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Thread: Swapping underframes...

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    Default Swapping underframes...

    I recently stumbled on to a slick trick and thought I share it.

    Over the past 6 months or so I've been slowly going through my rolling stock and thinning the herd as well as replacing some of my older MDC cars with newer, better version of the same car from FVM, IMRC or Exactrail, etc. At the same time I've been replacing the stock trucks and couplers with MTL trucks and couplers. In doing so I had several of the Athearn 50' Rock Island boxcars w/roofwalks that needed new trucks.

    To be clear, I hate Athearn trucks with those crappy McHenry couplers.

    If anyone has ever tried to change out the Athearn trucks with MTL trucks you'll know that it's not an easy task. The Athearn trucks are held on by small screws that thread into an extended post on the underframe. Because of this, the bolster holes on the Athearn trucks are a smaller diameter than the bolster holes on the MTL trucks which equates to too much slop in the MTL trucks. Also the screws have a small head that is smaller than the MTL bolster holes. Also the extended post does not extend far enough through the MTL truck frames enough so that a washer (the little black shim washers that come with the MTL replacement trucks) can be used to hold the MTL trucks in place without exerting too much pressure which then does not allow the trucks to swivel freely. Aaaaaaargh!

    This has always been a thorn in my side as there were several Athearn cars I wanted in my collection but hates the McHenry's.

    One night while pondering what to do about this in my last round of re-trucking, I found myself staring at one of my Athearn 50' Rock boxcars (with a roof walk) pondering how to fix this. Sitting on my bench next to me was a similar MTL boxcar, I picked it up and fumbled with it and a dim light came on.

    "I wonder if that MTL frame would fit into the Athearn shell, hmmmm? It looks close?" So I popped them both out and Viola! They fit each other like a glove!
    Not wanting to sacrifice an MTL car, and also because they have those fine foot stirrups, I dug around until I found an older similar Atlas 50' car, it fit as well....Bonus! But would the Athearn frame fit the Atlas car? Sure enough! So I quickly scrounged up some of my older Atlas cars and swapped the underframes. By doing this it kept me from having to fight with the different trucks, all I had to do was swap the entire underframes with the existing trucks attached!

    So this got me thinking about the more modern Athearn boxcars (w/o roofwalks). I grabbed and old MDC underframe I had laying in my junk drawer. Sure enough! It worked just as well.

    So to recap what I did:
    For the Athearn 50' boxcars (w/ roofwalks) I swapped the underframes with like models from Atlas (the older pre-Trainman versions).
    For the Modern Athearn boxcars (w/o roofwalks) I swapped the underframes with like models from the older MDC cars.

    In some cases, I did need to do a tiny bit of filing around the edge of the modern MDC underframes to get them to fit properly in the Athearn carbodies as there was a small bit of flashing that needed to be removed. Likewise, but not as often, I had to file a bit off of the Athearn frames so they'd fit the Atlas carbodies.

    Maybe some of you have found this out as well, but it was new to me and a godsend for the amount of cars I needed to retruck.

    The Little Rock Line blog


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    So what happened to the McHenrys? I'm trying them out because I kind of like them and may switch out my whole fleet. I currently have 4 cars and two locos with McHenrys and have begun running them through their paces. I'm also planning to screw mount all of my trucks, so those Athearn underframes don't bother me (at least not yet anyway, so far I haven't experienced any problems with them). I have a small number of MT trucks accumulated and that collection is only going to grow. At some point I will make them available for sale/trade.
    Bronman - "Trains and Legos... you can't have too many of them."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bronman View Post
    So what happened to the McHenrys?
    On the underframes that I swapped out, they got put on the older carbodies and headed off to the chopping block, then....... went far, far away.

    From my understanding, the McHenry's work OK, but to me they looked like giant boxing gloves and they widened the space between the cars too much for my taste. Plus if you lose that spring...ugh.
    Michael Whiteman had me sell a bunch of his cars recently and all of them were equipped with McHenry's, he seemed to like them.

    It's just a personal preference.
    I started out with MTLs well before other choices started showing up on the market.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allen H. View Post
    From my understanding, the McHenry's work OK, but to me they looked like giant boxing gloves and they widened the space between the cars too much for my taste. Plus if you lose that spring...ugh.
    Michael Whiteman had me sell a bunch of his cars recently and all of them were equipped with McHenry's, he seemed to like them.
    I'm getting rid of the McHenrys too, Allen. They work just fine, but the head is so ridiculously out of scale, that spring is unsightly, and they do make the space between cars too wide.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Schmidt View Post
    I'm getting rid of the McHenrys too, Allen. They work just fine, but the head is so ridiculously out of scale, that spring is unsightly, and they do make the space between cars too wide.
    What are you doing specifically Paul if I may ask? Removing the entire trucks or just the couplers?
    What do you plan replacing them with?

