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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
If you are fighting them, it's time to fix them. Your train cars are supposed to do some very simple things, namely stay on the track and stay coupled while following the locomotive. Anything short of that is unacceptable. Here are a few tips on "shopping" cars.

I just got this reefer, and the first thing I did was to check the wheels. As you can see, they were gauged too close together. This car would have caused a lot of problems had I tried to run it this way. All the other wheels were off as well.

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I also discovered the coupler centering springs were gone from both couplers
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I replaced the missing springs and applied a little graphite. I use x2f couplers but it doesn't matter, all couplers must move freely. That's true of any scale.
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The wheels are corrected and reinstalled. I also checked to make sure the trucks swiveled freely. Much better!
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I put the car on my test track to check coupler height. Even though my coupler gauge has a Kadee on it, The height spec is still the same. Again this is important for any coupler in any scale. Also pay attention to the trip pin height using the gauge.
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This is the proper alignment of a Kadee coupler. The knuckles line up and the trip pin is just above the lower clearance surface.
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The last item is to make sure the car has a brake wheel, then put it in a train for a test run. We're good to go now, ready for revenue service!
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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
Another method for checking coupler height, the coupler face must be within the space of the gauge hole. This will agree with the Kadee gauge as well. Thank you NMRA.

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Two different examples of truck and coupler arrangements. The top car is a Gould hopper with metal axles and body mounted couplers(not yet installed), and a Tyco car with truck mounted or "Talgo" type coupler mounting and molded plastic wheel/ axle style. Check carefully with your gauge, as the plastic wheel/ metal axle setup must be in gauge with the wheels centered side to side. The molded plastic type do get out of gauge from warpage and will cause huge problems. Never assume they are OK.
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A Roundhouse car with screw mount trucks and metal axles with body mounted couplers. All the same rules apply

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The Roundhouse car again. Note that the uncoupling pin is maintained at the proper height. It should not be dragging on the re railer or catching on switch track rails. Insuring these things are correct will eliminate many problems.

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Good points, Time Warp.

I would add three things:

(1) Check the truck wobble -- both side-to-side and front-to-back. They should wobble from slightly too high to slightly too low in in all directions. If they don't wobble enough, the screw (or other attachment) needs to be loosened a little. If they are way too high in one direction (say, left), but not high enough in the other direction (right), then either the truck is mounted crooked on the bolster, or the bolster itself is not level, and needs to be gently filed level.

(2) Get a truck tuner and use it on plastic trucks (not for metal) to clean out gunk and carve the socket for the wheel set to its perfect shape. This will make reduce the rolling resistance of the car.

(3) Clean the wheels.

P.S. Before well-meaning members start suggesting replacing couplers and wheels, notice that this thread is about routine maintenance, NOT upgrading.
 

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Wow, great info, especially with the photos. I've read lots of info here about the subjects that time warp covered, but the photos help so much. Thanks to both of you!! :smilie_daumenpos:
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks to both of you.
Fire21, Sometimes it just says more if a person can see it, and most car issues are strictly maintenance related(or neglect).
A little attention here and there goes a long way.

MT, I haven't used a truck tuner, but I can see the benefit. And yes, upgrades are a separate issue here. You have to start with the basics, It will not work any other way.


Another random example of what had to be someone else's misery:
Fresh off of ebay, wheels again all grossly out of gauge, plus each set is skewed to opposite sides of the truck. The offset of the wheels is obvious.
It would be hard to imagine this car being anything other than a constant derailment.



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My personal favorite, I keep this one around.
Mismatched wheelsets, the metal axle being too wide forcing the sideframes apart, the other wheelset is caked with dirt and you can see the missing chunk of crud on the wheel tread. The wheels on the left having deep flanges, the ones on the right are RP25 contour. And the show stopper is the glued together couplers. Really good glue because that slick plastic never takes adhesive well. Why won't this work?:confused:
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Discussion Starter #6
So taking my own advice, I brought a box full of freight cars up from the basement to my work table. No real surprises, save for 1 missing boxcar door:dunno:, 1 coupler with a dead centering spring, and a piece of flash on the DT&I all door that was attached to the wheel flange. About half the size of a pencil eraser, it had been there since new and hadn't caused any problems except the car always had a little wobble to it. It was across the tread of the wheel and was very thin. How I missed it all these months I'll never know.
That's 12 good to go out of 14, took about 15 or 20 minutes.
Here's the pass / fail requirements:
Gauge and inspect wheels
Coupler height and centering
Truck fit
Must have a brake wheel (if equipped)
All stirrup steps present.

It will take me a few days to get through them all, but I'll have better performing, more reliable rolling stock. And that means less stress and more fun!
 

