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Awhile back, there was a discussion about Super "O" track.  Some people contended the middle rail could not and would not put additional wear on the middle rail contacts of locomotives and rolling stock.

My contention was that Super "O" track did.  I've had my cars with the worn rollers in storage for quite awhile now, so I haven't been able to access them to take pics.  Today I was perusing stuff on ebay when I chanced upon a set of 2333 Santa Fe AA units.  One of them, the one with the horn, has precisely the same type of wear my cars rollers experienced.  True, it's only on one of the rollers, but I'm guessing the other rollers just didn't have the same amount of pressure exerted on them.

Here is one of the pics:

2333 w/Unevenly Worn Rollers
2333 w/Unevenly Worn Rollers



The logical question that's probably running through your mind is, "How do you know Super "O" track is responsible?"

There's no proof I can come up with, since they aren't MY engines.  However I'll pose a different question.  If Super "O" track isn't responsible, then what else could have caused it?  Note how thin the wear is.  Doesn't it appear a blade from Super "O" track would fit perfectly in that groove?  Surely T-Rail wouldn't fit.

I don't know if rollers were sometimes made of softer metals at different times.  What I do know is that not all of the cars I used on Super "O" track suffered from the roller grooves.

I still think Super "O" track is pretty cool looking, and I prefer it over all of their other kinds of tracks.  It's just a drag Lionel never chose to produce different diameter curves to increase its versatility.  I think that may have helped make it a success.

Last edited by phrankenstign
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Really?  Wow!  The rollers on my other engines and cars look shiny like the roller on the lower right in the pic.  The only ones I have that are uneven are some of the ones my dad and I ran constantly on a bicycle wheel layout with Super "O" track around it.  They didn't run for years, but they ran for long hours at a time during two or three Christmas seasons.

Lionel machined rollers out of steel for many years.  These are the rollers with the stub axles on each end of the rollers. As volumes went up and there was pressure to cut cost, Lionel went to sintered steel rollers.  This was about 1949 or 1950.  These are the rollers with the roles all the way through them.  When Super O track was introduced, there were complaints about the narrow center rail cutting grooves in the rollers. Lionel responded by changing the sintered steel roller material to stainless steel.  But there were millions of the sintered steel rollers in service and in the spare parts network.  Even today it is not uncommon to find parts dealers still selling NOS sintered steel rollers. Rollers are cheap and easy to change, so I have never seen where roller wear should influence any decisions about Super O track.

An interesting design question with rollers I have never gotten answered is there are different part numbers for a couple of roller designs that are dimensionally identical, but made of different material. The rollers used on two motor locos were a different composition than rollers used on one motor locos.  In the engineering standards the different materials are only identified by the Lionel composition identification number, so I have no idea what the difference in the material is.  I am sure once they left the factory as spare parts the dimensionally identical rollers would have gotten mixed regardless of composition.

FWIW, Henning's has a track outside in front, it uses Atlas track.  We've replaced the rollers several times on the engine that goes around and round on that for days on end.

I just sent out a repair for a museum that has O and STD gauge trains running, apparently all day.  Besides replacing worn out wheels, we had to replace the pickups, some of them were worn all the way to the retaining shaft!  Remember, that little pickup is spinning a LOT faster than the wheels!

Rollers are cheap and easy to change, so I have never seen where roller wear should influence any decisions about Super O track.

As I mentioned above, I like Super "O" track.  Although I 100% believe the track caused grooves in one of my locomotives and some cars, they didn't get worn enough to warrant changing them.  I would in the future if it ever became necessary, but it wouldn't deter me from continuing to use the track occasionally.



Besides replacing worn out wheels, we had to replace the pickups, some of them were worn all the way to the retaining shaft!  Remember, that little pickup is spinning a LOT faster than the wheels!

I hadn't really thought of that before, but you're absolutely correct!

btw Did the rollers wear down evenly or unevenly on the Atlas track?

Wouldn't you have the opposite problem then?  The track itself would get worn out.  Then it would have to be replaced!  I think I'd much rather replace the rollers than a bunch of track!

Talking about the Marx shoes, I'm pretty sure @Dennis-LaRock was making a joke.  To which I would reply, then Mark would become a Tar Heel walking down the rail road tracks barefoot.

I don't think this question is asked correctly.  Does Super O track cause uneven roller wear?  Yes.  Under the same circumstances that other track types can cause uneven roller wear.  The better question might be does Super O track cause different wear patterns than other track?  This may be where the real difference is. 

