Aristo-Craft Motive Power Main Page

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(note, Aristo-Craft went out of business at the end of 2013)

This section is tips and modifications for your Aristo-Craft locos. There's a lot of little things that you should know, and will help you enjoy your locomotives, check the submenus on the left for individual Aristo-Craft locos and some other topics listed.

Note: If you read nothing else, you should read the two sections on the most commonly used motor/gear drive mechanisms. This will help you to know what to expect, how to avoid problems, and how to repair them:

Prime Mover Basics - This is about the new "prime mover" type of modular gearbox, used on all 3 axle diesels, and the GP40
Original Style Diesel Trucks - This is about the original gearbox, still used in all 2 axle diesels except the GP40


General Comments on Aristo-Craft quality/suitability:

I would say that for the person that does not mind tinkering, Aristo-Craft motive power is a good deal for the money, but you must tinker with them, and there are some obvious and significant quality control issues in certain areas. This is true for many of the products in G scale.

Aristo-Craft suffered from many of the same problems others have with manufacturing in China. It seems to me that their issues were on the "worse" side, especially since other G scale manufacturers using the same factories have higher perceived quality (for example USA Trains). Over the years there have been "evolutionary" changes in products, and they have been in the majority cost cutting that has affected quality and reliability.

But, there is a lot of detail and fidelity to scale. Hats off to that department in Aristo-Craft, and it seems to be the strong dedication of one person, I believe "Michael J". The decoration (painting and road name identification) is some of the best. Once "tinkered with", the locomotives are reliable, and the new gearboxes are tough, and current production is all ball bearing.

Note: I also recommend you read about the wiring and installation of the QSI in the Mallet and Mikado sections, there some common issues and fixes detailed there.


Aristo-Craft Motive Power FAQ

"my loco does not run on track/battery/rc properly"
"smoke came out when I hooked up battery power"

As much as I hate saying negative things, many Aristo-Craft locomotives are wired differently, or just plain wrong. Normally they run OK on DC, but when you add RC or DCC or even one of Aristo-Craft's own plug in Revolution receivers, you can encounter problems, sometimes catastrophic.

Watch out for wiring in steamers especially, two common problems are miswiring in the tender, and the wiring of the track/power switch in the loco. Be sure to check out the Mikado section for an explanation and fix.

Also, the tenders on the Mallet usually have pickup wires to the tender wheels, but they are usually not connected to anything. Again the Mikado and Mallet sections tell you how to improve this.

In the diesels, the "MU cables" (the wires that run "through" the loco and come out as 2 pin JST connectors by the couplers) often have a "polyfuse" circuit breaker inside in the middle of this power "bus". These usually cannot handle more than one loco, so if you actually MU 2 locos, they usually trip the "polyfuse" circuit breakers and stop. A simple solution is to bypass these, but then you have removed some important protection.

My best advice: ANY modification to the loco, or the use of the "battery"/"MU" cables requires checking with a voltmeter. There are just too many experiences with melted wires and circuit boards documented on all the forums.

 

"my loco does not pull enough cars"
"my steam loco locks up in reverse/forward"
"my loco keeps breaking side rods"

The "Prime Mover" modular gearbox system has several design weaknesses in my research and experience.

The most obvious is exhibited by the drivers slipping on the axles. The drivers are mounted on a tapered shaft. The fit is usually poor from the factory, and often red loctite is gooped on to try to bandaid this. Slipping drivers are annoying on a diesel, but can be fatal to connecting rod gear on a steamer. There are simple fixes to this, but time consuming. (There was an update to add a steel insert to the steam loco drivers, it did not help).

 

"my loco will not run on dirty track"

Another weakness is the power pickup. In the original design, the ball bearings on the axles used were all metal, so the power went from the wheel through the bearing to a metal clip and the wiring. Since then, "hybrid" bearings have come into use, where the balls are ceramic. This has an advantage, lower friction and heat, but NO CONDUCTIVITY, so Aristo-Craft has a very involved arrangement to pick up power and it is normally not tested/assembled properly. I have seen up to 50% failures in conductivity in brand new locos.

Additionally, for some reason, while Aristo-Craft freight car wheels are made of a non-ferrous (won't rust) material, Aristo-Craft diesel loco wheels are made of cheaply plated steel. In moist climates, they will rust once the thin plating is worn through:

 


The Aristo-Craft plug and play socket

Quite a while ago, in 2001 Aristo-Craft took suggestions about using a socket in their locos for a plug and play interface for DCC decoders and began implementing it.

