Author Topic: Best Of upgrading wheels  (Read 6138 times)

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Day One

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upgrading wheels
« on: May 24, 2011, 06:58:23 AM »
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I've made the decision to start pushing towards having all cars on my layout use metal wheels. Since my current layout is stored and all cars are off the layout and in storage too, I've started prepping wheels to swap onto cars when the layout is setup again. I've also decided my next layout will use detection and signaling which will require equipping 1 axle per car with a resistor. I really like the look of the Fox Valley metal wheels so for the time being, they will be my standard wheel. I could just swap out plastic wheels for metal ones and call it good, but after operating on a few other layouts in the area I've come to appreciate the look of a painted metal wheel. I'm taking that one step further and weathering some of the wheels for an even more prototypical and random look. The weathered wheels will go onto cars where the wheel is more visible and not hidden. So tank cars and hoppers will get weathered wheels and box cars and gons will just get painted wheels.


Wheels 1 & 6 painted only with Rail Tie Brown
Wheels 3 & 5 painted only with Rail Brown
all others are painted wheels (either RTB or RB) weathered with Bragdon Powders.

I really like 10, 9, 11, and 7. Not so sure about 13...

I started by making a small stand to hold the wheels for painting from some scrap styrene. I can put a wheel set on the stand, position it and spin it with my index finger to easily paint the wheel sides while keeping paint off the points and tread, then flip the wheel set around and do the other side. With this method I can paint about 40 wheel sets in 15 min. I'm using 2 colors for the wheels with about 1/2 being Railroad Tie Brown and the other 1/2 Rail Brown. For the weathering, I'm using Bragdon powders applied with a micro brush and paint brush. No real strategy here, just making some variety with different colors of rust and soot. I think the variation looks good.


Stand to hold wheels made from some scrap styrene.


holding the wheel like this, I can use my index finger to spin the wheel in place, making it quick and easy to paint around the whole face of the wheel while keeping paint off the axle point and wheel tread.


To add the resistors to the wheels I made another small jig. Just a block of wood with a small groove filed in the side and small notch for the wheels to sit in. The groove hold the axle snug so it can't fall out or rotate. I'm adding 10K ohm 0603 surface mount resistors. They are held in place with Thick CA and connected electrically with silver paint. To add the resistor, I pour a little thick CA out into a little puddle, place a wheel set in the jig, pick up a resistor with fine tip tweezers and dip the bottom of it into the CA and then apply it to the axle butted up against the plastic insulator of the insulated wheel. I put resistors on a bunch of wheels and let the CA set before coming back and applying the silver paint. I had originally bought a paint pen thinking I could just dab it in there on each end of the resistor and call it good. However, I found it's too hard to control the flow of the paint from the pen and you usually end up with a resistor smothered in paint, that if left to dry will become a short. Instead I squeeze the paint from the pen into a small puddle and then use a pin to pick up a bit and apply to each end of the resistor. On the end of the resistor placed against the backside of the wheel I make sure to bridge from the metal wheel, over the plastic insulator, onto the end of the resistor.

The silver paint needs over night to cure before it becomes electrically conductive, so the next day I test each wheel set with an ohm meter to see that I have a 10K bridge and no opens or shorts. If you do get a short, I've found that Laquer Thinner and a small micro brush will wash away the dried silver paint very easily so you can fix the problem.



Jigs used to hold the wheel securely while I add the resistor and silver paint.

When I started thinking about converting close to 300 cars to metal wheels and having each one have a resistance wheel set as well, I thought I was getting myself into a very long process. But, some careful planning and making these little jigs has made this process start off pretty quick and smooth.
« Last Edit: October 11, 2015, 05:04:32 PM by tom mann »

Coxy

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Re: upgrading wheels
« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2011, 01:28:43 PM »
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How have you found the FV wheels for roundness?   I agree with you, the look and conductivity benefits are worth the move to metal wheels however, I don't want to give up smooth rolling characteristics of MT wheelsets to get those benefits.

