CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This application claims priority of Provisional Patent Application 60/538,855 entitled MULTIPLE USE PANEL FOR TRACKSET filed Jan. 23, 2004 on behalf of the inventors in this application.
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
This invention relates generally to toy vehicle tracksets and particularly to construction apparatus used therein.
Toy vehicle tracksets often utilize a variety of supporting elements for assembling the trackway or toy vehicle pathway in a variety of configurations and contours. Such support structures typically include attachment to a supporting frame which facilitates the positioning of each segment of the toy vehicle trackset. Additionally, practitioners in the art have attempted to provide variations of toy vehicle tracksets which depart from traditional trackways and which provide more challenging surfaces for the toy vehicle to traverse during its travel about the trackway.
For example, U.S. Pat. No. 3,394,489 issued to Martin sets forth an ARTICLE ROLL GAME AND TRACK THEREFORE having a generally planar baseboard defining a plurality of apertures and a play surface. A plurality of vertical supports are configured to be secured to the base within the apertures and in turn provide support segments for a raised multiply contoured track.
U.S. Pat. No. 3,594,940 issued to Yonezawa sets forth an ASSEMBLY TOY SET having baseboards defining a plurality of arranged apertures in one planar surface thereof. The toy set further includes fittings such as rail, signal, house, tree and the like which are provided with protuberances adapted to be snuggly received within the holes.
U.S. Pat. No. 3,075,705 issued to Wilhelm sets forth MODEL RAILROAD EQUIPTMENT having a generally planar base element which includes electrical connections thereto and electrical conductors therein. A plurality of apertures within the base element allow attachment of electrically interconnecting elements.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,089,941 issued to Glickman et al. sets forth PANELS FOR CONSTRUCTION TOY SET having generally planar structures defining a shape such as a square. The panels define respective pluralities of apertures and may be interlocked or joined connector elements.
A further variety of examples of prior art set forth various uses of flexible panels or track segments within a toy set. Examples of such flexible elements are found in U.S. Pat. No. 1,829,963 issued to Pettibone; U.S. Pat. No. 2,224,405 issued to McIntyre as well as reissued U.S. Pat. No. Re. 32,106 issued to Lemelson and published patent application US 2003/0216102 A1 filed by Reisher et al.
In related prior art, various toy railway tracksets and other similar toy apparatus show a variety of guiding structures for use in combination with freely moving toy trains or toy vehicles. Thus, U.S. Pat. No. 1,564,337 issued to Fischbach sets forth a GUIDE RAIL STRUCTURE FOR TOY RAILWAY TRACKS having a conventional track segment utilizing raised railway rails together with a supported space apart raised guide rail generally conforming to the track segment.
U.S. Pat. Nos. 417,015 issued to Gause; 1,217,180 issued to Lavanchy; 2,120,251 issued to Johnson and 2,196,257 set forth various structures which utilize elongated curved track rails together with segmented supports to facilitate track curvature.
U.S. Pat. Nos. 3,487,999 issued to Nash et al.; 4,034,678 issued to Wilson; 4,504,012 issued to Fetty et al.; 6,093,079 issued to House and 6,328,500 issued to Rubino set forth further examples of multi-segmented trackset toys.
U.S. Pat. Nos. 1,174,558 issued to Friedel; 1,206,760 issued to Harris; 1,724,470 issued to Gilbert; 6,350,174 issued to Halford et al.; 4,948,136 issued to Hildebrandt; 3,780,235 issued to Deyerl et al. and 3,589,056 issued to Glass et al. set forth generally related examples of prior art toy structures.
German published patent application DE 003402586A1 and European patent application 0195204 set forth further examples of toy apparatus.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
While the foregoing described prior art devices have to some extent improved the art, and have in some instances enjoyed commercial success, there remains nonetheless a continuing need in the art for evermore creative, flexible, interesting and amusing apparatus for use in trackset toys.
Accordingly, it is a general object of the present invention to provide an improved apparatus for use in a trackset toy. It is a more particular object of the present invention to provide an improved apparatus for use in a trackset toy which is flexible in application and in capable of repeated use in different configurations within the toy vehicle trackset.
The present invention provides a flexible multi-apertured panel which may be utilized within a toy vehicle trackset to substantially vary the travel characteristics encountered by the toy vehicle. The panel includes a support member which facilitates positioning portions of the panel to establish a given contour together with a plurality of connectors utilized in coupling the end portions of cooperating track segments to the panel. Additionally, a guard rail is supportable upon the panel to further guide toy vehicles across a panel.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
Thus, in accordance with the present invention there is provided, a multiple use panel apparatus for trackset comprising: a generally planar flexible panel defining a plurality of apertures therein; a panel support having panel attachment means for engaging selected ones of the plurality of apertures and having means for securing the support to a further trackset support; and a track to panel connector having means engaging one or more of the apertures and for receiving a track segment, the panel support maintaining the panel in a selected contour.
