Inexpensive Proto48 Truck Options

Two Intermountain/Protocraft and one Red Caboose/NWSL trucks

Two Intermountain/Protocraft and one Red Caboose/NWSL trucks

Protocraft and RY Models are importing some great Proto48 trucks. I use them under a number of my freight cars. We need a lot more types of trucks to start to get close to the variety of trucks the prototype had.

But I can’t afford to place them under all my cars, maybe if I hit the lottery. I have been using two different manufacturers types of O scale trucks converted to Proto48 under a number of my cars.

Intermountain/Protocraft  truck with 33" wheelsets.

Intermountain/Protocraft truck with 33″ wheelsets.

Intermountain/Protocraft Truck
What a great truck! When the Intermountain truck is combined with their metal wheelsets, it is one of the best rolling O Scale trucks available. But what about Proto48 you ask?

Some Protocraft wheelsets will fit into the trucks without any trouble. I mostly have used the 33″ 50-ton, ARA “D” rated axle, double insulated, one wear tread. Some need to have the bluntness filed off the end of the axle to let them fit perfectly. I’ll do that while I have the wheelset chucked up in the Dremel to polish the wheel treads.

The protocraft wheelset with the tips of the axels filed. You can hardly see it.

The protocraft wheelset with the tips of the axels filed. You can hardly see it.

Intermountain/Protocraft truck combination with 33" Rib-back wheelsets.

Intermountain/Protocraft truck combination with 33″ Rib-back wheelsets.

I have also tried the 33″ double-insulated rib-back wheelset in the IM truck. They fit and roll nicely but have a little side-to-side play. I’m not totally sold on them yet. I am testing them under a model currently.

Caboose/NWSL trucks

Caboose/NWSL trucks

Red Caboose/NWSL Truck
Many O Scale modelers will tell you, these trucks don’t have the same axle length as the IM trucks. But the NWSL Proto48 wheelsets drop right in and roll great with their pointed axle on Delrin truck sideframe. Red Caboose has a Bettendorf and a T-section Bettendorf truck available.

NMRA Proto48 Specification
I measured the wheelsets and find the Protocraft wheelsets are within NMRA spec. Here are the measurements and the measurements are displayed on the NMRA S-4.1 Proto48 Wheel Standards page.

Check Gauge Back to Back Wheel Width Flange Width Flange Depth
Specification Range 1.124
NWSL 33″ Freight Wheelsets
(no backside wheel detail)
1.132 1.109 0.113 0.026 0.027
Protocraft 33″ rib-back wheelset
double insulated axles
1.134 1.108 0.115 0.025 0.026
Protocraft 33″ 50-ton ARA “D” rated axle
double insulated, one wear tread
1.129 1.106 0.115 0.025 0.024

Plus and Minus… Opinions
On the plus-side:

  • The biggest PLUS I can say about these is they are inexpensive.
  • The trucks roll great!
  • The trucks do look very nice even without all the brake detail.
  • Both have casting marks on the trucks side frames.
  • I already had these trucks on the shelf.
  • There is no issue with shorting on metal cars because the trucks are plastic.

On the minus-side:

  • The NWSL wheelsets are not always 100% within NMRA spec.
  • The NWSL wheelsets do not have backside detail on the wheels.
  • Both the IM/PC and the RC/NWSL have very little back of journal detail.
  • I hate assembling the Red Caboose trucks. I have never been good at inserting them damn springs.
  • The Protocraft Rib-Back wheelset does have a little side to side play when installed in an IM Truck.
  • Some Protocraft wheelsets need a small point (not really a point as much as knocking off the blunt end of the axle) filed onto the axle.
A small pile of Intermountain trucks waiting for me to order more Protocraft wheelsets.

A small pile of Intermountain trucks waiting for me to order more Protocraft wheelsets.

Overall: The minuses have not held me back from using these trucks for my Proto48 conversions. The cost savings can be even higher if you find some NWSL wheelsets at very low prices at the train shows, since a lot of Proto48 guys dismiss the NWSL wheelsets.

The Red Caboose/NWSL is my standard truck under my converted Lionel Offsets Twins, which currently numbers about 35 cars. The trucks do not have any brake detail at all and the NWSL wheelsets do not have backside of wheel detail either. But they are an inexpensive way to have a great rolling truck. And I feel that is more important under such a heavy car as the Lionel Offset Twin.

The Intermountain Truck was included in every kit they produced. So I have a good supply on hand from that alone. I was also able to buy 50 pair of trucks for a special price from a local vendor. When combined with the Protocraft Bulk Wheelset Price, it puts the price per truck under $17 each. Compare that to the $40-50 dollar price for imported trucks. That kind of savings adds up quickly if your freight car fleet is larger than a dozen cars.

Don’t get me wrong, the current imported Proto48 trucks are great! We need more varieties of them. I try to support our Proto48 truck suppliers with my purchases almost every train show I attend. These two truck options help keep the costs of modeling in Proto48 down some.