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could it be the same as 3 rail and the bottom rail is only used to make the connection stronger or even running wires in it



notice the 4th rail isn't as high as the rest of them
 

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Reck,

Postwar Lionel cars had electric "remote control" magnetic solenoid couplers that could be operated via a voltage sent though additional rails:

"Post-war also saw the introduction of electric couplers. The early version, immediately post-war, was operated by two extra rails either side of the middle rail. Each truck is in contact with these rails using contact shoes, and when a switch is thrown the power operates a solenoid in the coupler. The later type involved an inductive coil in the middle of the third rail reacting with a corresponding coil in the truck to provide electricity to the coupling. This was better than the first version since there were no contact shoes to get snagged with switch points."

Maybe your AF stuff is something of a similar design?

Is that O gauge or S gauge?

TJ
 

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More clues ...

Re: AF circa 1937 ... I think (???) this paragraph refers to (what we now call 1:64) S-scale trains running on 3-rail O-gauge track:

"The 3/16 scale trains were designed to run on O gauge track whose curved sections had 20" radii (formed 40" circles). Importantly, the trains featured fully automatic coupling and uncoupling that were functionally comparable to Lionel's. Unlike Lionel's costly and sophisticated design (each truck contained a solenoid and electrical pickup shoe), the A.F. 'link & pin' (a.k.a. 'harpoon')couplers were gravity based."

Then, AF's post-war flip to 2-rail track ...

"By Summer, 1945 it was able to resume limited manufacturing of the 3/16s scale O gauge trains. While it did so, the same sized products were re-engineered to run on much more realistic two rail (with a "T" profile rail) track. The fine detail of the diecast engines, tenders and cars that had debuted in the '39 catalog reappeared. The engines and tenders continued to be made of diecast metal, but the cars' bodies were made out of plastic. Two pages of the spectacular 1946 catalog emphasize the running advantages of the lighter cars. Ironically, they soon realized that they had to add weight. Metal car bottoms & chassis were necessary to prevent the too-light cars from tipping over. The 'link & pin' automatic couplers that had been introduced on the 3/16s O products were reduced in size, with plastic replacing the sintered metal of the originals."

Based on this (limited) reading, my guess is that Reck's "4-rail" AF track is 3-rail prewar o-gauge, with an extra (4th) rail somehow related to the automatic coupler system.

Anyone out there to confirm this and/or set us straight?

(Quotes via http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/American_Flyer )

TJ


EDIT --

Or maybe the "4th rail" is some sort of a control system for an "action car", like an automatic dump gondola, some loading/unloading station thing, etc.

OK ... now I'm really going out on a limb!
 

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Ahh ha!

... or to operate a WHISTLE TENDER!

"Since taking and posting those pics on the other thread I was rummaging around in some of my boxes and came across the box containing my American Flyer 4 rail track designed to go with the whistle in tender that they developed and marketed in 1936. It was designed with a wider radius to accomodate the Hiawatha engine. Its the track that has the fiberboard base."

(From http://cs.trains.com/trccs/forums/p/160080/1765131.aspx#1765131)

Also, look closely at the cross tie ... it's BANKED or "Super Elevated".



So ... run 'em fast into a banked turn and blow the whistle. Neat!

TJ
 

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Re: the AbsoluteAstronomy commentary and quote up above:

"The engines and tenders continued to be made of diecast metal, but the cars' bodies were made out of plastic. Two pages of the spectacular 1946 catalog emphasize the running advantages of the lighter cars. Ironically, they soon realized that they had to add weight. Metal car bottoms & chassis were necessary to prevent the too-light cars from tipping over."


So with AF's 1930's thinking, I wonder how much of the banked track design and production was targetted towards allowing the trains go super fast, or more fundamentally, a critically necessary design detail that was required to prevent light cars from tipping over even at a moderate speed?

Fancy fast track, or band-aid fix?

TJ
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
No telling, TJ. Postwar, they switched back, again: the cast-metal locomotives with sheet-metal tenders went to plastic and plastic. In the case of your beloved streamlined equipment, it went from sheet metal before the war to my extruded aluminum shells with cast car ends to chrome-plated plastic, then finally, to molded plastic in various colors. The cast metal locomotives were the heaviest, as were the extruded aluminum passenger cars. So, they seem to have gone light-heavy-light as they tried to find the best combination.
 
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