Author Topic: Plastic vs Metal vs Wide vs Narrow N scale wheels  (Read 3008 times)

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drgw0579

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Plastic vs Metal vs Wide vs Narrow N scale wheels
« on: February 03, 2017, 10:01:48 PM »
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I noted the Atlas coach discussion generated a little bit of discussion on metal vs plastic wheels.

For the record, my railroad is 100% metal wheels, the majority coming from Intermountain and Fox Valley.  I bit the bullet a while back and purchased a lot of these wheels because I hope to have a signal system operational soon.  About 1/4 of my wheels have 12k resisters.  I also feel that the metal wheels don't get dirty as quick and are a whole lot easier to clean.  I've not noted any significant problem with shorts during derailments on DCC.  But if you have a larger layout, this will be expensive!

My problem (and I emphasize that it is MY Problem) is that I seem to have a lot of derailments with the "normal" metal wheels from FVM and BMLA.  It's probably the older Peco switches, some of them date from the mid 80's.  The "wide" wheels from FVM and all Intermountain wheels work fine.  It seems the frog is such that the narrow wheels drop into the gap.

Do any others have this problem? One of my local friends also banned "narrow" wheels from his layout for the same reasons.  Over the last couple years I managed to acquire some equipment with these installed; I am now replacing the wheels on them all. I stopped buying certain brands of equipment but those BLMA PRR Gons were too sweet to pass up (and looks like Atlas will have another run later this year).  As a result,  I'm about to put some of these "narrow wheels" for sale on the RW Trading Post soon.

Trying to replace the offending turnouts would be a massive task, so I will either restrict the brands of rolling stock I buy, or continue to replace wheels.  Are most of you okay with the current situation, or do we expect the manufacturers to be more consistent in the future?

Bill Kepner

MichaelWinicki

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Re: Plastic vs Metal vs Wide vs Narrow N scale wheels
« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2017, 10:14:36 PM »
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I've had issues with the narrow-width metal wheelsets on my Atlas code 55.  The BLMA gons were a literal "car-wreck" on my layout– Those narrow wheelsets would derail at the drop of a hat.  For them to work (well) they have to be exactly in gauge and many are not exact enough for derailment-free operation.  The Atlas metal wheels (that aren't the best looking metal wheelset out there) work like a champ.  The FVM wide-width metal wheelsets work great also.  Nope, the "wide's" do not look as good as the "narrow's" but I have a difficult time telling them apart under normal viewing conditions.

For a plastic wheelset, and I still have many, I prefer the Atlas "browns".  The work great on my Atlas code 55 trackage.  The MT plastic wheelsets can be a wee bit more problematic– they'll pick a switch once in a while.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2017, 10:16:45 PM by MichaelWinicki »

ntex

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Re: Plastic vs Metal vs Wide vs Narrow N scale wheels
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2017, 10:36:17 PM »
+1
I recently replaced the metal wheels on my BLMA spine cars with MT plastic wheels, which cut down my derailments on our clubs NTRAK layout. I don't know if they were narrow or wide tread though.




Chris333

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Re: Plastic vs Metal vs Wide vs Narrow N scale wheels
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2017, 10:58:17 PM »
+1
Have you tried to shim the guard rails on Peco turnouts?

coldriver

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Re: Plastic vs Metal vs Wide vs Narrow N scale wheels
« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2017, 10:59:44 PM »
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My problem (and I emphasize that it is MY Problem) is that I seem to have a lot of derailments with the "normal" metal wheels from FVM and BMLA.  It's probably the older Peco switches, some of them date from the mid 80's.  The "wide" wheels from FVM and all Intermountain wheels work fine.  It seems the frog is such that the narrow wheels drop into the gap.

Do any others have this problem?

