Evolution of N Scale Flange Size

gdmichaels Nov 4, 2016

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  1. gdmichaels

    gdmichaels TrainBoard Member

    Over time, N Scale flange sizes have evolved to better match prototypes and appear closer to scale. There are three basic kinds of flange varieties: High, Low and Standard Profile.

    Early N Scale locomotives and rolling stock were all equipped with high profile / deep-flange wheels. These deep flanges were very good at keeping the cars on the tracks but due to the unrealistic appearance of the flanges, these wheels were known throughout the hobby as 'pizza cutters." These wheels, though a bit of an eyesore, worked just fine with early N Scale track and as long as the cars were on the track, the flanges were hidden by the rails. Read more in our blog. http://www.trovestar.com/generic/blog.php?Article=47
  2. Point353

    Point353 TrainBoard Member

    The statement (in your linked blog article) that "NTRAK categorically rejected the use of Code-55 on their specification, which requires all modules to be tracked with Code-80 track" is incorrect. Did you find that information somewhere in the NTRAK manual?
  3. SecretWeapon

    SecretWeapon TrainBoard Member

    I'll take pizza cutters all day long. I run trains for enjoyment & relaxation. If trains are derailing all over the place, it's not much fun. This is N Scale. It's hard to tell the difference between the two, just by looking at them on the track. But it's very easy to tell once they start coming off the track. I think the people who just collect, wanted the smaller flanges. Trains can't derail in the box or on a display.
    mtntrainman likes this.
  4. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

    Um...deep flanges are very visable, and i prefer ditching all pizza cutters to improve the looks. I have first generation Atlas cars that I still run, but on modern MTL trucks. To me, it is amazing how much better these old cars look with a simple truck swap.
    Metro Red Line likes this.
  5. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

    Code 55 is a fairly recent thing. So, if the fine folk in question were indeed recommending code 80 that's most likely all that was available at the time. They were looking for a universal standard. Allowing all module's to be joined one to the other.

    One of the things that caught my eye when I first looked at N scale was how well the train ran on the N scale layouts I visited. Very few problems with derailments. That was until you needed to make a reverse move.

    I didn't get that kind of performance from my HO scale RP25 prototype flanges and Atlas Sectional track. Those dreaded horn hook (X2F) couplers. Of course I was young and my track work left something to be desired and there was other things I could point to. In time my track work improved and my problems disappeared. Kadee wheel sets and knuckle couplers, thank the Great Spirit they came along at the right time.

    You can't always point at just one thing and say that made the difference.

    What I appreciate about today's N and HO scale low profile wheel-sets is how well they hold the rails. Very happy with this advancement.
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2016
    Metro Red Line and ken G Price like this.
  6. Point353

    Point353 TrainBoard Member

  7. Ike the BN Freak

    Ike the BN Freak TrainBoard Member

    I've ran 125+ car trains with all low profile wheels without derailments or issues.

    And it is very noticeable to see the difference.
    Metro Red Line and ken G Price like this.
  8. jpwisc

    jpwisc TrainBoard Member

    I run my trains for fun and operations. I ONLY run low profile flanges. No derailments. I can also see the difference in flange size. Pizza cutters look toy-like.

    There is no correlation between small flanges and collectors, quite the opposite if anything. There is a correlation between small flanges and better trackwork. If you aren't willing to lay track well, I can see why you'd go the pizza cutter route.
    ken G Price likes this.
  9. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

    There is also the tread to consider when looking at the wheel sets.
    ntbn1 and jhn_plsn like this.
  10. glennac

    glennac TrainBoard Member

    Flange height only became an issue for me when I started running at a local club occasionally. While running my first freight over their code 55 track it was embarrassing to hear my pizza cutters zipping over the track nail heads. From that point on I started changing out all pizza cutters for low-profile on anything I wanted to run there. It was an enlightening 'newbie' experience at the time. :sick:
    ken G Price likes this.
  11. rschaffter

    rschaffter TrainBoard Member

    Con-Cor rolling stock had "standard " depth flanges since they came out in the late 1960s, as they were made (in Japan) for the US market. The European manufacturers used the NEM standards, which were originally for toy trains. In addition to a deeper flange, the back-to-back gauge is smaller: http://www.morop.org/de/normes/nem310_d.pdf (edit; I linked to the wrong page)

    I don't know how one can have a serious dissertation about wheels without noting the NMRA Standards, which for N scale came out in the early 1980s, and are based on the Con-Cor for "Standard" wheel profile and MTL wheelsets for the back-to-back gauge. http://www.nmra.org/sites/default/files/standards/sandrp/pdf/S-4.2 2015.01.19.pdf

