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Track pliers... which work best?

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December 26, 2011 1:31 AM

Hi, I'm getting set to build a 027 layout using used Lionel 027 track. Track is clean & no rust. However the ends have spread as expected & some pins are loose.
I don't want new track as I want an aged look.
I want to get some track pliers that work perfectly with 027. There are lots of pairs on Ebay, but which really works best for 027? I don't care about O at this time, just 027.
Lionel service manual says ST384 track pliers are for both 027 & O. How can that be since rail head diameter is so much larger on O?
Has anybody bought & used any of the track pliers shown on Ebay & can for sure say "get these for 027, they work perfect"?
Thanks.
Very best, Don Johnson
 
 
 
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December 26, 2011 2:44 AM

I have bought 2 pair off eBay. One pair (first pair bought) were described as good for both did not work on my 027 track. The other pair that was specifically listed as 027 work great. These are heavy electrical pliers that have been machined for the 027 track.

I use these to crimp new pins into track as well as tighten and form the open ends of the rails. In fact once my track is assembled I take the pliers and center over the track joint and crimp. This provides a very tight fitting connection. As I said they were bought on eBay but were described as being for 027 track.
 
 
 
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December 26, 2011 8:21 AM

quote:
Lionel service manual says ST384 track pliers are for both 027 & O. How can that be since rail head diameter is so much larger on O?


When Lionel first introduced track pliers, they made seperate pairs for "O" and "027", numbered ST-342 and ST-384. Several years later they dropped the seperate pairs and went to a single pair, ST-384.

I purchased a cheap pair of reproduction pliers from Stan Orr many years ago. In order to get them to work nicely for "0" gauge, I had to modify the hole by enlarging it slightly. and recreating the little raised area that crimps the pin in place.

As far as I know, Lionel last offered track pliers somewhere around 1992-1993, when they put together a tool package with Hobby Horse. Some of the tools, including the track pliers and wheel pullers were available seperately for quite a while.
 
C.W. Burfle
 
 
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December 26, 2011 9:54 AM

Here are good repro track pliers made for 027 and O.
http://www.ehobbytools.com/contents/en-us/p1.html
 

Susan's Run Room http://www.slsprr.net/

 
 
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December 26, 2011 10:07 AM

I always used a good pair of needle nose pliers. Never failed me in 35+ years.

I use them to pull the pins out, by leveraging the pliers on the bottom of the rails. They allow me to reshape the rails and tighten them around the pins. Never had any problems using them.

Don't spend the money if you have a good set of needle nose pliers.

Just my thoughts.

Mike R
 
 
 
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December 26, 2011 10:12 AM

I saw a pair at a show that had two spots. One was "o" the other was "o27". Don't know who made them.
 


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December 26, 2011 10:19 AM

quote:
Don't spend the money if you have a good set of needle nose pliers.


I used needle nose pliers for years, and had a technique for crimping the pins using a pair of nippers.
A properly made pair of track pliers are easier to use, and do a good job.
 
C.W. Burfle
 
 
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December 26, 2011 10:19 AM

quote:
Originally posted by Susan Deats:
Here are good repro track pliers made for 027 and O.
http://www.ehobbytools.com/contents/en-us/p1.html


I've used that brand of track pliers for four years and found them to be of good quality.
 

Pat

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December 26, 2011 10:51 AM

I bought Olsen's track pliers for O27 and O, they work fine for me. They were $8.95 and show up regularly on eBay. As mentioned, they take some Chinese electricians pliers and machine the proper size track outline in the jaws.
 
 
 
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December 26, 2011 11:22 PM

Thanks Strogey, That's exactly what I needed to know. Thanks to the others as well. I've been using needle nose & wire cutters for years & I want better than that. I know from metal working it would take compression from all sides to actually reform the track exactly. Even track pliers can't do that, but at least they would help even out the track & reform/reround the railhead.
Thanks again.
Very best, Don Johnson
 
 
 
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December 26, 2011 11:25 PM

There used to be a Craftsman hose pliers which you could use for for track. I don't think it is sold anymore.
 

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December 27, 2011 10:59 AM

quote:
I know from metal working it would take compression from all sides to actually reform the track exactly. Even track pliers can't do that

your comment is exactly why I have never bought a pair of O27 track pliers. I, like some mentioned above, still use an old pair of needle nose.

I can't seem to resolve in my mind how just squeezing a track with a pin already inserted in it can compress the track enough to make the pin tight and secure.

What I usually do is to, using needle nose, compress the opening without a pin being in it, making the hole a bit too small. I then lightly tap the pin into the opening. This makes it about as tight as it can get.

