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Rich, thanks for the tip. I initially could not find them, but did a search for "bushings" on Doug's site and found them. They are $1.50 for a package of 8 brass bushings for KC trucks. For info, SHS made replacement  metal wheelsets for AF cars that will work great with these bushings, especially on SHS or FasTrack. I have a couple of sets, they improve things even w/o the bushings. They made two styles of the flat end axles, one for power pickup and one standard insulated. Hopefully MTH will re-release these wheelsets.


Do you notice much improvement in roll-ability? Probably 15-20 years ago, I bought some brass bushings – eyelets really – and didn’t see much improvement with either Flyer plastic wheelsets or SHS metal replacement wheelsets. Both are blunt axle. I decided it wasn’t worth the effort.

I am curious about the pointy axles. I’m not sure what an eyelet would do for them. Don’t the sideframes made for pointy axels have conical holes to match?

Tom Stoltz

in Maine

Francine, I am afraid the silence is an answer. As I said before, my experiments with the bushings proved that is really wasn’t forth the effort for blunt axles. My guess would be if pointing the axles made any difference, then the SHS replacement wheels would have had pointy axles – they didn’t. I would really like to be wrong about this, but no one is stepping forward.

Tom Stoltz

in Maine

A needle point axle in a properly made bushing will have much lower rotational resistance than a blunt end axle. The question is will that make a difference when running the trains? I have never tried retrofitting the bushings with needle point axles for two simple reasons. I have always operated link coupler equipment with the sheet metal sideframes and the layouts I had were small enough that the layout size limited how many cars I could use. When I get my new permanent layout later this year I will be able to operate much longer trains. After setup I intend to try some "pointy axle" retrofits to determine for myself if it makes a difference. What I suspect will be the case is that I will be able to pull 30 freight cars around the layout with the Flyonel Challengers, BigBoy, YS 3 and Mikado regardless of the wheelsets used.

Hi Tom,

Do you mean bushings that have a conical shape when you say ‘properly made’?  I do not know what the bushing for a needle point axle should be.  Maybe they should be Delran plastic or some form on the ‘slippery’ plastics?  And if that is the case, why aren’t they on the market?

The ones I am familiar with that are on the market now are just brass eyelets and not shaped for pointy axles.  I conducted my tests using link coupler trucks on a 640 hopper.  I had to drill out the hole in the trucks to accept the brass bushing.  The SHS steel wheels made more of a difference than the bushings, but not much.

When you think of friction on the axle, it would seem that the link coupler truck would be far superior because there is only the thin edge of the sheet metal in contact with the axle.  But as we all know, they have very poor roll-ability.  There is obviously more going on here than I know, however this isn’t rocket science and someone should be able to figure it out.  The knowhow exists because the newer SHS & AM trucks roll so easily. Now all we have to do is figure a way to retrofit the technology into older trucks.

Tom Stoltz

in Maine

Tom, I did mean the bushings would need a conical seat. Apparently that is not how the current brass replacements are made and that is why I suspect the result would not be worth the effort.

The link coupler trucks are metal on metal and that has a relatively high coefficient of friction when dry. I can get mine to roll freely by cleaning them with electrical contact cleaner and lightly oiling them. Unfortunately that lasts less than a week. Metal axles on Delrin plasic would be much lower friction in the dry state. I think that is how the new trucks are made.

Just did an impromptu, unscientific test on 3 cars, a Gilbert 937, a 937 equipped with the brass axle bushings and an SHS SF reefer. On parallel tracks with the 937's side by side, I propelled the cars with a piece of plastic spanning the ends of both cars. I applied a light shove for several inches and let the cars roll to a stop. I performed the test about 10-15 times to get an average roll out. Both cars were freshly oiled. The bushing equipped 937 consistently rolled 1/2 to 1 full car length further before stopping. The more force applied, the further the gap widened. The SHS reefer was then compared to the Bushing equipped 937 and at minimum force exceeded the 937 by 3-4 car lengths. I then compared a string of 10 various Gilbert cars to 10 bushing equipped Gilbert cars by trying (unscientifically) to pull on the lead cars knuckle to gauge the force needed to move the cars. The bushing equipped string moved with far less force. I would translate that to an ability of an engine to pull more cars with less exertion. The SHS rolling advantage is probably due to the smaller (conical) axle contact point and the narrower metal wheel contact surface on the rail. A lot of Gilbert axle holes are larger or irregular due to wear and machining and the bushing appears to restrict the axle from excess movement within the journal hole. I feel the bushing equipped cars operate better than the Gilbert trucks and are worth the $2. Are they as good as SHS/AM axles, no.