Age old question, like what came first the chicken or the egg.  As I understand it, the soft rollers of the time like on the F3 pictured above, yes lots of roller wear.  With modern rollers, only those with SuperO layouts can attest.  Over the years the so called experts have stated the SuperO roller wear is over blown.  Besides, rollers are easy to change out like traction tires.

@superwarp1 posted:

Age old question, like what came first the chicken or the egg.  As I understand it, the soft rollers of the time like on the F3 pictured above, yes lots of roller wear.  With modern rollers, only those with SuperO layouts can attest.  Over the years the so called experts have stated the SuperO roller wear is over blown.  Besides, rollers are easy to change out like traction tires.

I put my  6-18340 MU FM Demonstrator on my new (atlas) layout for the first time last night.  It had only been run on Super-O for 14 years or so... the rollers look GREAT!  However, I should have video'd it as the traction tires began flying all over the room!!!  Fortunately, I had a full set of new tires... lashed back up and rolling.

I put my  6-18340 MU FM Demonstrator on my new (atlas) layout for the first time last night.  It had only been run on Super-O for 14 years or so... the rollers look GREAT!  However, I should have video'd it as the traction tires began flying all over the room!!!  Fortunately, I had a full set of new tires... lashed back up and rolling.

You need to start a new thread, "Does Atlas Track Cause Flying Traction Tires?"

Pretty evenly, there was just a large trench down the center.  Pretty much the same with the museum's engines, they just had a huge groove down the middle.

My original Lionel train layout had Super O track, and I ran the trains often.  My green Lionel GG-1 developed a "large trench down the center", but the wear was "pretty even", as gunrunnerjohn describes above.  

Last edited by Dennis GS-4 N & W No. 611

There are many factors that cause metal-on-metal to wear.  Here with Super "O" you have rotating steel on copper that is conducting electrical current. However, the same is true for steel on steel.

Under such conditions, a form of damage known as “galling” is common; this is thought to occur by gross plastic deformation, atomic bonding (or cold welding), then fracture on one or both surfaces, leading to material transfer.   Galling, however, is not the only form of damage encountered in unlubricated sliding systems.

There is also "oxidative” wear. This is usually caused in high temperature sliding but can also be caused by electrical currents passing between metals at lower temps.  This is not common as most sliding occurs without electrical transfers.

Thus, Super "O track causing grooving more so than regular track is a myth.

I believe  the major cause of pick up roller wear  is the gaps between track sections, at least for 027 track.  I know the Super O track has a thin center rail  verses the two tracks and do not know if it has gaps like the other types of rails.  It believe the thin profile of Super O center rails may lead to deeper curves on the Super O pickup roller.

For O and O27 track - The reason pick up rollers can show the wear more than wheels is the small circumference of the roller verses the train wheels circumference. That means the wear on the pick up rollers will be many more times than a train wheel.  The wear should be increase by the ratio of the two circumferences.  The hardness of the metals will also make a difference.  The wear on a pick up roller will be more on a track gap than a train wheel as the collision of the smaller diameter pick up roller will go deeper into the gap and a train wheel will ride over most small gaps.

I have added pieces of metal, about the thickness of 027 track, and cut them to the width of the joins for all gaps in three rail and put them to fill in the gaps.  I install them with a pair of small nipper pliers.  Most of the time I use aluminum flashing which is easier cut and form in the gaps.

Marx Brass Slide Pick Ups - I have worn through the brass  etal on a few Marx brass slide pick ups and have soldered small pieces of steel tin can over the whole profile of the pick ups and curve the front and back to not catch on the gaps.

I also solder on pieces of tin can on my homemade slide pick ups shoes I make from thin brass shim metal.

Charlie

Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Just to add my personal experience.   From postwar 2383 Santa Fe F3, which has only run on Super O, has no grooving of the rollers.   Same with a 1960's era 773 Hudson.

I have seen earlier version (like an original; 2343 F3) that had a little bit of grooved wear, but not much.

None of my modern (meaning 1996 and later) Lionel or MTH locos have any undo wear of the type we're talking about from running on Super O

I believe  the major cause of pick up roller wear  is the gaps between track sections, at least for 027 track.  I know the Super O track has a thin center rail  verses the two tracks and do not know if it has gaps like the other types of rails. It believe the thin profile of Super O center rails may lead to deeper curves on the Super O pickup roller.

Charlie

It does NOT have any gaps, because Lionel produced the "Power Bus Connector" to connect the thin rails together.