Aristo-Craft has used this over the years for some of their proprietary R/C receivers. Digitrax made a DCC decoder to fit. In 2008, several more DCC decoders were made, and Bachmann copied it for several of their locomotive, though they made some mistakes in the pinout. (there are people who say that Aristo-Craft implemented something different than what was published)

There are 2 rows of pins, but only one is wired up (12 pin), the other is used for mechanical support (10 pin). On the 12 pin connector, the pin assignments are:

  • right rail pickup
  • right rail pickup
  • motor (+?)
  • front lamp control
  • smoke unit
  • positive output
  • ground
  • smoke unit
  • rear lamp control
  • motor (-?)
  • left rail pickup
  • left rail pickup

Aristo-Craft locos come with a dummy plug installed in the socket to allow DC operation. It has the following jumpers:

  • 1-4 (connects right rail to motor lead and enables front lamp)
  • 9-12(connects left rail to other motor lead and enables rear lamp)
  • 5-8 (this is usually true, this was there to facilitate decoder contro of the smoke unit)

PDF file from Aristo-Craft site on the socket: http://www.aristocraft.com/techinfo/dcc%20rcc%20pin%20connectors/DCC.PDF

Important note:

The Aristo-Craft socket is NOT always wired the same, nor is the "sound" socket. There are tremendous wiring variations where wire colors are swapped, but bigger problems with sockets that you assume are standard.

Quite often, the motor is wired in reverse polarity.

The headlight and backup lights are not always independent, nor controlled by the socket. The sound socket may get voltage from the motor, or from the track pickups. This may make your sound card go to full speed. This problem has been reported in the E8 quite often. 

 

Tips for lowering / dummy diesel locomotives

Rockwall Canyon Jeff says that you can use the LGB ball bearing wheelsets to sit in the sideframes of the RDC's to turn them into non-powered dummies. Further, he says if you unscrew and reposition the sideframes up on the subframes, you can easily lower this locos so modified to look better.


Who makes Aristo-Craft?

Update: Aristo-Craft closed it's doors and is no longer. This information is just for "history".

Aristo-Craft stated that Aristo-Craft products were made by a J. P. Morgan company: "The management of our supplier is a JP Morgan company called CCMP who control Sanda Kan".

In reality there was an Asian company seeded by J.P. Morgan. (i.e. the company is NOT the JP Morgan we know in the USA)

The real info:

  • Most Aristo-Craft products are made by Kader Industries.
  • Previously, Aristo-Craft products were made by Sanda Kan, in late 2008, Kader bought Sanda Kan. 
  • J.P. Morgan Partners Asia owned Sanda Kan between 2004 and 2008
  • J.P. Morgan Partners Asia bought Sanda Kan for $188 million in 2004.
  • J.P. Morgan Partners Asia was a Hong Kong company.
  • J.P. Morgan Partners Asia became CCMP Capital Asia, completely independent of J.P. Morgan Partners Asia, which is NOT the same as J.P. Morgan USA.
  • As of late 2008, Sanda Kan is wholly owned by Kader, the largest manufacturer of model trains in the world. Kader owns Bachmann.

 

Aristo-Craft's slow removal of features:

The debate of why Aristo-Craft went out of business will rage as long as I'm alive I expect.

One thing that could have been a factor is the continuous "removal" of features, clearly cutting costs. I've listed a few examples. People were getting less for more money, and these cuts affected quality and reliability. In addition, assembly quality was worse, see the prime mover section on how poor assembly causes poor power pickup.

  • Older steamers had pickups on the pilots -- gone
  • Older steamers had pickups on the trailing truck -- gone
  • Tenders no longer do not have pickup from all 4 axles, only 2
  • Tenders used to have pickup from each wheel, now only one wheel per axle
  • Wires are not placed in the holes in the circuit board before soldering.(in fact all Aristo-Craft wiring is shitty, not bad, shitty.)
  • The assembly of the prime mover gearbox is such that often 50% of the wheels do not pick up power.
  • No weights included with E8
  • Weights now cost up to 5 times what they were
  • Weights now 1/2 the weight of before (same size but zinc not lead)
  • World's cheapest metal in screws (insanely easy to strip the heads)
  • Poor plating on wheels
  • Plastic? The common problem with different batches of Aristo-Craft ties, where certain batches just decompose in the sun (oops, we forgot to add the expensive UV resistant chemical)....
  • No UV protection on ALL turnout throwbars...