Thank you so much for conducting your experiments. Your results are interesting and I have a few questions. The 937 having the brass bushings, did you replace the wheelsets with steel wheels or leave the Flyer plastic wheels? I think you results are not very different from mine, however you view of them is a bit more optimistic than mine. I outright dismissed ½ car length more coasting being worth the effort.

I did my tests over 16 years ago and I am sure my memory of them is a bit fuzzy at best. Rather than pushing the cars, I build an adjustable incline which I felt gave every trial the conditions. IIRC, I raised the ramp until a raw (unaltered) Flyer 640 would roll to the bottom. Then converted it to the brass bushings but leaving the Flyer wheelsets and gave it many trails, noting each end point. Next I changed out the Flyer wheels for SHS replacement steel wheels and repeated the trails. As I said before, the steel wheels made more of a difference than the bushings alone. My memory is such that I never bothered converting another car to brass bushings. The steel wheelsets are probably of more value as an aid in keeping the track clean rather than the increase in roll-ability.

Your test with a string of cars is intriguing and it would be interesting to have a pull scale to really measure the difference. A small difference in one car adds up to a big difference in many cars.

I wrote to Doug Peck asking about plastic bushings and stating what I thought about the brass bushings. His response:

The REAL purpose of the brass bushings in the AF KC trucks is to correct the level of the axle in the truck, due to axle wear against the top of the hole in the die cast sideframe, causing the trucks to ride a bit lower.

But at the same time, they do improve rollability.

Because I don’t use knuckle trucks I have never attempted to convert then to the brass bushings. Do you have to ream out the hole in the sideframe for the bushing? How do you ensure the bushings are all the same distance from the rail so the car rides level?

Doug also mentioned he was not aware of any plastic bushing (though I seem to remember someone had them for passenger cars many years ago) other than what Lionel puts in their freight trucks. Can anyone offer more information about the Lionel bushings?

I guess until someone develops (if it is possible) a conical bushing for pointy axles we are stuck with only a little bit of improvement with the brass bushings.

Tom Stoltz

in Maine


The 937 having the brass bushings, did you replace the wheelsets with steel wheels or leave the Flyer plastic wheels? I think you results are not very different from mine, however you view of them is a bit more optimistic than mine. I outright dismissed ½ car length more coasting being worth the effort.  

The 937's retained the original Gilbert plastic wheels. The more force used propelling the cars resulted in a larger gap at the finish line. I would guess that the steel wheels have less rolling resistance than plastic. I'm sure you are familiar with the amount of crud that adheres to the plastic wheels.

Because I don’t use knuckle trucks I have never attempted to convert then to the brass bushings. Do you have to ream out the hole in the sideframe for the bushing? How do you ensure the bushings are all the same distance from the rail so the car rides level?

There was no need to enlarge the sideframe holes. In some cases the holes were enlarged due to wear. I believe instructions state that the bushings should be epoxied in place if the hole is too large. The difference is negligible as to ride height.





I ordered a couple hundred tapered plastic bushings YEARS ago from Athern , they were used on their H O dummy engines . They used a brass like bushing in the powered units. I pointed the axles by placing them in a lathe & filing the axles to a point . The big problem was to shorten the axle a little ( guess work ) to have some end clearance . The roll ability  is great & will do some more cars if I live long enough . I did several of the cast drop center cars & added custom loads.

Hi Ed,

I’m a touch confused. I thought the bearings (bushings) had to have tapered sides also to be effective with the needle point axles. I looked on your website and the bushings I saw were the eyelet type.

Rich, it will be interesting to find out if the pointy axles perform better in the brass bushings than your standard AF axles in brass bushings do.

I’m thinking of calling Lionel to see if they will sell their freight car bearings separately. I probably should also try Athern like Bob did.

Tom Stoltz

in Maine

I did the same type of test with the KC trucks with and without the brass eyelets.  I used two examples of the same car.  One with the eyelets and one without.  I did not push the cars, but set up two tracks on a slope.  The car with the bushings rolled farther and smoother than the one without.  I didn't do any of the math required to calcuate the force that was applied, but there was a significant difference.  think I'll repeat the experiment and calculate force applied and distance traveled to get a more precise result.  In my opinion, it's definately worth the buck or so per car to retrofit.

Last edited by Kelpieflyer

So, what happens over time as the pointy axle bearings wear? Smaller diameter will wear faster.

