The online magazine on the history and operation of vintage scale model trains in American OO gauge

Friday, July 10, 2009

More random notes on setting up vintage (and new!) OO cars with trucks and couplers

I am near the end of this series of “truck” posts. I managed in the recent “truck blitz” to get around two dozen cars running well that either were bad ordered or not at all in service. In the process I learned a few things.

Some cars cannot be set up for certain brands of trucks
This is a function of truck swing, bolster height of truck, and truck wheelbase. Nason trucks have very high bolsters, Schorr very low bolsters. Scale-Craft trucks if set up right are bullet proof and work on practically any car. They are a great design for the operator. With five cars recently that I had tried to set-up to run on other brands of trucks I ended up throwing in the towel, they are now back on S-C trucks like when I bought them, including the four Bessey reefers in this post. While they looked great on the upgrade trucks in particular, they were built in such a way that really only S-C trucks would fit the cars correctly due to truck swing issues.

Some cars need an intentional “loose” truck
This has to do with the bolster/car possibly being slightly out of square but more likely the bolster screw hole being out of square. Usually this does not impact both trucks and some types of truck are more forgiving than others. In an extreme case the hole can be drilled out and filled with glue and the truck mounted with the screw glued in at vertical. Put the car on a track while the glue sets so that it is true vertical. If you grease the screw very lightly it can be removed easily.

Get coupler height just right
Coupler height is critical. My “height gauge” for years has been the rear coupler on this locomotive. It sits on the test track right above my workbench. It, along with the NMRA standards gauge, is an indispensible tool. I get everything to be essentially exactly the height of this coupler. This prevents many problems.

Washers—a must!
Hardly any cars need no washers to set up the height correctly. There is a type of washer that S-C shipped out with their trucks. After a while you begin to spot them; the hole in them is too small for a lot of screws, but not S-C truck screws. Use these as often as you can setting up cars with S-C trucks.

Treasure your S-C truck screws and bolsters
I don’t know of any source for the same type of screw. When possible I use other types of machine screw that fit the bolster hole but it is not always possible. I wonder what the average S-C Bakelite bolster will be like in another 50 years? A percentage has totally become unusable.

I am not a fan of S-C dummy couplers
Except of course for long passenger cars, where I love the extra swing they have. For freight cars, ugh, they just don’t generally couple easily with Kadee couplers (but will couple). Lionel dummy couplers are very similar but a bit more compatible with Kadee. Other than on passenger cars S-C dummy couplers are more or less banned from the layout, as are all brands of dummy coupler except Lionel.

I am a fan of Kadee HO couplers
Kadee couplers match S-C and Lionel OO couplers in size very well. The Kadee No. 5 works well in most situations where the car was set up originally for Lionel or S-C couplers, and often can use the same screw hole. I also have quite a supply of Kadee No. 4 couplers that I picked up cheaply over the years. I have made a deal with myself to build these up and use them on every car that can use them, which are mainly freight cars with wooden floors. They are more difficult to assemble for sure but one nice thing about these is the obvious extra slack action they add to the train, it is a nice effect on starting and stopping. But, again, they are not so easy to assemble.

With all that you have no excuses. Get some more vintage cars running!

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