WWII Gauge 0 turnout.

Lionel: The stylized "L" that came to dominate the Lionel Corporation branding with all its post-WWII production, appearing here on an uncoupling control switch

Lionel: The stylized "L" that came to dominate the Lionel Corporation branding with all its post-WWII production, appearing here on an uncoupling control switch

Marx: Competing with Lionel at the inexpensive end of the market, with its stylized MAR  X logo that appeared on much of its production including its turnouts and crossings, but not its track. Pre-WWII.

Marx: Competing with Lionel at the inexpensive end of the market, with its stylized MAR X logo that appeared on much of its production including its turnouts and crossings, but not its track. Pre-WWII.

Labels and name plates (on both turnouts and track)

These are less common than embossed identification, but were used by American Flyer, Dorfan, and more extensively by Lionel, Hornby, and later Hornby-Dublo. Where they appear on track formations, they can by extension provide empirical confirmation of the corresponding track's make, especially in the case of American Flyer and Dorfan who did not ordinarily identify their track (except for American Flyer Wide Gauge).

Hornby (Meccano Ltd.) and Chad Valley
Label on No. 1 turntable. "Hornby Series Made in England by Meccano Ltd." 1925 onwards.

Label on No. 1 turntable. "Hornby Series Made in England by Meccano Ltd." 1925 onwards.

Label on No. 2 turntable. Note the different, plainer font and lack of border.

Label on No. 2 turntable. Note the different, plainer font and lack of border.

Label with black border on Hornby Series clockwork turnout. 1925 owards.

Label with black border on Hornby Series clockwork turnout. 1925 owards.

Label on Gauge 0 No. 2 hydraulic buffer (bumper) stop. Note "Manfd by" rather than "Made by" and the addition of "L'POOL" for Liverpool, not seen since the earlier Meccano Series.

Label on Gauge 0 No. 2 hydraulic buffer (bumper) stop. Note "Manfd by" rather than "Made by" and the addition of "L'POOL" for Liverpool, not seen since the earlier Meccano Series.

Label on the Hornby-Dublo (Gauge 00) introduced in 1938. Note the inclusion of "Liverpool".

Label on the Hornby-Dublo (Gauge 00) introduced in 1938. Note the inclusion of "Liverpool".

Label on the side of the newly-introduced (1938) 3-rail electric Hornby-Dublo track.

Label on the side of the newly-introduced (1938) 3-rail electric Hornby-Dublo track.

Chad Valley, UK. Gauge 0. Label on crossings, turnouts and turntables. Its "green base" clockwork series of modestly-priced train sets remained popular during the 1930s and for a short period after WWII.   (Click on image to enlarge.)

Chad Valley, UK. Gauge 0. Label on crossings, turnouts and turntables. Its "green base" clockwork series of modestly-priced train sets remained popular during the 1930s and for a short period after WWII. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Chad Valley, UK. (See left.) "Chad Valley Made in England" lithographed on its junior set Gauge 0 track. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Chad Valley, UK. (See left.) "Chad Valley Made in England" lithographed on its junior set Gauge 0 track. (Click on image to enlarge.)

North American manufacturers
American Flyer: Early American Flyer decal on a Gauge 0 45 degree crossing. The two adjacent slots are likely for a replacement metal label with clamps (akin to the type favoured by Lionel illustrated below).

American Flyer: Early American Flyer decal on a Gauge 0 45 degree crossing. The two adjacent slots are likely for a replacement metal label with clamps (akin to the type favoured by Lionel illustrated below).

Dorfan (USA): Label on both its Wide Gauge and Gauge 0 turnouts. Its track was not identified, but is recognizable by its white metallic appearance and the two inside tie holes like Lionel, but different from Lionel with a 2-1 track pin configuration. (See below under "Track pins".

Dorfan (USA): Label on both its Wide Gauge and Gauge 0 turnouts. Its track was not identified, but is recognizable by its white metallic appearance and the two inside tie holes like Lionel, but different from Lionel with a 2-1 track pin configuration. (See below under "Track pins".

Lionel: Clamped identification plate used pre-WWII for both its Gauge 0 and Standard gauge turnouts.  (Click on image to enlarge.)

Lionel: Clamped identification plate used pre-WWII for both its Gauge 0 and Standard gauge turnouts. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Lionel: Oval clamped identification plate used on its Standard Gauge turntable. Pre-WWII. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Lionel: Oval clamped identification plate used on its Standard Gauge turntable. Pre-WWII. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Lionel 027 turnout label that also displays the item catalog number. This was a common practice for Lionel turnouts and crossings in all its gauges, both pre- and post-WWII. This version is embossed onto this 027 turnout, but the clamp-on labels were more common with Lionel's Standard and 0 Gauges. 

Lionel 027 turnout label that also displays the item catalog number. This was a common practice for Lionel turnouts and crossings in all its gauges, both pre- and post-WWII. This version is embossed onto this 027 turnout, but the clamp-on labels were more common with Lionel's Standard and 0 Gauges. 

Lionel: Identification plate typically used on its post-WWII turnouts (Gauge 0) , with a simple "Lionel" rather than the wordier pre-WW identification plates. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Lionel: Identification plate typically used on its post-WWII turnouts (Gauge 0) , with a simple "Lionel" rather than the wordier pre-WW identification plates. (Click on image to enlarge.)

