Guide To Identifying 3 Rail O Gauge Track

NOTE: This information is based on preliminary research and my own best guesses. There is no guarantee of accuracy.
(Please send all corrections and updates to


I believe that this may be IVES pre 1929 becasue of the four cross ties.

Obverse  4 Tie bars vs 3 for Lionel

Note the stepped tie bar
The tie bar is also tapered

027 Curve
 Straight Section

See also this page for a 1 gauge example with 4 ties.

Chuck has been very help ful with his communications and his web site is an excellent resource.
Charles Cooper IVES

According to a friend on the forums:
"... I was told that American Flyer made this track because they were having too many complaints of the engines flying off the curves."
In fact, it seems that several manufacturers used sloped or stepped rails around 1930.

Further information - this site: shows a photo of extremely similar track having the same stepped ties. It does not however show how many ties there are (3 or 4).  The site's track is American Flyer "20's through 40's", which although helpful and intriguing is neither completely conclusive nor definitive
AF from web


On July 31, 1928, Ives was purchased by Lionel and American Flyer
In 1930, Lionel bought out American Flyer's share in Ives
Lionel dropped the Ives name in 1934 and although re-issues were occasionally made, the Ives name never re-appeared on the marketplace with any kind of regularity. (Wikipoedia)

IVES - Post Buyout ?

Straight and Curved O27

Note Tapered Tie Bar

Name Stamp - Obverse
Name Stamp - Reverse

Commercial and homemade pins

Lionel "Green" O27  Early 1930's

N Y Stamp

Two Mounting Holes

Lionel "Black" O27  Mid - Late 1930's?

Pretty much identical to the "green" variety of a few years earlier.

Straight and Curve


Lionel Stamp
N Y Stamp

Note rolling mill marks on the side of the rail
Rail Height (Same as "green" version)

Lionel O Gauge 31" Radius - Post War?

Straight and Curved
Note: Four mounting holes in tie bar (vs 2 for earlier O27)


Lionel O Gauge 31" Radius VS Lionel O27 

O Gauge on Top - Wider radius but shorter sections
O Gauge at left. Narrower tie plate and 4 holes vs 2

Lionel O27 - Post War - Black Tie Plates

Straight and Curved Sections
Light weight tie plates with one hole each

 Stamped name at top of tie plate (This varies - sometimes swapped) Profile

Position and Orientation of the name stamp varries.

Lionel O27 - Korean Era ? - Grey or Plated Silver Colored Tie Plates

I don't know if these are different years but suspect that the plated versions (looks like chrome) are 1960's

All three verseions are nearly identical except for the color of the tie plates and number of holes

Straight and Curved Sections
Light weight tie plates with one hole each

Straight section is 9" long
Curved section is 10-1/4" long

Chromed tie plate top (two holes). Grey tie plate bottom (1 hole)

Obverse with name stamp - color balance is off due to camera

Meccano Clockwork 2 rail. Possible Ca 1920

Closeup of name
Meccano England
Closeup of the name. the O is poorly stamped

Rail Height
Mounting Hole Placement and "England" at the Right
Rail Width English
Rail Width metric
Rail spacing is 1-13/32"  Seems wierd ... let's try a metric ruler
Rail spacing is exactly 35 millimeters pointing toward european design


A good textual early history page.