Recently I found another toy train online, and successfully won it at auction. I wasn't necessarily interested in the train, just the track. Because between the track that came with the Straco Express and that still with my childhood train, I was exactly one curved piece short of a completed oval. Although the trains were approximately HO scale, they wouldn't work on modern track. The flanges of the wheels were too wide. Only the track that came with the trains had rails tall enough to accommodate the wheels.
The strange thing is that this train bears no resemblance to either of the other two that I have, as you can see from the photo, below (click on the image to enlarge). My suspicion is that the same Japanese company was contracted by three different firms to create an inexpensive HO scale train set. It would explain the use of the same track.
But that's where the resemblance ends. Even if the trains needed to look a little different for each client, I would expect some elements of manufacture to be recycled to further cut costs. If all three had the same couplers, for example, no one would really notice. Or the same trucks. But each of these trains using completely different tooling.
A recent discussion in the Train Collector's Quarterly publication had some additional information about these trains. The one I recently purchased was made by Bandai back in the early 1960's. Did Bandai make the other two as well, or did they further sub-contract and purchase the track for their sets from yet another Japanese firm?
Next post I'll go into more detail about what I've discovered so far about these mystery trains, and how they differ from one another.