The Track itself

Track pins:

In the toy train era, the use of pins to connect tracks was universal. There were two basic approaches - pins at the same end of the track and pins at opposite ends (2-0 or 1-1). Earlier designs favoured having the pins at the same end (Hafner, Märklin 2 and 1, Bing 1), but at some point migration occurred to having the pins at opposite ends, likely around the advent and increasing popularity of electric trains that universally required three rails. The North American Standard/Wide Gauge makes Lionel, Ives and Dorfan all favoured the 2-1 arrangement, whereas American Flyer was 3-0. For North American Gauge 0, Lionel (and subsequently Marx and K-Line) favoured three pins at the one end (3-0); whereas American Flyer went to, and Ives and Dorfan stayed with, 2-1 (two pins centre and one running rail at one end, and a pin for the other running rail at the other end). In Europe, both Märklin and Hornby electric favoured 2-1, whereas Bing remained with 3-0.

As to the track pin design itself, the end of the pin could be "straight stub", "rounded stub", "full point" or "short point". ("Rounded stub" and "short point" are only marginally distinguishable.) Lionel track pins are uniquely distinguishable by a single notch in the exposed portion of the pin. For the reasons stated below, (with the exception of Lionel) track should never be identified from the pin itself, but the pin design could be additional confirmation.  

It should be noted that identifying track solely from track pins can be unreliable because the pins were often moved around for "out-of- circle" connections, e.g., to form an S-curve, and also to connect track from different makes; as well as being interchanged with other makes of track. Clues as to this possibility are loose pins, pins of different designs on the same piece of track, a pin out of position, a pin not fully inserted or inserted too far into the track piece.

STRAIGHT STUB
Hornby, Bing, JEP, Karl Bub, later Märklin, some Bassett-Lowke, Ives, Marx

STRAIGHT STUB Hornby, Bing, JEP, Karl Bub, later Märklin, some Bassett-Lowke, Ives, Marx

ROUNDED STUB
Early Märklin, Karl Bub, Marx

ROUNDED STUB Early Märklin, Karl Bub, Marx

SHORT POINT
Dorfan, early American Flyer, some Karl Bub

SHORT POINT Dorfan, early American Flyer, some Karl Bub

FULL POINT
Ives, American Flyer, Paya, Bral

FULL POINT Ives, American Flyer, Paya, Bral

SHARP BLADE FULL POINT Munro 0 (AU), courtesy Peter Marendy (AU)

SHARP BLADE FULL POINT Munro 0 (AU), courtesy Peter Marendy (AU)

CIRCUMCISED STUB. Lawrence Lines (NZ). Courtesy Peter Marendy (AU).

CIRCUMCISED STUB. Lawrence Lines (NZ). Courtesy Peter Marendy (AU).

BULLET HEAD LIONEL O and O27

BULLET HEAD LIONEL O and O27

Embossed or stamped track identification:

This was largely a practice of Märklin, and to some extent of Karl Bub, although Hornby in both of its "Meccano Series" and "Hornby Series" provided radius information (1 ft or 2 ft) on its turnouts. Märklin had a system of track identification that evolved from its Gauge 2 through to its Gauge 0. My research here is somewhat empirical, and additional information from any reader would be most welcome. Märklin put three codes on its trackwork - Roman numeral II or I or 0 for gauge - its logo (on Gauges I and 0) - and letters A B C D E F on its tracks. Its curved track with a connector prong at one end only was A, with no connector prongs was B, and with connector prongs at both ends was C.  Likewise, its straight track with a connector prong at one end only was D, with no connector prongs was E, and with connector prongs at both ends was F. 
 
In addition curved track also has a number 8 or 12 that stands for the number of curves required to form a circle. 
 
I have only come across one other identification letter and that is Z on a short connector track with two prongs. However, this coding system does not appear to have been used to identify types of turnouts, crossings, uncoupling rail, and so forth.

Märklin
Märklin Gauge 2 track, showing the Roman numeral II

Märklin Gauge 2 track, showing the Roman numeral II

Märklin early Gauge 1 curved B track, signifying a track with no track connectors..

Märklin early Gauge 1 curved B track, signifying a track with no track connectors..

Märklin Gauge 2 curved track showing the letter A - single prong track connector at one end only.

Märklin Gauge 2 curved track showing the letter A - single prong track connector at one end only.

Märklin early Gauge 1 curved C track, signifying a track with two (single-prong) track connectors.

Märklin early Gauge 1 curved C track, signifying a track with two (single-prong) track connectors.

Märklin Gauge 1 two-rail curved, showing logo, A for curved track with double-prong track connector at one end only, and Roman numeral I for the gauge.

Märklin Gauge 1 two-rail curved, showing logo, A for curved track with double-prong track connector at one end only, and Roman numeral I for the gauge.

Märklin later gauge 1 straight two-rail track, showing the logo, Roman numeral I for gauge and D for straight track with a (double-prong) track connector at one end only.

