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Wheels and Couplers

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Wheels and Couplers
Posted by B Rutherford on Thursday, November 25, 2021 9:21 AM

Hey all.  Happy Thanksgiving!

 

I am looking to change out wheels on various freight cars and maybe trucks. Can someone give me some guidance as to how to know which wheels / trucks to buy for prototypical accuracy and best running?  I am not sure of the best manufacturer or how to figure out which ones I need.

Same question for kadee style couplers. I have a couple cars in need of replacement couplers as well as some Tichy kits in need of couplers. I have no idea which size / style I should be using. 

Thanks in advance!!

- Bill Rutherford Lancaster, NH

Central Vermont Railroad 

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Thursday, November 25, 2021 10:06 AM

There's an excellent thread or maybe two directed by the good doctor which will tell you all about wheels and trucks.

Consensus is Intermountain makes the best wheelsets. I think Tangent makes identical wheels for a little bit less money. Kadee makes good looking wheelsets if looks are important. The difference seems to be the diameter of the cone end of the axle. Intermountain and Tangent make small diameter axle ends that definitely run better. 

Micromark makes a truck tuner at works very well to ckean up old or poorly made truck axle pockets. They make a truck pliers that spreads the truck for easier removal of wheelsets. I find it less useful for inserting g new wheelsets or the tuner tool but  I may not be using it correctly yet. Micromark has a special pricing on a set of both tools at the moment.

Consensus is Kadee makes the best trucks if you feel the need to upgrade although I think Accurail also make good trucks. If you like your old trucks then just swap in new wheelsets. Maybe consider tuning the plastic trucks. Keep any metal trucks that are any good, hard to get better ones these days. 

Kadee makes the best couplers according to consensus. Walthers Proto max are pretty close imho. Bachmann EZ Mate II are acceptable plastic couplers. McHenry are not so good imho. Accumate are just weird and I thought initially they were no good at all but I've since changed my opinion. They still seem weird but there's no doubt they work well.

Kadee has a nifty coupler conversion chart and several pages for specific brands of locomotive or cars. I use the newer whisker type couplers in preference to the original brass spring design. Easier to install and reliable. Also their newest line of snap together coupler boxes is very good if the coupler boxes also need upgrading.  

Alyth Yard

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Posted by doctorwayne on Thursday, November 25, 2021 10:20 AM

B Rutherford
I am looking to change out wheels on various freight cars and maybe trucks. Can someone give me some guidance as to how to know which wheels / trucks to buy for prototypical accuracy and best running? I am not sure of the best manufacturer or how to figure out which ones I need.

I think that this LINK to a recent discussion should answer pretty-well all of your questions.

Wayne

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Thursday, November 25, 2021 2:00 PM

That's the one I'm thinking of. Really good and complete information.

Here's the Kadee opening page to access conversion charts:

https://www.kadee.com/convpl.htm

Here's a handy list:

https://www.kadee.com/documents/holist.pdf

Exploring the Kadee site is useful.

There are basically three things to consider when deciding what coupler you might need: shank length which is short, medium or long; knuckle height which is center, overshank or undershank; and shank thickness especially for Bachmann products. Also Bachmann fit unique trucks which don't fit other brands nor vice versa unfortunately. I don't think much of Bachmann trucks myself.

By restating the Intermountain and Tangent information I don't mean to imply that the wheelsets supplied by Walthers, Rapido or Athearn are not also good choices. I've used them all. Intermountain are the most free rolling. Some modellers don't see that as an advantage though.

 

Alyth Yard

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Posted by B Rutherford on Thursday, November 25, 2021 5:04 PM

Thank you everyone.  That information is indeed helpful. There is also a ton of great information in that linked post.

One more question:  where / how would one determine the right truck style for a particular car?  If I replace some trucks with the kadee sprung trucks do I just match what is already on the car?