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Good guide! I have also picked up a couple of cars off of eBay that were advertised as problem children, and i was able to get them running well in under ten munutes, using what you describe above.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I would like to see more N scalers involved in this topic so I'm glad you posted. I don't have any N equipment to use for comparative photos, but maybe some of you guys can help out.
 

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Here's the pass / fail requirements:
Gauge and inspect wheels
Coupler height and centering
Truck fit
Must have a brake wheel (if equipped)
All stirrup steps present.

It will take me a few days to get through them all, but I'll have better performing, more reliable rolling stock. And that means less stress and more fun!
TW, I agree with MtRR75 on the truck tuner being a regular maintenance tool on shopping used rolling stock. Not always necessary but I put it on par with a coupler height gauge.

The only thing I can add from my own procedures is weighing the car. I have noticed a lot of older rolling stock is severely underweighted, and in some cases, like the AHM/IHC passenger cars, not weighted at all. NMRA has a good guide for this.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
You don't have to know, we're all learning everyday. I know far less than what I don't know.:smilie_daumenpos:
 

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Discussion Starter #13
It was mentioned earlier about cleaning wheels, and here's one from a while back. I had to dig the built up crud off of these wheels before I could even think about putting this car in service.
Dirt from the car wheels goes right on to the rails, then gets picked up by the locomotive, loco starts having trouble, and then things aren't fun anymore. Having clean wheels cannot be stressed enough.






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I agree that weighing them is a good idea Jerry. Proper weight is important, and I would recommend getting an inexpensive scale for the job.
It needs to be noted that adding weight does not nullify the other requirements, as everything needs to be right for rolling stock to perform it's best. As Jerry noted, it's a part of what needs to be done.
 

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I agree about clean wheels.

I got a set of Santa Fe passenger cars off Ebay and the crud was so thick on the wheels it almost came to the height of the wheel flanges.
No wonder the guy sold it, probably wouldn't stay on the tracks.
All these are good tips for good running cars.

Magic
 

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It was mentioned earlier about cleaning wheels, and here's one from a while back. I had to dig the built up crud off of these wheels before I could even think about putting this car in service.
Dirt from the car wheels goes right on to the rails, then gets picked up by the locomotive, loco starts having trouble, and then things aren't fun anymore. Having clean wheels cannot be stressed enough.
Wow! That looks like you actually carved plastic off of those wheels. I can't believe anyone lets their stuff get that cruddy.
 

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.......... I agree that weighing them is a good idea Jerry. Proper weight is important, and I would recommend getting an inexpensive scale for the job.
It needs to be noted that adding weight does not nullify the other requirements, as everything needs to be right for rolling stock to perform it's best. As Jerry noted, it's a part of what needs to be done.
And since I brought it up, it should also be noted that too much weight can be as detrimental as too little - you want to optimize the car's tracking ability while not adding too much friction and overloading your locomotive's pulling power. The NMRA weight guidelines are just that - guidelines.

http://www.nmra.org/beginner/weight
 

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I got tired of scraping the plastic wheels, so I been slowly converting over to metal. Yes, the metal does get dirty, but will not grow taller than the flange.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Not to get too technical , but the diagram below helps illustrate the necessity for proper tracking of rolling stock.
The horizontal line represents the center sill , which naturally is the centerline of the car. It is imperative that the centerline of the car run with the centerline of the track. Poor assembly, damaged parts and wheels offset on the axles will all affect the effective thrust angle of the car. (Simply put, if the car goes crooked down the track, the pull on the couplers tries to drag the car off the track ).
Also, with body mounted couplers, remember that the pulling force is through the center sill of the car, because the couplers are attached to it( reference point "A"). The trucks simply follow the track as they have little or no pulling force against them, they are attached to the center sill at point "B".
With truck mounted, or "Talgo" style couplers, there is no pulling force at point "A" whatsoever. Because the couplers are attached to the trucks, all the pulling force is through the truck kingpins at point "B", That's why rolling stock with this coupler arrangement can be more prone to derailments when being pushed, especially through turnouts. All the force is on the truck pins, which tends to want to make the trucks turn instead of push.

Consider the pulling force on the first car in a model train 30 cars long. With body mounted couplers, all of the pulling force is through the center of the car, the majority of the force on the trucks will be side force from the rails guiding the wheels.
Now use the same example, only with truck mounted couplers. The first car in the train has it's own weight , plus the weight of the entire train, pulling on the first truck king pin. Also the side force from the rails guiding the car.
Most of the time our tiny trains won't care one way or the other, but will run along just fine. It's good to know about the forces in action to move the train though, especially when trouble arises.





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