Train Line stainless steel ball bearing wheels

Note, this page under construction, more information and pictures to follow


This page actually started from the need to reduce the rolling friction on the new for 2020 USAT heavyweight passenger cars. They have power pickup done the same way as their modern streamliners, so I was surprised when I had trouble pulling a train, and even more surprised when they string-lined on part of the layout where the streamliners are fine.

Power pickup is by brushes on the back sides of the wheels. Uh oh, while the streamliners have a very smooth, shiny, perfectly plated wheel, the heavyweight wheels are blackened. Huge difference in friction.

So what to do? My friend Dave Stubbs and I were looking at ideas, and we thought that getting ball bearing wheelsets might be the ticket. But whose to buy? Aristo is gone, and were not really great, AMS are hard to find, and not too great, LGB usually have a big toylike plastic hub.

Train-Li sells the Train Line 45 stainless steel wheelsets. Since I want to eliminate the brushes, I also don't want to be cleaning wheels, so stainless makes sense.


  • back to back 1.062 to 1.064, using 1.063 for calculations.
  • flange thickness is 0.0865
  • wheel diameter at fillet 1.22"
  • flange depth 0.162
  • axle tip diameter 0.115
  • axle length 2.75" (with shortened center tube)
  • tread width 0.162" approx


The units are 2 half axle assemblies, pushed into a plastic tube. There is some type of glue applied to hold them together, and the power pickup is just squeezing the fine wire between the axle stub and the tube.Not great

The ball bearings themselves are very smooth, but a bit more play in them than I would like, but probably one of the best made currently.

The wheels are machined nicely, nice finish

Observations and plans:

So I am a big proponent of back to back spacing on wheelsets. The back to back is what controls the alignment of a wheelset through the frog of a switch, where most derailments occur. So the back to back of 1.062 to 1.064 is way off.

My target is 1.575, and using 1.063 as the nominal, I need to narrow the back to back by 0.055.

This might have a negative effect on gauge, but I will try them out.

Not thrilled with the glued in place and the wire just pressed against the stub, but this should be a low current situation.

I already pulled one apart, and milled the center tube by 0.055" and then reassembled and very close to 1.575"