Friday, 3 June 2022

More 4 Wheelers.

For some time, I have been tossing about ways to use some of the many bits I have in the cupboard, some goes back 30 odd years. Over the years the hobby has changed and much of the stuff is not available today. On other hand what’s available today is much better and the standard is much higher. 

Four-wheeler look great and a few years back they were just about on every train, but on the layout, they are not the best vehicle to shunt with. Pulling a string on a train around the layout is OK, as soon as you want to push the four wheelers go haywire taking the fun out of the session. Eight wheelers (bogie wagons) behave much better and shunting with long strings of wagons is possible. For some time, I have been playing around to see if anything can be done to improve the performance of the four wheelers on the layout. The track system is not going to change any time soon, hand-built points with a larger turnout with smaller gaps at the vee could give better results, but the whole layout would need to be changed. 

Many of my early wagons are on the light side when on the weighbridge, many had plastic wheels. All now have been fitted with metal wheels with most having bearings to improve their running with less friction. All wheels have RP 25 flanges, there is some differences in the tyre width, most are 110 with a few 88. Some extra weight has been added to some where it could be out of sight when the wagon is on the track. There are various standards around the world on what the weight of a wagon should be and there is quite a bit of difference between them all. Looking at the NMRA RP-20.1 for H0 scale the standard for a 20 ft. wagon should be 68 grams. Most of my eight wheeled wagon are not that heavy and operate OK for what I do. AMRA Freight car standard is 38.5 grams and 28 grams for Passenger car. NEM standard suggests 28 grams. Coming back to H0n3 or TT scales the weight comes down. NMRA – 51 grams, AMRA 28 grams of freight and 21 grams for passenger cars, NEM run in at 17.5 grams. TrainSpotted.com has a calculator for all three standards taking the guess work out of it. Reading US modelling magazines some modellers into operations use twice NMRA standards. That’s makes one very heavy car. 

Reading other material, they suggest free running wagons can be lighter. I guess it come back to your layout (track system/standard) and what you want to do. Is shunting of wagons a requirement, or do you like seeing trains round through the scenery on the layout. For me it’s both. To have the best of both worlds I decided to run my own tests and see what works for me on my layout.  The track system on the layout is Peco H0m (I don’t think it meets NMRA Standards), making the turnout on the points around two (2) ft radius, the main line was built with 2ft 6 in radius. Westgate yard where I pull long strings of wagons the sidings hold around 35 four-wheelers. The wagon you need for a train is also down on the other end of the siding.    

The only RTR wagons on the layout are Southern Rail ALY steel louvered wagons, the website shows the wagon is fitted with RP25-88 wheels. There is a small amount of side play in the axles between axle boxes, some side way movement within the axle box, the wheels rotate freely. I would not call the wagon a free runner, by that I mean the wagon does not roll away on a section of track with a slight grade. On the scales the wagon weights 36 grams. That’s about AMRA freight car recommended weight for a wagon of that length in H0. On the track the wagon can be anywhere on a train and it stays on the track for my type of operations.


Do you like the weathering? PK did it as a demo for the Tuesday Nighters using Tamiya “Panel Line Accent Color”. There was also a plus for him, having owned a number of these wagons for a few years, he didn’t realise the doors work, and they can be opened. Helping others always has a plus and you generally came away learning something new for yourself. 

Prior to having the ALY wagons some testing was being carried out, mainly with box/louvered wagons as extra weight can be hidden inside out of sight. Loads could be added to open wagons, for some wagons lead sheet could be added to the floor and the load built up from that. But this only works for some load types like wagons with sawn timber, sleepers, tarpaulins etc. I guess the down side is the load is fixed to the wagon and the wagon cannot be used for other traffic.