The features of the present invention, which are believed to be novel, are set forth with particularity in the appended claims. The invention, together with further objects and advantages thereof, may best be understood by reference to the following description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in the several figures of which like reference numerals identify like elements and in which:
FIG. 1 sets forth a perspective view of a toy vehicle trackset utilizing the present invention multi-use panel;
FIG. 2 sets forth a perspective view of an alternative toy vehicle trackset using the present invention multi-use panel;
FIG. 3 sets forth a partial perspective view of the present invention multi-use panel and track coupling; and
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION
FIG. 4 sets forth an enlarged perspective view of a portion of the present invention panel and cooperating support elements.
By way of overview, the present invention multi-use panel may be inserted into the pathway of a toy vehicle trackset. The panel defines a plurality of apertures which facilitate attachment of trackset connectors to the panel as well as attachment of supporting structures. The panel is preferably formed of a flexible resilient plastic material allowing the insertion of a shape or contoured to the panel. Additionally, one or more guard rails are securable to the panel using the various apertures therein. The guard rails facilitate and guide the travel of the toy vehicle across the panel.
FIG. 1 sets forth a perspective view of a toy vehicle trackset constructed in accordance with the present invention and generally referenced by numeral 10. Toy vehicle trackset 10 includes a scaffold-type support generally referenced by numeral 11. Support 11 includes a number of base elements such as base 12 which utilize a plurality of support rods such as rod 13. Trackset 10 further includes an intersection 30 supported by scaffold support 11. Intersection 30 includes an outer ring 31 pivotally supported upon support 11 and inner ring 32. Inner ring 32 is small enough in diameter to fit within the interior of outer ring 31. Inner ring 32 is pivotally secured to outer ring 31. As a result, both outer ring 31 and inner ring 32 are pivotable both with respect to each other and with respect to support 11. Outer ring 32 is coupled to a pair of track portions formed by track loop 22 and track ramp 23. Similarly, inner ring 32 is coupled to one end of track loop 22 and to track segment 21. Because the end portions of track loop 22 are spaced from ram 23 and track segment 21 respectively, a gap or “jump” is formed across outer ring 31 and inner ring 32. The angle between the jump paths thus formed within intersection 30 is determined by the pivotal positions of outer ring 31 and inner ring 32.
Trackset 10 further includes a booster 15 fabricated in accordance with conventional fabrication techniques which accelerates a toy vehicle passing downwardly upon ramp 23. Trackset 10 further includes a flexible multiple apertured panel 16 which in turn is supported by an adjustable support 17. The remainder of trackset 10 is coupled by a track segment 19 coupled to panel 16 forming a U-Shaped portion together with a straight track segment 20. Track segment 20 is coupled to track segment 21.
Track segment 21, loop portion 22 and ramp 23 are fabricated to provide a trackway which is highly flexible in use and readily adjustable to a variety of curves, loops and twists. Thus, for example, ramp 23 is formed of a track segment 18 comprising an elongated frame 33 supporting a plurality of guide rail posts such as posts 34 and 35. Posts 34 and 35 are supported along each side of frame 33. A pair of flexible generally rod-like rails such as rails 36 and 37 are secured within posts 34 and 35 as well as the remaining posts along frame 33. The utilization of frame 33 together with supporting posts such as posts 34 and 35 and flexible guide rails such s guide rails 36 and 37 provides a track structure which facilitates bending the resulting track into a variety of curves, loops, twists and the like which are maintained in shape due to the secure attachment of guard rails 36 and 37 on each side of the track frame. In the preferred fabrication of the track segments, the fit and attachment of the guardrails utilizes an extremely tight snap-fit attachment for secure holding of the guardrails. Conversely, the positioning of the guardrails after the track frame has been shaped as desired allowing the snapped in guardrails to maintain the curvature or twist or other shaping of the track segment.