I few months ago, I did a limited comparison of FV, and Intermountain metal wheels with MT plastic low profile wheels. The MT wheels are my standard as they are silky smooth and don't introduce realism-destroying wobble. I was disappointed to find that 20-30 percent of both FV, and Intermountain wheels introduced noticeable wobble, especially on taller cars.  Now, my batch size was small, only a packet of each, but I was concerned that the metal wheels did not perform better in the limited test.

I have some BLMA wheels now and I hope they perform better. I'm interested in your impressions.

Cheers,
Coxy

Ed Kapuscinski

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Re: upgrading wheels
« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2011, 02:45:55 PM »
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I like the resistor rig!

Mark5

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Re: upgrading wheels
« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2011, 03:42:59 PM »
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On the MTs, FWIW I don't like the new MTL "low pros" (circa Y2K). I much preferred the original Kadee Microtrains "low pros" which I got way back in the Carter or Reagan era. The "Y2K" version has flanges that are too "sharp" in my opinion.

I like the "mid-pros" that MTL recently introduced though.

sizemore

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Re: upgrading wheels
« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2011, 05:04:41 PM »
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What is the purpose of rigging the wheel-sets with resistors? Block detection is my only guess.

The tool-rigs are pretty slick. I like seeing automation for repetitive tasks.

The S.

esa123

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Re: upgrading wheels
« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2011, 05:16:40 PM »
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Great Post!

Thanks for showing us your jigs (especially the wheel painting jig) as I'm in the same boat you are with over 300 new metal wheels sets to paint. When applying the paint, have you tried using a paint pin or just a brush?

Thanks,
Erik

Day One

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Re: upgrading wheels
« Reply #6 on: May 24, 2011, 06:37:20 PM »
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I have yet to install any wheels into cars and run them. Several of the layouts I operate on around my area are using FVM wheels though, and to my knowledge, there haven't been any issues with wobbling. This includes a Milwaukee road layout featuring 300+ cars that have at least one resistored wheelset with most cars having all FVM wheels.  I did have one wheel that popped off it's insulator when it came out of the bag, but it was easily reassembled and appears aligned OK.

Yes, the resistors are for block detection. My current layout does not have this but my next layout will. I also operate on 3 layouts that use BDL168s for detection I will be interchanging cars on at least one layout from time to time. Each car needs to be able to be detected in a block in case a car or string of cars gets left behind in a block. That way the block will show occupied.

I'm glad you like seeing the jigs. I like building the jigs to speed things up and make things easier and hey, if it works for me, it might work for you, so why not share.

I haven't tried using paint pens to paint the wheels. Just a small brush. How big is the tip on a paint pen? It would definitely make the process go quicker if you didn't have to carefully dip a brush into paint for every wheel.



esa123

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Re: upgrading wheels
« Reply #7 on: May 24, 2011, 08:04:31 PM »
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For paint pins I usually just use the one's floquil makes (they come under the name "weathering colors") and you can get a whole bunch of different colors including rail tie brown, rail brown, grimy black, roof brown, etc. The heads on each pin are about 5 mm wide although I've seen lots of pins in the art section of Michaels that are much thinner and would probably work just as well. To be honest, with your wheel painting jig all you would have to do is just put the pin against the wheel and roll since the paint they produce comes out thick enough for good coverage on a single pass or two.

Ed Kapuscinski

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Re: upgrading wheels
« Reply #8 on: May 25, 2011, 09:56:14 AM »
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What is the purpose of rigging the wheel-sets with resistors? Block detection is my only guess.

The tool-rigs are pretty slick. I like seeing automation for repetitive tasks.

The S.

Yep, for block detection.

GaryHinshaw

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Re: upgrading wheels
« Reply #9 on: May 25, 2011, 06:54:26 PM »
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Nice post.  I agree with your assessment of which samples look best.  

Be sure to clean the axle tips before you install them in the trucks, and don't let paint get in the axle cups in the truck side frames when you paint them (to maintain good rolling properties - ask me how I know...).  I was surprised how little paint it takes to drag things down.

Coxy, the only time I have had an issue with FVM wobble, it turned out that the wheel was not set properly the axle.  The bushing should snap on tightly, and in the wobbly case it was not fully snapped on.  That's just my experience, but my sample is ~200 wheels so far.

