O Gauge track with silver ties


I once purchased many of those among some trains I bought.  I have since learned that those are the earliest of the early O Gauge tracks manufactured by Lionel.  I don't know the exact date the ties started to be blackened, but the non-blackened ones likely range from 1915-1928.

The track I have happens to be in excellent shape.  I try to keep them all together on a back straight way to see who notices them...


Steven J. Serenska

I remembered discussing this on the Toy Trains Mailing List a few years ago and was able to find the info.  Ron Morris, TCA Historian (and member of this forum) made a very good post on these:

Until 1934, with the introduction of the wide radius "Model Builders" track, all Lionel track ties were unadorned tinplate (a normally 'silver' color). At that time all '0' gauge track got 'black' ties.

Here were some extra words I added:

As Ron points out, the tie color isn't actually silver, it's just simple tinplate, the same as the tops and sides of the rails.  The color of the ties starts to appear to be something else over time because, unlike the tops and sides of the 3 rails, the ties themselves are not as darkened by grease, pitting, track dirt, etc.  While the rails get that dark gray color that all tinplate track gets with use, the ties continue to look like the color of newer 3-rail track, and thus we're calling them "silver" in this thread.

The other difference, in mine anyway, is that the ties appear to have been formed during the manufacturing process a bit taller and "squarer" somehow than the later black ties we all know and love.

I don't mind them, but they do look funny when intermixed with "normal" O Gauge track.  I tend to use them all in one spot on the layout, normally near a back wall, so that their difference isn't as pronounced. 

Hope this helps.  The original (pretty good) thread can be seen here.  You have to be a member of the Toy Trains Mailing List to review it.  Membership is free.

Steven J. Serenska


"Then the black ties were added for realism."

Oh, we are a weird bunch. "Realism" is a greatly twisted word in 3RO-Land. Like: "his layout uses realistic GarGraves track", ignoring the middle rail, big ties and chrome track.

I just think it's funny. I plead guilty, too, although I did paint the GG chrome track a dark rust black/brown. 


While your track is obviously Lionel, Sakai did chrome plated 3 rail track in the 50's.  I have a few switches I picked up in a miscellaneous auction lot.  Nice switches actually.

Jonathan Peiffer

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Dave NYC Hudson PRR K4 posted:

I see that on the ties it of course has "Lionel", but also has " NY". How long were they located in NY before they moved? 1960's?

The factory was in Irvington, NJ and the offices and showroom was in NYC. They moved to Mt Clemens, Mi when General Mills took over 1970. Lionel Corp still have toys stores , Lionel Kiddy City & Lionel Playworld until sometime in the late 1980s when they all closed due to bankruptcy. 

Sueme Valley System

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