Aristo-Craft Rock Island 100 Ton Hopper Car

Aristo-Craft Rock Island 100 ton hopper car vignette

Ted Doskaris
Revision GE-B
(Original material of July 6, 2008 updated)
June 25, 2009

Ted Doskaris

Brief overview:

These cars are beautifully done cars with their striking appearance bearing the late prototype Rock Island railroad blue livery just prior to "The Rock's" bankruptcy dissolution in 1980.

Aristo's cars include the Barber type trucks having emulated roller bearing caps that rotate with the axles. As has been standard Aristo practice the trucks are factory equipped with plastic wheels. 

There are, however, 3 Aristo factory problem issues having to do with the trucks in these production run cars as follows:
1) Misguided paperwork specifying the wrong metal wheel version option.
2) The cars truck's brass bushings are now captive to the wheel axle tips due to a changed factory process that makes for a difficult and time consuming retrofit of metal wheels.
3) The cars truck side frame's brake shoes can bind against the wheels because they are factory installed backwards!
These issues will be discussed later, and hopefully Aristo addressed this before the factory produced any other products that also use the Barber type trucks.

The beautiful "Route Rock" Rock Island cars:

Aristo-Craft's Rock Island 100 ton hoppers were cars made exclusively for sale through RLD Hobbies and intended as a limited production run for the 2008 HAGRS show.
RLD Hobbies is a retailer located in Albion, Illinois.

Note the 4 road numbers on each of the shipping boxes being 700540, 700592, 700665, 700678. (I initially acquired the 4 cars described and shown here and subsequently added 2 more.)

The 4 cars are all shown below having been removed from their boxes:

Shown below is example "ART-41428px Rock Island - Exclusive for RLD Hobbies #700665" yellow box and the car's end view.
(Note the catalog number "px" suffix - apparently with p meaning plastic wheels and x meaning exclusive.)

Upper - Side View:

As shown below on the bottom of Aristo's car is located scripting for the date of this HAGRS show car, etc. info.

Below is shown the side view of the car with its standard plastic wheel:

The prototype car having the same 700665 road number of the Aristo car as shown above can be seen at the bottom of page 73 in book:
"Rock Island Color Guide to Freight and Passenger Equipment"
By Steve Hile, David H. Hickcox, Todd Miller
Published by Morning Sun Books Inc.
ISBN: 1-878887-48-3
According to the text accompanying the picture, Rock Island road numbers included 700000 - 701299.
To paraphrase a statement: 1300 of these cars were made in 1978 - 1979 by Greenville Steel Car Company. (This leaves 1296 more road numbers for future Aristo / RLD Hobbies production runs!)
Aristo's #700665 car model and graphics looks virtually the same as the picture shown of the #700665 prototype, and it can be seen that Aristo's Michael J. has done a fantastic job with its graphics.

Now for the truck problem issues:


1) Misguided paperwork specifying wrong metal wheel option:

As can be seen below the paperwork that comes with the car includes a Metal Wheel Set form for ordering metal wheels. This form identifies ART-29111B version wheels. This is incorrect as using these "B" suffix wheels will result in rotational binding if installed without modifications in the Barber type trucks supplied with the 100 ton hopper.
The correct catalog number for metal wheels should be ART-29111D as these "D" suffix version wheels will work OK as they are intended for exclusive use on Aristo's Barber type trucks.
(It will behoove Aristo-Craft to instruct the factory to correct the form applicable to the 100 ton hopper cars and also the EVANs box cars that use the same Barber type trucks.)

For more info. about Aristo's metal wheels, see topic:
Aristo-Craft Metal Wheel train accessory kits and wheel issues that Greg has hosted for me on this (his) web site.
Aristo-Craft EVANS car and operational improvements Vignette

Factory lost arts!


2) The truck's brass bushings:

Brass bushings should not be captive to the axle tips as they are now done by the factory because this practice makes it very awkward & time consuming should a user choose to retrofit metal wheels.

Since these cars come with standard plastic wheels, I attempted to replaced them with the proper Aristo ART-29111D version metal wheels.
As I removed the side frame to get the plastic wheels out, the brass bushings were pulled from their plastic side frame collars! This is because the factory appears to have knurled the axle tips to such excess that you can't slip the bushings off past the knurling!
(The reason for knurling is to better retain the emulated roller bearing caps as some folks experienced them falling off during operation - however, such excess is not needed, and the factory should consider reverting to their former, more mild knurling technique.)
That said, it appears during assembly the factory places the brass bushings on the axle tips then knurls the tips - possibly with some kind of crimping tool, then pushes the whole axle / bushing subassemblies into the side frames during final assembly of the truck.

In order to slide off the brass bushings the protruding knurled metal must first be removed from the tips.