    I have a lot of the Athearn bay window cabooses that have MH's. I've replaced one with Accumates and it worked and looked better, but I'm not a big fan of them either.

    Another project I'd like to do is to replace the Accumate couplers on cars that have them body mounted like the Bluford cars.
    I know I'm asking for trouble due to then having the dreaded "Slinky effect" but Oh well.

    Back when atlas released their Wide Vision caboose I wound up shaving off the coupler box and installing a either a 1015 or 1025 which worked well.
    The Little Rock Line blog


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    Since were speaking about couplers here, has anyone seen the couplers on the new Scale Trains PS-2CD 4785cf Covered hoppers?
    On their Carbon Black cars they were huge! I thought I heard or read somewhere that these would be addressed?

    I picked up a few and wasn't real happy with them, both with their looks and the way they couplered (or didn't). You had to slam'em together to get them to couple.
    I think someone was able to replace them with Accumates or MTL? It's something I'm going to look into.

    When they showed up on MBK I snagged one to see what if anything they've done to improve them. Looking at the photos, it doesn't look like anything's been done.
    I'm sorry, the cars look fantastic, nice paint schemes, crisp lettering, highly detailed and the so called proper ride height, but then theirs that thing on each end that looks like a giant boxing glove?

    As a buddy said last night: "That thing is as long as the diameter of the wheels!"


    I know I'm not as avid about the correct details on a car or loco, but if I'm dropping $32 bucks on damn car, then the couplers had better look and act like a coupler!
    The Little Rock Line blog


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    Quote Originally Posted by Allen H. View Post
    What are you doing specifically Paul if I may ask? Removing the entire trucks or just the couplers?
    What do you plan replacing them with?
    Most of them are Bluford hoppers, Allen. And, yes, Accumates might be the solution. They'd be the easiest swap-outs, and I wouldn't have the slinky-effect to deal with.

    I'm considering going back to MTs as well, but with a piece of rubber band in place of the centering spring.

    I already put MTs on the locomotives' "working" ends (MT Tru-scale in between the locomotives to act as a sort of drawbar). And the cab has MTs with a spring on the wheelset of each truck.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Schmidt View Post
    Most of them are Bluford hoppers, Allen. And, yes, Accumates might be the solution. They'd be the easiest swap-outs, and I wouldn't have the slinky-effect to deal with.
    Yup.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Schmidt View Post
    I'm considering going back to MTs as well, but with a piece of rubber band in place of the centering spring.
    I've heard others doing this. Do you think the rubber band may dry out and crumble in time? I wonder if silicon would be better providing you could find something like that?

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Schmidt View Post
    I already put MTs on the locomotives' "working" ends (MT Tru-scale in between the locomotives to act as a sort of drawbar). And the cab has MTs with a spring on the wheelset of each truck.
    Yup, all of my cabs will get the springs as well.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allen H. View Post
    I wonder if silicon would be better providing you could find something like that?
    I had some silicone in a tube from a terrarium project one time and thought, what if I coated the centering spring with it to stiffen it? It didn't work, it became too stiff, but showed SOME promise as it was only a little bit too stiff. You had to nudge the car to get it to couple and nudge the coupler ever so slightly to recenter it. The centering issue may have been caused by the outer diameter of the silicone coated spring being oversized for its pocket. I couldn't produce the slinky effect with that car though. The slink is the reason I'm considering moving away from MTL couplers and MTL does not seem to want to address the issue. I know that's probably not exactly what you had in mind, but I don't see any other way to get silicone into that small of a space without it being too stiff.

    I actually really like the look of McHenrys, although I do agree they are too big. They don't couple together as well as MTLs, but I've learned that you just gotta add a little bit more momentum to your power as you bump them together and they do great.

    As far as the spring goes on the McHenrys, I intend to keep a couple replacement couplers on hand and just replace the coupler if/when it happens rather than the spring. A 50 pack will do 24 cars and leave a couple spares.

    Have you tried the MTL True Scale couplers? I haven't tried them but saw a number of videos that made them seem to not work very well at all. That's when I decided to give McHenry couplers a serious try. I ordered a 50 pack and so far I like them. We'll see if I end up ordering another 50 pack in the future.
    Bronman - "Trains and Legos... you can't have too many of them."

