O27 track clips definitely make it more convenient to set up a loop of Lionel O27 track on the floor. But they aren’t very intuitive. Here’s how to use O27 track clips, whether they have the Lionel or Ives brand on them.
How to use O27 track clips
It helps if you assemble the track and then flip it over.
Next, line up the shorter side of the clip so that it covers just the edge of one tie, while covering the entirety of the tie next to it. The clip has a lip that grasps the inner edge of one tie, while grabbing the adjacent tie on three sides. It’s a clever design that let Lionel make the clip using less material.
After lining it up, press down on the long side so the clip grasps the adjacent tie tightly. You may have to press down pretty hard, but don’t worry. The metal is springy. You won’t break it.
The resulting assembly lays completely flat. If the clip doesn’t want to grip one tie or the other, one or both of them may be out of square. Straighten them up with a pair of needle-nose pliers. They don’t have to be perfect, but if a tie is too warped, the clip won’t fit right.
Flip the track back over, and verify it lays flat. Then move on to the next section. The resulting track holds together very firmly, making it ideal for temporary floor layouts, or seasonal layouts you set up around the holidays. Lionel trains look great with Department 56-type buildings, or with galvanized metal building-shaped lanterns.
Caveats with Lionel O27 track clips
Even though Lionel and Marx O27 track are compatible with each other, the ties aren’t quite spaced right to use Lionel track clips with Marx track. The clips won’t fit. The easiest way to tell Lionel track from Marx is to look at the holes in the ties from the underside. If the cut is smooth, it’s Lionel. If you see a small barb in the hole, it’s Marx.
K-Line track, on the other hand, is compatible.
You can mix vintages of Lionel track with Lionel clips (the piece on the left in the photos is from the 1950s while the piece on the right is from the 1970s). The post-1970 ties look wider, but the clip still accommodates the newer design.
When picking out used O27 track on Ebay, make it easier on yourself by looking for brown ties, because you know brown-tie track will always be compatible with Lionel clips. The clips themselves are reasonably priced on Ebay too, if you run short.
Ives clips are completely compatible with Lionel track; Lionel used the Ives name on them for decades to keep the trademark from falling into competitor hands.