RE block detection: I wonder if FVM could make wheels with a bushing material that gives ~10K ohms, so one wouldn't have to install them after market.  They would be more expensive, I'm sure, but you only need 1 in 4 to be that type, and you don't have to buy resistors.  Does anyone make something like that in HO?

-gfh
« Last Edit: May 25, 2011, 07:11:14 PM by GaryHinshaw »

Day One

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Re: upgrading wheels
« Reply #10 on: May 25, 2011, 11:05:02 PM »
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RE block detection: I wonder if FVM could make wheels with a bushing material that gives ~10K ohms, so one wouldn't have to install them after market.  They would be more expensive, I'm sure, but you only need 1 in 4 to be that type, and you don't have to buy resistors.  Does anyone make something like that in HO?

-gfh


I've had that discussion with someone somewhere...just can't remember the who or where but the verdict was that it was too expensive. If they were available for a reasonable price I'd buy them. In my short look into purchasing resistored wheel sets, the only ones I found available were ones where someone had added a resistor.

havingfuntoo

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Re: upgrading wheels
« Reply #11 on: May 26, 2011, 09:38:46 AM »
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A crowd called Jay Bee Bennett Enterprises used to make them in HO, don't remember if they did them in N though.

Denver Road Doug

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Re: upgrading wheels
« Reply #12 on: May 26, 2011, 11:03:42 AM »
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Great stuff.  I'm actually working on a similar set of jigs to start mass weather of metal wheels, too. (FVM, BLMA, et al)   The comparison of the colors is great, thanks for sharing.  One question though...what are you doing with the trucks, and could you post some pics of the wheels in the trucks?   I guess I'm having a hard time visualizing what the wheels would look like behind the truck frames.  (would be really cool if you could just put those wheels, in that order, in the trucks and take an identical photo)   If there's anything else you can do for me I'll let you know.   ;D   Seriously though...nice work and thanks again.
NOTE: I'm no longer active on this forum.   If you need to contact me, use the e-mail address (or visit the website link) attached to this username.  Thanks.

Day One

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Re: upgrading wheels
« Reply #13 on: May 27, 2011, 08:53:33 PM »
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I haven't yet gotten to installing wheels in trucks. I'll do that when I put the layout back up and start putting cars on it. I'm mostly just doing prep work now so I can convert the fleet in one fell swoop when the time comes. As it is, the wheels above were mixed into the rest days ago and finding them again would be an exercise I'd prefer not to go through right now.  ;D

So, a small update. I spent more time adding resistors to wheels and actually found it quicker to just hold the wheels and skip the jig. I still used it to hold wheels for testing with on ohm meter but that was about it. Also, I've been using a Silver Paint Pen. The results of which have been deplorable. I think the paint in the pen is just too dilute with thinners in order to make it flow through the tip. It's viscosity is so low that it flows around the resistor or over the top of it very easily creating what would be a short. (tho it does clean up easily with some paint thinner and a small brush) Add to that the unpredictable flow rate with the 'push point and squeeze tube' application and it made for a lot of non functioning wheels. Of a batch of 50 I did, only 8 measured out at 10K ohm. The rest were either opens or ended up measuring in the 100's of Meg Ohm range. All required a second application of silver paint to bridge the gaps to the resistor and make a trace solid enough to reliably carry electricity. The solvents in the paint pen evaporate pretty slowly in room temp air requiring an overnight dry time too. The paint can be cured in an oven at 250 degrees tho. I didn't want to risk melting the wheel insulator though so I just placed them near the light bulb of my work lamp. The temp there was around 150-160 degrees and this would cure the paint to the point where it would be fully conductive in about an hour.  I think I'd suggest using a true paint and a brush that allows you to dab on a controlled amount for anyone going forward with this. Even when I tried just pooling some of the paint out of the pen to apply with a pin, it went from too runny to gloppy mess and made application difficult.

jhn_plsn

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Re: upgrading wheels
« Reply #14 on: June 25, 2011, 07:48:41 PM »
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I like the jigs. I use scewers for painting the wheel sets, but when it comes time to add detection the simple slotted block is an inexpensive way to go.
Have you ever considered using AIM weathering powders to simulate the rough texture on the wheels?