What is Minimum Curve?
This measurement is very useful in purchasing track, locomotives, and rolling stock that are compatible with one another. For example, assemble O-72 curved track into a circle and you will have a 72" diameter layout. Assemble O-36 curved track into a circle, and you will have a layout 36" in diameter. A locomotive with a Minimum Curve requirement of O-36 will run on a layout with O-72 curves, but a locomotive with a Minimum Curve requirement of O-72 will not run on a layout with O-36 curves.
Recommended Minimum Curve
Lionel locomotives and rolling stock are thoroughly tested to determine their Minimum Curve requirement. In some cases, a Lionel car or locomotive may be able to easily negotiate most, but not all, possible track configurations for that Minimum Curve. For these products, a Recommended Minimum Curve is also given. This larger measurement allows for all combinations of Lionel track and switches.
Traditional vs. Standard O
Lionel O gauge locomotives and rolling stock are divided into two basic categories—Traditional and Standard O. Both lines are O gauge and can be run together if Minimum Curve requirements allow. Generally, the difference is a matter of size and consistent proportions. Traditional locomotives are sized for Traditional Rolling Stock, and Standard O locomotives are sized for Standard O Rolling Stock. Some other distinguishing features of each category are listed below.
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On the real railroads as well as toy trains, gauge refers to the distance between the outside rails of the track.
Lionel O gauge track systems, which include O, O-27, and FasTrack all measure 1-1/2" between the outer rails. Any O gauge car or locomotive can ride on Lionel O gauge track, as long as the curve track used on your layout can accommodate your particular cars (see Minimum Curve section).
Lionel S gauge track (AF FasTrack) is narrower than O, and supports American Flyer and other S gauge cars.