I'd like to try a pair of pliers and see if they work as well as some mentioned here. I just am not going to buy a pair and be disappointed though, so I stick with my tried-and-true.

- walt
 
 
 
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December 27, 2011 11:16 AM

Needle nose work perfectly. Save your money. You can pinch the rail from the end just below the pin hole to reduce it's diameter. The further you slide the pliers onto the rail, the smaller the hole will be (so you can adjust for any track).

Plus you will also want to pinch the tab on the ties a little so they clamp the rails tighter. This keeps the rail from spreading once the pin is installed making for a very dependable joint.
 
 
 
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December 27, 2011 11:34 AM

quote:
Needle nose work perfectly. Save your money. You can pinch the rail from the end just below the pin hole to reduce it's diameter. The further you slide the pliers onto the rail, the smaller the hole will be (so you can adjust for any track).

Plus you will also want to pinch the tab on the ties a little so they clamp the rails tighter. This keeps the rail from spreading once the pin is installed making for a very dependable joint.

SB: that's exactly the method that I use. Your last comment about pinching the tab on the ties is an important one that I only recently learned.

- walt
 
Last edited by walt rapp December 28, 2011 10:20 AM
 
 
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December 27, 2011 1:53 PM

quote:
Originally posted by walt rapp:
What I usually do is to, using needle nose, compress the opening without a pin being in it, making the hole a bit too small. I then lightly tap the pin into the opening. This makes it about as tight as it can get.
I do the same thing, but I use the track pliers to squeeze them. Then I take the pin and tap it into the end with the side of the pliers, usually makes them nice and tight. Before inserting the pin, I dip it in some DeoxIT D5 to help conductivity.
 
 
 
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December 27, 2011 1:56 PM

quote:
Originally posted by walt rapp:
SB: that's exactly the method that I use. Your last comment about pinching the table on the ties is an important one that I only recently learned.

- walt


I just figured that one out this past weekend at my parents house with a bad section of o27.
 
 
 
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December 27, 2011 9:48 PM

Ok, I'm going to buy both 027 & O track pliers. Strogey posted a report that made good sense. I'll post a report. However, I would you believe us if I said they work better than needle nose?
Truth be told I'm quite looking forward to getting some.
Sure needle nose work fine. However, I've worked with various metal forming dies etc. I can say without question if no pin is in rail,and... if the pilers were the correct size it would reform the metal quite well. The stretched metal would be forced into the web & the foot would end up slightly lower. That wouldn't be an issue. If the pin is in place & the pliers work the metal under the pin just so, it would indeed put the pin in tension & be tight.
By the way, I have the hose clamp pliers one person mentioned. They don't work well at all. The jaw is too narrow where the groove is & the groove dips inward to hold the clamping ring tips of the hose clamp. At the same time the groove is too large for 027.
Very best, Don Johnson
 
 
 
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December 28, 2011 7:27 AM

Here is a pair of early MPC track pliers on Ebay. These were made available in the early to mid 1970's. I am not, nor do I know the seller.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/ORIGIN...&hash=item45ff9ccd16
 
C.W. Burfle
 
 
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December 28, 2011 10:22 AM

superotrackdon: I'm REALLY looking forward to your review of the O27 pliers. Please remember to offer it.

- walt
 
 
 
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December 28, 2011 9:34 PM

Hi Walt, Trust me, I will buy them & will review them. Keep this thread in you email. Will be a good 2 weeks, but I won't forget.
Very best, Don Johnson
 
 
 
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December 31, 2011 3:48 PM

Hi All, Happy New Years!!
I bought some 027 & O track pliers. The ones I ordered are from ebay items:
027 # 170746837323 "O" # 300641095632
I got these due to I felt they had a good grind on the end. There was also an orange handled pair of O pliers # 180782512458.
My feeling was the red handled pair had a better grind on the upper end (closest to the handle end) of the round hole. It fit closer as the piler would surround the rail. They were a bit more costly, but that was my feeling. The 027 pair is not as close in this area. I will compare when they come in a week or 2. I looked over the feed back of each type. No user complained they didn't work well on any.
Very excited to give them a try.
Here was another nice looking pair, very nice grind, but I didn't know what track they really fit. From the expanded photos I still couldn't tell.
http://www.ehobbytools.com/contents/en-us/d5.html
Very best, Don Johnson
 
 
 
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December 31, 2011 5:36 PM

I got the orange handled O set, that's from Olsen's. I just took it down to the workshop and ground the tips down a bit to my liking. Smile
 