Half Straight w/Power Bus Connector
Half Straight w/Power Bus Connector

As you can see, the end of the center rail is about 1/32" smaller on each end.  When two Super "O" tracks are connected, the middle rails come close, but don't touch each other.  Instead, one has to push a Power Bus Connector onto both sections.  This allows the power to flow from center rail to center rail.  It also gives the rollers two very slight gaps to contend with.  It's my belief that those two gaps add to the wear on rollers made of softer metals.  Those tiny gaps have to be contended with each and every track.

Below is from The Siicon Underground web site

"Lionel Super O track with its molded ties and thin center rail looked more realistic than older tubular track. It wasn’t perfect, but people who like it like it a lot.

That copper center rail is also a cause of controversy. The rail caused some of the pickup rollers to develop a groove and wear out prematurely. A change in the composition of the metal solved that problem. Proponents of Super O say that was never a major problem anyway. There are detractors who insist Lionel never solved the problem, but it’s hard to know if they’re just being disagreeable. Super O track brings out strong emotions in some people, and some of them aren’t positive. (I blame diffusion of innovation–more on that in a minute.) That said, I’ve never seen any convincing evidence of Super O track damaging a pickup roller made after 1957.

It seems to be mostly a problem of people believing what they want to believe. If you happen to run into the problem, replacing the pickup rollers is an inexpensive repair and doesn’t require a great deal of mechanical skill to do. And pickup rollers will wear out regardless of the type of track you use, if you run your trains enough."

I made my comments on my 027 tubular track and my observations track gaps and pickup rollers and track gaps on my layout.

Charlie



Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie
@AlanRail posted:

There are many factors that cause metal-on-metal to wear.  Here with Super "O" you have rotating steel on copper that is conducting electrical current. However, the same is true for steel on steel.

Under such conditions, a form of damage known as “galling” is common; this is thought to occur by gross plastic deformation, atomic bonding (or cold welding), then fracture on one or both surfaces, leading to material transfer.   Galling, however, is not the only form of damage encountered in unlubricated sliding systems.

There is also "oxidative” wear. This is usually caused in high temperature sliding but can also be caused by electrical currents passing between metals at lower temps.  This is not common as most sliding occurs without electrical transfers.

Thus, Super "O track causing grooving more so than regular track is a myth.

       A very interesting and well considered response!  Likely also worth considering are the principles of physics that demonstrate why a sharp object such as a sharp steak knife cuts better (or with less force) than a duller object, such as a duller table knife.  

       As stated in Wikipedia:  "Cutting is a compressive and shearing phenomenon, and occurs only when the total stress generated by the cutting implement exceeds the ultimate strength of the material of the object being cut....The stress generated by a cutting implement is directly proportional to the force with which it is applied, and inversely proportional to the area of contact." Hence, the smaller the area (i.e., the sharper the cutting implement), the less force is needed to cut something."  

       I suspect the "sharper" copper center blade imbedded in Super-O track actually applied (or applies) more of a cutting force to the softer Postwar rollers than did the rounded center rails of the O Gauge track that had previously been in almost universal use.

       I do know that the rollers of my Postwar GG-1 had grooves in the center of the rollers, precisely in the area where the rollers contacted the comparatively "sharper" center rails.  Those grooves are on that GG-1 today.

Last edited by Dennis GS-4 N & W No. 611

Below is from The Siicon Underground web site

"That copper center rail is also a cause of controversy. The rail caused some of the pickup rollers to develop a groove and wear out prematurely. A change in the composition of the metal solved that problem. Proponents of Super O say that was never a major problem anyway.....That said, I’ve never seen any convincing evidence of Super O track damaging a pickup roller made after 1957.

It seems to be mostly a problem of people believing what they want to believe. If you happen to run into the problem, replacing the pickup rollers is an inexpensive repair and doesn’t require a great deal of mechanical skill to do. And pickup rollers will wear out regardless of the type of track you use, if you run your trains enough."

Charlie

Paragraph 1:  It never was a major problem.  It was something many people did notice, because grooves appeared on the rollers of some of their items---both motorized and non-motorized.  There was never a conspiracy against Super "O" track.  (I'm still a fan of it, despite having rolling stock and a locomotive that suffered from it just like Dennis.)  For some unknown reason, many of those who were lucky enough to NOT have grooves form on their rollers refuse to believe those who did.  Why?  I have no idea!  Some people smoke 4 packs of cigarettes a day and never develop lung cancer.  Some smokers do get cancer.  There are a lot of reasons for each, but that doesn't mean smoking doesn't increase the odds of developing lung cancer.

