N Scale Freight Car Height

CedarCreek Oct 27, 2019

  1. CedarCreek

    CedarCreek TrainBoard Member

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    I am almost afraid to ask this question.

    I have been researching it for a while and the responses from several forums are not very clear (too me anyway) and it seems to be very contentious amongst some modellers.

    To be perfectly clear I am not a rivet counter at all. I just want it to make sense and look good. I have read many posts/threads about Micro Trains cars being over-height and potential solutions to lower them. I am most interested in the ride height of atlas trainman cars, specifically the trainman 40' plug door and the 40' PS1, are these correct?

    I know atlas released a new model, and i know it's superior. I'm not planning on purchasing this car anytime soon.

    I have several MT 40' plug door/combo door/standard box cars and several trainman cars which i want to keep but when coupled together the height difference is very noticeable. Especially when you have two cars which are supposed to be the same running together (my PGE 40' plug from atlas and the BC Rail 40' plug from MT is a perfect example). I assume they are both the incorrect prototype, but In this instance, who is most correct? I assume the trainman car..?

    To help me "cover it up" I am planning on painting some trainman and a couple of model power 40' boxcars cars into 10' Inside height CN boxcars. I'm not even sure if this will help and i'm not sure on what do you do about the plug door boxcars? should I just forget about it? Do I need to hack up the MT cars? Should I find a therapist? (LOL)

    I really like photos so any photo's of what others have done would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks!
     
  2. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

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    What you are referring to is called 'ride height', at least on one other forum. Basically it is used as an argument against truck mounted couplers. If, as you say, you are not a rivet counter, then I would not worry about it.
     
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  3. CedarCreek

    CedarCreek TrainBoard Member

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    One vote for forget about it... any other suggestions?
     
  4. bill pearce

    bill pearce TrainBoard Member

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    Most N scale cars ride too high to allow for truck mounted couplers. If you switch to body mounts, you can lower the car to a more prototypical ride height.
    but all prototype cars don't have all their tops even. the only problems for body mounts is with certain hopper cars and most all tank cars.

    If it bothers you like it does me, lower them, i my experience body mounts ,ore more reliable. If the appearance doesn't bother you, dow whatever you want.
     
  5. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

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    I would like to ask a question in the same vain if I may. Is there a 'standard' floor height from the top of the rail on the 1:1 railroad? Especially for boxcars? I know when I was in the trucking industy we had 'dock plates' to make up the difference in different trailer heights. Some places had 'dock levelers' that where permenant that swung up and back down to the trailer floor. Is it the same with 1:1 railroads? Do different cars/manufactures make that much of a difference in their floor heights from each other? TIA :whistle:
     
  6. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

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    I think the NMRA track gauge includes a loading dock height as measured from the top of the rail. Can't find my gauge at present time to check it but maybe someone can either confirm or correct my thinking on this. I know it provides side measurement for side and height clearance and platform and loading dock measurement may also be included.
     
  7. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

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    From looking at the UP Yard in Roseville CA, I can tell you that the car heights are not the same among box cars and tank cars.
     
  8. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

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    In N scale as with everything else there are trade offs. When you alter the status quo to gain something in one area you invariably sacrifice in another. You got to make the decision on which is more important to you. The big advantage of truck mounted couplers is that the coupler always follows the centerline of the track making coupling, especially on curves, easier. This was and still, is important given the propensity of the industry and modelers to use extremely tight curves of 9 3/4 inches. The prototype's tightest curves don't approach that sharp of a curve.



    On the prototype a car will ride higher or lower on its trucks depending on whether it is loaded or not. Granted we are not talking more than an inch or so but ride height is not static.

    My experience has been different. I run a lot of Ntrak. Most Ntrak layouts have broader mainline curves than the typical home layout. I have no problems coupling cars on a curve with truck mounts. Body mounts have less of a success ratio and trying to couple a car with body mounts to one with truck mounts, without using the hand from the sky borders on the impossible. The decision here is yours to make.
     
    MK likes this.
  9. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    All of the measurements I am aware of, prototype, are from top of rail.

    Loaded and empty, prototype heights vary. But not that much, or those real body mounted couplers would align too poorly. The spring packs in trucks help in this regard.

    As to modeling, most folks don't do much about this, with their cars. (Although lowered they do look nice.) If you are happy as is, then I would not worry. If I bothers you, then perhaps try altering a couple of cars and then see how you feel.
     
  10. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    I suggest that you stay clear of certain brands of cars, such as those made by Bachmann which find their carbodies lifted to ridiculous height above their trucks. Vis-à-vis this example:
    [​IMG]
     
  11. bill pearce

    bill pearce TrainBoard Member

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    But again , I don't know why you're having to couple on those broad curves ona regular basis. Oh, ye, I remember, I]v e seen a lot of those shopping mall N
    Trak layouts and it seems to me that about 75% of the builders spent more time making scenery with dinosaurs and scifi monsters than they do in good trackwork. So we get back to the basic point, why are you needing to couple on a curve regularly?
     
  12. Maletrain

    Maletrain TrainBoard Member

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    Looking at my NMRA track gauge, and the instructions that come with it, I don't see anything related to box car floor level above the rails.

    That said, it makes good sense for there to be a standard height for floors above rails, and for loading docks. Looking at old photos, floors and docks seem to line-up consistently. In the old days, some warehouses had multiple tracks paralleling a loading dock, or even just loading doors on the side of a building, and they aligned the doors of cars on adjacent tracks, bridged the gaps between cars (and dock and nearest car) with prefabricated plates, so that the workers could pass through cars with loads from adjacent cars, going in or out of the warehouse. I would think that practice would be made a whole lot easier if the car floors were close to the same height.

