What is the complete story on wheel sizes for train cars

yellow_cad Feb 14, 2019

  1. yellow_cad

    yellow_cad TrainBoard Member

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    I have read bits and pieces, but don't really know the story on wheel sizes for train cars. I assume there are different total lengths as well as gauge differences. I see my stock of metal wheels are right at gauge while my stock of plastic wheels seems to run more narrow. What is critical and what comes into play when trying to get certain cars to perform better? Thanks, Jim
     
  2. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

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    Jim,

    This is one of the oldest subjects among us model railroaders. NMRA, has done some amazing work comparing the 1:1 foot scale to the various gauges and scales in our hobby. They've put together guidelines for recreating prototype wheels. Unfortunately, to this day we have marketed wheel-sets that aren't realistic. They've been around since the conception of N scale or any other scale. That's what you are most likely seeing. The same thing I see with my older train equipment. Fortunately, most manufacturers today have managed to bring the wheel-sets, in line with NMRA guidelines. Even within those guidelines there is different sizing.

    One of the big complaints we've had over the years is they kept producing wheels with "Pizza Cutter" flanges. They don't look realistic but that was the attraction to N Scale. They performed better then any RP25 in HO scale.o_O Gosh, now I'm going to have to run and duck for cover.:eek:

    Go look at Micro-Trains options available or any other manufacturer and you will find various sizes of wheels. The prototypes do the same thing.

    Also, NMRA makes a gauge you can use to check flange depth, wheel width, coupler height and scale.

    I hope that answers your question.
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2019
  3. bill pearce

    bill pearce TrainBoard Member

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    It took a little while, but there are now some good metal wheels, BLMA, Fox Valley and several others. The LP wheels run well on porperly laid track, but the pizza cutters are better if you are sloppy in your track laying.
     
  4. yellow_cad

    yellow_cad TrainBoard Member

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    I'm not sure what the pizza cutters are.
     
  5. MK

    MK TrainBoard Member

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    Nope, don't duck for cover! :D You are telling the truth! Although the pizza cutters tend to be regarded as the "ugly duckling" of the family, they are pretty much bullet proof. If you are running a 100 car unit train, I would rather have pizza cutters all around to avoid derailments.

    Yellow_cad, pizza cutters are what we call wheels with very high, unprototypical, flanges.

    http://mrv.trains.com/-/media/Image...12/May/Wheel quality keeps rolling.jpg?mw=706

    http://mrv.trains.com/sitecore/content/home/articles/2012/04/wheel-quality-keeps-rolling
     
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  6. Tony Burzio

    Tony Burzio TrainBoard Supporter

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    Pizza Cutters: wheels with flanges so large they can cut pizza. Exaggeration, using the shape similarity with the classic kitchen tool.

    Problems with this wheel type became pressing when Atlas produced its Code 55 track components which, in order to be easily bendable, had oversized nibs that touched the large flanges.
     
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  7. Tony Burzio

    Tony Burzio TrainBoard Supporter

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    Large flange vs small: one of the larger difference between the wheels types is friction. The larger the flange the harder it is to pull around a curve. Metal wheels allow a third more trains than plastic low profile. Normally, this difference is tiny until you get into longer trains or string lining (tipping over).
     
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  8. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

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    Tony,

    I tried cutting pizza with those "Pizza Cutter," wheels to no avail. The pizza had to be N scale, for it to cut it. o_O:oops:;)

    MK,

    Nice presentation. Video whatever they call themselves did a nice job illustrating the differences. Let's see if I avoided the local TB censor? :p:confused::D

    I won't change out my pizza cutters until I have to. You know broke, out of gauge, chunked uhh...err gunck-ed up(spell check is going crazy) as in environmental build up from oil, hair, dander and lint. Typical reasons we end up cleaning wheels.

    My favorite is the low profile from Micro-Trains. Nice!
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2019
  9. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

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    Metal low profile from FVM are the best. One benefit of metal wheelsets is that they polish the railhead and keep the track cleaner.
     
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  10. Tony Burzio

    Tony Burzio TrainBoard Supporter

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    A problem with metal wheels is they can be out of gauge, since the plastic insulator is not permanently fixed to the axle. Checking the gauge is easy but can be time consuming. Some brands of metal wheels can break at the insulator. Special care must be used to get wheels for your particular frame maker, or they won’t roll well.
     
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  11. bill pearce

    bill pearce TrainBoard Member

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    My experience is that the delrin wheelsets can shed bits of plastic on the railheads. And with even the worst track,the large flanges don't help. And FVM are the best, don't know if Atlas will keep the BLMA wheels going.

    My only complaint is that everyone tags the bags of wheels with axle length, but none of the have a chart that shows which length for which frame.
     