For some time, I settled on 25 grams for all four wheeled wagons, as built many were under 10 grams. During the upgrade most wagons were also fitted with Kadee # 158 couplers. That’s a long story, many were fitted with Kadee H0n3 couplers to characterise D4 draw gear of a lesser strength as per the prototype. Yes, it did work as per the prototype with longer strings, they would let go and uncouple. Most of the time not in a convenient location.   I found wagons were still going bush setting back during shunting, it was OK with small strings of wagons on straight track. 

Some experiments were carried out, mainly with box wagons where the extra weight could be hidden inside. One ABG wagon was built up to 56 grams, it tracked well, but was this adding to much weight to the axles. A second ABG wagon was 31 grams, not a lot of difference between the two wagons during push pull tests across the layout. A couple of smaller A class wagons (Prototype wheel base of 8 ft.) were built up to 42 grams, these also operated without any issues. All of these are Caintode Flats kits and are box wagons, the extra weight added inside during construction.   

Of late I have been trying to add some empty open wagons to the layout. Also, some wagons with loads where the floor is visible would be nice too. The “Grovers” bogie are available from Caintode Flats, being white metal, they provide some weight under floor. Centre of gravity plays a big part in railway operations, the lower the better. The FG body was scratch built using styrene, additional lead sheet was added under the floor to keep the loading area as per the prototype. The wagon was weighted to 28 grams, more can be added if needed. A couple of ZGR flat wagons were built from Chivers fine scale styrene underframe kits with lead sheet under the floor. These wagons came in at 31 grams and run well on the layout. Having the lead under the floor appeared to be the answer.  A Road Ragers EH Holden was added to the FG wagon bring the weight up to 46 grams. Timber chocks stop the car moving around in the wagon when on the track, the car can be removed if required.  

Adding lead to under the floor may limit the underframe detail, generally I only show what can be seen when the wagon is on the track. Most of my models are for operations on the layout, if entering contests is your game a different approach would be required. Some manufactures like to add various bits of underfloor detail making adding additional weight under the floor out of the question. 






The Road Ragers vehicles are made of metal and weight around 19 grams, vehicles manufacture from plastic etc., are much lighter. The Brekina Toyota in this wagon weights 4 grams making the wagon 33 grams. 


During the 1960s/70s, motor cars were big business for QR. Most western roads still had sections of dirt, most new cars to country agents were conveyed by rail. The driving skills of the guys loading and unloading these vehicles was something to see. Most loading/unloading was done on side banks with the door being the ramp into the wagon. If modelling an era, remember all vehicles need to fit the era.    

Having the Caintode Flats “Grovers” Bogies available other wagons can be built. This AG wagon painted grey was scratch built using their bogies. Wooden box wagons painted grey in the early/mid 1960’s were “stores” wagons. They carried stores to divisional workshops. At some stage this wagon will be decaled “Ipswich – Toowoomba Loco Stores”. The wagon will carry loco parts between Ipswich Workshops and Toowoomba and onto other SWD locations as required. 



The next batch of smaller four-wheelers I use Peco TT underframes. To make them look more QR, the underframes were cut in half and mounted back to front placing the brake blocks out. The frames are quite thick and need to mounted on a floor higher than prototype. Additional weight can only be added inside.   


The extra weight was added inside the tank, both these water wagons are 35 grams each.





These wagons are shorter than the usual FGW wagons, but due to the higher tank they had a higher capacity. Plans suggest only five were built, I recall one being use on the Rockhampton – Mackay local goods/shunt to water gangs. Queensland Railway Miniatures and Caintode Flats parts were used to detail the models. 

Open wagons using these underframes will need to have loads.





Most of these wagons can be viewed on trains at work on the layout in my latest YouTube attempt.  

Guard Vans are back on the workshop bench for the next posting. 

Trust, you find the information helpful and assist you with your railway. 

Arthur.






1 comment:

  1. Thanks Arthur for your observations on weighting. Very timely. I am presently struggling to get enough weight to match AMRA standards on a number of AR Kits OCY container flats, without having containers attached. I guess having train lengths much shorter than USA trains allows us to reduce the weight. And less weight has to help our smaller locos climb steeper grades

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