- Bill Rutherford Lancaster, NH

Central Vermont Railroad 

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Thursday, November 25, 2021 5:57 PM

That's a $64k question.  There's lots of resources starting with NMRA:

https://www.nmra.org/sites/default/files/d5a.pdf

 

Alyth Yard

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Posted by ricktrains4824 on Friday, November 26, 2021 8:27 AM

B Rutherford

Thank you everyone.  That information is indeed helpful. There is also a ton of great information in that linked post.

One more question:  where / how would one determine the right truck style for a particular car?  If I replace some trucks with the kadee sprung trucks do I just match what is already on the car?

 

Are you asking Bettendorf versus Barber, etc?

 

Ricky W.

HO scale Proto-freelancer.

My Railroad rules:

1: It's my railroad, my rules.

2: It's for having fun and enjoyment.

3: Any objections, consult above rules.

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Posted by B Rutherford on Friday, November 26, 2021 8:59 AM

Yes

- Bill Rutherford Lancaster, NH

Central Vermont Railroad 

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Posted by ricktrains4824 on Friday, November 26, 2021 9:38 AM

The long answer for that - It's complicated...

Different era's had different equipment.

A Barber S2 with roller bearings is more recent than a Bettendorf with solid bearings. 

And then you could get into roadnames that prefferred one brand over another, even down to roadnumbers with a repair that changes it from the "normal".

Quick answer - Roller bearings are now federally mandated on all interchange equipment, and equipment with solid bearings are not elligable to interchange between railroads, effective Jan. 1 1972 onward. (MOW Equipment specific to a single railroad are exempt, but cannot leave "home" rails.) So if you model from 1972 on, roller bearings on anything not in MOW service, if "modern era" roller bearing style trucks on everything, MOW included, with very few exceptions.

Generally, 100 Ton cars get 36" wheelsets, 70 Ton and smaller get 33". (Intermodal equipment, and specialized cars can be different.)

Ricky W.

HO scale Proto-freelancer.

My Railroad rules:

1: It's my railroad, my rules.

2: It's for having fun and enjoyment.

3: Any objections, consult above rules.

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Posted by Bayway Terminal on Friday, November 26, 2021 9:48 AM

Truck types should depend on the era you are modleling and the type of rail car (tonnage rating). My RR is modern day proto typical so all of the rolling stock has to have roller bearing trucks, i use Kadee trucks and Intermountain wheel sets if i decide to change the Mfgr. trucks & wheels , if you model a past era in the USA Bettendorf friction bearing trucks should be used, again the time era and the car load rating is most important, Bayway Terminal NJ 

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Posted by doctorwayne on Saturday, November 27, 2021 1:39 AM

I'm modelling the late '30s, so my cars all have era-appropriate trucks.  On some cars which never ran in interchange service, some otherwise outdated trucks could still be used,  like these TH&B hoppers, which left their home rails only on a lake boat, which took them to the south shore of Lake Erie, where they were loaded with coal, then returned, on the same lake boat, to their home rails...

...complete with archbar trucks, stem-winder brakes, and split-K brake gear...

These 65 ton capacity cars were built in 1914, and some of them were still in use (company service) into the early '70s.

I also have some freight cars with mismatched trucks...a not unusual situation if a car showed-up with a damage truck that needed replacement rather than repair.

Wayne

 

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Saturday, November 27, 2021 5:13 PM

I figured out how to use the Micromark truck pliers properly to insert a wheelset. Works very well. The pliers hold the wheelset  when you apply no pressure to the handles. You slip the points in straight above the truck "journals" as the axle points reach the truck you begin opening the pliers (gently squeezing the handles). If you're lucky the wheelset drops right in and you close the jaws (release the handles) and withdraw the pliers.  I had tweezers or bent tip pliers handy in the other hand in case the axle points need a final lining up before you release the truck pliers.

The Micromark truck tuner is magic on poorly moulded journal recesses.

Highly recommend both tools if you plan on upgrading a lot of wheelsets anytime soon. 

