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Hey guys, I have a Lionel NYC Hudson from 1986 (the gray painted one), and I've had it for over a year now, but I couldn't really use it. It can run fine on straight track, but on turns it seems to bind up and struggle to get around the curves. I looked up the typical issues for the Postwar-styled Hudson, and it didn't seem to have any of those issues. After taking some parts off of the locomotive to try and isolate the problem, I came to the conclusion that it was the front and back drive wheels that seem to be the problem. I think what's happening is that the wheels are not completely flush against the frame (or at least the bearings), and so they are a little crooked when rolling, and then they just become more apparent when going around turns. Is it possible to sand or grind down those wheels a little bit so that they are properly flush against the frame, or is that not possible? I would like to keep them, since they are the original wheels.

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Put the grinder down, first things first......what track are you trying to run on?...type, radius, etc.....has the locomotive been properly serviced?...a lot of this earlier LTI stuff can have dried up grease in the gear box,....has the motor been properly lubed?...these Hudsons are great runners, let’s see what your up against before you start sanding or grinding anything.....


At the very least the worm shaft was lubricated when I received it, and I also put oil on the axle bearings as well. I forgot to mention that the binding/sluggishness was happening even when the motor was disconnected; I took the shaft out, so I was free-rolling it along O42 track. The drive wheels even lift up a centimeter or so when it's on the turns.

I believe the 785 was the first of the post war Hudsons to have open spoke drivers. Mine had a problem with axle end  swedging (?) so that one of the drivers even fell off the axle. A trip to Lionel corrected that and I’ve had a lot of good run time with this engine. I would check wheel tightness, gauge, and even quartering in case  a drive wheel may have been off its axle.

Last edited by OddIsHeRU

Might be what Richard said,....I just checked my 785’s gauging for drivers are tight as a drum....I don’t have anything that tight of a curve ( I’m O81 at the tightest) ...but I pulled my 785 off the shelf right quick, and this is what I read for gauging....just at 1.25” ....feels like there’s maybe .015-.020 of slop side to side rocking the drivers till they touch the frame....axle sits flush with the axle poking out, or looking like it’s sucked in....



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I have a 773, 783, 784, and 785.  I've tested and serviced them all.  I agree that the 785 exhibits the most binding and slowdown, especially on O36 and O42 curves.

The 785 is unique in that it's the only Hudson with 700E-style spoked wheels, AND ALSO the steel side plates added to the 773 in 1950, ostensibly to distribute the magnetic flux for MagneTraction.  IMO Lionel made a mistake with the 785.  This loco doesn't have Magnetraction.  When they decided to use the spoked wheels they should have omitted the plates.  (Thankfully they did so in 1990 on the reissued 1-700E.)  Perhaps the added thickness of the plates is why the wheels couldn't be pressed all the way onto the axles.

There are no standards for wheel gauging in 3-rail O, but specs for the 773 are in the service manual.  All of the Hudsons beginning with the 773 were under-gauged slightly, probably the narrowest of any postwar Lionels, which allowed them to negotiate sharp tinplate curves without binding.  I've seen plenty of postwar 773s, especially the 1950 version, with axles that were not well-centered (poking out on one side, sucked in on the other.)  But the 783 and 784 use a different axle and I've never encountered this issue with them.

I'm not sure that you'll be able to re-gauge the wheels on your loco and personally I wouldn't try.  Just run this one on wide-radius curves, and stick with the 773, 783, 784 on O42 and below.  If you like the grey boiler you could swap in a 784 chassis but you would lose the spoked drivers, it still wouldn't look bad.  My $.02.

Last edited by Ted S
@Ted S posted:


I'm not sure that you'll be able to re-gauge the wheels on your loco and personally I wouldn't try.  Just run this one on wide-radius curves, and stick with the 773, 783, 784 on O42 and below.  

I agree. I have a 785, bought new in the 80's (oh, the cost!), and it used to run on an earlier layout - 042 GG track - and ran well. I have not run it in so long. I should take him off the shelf, grease him up and see how he looks on my 072 layout....of course, that could lead to an AC Commander...oh, no...

Just run this one on bigger curves and, if that cures it, enjoy it. Striking loco, even with the short tender (you could pretend it's a B&A J-2 class) and low-detail level. Even real railroads have to limit certain equipment to certain lines. This was especially true in steam days.

A couple of videos would be really helpful here.  First: a video of the loco trying to navigate the curve.  Run the loco by itself as slowly as you can.  You said the wheels lifted up by a centimeter(!)  Are you sure the curves are O42?  Did someone bend the track or force it to fit?   Did you butt the sections together tightly at the pin, or is there a sharp-edged gap which can snag the wheels?  Is the track level?  Did you check for a narrow spot or "pinch point" in the gauge?

The second video I would like to see, is the loco running upside-down in a cradle.  You stated that the wheels were "crooked."  Do you mean that they have a wobble?  If this train fell to the floor, it could have a bent wheel or axle that would affect operation, especially on the minimum-rated curve.  Unfortunately the way these are made, replacing a bent axle is an expert-level repair.  The average person would have to buy a whole new chassis with the wheels already installed.

Last point:  Do you have another Lionel Hudson (773, 783, 784, 1-700E) that you could test and/or measure for comparison?  My 785 WILL negotiate O42 curves, just not as well as my other Lionel Hudsons with the narrower powdered-iron wheels.  I swear it's because the spoked wheels are gauged wider, probably out of necessity to clear the side plates, which the originals (prewar 700E, 763E) never had.

Last edited by Ted S

Thank you all very much for the responses, and I apologize for taking too long to get back to you guys. My locomotive had the flanged drive wheels off for a couple of months, so I could examine the wheels themselves. I will try to get some videos up by the end of the week, and in the meantime let me answer some of the questions you guys recently asked.

@romiller49 - I bought the locomotive on eBay last year, and IIRC the seller said that he never really used it, but he had it recently serviced, so I'm sure at the very least the top was taken off. I just tried to look at the original listing, but it's giving me a hard time right now.

@Ted S - I'll try to get those videos by the end of the week. The track should be perfectly fine, nothing sticking out or not being set the way it's supposed to. And my only other Hudson that I have is MTH's first one made for the Premier line in 1997. That was given a minimum curve rating of O42, and it has no problem on my track. And I run it slow too, lol.

@harmonyards - Thank you for doing that gauge test; you definitely didn't have to, but that's really thoughtful of you. Ironically there was a little bit of play between the wheels and the frame, at least before I took the drive wheels off, and this was even when it was going around the turns. After making sure it wasn't other parts doing anything to the locomotive, eventually I did take the wheels off, and the axles moved smoothly on their own. It's pretty mystifying, lol.

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