by Daniel Leavitt

There are many styles of freight trucks available in N scale. Several manufactures offer a wide range of models from the ancient Fox style to the latest Barber S2. In this article, I will cover quality freight car trucks available in the market. For pictures and a more in-depth history of prototype freight trucks, I recommend reading Jeff Wilson’s article “Modeler’s Guide to Freight Car Trucks” in the December, 2003 issue of Model Railroader. The article is also available for free on the Trains.com website. Another excellent resource is the e-book “Freight Car Appliances – Volume 9” published by FCIX (www.fcix.info).

The Manufacturers

Micro-Trains Line is probably the most recognizable name in trucks. They have produced a great many types of trucks covering all eras from the late 1800’s to modern equipment. The vast majority of my equipment runs on MTL trucks with low profile wheels. They are rugged, good looking and reliable. Micro-Trains offer their freight trucks with 33” scale wheels. One note is Micro-Train’s Barber Roller Bearing truck is a 70 ton model, not the 100 ton variety seen on hopper cars, tankers and intermodal equipment. While MTL has recently introduced a new 36” wheel set for passenger equipment, they have not yet produced a true 100T freight truck. Many model train manufacturers use Micro-Trains trucks on their equipment, notably Intermountain, Red Caboose, Deluxe, and Huberts.

Atlas produces the Accumate line of couplers under license from Accurail. Athearn also produced a line of Accumate equipped trucks, but has since started using McHenry couplers in these trucks. The tooling used by both companies is virtually indistinguishable. Atlas has supplied OEM trucks and couplers to several manufacturers such as Deluxe, Walthers and Intermountain while Athearn supplies Exactrail. Both Atlas and Athearn produce a true 100 ton roller bearing truck with accurate 36” wheels, though only the Atlas trucks are available through retail channels.

Many modelers have complained that Accumate couplers tend to “explode,” meaning the coupler knuckle may break free of the truck when under load. Atlas admitted some early trucks had this issue and quickly redesigned them. You can distinguish the early 100 ton roller bearing truck from the redesigned truck by the prototypes they represent. The early truck was an ACF prototype while the newer model is a Barber S2.

Another point of contention was the fact that the Accumate coupler sticks out further than Micro-Trains trucks. Newer Atlas trucks, such as the National C1, Andrews and a redesigned Barber S2 100 ton truck feature a much shorter coupler shank.

There are other companies that produce trucks. Bowser produces three Pennsylvania Railroad prototypes; the 50 ton 2D-F8 and Crown 2E-F2 styles were used under a variety of rolling stock while the Barrett-Whitehead 2A-F5 style was used under many of railroad’s cabooses. BLMA has just introduced beautifully detailed ASF roller bearing trucks in 70 and 100 ton configurations. Tichy Train Group produces a great rotary snow plow kit complete with Fox trucks. The prototype for these trucks date back to the 1860’s and at least one piece of equipment (a Conrail rotary plow) was in active service using these trucks into 2000!

Like the Tichy Train Group’s Fox trucks, Atlas produces some styles available only with the purchase of a full car. For example, the single axle International Union of Railways truck included on the Front Runner is not available separately. You may be able to obtain Andrews and National C-1 trucks through their parts department. Most Athearn trucks are not easily available as parts while Atlas and MTL make great efforts to make most of their trucks available through retail channels.

Older Tooling and Exclusions

I have not included many inferior trucks. For example, most Bachmann models use the same Bettendorf style truck. Not only are these trucks crude and incorrect for much of their equipment, but they are generally unreliable. Likewise, Con-Cor used the same roller bearing trucks in their modern tank cars as they do on their transition area equipment. Again these trucks are crude and prone to derailing. There are numerous other examples of poor trucks, many dating to the early days of N scale. To keep this list relevant, I have left these out. Fortunately, there are higher quality counterparts available to every style manufactured poorly.

On the other end of the spectrum, I have included a few high quality trucks that come included with lower end equipment. The friction bearing trucks included with most Life-Like freight cars are actually well detailed, though the flanges are oversized. In addition, the trucks on the new Bachmann log cars are much improved over their predecessors. Intermountain produced a small line of trucks equipped with dummy couplers a few years ago. The trucks were well detailed and the couplers were reliable.

Photographing the Models

For these photos, I used low-profile wheels from the truck manufacturers whenever possible. Many companies produce replacement wheels for Atlas, Micro-Trains and Athearn trucks. These Include Fox Valley Models, Atlas, Intermountain and Northwest Short Line.