Märklin later gauge 1 straight two-rail track, showing the logo, Roman numeral I for gauge and D for straight track with a (double-prong) track connector at one end only.

Märklin later straight three-rail Gauge 1 track, showing Roman numeral I for gauge and D for straight track with (double-prong) track connector at one end only. (The third rail only permits display of two symbols on one tie, but I and D appears on all three ties of the track piece.)

Märklin later straight three-rail Gauge 1 track, showing Roman numeral I for gauge and D for straight track with (double-prong) track connector at one end only. (The third rail only permits display of two symbols on one tie, but I and D appears on all three ties of the track piece.)

Märklin later Gauge 0 straight E track, signifying a track with no track connectors.

Märklin later Gauge 0 straight E track, signifying a track with no track connectors.

Märklin later Gauge 0 straight F track, signifying a track with (double-prong) track connectors at each end.

Märklin later Gauge 0 straight F track, signifying a track with (double-prong) track connectors at each end.

Märklin Gauge 0 electric curved, showing logo and the figure 8 for the number of curves required to form a circle - on the middle tie, with gauge and A identification appearing on the outer ties. (The pattern is the same as for its Gauge 1.)

Märklin Gauge 0 electric curved, showing logo and the figure 8 for the number of curves required to form a circle - on the middle tie, with gauge and A identification appearing on the outer ties. (The pattern is the same as for its Gauge 1.)

Märklin Gauge 0 two connected half curves, showing logo, A for curve, 0 for gauge and 12 for twelve full curves required to form a circle (18" radius?)

Märklin Gauge 0 two connected half curves, showing logo, A for curve, 0 for gauge and 12 for twelve full curves required to form a circle (18" radius?)

Märklin Gauge 1 crossing, showing only the Roman numeral I for the gauge.

Märklin Gauge 1 crossing, showing only the Roman numeral I for the gauge.

Märklin short track, Gauge 0, two connector prongs, marked Z, and 0 for gauge. The Z may stand for "zwischen" = "between". It is a short piece 4.5 cm. Not to be confused with a short-lived scale Z0 with a ratio 0f 1:60 and a 24mm gauge.

Märklin short track, Gauge 0, two connector prongs, marked Z, and 0 for gauge. The Z may stand for "zwischen" = "between". It is a short piece 4.5 cm. Not to be confused with a short-lived scale Z0 with a ratio 0f 1:60 and a 24mm gauge.

Märklin: DRGM stamped onto edge of Märklin Gauge 2 track (not seen subsequently) = Deutsches Reich Gebrauchs Muster (German State Registered Design).

Märklin: DRGM stamped onto edge of Märklin Gauge 2 track (not seen subsequently) = Deutsches Reich Gebrauchs Muster (German State Registered Design).

Other manufacturers:
DRP = Deutsches Reich Patent (German State Patent), stamped onto Gauge 0 track believed to be made for American Flyer by Bing.

DRP = Deutsches Reich Patent (German State Patent), stamped onto Gauge 0 track believed to be made for American Flyer by Bing.

Bing; "Made in Bavaria" stamped onto 1923/4 25mm track (precursor Gauge S), clearly for the export market.

Bing; "Made in Bavaria" stamped onto 1923/4 25mm track (precursor Gauge S), clearly for the export market.

Hornby: Turnout identification (left hand turnout, 1 foot radius) in its early "Meccano Series", a feature continued with its later "Hornby Series".

Hornby: Turnout identification (left hand turnout, 1 foot radius) in its early "Meccano Series", a feature continued with its later "Hornby Series".

Hornby turnout identification (left hand turnout, 2 foot radius) in its "Hornby Series". 1925 onwards.

Hornby turnout identification (left hand turnout, 2 foot radius) in its "Hornby Series". 1925 onwards.

Karl Bub Gauge 0 curved track, figure 8 stamped on to indicate number of curves required to form a circle (12" radius?)

Karl Bub Gauge 0 curved track, figure 8 stamped on to indicate number of curves required to form a circle (12" radius?)

Tie (in the UK: "sleeper") Design:

 

This can help for identifying otherwise anonymous track. Features useful for this purpose are the design and shape of the tie itself - width, depth, camber, the shape of any flange or lip (i.e., straight or tapered), track connection, if any, any holes that are punched into it, and the location and design of the track pins (although this has to be treated with care since these can be easily moved around or changed). It should also be noted that ties of the early toy train era (1900 - 1920) were usually manufactured without any lip or flange, and that this became a feature for those manufacturers who came to rely on sliding tie connectors (notably Ives, Lionel and Hornby) rather than clips or hooks. For these various components of track identification, please scroll down.

North America

Hafner Gauge 0, likely pre-1914. The narrow centre "hump" is of interest because it is distinctive, and because Hafner never made 3-rail (electric) track.

Hafner Gauge 0, likely pre-1914. The narrow centre "hump" is of interest because it is distinctive, and because Hafner never made 3-rail (electric) track.

Hafner 0 - "flat" tie - no holes and no bump. This may have been introduced later than the original tie with the distinctive centre "bump". Hafner was using "same end' track pins, and the other one is missing.

Hafner 0 - "flat" tie - no holes and no bump. This may have been introduced later than the original tie with the distinctive centre "bump". Hafner was using "same end' track pins, and the other one is missing.

