Many of you have read my blogs on how wonderful Menards Trains are. Well that is true but things are changing with the train cars which I do not think is necessarily a good thing. So what am I talking about? Recently, I purchased 7 new 20,000 gallon tank cars. The first one was actually beautiful, it was a Lifesaver Tank Car. It came with metal trucks, metal uncouplers, and all the truck side frames were painted and they were metal too. The trucks added WEIGHT to the car. Then Menards followed the Lifesaver Tank car with six very nice 20,000 gallon Tank Cars and they have changed. They are the Conrail, Army, NS, CSX, BN and Tide Soap. All of these cars come with PLASTIC TRUCKS. These plastic trucks are a direct copy of the Plastic Roller Bearing Truck Richard Kughn brought out at Lionel in the mid 1990s, Unfortunately, these trucks have NO WEIGHT to them and since the 6 new tank cars have very little weight either, the new tank cars hardly weigh anything at all. Which means these 6 new tank cars will jump the track. because of the weight problem. I was able to get the tank end cap off of each of the six cars by gently removing the metal railing holding the end cap on and gently adding some pressure on the end cap and they popped off I put some metal chains in each of the tank cars and that solved the problem. Then, I bought an extra Tide Soap Tank Car. I started the process of removing the end cap of this tank car to add more weight The end cap was sealed with super glue. I was not able to get the end cap off of that car and add the necessary weight. So I got some metal screw nuts and filled the space in the tank car trucks to a reasonable degree and supper glued them in. This solved my problem. But why put such a light weight car on to the market that will not stay on the track? Oh yes, you might be able to drill a hole in the bottom of the car and put 1 inch nails with the heads cut off into the car. Once you put them in, they will add weight to the car..BUT WHY, does a customer have to go through all this "stuff" to make a train car heavy. This was not caused by the Chinese, it was caused by someone at the Home Office of Menards that did not check out how light weight the car would be with plastic trucks. Don't they get production samples of there train cars before putting them on the market? This is lack of Quality Control for this type of car. Amen!
I bought 2 excavators on flat cars which had lights and sounds when activated with your finger pressing a button on the excavator. Unfortunately, the 3 batteries that were in both cars were defective. They were leaking. I took one car back to Menards and they exchanged it with a good one. I took the second car apart and was finally able to see how the batteries were situated and was able to fix the car as there were 3 extra batteries included in each car. There were NO INSTRUCTIONS with each of the cars. Instructions would of shown exactly which screws to take out to release the excavator from the flat car. Why did they use button type batteries? They could of easily used a small triple A battery. There was room to fit one or two of them in the excavator. Again, a lot of work on my part to return one of the cars to Menards and to fix the other one myself.
And now I shall talk about the wheels on many of my Menards freight cars. Some won't turn and some of these are pressed on with bent axles which causes the car to wobble along. You know, Lionel had the same kind of troubles with there wheels from 1970 to about l985. This is caused by Lack of Quality Control of the company who makes the wheel sets for Menards cars. I am able to fix the wheels that wobble but I am never able to get the wobble completely eliminated. Also some of the wheels will not turn on trucks that have a cradle type coupler where the cradle rides on the truck wheels and is kept in position by 4 tabs that grip (gently) around the axles. Sometimes the machine that presses the tab around the axle uses to much force and prevents the axle from turning. This can be fixed by using a very small flat head screw driver and pushing the the tab to release the pressure. Then you have the plastic truck wheels that won't turn. This is caused by the molding process of the plastic side frame which puts to much pressure on the fast angle wheel set. Use gentle pressure to try and release the side frame on the needle point axle and use a very small dot of plastic compatible oil on each of the needle point axles where they enter the side frame. It is wise to use a small dot of plastic compatible oil on all trucks were friction can cause the wheel axles not to turn. What ever you do, do not put too much pressure on the plastic side frame trucks as the plastic being used is very brittle and too much pressure will break the side frame. Then you will have the difficult job of replacing the entire truck .and that is mostly impossible with Menards as I have never heard of anyone getting parts from Menards.
Well, I paint a dim outlook for Menards Train Trucks, but the problems I have described above are few and far between. Most of the trucks do fine. The most important thing about defective items you might buy is to EXAMINE each and every item when you get them home. If the wheels won't turn or there is a problem with something else you buy in the train department, you have 2 choices for a fix. Return it to Menards for a credit or exchange or try to fix it yourself. Save your cash register slips if you are returning any item. Do not try and fix an item you want to return., Leave it alone and take it back to Menards. Menards is excellent on returns and they want their customers satisfied.
One other very interesting thing about Menards. Always pay for your items via your own Charge Card or Menards Big Red Card. Why? Because if you do this, you will be able to print every cash register receipt (free) at any Menards because they keep your cash register slips in an electronic memory that is available to you at any Menards Store in the USA. The computers (usually 2) are located where the return goods department is. This means that if you lose one of your cash register slips, you can reprint each and every one (without the rebate attached). Sure comes in handy if you are returning an item to one of there stores and forgot your register receipt. They have no way of looking up your cash register receipts if you pay by cash. One other very wise thing to do is to carry a small pocket notebook or make a list on your cell phone of the date your bought the train item. You might be going to Menards and not buying trains. So your list can have a notation that it is for trains and you won't have to hunt non train items to find your correct register train receipt --- be organized.
By being organized, you will be able to find the exact date you bought your trains even though you had bought other merchandise besides trains. This organization will save you un-necessary printing of non train receipts. To print those receipts, you must bring your card along to Menards and stick it into the computer. Sounds complicated but it easy as pie, once you get the hang of what your are doing.
Enjoy your trains, sincerely yours railbear601.,