When I was about six years old, I remember coming downstairs Christmas morning to a Tyco Trucking and HO train set. Santa brought the train for my brother, and the US-1 set for me. Fast forward several decades, and my brother just bought my kids a vintage Tyco Trucking US-1 set for Christmas. I've fallen down the rabbit hole and have been having a blast getting everything working, picking up stuff on e-bay, and using 3D printing to fix things and make new parts that were never possible before.
I've been having a lot of fun playing with this with my kids, and figured I'd share with anyone else who might be interested. If you ever had one of these and have fond memories, drop a message below.
When I was a kid playing with Tyco US-1, I was always envious of my brother's ability, with his HO train, to have switches, and direct the train onto an alternate track. US-1 only allows you to drive your truck in a single track that loops, and back into "Action Accessories" to pick up and drop off stuff. I always wanted the ability to choose to take a different path with US-1. When I started playing with US-1 with my boys, after only a week my oldest son said he wanted basically the same thing. Did anyone else feel the same?
With the magic of 3D printing (and the budget of an adult), this previously unattainable goal is now within reach. I've modeled the single-lane track connector and started making different sizes and shapes of single-lane track. At it's most basic, the single lane track let's you position the "Action Accessory" buildings more creatively, maybe turning one 90 degrees so it doesn't interfere with something else, or maybe having a winding access road.
But, being able to make single lane track in arbitrary sizes allows a lot more options. In the video below, you can see a setup that allows a truck to transition from one side of the track to the other. This means that you can access stuff on both sides of the track with a single truck. (The big thing to watch out for is to not power both sides of the track at the same time, or you can create a short circuit-- before the kids use it, I probably need to wire up a custom controller to prevent this.)
And if we add to this a specially modified turnout track that is single-lane, we can achieve the ultimate goal of allowing an alternate path for US-1 trucks. You, the driver, can decide what path you want to take.
Alright, so I'm a bit like a kid in a candy shop with this stuff. Another structure I never owned as a kid, but looks kinda interesting is the G.I. Joe missile launcher.
The white plastic on the launch pad pivots at the front, allowing the missile-laden flatbed truck to back up, threading on the missile, and then pushing it upright with the "fin" on the launch tower. Here's a closer shot:
I've seen other posts where folks rightly call out that the launch pad (which is fairly rare) is based on the dump yard, which is insanely common. From what I can tell, it definitely is. the big difference is that the dump yard is raised up right where that pivot point is (I can't find a pic now, but I've seen one of the rocket launcher pad without the top on, and it's completely flat inside, without the hump):
So, back to that whole "kid in a candy shop" analogy. I just bought a missile launcher and missile from e-bay, and it's in the mail. Making a 3D model of the missile & printing copies seems like it should be simple. But what really excites me is: can we make a launcher platform that sits on top of an existing dump yard? Sure, it won't be exactly the same as stock-- that doesn't bother me. But can we make something that seems authentic and true to the original set? I'm thinking that it will need hinge points spread wider, to get around that big hump. And it will still need the fin in the middle to allow it to be pushed upright.
What I find particularly interesting with going this route is that apparently the single hinge point was a really common point of failure and breakage. If the good folks at Tyco would have had more time to iterate on the design, I wonder if they would have ended up with a version with two hinge points off to the side?
And for bonus points: One of the awesome things about US-1 was that most things you could both pick up and drop off. As far as I know, there never was a way to pick up a missile. What might it take to build a missile loading facility?
When looking at e-bay for Tyco US-1 parts, it's quickly apparent that there are a number of plastic parts that commonly break over time. One of the first I ran into was for the box unloader. You can find the main track piece for this very frequently, but there's a special sign that only swings one way that is almost always broken or missing.
One of my big hobbies is 3D printing (and designing 3D parts). As for Tyco US-1, my interest is less in having everything be perfect & stock, and instead in having something that I can feel comfortable having my kids pull out and play with. I expect that some things will get broken, and that needs to be okay. I also love that, with 3D design, I can design something once, and then not only can I re-print it as many times as I want, but others can as well. All it takes is one person to design a bunch of simple replacement parts, and then all of these broken, unusable parts are suddenly more valuable and easily restored.
So yeah, you probably guessed that I designed a replacement sign & sign post:
Functionally, it works great. And while the picture gives you a close-up view where you can see all of the printing imperfections, in practice, they're not so visible, and it works great.
I picked up a "Motor City Trucking" car carrier loader (I never had one of these as a kid, but it looks cool!) The "backstop bracket" was broken, but easily replaced with a 3D printed part (grey bracket in the middle).
The shed was missing on this Freight Terminal. This was kind of a fun build, as I designed the building to be printed flat, and folded, just like the original building was assembled. It's a surprisingly simple design that allows all of the walls to be printed as a top surface of the 3D print (so they look nice), without the need for gluing anything together. It's interesting how using a similar design that worked so simply with injection molding applies so well to 3D printing.
This whole project started when my brother decided that my kids needed a vintage Tyco Trucking US-1 set for Christmas. We live in different states, so he decided to order a bunch of stuff on e-bay and have it shipped to my house. A few days before Christmas, I started going through the stuff he had ordered, and realized just how much was needed to get these up and running.
The main things I ran into at first were:
The rubber on the rear tires is falling apart
The copper pickups on the bottom are in bad shape
Some of the motors are pretty weak
The track has some corrosion/ rust on it
A lot of stuff has been in storage in garages/ attics for a while and is just dirty
Luckily, there are solutions for all of these.
You can find replacement tires on e-bay. There are custom ones made out of silicone that work well. Also, there are some rubber ones that I haven't tried yet.
Some awesome guy is making replacement copper pickups. You can find them on e-bay or at his business: http://www.slotcarcentral.com/ (They're cheaper on his website, but I didn't find that until after I bought them on e-bay)
You can buy replacement motors on e-bay, but I also have found that you can "recharge" the motors' magnets by pulling the motor and sticking a bunch of neodymium magnets on each side for a few days. This is a lot easier than disassembling the motor and buying a magnet "zapper" that you can apparently use. That might work better, but the neodymium magnets seem to work pretty well to me.
The track can be cleaned using the green scrubbing pads you use for washing dishes. These scrubbing pads also work well for cleaning the copper pickups, which will need regular cleaning to keep everything running smoothly.
As for cleaning the dirt-- a lot if it I just threw in a sink and scrubbed with soapy water. Doing this once doesn't seem to cause a problem with corroding the track, but I wouldn't want to do it often.
Oh, and there's one more big issue. Early versions of the cars were made with brown gears. Later versions used white gears.
The brown gears are awesome. The white gears, however, haven't stood the test of time so well. Most of them are cracked. I went looking for replacement gears and couldn't find anything. So, this being 2021, I opened up some CAD software and went to work. I'd never designed gears before and designing mating worm and spur gears was an interesting challenge. A few weeks later, I got these back from Shapeways:
As a side note, before I got these back from Shapeways, I saw that someone else has designed replacement gears and is selling them on e-bay. It's good to see alternate options out there and others keeping this awesome toy working.