Early (believed to be) Edmonds Metzel (pre-American Flyer). Note the slight base lips and taper, and the significant "cut-out" holes created by the punching out of the necessary rail clamps. Manufacturers soon refined this requirement so that the amount of tin required for the rail clamps could be obtained from only under the rail, with no need to leave visible "cut-outs".

Early (believed to be) Edmonds Metzel (pre-American Flyer). Note the slight base lips and taper, and the significant "cut-out" holes created by the punching out of the necessary rail clamps. Manufacturers soon refined this requirement so that the amount of tin required for the rail clamps could be obtained from only under the rail, with no need to leave visible "cut-outs".

Early American Flyer. Note the wedge-shaped tie with straight flanges/lips and with the oblong centre "step" (also see below under Camber) used as the level base for the 3-rail version.

Early American Flyer. Note the wedge-shaped tie with straight flanges/lips and with the oblong centre "step" (also see below under Camber) used as the level base for the 3-rail version.

American Flyer 0 clockwork: a cambered wedge-shaped tie with undulating flanges/lips.

American Flyer 0 clockwork: a cambered wedge-shaped tie with undulating flanges/lips.

American Flyer 0 clockwork: a cambered wedge-shaped tie with straight flanges/lips.

American Flyer 0 clockwork: a cambered wedge-shaped tie with straight flanges/lips.

American Flyer 0 electric: a cambered wedge-shaped tie with straight flanges/lips.
No tie holes. 1920.

American Flyer 0 electric: a cambered wedge-shaped tie with straight flanges/lips. No tie holes. 1920.

American Flyer 0 electric: a cambered wedge-shaped tie with straight flanges/lips.  The centre "step" (see below under Camber) is just visible. 1920s. (The tie-hole was a home-job.)

American Flyer 0 electric: a cambered wedge-shaped tie with straight flanges/lips. The centre "step" (see below under Camber) is just visible. 1920s. (The tie-hole was a home-job.)

Early Ives clockwork Gauge 0, with a slight flat base lip to accommodate its track connector (see below).

Early Ives clockwork Gauge 0, with a slight flat base lip to accommodate its track connector (see below).

Lionel O27 Pre-WWII
This tie design was more or less the same for all of the later low cost train set tracks: Later Hafner, Marx, Lionel O27 and Hornby M Series.

Lionel O27 Pre-WWII This tie design was more or less the same for all of the later low cost train set tracks: Later Hafner, Marx, Lionel O27 and Hornby M Series.

Lionel T Rail. Die-cast - narrow (close to prototypical and also Bing-style), no camber, outside hole fasteners, akin to the later American Flyer tie-hole placement.

Lionel T Rail. Die-cast - narrow (close to prototypical and also Bing-style), no camber, outside hole fasteners, akin to the later American Flyer tie-hole placement.

Later Hafner with "bell ringer" tab on the middle tie of each curved rail. This connected with a short clapper arm under a locomotive or tender. Note the camber and the centre "step" as with earlier American Flyer. Courtesy Mike Gibbens

Later Hafner with "bell ringer" tab on the middle tie of each curved rail. This connected with a short clapper arm under a locomotive or tender. Note the camber and the centre "step" as with earlier American Flyer. Courtesy Mike Gibbens

Europe

Märklin Gauge 0, the tie in the early tradition of no lips, such not being necessary for track connection in view of its inside rail prong system (see below). 
Bing's Gauge 0 ties were of a similar slender design.

Märklin Gauge 0, the tie in the early tradition of no lips, such not being necessary for track connection in view of its inside rail prong system (see below). Bing's Gauge 0 ties were of a similar slender design.

Hornby "Meccano Series" Gauge 0 circa 1920 - a straight tie without any base lip, similar to Hafner of the preceding decade.

Hornby "Meccano Series" Gauge 0 circa 1920 - a straight tie without any base lip, similar to Hafner of the preceding decade.

Hornby "Hornby Series" Gauge 0 (late 1920s to 1939) with a full curved flange or lip to accept the sliding track connector (see below). Lionel and Dorfan had similar, almost identical designs in the same time period.

Hornby "Hornby Series" Gauge 0 (late 1920s to 1939) with a full curved flange or lip to accept the sliding track connector (see below). Lionel and Dorfan had similar, almost identical designs in the same time period.

Tie Design - Camber:

As illustrated below, notably Carette Gauge 1, American Flyer Gauge 0, Bing Gauge 1 and 0, Märklin early Gauge 1 and Märklin's Gauge 2, were cambered. This usually applied to the straights as well as to the curves, resulting in a slight inward tilt of the popular layout oval. Camber appears to have been generally abandoned by the 1930s, probably because of the complexities arising from more sophisticated layouts. American Flyer was unique in designing a "step" in the tie to counter the slope of the camber for the third rail. Presumably for simplicity of production, this "step" also appeared in its clockwork track. 

Carette Gauge 1, circa 1910, slightly "outside rail bump" camber. Note the centre rail "fishtail" connection.

Carette Gauge 1, circa 1910, slightly "outside rail bump" camber. Note the centre rail "fishtail" connection.

