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Hi, a couple of thoughts on your flying truck comments. Springs do not die due to age. What happens to truck and coupler springs is that during a derailment they get into the short circuit path and get heated, which takes the spring our of them.  Knuckle springs are probably the most common victim of this. There are two different knuckle springs: TC-22 spring,  used with the TC-21 knuckle, which has approximately two turns; and the 480-16 spring, used with the 480-8 knuckle, which has approximately 3 turns. Things work best if they are not interchanged, but many of the parts dealers sell them interchangeably.    The washer you found between the truck and the carbody is probably a 2454-8 truck washer. They were used to get the trucks to rotate more freely and to compensate for the grounding washers. The washer has ID of 0.254”, OD of 0.500” and thickness of 0.025”. They are usually black oxide treated. They disappeared early probably to save money.  

I do not think the flying wing trucks were prototypes. They were a good design allowing different combinations of assemblies to be put together to provide the appropriate design for specific applications. There were a lot of them made and sold. The design just proved to be too fragile.  I also think when Lionel finally got a since of how high early postwar sales volumes were going to be, simplicity and cost control, controlled the redesign.  The flying wing design and the variation in wheel and axle design were independent.   The effort to produce a scale design to attract sales quickly gave way to cost cutting as volumes soared.

I hear you when you say you do not like the design of the 80 year old toy train, automatically controlled couplers. But let's look at the facts. Lionel introduced their first electric controlled couplers in the 1938 catalog. This was a great innovation that included those shoes but did not yet have knuckle couplers. In order to create these couplers, Lionel created those shoes and track sections to operate both the couplers and automatic operating cars. The track sections were the 1019 for O27 gauge and RCS for O gauge. The couplers and track sections were featured in the catalogs from 1938 through 1942. Then in 1946, Lionel's catalog introduced the knuckle couplers using the same shoes from 1938 and the same sections of track. These knuckle couplers are the ones that you are complaining about. I have cars and engines from this period that have couplers that still work fine. I understand that there can be problems with the shoes and that they may need more maintenance. The couplers themselves are used in modern Lionel engines with remote controlled couplers. Around 1948 Lionel created the magnetic coupler that you prefer. In order to use these newer couplers, new sections of track had to be created with a magnet in the middle. The new track sections were the 6019 for O27 gauge and UCS for O gauge. So which is the better coupler? There are pros and cons and lots of room to disagree. The magnetic couplers don't use those shoes. The electrical couplers can open the couplers on both cars at once making more reliable operation. The magnetic couplers are cheaper to build. They win! Imagine if Lionel continued to make the electrical couplers on a boxcar... the boxcar would have to sell for over $60.

Now about design verses need for maintenance, if the design of the electrical knuckle coupler is to be judged bad because maintenance is needed every 70 years, how bad is the design of the magnetic coupler that frequently needs maintenance within the first year? This is especially bad with the trucks from cheaply built cars, but if the design is great, shouldn't the couplers work well anyway?

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