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Lionel vs Marx 3 rail track

6474 Views 20 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  T-Man
Ok guys, something just occured to me...are Lionel 3 rail and Marx 3 rail track compatable?:eek:

Can I run my new Marx locos on Lionel track and vice versa?
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ALL O scale track is gauged to 1.25 inches... Pretty much any three-rail locomotive can run on any three-rail track... The only issues you will ever run into is with O27 track because the rails are not as high (I am not even sure if this is an actual issue) and not too many trains can take a O27 curve...

In looking at those photos of your "new" old Marx Santa Fe diesels, I think this word of caution from might apply:

"Fat Wheel: early Marx trains had a single reduction gearing, the result being drive wheels geared inside the flange. These fat wheels show up as late as the early 1950s. They make it impossible for the locomotive to negotiate Lionel switches and crossovers."

B&M ... maybe you can comment further?


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TJ the detective.:D

I checked the drive wheels on my unit, and sure enough, the drive sprocket is the same size as the drive wheel.

Can you use Marx and Lionel track together? say, Marx switches and crossovers with Lionel straights and curves?:confused:

But will the Lionel engines be ok running on Marx track?
Ian, this is from a Marx, collectors site;

"Ive been a Marx collector since 1947 when my Dad gave me a set for Christmas. I run it on Lionel track except for sidings and yards and I have changed motors around so that I dont have Marx wheels engaging the Lionel switches. Layout is 4X12 with two loops and a yard and all accessories are MARX with just a very few Plasticville and Lionel. I keep it 3/16ths scale."

Got most of that, but I'm a bit fuzzy on a few points.

Did he put Lionel motors in Marks engines?

Not sure about the switch thing, either. I've never run O before, so I'm not sure what that means.

Also, the 3/16ths scale regards to what?

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Just jumpin' back in ...

By "3/16ths", he means a scale of 3/16" = 1 foot, or equivalently, a 1:64 scale ratio. O is typically modeled at 1:48 scale. S is 1:64, I believe. So the gent in the quote above is running on O track, but has chosen to model his scenery/building more like S at 1:64.

Re: switches ... I have a lot to learn here, myself. But I'd bet he's referring to the subtleties of the middle (hot) rail on conventional O track, and how this affect the geometry of the switches, frogs, pivoting directional rails, etc. As a loco passes over all of this, it's important that it has proper power (via hot and ground) at all positions, but also important that it's wheels don't ever touch both hot and ground simultaneously, which would cause a short.

I'm still learning here, but I hope I have that right.

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OK, makes sense. I'm still wondering about the Marx/Lionel engine thing, though
Ian, I guess I'll add some of my switches to the layout and run my Marx around and see. Being as I only have the earlier, "Tin Plate" engine that's complete, and it doesn't have the complexities of a modern era Marx, I doubt I'll have that problem. All I have touching the 3-rails is 4 drive wheels and the center pick-up plate.

Cool, let me know how it goes:thumbsup:
Marx-Lionel Switches

Tried these 2 switches with my Marx engine(0-4-0) and my Lionel 2026(2-6-4) not an issue. I'm thinking that the issue may be with the newer, more detailed Marx engines. T-Man's probably the only one that can give us the low-down.

Hey T-man, like these old switches? Ones a Marx, the other a Lionel. Found them in the bottom of another of my "Toy Boxes!":laugh::laugh:

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All I can add is that when I worked the Marx 999 engines. They didn't like the UCS controller. They stopped. They did need some speed to get through the 022 switch.

Jim, I have a pair of those Marx switches but I have not seen the Lionel one before. I am interested in them.

Can you clarify which switch is which? Marx / Lionel ... left / right ??? I'm guessing that the "open mesh one" is the Lionel ???

I find it interesting that the switch on the right has rail connector pins on the sections of rail facing the black pivoting device. Are they actually required, or is this simply something redundant, and a carry over from some odd past use?

As a side note, I've just begun running my old Lionel locos (1668 prewar, 221 postwar) on relatively new Lionel manual switches ... the brown kind ... I can't remember the part number right now. Both of these locos are having problems running over the switches. The trailing trucks appear to be making electric contact with both the center (hot) rail and the outer (ground) rail as they drive over the middle section of the switch, where things split left/right. It causes a short, which makes the "smart" transformer drop voltage, which -- in turn -- makes the E-unit switch direction. A bit frustrating. I need to explore exactly what touching what in more detail to investigate and debug.

T-Man ... If you're reading this, I may ping you with some detective questions on this one.


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TJ, you're correct. The "open" framed switch is Lionel. I didn't experience that problem when I ran the 2026 over the test track using either of those switches. Only thing I can think off, is that when you throw the switch, it might not be closing flush. I don't have any manual switches, other than what I posted. The Lionel switch, has indentations where the rail comes in tight and flush. Do yours? Is it possible for you to make and adjustment to how far and tight it travels? Does that happen with your other Engines/Tenders?

Jim View attachment 2580
I will have to take a close look at my pick ups and the gear wheels. Anyone know how short the pick up points can be?

Thanks for the replys.

I can't give you any exact lower-limit distance. If you can, try T-Man's advice and run some experiments with your loco and some test track.

Switches can only be a problem if you want the reverse unit to work. The connection between both isn't great and the reverse kicks in. All you have to do is turn it off and run in one direction. Some engines were made with a switch. Others even have a three parts center pickup that is more giving than the one piece. Scout motor are suppose to have problems with switches and crossings. These engines do tend to run faster and I haven't had any problems. Again the reverse might activate too. If you want it to run perfect you may need to set up a Marx track loop. Running trains have no hard fast rules it's more of trial and error. I am just happy to get them working and running.

Marx is ok stuff I have incorporated a lot of it on my table. I don't actively collect it because it is Marx. I recently got a box because I wanted the Lionel shell in it not the Marx trains. I hang on to them because of the interest in them, here.
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Make the distance.

I gathered up some data on track and engine picup distance. I figure with this we will know what we are up against.

My 1615 switcher has a 2 3/8ths distance between center pickups I started with this because it does have an assist with the tender.

The 1060 Scout is 2 1/2 inches.
The 022 switch has a 1/3/4 inch gape.
The 1020 crossing is 2 inches
The 1122 switch is 1 1/2 inches
A MArx manual is less than 1/2 inch.

The Marx 400 and the 999 have a 2 3/4 length of effective pickup.
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Thanks for all the information you have gathered.

I would like to start another lay out and the Lionel Fastrack looks nice. Does anyone have an opinion on the Fastrack vs conventional track?

What are your opinions of the starter sets I see on Amazon in the $250 - $300 range. Are they good starters?

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