Alyth Yard

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Posted by B Rutherford on Saturday, November 27, 2021 5:55 PM

Definitely grabbing the truck tuner and the pliers. 

Modeling transition era which would put me with Bettendorf trucks.  Going to start with some wheel conversions first

- Bill Rutherford Lancaster, NH

Central Vermont Railroad 

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Saturday, November 27, 2021 10:42 PM

B Rutherford
Definitely grabbing the truck tuner and the pliers. 

I just got my truck tuner, used it once, and now I am a true believer.

Don't waste money on the pliers. Completely unnecessary.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by tstage on Saturday, November 27, 2021 11:12 PM

SeeYou190
Don't waste money on the pliers. Completely unnecessary.

Bill,

I agree with Kevin.  Since the trucks on my rolling stock are plastic, I just insert the pointed end of a wheel set into the conical hole of one of the journals then pry the truck apart just enough with my fingers to slip in the other end.  No fancy tool needed; just my fingers.

The truck tuner on the otherhand is very useful.  I occasionally have to clean the flash from the truck journals that come with kits.  I don't have to do it very often but it really makes a difference in how well they roll.

After using the tuner I give each wheelset a quick flick with my finger and allow it to spin freely: If a wheelset will spin for 5 secs or > before coming to stop - I call it good.  If it fails to spin for 5 sec I give it another turn with the truck tuner and test again until it passes.

Tom

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Time...It marches on...without ever turning around to see if anyone is even keeping in step.

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Posted by richhotrain on Sunday, November 28, 2021 6:15 AM

Lastspikemike

I figured out how to use the Micromark truck pliers properly to insert a wheelset. Works very well. The pliers hold the wheelset  when you apply no pressure to the handles. You slip the points in straight above the truck "journals" as the axle points reach the truck you begin opening the pliers (gently squeezing the handles). If you're lucky the wheelset drops right in and you close the jaws (release the handles) and withdraw the pliers.  I had tweezers or bent tip pliers handy in the other hand in case the axle points need a final lining up before you release the truck pliers.

If those pliers work so well, then why do you need tweezers and bent tip pliers on hand in case those pliers don't work so well?

I agree with Kevin and Tom. Don't waste your money on the Micro Mark pliers. They are a completely unnecessary. I have removed and replaced countless wheelsets over time with one simple tool - - my fingers.

Alton Junction

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Sunday, November 28, 2021 7:57 AM

richhotrain
If those pliers work so well, then why do you need tweezers and bent tip pliers on hand in case those pliers don't work so well?

I read the procedure as described, and had no idea why anyone needed so many tools on hand for a simple finger-job. I was born with all the required tools already installed!

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Sunday, November 28, 2021 8:45 AM

Depends on how convenient you find it prying the truck ends apart with a finger tip. After doing this many, many times I discovered how easy it is to do with the Micromark pliers. These pliers will not of course work on metal trucks but then neither will your fingers generally speaking. Metal trucks cone apart although I have succeeded in swapping wheelsets out of Kadee metal trucks without taking them apart but you can't usefully spread the truck ends  anyway.

The extra pliers or tweezers are only needed if you fit wheelsets without removing the trucks (another advantage for the Micromark tool) or you have maneuver the wheelset into the space behind a cast on brake shoe above those goofy McHenry couplers. In that latter case it is actually easier to use the tool with trucks in place than to remove the trucks first. The particular IHC streamlined cars have been modified and the trucks are secured by metal screws, lockwashers and nuts. 

Sure I wouldn't bother breaking out the tool for one or two trucks but for a consist  of 8 passenger cars or a batch of newly acquired freight cars it's a great tool. You won't regret buying one.

Alyth Yard

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Sunday, November 28, 2021 9:01 AM

B Rutherford
If I replace some trucks with the kadee sprung trucks do I just match what is already on the car?