American Flyer Gauge 0, date uncertain. probably around 1915, with a marked "outside rail bump". This is a significant identifier of American Flyer family (Edmonds Metzel, Chicago Flyer, American Flyer [but not Hafner]) track. This "hump" camber was also used by Bing Gauge 1.

American Flyer Gauge 0, date uncertain. probably around 1915, with a marked "outside rail bump". This is a significant identifier of American Flyer family (Edmonds Metzel, Chicago Flyer, American Flyer [but not Hafner]) track. This "hump" camber was also used by Bing Gauge 1.

Märklin Gauge 2, date uncertain, probably around 1900, track "flat slope" camber. Note the track identification II and the slot to accept the tie connector prong.

Märklin Gauge 2, date uncertain, probably around 1900, track "flat slope" camber. Note the track identification II and the slot to accept the tie connector prong.

American Flyer (early clockwork) with a "step" to accommodate  the third rail for the electric version

American Flyer (early clockwork) with a "step" to accommodate the third rail for the electric version

American Flyer (early three rail) step-design tie

American Flyer (early three rail) step-design tie

American Flyer 1930s 3-rail with the retained camber and "step" for the third rail.

American Flyer 1930s 3-rail with the retained camber and "step" for the third rail.

Turnout throws:

These are essentially of four kinds - switch stand - lever throw - ground throw - stub. Noted that some manufacturers, especially American Flyer, Ives and Lionel, went through several design stages, also with variations as between gauges, some simultaneously, some successively, so that the illustrations below are strictly representative.

European and Commonwealth manufacturers

Bing stop-reverse lever

Bing stop-reverse lever

Classic Bing throw for both its Gauges 1 and 0. Lever circular plate painted red or left in its original metal. some circular plates had L or R stamped on them for left and right turnouts. Influenced early Hornby and Ives.

Classic Bing throw for both its Gauges 1 and 0. Lever circular plate painted red or left in its original metal. some circular plates had L or R stamped on them for left and right turnouts. Influenced early Hornby and Ives.


Classic Märklin throw for both its Gauges 1 and 0. Note the switch frame design as opposed to Bing's, but the similar circular plate design, also in some cases embossed.

Classic Märklin throw for both its Gauges 1 and 0. Note the switch frame design as opposed to Bing's, but the similar circular plate design, also in some cases embossed.

Märklin: Ornate lever throw for its curved stop-reverse track. Gauge 1. The throw lever disk displays what appears to be an A (which corresponds to this particular track) on both sides, but the A is not the usual Märklin outline and also appears on some straight stop-reverse tracks.

Märklin: Ornate lever throw for its curved stop-reverse track. Gauge 1. The throw lever disk displays what appears to be an A (which corresponds to this particular track) on both sides, but the A is not the usual Märklin outline and also appears on some straight stop-reverse tracks.

Märklin imitation by MTH post-WWII

Märklin imitation by MTH post-WWII

Hornby "Meccano Series" (late 1910s-early 1920s). Note the Bing influence in the design.

Hornby "Meccano Series" (late 1910s-early 1920s). Note the Bing influence in the design.

Hornby standard ground throw-style for its later "Hornby Series".

Hornby standard ground throw-style for its later "Hornby Series".

Robilt (AU), Hornby clone, Bing-style design - plastic, courtesy Peter Marendy (AU)

Robilt (AU), Hornby clone, Bing-style design - plastic, courtesy Peter Marendy (AU)

North American manufacturers

Early American Flyer (or possibly Hafner) Gauge 0. Note the Bing influence.

Early American Flyer (or possibly Hafner) Gauge 0. Note the Bing influence.

American Flyer lever with Bing-style disk throw

American Flyer lever with Bing-style disk throw

American Flyer Wide Gauge North American switch stand-style.

American Flyer Wide Gauge North American switch stand-style.

American Flyer stub-style, used on its 3-rail turnouts as a manual throw

American Flyer stub-style, used on its 3-rail turnouts as a manual throw

Dorfan distinctive (embodying the Bing-style circular plate) lever for both its Wide and 0 Gauges. Note the label.

Dorfan distinctive (embodying the Bing-style circular plate) lever for both its Wide and 0 Gauges. Note the label.

Ives 0 and 1, courtesy Mike Gibbens

Ives 0 and 1, courtesy Mike Gibbens

Ives 0 3 rail

Ives 0 3 rail

Ives: Wide Gauge North American switch stand-style. For its Gauge 0, Ives followed the Bing design.

Ives: Wide Gauge North American switch stand-style. For its Gauge 0, Ives followed the Bing design.

Lionel early switch stand lever throw

Lionel early switch stand lever throw

Lionel post-WWII plain lever throw, activating a green directional lens for "straight" and a red one for "Curved", as in its pre-War designs.

Lionel post-WWII plain lever throw, activating a green directional lens for "straight" and a red one for "Curved", as in its pre-War designs.

Lionel: Gauge 027 manual throw.
Green aspect for "straight", Red for "diverging".

Lionel: Gauge 027 manual throw. Green aspect for "straight", Red for "diverging".

Lionel: Gauge 0. Pre-WWII illuminated manual turnout throw.

