Freight car maintenance


Armand Premo
 

What are some the suggested routine (scheduled) maintenance practices for freight cars.? Some of my older cars are not as free wheeling as they once were,couplers are not as reliable,etc.I thought this might lead to the sharing of some ideas that would help prevent poor operation, especially when company comes.Armand Premo


Schuyler Larrabee
 

What are some the suggested routine (scheduled) maintenance practices for freight cars.? Some of
my older cars are not
as freewheeling as they once were, couplers are not as reliable, etc. I thought this might lead
to the sharing of some ideas
that would help prevent poor operation, especially when company comes. Armand Premo
Armand, the number one issue we have at my model railroad club, where maintenance happens when
something doesn't work right (and not before), is dirty wheels. FWIW, my number one answer is to
make sure that the trucks have metal wheels. Plastic wheels are, as has been established on this
list and others, attract crud and gunk, and become, eventually, flangeless. Obviously they derail.

We've not had tremendous troubles with couplers, which are almost universally Kadees. The most
common problem is a missing knuckle spring. A lack of centering action can generally be traced back
to the original owner and their attention to installation tolerances. Many people don't understand
how critical that is to successful operation. (Sergeant operators can stop snickering now, please.)
We keep the gladhands and use them for magnetic uncoupling. We've not suffered much trouble with
58s of any variety vs. 5s.

The other issue we see is the truck screws seem to work themselves loose (and I'm not even going to
discuss cars where the trucks are "held on" by friction-fit plastic pins). This leads to cars that
rock, and that leads to coupling issues, mostly break-in-twos.

Others?? What do you have to say?

SGL





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Denny Anspach <danspach@...>
 

The following freight car maintenance issues I believe to underly predictable, reliable operations of how a freight car actually will play its part in a functioning TRAIN on the layout, while continuing to aspire to being a prototype model. In this regard, couplers and wheels are inextricably linked together, and if one can get these issues under control right from the git-go, other problems will seem much easier to solve.

COUPLER INTEGRITY:

If a coupler does not lie in a level horizontal plane, and/or when two couplers meet that are not in matching vertical and horizontal planes, routine coupling simply will not work reliably, and unexpected uncouplings can and will be a common event, especially over vertical curves and irregular trackwork.

Vertical plane: a) Probably the most common problem lies in the excessive side play of so many (most?) axles, where the shifting truck frame shunts the carbody out of alignment to one side or another, at the same time compounding the problem by rolling the car slightly out of vertical in each direction.

b) This matter is even more insidiously promoted by the fact that so many of the common disparately-wide truck bolster center holes are fastened through with small 2-56 screws in such a way that the truck drunkenly punts itself freely back and forth on its own. Just these two issues alone can cause any two cars at any given instance not to ever couple, even with the widest available coupler gathering-range.

c) Coupler box center posts are not in straight alignment with body bolster holes- more common than you might think. The Accumate Proto couplers present a special challenge, i.e. making absolutely certain that the TWO screws holding each coupler box are respectively exactly on the same alignment with reference to each other, and that that alignment includes the centers of both body bolster holes.

d) The scale sized couplers inherently have a much reduced gathering range, so in routine operations, more difficulty in routine coupling can be expected if accurate vertical alignment has not been attained.

Horizontal Plane:
a) The biggest culprit is the widespread habit of adjusting "coupler height" [sic.] by merely adjusting the curve or clearance of the magnetic glad hand, regardless of what it does or does not do to the proper height and alignment of the coupler head itself. Use a gauge that allows one to ensure a steady height to the HEAD alone, and THEN, and only then adjust the magnetic glad hand, if you must.