FIG. 2 sets forth a perspective view of a toy vehicle trackset constructed in accordance with the present invention and generally referenced by numeral 40. Trackset 40 differs from trackset 10 in its utilization in a different arrangement of components and a different combination of components but functions basically the same. Accordingly, trackset 40 includes a loop segment 41 supported by a support structure 42 together with a loop segment 44. Loop segment 44 is coupled between a curved panel 43 having a support 45 and a booster 15. Booster 15 is fabricated in accordance with conventional fabrication techniques and is used to accelerate a toy vehicle passing through the booster stage. An intersection 30 fabricated in the manner described above in FIG. 1, is positioned with an outer ring 31 and an inner ring 32 in a flat or coplanar relationship. Thus, outer ring 31 is coupled to track loop 41 and booster 15 while inner ring 32 is coupled to the remaining end of loop 41 and curved panel 43.
Loop portion 41 and loop portion 44 of trackset 40 are fabricated in the above-described manner in which a track frame supports a plurality of posts which in turn are secured to a pair of flexible guide rails. It will be noted by examination of FIGS. 1 and 2 that this track structure provides substantial flexibility and variability in shaping the contours of the trackset.
In a horizontal configuration of intersection 30 shown in FIG. 2, the jump portions formed by the respective track segments are generally coplanar and generally horizontal. This allows intersection 30 to provide a more conventional toy vehicle intersecting jump.
FIG. 3 sets forth a partial perspective view of a portion of the present invention multi-use panel showing a typical connection to a track segment and a typical support structure supporting the panel. With temporary referenced to FIG. 1, it will be noted that the multi-use panel 16 shown in FIG. 1 is positioned upon a support 17 such that a toy vehicle traversing booster 15 curves upon panel 16 and returns to segment 19. This comprises a typical use of the present invention multi-use panel.
Returning to FIG. 3, panel 150 is preferably formed of a generally planar resilient plastic material defining a plurality of spaced apart apertures 51. A support 57 described below in greater detail is secured to panel 150 by a plurality of pegs 158, 161, 162 and 163 received within the aligned ones of apertures 151. Of particular interest is the operation of locking pegs 161, 162 and 163 described below. Suffice it to note here that pegs 161, 162 and 163 are movable to a locking position by the action of a lever 159 supported upon support 157. As a result, panel 150 is maintained in a secured position.
Additionally, a pair of track connectors 152 and 154 define respective pluralities of pegs 153 and 155. Pegs 153 and 155 are received within the aligned ones of apertures 151 to secure track connectors 152 and 153 to panel 150. By way of example, a typical track segment 156 is shown joined to connector 154. As a result, a toy vehicle traveling upon track segment 156 is able to transition to the upper surface of panel 150. In the anticipated use of panel 150 and is illustrated above in FIG. 1, a second track segment is secured to connector 152 allowing the toy vehicle to exit the surface of panel 150.
In further accordance with an anticipated use of the present invention, a plurality of guard rail clips such as clip 164 are securable within selected ones of apertures 151. Correspondingly, an elongated flexible guard rail 165 is securable to the upper surface of panel 150 to provide guidance and direction to a toy vehicle traveling across the surface. Once again, FIGS. 1 and 2 described above set forth examples of this configuration.
FIG. 4 sets forth an enlarged perspective view showing the structure of panel support 157. Also shown in enlarged perspective view is a typical track connector 154. Track connector 154 includes a plurality of pegs such as pegs 155 for attachment to panel 150 using apertures 151 for attachment. Also shown in FIG. 4 is the end portion of track segment 156 which as is described above is securable to connector 154. In the example shown in FIG. 4, a locking tab 160 is utilized in securing the end portion of track segment 156 to connector 154.
In accordance with the preferred fabrication of the present invention, panel support 157 includes a movable lever 159 which pivots in the directions indicated by arrows 164. Support 157 includes a plurality of pegs 158 which are not movable and are used for location within apertures 151 of panel 150. Further, support 157 includes movable lock pegs 161, 162 and 163 which may be raised by movement of lever 159 to pass through apertures 151 and thereafter lowered to a locking position by a reverse movement of lever 159. Movable lock pegs 161, 162 and 163 define respective lips 161A, 162A and 163A (seen in FIGS. 3 and 4) which engage the edges of panel apertures to hold the panel in place once lever 159 is moved to its locking position.
What has been shown is a multi-use panel for toy vehicle tracksets which facilitates the insertion of a planar element within the toy vehicle travel path. The panel is supportable in a variety of contours to provide a corresponding variety of travel challenges to the toy vehicle. A guard rail is supportable upon the panel to provide path determination and direction for the toy vehicle.
While particular embodiments of the invention have been shown and described, it will be obvious to those skilled in the art that changes and modifications may be made without departing from the invention in its broader aspects. Therefore, the aim in the appended claims is to cover all such changes and modifications as fall within the true spirit and scope of the invention.