Lionel: Gauge 0. Pre-WWII illuminated manual turnout throw.

Lionel: Gauge 0. Pre-WWII illuminated electrically-operated turnout throw.

Lionel: Gauge 0. Pre-WWII illuminated electrically-operated turnout throw.

Lionel Standard Gauge, early, possibly initial version ca 1920 - note the solid and ornate design. Note: Not in the museum. Courtesy Cary Coverdill, Encore Toy Trains LLC.

Lionel Standard Gauge, early, possibly initial version ca 1920 - note the solid and ornate design. Note: Not in the museum. Courtesy Cary Coverdill, Encore Toy Trains LLC.

Marx: Manual throw.

Marx: Manual throw.

Marx: Manual throw (Bakelite base full plate turnout.) The green "ball" is a direction indicator for "straight". (Red for "diverging".)

Marx: Manual throw (Bakelite base full plate turnout.) The green "ball" is a direction indicator for "straight". (Red for "diverging".)

Distinctive tie holes:
 
A related aspect of track identification is by means of the holes punched into some ties for the purpose of fastening the track to a base. Märklin Gauge 2 had no holes, nor did Märklin 1 or Bing 1. On the Standard/Wide Gauge, Lionel and Dorfan had two inside holes, American Flyer had a distinctive slot. Later Ives did not have holes, but its slide track connectors did (in the centre of the plate, see below for the Ives Gauge 0 version). In Gauge 0, Lionel and Dorfan continued their "inside running rails" 2-hole design and were joined by the Hornby "Hornby Series", while American Flyer moved to "outside running rails" tie holes:
Hafner Gauge 0, likely pre-WWI. Note the small crude holes, designed to take nails rather than screws

Hafner Gauge 0, likely pre-WWI. Note the small crude holes, designed to take nails rather than screws

American Flyer, early (1910s) 3-rail. Note the small crude hole, similar to Hafner to the left.

American Flyer, early (1910s) 3-rail. Note the small crude hole, similar to Hafner to the left.

American Flyer, later (1930s) Gauge 0, with its distinctive outside rail tie holes. The earlier wedge-shaped tie has given way to a straight narrow format, but still cambered, retaining the "step-down" oblong platform between the outer rails.

American Flyer, later (1930s) Gauge 0, with its distinctive outside rail tie holes. The earlier wedge-shaped tie has given way to a straight narrow format, but still cambered, retaining the "step-down" oblong platform between the outer rails.

Ives, early (1910s) Gauge 0 clockwork track, hole later discontinued in favour of sliding track connectors (see below under "Distinctive Track Clips").

Ives, early (1910s) Gauge 0 clockwork track, hole later discontinued in favour of sliding track connectors (see below under "Distinctive Track Clips").

American Flyer Wide Gauge one-sided distinctive oblong slot, with "American Flyer' circular stamping faintly discernible on the other side of the centre rail.

American Flyer Wide Gauge one-sided distinctive oblong slot, with "American Flyer' circular stamping faintly discernible on the other side of the centre rail.

Paya (Spain) Gauge 0 (1930s), notable for the amount of tin taken out of the tie for the centre rail - see under "Tie Design" above, a feature long discarded by other manufacturers. The small hole on the outside at the edge of the tie is for its system of tie connector, see "Distinctive Track Clips" below.

Paya (Spain) Gauge 0 (1930s), notable for the amount of tin taken out of the tie for the centre rail - see under "Tie Design" above, a feature long discarded by other manufacturers. The small hole on the outside at the edge of the tie is for its system of tie connector, see "Distinctive Track Clips" below.

Hornby "Meccano Series" Gauge 0 (late 1910s to early 1920s), similar to that of Ives above.

Hornby "Meccano Series" Gauge 0 (late 1910s to early 1920s), similar to that of Ives above.

Mettoy (UK) Gauge 0 (1933 onwards), a cheaper make intended to compete with Hornby at the lower price range end of the market.

Mettoy (UK) Gauge 0 (1933 onwards), a cheaper make intended to compete with Hornby at the lower price range end of the market.

Hornby "Hornby Series" Gauge 0 (late 1920s to 1939) with two inside rail holes, almost identical in dimension with the contemporary tracks of Lionel and Dorfan.

Hornby "Hornby Series" Gauge 0 (late 1920s to 1939) with two inside rail holes, almost identical in dimension with the contemporary tracks of Lionel and Dorfan.

Marx Gauge 027. Left: clockwork - one centre hole. Right: electric - two holes. [Courtesy James Pekarek.]

Marx Gauge 027. Left: clockwork - one centre hole. Right: electric - two holes. [Courtesy James Pekarek.]

Lionel c/w pre-WWII. Two holes. Courtesy Malcolm Laughlin.

Lionel c/w pre-WWII. Two holes. Courtesy Malcolm Laughlin.

Left: Lionel 027 electric - only one tie hole. Right: K-Line 027 electric.

Left: Lionel 027 electric - only one tie hole. Right: K-Line 027 electric.

