Road and Rail – a match made in heaven
Introduced in the 1960s by Tyco Industries and renewed with refresh designs across the 1970s and 1980s, the Tyco Road & Rail Set combined two popular hobbies – HO Scale Model Trains and HO Scale Slot Car Racing. With so many sets released across several decades, let’s take a condensed look at each of the major ones.
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Introduced in the 1963-1964 season
In the 1963-1964 Tyco catalog, Tyco begins the promotion of TYCO-Town with the Road & Rail Set, a pack that would bring collectors of HO Scale Model Trains and Slot Cars together with a road and track crossing piece.
This allowed for more dense, intermingled road and rail, particularly with the smaller HO scale, with hobbyists imaginations going wild with the possibilities.
At the time, slot car sets were booming in popularity (see the History of Tyco) and were a common form of family entertainment.
Bringing these two major audiences together must have seemed like a no-brainer to Tyco at the time, a sure fire way to increase market share and further embed both products into the hearts and minds of consumers.
And while it does seem that the Tyco marketing machine quickly moved on, with the following years catalogs focusing separately on train and slot car products, “Tyco Town” would continue to be a common phrase amongst Tyco model enthusiasts and can be found even today within internet forums to describe expansive train and slot car track sets, often built into tables in a garage or hobby rooms, complete with buildings, trees, street lights, etc.
Tyco-Town continues with Road & Rail Sets
Tyco Road & Rail Sets would continue to be released however, and my research has found countless variants spanning across the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Here are some of the more popular sets that you may come across, though keep in mind these are rare and quite valuable in good condition.
1973 Super Road & Rail
Model No. 9000
Ten years after the initial release, we have this 23′ HO Scale Tyco Pro plus Twin Diesel Electric set.
Introduced in the 1973 Tyco Catalog (see image), Tyco would describe it as follows:
“Two complete sets in one! Run them together or separately. Big 63″ x 42″ layout gives you 23 feet of triple level racing action, with 2 Tycopro racing cars, 4 interchangeable bodies, and 2 racing controllers, plus a long twin diesel train set, including 5 cars, piggyback flat car set with truck terminal, remote control uncoupling, and 24 trackside signs and poles. Complete with road-and-rail crossover section, and 2 electric power packs.”– 1973 Tyco Catalog
Included were Tyco’s best at the time, the TycoPro slot car, possibly the fastest and most technically advanced on offer in the world, allowing Tyco to get back into the game at a time it was falling behind competitors.
Much of this was thanks to the revolutionary HT-50 motor, offered to them by chance at a trade show one day when an engineer had come to offer it to Tyco’s competitor but for whatever reason they didn’t show up.
Read the full story in my mega-article on the History of Tyco Toys.
In the catalog and packaging photos the set appears to come with #8805 Lamborghini Miura (Yellow with Black Rear) and #8801 Porsche Carerra (Silver with Red Tip), however the product never specified which cars you’d get exactly, and so based on what I’ve seen it appears they were mixed sets.
For example, a ‘complete’ set sold online apparently shipped with the below #8804 Chaparral 2G and #8803 McLaren MK 88.
If you can confirm, or correct this, please post a comment below!
No doubt the beginning of a lifelong obsession for many, this was an impressive kit, and I’ve tried to find the best photos I could to illustrate just how much you’d find in the box, and what the details were, but these are becoming extremely rare to find in the wild.
1977 Road & Rail with Nite Glow
Model No. 9010
Tyco would continue to update and innovate the Road and Rail product with each successive year.
The new Curve Hugger slot car chassis replaced the old Tycopro cars, and both the cars and the trains came in ‘lighted’ models with headlights beaming as they raced.
Nite-Glow guardrails, fixtures, and stickers finished off the effect.
In the words of Tyco
“Two complete sets in one! Run them together or separately. Big 63″ x 42” layout gives you 23 feet of “Nite-Glow” triple level racing action, with 2 CURVEHUGGER Lighted Silver Streak cars, and 2 plug in racing contrrollers, plus a Alco 430 Rock Island diesel loco with 5 freight cars, 24 trackside signs and poles.
Complete with road-and-rail crossover section and 2 electric power packs.”– 1977 Tyco Catalog – 9010 Tyco Road & Rail Set
Train set contents: Lighted Alco 430 diesel, 50′ box car, Hopper car, Tank car, Stock car, Caboose, 16 sections of track, including a curved terminal rerailer, 24 signs and poles, Power pack U.L listed
Racing set contents: 2 CurveHugger Lighted Silver Streak cars, 27 sections of track, 18 pier supports, 16 Nite-Glow guardrail w/decorative glow sheet, 2 plug-in racing controllers, 3″ road & rail crossover, Power pack U.L. listed.
1978 Road & Rail with Nite Glow
Model No. 9011
With each year, new sets would be released with minor to major changes. This 1978 model for example I cannot see any obvious changes other than the warranty declaration.
1982 Road & Rail
Model No. 3235
The next major change was the introduction of the Tyco US1 Electric Trucking set in place of the regular high speed racing set.
In the unlikely event you’re unfamiliar with this, US1 Electric Trucking is a slot-car style toy based around dump trucks, car carriers, and other heavy haulers which have pin guides front and back, and a modified pickups that pans the length of the underside of the vehicle, allowing them to drive both forward and reverse.
Instead of racing, the objective is to ferry around goods between several action / play set pieces such as loading and unloading zones, and in this way it’s more of an electric playset rather than a slot car.
If you’d like to know more about US-1 Electric Trucking, check out our Buyers Guide to US-1 Electric Trucking here.