 
 
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December 31, 2011 8:40 PM

Hi John, Hmmm... I take it they fit O track? What if you put on 027? What sort of grinding are you doing? What didn't you like about the way they came?
This is very interesting.
Very best, Don Johnson
 
 
 
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January 1, 2012 10:54 AM

I have a set of the O27 ones too, but since I've moved all the O27 stuff out for O31, I don't really use those. The grinding I did was just to take a little material off the tip of the jaws, the track forming insert was a little too deep in the jaws. Five minutes with the grinder and all was well. Smile
 
 
 
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January 2, 2012 11:42 AM

quote:
I got these due to I felt they had a good grind on the end.

Don,

What is meant by 'grind'?

- thanks
 
 
 
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January 2, 2012 3:07 PM

Hey,

I know that this is a little off-topic, but has anyone used the t-tracker "The easy way to assemble and disassemble track"?
 
 
 
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January 7, 2012 10:59 AM

any updates??

thanks - walt
 
 
 
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January 7, 2012 1:12 PM

As mentioned above, a good pair of "needle-nose" pliars (mine are USA made) and a good pair of "diagonal cutters" (Exelite) combined with a track pin work as well or better than a pair of so-called "track pliars". Wink

I have a pair of track pliars, and they are somewhat useful.
 
vita sine literis mors est
 
 
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January 7, 2012 1:50 PM

Hi Guys, Ok both pairs of track pliers came in. I'm still in the reviewing process, but I'll give some thoughts of what I came up with so far. Both pairs have issues. Mostly in the construction/qaulity arena. You want ones with 8" long handles if possible. The 6" handles on my one pair are too short to squeeze pins with track in place. Not enough leverage for me, I am not weak.
I now know what gunrunnerjohn was talking about. The hole is too far from the tip. When you try to reform rail, the tip hits the tie crimp area. especially on the center rail where the insulator adds some thickness.
Also you cannot have a pair that works properly on both 027 & O. Just as logic would dictate, the hole needs to be larger for O.
Both pairs I got have the same size hole, which is sized for 027. Even though sold for O the O pair doesn't size O properly, it tends to squish the rail do to the too small hole. These work better on 027 though. On both pairs the hole is too far from the tip. Grinding would fix that. You shouldn't have to grind though. They should be correct from factory.
Having said all that, if... they are machined perfectly they work oh so good. They infact resize the rail perfectly, and can actually tighten pins quite well with track installed. When installed you need a good 2 hand squeeze, but it does work. Surprised me how well that worked.
Make no mistake, if... Again if... you could get a good pair, they work way, way better, & much faster than needle nose or regular pliers/cutters.
The issue is getting a pair that actually are properly made. That is now the issue.
Very best, Don Johnson
 
 
 
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January 9, 2012 10:10 PM

I have been using a 4 inch pair of nipper pliers for 027. I find them better than needle nose or diagonal pliers for going around the rail and pinching the track below the pin to tighten the pins.

Cheap nipper pliers for this low tech usage can be had at Harbor Freight and are often in these small 5 or so set of pliers from China.

Charlie
 
 
 
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January 10, 2012 12:28 AM

Hi Charlie, I actually went by Harbor Frieght Sat. & bought a bunch of pliers. I found I could use the drill press & drill them. I made a few pairs of my liking. They work quite well. Remarkably well. I had to go though 30 pairs to get 4 good ones. Most have the "teeth" going at too much an angle & the drill will follow that. Also depending on where the teeth start, the smooth end is too close to the teeth & there is then not much plier to reach the rail web. I also go some needle nose pliers, again cheapos. My thought was to cut the ends well back & then drill them. This way no teeth to deal with. Size of hole is a little more complicated that it may seem as there is some spring back of the tin. I did on pair for O track drilling #29 hole. Worked quite well in resizing the rail. Very well indeed. However, I found with rail in place the hole needs to be a whisker smaller to tighten pin.
I put tracks together with various loosness of pins. Crimped in place, then pulled apart to see how tight. Compared this to track where I reformed end with track in hand. I could never get installed track as tight, but for sure tight enough & then some.
On the pair I made so far, you can take a really, really out of shape end, give it a squeeze & presto, nice new shape. Honest, that easy. The end of pliers are 1/2" wide, so it may take 2 grabs being pin goes in more than 1/2 deep if you know what I mean.
I'm still perfecting hole size & the gap I'm grinding into end of jaws to compensate for rail web.
However, as it is after giving the rail 2 squeezes per rail the section fits nearly as tight as new. No joke!
I've done several sections. Takes aprox. 6 seconds per track section. That fast!
Gotten busy this week. I expect to have them perfected over the next 2 weeks or less. I'll photo all, before & after, both 027 & O tracks.
Very best, Don Johnson
 
