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I don't know anything about the Lionel kits, but all that is necessary is that the wheels of one side are electrically insulated from the other side.  You can get insulated wheels from Intermountain and North West Short Line, and they appear now and again on that well known auction site.

If you should happen to choose rechargeable battery power (a good choice in my opinion), the wheels wouldn't have to be insulated.

There is a TON of stuff (rolling stock, etc.) out there RTR for two rail.

Simon

Last edited by Simon Winter
Hudson J1e posted:

The way I understood what Mike Reagan wrote is that the newly designed trucks are of a modular design and with different parts can fit different applications. Maybe I am mistaken but time will tell. 

Yes, and they are for freight car trucks. These were available for sale at the Chicago O-Scale March Meet, and seemed pretty expensive for just a card of 4 wheel-axle pieces used to convert just two Lionel 3-Rail freight trucks to 2-Rail. A friend of mine purchased one card, and said he was going to try the wheel sets in various different manufactures 3-Rail freight car trucks, and see how well they work.

The new Lionel 2-Rail conversion kits have pros and cons in my opinion, especially from modern roller bearing applications.  First, the big con with the modern roller bearing application (which has been pointed out by others on this forum) is that from the Lionel catalog that they only supply 33” wheelsets (70-ton) and most modern rolling bearing equipped cars use 100-ton 36” wheelsets.  Therefore, even for the new modern gondola Lionel has announced, these 2-Rail conversion kits will not be the correct size since these modern gons use 36” 100-ton wheelsets.  The next thing is that the trucks use plastic bolsters (now this can be construed as both a pro and a con), a con because the bolster is plastic and not metal but a pro because it “may”  in the 2-rail application bring in the side frames closer to wheels for better appearance which has been an issue with using the existing Lionel trucks and just replacing the wheelsets with NWSL spinner style 33”/36” wheelsets (the Lionel side frames do stick out quite a bit past the 2-Rail wheels).  I don’t know if this new bolster design will be retroactive to using on the older Lionel rolling stock, either 2-Rail or 3-Rail, but from the looks in the picture it does not appear as though that it is usable as a replacement for the older-style Lionel trucks.

Now for the wheelsets themselves, other than only being available in just the 33” size, they too (at least from the photo in the back of the Lionel Signature catalog) have a plastic axle (Delrin, no doubt) similar to the Atlas HO Scale design OEM wheelsets that uses an individual wheelset design with thin stubby axles that press-fit onto a plastic axle with holes in each end that keeps both wheelsets electrically insulated.  We’ll get to why all this plastic in a moment.  The wheels do appear to have a very nice CNC machined profile, but not sure of the material though, brass or steel, and then plated – my guess is plated brass.  The reason for all the plastic seems to lie in the electric contacts that they include in the conversion kit and all the plastic is to keep things well insulated side-to-side along with having an insulated surface to mount the electrical pickup wipers to.  These electrical pickups are a nice feature for adding things like a SoundTraxx SoundCar decoder.  Also, one of the pros is that the conversion kit accompanied with the new truck design is setup to make the 2-Rail conversions much easier as you no longer have to completely disassemble the Lionel truck, including all those springs in each side frame, in order to do the wheelset conversion.  The new design just lets you undo two screws and slide off the two side frames and then replace the plastic 2-Rail bolster and wheelsets, and then replace the two screws and you are done, sans adding the electrical contacts if you choose not to use them. 

Now for the pricing… yes it does add an additional $20 to the price of the car; however, if you haven’t checked the NWSL price list lately, they recently had a price increase and their Lionel 2-Rail replacement wheelsets (at least for the 36” roller bearing spinner style that I’ve been purchasing) are now going for around $25 for the assembled versions and $20 for the unassembled wheelset kits – and on the older style Lionel truck design you still have to do all the extra work of removing all those little side frame springs that love to go flying across the room and only found by the vacuum cleaner at some future date.  I am not sure if the NWSL wheelsets will fit in the new truck design and what effect the side frame spacing that the optional 2-Rail conversion bolster will have on the NWSL axles, that has yet to be reported.  Therefore, this new truck design and optional 2-Rail conversion kits are not the utopia I think some have hoped, but they do have some nice features that could be well-received by the 2-Rail community.

The choice, of course, is yours...

Scott Kay

Austin, TX

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