 

Aristo-Craft Packaging:

Looking at the cars I've owned, I've come up with this list of six versions of REA/Aristo-Craft packaging, listed from oldest to most recent.

  1. The oldest box I've found is gray with REA logos, says "Joint Venture" on the back, has "Made in Korea", and has the Milwaukee REA address on the end panel. It is a boxcar box and lists four boxcars on the end, with a box checked to indicate which car is inside. The car inside has old style couplers (with spring visible from the top), has the old style door latch without a spring, and has gold rectangular QC stickers. A long white styrofoam piece is used to keep the trucks straight.
  2. The next oldest is a gray box with REA logos, "Joint Venture" on the back, and "Made in Korea." It still has the Milwaukee REA address on the end panel, and the cars available are all listed and a box is marked to indicated which car is inside. The car inside will have the improved couplers, improved door latch, and round white QC stickers. It will still have the styrofoam piece to keep the trucks straight.
  3. Around 1990 came the next version, which is a gray box with REA logos, says "Polks" on the back without the "Joint Venture," and is "Made in China." The paperwork inside is sometimes dated 0590 or 0690. The trucks on these cars are a medium gray rather than black or dark gray. The white styrofoam strip is now done away with.
  4. The newest gray box design switched to the Aristo-Craft logo and dropped the REA logo. Polks is mentioned on the back without "Joint Venture" and is "Made in China." Trucks may or may not be the medium gray.
  5. The black box. I have seen paperwork inside dated 1992 or 1993. I think this was used through about 1995.
  6. The yellow box. This packaging was announced in the Aristo-Craft Club newsletter in December of 1995. Still used for current production


Miscellaneous Aristo-Craft part numbers:

Here is a short list of Aristo-Craft parts I have ordered over the years, just to have a convenient place for them:

(note, when you try to search parts, you MUST put ART in caps at the front of the part number, no dashes... like ART29 )

pacific brake hangers (need number)

polyswitches - (need number)