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  12. yellow_cad

    yellow_cad TrainBoard Member

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    How many different axle lengths are out there? Also, which of the wheel types works best with 70/80 track and tighter curves?
     
  13. Tony Burzio

    Tony Burzio TrainBoard Supporter

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    First, they all work OK. They all look different, so it depends if you like the look. All Microtrains axle lengths are the same, but the tire size may vary. Outside that, Con-Cor stuff is usually the oddball. Metal wheels are usually marked for type on the package.

    If your engines won’t pull your deep flanged train around the curve, either add an engine or consider low profile metal wheels to reduce drag.
     
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  14. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

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    With all that Tony and Dave has said and I'm about to say. Understanding it's not to contradict Tony or Dave as I believe they is/are correct.

    I've always preferred Micro-Trains Delrin (plastic) wheel sets. Why? On my layout there are a number of relatively short blocks that serve to reverse the current for my Wye's, Balloon Loops, and a section of track that allows me to cross over from one polarity to the opposing polarity. Don't forget the turntable. Oh what fun that can be!

    These block are long enough for Kato's (Metal Wheels) specifically a complete 12 car passenger train, with three F units on the front. The passenger cars are wired to be lighted the current is active/hot from one truck to the other, inside each car. They will cause a short. On my layout (once I get it back up) the blocks are long enough so the passenger trains (as described) won't short out the circuit. No, I don't run them through the turntable.

    I really like running long freight trains and even longer passenger trains if I can get away with it. I do. The passenger cars with Delrin wheel sets are tied on at the end of the train. I really like the fact there is little friction in the Delrin wheel-sets as they spin relatively freely in the Delrin trucks. Not a bad combination. Not a bad resolution. Wait there's more.

    Here's where the trouble starts. If I run my 30, 40 and 50 car freight trains with metal wheels through these reversing sections. You guessed it. The wheels make contact over the isolation gap, with both sides and a short occurs. Not good. So, can you guess? Yes, I'm sticking with the Delrin wheel-sets on my freight cars and anything else I can get them to fit on.

    I once argued that these wheels will not wear out. Uuhm, clearing my throat. Until a member of one of the Clubs in The Balboa Park Model Railroad Museum, San Diego, Ca., showed me one of his favorite N Scale cabooses with obviously worn out wheels. Nice groves in them. Okay, I can't argue that any more. I've also seen metal wheels worn out. Shown to me by the same guy. Kind of becomes a pointless...well...you know.

    Cleaning, I used to argue it didn't matter which wheel set you use they all get dirty. Continuing, and have required me to physically remove the environmental build up (gunk) off of them. Scrape, scrape, where's the alcohol? At the pharmacy. Aiiyiiyii. That's true. :sick:

    Do consider where I had my layouts. Most of them in either a garage, porch like sun room and/or the garage. Not a good idea. Way to many fine particulate's blowing through the air. Exhaust, dust, pollen, lint, hair, dander (from cat's and human's) and on the layout oily locomotives (which run great but oh the residue they leave behind) and track cleaners (most detergent based that also leaves residual behind that attracts the dust and Etc.) Sucking it right out of the air. The positive and negative ION, thing. Those busy bodies. o_O

    So, where does that leave us? Choices and lot's of them. First off know the differences and designed applications (as noted in previous postings). Then give it a go, as in test track them. Remembering technology as in new discoveries are always influencing the manufacturers to hopefully present better products. Pricey! But hopefully better. :cautious:

    Last thought. It's not likely on our home layouts we will actually see worn out wheel sets. Club layouts, yes! I know, so what's the point? You did ask that...right? I'll leave you to decide. I just like telling that story. :sneaky:

    Either, I need to run and duck for cover or we are all good. Incoming! :):confused::cool:
     
  15. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

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    Wondering if I need to elaborate about the reversing loops.

    Once the majority of the train is inside the reversing loop or balloon loop. Now ready to head back out on the main. As it heads back out on the main it becomes necessary with Analog DC or DCC to reverse either the main line to receive it, or the reverse loop. If the train is still hanging over the main line, with metal wheels, I can't very well reverse the main which is preferred... for a non-stop run through. However, if the last cars all have Delrin wheels it's not a problem. I can reverse the main and out the train comes, no shorts, smoothest thing you ever saw.

    Just don't try running two trains on the main at the same time. You won't like the results.

    Is this making sense? Are you able to follow this? If not send me a private PM and I will attempt to explain it in different words.

    There are those who avoid this kind of construction because they can't wrap their heads around it. That's okay! But they are missing out on a very interesting and highly operational layout.

    One of the reasons that once spring gets here. I've got to get mine... back up and running.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2019

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