Sorry if this topic has been covered before. I'm still relatively new to the hobby.

The trucks on Lionel pre-war tinplate cars seem to have a tab that can be bent into a slot on the frame to prevent excessive rotation angles. Some of mine are bent in and some are not. This is a photo of two 654 Sunoco oil tank cars. The one of the left has been in my family since new. The one on the right was purchased recently.

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Is this common? Were some forgotten during manufacturing? Or deliberately not bent in for a reason e.g. low-end 027 outfit?

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jhz563 posted:

I assume that was for attaching a ground wire directly to the truck instead of to the car frame, but totally an assumption as I don't think I have ever actually seen one with a wire on it.

JHZ, the tabs are for limiting truck rotation. There is no electrical purpose for these.... Like Steve said, it is common and I have to wonder if the reason some are straight is worth a study?

Prewar Tin...Any maker, any gauge, anytime!

An easy way to check would be to take a sample of cars you own that have these trucks - that is bent vs. unbent.  Do a simple bean count of the results and look at the ratio of bent to unbent - given my years in industry I would guess that what you are looking at is ordinary process variation.

My guess is the truck frame was made in two strikes. First sheared the part to the correct shape.  The second put in all the bends and did the crimping. At some point they probably needed a truck without the tab bent, so that part of the tooling was cut or ground off the forming die.  Maybe they wanted to use that truck on a frame without the the radial slot.  The change from bent to unbent tabs probably happened on a very specific date and maybe that feature could help date cars.  I think it is very unlikely they had little old ladies sitting around bending that tab and they just missed a few now and then.  

I'm warming to the explanation that the tabs were not bent for cars intended for “027" track. My dad had a No. 1086E freight outfit for 027 track from 1937. (Note 220V for here in Australia)

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Here are two boxes from that outfit. The tabs on these cars are not bent in. The trucks can swivel unrestricted for tightest curves.

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Here are two other boxes marked for O Gauge, possibly from that set or possibly purchased separately. One car has bent-in tabs and the other does not. Hardly conclusion evidence, but worthy of consideration.

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