I am a huge proponent of Kadee sprung trucks with code 110 wheels. Every freight car I own, except one, has Kadee wheels, trucks, and couplers.

From what I have read for your desired era, you cannot go wrong with Kadee #500 Bettendorf trucks. I buy them by the dozen.

I also mix in a few #504 ASF Ride Control, #515 Double Truss Vulcan, and #517 Pennsylvania 2D-F8. However, once a train is moving, you really cannot tell the difference.

Very early roller bearing trucks would be acceptable as well. Kadee does not make a model of this truck. These are old sprung trucks by Aurora I think.

I use Bettendorf T-Section on most cabooses. Also, as others have mentioned, home road only and maintenance equipment has some Andrews and Arch Bar trucks.

I always paint my trucks. This is a great way to spend a free day.

 

Have Fun!

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by tstage on Sunday, November 28, 2021 9:17 AM

Lastspikemike
Depends on how convenient you find it prying the truck ends apart with a finger tip.

Actually, pretty convenient.  I know where they are at all times and I don't have to dig through my toolbox or a drawer to find them. Smile, Wink & Grin

The only time I really ever need the truck truer is when I put together a rolling stock kit.  Plastic wheels generally come with those and I always replace them with ribbed metal ones and #58 couplers from Kadee as part of the assembly process.  Any RTR I purchase geneally comes with metal wheels so no replacement necessary.

I can see the advantage of the pliers if you were going back and replacing a large number of wheelsets at one time.  Since replacing/adding wheelsets is part of the assembly process for me, the pliers wouldn't be an advantage for me.

Tom

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Posted by rrebell on Sunday, November 28, 2021 9:21 AM

Ussually you just need to replace the wheels, even Ertl's run fine with new wheels. As far as couplers, most modern couplers are just fine but if you have an issue, then Kadee is the way to go, like the whisker type, very easy to install in most cases.

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Posted by richhotrain on Sunday, November 28, 2021 9:22 AM

tstage
 

I can see the advantage of the pliers if  

I cannot see the advantage of the pliers under any circumstance. 

I have removed and replaced hundreds of plastic wheels with metal wheels. I have removed hundreds of metal wheels to clean them, removing black gunk and the like. I simply cannot recall a single instance where I could not remove the wheelset with my fingers.

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by Doughless on Sunday, November 28, 2021 10:41 AM

B Rutherford

Hey all.  Happy Thanksgiving!

 

I am looking to change out wheels on various freight cars and maybe trucks. Can someone give me some guidance as to how to know which wheels / trucks to buy for prototypical accuracy and best running?  I am not sure of the best manufacturer or how to figure out which ones I need.

Same question for kadee style couplers. I have a couple cars in need of replacement couplers as well as some Tichy kits in need of couplers. I have no idea which size / style I should be using. 

Thanks in advance!!

 

I think the major difference in truck types are Barber vs Bettendorf, where Barber is used on older era cars and Bettendorf more on newer era cars, generally reflecting increase tonnage from the 50 to 70 ton era to the 70 to 100 era.

Most manufacturers get the Barber/Bettendorf decision correct.  If you want to drop down into the level of more spcific detail of the Barber or Bettendorf, maybe ask specific questions about that.

Not all trucks have the ability to accept all wheeset axle lengths.  Some aftermarket wheelsets have shorter lengths and others longer, and some trucks are wider and narrower by a skosh.  Enough to where if you put a shorter wheelset into a wider truck, it can cause problems.

Back when I used to replace wheesets, I found that Intermaountain wheelsets generally fit well into the trucks of most models.  The old Life Like Proto wheelsets slipped right into Athearn BB and MDC trucks wonderfully, but not so well into others.

I think the best approach would buy IM wheelsets, and then just replace the oddball truck that might not be the best match.

Also, different cars use different sized wheels, 33 inch or 36 inch for more modern eras.  