Yes - I had my layout pretty well tuned to fairly reliable performance with Micro-Trains lo-pros but decided to start converting to Fox Valley normal profiles.  Immediately derailments spiked on my Atlas Code 55 equipped layout.  I don't accept random derailments - I pull the offending equipment off the layout and try to determine the cause.  For quite some time the overwhelming source of derailments was the Fox Valleys.    There are still some Fox Valleys on my layout but they are gradually being replaced by Micro-Trains standards as issues arise.  Should also mention that I haven't experienced any "dirty plastic vs clean metal" issues on my layout.  I use a once a year application of no-ox, and run a Woodland Scenics dust monkey around the layout if I haven't run for a few months.  I haven't cleaned my track in well over five years.   

peteski

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Re: Plastic vs Metal vs Wide vs Narrow N scale wheels
« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2017, 11:00:51 PM »
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Peco N scale track geometry is basically dating back to the early N scale toy trains. They have wide flangeways and deep frogs.  But they are also very relaible. My friend's layout uses those switches and he has to glue shims to the guide rails to prevent wheels from climbing over the points.  When he runs his Kato FEF-3 (which also has narrow tread and small flanges) through the turnouts, you can see the drivers drop into the frog.  I think he could glue in some strip styrene into the frogs to make them the flangeways shallower, but he hasn't done that yet.
--- Peteski de Snarkski

robert3985

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Re: Plastic vs Metal vs Wide vs Narrow N scale wheels
« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2017, 12:14:28 AM »
+3
I'm converting everthing on my layout to FVM narrow tread wheels, and have a couple of hundred cars converted so far. 

I don't have any problems whatsoever with them, but I hand-lay my turnouts to "tight" NMRA tolerances...which means my "NMRA Standards Gage", when checking flangeways, is a tight interference fit.  I've been doing this for decades, and running Micro Engineering low-profile wheelsets on everything without any problems whatsoever.

I suppose the interference fit of all flangeways on my turnouts contributes to their reliability, but doing this also requires that all wheelsets are gauged EXACTLY to NMRA spec's.  If not, the car or engine will "bump" over my turnouts' frogs in a highly unrealistic manner.

However, when the engine or car is properly gauged, it runs as smooth as silk over my turnouts, without a wobble.

It is common practice to shim Peco turnouts, to make them reliable even with wide-tired wheelsets.  If I were in your shoes, that's what I would do.  The narrow FVM wheelsets look too damn good to not use 'em IMO...and truthfully, the problem is with your turnouts, not the wheelsets.

Cheerio!
Bob Gilmore
Cheers!!
Bob Gilmore

Nato

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Re: Plastic vs Metal vs Wide vs Narrow N scale wheels
« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2017, 01:33:05 AM »
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                            :|Before there were Narrow Versus wide tread I began converting all the cars that remain permanently on my layout for operating sessions to Fox Valley what was then their only tread, now considered wide. I have had only an occasional problem with these wheels on the Peco switches in my Gavin Yard. I use to use Micro Train's original tread Lo Pros or the brown Atlas Lo Pros. I think the metal wheels look better, although the narrow tread that Robert is using look seven more realistic. I own a hobby shops worth and more of rolling stock that will probably never get converted since it gets operated only occasionally or at train shows. Oddly enough much of the cars I bring to shows and operate on the Wasatch N Scale layout with Code 55 ME track still has the original MT Pizza Cutter wheels , some with the Ribbed Backs and I have never had an operational problem on the 55 track. Maybe it is because these cars have been run so much that there is a thick black doughnut of black crud on the wheel treads, which if I cleaned off in my ultrasonic cleaner like I do with the wheels on cars on my layout those old MT wheels might not work on the ME track. I have not changed out any passenger car wheels, I have just used what they came with from the factory, Con Cor and Rapido metal wheels, IM wheels and plastic MT wheels. Nate Goodman (Nato).  :|

nkalanaga

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Re: Plastic vs Metal vs Wide vs Narrow N scale wheels
« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2017, 02:13:32 AM »
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The old KD/MT pizza cutters worked fine on Railcraft and early ME code 55, and should work on today's ME, unless ME has changed their track in the last 15 years.  I ran the original KDs, with the ribbed back wheels, on code 55 into the late 80s.

Adn, yes, all of my Peco turnouts had to be shimmed, even with pizza cutter flanges, because the KD/MT flanges were thinner than the European NEM flanges wheels the turnouts are designed for.  Lo-pro wheels just make it worse.