This combination between HO Scale Train and US1 Electric Trucking is a match made in heaven, with the US1 vehicles operating effectively the same way as a model train set, complementing each other perfectly.
Despite this benefit, enthusiasts may have been disappointed at the reduced complexity of both rail and slot car tracks.
This was no doubt brought on by the general popularity of slot cars and trains reducing from a common family affair, to a much more typical toy which has a much more restrictive price point, and requires far greater accessibility. Eagle eyes will also notice the train has reduced from a 7 unit to 5 unit.
“Two complete Sets in One! Run them together or separately. US-1 Electric Trucking Set with Dump Truck, Gravel Truck and Trailer, Operating Gravel Hopper, Dump yard, Graven Bin. You control both trucks: forward, reverse, and speed. Trucks stop at two Road & Rail Crossings to let powerful Rock Island 5-unit train set roar by. Big 59″ x 69″ layout gives you real trucking and railroading in one!”– Tyco 1982 Catalog
As per the standard 3210 US-1 Electric Trucking, that portion of the set ships with a large green dump truck and a brown hauler with a trailer carrying gravel.
Train set contents: Lighted Alco 430 Diesel Loco, 50′ Box Car, Hopper Car, Tank Car, Caboose, Power Pack, U.L. listed. 16 Sections of Track to make a 39″ x 48″ Oval Layout
Trucking set contents: Dump Truck, Truck Cab, Gravel Trailer, Dump Yard, Gravel Bin, Operating Gravel Hopper, Logs, Highway Signs, 16 Sections of Track (2-9″ Straight, 2-6″ Straight, 2-9″ Road & Rail, 6-9″ Radius, 3-9″ Turnouts, 1-9″ Terminal with Controllers), Wall Power Pack U.L. Listed.
1988 Road & Rail
Model No. 6300
The final set I’ll cover today, and the last Road & Rail released that I’m currently aware of (comment below if you know of another) is #6300 released in 1988.
Can you find this in any Tyco Catalog?
I have scoured all annual Tyco Catalogs near the 1988 date and can’t find this set mentioned. Still, I am comfortable in identifying this as a 1988 model simply because of the flyers it ships with that advertise the 1988-89 Tyco Twin Turbo Lamborghini Countach), as well as sellers online advertising it as an ’88 no doubt due to the usual Tyco copyright with date somewhere on the box.
If you have a catalog or other marketing material with this model, please let me know! I will update the article with a photo, and include you as a credit.
From TycoPro to CurveHugger, US-1, and now Magnum 440-X2
This series of products has seen the most change over the decades, particularly on the slot car side as the technology improved. Beginning with the TycoPro in the 1960s, before swapping to the CurveHugger in the 1970s, then US-1 in the early 1980s, and now finally the Magnum 440-X2 in the late 1980s. Widely seen as Tyco’s best ever slot car chassis, it’s the best possible outcome for a series that has stuck with Tyco from almost the beginning.
Still, many of us (myself included) would find it fairly difficult to choose between either this 440-X2 based set, or the earlier US-1 based model – they’re just so darn cool!
What about you? Which would you take if given the choice? See comments below.
#6400 Road & Rail Vehicles
Looking inside the box we can see just how much of the room is taken up by the HO scale railway.
The Rock Island Express continues to be a staple of the set, introduced in model 9010 way back in 1977. This 1988 set includes 5 train units; the Express itself, Box Car, Hopper Car, Texaco Tank, and Caboose.
The 1988 variant included two Magnum 440-X2 cars, a silver Corvette, and a yellow Porsche 911 Turbo.
If anything, the inclusion of scale slot cars running beside the similarly scaled trains show you just how big these beasts are, towering over the relatively tiny Corvette. Collisions at the included intersection must be wild and not exactly rare given the length of the train and all its carriages. I suspect the little slot cars are probably going to lose in that match no matter how fast or careful they might drive.
Track setup and layout
Track layout for both road and rail is significantly improved from the previous version, with an exciting 28′ slot track with hi banked curves, elevated over and under portions, and the aforementioned dangerous intersection.
Several set pieces are also included to make it feel more alive out of the box, such as:
- Horse Car & Depot Set
- Operating Pipe Loader Set
- Operating Crossing Gate where the Road and Rail tracks intersect.
These are well detailed, and the same ones sold separately, allowing you to build your own little ‘Tyco Town’.
Availability and Collectability
There is no question that Tyco Road & Rail is going to be highly collectable and desirable to many, not just as a set, but the ability to intermingle your slot and train tracks is an obvious must-have for those with an interest in both hobbies.
Sadly, despite there being so many versions of Road & Rail created over three decades, these sets are not easy to find. From my own research, it appears they only come up on eBay once or twice each year.
On the plus side, Tyco did make the individual track crossing piece available as:
- #3727 US-1 Crossing Track
- #6727 for regular Tyco Quik-Clik Track
Still, these also have been snapped up by collectors around the globe, and are similarly rare.
Just like trying to find Turbo Hopper rear tires, after yours disintegrated or just plain old wore out, some things in vintage hobbies will rely on the ingenuity of fans to come up with replacements and alternatives.
Has someone come up with a solution for this? I don’t know, but I’d sure like to find out.
As for price, well this picture here says it all.
Note this isn’t an asking price – this is a sold price, with no indication that a best offer was accepted. It was bought outright. And it’s no surprise it sold for this much; finding any Road & Rail set in any condition is a tough ask. But finding a new? That requires a little bit of luck, a whole lot of money, and a very accepting significant other.