Monday, November 28, 2016

38 Freight Cars: Maintenance Required

A few years ago I drafted thirty-eight HO scale freight cars for future service on the modules of a local module club. Most of these cars came from storage and are as much as forty years old. Some came from my current layout. The stored cars had operated on my previous home layouts going back many years. Cars from Athearn, Roundhouse, Train Miniature, Lindberg and Accurail made up the collection and these were mainly boxcars. These cars are suited to module service as they have few details that can be damaged from transport and careless handling by club members.

The manufacturer-supplied weighting system was used when the cars were built except for one car acquired at a swap meet. Most of the cars had their original trucks replaced with metal wheels in metal truck frames (Central Valley) and the balance had their plastic wheels replaced with metal wheels.

I put the cars through a performance tests and this is what I found.

Thirty-three cars failed to roll down a two percent grade from a standing start. Mind you, many clubs require cars to roll down a one-and-a-half percent grade.

Since these cars are going to be used only every few months I decided not to invest in new trucks…especially for cars that cost as little as $1.29 originally.

Given that most of the cars had metal truck frames I did not want to use a truck reamer intended for plastic frames. An appropriate sized drill bit is a good alternative but I used a procedure that didn’t require removing the axles from the frames. I avoided this as all the metal trucks had springs and there is a risk of accidentally disassembling the truck when you remove the axles.

I disassembled all of the plastic truck frames and applied the truck reamer.

To lubricate the journals I used Elmer’s Slide-All Teflon dry lubricant. What I like about this product (typically available from hardware stores and locksmiths) is that it goes on wet and then quickly dries, leaving a Teflon coating on the target surface. This is much better than using dry Teflon to start. I sprayed a little of the product in a small container and then applied it to the journals with a micro-brush.

After I did this most of the cars easily passed the two percent grade test. I will say most of the cars also required other maintenance (mostly coupler and weight adjustments) to bring them up to snuff.




  1. For lubrication, I have also found Lock-Eze in the spray or regular can works well, a similar situation, a liquid carrier that evaporates and leaves the dry lubricant behind, in this case graphite. It's different than teflon, there are pros and cons.


  2. Good suggestion. I'll have to give this a try.