As shown below, I used a small file to do this. Other methods like using a Dremel tool may be faster. With either method, the axles would become functionally compromised. This is a non issue with me as I accumulated hundreds of these useless plastic wheels from all past retrofits. (It's my opinion the only purpose they serve is to allow for a cheaper price for the cars in which they come with strictly for marketing purposes.)

Attempting to force the brass bushings off without first trimming the excess metal from the axle tips will result in scratching the interior of the bushing as shown below. The resulting damage to the bushing should be avoided:

Shown below is a comparison of the factory methods of knurled axle tips.
The axle on the left is from the Rock Island hopper car after its tips had been filed, and the axle on the right is from "a lost art", older production run D&RGW hopper car that did not prevent it from being freed from the brass bushing - albeit these did exhibit some minor interference fit.

I suggest Aristo not knurl the wheel axle tips, but consider changing the small emulated plastic roller bearing cap such that its hole be fluted - maybe by some broaching process that could effect a "negative knurl" within the hole's interior surface - or changing the mold to do the same. 

3) The brake shoes:

Barber truck brake shoes bind against the flange area of the wheels!

Another big problem concerns the incorrect installation of the brake shoe assembly onto the truck side frames. The factory appears to be gluing these on backwards, and this results in binding against the wheel nearest its flange area - another "lost art".
This caused noticeable rolling drag when pulling the car.
The following pictures will illustrate incorrect & correct brake shoe installation:

In the below close up view, it can be seen in the upper half of the picture how the brake shoe is touching a wheel flange because of its incorrect / backward installation:

For comparison, the lower half of the picture shows a different truck having a correctly installed brake shoe that does not touch a wheel flange.

Below are shown the two side frames with the upper one being the one with the Rock Island incorrect, backward brake shoe installation.

The brake shoe part is glued onto the side frame so you may not easily get it off to turn it around. As a fix it seems you could possibly belt sand it down to prevent it from rubbing the wheels, but this detracts from the realistic detail that this part was intended for.
Hopefully, Aristo has spare Barber truck side frame parts for those of us that want a proper fix under warranty. It appears the side frame is a subassembly that has to include the brake shoe with it.
Since I acquired 6 cars, I needed 24 total side frames. Assuming 200 Rock Island 100 ton hopper cars may have been made for RLD hobbies - all having backward brake shoe installations, Aristo may need 800 replacement side frame subassemblies!
Upon request, I obtained replacement side frame parts from Aristo-Craft via RLD Hobbies.

The retrofitted metal wheels:

I ended up not using the Rock Island trucks for retrofitting the metal wheels.
Since I had some Barber trucks that had been removed from other cars when I chose to replace them with entire truck / metal wheel assemblies (ART-29100), I now used them to retrofit the ART-29111D version wheels and installed these trucks on the Rock Island cars.

Shown below is lubrication of Aristo's Barber truck axle shaft projections using careful application of automotive Moly Paste. Be sure to wipe off any excess lube once the truck is re-assembled before the emulated roller bearing caps are press on to the axle tips.
Also, make sure the caps are not pressed on so far as to cause binding on the truck side frame as this will cause unwanted drag during operation.

Since the brake shoes no longer rub the wheels and the axles are lubed, the car now rolls freely.

Shown below are Rock Island 100 ton hoppers with the one on the left still having its standard plastic wheels and the one on the right having the retrofitted trucks with metal wheels.

(If you look at the above picture closely within the truck side frames, you can see the detail of the properly installed brake shoes of the car on the right whereas the backward installed brake shoes of the car on the left looks plain.)
Shown below is the example completed car retrofitted with ART-29111D version wheels.

The "Route Rock" 100 ton hopper cars in a 26 car train being pulled by a pair of Aristo / RLD Hobbies Rock Island GP40s:

Aristo's "Route Rock" blue livery 100 ton hopper cars are shown below coupled with "The Rock" covered hopper cars in a train along with other road name covered hoppers.

Shown below is more of a foreground view of Aristo's 70 ton covered hoppers with "The Rock" blue livery in the train. The "Route Rock" blue livery like that of the 100 ton cars that are seen here closer to the locos was Rock Island's last livery prior to the railroad's bankruptcy dissolution in 1980:

The Rock Island train looks very impressive with all those blue livery cars - Hopefully, after seeing this train Aristo and RLD Hobbies would consider a GP40 in the blue livery, too.

In closing:

I wish to thank both Aristo-Craft and Robby of RLD Hobbies for making these outstanding Rock Island cars. Michael J. did a fantastic job on the "Route Rock" prototypical blue livery.
In no way is it intended that the Barber truck side frame problems detract from this outstanding "Route Rock" car - rather, resolutions are the desired intent with the hope Aristo had avoided propagating any subsequent production runs with more incorrectly made side frames and its consequential high probability of large quantities of warranty returns.

As to the cars described here, Aristo-Craft (via RLD Hobbies) subsequently provided replacement side frame parts.

Much credit goes to RLD Hobbies and Aristo-Craft for the joint effort in making these impressive cars;


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