b) Coupler droop: This is the true rotten apple in the barrel, and in my experience this single insidious issue also has provoked the greatest damage over the years. Kadee-pattern couplers are designed to fit into a dog's breakfast of coupler boxes of vague commonly- accepted dimensions, all of which allow considerable vertical clearance/slop to the coupler shank. This looseness results in considerable coupler droop, some much more than others, considering internal box dimensions, coupler shank thickness, length of shank, weight of head, the presence or absence of the thickness of a coupler spring. Apropos of a preceding discussion of long vs. short couplers, the downward leverage exerted by the heads of long shank couplers, large or scale only makes this situation worse, compounded by the long shank too often dropping the magnetic glad hand right down where it can snag the very next closure rail. If coupler heads are kept level and in alignment, the common problems of coupler overriding are minimized to being actually eliminated. The only coupler systems to date to specifically address this issue are the Accumate Protos and the Sergeants (which have shanks engineered to tightly fit the Accumate Proto box). These latter couplers are absolutely level and have no droop.

Other factors or issues, to a great extent inextricable from the above:

1) Metal wheels.
2) Metal wheels
3) Axle/wheel quality in custom-fitted lengths that allow free rollability. Allows the make up of trains that both look and function like *trains*.
4) Axle lengths that minimize lateral endplay (quite often the choice of 2 and 3 necessitates compromise). See a) above.
5) Tight bolster screws. These too often work their way on their own accord (right now I am attempting to discover which boxcar on the layout belongs to a bolster screw just discovered between the rails on a main track). I have taken to dipping the screw end in Barge Cement so that the cement's "rubbery fingers" will at least hold the screw in place, yet with still sufficient clearance to allow the necessary truck movement to keep the car on the track.

In 2006, for two months I ran a demonstration 131 car train made up of a truly disparate group of substantial freight cars, ranging from Westerfield to several Varney cars from the 30s. The train ran over a layout with considerable variance in terrain and routing without scarcely a single coupling or truck wheel failure (including a movement in reverse) during that time, the single most reason for which was the meticulous vetting of coupler head alignment and height (as above) of each and every car ahead of time.

Enough for today-

Denny


Denny S. Anspach MD
Sacramento


Douglas Harding <dharding@...>
 

Other source of poor running is the axle ends. If the axle is plastic, even the slippery kind, the ends can also get coated with
the same gunk that accumulates on plastic wheels. Kadee wheel sets have plastic slippery axles and I have found they accumulate
the crud. I no longer used Kadee wheels for this one reason.

Also clean out the axle holes in the trucks. Get the tool from Micro Mark or Reboxx for doing this. It will clean out accumulated
crud, burs and flash, and reshape the cone if needed for optimum rolling characteristics.

Doug Harding
www.iowacentralrr.org


Armand Premo
 

Denny,That pretty well covers all the bases.That said,I try to continually change cars between operating sessions so the crews do not see the same cars session after session.Having a rather large fleet of cars it becomes rather difficult to keep all cars in tip top condition.Some cars being taken out of their storage box may be found to have minor damage, such as a lost part,drooping coupler, dirt build up.A Bad Order card is made out stating problem areas.It is then placed in the storage box and the car will not be restored to service until all defects have been corrected.Each car has two cards,one for operation ,the other for car information such as manufacturer ,source,date built,cost,value,Trucks,wheel sets, weight,couplers and matching paint.Each repair is also recorded with the date and inspector.The car is then ready to be returned to service and the Bad Order card removed.This second card is a source of valuable information and also provides me with an inventory.Your comments are invited.Armand Premo

-----





The following freight car maintenance issues I believe to underly
predictable, reliable operations of how a freight car actually will
play its part in a functioning TRAIN on the layout, while continuing
to aspire to being a prototype model. In this regard, couplers and
wheels are inextricably linked together, and if one can get these
issues under control right from the git-go, other problems will seem
much easier to solve.

COUPLER INTEGRITY:

If a coupler does not lie in a level horizontal plane, and/or when
two couplers meet that are not in matching vertical and horizontal
planes, routine coupling simply will not work reliably, and unexpected
uncouplings can and will be a common event, especially over vertical
curves and irregular trackwork.

