Question about Flyer S scale 2 rail v Lionel O scale 3 rail

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M

MHinLA

Guest
Before HO, I had Gilbert American Flyer.. But I don't remember the transformer I had, nor the track plan..I say 'transformer' because I think it was AC, not DC.
So my questions are these: If Flyer is/was AC (1) Why did Lionel AC have 3 rails (I know middle rail is the common) but Flyer used 2 rail ? (2) And since Flyer is 2 rail, are/were reverse loops a no-no, where 3 rail allows reverse loops anywhere ? What's going on here ?.....
 

bob

Administrator
Staff member
Before HO, I had Gilbert American Flyer.. But I don't remember the transformer I had, nor the track plan..I say 'transformer' because I think it was AC, not DC.
So my questions are these: If Flyer is/was AC (1) Why did Lionel AC have 3 rails (I know middle rail is the common) but Flyer used 2 rail ? (2) And since Flyer is 2 rail, are/were reverse loops a no-no, where 3 rail allows reverse loops anywhere ? What's going on here ?.....
I'm not a tinplate expert, so others may have to correct me.

That said, most American Flyer trains were AC, and like Lionel, they change direction using a "reversing unit". When you cycle the power, it changes the direction. However, they apparently have "universal" electric motors that will also operate on DC. The catch is that if you do run them on AC, unless you make a minor modification, they won't change direction. Typically most folks just run them on AC.

As for the 3 rails, 2 rails thing? Well, you've pretty much answered your own question. 3 rails makes wiring simple. Reverse loops are cool, and quite a few of the standard Lionel track plans have them.

Take this old standby for example:

1586220677712.png


Build that with a 3 rail sytem (Lionel or Marklin for example) and no problem. Build it in a two rail system? Better get ready for some fancy wiring.

Lionel was first and foremost, a toy train. Run it on the carpet or under the Christmas tree. Designed for "plug and play" simplicity.

So why go with two rails? That's simple too! Real trains only have two rails. 3 rails looks like a toy train!

As for reverse loops in American Flyer, they'd probably have to be wired the same as they are on an HO set. Even if you assume that there's no "polarity" since it's A/C, when the engine bridges the insulated joint at the edge of the reverse loop, you're going to have a short circuit.
 
M

MHinLA

Guest
Thanks for replies...So it looks like 2 rail AC is no diff than 2 rail DC far as reverse loop wiring along with the obligatory DPDT toggle and its criss crossed wiring of the 4 outside posts, the 2 middle posts to the isolated loop track... Did not know that since all way back in the 50s !! I left Flyer then and went right to HO and ignored everything with toyish looking track....
 

trailrider

Well-Known Member
Thanks for replies...So it looks like 2 rail AC is no diff than 2 rail DC far as reverse loop wiring along with the obligatory DPDT toggle and its criss crossed wiring of the 4 outside posts, the 2 middle posts to the isolated loop track... Did not know that since all way back in the 50s !! I left Flyer then and went right to HO and ignored everything with toyish looking track....
I, too, started with American Flyer S scale. Never had a reverse loop, but they were all AC, until I bought an Einhorn F7A, which was DC. I bought a transformer, a selenium rectifier and a rheostat, mounted the latter on a control panel, with a DPDT switch for reversing. The Flyer AC locos ran just fine on DC. Switched to HO when I was about 14, about 64 years ago, and my folks finally gave the Flyer stuff to a children's hospital! IIRC, to reverse the AC locos you had to hit the reset button twice. Don't recall how I did that with the DC rig.
 

malletman

Alcohaulic
The 2 vs 3 rail debated raged thru the postwar years between the Lionel and Flyer folks. By using 3 rail, Lionel could do more intricate track patterns by avoiding reverse loop controls. Lionel proved it could do 2 rail before WWII with its OO line being offered in both formats( 2 and 3 rail). But ultimatly 3 rail won out and is time proven. Less realistic, yes but newer track with blackened center rails and the short lived Lionel Super O help with this. (I think Super O should have been brought back and not this fastrak crap). Flyer was AC controled, having an E unit which became an electronic control unit in modern times.
 

malletman

Alcohaulic
Atlas is nice stuff, would have loved to seen a more narrow center rail like Super O had, Much much more invisible than a standard size rail, blackened or not. One nice thing about Atlas, the ties are UV proof like my LGB G scale track. So it can be used outdoors on garden railways if one chooses to. I have zero love for Fastrack, noisy, rusts easily. Only thing that is somewhat nice is the predone RR crossing signal setups. If Atlas did that in their line, especially making them weatherproof for outdoor use. That would be the icing on the cake.
 

malletman

Alcohaulic
Your very welcome! Lionel's big push with 3 rail was that is simplified wiring, allowed triggering of track side accessories much easier than Flyers's 2 rail set up. With the advant of blackened center rails or even Lionel's Super O made in the 1960's, the center rail become much less obvious. And yes, both were AC powered back then. If you have any questions, feel free to fire away. I have run Lionel O and OO along with repairing Flyer stuff for many years. Mike the Aspie
 

Doc

Rivarossi Doc
It's been a while since I was here and am catching up with posts. I thought to add my .5 cents with a note that A.C. Gilbert offered the # 695 reverse loop relay to work with several track trips and a pair of turnouts to produce an automated reverse loop. A YouTube video, watch?v=KgbvjypUvPc, by Joe Heiderman shows the action and he details the layout and wiring as well..
Doc'
 

trailrider

Well-Known Member
I'm NOT sure about this, but isn't DCC reverse loops wired the same as DC reverse loops? At least I have it wired that way on my layout, using DPDT toggles and polarity indicator signals.
 

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
Thanks for replies...So it looks like 2 rail AC is no diff than 2 rail DC far as reverse loop wiring along with the obligatory DPDT toggle and its criss crossed wiring of the 4 outside posts, the 2 middle posts to the isolated loop track... Did not know that since all way back in the 50s
isn't DCC reverse loops wired the same as DC reverse loops?
I know this is old but both of you have hit the nail on the head. 2 rail wiring is no different regardless of the type of electrical power source because electricity is electricity and with only two rails it has to be kept from short circuiting. AC, DC, DCC, DCS, CTC-16, Railcommand, etc, etc. ALL have to deal with the short circuits caused by reverse loops with two rail track. The only systems that don't are the dead rail type things where neither power nor signal come through the track.
 

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
Atlas is nice stuff, would have loved to seen a more narrow center rail like Super O had
The reason the thin center rail was abandon was because of the horrific wear it caused on the power pick up rollers. It didn't take much running before they looked like apple cores and either broke in half or stopped reliably picking up power and had to be replaced.
 




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