Hornby clones, smaller tie holes L to R Hornby, Robilt (AU), Munro (AU), courtesy  Peter Marendy (AU)

Hornby clones, smaller tie holes L to R Hornby, Robilt (AU), Munro (AU), courtesy Peter Marendy (AU)

No tie holes. 0. Lawrence Lines (NZ). Unusual for latter-day production. Courtesy Peter Marendy (AU)

No tie holes. 0. Lawrence Lines (NZ). Unusual for latter-day production. Courtesy Peter Marendy (AU)

Lionel T Rail. Die-cast - outside hole fasteners, akin to the later American Flyer tie-hole placement.

Lionel T Rail. Die-cast - outside hole fasteners, akin to the later American Flyer tie-hole placement.

Distinctive track clips:
 
Some form of holding adjoining tracks together was essential for layouts that would be put down on the floor and be taken up again when the train session was over, because the running trains would cause the joints to work loose and come apart. Tie connectors were basically of three types: inside prong (either double or single) - outside connector ("grasshopper" or hook) - sliding tie-hold.

European manufacturers

Early (c 1910) Märklin single prong tie connector - designed to lock into a slot on the adjoining tie. Used on Gauge 1 and later on Gauge 0 before going to the double-prong connector.

Early (c 1910) Märklin single prong tie connector - designed to lock into a slot on the adjoining tie. Used on Gauge 1 and later on Gauge 0 before going to the double-prong connector.

Later (1920s-30s) Märklin double prong connector, a more secure connection as the double prong expands inside the slot of the adjoining tie. Both on Gauge 1 and gauge 0. Also used by Karl Bub on Gauge 0.

Later (1920s-30s) Märklin double prong connector, a more secure connection as the double prong expands inside the slot of the adjoining tie. Both on Gauge 1 and gauge 0. Also used by Karl Bub on Gauge 0.

Carette (Gauge 1, c 1910) "grasshopper" connector, a design later also adopted by Bing for its electric Gauge 1 track.

Carette (Gauge 1, c 1910) "grasshopper" connector, a design later also adopted by Bing for its electric Gauge 1 track.

Bing 1 and 0 single prong connector

Bing 1 and 0 single prong connector

Bing single prong connector, also used by the early Hornby "Meccano Series".

Bing single prong connector, also used by the early Hornby "Meccano Series".

Bing Gauge 1 grasshopper 3 rail electric

Bing Gauge 1 grasshopper 3 rail electric

Bing Gauge 1 grasshopper 3 rail electric

Bing Gauge 1 grasshopper 3 rail electric

Bing "grasshopper" connector on Gauge 0 track made by Bing for Bassett-Lowke. (1930s). A similar design in principle was also used by Bing for its 00 track, but with a lever with a fastened hinge at the track base that connected with a slot in the adjoining rail. (Pre-WWII, Märklin and Hornby-Dublo used an under-the-track-base interlocking tongue-type clip for their 00 tracks.)

Bing "grasshopper" connector on Gauge 0 track made by Bing for Bassett-Lowke. (1930s). A similar design in principle was also used by Bing for its 00 track, but with a lever with a fastened hinge at the track base that connected with a slot in the adjoining rail. (Pre-WWII, Märklin and Hornby-Dublo used an under-the-track-base interlocking tongue-type clip for their 00 tracks.)

Hornby sliding connector (with a convenient grip, 1930s) that grasps the inside lips of the ties of its Gauge 0 "Hornby Series" ties.

Hornby sliding connector (with a convenient grip, 1930s) that grasps the inside lips of the ties of its Gauge 0 "Hornby Series" ties.

Paya (Spain) outside wire connector that simply drops into a hole of the adjoining tie (1930s).

Paya (Spain) outside wire connector that simply drops into a hole of the adjoining tie (1930s).

Bral (Italy): A moveable latch controlled by a spring-loaded lever. The lever is similar in design to the curved lever on the Hornby track clip. Courtesy Tony Penn, HRCA (UK) and Professor Ted Howard.

Bral (Italy): A moveable latch controlled by a spring-loaded lever. The lever is similar in design to the curved lever on the Hornby track clip. Courtesy Tony Penn, HRCA (UK) and Professor Ted Howard.

Bral (Italy): (See left.)  The underside, showing the spring-load mechanism of the moveable latch controlled by a spring-loaded lever.  Image courtesy Tony Penn, HRCA (UK)

Bral (Italy): (See left.) The underside, showing the spring-load mechanism of the moveable latch controlled by a spring-loaded lever. Image courtesy Tony Penn, HRCA (UK)

North American manufacturers

Lionel sliding connector (1930s) that grasps the inside lips of its Gauge 0 ties.

Lionel sliding connector (1930s) that grasps the inside lips of its Gauge 0 ties.

Early (comparatively crude) sliding connector (1920s) used by Ives that grasps the outside lips of the two adjoining ties. Both for its Wide Gauge and Gauge 0.  A hole for fastening the track connector and the tracks it connects to the base is clearly visible.

Early (comparatively crude) sliding connector (1920s) used by Ives that grasps the outside lips of the two adjoining ties. Both for its Wide Gauge and Gauge 0. A hole for fastening the track connector and the tracks it connects to the base is clearly visible.

Lionel T Rail. As the rails are die-cast, there are no conventional track pins. A near-prototypical connection system with fishplates, nuts and bolts is used - a specially-designed spanner is provided to tighten the nuts.

