Turn down flanges

wpkelley Jul 16, 2013

  1. wpkelley

    wpkelley TrainBoard Member

    How can I turn down the driver flanges on steam locomotives to run on code 55? I have a Rivorossi and minitrix.
  2. r_i_straw

    r_i_straw Mostly N Scale Staff Member

    I have always removed the drivers from the axles and then mounted them on a small mandrel on my lathe. Then you have to re-quarter the drivers to get it to run without a hitch in its gettyup. I have heard of ways to do it without disassembly but have never tried it.
  3. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

    A possible method would be to place the engine on its side in a cradle or clamp of some sort, being careful to not jam the mechanism on the under side. Then run the engine slowly while lightly filing each flange edge. However, the down side would be that the metal fillings may fall into the mechanism and foul the gears and/or short the motor. This technique would be very tricky and only recommended for someone who is skilled mechanically and with the proper tools.

    However, Russell's method is equally as tricky in its own right.

    Another thought occurred as I was typing which might be less risky. The engine could be held loosely while running with its drivers resting on a flat file, one side at a time to prevent short circuiting both sides of the driver pickup.
  4. wpkelley

    wpkelley TrainBoard Member

    Ok I'll give it a try. Thanks.
  5. randgust

    randgust TrainBoard Member

    If you aren't already married to Atlas C55 you may seriously want to look at Peco C55; that ability to run the old stuff is why I use it.

    I've blinded flanges on two center drivers on a Hallmark 4-8-4, using a very sharp file and the motor on the locomotive; same thing. It worked but scared me to death and solved the problem at hand.

    I'd never recommend this tactic with a Rivarossi. The motors are small and overheat easily; there's just not enough torque to do it.

    There's a lot of slop on the Rivarossi quartering as the drivers are geared. You can pretty much eyeball them back in and it would still run. Since the rods are non-propelling, having them off a bit won't bind the mechanism unless it's really, visibly off. It's more of a challenge to get the wheels back in the frame and get the gears to line up right with the drivers than requarter the drivers.

    There used to be a couple services that would turn drivers for you.... may be worth searching for. I've done it myself on diesels by chucking axles minus one wheel in a dremel and constantly checking with a micrometer, and it worked well.
  6. Avel

    Avel TrainBoard Member

    If you think of filing the flanges down while the engine is running be sure to hook up a multimeter in series with the power to the train to monitor the amperage while filing. I've turned the my diesel's wheels by putting each wheel into a Dremel that is mounted to something. I use the Dremel drill press type accessory.
  7. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

    Probably the most accurate and precision way to do it. Plus the lathe can be set to take off a predetermined amount from the first driver to the 6th driver.
  8. Pete Nolan

    Pete Nolan TrainBoard Supporter

    Just running the drivers on a file leaves a flat, broad flange that's sure to pick points. So you have to sharpen (re-profile) the flanges also, and that's not easy.
  9. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

    Thanks, Pete. I hadn't considered that.
  10. robert3985

    robert3985 TrainBoard Member

    Pizza cutters work just fine on Micro Engineering code 55 flex, which would save you the headache of figuring out a way to modify flanges. As a bonus, ME 55 looks a bit better than Atlas 55 (finer spikehead details) and is exponentially better looking than Peco 55, which may as well be code 80 because of the grossly out-of-scale tie dimensions and spacing.

    Right now, ME #6 turnouts are more readily available than Atlas turnouts since the political/economic situation in China is responsible for Atlas 55 being nearly impossible to get, and as far as I know, the rumor-mill has the earliest availability of Atlas 55 turnouts sometime after the first of the year (2014) with the flex being available sometime sooner.

    When the turnouts become available, pizza cutters will run on Atlas turnouts with just a bit of filing on the thingamajigs on Atlas turnouts which hold the rails to the ties, so they won't buzz with just a little work.

    In the meantime, if you've already laid Atlas 55 track, you can take a file or sanding block to the thingamajigs on Atlas 55 which hold the rails to the ties and in a couple of hours (depending on the size and complexity of your layout) pizza cutters will run without hitting said thingamajigs and your track won't be the worse for wear...it'll just have lower thingamajigs.

    You might get a bit of fuzz from the sanding/filing, so going over the track with a few strokes of a little wire brush will get that stuff off.

    Personally, if I had pizza cutters anymore (I don't), I'd have used ME track in the first place. If, for some unknown reason, I decided to use Atlas 55, I'd have just bitten the bullet and sanded down all the thingamajigs before painting, ballasting or weathering, and not taken the chance of ruining some treasured old engines.

    Bob Gilmore
  11. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

    A friend has C55 track. He was having probs with equipment hitting the spikes. Here is what he did...

    He took a 1/8 inch jewelers screw driver...held it at an angle in line with the rail..on the inside of each rail. A few quick swipes down the spike heads *zip...zip* on each rail...moved down a bit...repeat. He says he had all the spikes 'mushed down' in no time ! He has an old boxcar with 'pizza cutter' wheels and he said before the screwdriver treatment...the wheels 'clicked' at each spike. After the jewelers screwdriver treatment...that boxcar ran smooth as glass ! His locomotives with deep flanges no longer hit spikes either. Its quick...easy...and painless to do. Beats sanding and filing...JMO YMMV...thnxs
  12. mmagliaro

    mmagliaro TrainBoard Member

    Here is what I know after having done this many different ways over the years.