    My Layout Build Thread - The Spokane & Eastern Washington
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bronman View Post
    Have you tried the MTL True Scale couplers? I haven't tried them but saw a number of videos that made them seem to not work very well at all.
    I have, and they are not a universal swap-out for my Bluford hoppers. They do not work with the draft boxes unlike other brands, and even regular MTs, do. Poor design on Micro-Trains' part, sorry to say.

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    Ooh! Ooh! Epiphany!

    I realized I've been thinking about 2 dimensional solutions, but a coupler pocket has three dimensions!

    How does elastic thread hold up over time? Any issues with drying/deterioration?

    One (not this guy) could drill a hole through the bottom of the coupler pocket and the lid that line up with the back of the pocket the spring sits in. Thread a piece of elastic thread through the two holes and inside the couplers and tie off behind the coupler box. I don't know if it'd work but ideally it'll restrict movement in the x direction but allow enough in the y to allow coupling and uncoupling.

    Hope that makes sense.

    Anyone want to prototype it?
    Bronman - "Trains and Legos... you can't have too many of them."

    My Layout Build Thread - The Spokane & Eastern Washington
    - Featuring motive power by Burlington Northern, Union Pacific, Canadian Pacific, Montana Rail Link and Amtrak in Spokane and Eastern Washington in the mid-1990's.
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    I've heard of guys use two or springs instead of just the one, but haven't seen how that ever panned out?
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    Just my 2 cents: The "new style" MTL couplers, 1015 and 2004, don't show the slinky effect when the cars are being pulled, because the spring is "in front of" the coupler, pushing it out against the center nub, so the pulling forces don't compress the spring. Much better than the "old style" couplers (1025 etc) where pulling the car compresses the spring: https://www.nscale.net/forums/cache....09-29_0016.jpg

    Pushing a string of cars is another matter, though. And pusher service will have one or two cars near the middle of the train bounce back and forth, in addition to coupler slack.

    Still, MTLs are the only couplers I accept with my cars and locos. All the others - Accumates, Katos, McHenry's - work, but none of them have that same slow-speed coupling behaviour. Though that's complaining on a very high level - ever tried operating (as in single car traffic) a railroad with two inch long two axle locos, light two inch long two axle cars and rapido couplers? Our European prototype friends do, and they often run ludicrous speed (Spaceballs anyone?) to force the cars to couple.

    I do body mount everything, though, which neatly solves the issues with screw-mount trucks that started this thread I believe the tutorial some of you have seen covers an Athearn car: https://www.nscale.net/forums/conten...-end-platforms

    YMMV,
    Heiko

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    Quote Originally Posted by Allen H. View Post


    As a buddy said last night: "That thing is as long as the diameter of the wheels!"
    https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/06...g?v=1529619713

    I know I'm not as avid about the correct details on a car or loco, but if I'm dropping $32 bucks on damn car, then the couplers had better look and act like a coupler!
    Well I did decide to pick up one of the newer Scale Trains PS-2CD 4785cf Covered Hoppers to have a closer look and it arrived today.
    The couplers are indeed just as big as what was on their Carbon Black hoppers.
    However they seem to couple with a little less force. If you were planning to couple with them at say 5-10 smph, forget it. They still have a bit of troubles and that combined with the free rolling wheels on the car makes it tough.

    Don't get me wrong, they are a work of art. But dammit, at that price the couplers should be better, be smaller and actually work like the other couplers on the market do.
    Plus it doesn't look like you can swap couplers in their boxes. Not too mention that if you wish to completely remove their draft boxes, there is so much detail around them that you'd more than likely damage the details.
    Another thing I noticed was the trucks, they are designed specifically for their cars.
    Instead of just having a hole in the truck, it's a recessed hole and they use a screw to keep it in place. Not sure if you have to replace it that you could anything but theirs.
    Now I haven't tested that theory yet, but don't want to do anything to this car to damage it as I may sell it. Also note there is no trip pin at all, so if magnetic coupling is your things you can forget that!

    For the money, I would be happy with the Quality of Intermountain, Trainworx, FVM and even the newer Atlas cars. But that's just my opinion...

    I put a few photos in my Flickr account along with a quick video to show the coupling, need to say I wasn't pushing them very hard.
    The teal car is an older Intermountain car.