Lionel T Rail. As the rails are die-cast, there are no conventional track pins. A near-prototypical connection system with fishplates, nuts and bolts is used - a specially-designed spanner is provided to tighten the nuts.

Distinctive Third Rails and insulation

The vast majority of manufacturers used running rails for the third (pick-up) rail and fastened them to the tie by means of two clamps punched out from the tie and held in place with insulating fibre material between the rail and the tie.  There were however two notable exceptions by Carette and Ives (see to the right and below).

The vast majority of manufacturers used running rails for the third (pick-up) rail and fastened them to the tie by means of two clamps punched out from the tie and held in place with insulating fibre material between the rail and the tie. There were however two notable exceptions by Carette and Ives (see to the right and below).

Carette Gauge 1 track with a blade-style third rail. Made in Nürnberg, Germany until the outbreak of WWI. This design was also used by Trix Express H0/00 beginning in the 1950s, and also by Lionel for its "Super 0" 027 track after WWII that was produced from 1957 to 1966.

Carette Gauge 1 track with a blade-style third rail. Made in Nürnberg, Germany until the outbreak of WWI. This design was also used by Trix Express H0/00 beginning in the 1950s, and also by Lionel for its "Super 0" 027 track after WWII that was produced from 1957 to 1966.

Lionel "Super 0" 027 track blade-style third  rail. (Produced from 1957 to 1966.) The blade initially scarred the pick-up rollers of the locomotives, but Lionel remedied this by substituting a non-cast metal for the pick-up rollers. [Courtesy Mike, Moderator, Super 0 Yahoo Group.]) The purpose of this blade-style design was to make the appearance of a third rail less intrusive or "toy-train-like".

Lionel "Super 0" 027 track blade-style third rail. (Produced from 1957 to 1966.) The blade initially scarred the pick-up rollers of the locomotives, but Lionel remedied this by substituting a non-cast metal for the pick-up rollers. [Courtesy Mike, Moderator, Super 0 Yahoo Group.]) The purpose of this blade-style design was to make the appearance of a third rail less intrusive or "toy-train-like".

A distinctive rod-type third rail design by Ives (name clearly stamped on the tie) for its short-lived Gauge 1 track, but also used on its 0 crossings and on some 0 electric turnouts. Note the distinct design of the clamp holding the third rail.

A distinctive rod-type third rail design by Ives (name clearly stamped on the tie) for its short-lived Gauge 1 track, but also used on its 0 crossings and on some 0 electric turnouts. Note the distinct design of the clamp holding the third rail.

Ives: While Ives used an isolated running rail for its Wide Gauge and Gauge 0 3-rail track, an exception is this Gauge 0 30 degree crossing that uses the same centre rail design as for its Gauge 1.

Ives: While Ives used an isolated running rail for its Wide Gauge and Gauge 0 3-rail track, an exception is this Gauge 0 30 degree crossing that uses the same centre rail design as for its Gauge 1.

Bral (Italy): The third rail has no web "feet", and is supported by two spot-soldered L brackets which, together with the insulation, are held in place by a rivet. Courtesy Tony Penn (UK) HRCA and Professor Ted Howard (UK).

Bral (Italy): The third rail has no web "feet", and is supported by two spot-soldered L brackets which, together with the insulation, are held in place by a rivet. Courtesy Tony Penn (UK) HRCA and Professor Ted Howard (UK).

Red insulation tabs, Munro 0 (AU), courtesy Peter Marendy (AU)

Red insulation tabs, Munro 0 (AU), courtesy Peter Marendy (AU)

Turnout base plates: 

Turnouts of the toy train era (Standard/Wide, 1, 0 and S Gauges) major manufacturers were essentially of five types:

Bar-type, consisting entirely of longer and wider ties as required to support the diverging rails (early Lionel Standard, Bing 1 and 0, Märklin 1 and 0, Hornby 0 Meccano and Hornby Series [clockwork].)

Partial plate-type, a hybrid design where the toe of the turnout at the throw-bar end would have solid plate support. (Ives and American Flyer Wide and 0 Gauges.)

Open plate-type, where all the rails of the turnout have a base support, with open spaces between the rails of the diverging tracks (Lionel Standard, 0 and 027, American Flyer 0, Dorfan Wide and 0, Märklin electric 3-rail and clockwork 0, Hornby electric 3-rail 0.)

Solid plate-type, where the solid tin base follows the contour of the turnout with no openings (Gargraves, Lionel Standard and pre- and post-WWII 0.)

Full plate-type, where the entire turnout, including the throw lever or solenoid is part of a solid rectangular tin (or in the case of American Flyer S - bakelite) base with no openings (American Flyer 0 and S, Marx 027.)
 
Bar plate-type Y parallel turnout (Hornby).

Bar plate-type Y parallel turnout (Hornby).

Partial plate-type (Ives)

Partial plate-type (Ives)

Open plate-type (Lionel).

Open plate-type (Lionel).

Solid plate-type (Lionel Standard 1930s).

Solid plate-type (Lionel Standard 1930s).

Full plate-type (Marx).

Full plate-type (Marx).

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