S Scale Passenger Trucks

by Dick Karnes
Photos by the Author except as noted

Kent Singer wrote an illustrated six-part article for 3/16 ‘S’cale Railroading magazine in 1991-92 that covered all the S scale trucks manufactured from the 1940s through 1991. We will reproduce Kent’s series on the S SIG website shortly. Since 1991, there have been many S scale passenger trucks added to our lineup. Those currently available, some information on “retired” versions, and some worthwhile improvements are presented here as captions to the photos that follow.

If any readers know of more that can be added, please let us know.

Fig. 1. S Scale Locomotive & Supply (SSL&S) offers this sprung six-wheel wood-beam drop-equalizer Pullman truck as a kit. The detail and flexing action are quite nice. The truck can be modernized to represent an early all-steel truck with separate pedestals by removing the cast-in bolt heads on the top beam. SSL&S Part No. 400.1, available.

Fig. 2. The latest truck on the “S” scene is this 1938-era 43-R triple bolster truck with its distinctive “Napoleon hat” journal housings. River Raisin Models imports these in two versions. The one shown here was furnished on all Pullman-Standard passenger cars delivered in 1938, including the NYC and PRR (notably for the 20th Century Limited and Broadway Limited), the AT&SF, UP, and others. River Raisin Models also has a second version, the SP-43, for the Southern Pacific. It has plain journals instead of roller-bearing journals, and two brake cylinders per side instead of one. River Raisin Models, available.

Fig. 3. Shown here is American Models’ version of one of the most common steam-era passenger trucks, a four-wheel drop-equalized steel truck with separate pedestals. The truck is equalized but not sprung. This truck is standard equipment on all of American Models’ 75-foot heavyweight passenger cars, and is also available separately. American Models Part No. 842S, available.

Fig. 4. American Models used to offer kits for 80-foot streamlined passenger cars. A kit version of this particular truck was standard equipment on these and continues to be available separately, assembled. It is equalized but not sprung. There is an obvious blank space in the center of the truck that the fussier modeler will want to fill; see next photo. AM Part No. 840S, available.

Fig. 5. Shown here is the same American Models truck (Fig. 4), dolled up with a detail kit from BTS. The BTS package contains the torsion bar and brake cylinder, plus instructions for constructing the shock strut (in the center), made from a short piece of solid wire with its own insulation sleeve. BTS detail part set No. 02407, available.

Fig. 6. This steel six-wheel Pullman truck represents the updated version of the heavyweight drop-equalized Pullman truck. It is equalized but not sprung. Older production runs were very stiff. The center axles tended to be too tight in their journals; thus, the center wheelsets did not rotate well, the truck tended to remain skewed on the track, and traversing curves was problematic. This problem is easily resolved by using a No. 40 drill bit to deepen and vertically elongate the center axle holes, thus allowing the center axles to move both laterally and vertically with respect to the outer axles. Current production trucks are improved – the center axles have shorter, rounded ends. Look for these; if you discover that yours are from earlier production, follow the modification steps outlined above. American Models Part No. 860S, available.

Fig. 7. Although marketed as a “Budd” truck, this American Models truck is a sprung version of the same truck shown in Fig. 4. It has the requisite brake cylinder and shock strut but no torsion bar. It suffers from two problems that are easily rectified:

1. Its brake cylinder points in the wrong direction. Most scale modelers will want to replace the truck-mounted dummy couplers with Kadee body-mounted couplers. Doing this allows one to cut the coupler mount off the truck and rotate the truck 180 degrees.

2. The springs are too stiff, preventing them from compressing under the weight of the car. The result is that the equalizer rides too low with respect to the rigid portion of the truck. The next photo shows the easy fix for this situation. Softer springs will also do the trick.

American Models Part No. 844S, available.

Fig. 8. Shown here is the same truck (Fig. 7) with a .060″ styrene shim between each journal retainer and the journal above it. In the writer’s opinion, the result is much more realistic, although the truck’s springing action is much stiffer as a result.

Fig. 9. SouthWind Models imported a series of NYC heavyweight passenger cars as well and NYC and Rutland express reefers. These came with brass sprung and equalized trucks similar to the American Models four-wheel heavyweight trucks (Fig. 3). This particular truck, beneath an express reefer, has a diagonal brace outboard of each journal pedestal. The trucks beneath the mail and passenger-carrying cars lack this brace. Both versions were also available separately from SouthWind, although one can easily make the second version from the first. No longer available directly, but occasionally show up on eBay and at train shows.

Fig. 10. As if we have too much of a good thing – well, we do. Here’s an antique to be sure. This is an old Enhorning equalized streamlined passenger truck of the same style as the two American Models streamlined trucks. No longer available. You won’t find a lot of these around – most have disintegrated because of impurities in the zamac alloy. But it’s shown here because of the presence of – yes! – another version of the same truck – read on!

Fig. 11. In an effort to preserve the availability of the Enhorning truck (Fig. 10), what we have here is the SSL&S brass version, investment-cast from an Enhorning truck used as a pattern. The brake cylinder and torsion bar are somewhat different from those on the “parent” Enhorning sideframe. SSL&S Part No. 400.6, available.

Fig. 12. This equalized outside swing-hanger streamlined passenger truck under the “Budd Buddies” label from Des Plaines Hobbies/S Scale America is a refreshing addition to S scale. Its prototype is one of the more common trucks to appear beneath fairly recently manufactured prototype cars. It also appeared beneath 1940s-50s Budd passenger cars. The outside swing hanger makes maintenance easier (cheaper) but the trade-off is a more complicated design. The kit comes with assemble-yourself wheelsets composed of plastic wheels and plastic axles. This writer strongly recommends discarding these in favor of SHS/MTH, SSL&S, or NWSL 36″ wheelsets. Des Plaines Hobbies, available.

Fig. 13. Here’s something for the Pennsy fans – a standard PRR outside-bearing four-wheel sprung and equalized brass heavyweight truck by SouthWind Models. These came beneath SouthWind’s PRR express reefers, baggage cars, and P70 coaches, and were also available separately. Years ago, a soft-metal kit for a rigid version of this truck was offered by Nimco/Nixon Model Co. Both no longer available, but occasionally show up on the secondary market.

Fig. 14. S scale lacked a four-wheel outside drop-equalizer streamlined roller-bearing truck until Cascade Hobby Products released this equalized soft-metal truck kit. These were available in the early 1990s, but are hard to find these days.

Fig. 15. American Models offers its Amtrak Superliner truck separately for the modern guys. American Models Part No. 846S, available. American Models photo.

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