    NOTE: I removed the link as I was finally able to get the couplers converted to MTL. Karl A. tipped me off on how to do it. He just used the guts from a 1015 and it seemed to work just fine.
    Last edited by Allen H.; 30th Jun 2019 at 08:48 PM.
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    That coupler is HUGE. Rivals the McHenrys for unlimited heavyweight in N scale.

    Shame to have something that obtrusive on such an outstanding model. Then again, there just isn't many other options available.

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    Yeah it's really too bad in the day and age of "Miniaturization" we get a boxing glove!

    The way I see it, it's like an awards ceremony where the star is all dressed up in a tux and when he stands up, he's wearing clown shoes!
    They put all kinds of effort into making the car look as close to the prototype with all the fine details that folks have been hollering for and brag it up, then.....WTH is that?
    Why go to all that trouble only to install clown shoes and no way to make it compatible to install or change the couplers.
    For that fact, why not go the extra step and design a smaller coupler so that it looks like the prototype, they did with all the other details?
    I just don't get it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heiko View Post

    I do body mount everything, though, which neatly solves the issues with screw-mount trucks that started this thread I believe the tutorial some of you have seen covers an Athearn car: https://www.nscale.net/forums/conten...-end-platforms

    YMMV,
    Heiko
    Heiko,
    Those coupler boxes you got off shapeways from Wuttermelon correct?
    In that tutorial you have, what brand of tank car is that? I recently picked up a couple of the latest Atlas tank cars.
    I tried to replace the Atlas trucks with MTL trucks but they have a screw mount to hold the tank car body together and the the MTL coupler box hits that screw mount.

    The screw you are using to hold the 3D coupler box in place, does it use the same hole that they use to hold the carbody together?
    Where did you find that screw?
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    Allen,

    Quote Originally Posted by Allen H. View Post
    Heiko,
    Those coupler boxes you got off shapeways from Wuttermelon correct?


    Yes, exactly. He made them specially for me to fit the 1015s/2004s instead of the old 1025s

    Quote Originally Posted by Allen H. View Post
    In that tutorial you have, what brand of tank car is that?


    That's one of Athearn's ethanol tank cars, from the 2011/2012-run I believe.

    Quote Originally Posted by Allen H. View Post
    I recently picked up a couple of the latest Atlas tank cars.
    Quote Originally Posted by Allen H. View Post
    I tried to replace the Atlas trucks with MTL trucks but they have a screw mount to hold the tank car body together and the the MTL coupler box hits that screw mount.


    That's not going to be better with Wuttermelon's coupler boxes, in fact their are much longer. Have you tried either cutting/filing away some of the material from the box or using MTL 2004s with a lot of shims?

    As a side note: 2004s fit into 1015 boxes, so there's no need for those old-style boxed that need a soldering iron to melt them closed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Allen H. View Post
    The screw you are using to hold the 3D coupler box in place, does it use the same hole that they use to hold the carbody together?


    No, those Athearn tank cars have the carbody screw on the other side of the truck pin, towards the center of the car. The holes for the couplers I drilled myself.

    Are you talking about former-BLMA models tank cars or those 25500gal cars: http://archive.atlasrr.com/NFreight/...500tankcar.htm ? I have a few of the latter as well, from the 2011 run I believe, since it's the BRCX 3014 I could take a picture from underneath tomorrow if that's going to help you.

    Quote Originally Posted by Allen H. View Post
    Where did you find that screw?
    There is a German online shop called http://minischrauben.com/ where I ordered them. 100 each of 1.2mm diameter in 4mm, 6mm and 8mm thread length, countersunk and pan-head are going to last me for quite a while but I guess that's not going to help you. Though they might ship to the US? I don't know, can't hurt to ask.

    Heiko

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    Quote Originally Posted by Heiko View Post
    Are you talking about former-BLMA models tank cars or those 25500gal cars: http://archive.atlasrr.com/NFreight/...500tankcar.htm ?
    No they're the 20,700 gal cars.





    This is the little screw mount I was talking about. It sits down just enough that the MTL box hits.
    Yes I tried to file off the top/back of the MTL but it exploded.
    In the past on other Atlas tank cars like the 17,600 gal ones I've just used 1015 and glued them to the bottom of the walkways with epoxy, might have to do the same thing with these?



    After shooting this pic, I wonder if I could simply file the mount down a little bit after removing the screw, then re-countersink the hole so the screw head fits it?
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    Back to the original post regarding swapping boxcar frames, doesn't MT sell spare frames as well as other spare parts?

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