    1. Flipping the loco on its back, applying power with clip leads, and riding a diamond file on the flange works great, but requires care for the Rivarossi and Trix steam. In both of those cases, the driver attachment to the axle is
    not very sturdy, and it is very easy to make the driver slip on the axle or make it go wobbly by accidentally
    applying too much pressure and/or building up too much heat in the plastic wheel center.

    If you do it, use only a diamond file. It takes the flange material off much more smoothly and uniformly
    than a regular file.

    I have done it on both the Trix K4 and the Rivarossi 4-6-2. USE A DIAMOND FILE.

    2. If you have a wheel puller and can disassmble and reassemble steam locos, pressing the wheels off
    and turning them is better. A lathe would be great, but assuming you don't have that,
    one way I've done this on the K4 drivers is by putting a 00-90 screw through
    the wheel, and tightening it on the screw with 00-90 washers and nuts on each side. Then put
    the shank of the screw into a power drill, spin the wheel, and ride a diamond file on the flange.

    3. Start by measuring across the flange and across the tread, with an accurate caliper, and figure out
    how much you need to turn the flanges down before you start. MEASURE OFTEN as you go.
    Shoot for flanges that are about .025" deep (so the difference between the flange diameter and
    tread diameter should be about .050"). The NMRA spec for flanges is .022", but a few extra thousandths
    is a safety measure. Plus, if you are doing this by hand with files, it is impossible to keep things
    still enough to really be that precise, and .025" will run fine on Atlas code 55.

    4. After you grind down the flange, it will have a blunt square edge, as others have noted. Now,
    just continue grinding, but ride the file at a 45 degree angle on either side of the edge. As it starts to form
    a sharp edge, quickly run the file over the edge from one side to the other to "round it over". You don't
    want a square blunt flange, but you also do not want a knife edge! It will pick switch points.

    4a. Trailing and pilot wheels are different. Often, you can pull one wheel off, chuck the axle in a drill and just
    ride the file on the flange, if you are careful not to make the wheel slip on the axle. You can even chuck one wheel
    in the drill, spin the whole thing, and grind the opposite wheel's flange. This requires great care to keep
    from bending or wobbling the wheel, but if you ride the file GENTLY, and take your time, it works.

    4b. Plan on spending 15-20 minutes or more on each wheel to avoid damage

    5. Here is an assortment of photos showing ways I've done this.

    First, doing it with a diamond drum in a Dremel, with the engine running on its back. This does make metal
    dust, but if you keep the engine slightly tipped so the dust collects OUTSIDE the engine frame, it causes
    no trouble. Just brush things out well as you go and after you are done.

    In this case, I was blinding a driver on a Kato Mikado (these are very sturdy and this method works
    really well on them, but you wouldn't need to do this just to reduce the flanges because they are already
    fine enough for code 55)


    In this one, I pulled chucked the wheelset in a vertical mill. But a drill press or even a hand drill
    would work. Just go slow and steady.



    Here's a jig I made from a variety of hardware store parts, and a "dead center" in my vertical mill.

    Here's a much improved version of that idea, a little tool made for me by John LeMerise.
    A complete article on making one of these, with a full set of photos and instructions,
    is in the NTrak Steam Locomotive Information Book 2012 Addendum available from ntrak.org


    Does a great job:
    (Trix K4 driver with turned-down fine flanges)

  13. robert3985

    robert3985 TrainBoard Member

    Hey! That's a great idea! I've never actually sanded and filed, since I use ME flex and hand-lay all of my turnouts...but yup...that's a helluva lot quicker and easier than sanding and filing. The doohickies on Atlas 55 that hold the rails to the ties are just a tadge too high for pizza cutters...just a few thousandths...That's why the "mushing" treatment works.

    Bob Gilmore
  14. Pete Nolan

    Pete Nolan TrainBoard Supporter

    I haven't found this as easy as claimed. But then I had 1100 linear feet of Atlas C55 track, hot off the presses in 2002. Maybe if I sanded for a few days? Or weeks? I love the track, BTW, and hope it becomes available again as I expand my layout in my new home in Ohio (or Alabama).

    I thought it would be much easier to just switch out the wheels, and ditch a few locos that really weren't great runners and not good candidates for the major switch to DCC. But lo-pro MTs don't necessarily fit in old Atlas, Roco, Rivarossi, etc. trucks! I didn't know the axles lengths might be different. So I ended up dropping axles all over the 1100 feet of track, and never predictably at one spot or another. I ended up just swapping out entire trucks. Unfortunately, I chose early Accumates, with the exploding couplers, which I then swapped out for MT lo-pros. And who knew that all the bolster pins were different!? N scale was N scale, right? Just like Lionel, right? Why would cars have different axle lengths or bolster pins?

    I'll admit that my last exposure to model trains was Lionel in 1956 before jumping into N scale in 1972. In 2002, after 30 years in N scale, I was blissfully unaware that the Cadillac of trucks and wheels--i.e., MT--didn't run on Atlas C55.

    Just sand the thingamajigs down? I'll call, and raise you 1,000 old MT pizza cutters! :)
  15. badlandnp

    badlandnp TrainBoard Member

    mmagliaro - I really liked your method of turning down flanges. But I don't have that equipment.

    So, I used a method similar to what others described above, with my Riv Mike on it's back and running. The trickiest part was achieving the same profile across all the drivers. After all the filing I totally disassembled the parts and soaked them in dishsoap and water and scrubbed every part clean, which worked well as the brass gears on the rivarossi hold up well. I posted some pics a year ago or so on that topic,

    Then, someone else on this board described a method using a cutoff wheel and free rolling drivers in the frame, but I haven't tried that yet.

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