2017-06.1: Make it Run Like a Dream - Rolling Stock

02 Jun 2017

Average: 4 (21 votes)
16:17 - June 2017 Act I - Make it Run Like a Dream - Rolling Stock (2017)

Joe Fugate returns to The Backshop Clinic to discuss tips for getting better performance out of rolling stock, from the second book in his Make it Run Like a Dream series. (The full book is not yet available ... you can pre-order it now and get a 40-page sneak peek version. The eBook is expected by late July and the paperback is targets for August.)

Also see:
Run like a Dream: Trackwork

Also in this month's show:
- Using waterslide decals to letter your own rolling stock on Notch 8
- Choosing structures for our TOMA project layout
- A visit to a massive model being built for public display, Our Home and Miniature Land

Act II: Applying waterslide decals ...

Go to Act II


LV.U23B.501's picture

Let me ask....   What do the things I list below have in common?

Choosing and using one coupler brand & size.  Adjusting to the proper coupler height.   Adjusting to the proper trip pin height.  Checking the centering action of the couplers.  Drilling out and tapping draft gear boxes as needed.  Choosing and using one brand of metal wheelsets.   Reamimg the sideframes.   Swapping out the old plastic wheel sets with the metal wheel sets.    Checking the wheel gague on each wheel set.   Lubing the axle points with Kadee Grease-em.  Checking the car frame for any twists or bends.  Mounting the trucks to the car properly.   Weighting the car properly.  Testing that the car tracks through turnouts properly. 

So...  Back to my original question....  What do these things have in common?   These are all tasks which need to be done to your freight car fleet, in order to ensure the best operation. 

Now...  What else do they have in common?   You need to buy Fugates book to see HOW these tasks are done!   Because they don't show you in the video.  

Sadly, this episode was nothing more than a commercial for Fugates book.  It leaves you asking "Where's the Beef"?


joef's picture

Some answers ...

Choosing and using one coupler brand & size. 

I tell you what couplers I use (Kadee #148 whisker couplers), but I leave it to you to pick the brand YOU prefer. Whatever brand it is, don't mix brands. Pick one and stick with it.

Adjusting to the proper coupler height.

There can be many methods, but 95% of the time it's using the red and gray truck washers sold by Kadee. Other more special cases could take an entire video just for each one.

Adjusting to the proper trip pin height.

Not rocket science. Get and use the trip pin pliers by Kadee.

Checking the centering action of the couplers.

Again, not rocket science. If it sticks you need to find out what is preventing it from moving freely. First step is add graphite to the pocket and see if that works it lose. If not, disassemble the coupler box and look for burrs on the lid. After that look for burrs on the coupler shank or a missing whisker / spring tab.

Drilling out and tapping draft gear boxes as needed.

If you know how to use a tap and drill, then you know what's needed here. The book doesn't have a tutorial on basic tool use - it assumes you know that stuff already (I only have 100 pages to cover all this stuff and I'm at 40 pages already and just getting started.)

Choosing and using one brand of metal wheelsets.

I tell you what brand I use (Intermountain) but I leave it to YOU to pick the brand you prefer. Whatever brand you choose, pick one brand and stick with it throughout.

Reamimg the sideframes.

Get and use the axle reamer from Micro-Mark for HO. For other scales, you can make-do with a drill bit and a pin-vise.

Swapping out the old plastic wheel sets with the metal wheel sets.  

Again, not rocket science. Pop out the old plastic wheel sets and pop in the new ones. Give 'em a spin and if they spin freely and true in the sideframes for 30 seconds or more, you're good.

Checking the wheel gague on each wheel set.

Another task that is not rocket science. Get and learn how to use an NMRA gauge for your scale and gauge. And READ the instructions - they tell how to use the gauge right.

Lubing the axle points with Kadee Grease-em.

Only if they don't spin freely for 30 seconds after one flick with a finger, then pop the set out and apply a dab of graphite to one axle hole, stick the wheel axle tip in the hole flip the truck over, another dab of graphite in the other hole and pop in the axle. Work the wheelset back and forth a bit then give 'er another flick to see if it spins better. If not, ream the axle holes a bit with the reamer. Don't overdo the reaming however, because too much side-to-side slop on the wheels can cause the truck to dogleg down the track increasing derailments.

Checking the car frame for any twists or bends.

Get and use a piece of flat plate glass for this, put the car on it then see if everything sits true on the glass.

Mounting the trucks to the car properly.

Use non-magnetic screws and be careful not to strip the hole threads. Make sure trucks swivel freely but allow one truck to have a bit more wobble up and down while the other truck only swivels (well-known three-point suspension trick).

Weighting the car properly. 

Opinions vary on this point. I go for at least NMRA weight, with the max being no more than 1 oz per inch over the car body length only.

Testing that the car tracks through turnouts properly. 