Some theories on why the LC trucks don't roll easily. 1) The axle hole is stamped in the truck, leaving a sharp edge that cuts into the axle a bit. 2) hole has worn down and matches the diameter of the axle now, providing greater bearing surface and more adhesion. 3) brass eyelets provide a smooth "hole" and brass to steel is "slipperier" than steel to steel.

Just some thoughts!

As you said, we use the brass eyelets with the steel tapered axles for the rolling capabilities of these two metals and the wear will be in the eyelet which is always replaceable. I have ran some of my freight cars for over a year and have no wear at all so the theory about a smaller diameter will wear faster I don't see it.

This is an old topic and the answer is there is nothing out there or being produced that is correct and reliable. If your interest is in simply running longer trains continuously then this would be something to look into, but it may be easier to try to double head your trains. If your into operations, you should think twice about making your cars too roll easy. The frustration is, with no friction, coupling becomes a serious problem. You'll end up having to unrealistically mash the cars together to get them to couple or end up playing bump and chase down the siding.

The idea behind the pointed axles was to reduce the friction of the axle where it meets the bearing hole. Original Gilbert and Lionel trucks simply had a hole for the flat end of the axle to go into. Over time these holes filled with hair, carpet fiber, old oil and grease, and what ever got caught up in them. They also wore making the hole larger. The reason the old tin Gilbert trucks worked better was because only the thin edge of the metal side frame touched the axle. Less surface to surface contact, the easier it moved. To simply insert an eyelet into the axle hole to take up what is missing or ground off of the end of the axle is a waste of time. Your only getting a clean surface which may improve operation for a short time until the hair, old oil and grease and other contaminants work their way into there. 

To properly reduce the friction one would need an insert for the axle hole that was tapered at an angle slightly larger than the angle on the end of the axle. Thus allowing only the tip of the axle to ride in the bearing hole, but keeping slop to a minimum. This would reduce the amount of friction between the axle hole and axle as much as physically can be accomplished. No other way will work.

I heard somewhere that someone was working on some very small roller bearing inserts that can be installed after drilling out the old bearing hole and applying a small amount of adhesive to hold them in place. No need to modify the axles. That would be a viable solution similar to real railroads, but at what cost.



Thanks Tin,

This is in line with what I’ve heard about pointy axles. Without a Delrin conical bushing, pointing the axles doesn’t do much of anything.

I received this from the former SHS, it concerns their conclusion about retro replacement wheelsets and axles:

“  The goal in our mind was to increase the rolling characteristics of the wheelsets. There is so much physics involved that is beyond my comprehension. We were told that you need a corresponding angles bearing to get the full advantage of needle pointed axles. The angles do not match but allow the axle end to touch the minimum surface of the bearing which would lower the coefficient of friction. Bearing and axle material will also effect this value that is why we were told to use a Delrin bearing. For our AF comp. replacement wheelset axles we felt a full radius would be the best bet to keep the surface where the axle contact the bearing to a minimum. A needle pointed axle would not have the corresponding bearing to work correctly. 

  We did have a situation with our AF comp. replacement wheelsets, yes you could pull almost twice as many cars, but when trying to couple parked cars, the old AF couplers are just stiff enough to the cars with our axles would push away instead of standing in place allowing the coupler to close. For this we had no solution other than to replace the coupler with a newer Delrin coupler that would close instead of remaining open and rolling away.

  I hope this helps. If you have additional questions, feel free to contact me...”

Perhaps a Delrin rod inserted into the eyelet and reamed to a conical shape might help. I did look for Delrin rod online and was able to find .125”. There are tapered drill bits used for wood screws out there.

Tom Stoltz

in Maine

Tom, the only problem with your idea that I can think off right away is that a drill bit leaves a very rough hole. Maybe the Delrin would wear smooth quickly enough that that isn't a problem?? A tapered reamer would leave a smoother hole. Maybe one could make a pointed tool that could be pushed into the Delrin while hot and "melt" the hole tapered?? One thing the brass bushings do is take up the wear, especially in the Hudson and Northern tender trucks, which can wear to the point where the truck sides touch the rail, especially going through switches, causing momentary shorts. My theory as to why the tender trucks seem to wear more than others (passenger cars, crane cars, etc.) is the electrical load actually arcing in the bearing area, which removes a bit of the metal over time. Just a theory, but it's also my theory why diesel motor trucks usually need rebushing.