 
 
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January 10, 2012 12:34 AM

Have a question... Does anybody have any genuine Lionel track pliers? I would like to know the exact hole size in whatever genuine pair you have. Also how far from edge (or center) of hole the end of the jaws are. Please state the Lionel ST # on pliers also.
Maybe a good way to size hole is with a drill bit. If you don't have bit the exact size, what bit goes & no goes. I'd like to know to the thousandths if possible.
I don't want to know about aftermarket ones, just genuine. Close detailed photos would be really nice also. Your help is appreciated.
Very best, Don Johnson
 
 
 
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January 10, 2012 3:47 AM

I have restored more 027 tube track from the 50's than I wanna admit. I hated to blow out $25 to $35 for track pliers, so I have always used a pair of needled nosed and done like others - I remove the pin, buff any rust off using the wire brush off a Dremel, cleaned out the hole using tiny grinder tools that have a small grinding nodes on the end, (always get a little puff of rust) put the pin back and crimped the rail with the pliers where the "T" forms under the pin and then crimp the pin with a slight compression of the tube with small wire cutters.
 
 
 
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January 10, 2012 7:22 AM

One advantage of the needle-nose and side-cutters vs. the various "track pliars" is that they work on ALL sizes of tinplate rail. Wink
 
vita sine literis mors est
 
 
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January 10, 2012 7:31 AM

The website reads for O-Gauge and O27 type track with the crimping nib and made in U.S.A. Has anyone used this track plier and how well does it work?

http://www.ehobbytools.com/contents/en-us/d5.html
 
 
 
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January 10, 2012 8:44 AM

The ehobbytools pliers mentioned in the above post are "machined" in the USA. I believe the pliers themselves are cast overseas, probably in China, then sent to a jobber in the States where the machining of the gripping end takes place.

I would gladly pay more for a USA forged and machined pair of track pliers, Klien, Diamond, Craftsman, etc.
 

PRR by Lionel

Eastern PA Mountains, between Oley and Boyertown

 
 
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January 10, 2012 9:55 AM

Johnsgg1, thanks for your reply. I didn't realize. I still would like to see a review on the pliers describing how well they work on OGauge tubular track.
 
 
 
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January 10, 2012 3:48 PM

My cheapies from Olsen's seem to work just fine after taking some material off the nose to give better spacing of the track notch.
 
 
 
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January 10, 2012 10:06 PM

Hi Charles, It is my feeling after studying the photos, especially #2 that the pliers are sized to 027. If you use 027 size pliers on O rail it will egg shape the rail up/down ways. While the pin may fit tight, it will leave a bump at the top. Obvously, that's no good. It may well be Lionel made the hole small on purpose?? So they could use on 027. That's exactly why I wanted the exact hole size. I will restate how well track pliers work. You will never use needle nose again if you have the proper size pliers.
Now the other part is how far the hole is from end. On 027 on the center rail the crimp/insulator gets in the way so the hole must be correct distance from end.
I got the cheapies from Olsen's as well. As John's pair the hole was way too far from the end so they cannot be used at all. John & I have grinders, so we can fix, but what about the poor soul that gets the pilers & find they won't work. They just loose & give pliers a bad name.
I've now resized several sections of track & there is no distortion or wear on the pliers or the last tooth next to the hole bending back. These pliers cost 2.99 & are what most of the sellers make their's from from the photos.
Speaking of the photos, the ones from Olsen's in the photo would work just perfectly. They are machined correctly. However the ones sent are not good at all, as I said the hole is too far back. A good 3/16" too far back. Plus the pair sent was not the same style as pictured. Bad!! They should email me & ask if I still want them if different at least. Actually they should repost correct photo.
I contacted Olsen's several days ago. Still no reply. I'd avoid those if you can't get the end ground down if needed. The hole dia. seems ok. The odd thing is, these things are not complicated. I don't get it. Why don't they just make a jig & drill them?? Ok, acutally any hardened pliers would need an end cutting carbide end mill to drill. On these that's not needed.
Very best, Don Johnson
 
 
 
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January 11, 2012 9:15 AM

Don, after reading your post I emailed a question to ehobbytools about their pliers. I will post their reply when received. Thanks for your help.
 
Last edited by Charlesp34 January 11, 2012 9:51 AM
 
 
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