Super "O" track came out in 1957.  The grooves only appear after MUCH, MUCH use.  Of course the damage had to have occurred after that year.  Your statement almost seems to imply you've seen evidence of the damage in 1957 or before, but that doesn't make sense.

Paragraph 2: Yes.  In the daylight, everything is easier to see.  When there's no light, everything is difficult to make out.  When using certain trains on "O" and "O27" for many years, the rollers looked fine.  After using them for awhile on Super "O" track, some people started noticing uneven roller grooves started to form on certain trains.  Operators without any hidden agenda against Super "O" track started to find out their observations were shared by others.  I don't know any who immediately refused to continue to use the track.  It just became something one was aware of when using Super "O" track that couldn't be helped.  If you like to set the temperature to 65 degrees in the summer, then you just accept the fact you're going to have to pay a higher electric bill.  In that same vein, people who use Super "O" track accept the fact they may have to replace their rollers a bit sooner than normal.  Having Super "O" fanboys try to negate the observances of many others because they believe the track to be the embodiment of perfection is laughable.

...[Roller wear of the center rail] was something many people did notice, because grooves appeared on the rollers of some of their items---both motorized and non-motorized.  There was never a conspiracy against Super "O" track...

...Super "O" track came out in 1957.  The grooves only appear after MUCH, MUCH use.  Of course the damage had to have occurred after that year...

...When using certain trains on "O" and "O27" for many years, the rollers looked fine.  After using them for awhile on Super "O" track, some people started noticing uneven roller grooves started to form on certain trains.

...Operators without any hidden agenda against Super "O" track started to find out their observations were shared by others.  I don't know any who immediately refused to continue to use the track.  It just became something one was aware of when using Super "O" track that couldn't be helped...  In that same vein, people who use Super "O" track accept the fact they may have to replace their rollers a bit sooner than normal...

As long time readers of the Forum will recognize, I have been, and continue to be, a major fan and proponent of Super "O" track.  For me, the lack of the readily available wide-radius curves has precluded my continued use, other than for occasional Christmas layouts.  Some Forum members have hand-made truly exceptional wide radius Super "O" track, and have built the most gorgeous layouts with the track.  I have operated state-of-the art Lionel locomotives on one of those beautiful layouts.  (Actually my scale, 5 stripe Williams GG-1 never looked more graceful than on those wide Super "O" curves!)

Without doing the research, I'm fairly confident that my original green GG-1 was built prior to 1957, although the loco wasn't gifted to me until Christmas of 1961.  Several hobby shops in our area each had "new" inventory left over from the middle 1950's, likely due to the declining interest in Lionel trains.  In 1961, my father purchased enough Super "O" track at a very significant discount  to build a good sized layout for me.  This purchase was made from a local hardware store that was selling all of its Lionel inventory, and permanently leaving the train business.   So, I had a good sized layout with two locomotives, a few freight cars, and a very great interest in Lionel trains.  My friends and I ran that GG-1 very often on the outer loop of a two-track mainline having  one, very long, 11foot straight away.  

And, after the passage of nearly 60 years -- since Santa brought that GG-I on Christmas morning of 1961 -- those roller groves on my GG-1 have never hindered my operation of the locomotive on at least four different brands of O Gauge track.

Last edited by Dennis GS-4 N & W No. 611

       There are two identifiable roller wear trenches, but that GG-1 weighs so much that the rollers haven't been a problem. as they are pressed firmly on the rail.

       I suspect the dimensions of the roller wear was enlarged over time as the engine navigated curves on that sharp, thin copper rail, given the additional lateral forces.  

I believe  the major cause of pick up roller wear  is the gaps between track sections, at least for 027 track.  I know the Super O track has a thin center rail  verses the two tracks and do not know if it has gaps like the other types of rails.  It believe the thin profile of Super O center rails may lead to deeper curves on the Super O pickup roller...

Charlie

Charlie,

I'm sure that the copper connectors that clip on the center rails of Super-O track sections may often add to roller wear.  Especially as a young boy, I'm sure that I didn't place and press the clips perfectly on the middle rail of adjacent sections of track.  This would leave an end of the clip sometimes sticking up, with a slightly sharpened point hitting the rollers.  Over time, this could create additional roller wear.  

Last edited by Dennis GS-4 N & W No. 611

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