My solution to the rubber tire issue has been to buy only MTH Premier diesel locomotives, most of which have provision for changing out wheel 'n' axle sets. Unlike most Lionel diesels, this K-Line model has an openable gear box so that I can do exploratory surgery without fear of permanent damage.
Interestingly, my Lionel ALCo S-2 has provision for changing wheel 'n' axle sets and, unlike MTH, Lionel has a good parts identification pages with exploded views. Their parts department is GREAT.
Being a big fan of Rich Batista's Forum postings, I bought his DVDs, the last of which (It's All About The Trains) gave me quite an education on the matter of 3RS. Though he apparently has no objection to rubber tires, he does recommend the "scale wheel" versions of MTH diesels for the other reasons - fixed pilot, Kadee readiness, and full length handrails plus some other very worthwhile tips.
Sadly, there is no alternative that I know of for steam other than Max Gray. The choices are rubber tires or nothing. My experience with Max Gray locomotives was lusting after them while walking past All Nation Hobby Shop as a much, much younger man. Maybe someday...
Check out NWSL upgrade geared wheelsets maybe they have what you need.
Doug, You're a GEEEEEENIUS!
I see they have O Gauge and O Scale wheels. Perhaps they would simply pull my old wheels, drill and press on new ones? I'll call 'em up, next week! I've been hankering for a road trip out to Butte to conduct further study of the Milwaukee Road remains. Hamilton is only 6 and a half hours from here and I can follow the MILW, the NP (MRL) or both.
Glad to be of help. Let us know how you make out.
Will do! If this works out, I've got several favorites that could benefit from the same treatment.
Rubber tires seem so counterproductive for O'Gaugians. Of necessity, our trains are shorter and we like to over-power them. Useless dummy units being in decline, thanks to multiple unit numbers available for powered units and DCS/TMCC multiple unit "lashup" capability, we can overcome any otherwise insuperable wheelslip issue by simply adding more power. There's no down-side!