Vertical plane: a) Probably the most common problem lies in the
excessive side play of so many (most?) axles, where the shifting truck
frame shunts the carbody out of alignment to one side or another, at
the same time compounding the problem by rolling the car slightly out
of vertical in each direction.

b) This matter is even more insidiously promoted by the fact that so
many of the common disparately-wide truck bolster center holes are
fastened through with small 2-56 screws in such a way that the truck
drunkenly punts itself freely back and forth on its own. Just these
two issues alone can cause any two cars at any given instance not to
ever couple, even with the widest available coupler gathering-range.

c) Coupler box center posts are not in straight alignment with body
bolster holes- more common than you might think. The Accumate Proto
couplers present a special challenge, i.e. making absolutely certain
that the TWO screws holding each coupler box are respectively exactly
on the same alignment with reference to each other, and that that
alignment includes the centers of both body bolster holes.

d) The scale sized couplers inherently have a much reduced gathering
range, so in routine operations, more difficulty in routine coupling
can be expected if accurate vertical alignment has not been attained.

Horizontal Plane:
a) The biggest culprit is the widespread habit of adjusting "coupler
height" [sic.] by merely adjusting the curve or clearance of the
magnetic glad hand, regardless of what it does or does not do to the
proper height and alignment of the coupler head itself. Use a gauge
that allows one to ensure a steady height to the HEAD alone, and
THEN, and only then adjust the magnetic glad hand, if you must.

b) Coupler droop: This is the true rotten apple in the barrel, and
in my experience this single insidious issue also has provoked the
greatest damage over the years. Kadee-pattern couplers are designed
to fit into a dog's breakfast of coupler boxes of vague commonly-
accepted dimensions, all of which allow considerable vertical
clearance/slop to the coupler shank. This looseness results in
considerable coupler droop, some much more than others, considering
internal box dimensions, coupler shank thickness, length of shank,
weight of head, the presence or absence of the thickness of a coupler
spring. Apropos of a preceding discussion of long vs. short couplers,
the downward leverage exerted by the heads of long shank couplers,
large or scale only makes this situation worse, compounded by the long
shank too often dropping the magnetic glad hand right down where it
can snag the very next closure rail. If coupler heads are kept level
and in alignment, the common problems of coupler overriding are
minimized to being actually eliminated. The only coupler systems to
date to specifically address this issue are the Accumate Protos and
the Sergeants (which have shanks engineered to tightly fit the
Accumate Proto box). These latter couplers are absolutely level and
have no droop.

Other factors or issues, to a great extent inextricable from the above:

1) Metal wheels.
2) Metal wheels
3) Axle/wheel quality in custom-fitted lengths that allow free
rollability. Allows the make up of trains that both look and function
like *trains*.
4) Axle lengths that minimize lateral endplay (quite often the choice
of 2 and 3 necessitates compromise). See a) above.
5) Tight bolster screws. These too often work their way on their own
accord (right now I am attempting to discover which boxcar on the
layout belongs to a bolster screw just discovered between the rails on
a main track). I have taken to dipping the screw end in Barge Cement
so that the cement's "rubbery fingers" will at least hold the screw in
place, yet with still sufficient clearance to allow the necessary
truck movement to keep the car on the track.

In 2006, for two months I ran a demonstration 131 car train made up of
a truly disparate group of substantial freight cars, ranging from
Westerfield to several Varney cars from the 30s. The train ran over a
layout with considerable variance in terrain and routing without
scarcely a single coupling or truck wheel failure (including a
movement in reverse) during that time, the single most reason for
which was the meticulous vetting of coupler head alignment and height
(as above) of each and every car ahead of time.

Enough for today-

Denny

Denny S. Anspach MD
Sacramento






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Joseph Lofland
 

Well, if you cars use a card system, and the cars go into a yard to be
classified, make the rip track part of the move every once in a while. Do
the maintance then....clean wheels , check coupler height, etc etc. Do it
for all your rolling stock. Then everything goes through maintance. If
things need fixed, replaced, you will have a means/ system to take care of
all of it.