Improving Appearance and Performance

For those looking to upgrade your models to a more realistic appearance, here are a few suggestions. If you use Atlas code 55 track products, I recommend using wheel sets from Fox Valley Models. These are made of metal, roll better than OEM plastic wheels and provide weight down low. These are also useful for improving performance on flat cars and intermodal equipment. Metal wheels are also available from Northwest Short Line and Intermountain, but cost substantially more. I often pull the trip pins from my Accumate couplers since I do not use magnetic uncoupling and the trip pins sometimes fall out.

The Atlas 100 ton roller bearing trucks with under-slung couplers have a lot of uses. The trucks feature short shank Accumate couplers, which look a lot better than their standard version. Do to the low profile coupler box; these trucks fit the MDC Huskystack as well as most modern tank cars, hoppers and gondolas with little or no modification. Many of these cars include the incorrect 70 ton Barber roller bearing trucks by Micro-Trains. I have been known to swap out MTL trucks with proper style Accumate trucks on a Micro-Trains car.

There are several trucks not yet available in N scale. Early Bettendorf trucks, commonly known as Bettendorf T for the shape of their cross section have not been produced. I would also love to see a converted roller bearing equipped Bettendorf truck that was a staple of freight cars in the 1970’s.

For nearly four decades, N scale modelers have had to compromise the look and reliability of their rolling stock with poorly molded, inaccurate trucks. Thanks to many recent additions, we now have the ability to improve the freight trucks on our models.

Special thanks to Athearn, Atlas, Bachmann, BLMA, Micro-Trains and several individuals for providing samples of various truck types. This article could not have been completed without your help.

Prototype/Manufacture Reference Charts

Know your prototype and need a model to match?  Try these Reference Charts:

Friction Bearing Truck Designs

Type
Allied Full Cushion
Andrews
Andrews
Arch-Bar
Arch-Bar
Arch-Bar
Arch-Bar
ASF Ride Control
40 ton Bettendorf
50 ton Bettendorf
50 ton Bettendorf
50 ton Bettendorf
50 ton Bettendorf
50 ton Bettendorf
Bettendorf Coil Elliptic
BX Express
Crown 2E-F2
Dalman
Express
Fox
National B-1
National C-1
Pennsylvania 2D-F8 50 ton
…. Manufacturer
Micro-Trains
Atlas
Micro-Trains
Athearn
Bachmann
Micro-Trains
Model Die Casting
Kato
Atlas
Athearn
Atlas
Intermountain
Micro-Trains
Walthers/Life-Like
Micro-Trains
Micro-Trains
Bowser
Micro-Trains
Athearn
Tichy Train Group
Micro-Trains
Atlas
Bowser
…. Photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo

Roller Bearing Truck Designs

Type
70 ton Roller Bearing
70 ton Roller Bearing
70 ton (ASF) Roller Bearing
70 ton Roller Bearing
70 ton Roller Bearing
70 ton (Symington Ride Control) Roller Bearing
70 ton (Barber S2) Roller Bearing
100 ton (ASF) Roller Bearing
100 ton (Barber S2) Roller Bearing
100 ton (ASF) Roller Bearing
100 ton (Barber S2) Roller Bearing
100 ton Roller Bearing
…. Manufacturer
Athearn
Atlas
BLMA
Kato
Model Die Casting
Micro-Trains
Micro-Trains
Athearn
Atlas
BLMA
Intermountain
Kato
…. Photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo

Caboose Truck Designs

Type
Barrett-Whitehead 2A-F5
Bettendorf Friction Bearing
Bettendorf Friction Bearing
Bettendorf Roller Bearing
Bettendorf Roller Bearing
Bettendorf Roller Bearing
Bettendorf Roller Bearing (w/ Generator)
Bettendorf Roller Bearing (w/ Generator)
GSI Outside Swing Hanger
…. Manufacturer
Bowser
Atlas
Kato
Athearn
Atlas
Micro-Trains
Athearn
Micro-Trains
Centralia Car Shops
…. Photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo

Single Axle Light Duty Truck Designs

Type
IUR Roller Bearing

…. Manufacturer
Atlas

…. Photo
photo 1
photo 2

Triple Axle Heavy Duty Truck Designs

Type
Buckeye 6 wheel
Buckeye 6 wheel
Commonwealth 6 wheel
…. Manufacturer
Bachmann
Micro-Trains
Micro-Trains
…. Photo
photo
photo
photo

Narrow Gauge (Nn3) Trucks

Type
Diamond Arch-Bar
Barber Coleman Arch-Bar
…. Manufacturer
Micro-Trains
Micro-Trains
…. Photo
photo left
photo right

Samples of Older Tooling

Type
Arch-Bar
Bettendorf
Bettendorf
70 ton Roller Bearing
…. Manufacturer
Bachmann
Bachmann
Model Power
Walthers
…. Photo
photo
photo
photo
photo

Photo Reference Chart

Trying to identify your N scale truck?  Compare to these photos: