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I've come to the conclusion that my postwar 1122 O27 switches will always be the weakness in enjoying my layout.  Too many derailments.  Even the newer 042 Lionel switches have that problem or shorts.

So I need to replace the switches.  Are other switches, like Gargraves,  compatible with my Lionel O27 track?  Are they a drop in, or need some adapter?  Or what other switches would you recommend?

And I really don't want to switch track right now.   The track is great for my needs, its just the switches.

Thanks, Bob

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I feel your pain with the 042s switches... You will need Ross or Gargraves adapter pins to go from their switches to tubular track.  You will also need to order the new switches as either manual or powered and some additional relaying/wiring is needed if you want to implement a non-derailing feature. I am not sure they make an insulated adapter pin for non-derailing rail insulation but you could insert a toothpick probably.  The owner of Ross is kinda hard to reach by phone but is very helpful and quick to reply via email if you have questions. Good luck!

You might check out Marx 1590 metal frog O27 switches.  My layout has 31, most operating 44 years and they are reliable and trouble free and a lower cost than Lionel.  They will also pass Marx fat wheel locomotives.

Check out OGR link below, Page 1 and posts 5 and 8C for more details on Marx O27 switches.


Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

I second Choo Choo Charlie's suggestion.  Marx 1590s are likely more common than the K-Line switches, and probably sell for less, too.

I wouldn't fool around with Gargraves.  If you have extra space for something a little bigger than O27 and healthy budget, you might be able to redo your whole layout with Ross O31.  It wouldn't be cheap, but your trains will run better on the broader curves, and Ross switches are great.  My $.02.

You might check out Marx 1590 metal frog O27 switches.  My layout has 31, most operating 44 years and they are reliable and trouble free and a lower cost than Lionel.  They will also pass Marx fat wheel locomotives.

Check out OGR link below, Page 1 and posts 5 and 8C for more details on Marx O27 switches.


Thanks Charlie.  I see many Marx switches but not sure if they are the right ones.  Should they be identified with the 1590 number?  The ones I see for sale have no number.

Thanks, Bob

@TrainCzar posted:
Do the O27 curve K-line switches also work better than Lionel 1122?

Well, I only have a couple of those and have not tested them in-depth, but I have no complaints on the 1122/1122E style switches with my equipment except for the tight 12.37" radius. I use the 1122/1122E with GarGraves as I have found them quite reliable on my current layout, built in 1971.

The K-Line switches though have lighted controllers, red & green bulbs on the switch motors, and provisions for fixed voltage operation.

If you have equipment that has trouble with the guard rails on the 1122/1122E types, the 1121 might be another solution in addition to the swivel-rail Marx metal switches.

@TrainCzar posted:

Are these compatible with my O27 tubular using an adapter pins?  And are they better than my 1122 switches...

Compatible, in that they are within 1/16" matching in height. You will need some 1122-500 Adapter Set (O27 to Super-O) sets for pins, GarGraves pins can be used for the running rails if modified slightly.

Better? That depends. The 112R models are more reliable, they have lighted controllers, red & green bulbs on the switch motors, and provisions for fixed voltage operation. They are 18" radius, but only with 30º of arc in the diverging path. They do have the guard rails, but with a gentler curve, may be better performing with your equipment.

Just for reference, I have been using manual Lionel brand 027 switches for years with no major problems. Some years ago, I went with the more modern MPC-era designed switches because of the horizontal swinging switch lever. It is quite easy to operate these using nylon fishing line: I call them a poor man's automatic switch track. But this also has the advantage of not having to re-wire the switches from operating on track power (the biggest drawback of the automatic 027 switch) to secondary power. Or having the constant buzzing of the non-derailing feature as the train goes through the switches.

Now there are things you can do to make any switch track more problematic: Having them placed on curves, or directly off curved tracks, or on a "S" shaped section of track. While these may be layout design no-no's, I find many 027 track users do these things trying to optimize operation in a small space, which is my situation.

So I find myself making adjustments to my trains. For example, engines like my K-Line Alco FA's, S-2's and Budd cars, I place a spring over the guide pin that goes into the curved slot in the engine frame... the spring goes between the motor truck and the bottom of the sheet metal frame.

I also replace the loose rivet mounting of truck sets on rolling stock with a truss screw and a lock nut. Legend has it this was done so that the trucks could be turned inward with the coupler beneath the train car when boxed up. But as is, these loose mountings of the trucks with rivets allow for a good deal of wobble... a serious problem when backing up a train through 027 curves or through a switch track, especially with the fast angle wheel sets that want to ride upward over the rail with all the weight of the other train cars, and force being placed on the couplers, when being backed up.

Occasionally I have had to use needle nosed pliers to bend the end point of a swivel frog on the switch, so it makes better contact with the curved rail of the switch.

The other thing also is that I run smaller sized, shorter length train cars and engines that are clearly made and designed for 027 curves.

So not to brag, but I haven't a derailment in many, many years, outside of my own error, like forgetting to throw a switch track. Or if a particular truck derails, I know the problem is the truck. On a modern rolling stock truck, probably the gauge of one of the wheel sets does not match the other wheel set on the same truck. On postwar trucks, they may need some lubrication. With locomotives, since I stick with types of locomotives that are similar, I know if a single loco gives me a problem on a switch track, the problem is with the loco and not the switch track.

TrainCzar, the first thing that struck me is you are running items that Lionel cataloged as "0" gauge items, not 027. So while they may make it around the 027 curves, they'd be much more suited to the wider radius of 031 curves.

Given your comment about Lionel 042 switches, one thing I've noticed that over the years, roller pickups have gotten a little wider from some other makers. Maybe not a problem for you given the couple of products you mentioned. So while these wider roller pickups may insure better electrical contact, it can also cause shorting on operating tracks and switches. Some of the later K-Line rolling stock came with a wider pickup that gave me trouble, so I swapped out the pickups with a narrower type and the problems stopped. Also have you noticed that on some postwar locos, especially steamers, the roller pickups are pretty narrow.

Just my experience here.

Last edited by brianel_k-lineguy

The Marx 1590 are not marked and are all metal.  They come several color combinations including all black, black and red solenoid boxes, and some unpainted silver with red solenoid boxes and maybe more combinations.

Marx 1590 Switches 2024-06-19 002

The picture below shows 11 Marx 1590 switches and all 31 of mine were painted light gray.  They are low and compact which is better for tight O27 track layouts like a part of my layout.  If fact the one in the middle of the wye had have some of its track ends cut off to fit in the existing track as the wye was added years after the other switches.

Layout Switches and steros 3-6-2023 2023-03-06 002

Here is a close up showing the center rails that move to change directions and the solenoid box on top right.



Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Thank you all for your comments and suggestions.  They have been very helpful and insightful.  Yes I tend to push the usage of these switches with long trains but always use smaller engines on the O27 curves.  I Also have some s curves with a short piece of track between switches.  I have noticed some rolling stock is a problem and its location in the consist is also important.  I have fixed some of the problems using suggestions written here and have probably a 90% success rate.  Sometimes I find the non derailing feature does not work. Not all the time so I’m not sure how to fix that.  Other issues as mentioned above is a shorting (or loss of power) when the locomotive goes through the switches.  
I cannot change from O27 curves on my inner track layout as I have no room and it just fits with all my accessories.  So I will continue to try to make these small adjustments noted above.
In the meantime I’ve bought some k-line switches and will try them in the most troublesome locations.  I will find out if they are better or if it’s just my trains.
thanks again for all the suggestions.


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