Joe Lofland
JJLModels

On Sun, Jun 21, 2009 at 1:25 PM, armprem1 <armprem2@...> wrote:



What are some the suggested routine (scheduled) maintenance practices for
freight cars.? Some of my older cars are not as free wheeling as they once
were,couplers are not as reliable,etc.I thought this might lead to the
sharing of some ideas that would help prevent poor operation, especially
when company comes.Armand Premo



spsalso
 

Regarding the problem of truck mounting screws removing themselves: I am a big fan of what I call the "Athearn" truck mounting system, where there is a sleeve for the mounting screw to snug up to (sorry about the preposition). On the many models that don't provide such a sleeve, I make my own by cutting off the sleeve on a typical Kadee coupler box. That solution will not last, as my fantasy of using the Sargent couplers may come about.

With the "Athearn" approach, I have NEVER had a screw back out.

I do not understand why people would think a screw would just sort of stay in a hole because it would be a nice idea. There's a reason they're called "screws", after all.

Ed

Edward Sutorik


Charles Morrill
 

Regarding truck mounting screws coming loose --- where I don't have the sleeve or shoulder to tighten the screw against, I've found a small drop of white glue in the hole works very well. And it is still easy to remove the screw when necessary.
Charlie

----- Original Message -----

Regarding the problem of truck mounting screws removing themselves: I am a big fan of what I call the "Athearn" truck mounting system, where there is a sleeve for the mounting screw to snug up to (sorry about the preposition). On the many models that don't provide such a sleeve, I make my own by cutting off the sleeve on a typical Kadee coupler box. That solution will not last, as my fantasy of using the Sargent couplers may come about.

With the "Athearn" approach, I have NEVER had a screw back out.

I do not understand why people would think a screw would just sort of stay in a hole because it would be a nice idea. There's a reason they're called "screws", after all.

Ed

Edward Sutorik


Andy Sperandeo <asperandeo@...>
 

Shoulder or not, I use the blue thread locker (Loctite 242 or similar) to secure kingpin screws. This stuff is made so that you can still back the screw out when you have to. Loctite also has a purple formula, no. 222MS, which is rated at "low strength" (242 is "medium"), but I haven't tried it.

So long,

Andy

Andy Sperandeo
Executive Editor
Model Railroader magazine
asperandeo@...
262-796-8776, ext. 461
FAX 262-796-1142


David North <davenorth@...>
 

In the past I would carefully file down one of the Athearn collars
attempting to get one truck "rock free" without it binding, to create a
three point suspension.

This of course didn't work for MDC type bolsters, and I don't like self
tappers due to the styrene they displace, which distorts the face of the
bolster.

Over the last couple of years I've been using 2-56 nylon screws to hold my
trucks on.

On Athearn cars, I reduce the height of the collar so a screw will bind the
truck before bottoming out on the collar.

I tap the hole 8BA and run the nylon screw into the hole.

Whether it is the different thread form (47.5 v 60), the nylon material or a
little parting line flash I'm not sure, but using the nylon 2-56 screw has
the same effect as using a nylok nut.

I ease the screw in, until I'm happy with the amount of "truck rock" and the
screw stays where I've adjusted it.

And the nylon screws work perfectly on IM and MDC etc type bolsters without
the collar.

An added bonus is that the screws I use have a slightly larger head than a
pan head screw.

I buy them from Micro Fasteners

http://www.microfasteners.com/catalog/products/NYLNBPP.cfm

Disclaimer: I have no connection with them other than as a satisfied
customer

Cheers

Dave North


frograbbit602
 

To secure kingpin screws I use clear 100% silicone rubber. A small amount on the threads from a tube of the silicone sealant purchased at the hardware store keeps them secure until future removal.

Lester Breuer