Mini Guide to N-scale Car Wheelsets

Jenna May 21, 2019

  1. Jenna

    Jenna TrainBoard Member

    Author: Alain LM


    I recently experienced a weird short on my club layout, which, after a long investigation, was attributed to a brand new Fox Valley Models (FVM) boxcar where one of the axles was fully conducting; of course this is not supposed to happen as their wheelsets are fully insulated, but s... happens even after quality control.

    Anyway, I had to replace the said axle, and there began my chemin de croix (French for "way of the cross" or laborious exploration) to figure out just how to do this. How do I know the proper axle for that car?

    Car manufacturers are absolutely silent about it and even FVM (as both a car and wheelset manufacturer) does not indicate which wheelset to use for its cars.
    So, I had to conduct my own investigations, which I'm sharing with you below. I hope that you will find this useful.

    Wheelsets are available in a variety of diameter and axle lengths; of course both are important when you want to replace a wheelset. The most frustrating is the axle length as this can make a difference in the truck, though such differences are really minor (you'll need a caliper).

    So here is the summary of what I've found from various sources:

    By length (non exhaustive):
    0.540 inch: Micro Trains; Athearn; FVM
    0.553 inch: InterMountain; some Atlas
    0.563 inch: Con-Cor; some Atlas; Bachmann; Kato
    0.573 inch: Arnold-Rapido

    By brand:
    Information courtesy of Streamlined Backshop

    Arnold-Rapido - 0.573 in
    Athearn - 0.540 in
    Atlas - 0.540 in, 0.553 in, 0.563 in
    Bachmann - 0.560 in
    BMLA - 0.540 in
    Con-Cor - 0.563 in
    Deluxe Innovations - 0.553 in
    Exactrail - 0.540 in
    Fox Valley Models- 0.540 in
    Intermountain - 0.553 in
    Kato - 0.563 in
    Lima - 0.549 in
    Micro-Trains - 0.540 in
    Model Power - 0.567 in
    Rapido passenger - 0.526 in
    Rivarossi - 0.549 in
    Roundhouse - 0.549 in
    Tangent - 0.537 in
    Walthers - 0.545 in

    If you'd like more information about wheels dimensions, please refer to this NMRA RP25 standard.

    Here is a link to the N scale wheelsets featured on TroveStar.

    About the Author
    Alain is an avid n-scale modeler who collects North American rolling stock with a focus on Canadian railroads and BNSF and all its predecessors. He occasionally purchases other models from European railroads. He has been using DCC since it's been available and successfully mixes North American and European DCC equipment. Alain regularly contributes to the TroveStar N Scale Model Trains Database (data and blogs), as well as to JMRI. By day, Alain works for a world-class railway signaling firm as an automation and real-time industrial computing engineer. This Frenchman lives near Paris.
    Doug Gosha, Hardcoaler and BNSF FAN like this.
  2. TonyHammes

    TonyHammes TrainBoard Member


    It is confusing and 36" wheels sets (Exactrail and FMV) 0.540 are kind of in sasquatch mode right now. I have a bag or two of .553 36" wheels sets so have resorted to drilling out MT trucks a bit to take the longer axles. I mark the bottom of the truck to know that I drilled it out and it is no longer MT standard.

    BNSF FAN TrainBoard Supporter

    Excellent information. Thank you very much for sharing that here.
    Doug Gosha, AlanUS and Hardcoaler like this.
  4. Doug Gosha

    Doug Gosha TrainBoard Member

    Yes, excellent. Thanks.


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