I recently ordered 3 of the Menards BNSF Hopper Cars, because I have a BNSf railroad, I really like the paint job on those cars, and the price was just too good to pass up. However, these are my very first Menards cars, and I was unaware of the deficiencies with them, most notably regarding the trucks and couplers:
1) The interference between the ladder rung and the truck frame.
2) Lack of a manual actuator for the couplers.
I really do like the cars, and always enjoy a good challenge, so I decided to see if I could swap the Menards trucks for MTH RailKing Bettendorf trucks, as they have a threaded hole in the center, and that seemed like something that I could work with.
I found a pair on eBay for a reasonable price, and ordered them. With shipping, they came to just at $20, and yes, I realize that I am adding this$20 to a $20 car, but I have my reasons for doing what I am about to detail out in this post, and decided that I should share it just in case anyone else might just happen to be interested in doing the same. I had recently put a condensed write-up in my other Menards thread, but decided to make a new, detailed, DIY thread, complete with photos.
The trucks on these hopper cars have a small pin of some kind that is set down into a raised well on the top of the large square plate that mounts the truck to the car. I could see that this pin had to be removed, and that trying to cut it out of the plastic would probably destroy the plate.
I then decided to attempt to simply cut off the raised portion, and the head of that pin, with my Dremmel and a cut off wheel. This worked out very well, and left me with a nice flat plastic plate with a small hole in the center. Remember that raised threaded hole in the MTH trucks? I finished this off by smoothing the area after the cut.
The MTH truck has a raised rim in the center, with the threaded hole in it, and I had some #12 St. St. washers that were just the right inside diameter to drop down over that raised area, creating a larger bearing surface for the Menards mounting plate to pivot on. Two of the washers came well above the top of this raised surface, while leaving the top washer just low enough to be held in place around the top edge of that raised area. This also brought the mounting plate up just enough for those ladder rungs to clear the truck frame, and the outer flange of the wheel, if need be, with a bit of room to spare.
Now the mildly disappointing thing with the MTH trucks is that they do not come with a screw to put into that threaded hole, and it is a very small, fine thread. So then, I began digging thru my collection of screws, and it turns out to be the same thread as one of those small fine threaded screws that you would use to install computer parts, when building a tower PC. I ha found one, verified that it was the correct size, and used it to put the thing together. It works very well, with those lower ladder rungs on the support plate, clearing the rotating truck nicely, and with a nice bit of room to spare. However, It does need a longer screw to get the proper engagement, and to give the LocTite room to work. These screws need to be left just loose enough for the truck to freely pivot on the car, so LocTite needs to be applied.
I used LocTite Medium Strength 242 (BLUE) just in case I need to remove the screw at a later date.
I then took one of the MTH trucks, along with that computer screw, and headed over to Lowe’s to see if I could determine the size of, and hopefully find, the screws required to finish the job. The screw was too small to fit any of those thread gauge sizes that they have in the hardware area, so I looked thru all of the available screws, that were hanging out in the open, but there was nothing that would work, and I thought I may have to continue the search elsewhere. Then I decided to take a chance, and look thru the drawers of screws and fittings that they have down below all of the hanging bags of screws, and low and behold I was able to lay my hands on the perfect size for the job. The thread turns out to be 4-40, and they had bags of 4-40 x 3/8” long St. St. screws. I was more than a little thrilled at the find, and bought them, along with some 1/8” fender washers, then went home to continue the assembly.
I dry fitted everything together, installed it on the car, and voila at works out perfectly, with good clearance, and with the added benefit of the manual coupler operator tab. These trucks also add a fair bit of heft to these very light cars.
I hope that helps someone,