    MT "Low-Profile" wheelsets, which were first available around 1980, were the basis for the "Fine Scale" wheel profile. I had thought them obsolete, but the Fine Scale standards are buried in the bottom of the Proto Standards, http://www.nmra.org/sites/default/files/standards/sandrp/pdf/s-4.1_2006.01.pdf

    There is also now a Hi-Rail Standard which encompass the old NEM standards, http://www.nmra.org/sites/default/files/standards/sandrp/pdf/S-4.3 2010.02.24.pdf

    So the three categories should be:
    - Hi-Rail
    - NMRA Standard
    -"Tending toward Prototype Dimensions," for lack of a better term, as there is no practical Proto standard for N

    PS, Gordon Odegard wrote an article on handlaying code 40 rail on his layout in 1977...
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2016
  12. gdmichaels

    gdmichaels TrainBoard Member

    Thanks for reading our post and sharing your feedback. to your question: On page 22 of the NTRAK Manual, it says, "Code 80 nickel silver flextrack such as Atlas or Peco are recommended for the three "community property" tracks.

    The reason for this is if members bring pizza cutters to events, they won't have issues. Case in point. This past weekend, I attended the Wellesely Community Center Train Show, a recent NTRAK event. Here's a video of some 50 Bachmann pizza cutter-equipped cars in operation. If the track was all Code 55, this would just be a mess.

    badlandnp and montanan like this.
  13. Point353

    Point353 TrainBoard Member

    Indeed, Code 80 track is recommended, but not to the total exclusion - or categorical rejection, to use your phrase - of other types.
    Note the sentence in the NTRAK manual directly following the one you quoted which states: "If code 55 Peco, Railcraft or Shinohara track is used, the last inch or two should have Atlas [Code 80] rail for easy mating with the Atlas [Code 80] connecting tracks."
    It's the use of Atlas Code 55 track that should be avoided.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2016
  14. Eagle2

    Eagle2 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    As a general observation, I think the trend has been towards at least the option of much better scale fidelity and detail as the years have gone by. Hence, for example, MT packaging two complete sets of wheels with a lot of the newer cars I've seen. And hopefully that kind of attitude will continue, where different options and "druthers" are provided for.
  15. montanan

    montanan TrainBoard Member

    Back in the mid 70's I started an N scale layout. I started with a small layout that could be slid undr a bed and then finally moved back to Montana and had a basement to work with. Unfortunately, the locomotives at the time in general were miserable compared to what is available today. I had over 11 scale miles of main line track and had a branch line also. One thing that did bug me was the over size flanges of the wheels and also the over size rail.

    I ended up tearing everything out and moved to HO scale. The over size rail bugged me so much that I built my layout using code 70 rail. There wasn't much of a choice back then in N scale. It's a different world today.
  16. CarlH

    CarlH TrainBoard Member

    I still have some of the Con Cor (Sekisui) freight cars built in the early 1970s. I think Kato made these. I don't know the exact proper terminology for describing their stock wheel flanges, but they were much smaller than everything else at the time. I have swapped the Rapido couplers that came with these for MT couplers, and these 40 year old Con Cor models to look quite acceptable riding in a freight train in between modern Micro Trains freight car models.
  17. dualgauge

    dualgauge TrainBoard Member

    Won't say code 55 will not be in the future along with smaller flanged wheels. Look at the use of power poles over cinch jones connectors. Just have to look and see.
  18. gdmichaels

    gdmichaels TrainBoard Member

    The older CJ connectors can be swapped in a matter of minutes to Powerpoles, especially if you have a high-grade crimper. I have done this myself for a number of club member's modules. Swapping 1000's of older rolling stock wheels for low-profile is a more challenging and expensive task. Hence there will be considerable more resistance to endorsing code-55 in the NTRAK specification. It may be in the future of NTRAK to support code-55, but IMO it is a distant future.

    My personal experience is that low-profile wheels run just fine even with the horizontal force vectors created by very long trains rounding two 90-degree corners simultaneously. Most of my collection uses low-profile wheels. I would be fine with swapping relatively small number of items to low profile wheels that do not already have them. Not everyone is in the same boat though...
  19. Point353

    Point353 TrainBoard Member

    Use of code 55 track is not in the "distant future."
    The only "resistance" to using code 55 track on an NTRAK module is for Atlas.
    Again, read what is stated in the manual. See my post above.
  20. gdmichaels

    gdmichaels TrainBoard Member

    Looks like I was wrong. The NTRAK board is putting forward a proposal to support Peco Code 55 on the mainlines. Even if it gets shot down, it is not so distant as I thought if the powers that be are suggesting it.

    I know our local club will oppose it as we have many members with extensive collections of older rolling stock. But you never know.
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