A LOT of lesser manufacturers will put 33 inch wheels on to a car that would have had 36 inch wheels.  That may be your biggest or most common fix needed to get proper prototype fidelity, if that's part of what you're after.

IMO, there is nothing wrong with using older Athearn Blue Box Bettendorf or Barber trucks as replacements for any truck.  Trucks and cars can be scrounged on the used market or train shows.

Also note that some responses to your questions may come from the viewpoint of trying to max out the pulling power of their locomotives, long trains need steady trucks and less resistance.  You may not be running your trains like that, so simple trucks might work just fine for you.

And, unless you have tender fingers, expect to be able to replace the wheelsets without assistance from special tools.

- Douglas

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Posted by Doughless on Sunday, November 28, 2021 11:35 AM

B Rutherford
Same question for kadee style couplers. I have a couple cars in need of replacement couplers as well as some Tichy kits in need of couplers. I have no idea which size / style I should be using

I think the important thing is to have the same couplers on every car.  Kadees are the best, and I like either the standard #5 or the whisker.

But I've also noticed that the Athearn McHenrys work just fine if the other car has them, or the wierd two part Accumate (Accurail and Atlas) work fine mating with other Accumates.  As well as Protos ProtoMax with other Proto cars.

Its not the coupler that really matters.  Most folks have mixed brands of cars, so replacing them with a consistent coupler makes sense, and that's the reason behind the Kadee replacement idea.

Back in the day when I used to replace a lot of couplers, I scored a stash of about 100 Accumates for $25, and replaced the Athearn BB and MDC cars I was running with those couplers (And I had a lot of Atlas and Accurail cars at the time too).  It was a lot cheaper than the price of converting everything over to Kadee.

They worked just fine.

- Douglas

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Posted by rrebell on Sunday, November 28, 2021 12:14 PM

I was lucky once at a swap meet, the guy went with a different kadee coupler and sold 100 pair of Kadee #5 for 5 cents a pair.

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Posted by Track fiddler on Sunday, November 28, 2021 4:56 PM

That's a steal rrebell.  Nice score!

 

I replaced all my rolling stock that didn't already have them with Micro Trains Bettendorf trucks. 

I never used any other tool but my fingers to swap-em out either, wheel sets too.  If my burley calloused hands from a lifetime of construction can handle that in N scale, I would have to imagine HO must be twice as easy.

For some years now, I only by micro trains rolling stock because I got tired of buying trucks.  There is the occasional exception with some hard to find cars.

 

 

 

TF

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Posted by B Rutherford on Sunday, November 28, 2021 6:33 PM

Well, a few trucks, a bunch of micro trains wheel sets, kadee couplers, truck tuner and pliers all ordered.  We will see!! :)

- Bill Rutherford Lancaster, NH

Central Vermont Railroad 

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Posted by richhotrain on Sunday, November 28, 2021 6:38 PM

Bill,

Be sure to let us all know how you like the truck pliers. There was a lot of unnecessary controversy today about fingers versus pliers, so we will all be interested in which way you prefer ro remove and install wheelsets.  Good luck!

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by B Rutherford on Sunday, November 28, 2021 6:58 PM

I definitely will.

Hopefully they will make it easier,  worst case they wont be the first tool sitting gathering dust.  Lol

- Bill Rutherford Lancaster, NH

Central Vermont Railroad 

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Monday, November 29, 2021 8:50 AM

B Rutherford

I definitely will.

Hopefully they will make it easier,  worst case they wont be the first tool sitting gathering dust.  Lol

 

 

I found this video helpful:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=dIehnUjgiJA

I've found that fitting rack of the V shaped spreading jaws around the axle cone works best. You'll see in the video the demonstrator does it both ways: ensuring the axle end is between the points of the V and also without bothering to line that up. In my, so far, brief experience it's worth capturing each the axle end inside each V before spreading the pliers. 

The tool is used in much the same fashion as using your fingers would be. It's like having a third hand available.

Alyth Yard

Canada

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