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I would think that the people who would care about the detail on the backs of the wheels would also be the people who would want the narrow tire width.
Many here will remember the old Kadee version. A pinwheel on the backside of a pizza cutter wheel attached to a metal axle. Other than the cool detail, they had a wheel profile that was seemed to be designed to pick points and collect dirt. (@peteski - I've seen an old Atlas board post from you where you were discussing another Kadee version that you thought had metal wheels on a plastic axle, but I've not located any of this type to confirm their construction.)
Also if you can find an item number or image for the old MTL diecast wheels, that would be of interest.
Good point re tread width. I was thinking of personal experience, were a local club shuns the new semi-scale metal wheels, given issues with the quality of their track work. @peteski - I did search TRW and elsewhere prior to posting, and didn't come up with anything obvious to this topic. So yes, if there is an old thread here, I'm interested. As I mentioned, I did find an old Atlas board thread and some further back. Also if you can find an item number or image for the old MTL diecast wheels, that would be of interest. It's just a guess, but suspect these were phases out, given (like the cast versions in larger scales) they aren't smooth runners as the precision turned, corrosion resistant wheels we have today.
I still have a couple of cars on the layout with the original metal ribbed-back wheels on them although I don't remember which two. I do remember that the rolling qualities of the metal ribbed-back wheels are just as good as the plastic ribbed-back wheels, contrary to a claim on some long ago thread.And, they clickity-clack. Doug