This is more trackwork than rolling stock - if the turnout is in spec and the car passes all tests, then it will track properly.

No intent to be coy with this presentation, just introducing the topic and giving a few core concepts that go throughout the entire book. Can't possibly cover 100 pages of material in even 10 hours of video, much less 1/4 hour of video.


espeelover's picture

Dear Joe,

I am taking your advice about the uniformity of couplers, 99% of my equipment has the No.5, some so old they are really the 5 & 10. I was in fact excited by KD's whisker couplers when they first came out, as they mimic my prefered centering springs, the old pre-delayed action springs. Well I did prefer them until the last bulk bag presented a few that were missing one of their wires, and the MIA wire was not in the bag; how nice, where do I find those?  Then, adding insult to injury, I finally picked up one of Kadee's BAR 50' boxcars, the red one with the 9' door and the cushion underframe with no running boards, only to watch said car bounce off my switcher's No.5 coupler at anything close to a realistic coupling speed; it was laughable. Well, that sure proves you right, but in trying to swap out couplers, which I had erroneously assumed might be simple, I was thwarted at every turn by a certain company which is making changing to the older couplers all but impossible.  Not only did they re-invent the wheel, in doing so, they made the old No.6 design even harder to deal with. They should have put a BIG WARNING on the cars giving consumers fair warning about their evil deed; who does this to their customers? Guess I'll never buy another Kadee freight car again, all the "scale" look lovers can have my share of them!  This fan will stick to the wheels and couplers that have given decades of dependable ops.

The better part of a day was spent making an entire new underframe, using a spare Athearn 60' boxcar center frame, cut down to line up with the Kadee screw holes in their all metal floor, which also had to be modified slightly as a final touch. Had great success after some serious trials figuring out this fix. In honor of the new frame, this latest car now has the original 5 & 10 centering springs keeping the No.5 couplers where they should always be, dead center. I had run out of those ancient centering springs, but an old friend recently willed me his personal stash, which funny enough, I had bought many of for him as a newbie modeler back when he first showed me the "evils" of the delayed uncoupler concept. Good deeds do return good things sometimes, although I miss my friend more than I am happy with the resupply of unobtainable springs.

Sorry to drone on so, but that boxcar was to be a cool Father's Day gift to self, and now the interesting feature of the sprung underframe is on the scrap pile in favor of something more robust which actually operates with my other equipment. Lessons learned, stck to what is familiar, keep using what is known to work properly, if it works, don't fix it, and so on. Oh, and tell the guys at TMTV and MRH thanks for keeping up the great work, you folks do good things for our hobby!


wafflebox306's picture

This video hits a nail on the head for me as I've just begun to standardize my fleet of rolling stock.  I chose KD 158 Whiskers and Intermountain Semi Scale wheelsets.  My comment is, of all the things I've read and videos I've watched, no one has ever given an opinion or shared test results on how these will work over time.  I generally just picked them because they look so much better and seem to run great as well.  I have taken some time to learn several weathering techniques and have come up with a technique that works for me. So after taking the time to weather something to look prototypical, I thought switching out the wheelsets for semi scales would further enhance the look of the cars.  From what little testing I've done, they seem to roll as smoothly as anything I've taken off the cars.  Sometimes, I need to swap out the trucks for the Accurail trucks that Intermountain routinely uses, but so far so good.  Any insight from anyone else running semi scale wheels or thoughts or opinions would be helpful and interesting.  


tpmarshall's picture

Hi "Wafflebox306":

I've been using finescale wheels in S (1:64) since I started building my layout in 2011. I have had NO problems with them, despite their much smaller flange. I think the really important factor when it comes to wheels is to standardize on one manufacturer's line of wheelsets, whenever possible. I use NWSL because they offer S scale replacement wheels. I replaced wheels that were plastic or metal, of various profiles, and so on. Now, everything runs on the same wheel profile, with the same flange depth. I then tuned my track so that my rolling stock doesn't derail. Now, on those rare occasions that I have a derailment, I know that I've eliminated one variable from the equation while trying to determine the cause.

That said, I don't run my equipment on other people's layouts, and other people don't run their equipment on mine. That's fine - if they're coming to run trains on my layout, we're re-creating a specific prototype, location and era, and their equipment would be out of place anyway. And my trains don't need to run on other people's layouts - I'd rather run their stuff when I'm visiting them.

I only mention that because it means that MY layout is tuned to MY equipment. I don't know whether that tuning would cause problems for other people's stuff - or even if my track is, strictly speaking, "NMRA compliant". It's not an issue, as long as what I have works...

So, providing you standardize on the Intermountain line of Semi-Scale wheelsets, then tune your layout appropriately, you should have no problems. In fact, you'll have fewer problems than those with RP-25 wheelsets from a mix of manufacturers.


- Trevor (http://themodelrailwayshow.com/cn1950s)