Napa Valley Wine Train

Napa Valley Wine Train Vignette
(Heavyweight cars changed from 2 axle trucks to 3 axle trucks)
Ted Doskaris
April 9, 2007
Revision GE-B1

Some time ago I got Aristo's beautiful Napa Valley Wine Train.
However, disappointing to me, the cars included those 2 axle trucks so unbefitting to a true heavyweight car, particularly noteworthy as the prototype Wine Train cars have 3 axle trucks.

On my under house layout, the main line consists of 10 foot minimum diameter track with many curves and some loops and "S" bends.
My Wine Train consists of 5 cars and 2 ALCO FA1 locos having the ball bearing motor blocks - though not of the latest version with lowered body shell and new smoke unit.
When operating that train with its original 2 axle trucks, one loco could not pull the train without incurring wheel slip! (Eventually I will add more weight in these locos' fuel tank area for better traction.)
With this experience, I expected even worse pulling ability, however, I was pleasantly surprised after the 3 axle conversion.

When using Aristo's ART-29103 3 axle trucks – a kit which come in pairs inclusive of only one wheel assembly per truck - it is intended that the 2 wheel assemblies be removed from the original 2 axle trucks and transplanted into the 3 axle truck assembly. (Note: Aristo-Craft has since redesigned its heavyweight car trucks and corresponding car bolsters from what my particular cars have as described herein. The new design type trucks require corresponding new design type car bolsters.  Thus, attention should be afforded to what type design trucks one has as well as the design type that is in the ART-29103 3 axle truck kits. Aristo typically does not change the “ART…” identification numbers, so close inspection is well advised.)

During the conversion process I discovered that the original 2 axle truck wheels sets did not contain any lubricant which resulted in excessive drag when pulling the Wine Train. When doing the disassembly and re-assembly of the 3 axle trucks I lubricated the axle tips / brass bushing areas, and this resulted in one loco being able to pull all 5 cars – all now with 3 axle trucks!
(After so much to do about the drag of 3 axle trucks vs. the 2 axle trucks in prior Aristo-Craft FORUM threads, this is a revelation.)

When converting the heavyweight cars from 2 to 3 axle trucks, the cars’ underside bolsters must be moved to a new location in a direction closer to the center of the car. This is easy to do as the mounting holes are already provided. However, I had to use a small round file to elongate the bolster screw holes so that once installed, the truck would pivot without rubbing. (The bolster already has elongated holes but not sufficient when mounting in the provided holes of a car’s underside.)

As to the electrical aspect, I just clipped off the 2 axle truck dedicated wires right at their terminal lugs so that the lugs remained with the car body wires when removing the trucks. (Possibly for saving on using additional lugs, Aristo’s factory had soldered both the car body wires and dedicated truck wires to a common lug – one small lug for each electrical polarity meant for the lighting circuits within the car.)
When I installed the new 3 axle trucks, all I had to do was pull the body wires through a hole in the new trucks and then overlay them with the corresponding truck dedicate wire lugs whilst attach with the little screws.
To avoid possible short circuits one must pay attention to electrical polarity when attaching the wires. Be advised that the body red wires are attached to a truck’s dedicated wire corresponding to the same side of the car (likewise for the black body wire - but on the opposite side of the car).  Too, I have found that the color code of the truck wires is not always consistently the same from truck to truck! So matching wire connections based on color code without some checking may cause a short.

Compared to the 2 axle trucks, the 3 axle cars now have two additional wheels per car for electrical pickup, therefore, light flickering is virtually eliminated. If one were to further improve on this, it appears the pickup harness with their brass bushing lugs could be transplanted from the old 2 axle trucks to the new 3 axle trucks where there are none. This would NOT add more wheel area for track power pickup, but it would make use of the axles’ shafts for an electrical conduction path to the opposite side brass bushings, and thus add twice the axle to bushing pickup area in the side frames.  I did not do this, however.

Since my 3 axle trucks are of the long coupler tang design, the excessive distance between the heavyweight cars when coupled together can be improved upon.  I intend to do a future modification to the trucks as to relocating the coupler tang - perhaps similar to that shown on George Schreyer's Heavyweight Tips Page

Now for the pictures:

Aristo-Craft ART29103 Heavyweight 3 axle truck replacement kit for originally installed 2 axle trucks:
(The kit includes a pair of new trucks but only one wheel assembly per truck as you must swap the wheel assemblies.)

Preparation of side frame removal typically requires use of small flat blade screw driver to pry with whilst using care to not scratch the paint:
(The paint Aristo uses sometimes acts as a glue!)

Below is shown the 3 axle truck frame assembly with its wheel assembly axle tips greased and ready to install:
(Caution: use of Aristo-Craft’s Electralube grease has been associated with cracked plastic journal boxes that had been discovered after I had greased these trucks. Aristo-Craft has since changed to a new nylon type plastic material for its truck parts that is not adversely affected by the Electralube. However, it may be difficult to ascertain which material a given car’s trucks are made of. Visually, the new and old material looks the same, but from my experience, the new nylon material is comparatively somewhat less flexible and somewhat harder than the older plastic material.)

3 axle truck final assembly. Two screws secure each side frame:

Underside view of car showing original 2 axle truck bolster location. It must be move to the right where the other set of holes are located to accommodate the 3 axle truck installation:
(Note the red and black body wires with terminal lugs which are to be pulled through the new 3 axle truck.)

Relocated truck bolster for 3 axle truck application:

3 axle truck installed on car, underside view:

Completed Heavyweight car example with both 3 axle trucks now in place:

A comparison of two heavyweight cars, one with the original 2 axle truck and the other on the left side with the newly installed 3 axle truck:

Completed Aristo-Craft Napa Valley Wine Train with the new 3 axle truck cars.


How to identify Aristo’s New and Old design type 3 axle trucks:

The newest type 3 axle truck of supposed reduced drag can be identified as shown below.
(This is the new design type 3 axle truck that includes a pivot rib across the top that is required to accommodate the newer production run heavyweight car bolster design.)

The SP RPO car shown below has the new bolster design. I added the washers for a total of 0.080 inch thickness for just enough light to show between the truck pivot rib and the car's bolster to minimize pivot friction and wear.


The OLDER design type truck like that on my Napa Valley Wine Train is shown below.
It also has a notably longer coupler tang than the new truck design.
(This is the older design type 3 axle truck without a pivot rib across the top that would otherwise be required to accommodate the newer production run heavyweight car bolster design.)

The following picture was previously used, but I think it worthwhile to repeat it here for comparison purposes:
Shown below is the older design type truck bolster.

For historical reference: Below is Aristo-Craft's antecedent REA brand name Heavyweight car 3 axle truck close up showing apparent center mount truck pivot attachment to the car body. This is unlike the Aristo brand name heavyweight car 3 axle trucks that are offset mounted. To my recollection, these trucks typically had insulated plastic axles between the wheels for independent 6 wheel electrical pickup on each truck.




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