New trucks for an old coach

I actually got some modelling done last night and I’m pretty happy about that.

While trying to consolidate some boxes of detail parts over the weekend I found a new package of Micro-trains six-wheel passenger trucks. I set them out and then went on the hunt for a car to install them on. I have a pretty large collection of heavyweight coaches and they’ll all need conversion to Micro-trains couplers eventually. What I was looking for, in particular, was one that I likely wasn’t interested in re-painting. I settled on a Atlas/Rivarossi parlour car. The coach is a really nice model and was factory decorated for the Pennsylvania Railroad. Regardless of what direction I take in prototypes I figured this car will remain in it’s factory colours so I figured installing new trucks and couplers would bring it a little closer to “done”.

Reflections on the conversion
I figured I’d share some of my thoughts from the workbench (…well the kitchen table where I did the work):

The instructions that came with the trucks are superb and very thorough. Very well written instructions are so much a part of every Kadee and Microtrains product and I really am pleased that they took so much time to really share as much information as they did. Not only did they provide a fairly comprehensive list of available heavyweight coaches that these trucks could be used under but they also included a special section for each manufacturer’s product and notes on how that installation would differ from one performed on another manufacturer’s product. They also included some adapters and washers to really support the modeller.

Atlas/Rivarossi made an interesting choice in how they mounted their trucks to the car body. To remove the trucks you need to first remove the car’s roof. Once inside you can easily see a cylindrical steel weight at each end of the car. The truck’s bolster bin is press fit into this weight. My coach is approaching forty years in age and while everything is in very good condition seperating this press-fit pin from the weight wasn’t as smooth as it could have been. In a perfect world I could have just removed the wheelsets from the truck then pulled on the pin using a set of pliers. No such luck and in the end I would up cutting each truck out in pieces so I could get a better purchase on the pin itself. After some very careful work I was eventually able to seperate the pin from the weight, but it wasn’t easy and you don’t really have much room to work. Be very careful with both the pin and the weight as you’ll be using both when you install the Microtrains trucks.

No modifications are necessary to the car.

The pivot points for the original and the Microtrains trucks are directly over the centre axle. I found that I couldn’t get the pin to press back in as far as the factory was able to and as such the head of the pin rubbed on the centre axle when the car was reassembled. In the end I reduced the length of the pin slightly to make sure I could drive it in as deep as possible. There isn’t much room between the axle and the inside-top of the truck and I tried to use as much of it as I could.

The couplers themselves are factory assembled and they screw mount to the truck. There are two screw locations on the coupler box and the truck is designed to allow the coupler box to slide in and out for adjustment. The tighter the radius curve you have on your layout the further out you’ll want to mount the coupler. I set mine about mid-way out. I plan on installing a pair of American Limited diaphrams on the car and anticipate further fine-tuning of the coupler’s mounting position.

The factory trucks also feature truck mounted couplers. As with most cars designed for this feature the bolster was made a little taller than really necessary to allow for some vertical travel. I left the car’s bolsters alone, for now, but anticipate shaving them shallower to drop the car body down lower – hopefully about 1mm in the end for a more prototypical ride height. When I do that I’ll also be body-mounting the couplers.

Next Steps
I think I’m going to order a few PRR-specific detail parts from This manufacturer offers some neat Pennsy. detail parts that would really suit the car. I’ll post again when I get some of these in and installed.

My car needs steps. N scale coaches of this car’s vintage were designed for layouts with extremely tight 9-3/4″ radius curves so steps were seldom modelled. David Popp made a great suggestion in a Model Railroader article where he suggested cutting the steps from caboose floor castings. I’ve tried it on other cars and I’ll follow this path again on this coach. I have the floors so it’s just a matter of performing the surgery. This I’ll try tonight.

When I get the steps installed I’ll probably “bite the bullet” and body-mount the couplers too. I guess, in hindsight, I should think about the diaphrams before I get too involved in this step.

The trucks I used were cast in silver plastic and they need to be painted. This is easy and should be fun.

Some useful links for stuff I mentioned above
The trucks I used were MicroTrains Line #003 42 061:

American Models (diaphrams and neat four-wheel Pennsy trucks too!)

Model Railroader magazine (David Popp is now editor)


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