    Doing an Internet search of "railroad car floor height" produced individual car company adds with specs that showed floor heights of 3'8" (light) and 3'7-7/8". So, 3'8" seems like a good height for freight car floors.

    On the other hand, Wikipedia says that most U.S. passenger platforms are standardized at 48" or 25", with one example of 20", but that is mostly light rail systems for commuters when not 48". And, then there are the "low" platforms designed for use with steps on the cars. Wiki says those are mostly 8" above the rails in the southeastern U.S., but see below.

    The drawings that I have for standard B&O structures show freight docks at 48" high and 5'6" form the track centerline. Standard dock width was 8'. But, the specs for the B&O's low passenger platforms was only 4" above the railheads, and 2'6" from the inside of the railhead. Minimum passenger platform depth was specified at 16', although the bay window could intrude 3'6" into that. So, it seems that the passengers were expected to be able to step off the cars onto the platform, maybe with a conductor-supplied step stool, but the freight cars were expected to be loaded with a plank bridging from the dock to the car floor. But, I doubt that was a standard for all U.S. carriers. I seem to remember some places along the Pennsy that had docks much closer to the rails.
     
    mtntrainman likes this.
  13. MK

    MK TrainBoard Member

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    Totally untrue! Stop visiting shopping malls and go to a real train show where N-Trakker's run. N-Trak is all about running and that's how the original conept started. Can't run or build giant layouts at home so let's put a goup effort into creating one at larger venues.

    Have you even talked to an N-Trak person or N-Trak club? They will tell you it's all about running long trains. You're coming to a conclusion that is supported by no facts and certainly no research of your own.
     
  14. randgust

    randgust TrainBoard Member

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    Contrarian reporting in....

    I came to the conclusion a while back that if I had a choice between going to low-profile flanges or lowering carbody height, lowering carbody height made a bigger visual difference. On any given MT car that has a full plastic floor (flats, gondolas) I replaced the entire bolster with styrene and cut the middle of the frame out. If I had to, I enlarged the end clearance with an Xacto to swing the truck-mounted coupler boxes.

    On boxcars, I'm cutting notches on the 'frame holder' porting of the body to simply drop the entire frame in deeper, trimming the ends back a bit for coupler swing. Same carbody here, with the treatment on the left and the original on the right. That 40' MT plug rides particularly high.

    [​IMG]

    It's really noticeable on the gons and flats, those were the first to go.

    [​IMG]

    I've probably done this to about 20 cars, love the results. So I'm lowering MT carbodies and keeping the truck mounts. To me the biggest advantage in truck mounts is that they stabilize the horizontal centerline for coupling and also stabilize the vertical knuckle height. I just don't have a problem with them pushing through turnouts and derailing and I'll back a 30-35 car train.

    I've also had remarkably few issues mixing body mounts and truck mounts, except on MT passenger cars vs. Rivarossi cars. So I'll leave any new bodymounts in place unless I prove they are causing problems, but I won't go through the grief to convert to bodymounts either.

    I have more problems with wheel flanges banging into center sills and coupler boxes on anything under 15" radius on more than a few new cars.

    The only 'banned' car on my entire layout has been the Atlas 89' piggybacks due to truck clearances, short shank poor-swing couplers, and an inability to modify the darn things to work. They got the floor height right, but the car doesn't work at all, so I'll keep my bulletproof MT 89' flats, thank you very much.
     
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  15. Maletrain

    Maletrain TrainBoard Member

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    To add a few more car floor height measurements, the drawings I have for a B&O box car give 3'8-1/4" and for a B&O gondola, 3'7-1/8". So, B&O seems to have standardized on their box car floors being about 3-3/4" lower than their freight platforms.
     
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  16. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

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    I am in the same frame of mind. Most times taking truck mounted couplers off...finding the right truck without a coupler...and finding the right coupler to body mount is a royal PITA !!! Lowering the body to make the body look right height is a lot simplier and faster. Call me lazy I dont care...I just like things simple is all...LOL.
     
  17. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

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    You exaggerate. It is less than 10% and you failed to mention the kitchen sink module or the whirling tornado module with the devastated mobile home park. How could you forget that??? As for the track work, it is usually good with the exception of the joiner tracks between modules which have always been a problem. That is one of the trade offs I spoke about. If you want a modular layout you will need some method of joining track on different modules. If that bugs someone then Ntrak is probably not for them but I find it less of an irritant than trying to run trains of forty + cars on a hollow core door with 9 3/4 inch curves so I can couple my body mounts on straight track. But that is just me.

    Because not everything in life is straight, including sidings, industrial spurs, yard tracks, interchanges and dare I say it, main lines.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2019
    MK likes this.
  18. bill pearce

    bill pearce TrainBoard Member

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    Let's be honest herer. There's no coming to an agreement on what should be done. Only the market weill tell us. But since several major manufacturers have come out with body mounted couplers on new body styles, I think you couple on a curve folks are out of luck.
    As someone with body mounted couplers, I can tell you that they don'r couple worth a damn on a 24" curve that is at least 3/4 of a circle, but on small bends no problem. At to street tracks, that's a whole different thing. I put that on my list of things not to model because it's too much aggravation.
     
  19. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

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    Okay, I checked the Ntrak website where they have both the NMRA and the Ntrak clearance gauges. The NMRA gauge has a clearance of 4 (four) feet above rail head for loading docks. Also the loading dock should be more than 9 (nine) feet away from the track centerline. There apparently is no standard for passenger platforms.
     
  20. bill pearce

    bill pearce TrainBoard Member

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    The major problem with cars appearance is the space between the truck and the body. Cars with truck mounted couplers will always stand higher off the trucks than the prototype, the tops of the prototype's wheels are generally partially obscured by the car. Most agree that cars with truck mounts look as if they are on stilts.
     

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