The narrow treads are a different issue.  They will drop at frogs, as there's no way to shim the frog, and they will also derail if the gauge is a little too wide.  I found that out the hard way.  My first BLMA TOFC car, with narrow treads, derailed on perfectly straight track, where nothing had ever derailed before.  I was about to change the wheels, before I realized that the gauge was just over the NMRA limit.  The problem was that the track was on a bridge, with guardrails, and the NMRA gage couldn't drop between the running rails like it should have.  The wheels were dropping between the rails, then getting pinched when the gauge returned to normal, causing the derailment.
N Kalanaga
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peteski

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Re: Plastic vs Metal vs Wide vs Narrow N scale wheels
« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2017, 02:14:57 AM »
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Nate,  I thought that the original FWM wheels were the narrow-thread and they added the wide thread later (after modelers requested them to make them work better with all the types of track).
--- Peteski de Snarkski

peteski

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Re: Plastic vs Metal vs Wide vs Narrow N scale wheels
« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2017, 02:23:25 AM »
+1
They will drop at frogs, as there's no way to shim the frog, and they will also derail if the gauge is a little too wide.

Why not?  I envision gluing some strip styrene on the bottom of the frog's flangeway. That way the low-profile flange will just ride on top of the shim.  But the shim has to be low enough to allow the rollign stock with the deepest flanges to smoothly roll throught the frog.
--- Peteski de Snarkski

mmagliaro

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Re: Plastic vs Metal vs Wide vs Narrow N scale wheels
« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2017, 03:34:21 AM »
+1
I started with FVM when they only had one width.  That is now the "wide", but it is actually pretty darn nice even though it's not as nice as the "fine" width.  I have never had a problem with them on Atlas code 55.  In fact, they work so much better that I am continuously converting everything I own over to them.  I had one troublesome passenger car that caused some problems due to the really fine flanges on the FVM wheels (only about .015"), so I switched that one to Atlas metal 36" wheels, but other than that, they are all FVM and they work great.

This may be tangentially of interest:
My brass 0-6-0 engine has what would be considered "fine" tread widths on the drivers.  It works fine through all my switches and other trackwork, but I did have the flexibility of making sure those wheels were dead-on in gauge, and I tend to like my wheels on the "wide side" of the NMRA notches, which helps avoid a lot of problems.

randgust

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Re: Plastic vs Metal vs Wide vs Narrow N scale wheels
« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2017, 10:32:15 AM »
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With a mix of Atlas C80, Peco electrofrog C55, and various new cars coming on line, I figured I was in for it.   I've bought at least one of the newer piggyback flats from everybody and some of the BLMA cars

I've been very surprised how well things have worked with two major exceptions.

1)  The 'original' MT low-profiles would derail easily on stringline situations under curve stress that nothing else would.   Banned, new compromise flanges seem to work OK so far.
2)  Metal wheels with finer flanges work fine as long as the tread is wide enough.   It will drop in the frog a bit but not cause a derailment.  If the tread is narrow enough, it will actually jam in the frog.   I think I only had one car that was problematic enough the wheels had to go.

jagged ben

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Re: Plastic vs Metal vs Wide vs Narrow N scale wheels
« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2017, 10:37:33 AM »
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The first FVM wheel products were the narrower tread.  The wider tread came later, and were at first called 'wide' but have since been renamed 'standard', presumeably because they are closer to other typical n scale wheelsets.  BLMA are also narrower than 'standard'.  I  understand some changes were made to the BLMA profile after the very first runs of rolling stock, to make them a little more friendly to less-than-supremely perfect track.  But these changes are practically microscopic.

It is a well known fact that Peco turnouts don't play well with the narrower tread wheels.  Blame the turnouts: the flangeways are way wider than NMRA standard.  With that said I have managed passing performance with this combination as long as I impose a slow order on such operations.  (Which is tolerable for me since the club layout only uses Peco in staging yards).  I totally agree with Robert that if you have turnouts that aren't too wide for the NMRA gauge then the narrow treads work fine.

Coldriver, I'm genuinely surprised that anyone who has fine tuned their layout to MT low pros would have lots of issues with FVM, as the profiles are nearly identical, and in my experience they perform the same.   With that said, FVM quality control has varied, in my experience, with some batches having notable numbers of wheels out of round or square (which also leads to wobbling).  It could be you got a bad batch.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2017, 10:42:04 AM by jagged ben »

Ken Ford

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Re: Plastic vs Metal vs Wide vs Narrow N scale wheels
« Reply #14 on: February 04, 2017, 10:40:19 AM »
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Can anyone suggest where tweaks are needed to Atlas code 55 turnouts to reliably work with narrower wheels?  I'm guessing checking overall gauge and shimming the guard rail gap.