Dave, just remembered there is a tool made just for this:

HO Truck Tuner

Truck Tuner Makes 'em Really Roll

Our Truck Tuner reconditions your HO gauge railroad truck bearings so cars roll smoother with less friction. Simply insert the tool in place of a wheelset and rotate the shank. Truck Tuner's extra-sharp tool-steel cutter reshapes the bearing to the NMRA's recommended 60 degree contour and cleans out burrs and grime. Repeat for all bearings and your car is ready to really roll. Increases train lengths that locomotives can pull by up to 20 percent! For HO standard gauge trucks only.

Thanks to all for the answers/suggestions.

I will be doing the American Freedom Train (using Flyonel, S helper and American Models) - no problem there.

Also the Reading Rambles with American Models passenger cars - no problem there as well.

It is the coal drag with mainly old Flyer hoppers and a few gondolas and box cars that will present the problem.  For a buck/fifty per set, I'll try the bushings - if they improve the situation - GREAT, if they don't - at least it didn't cost alot.

If the bushings don't work, I may be forced to purchase new trucks. - that would be expensive.


Tom, You would use an HO tool on S??? Blasphemy! Interesting though, that the HO trucks need "reconditioning" enough to have this tool made available--so there must be some wear involved.  It would be interesting to see if anyone has studied use and rolling ability degradation over time of use.

Of course, if you're not running your trains on the floor, the hair, etc. build-up should be less frequent (unless your cat sleeps on the layout!).


I wonder if you can melt Delrin without changing its properties. If it is possible then melting some into a brass eyelet would seem like an easy thing to do. That might be easier than trying to turn down a Delrin rod to fit the eyelet. Maybe even just softening it and mushing it into the eyelet would work.

There are many tools out there that could shape a conical hole – countersink, pointy router bit come to mind. If I were more set up for it, I would play around with some of these ideas.

The coupling thing is a big issue though. I have found that a knuckle coupler on a Flyer gondola won’t close without help. That’s why I have opted for link and/or Kadee couplers (a strange mix, I know). I like to be able to couple cars together without derailing the train.

Tom Stoltz

in Maine

Tom, good questions, but I dunno the answers. Am wondering if Teflon would be a better choice?

Ah yes, those AF Gondolas are a bit light-footed, ain't they? Load 'em up with scrap! Of course they won't roll as easily now, so your trains will have to be shorter! Oh wait, that wasn't the original plan, was it?

Think I'll go back to rebuilding this Model A carburetor for a friend, later!

Well, there is a meter to measure drawbar pull. This could be used to get a more objective reading on how much improvement there really is. I would like to see numbers to compare: an unaltered car, one with replaced wheelsets, one with eyelets and Flyer wheelsets, one with eyelets and replacement wheelsets, one with eyelets and pointy axles and one with eyelets and SHS needle point wheelsets. And if possible, one with Delrin inserted into the eyelets and pointy axles and repeat with SHS needle point wheelsets.

Probably asking too much…

Tom Stoltz

in Maine

Digital Meter Measures the Drawbar Pull That Your Locomotives Develop

Helps you maximize the performance of your locomotive fleet

Simply hook the wire to your locomotive's coupler, press the ON button, and turn up the power. Our digital meter displays the pulling force developed by your locomotive in ounces. Add weight to your loco and see how the pull increases. Pull a train with the meter to determine how many cars can be pulled per ounce, then assign your locomotives to pull a train just like a real railroad does. Capacity: 176 ounces. Readability: 0.1 ounce increments. Includes automatic battery-saving shut-off (90-second), and instructions for use. For all scales of model trains. (Color may vary.)


Tom Stoltz posted:
Francine posted:

Hi RoyBoy,

I did pick up some very nice Lionel/Flyer scale wheel trucks with hi rail couplers for a great price. They roll really well and that's what I'm looking for. 



I’m afraid to ask, but scale wheels with Hi-rail couplers?  I didn’t know Lionel had such an animal…would you tell us more?

Tom Stoltz

in Maine

Sounds like the legendary trucks off the first run of cylindrical hoppers.  (car on the right)

AF b4 and after

Odds are they're out of gauge.




Images (2)
  • AF b4 and after
  • truck2
Last edited by Rusty Traque

Hi Rusty,

Could be, I thought the same thing, but the price was too good to pass up.  Worst case scenario, replace the wheel sets. At North Penn S Gauge we run scale, high rail and flyer.  I did an unscientific experiment and installed one set on a car, then pushed it through a curve and no problems.  I think the problem could arrive at switches (turnouts or what ever you want to call them).


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