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The Train Department gauge-1 wheelsets

Metal wheelsets in 1:20.3 scale
Marc Horovitz
1:20.3 scale, gauge-1 wheelsets
The Train Department
26 Coral Drive
Hazlet NJ 07730
Price: $9.50 per axle

Cast metal, gauge-1 wheelsets; stainless-steel axles; raised letters on face and back of wheels; raised fins on inside of wheels; coned tread; long or short journals available (see text); wheels insulated at hub. Dimensions: diameter over tread at fillet, 1.280" (26" in 1:20.3 scale); flange depth, .050"; back-to-back, varies between 1.564 and 1.578—averages around 1.570"; tread width, .163"

Pros: High level of realism; excellent flange profile; insulated at the hub; excellent tracking characteristics
Cons: None
Marc Horovitz
The Griffin Wheel Company was a Chicago-based foundry that manufactured chilled iron railroad-car wheels from the 1880s on. The company made wheels for freight cars, passenger cars, tenders, and street railways, in addition to specialty wheels for a wide variety of industrial applications. In addition to the Chicago foundry, the company had branches in Boston, St. Paul, Detroit, Kansas City, Tacoma, Los Angeles, and Denver. Wheels for the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad were made primarily in Denver. These wheels had raised lettering on their faces saying “Griffin Denver,” along with some numerals.

The Train Department is offering replicas of the company’s 26" narrow-gauge wheelsets in 1:20.3 scale. The wheels are cast in a slightly magnetic alloy and are mounted on what appear to be stainless-steel axles. Wheel treads and flanges are machined, as are the faces and backs of the wheel rims. The flange profile appears to be near scale and includes a fillet at the base of the flange. Treads are coned, which should aid good tracking on curves.

Cast into the face of each wheel are the words “Griffin” and “Denver,” along with a variety of numbers, some quite small. Curved fins are cast into the back of each wheel, along with some additional lettering, including “2-14-40” and “D&RGW.” The quality of the castings and of the turned-flange profiles is excellent. The lettering is sharp and crisp and the background has the typical grainy look of a casting. The back-to-back dimensions, while somewhat variable, fall within the NMRA specifications and should cause no trouble on properly gauged track.

The wheelsets are available with either long or short axle ends (journals). The long journals are intended for Bachmann, Hartford, or other trucks that take the standard large-scale axle length. Short-journal wheelsets are designed as replacements for Accucraft or AMS wheelsets. These are intended to be used with ball bearings (not included). If needed, these bearings can be obtained from The Train Department for $8 per set of eight. The wheels are supplied unpainted, so you’ll need to attend to that.

I tested the wheelsets in a USA Trains boxcar, removing the plastic wheelsets and replacing them with these. The new ones fit perfectly. As the boxcar is 1:22.5 scale, the new wheels were slightly bigger than the old ones. Once fitted, I took the car out to the railway and gave it a healthy shove. The new wheelsets lowered the center of gravity and also provide more momentum to the car. The car sailed along beautifully, easily and quietly traversing my handlaid switches. The rolling characteristics of the wheels are excellent. If you are interested in new, fine running, more realistic, closer-to-scale wheelsets for your narrow-gauge rolling stock, these are definitely ones to consider.


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