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Yes, all wheels, by definition are round. I wanted to share with you some of the most harsh lessons I have learned on wheels so far in my freshman year of Model Railroading.

RP25 wheels are very different from the old style wheels, I don't know exactly when this change came about. You can go to the NMRA website and read more than you ever wanted to know about it. The main difference is visible and easy to see, once you have been trained to notice those differences. RP25 contour wheels have a shallow flange on the inside of the wheel. Older style wheels have a deep, almost sharp flange, that is bigger in diameter when compared to RP25 wheels.

If you are running code 100, you will care much less than if you are running code 83 or 70.  Why? Pretty simple, every time one of these old wheels rolls over a turnout or crossover, the flange will bottom out on the frog and your chances of derailment go up, way up. You can see the car hop or bounce over the turnout/crossover.

The solution is to replace the wheel set. Now you have another set of choices to make, plastic or metal, blackened or plain steel. Makes your head hurt doesn't it.

If your train room is in a climate controlled room, meaning low humidity and constant temperature, plastic wheels work reasonably well. However, and I remember this from personal experience living in the great state of Mississippi, humidity and plastic wheels dirty the track like a 15 year old cat with liver trouble.

My choice is metal wheels for two reasons:

  • They tend to keep the tracks much cleaner, tests of this fact are on the NMRA website, argue with them if you don't believe me.
  • They roll smoother and make cars easier to pull.

Reasons to ignore metal wheels

  • They are expensive, it costs about 2-3 bucks per freight car to equip one with metal wheels.
  • Metal wheels do tend to be a bit louder, they make more noise.

One last thing about wheel sets, the NMRA gauge is invaluable to a model railroader dedicated to reducing and eliminating derailments. Make sure your wheels are in gauge, meaning the flanges are the right distance apart.

Next time you are visiting an old timer's layout, look around the work bench and you'll probably find a jar or coffee can full of old wheel sets. Ask why they were removed from service and see what is said.




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