  • 21400-22 - Mikado pilot - (2 each)
  • 21500-108 - mikado contact wires - (4 each)
  • 21500-109 - equalizers (clamps for contact wires) -  (4 each)
  • 21500-114 - hex head screws large -  (8 each)
  • 21500-115 - hex head screws small -  ( 6 each)
  • 21500-121 - washers for pacific -  (6 each)
  • 22200-45 - rs-3 speaker
  • 22200-46 - screws for rs-3 speaker
  • 29098 - freight truck metal wheels and BB (simulated??)
  • 29099 - modern freight trucks, plastic wheels
  • 29100 - modern freight trucks with roller bearings (simulated)
  • 29101 - freight truck with plastic wheels (arch bar/ betterdorf)
  • 29101-96 - Mikado bell -
  • 29102 - caboose truck, metal wheels (not leaf spring, appear to have carbon brush pickups one axle)
  • 29103 - passenger truck (modern??) 3 axle with 6 wheel set (can't find online currently)
  • 29104 - plastic wheels (2 axles)
  • 29105 - rogers loco small wheel set
  • 29106A - rogers front drive wheels
  • 29106B - rogers back drive wheels
  • 29107 - trucks passenger (wood) (old time?) metal wheels
  • 29108 - pair of trucks for long tender, with pickup wires
  • 29109 - pair of trucks, 2 axle, heavyweight passenger
  • 29110 - pair of trucks, 3 axle, heavyweight passenger
  • 29111B - metal wheels - 4 axles
  • 29111BB - metal wheels, 12 pack of 4 axles??
  • 29111C - metal wheel set for club cars (??)
  • 29111D - metal wheels, black w/o hub (needed for roller bearing trucks?
  • 29111S - 4 axles, metal wheels silver
  • 29112 - springs for freight trucks (pack of 50)
  • 29113 - black springs - 0.600" long x 0.310" OD - lighter gauge and "softer" than 29119, for passenger trucks (maybe 50?)
  • 29114 - springs for diesel trucks
  • 29115 - pair of trucks for slope tender
  • 29117 - passenger trucks for streamliner (pair?)
  • 29118 - diesel bushings
  • 29118P - older style diesel bushings
  • 29119 - black springs for streamliner
  • 29119S - silver springs for streamliner, RDC, RS-3, etc. - 0.635" long x 0.34" OD
  • 29119B - black springs for RDC, RS-3, etc. - 0.635" long x 0.34" OD
  • 29120 - truck (looks like bolster and coupler tang) "delton to aristo". pair (used on delton trucks to match aristo height)
  • 29123B - ball bearing wheels, 2 axles (have tabs to solder for power pickup)
  • 29130 - wheels for RDC (and other 2 axle?) - no traction tires - pack of 2
  • 29131 - wheels for RDC (and other 2 axles) with traction tires - pack of 2
  • 29132B - inner gear box w/o wheels (2 axle diesel?)
  • 29132-164 - spring for prime mover -
  • 29132-163 -ball bearing for prime mover -
  • 29134 - commonwealth 3 axle truck (pair) (used on steam tenders)
  • 29135 - wheels for 3 axle diesel (and GP40) - pack of 2
  • 29138 - stainless steel wheels for 3 axle trucks (6 wheels)
  • 29139 - stainless steel wheels for 2 axle trucks (4 wheels) (not gp40)
  • 29140 - bb wheel inserts for freight ??
  • 29141 - consolidation flanged wheels (each) (new style with metal insert?)
  • 29150 - new profile diesel wheel (2 ea)
  • 29190 - body mount kuppler (pair?)
  • 29191 - body mount kuppler (10 pair)
  • 29192 - body mount kuppler (100 pair)
  • 29193 - drill and jig (for mounting kuppler?)
  • 29196 - stock aristo knuckle coupler (1 pair) E8
  • 29197 - stock aristo knuckle coupler (1 pair) Dash 9
  • 29200 - stock aristo knuckle coupler (1 pair)
  • 29201 - knuckle coupler RS-3 / lil critter
  • 29205 - knuckle coupler (1 pair) SD-45
  • 29206 - knuckle coupler FA (1 pair)
  • 29345 - RS-3 speaker
  • 29351-20 - one wheel for an FA-1, will fit all other modern 2 axle diesels (except GP40) (old numbers?)
  • 29351-20-TT - same as above with traction tire. (old numbers?)
  • 29353 - universal assembly for FA-1
  • 29354 - axle w/gear for FA-1
  • 29355 -22 - one wheel on SD45 exploded parts diagram - should be same for all prime movers
  • 29366 - PCC power truck
  • 29403 - misc screwsassortment
  • 29411 - ball bearing set (10) for std (freight?) listed as 3.1x6x2.5 Bearings
  • 29520 - male plug 8 pin
  • 29521 - female plug 8 pin
  • 29607 - short MU jumper cable, 2 pin female both ends
  • 29608 - 2 and 3 pin connectors on a cable (sound cable)
  • 29700 - chair kit for long caboose (6 pieces)
  • 29703 - double chair set (of 4)
  • 29704 - new roof walk for freight cars
  • 29706 - new lowered floor for rolling stock in brown w/header
  • 29708 - long caboose roof walk/new
  • 29709 - snow plow dash 9
  • 29710 - big plow for snow plow car
  • 29721 - snow plow GP40, SD45

 

 

Some Aristo-Craft history of products, both promised and delivered

 

 

SW-1 switcher - promised 2010

PCC Car- promised end of 2009 - Delivered January 2011

0-4-0 Live steam - was promised summer 2008 - Delivered January 2010

RDC-3 - originally talked about in 2006, seemed to be promised around end of 2008, delivered July-August 2010

Aristo-Craft RDC - promised summer 2010, delivered oct 2010?

E8 - second run - promised end of 2008 (need delivery date)

GP-40 second run - promised no later than August 2008 (need delivery date)

Aristo-Craft Consolidation, first mention 2005-08-04, first "promised" date late 2008, eventually in 2011

Aristo-Craft Kuppler - promised and proposed as a"standard" and then a small production run made, nothing followed

    • Announced in 2008, it was to appear 2009
    • There were 6 sets each sent to dealers about February 2010 I was able to buy 2 sets of them fromrs from Trains West in Albuquerque.
  • 2-4-2 Rogers Live steam - was promised late summer early fall 2008 - no update since 12/22/2007

  • "The 0-4-0 is due this summer, 2-4-2 is due late summer/early fall.", George Adams, Aristo-Craft forum, 12/22/2007
  • GG-1 - postponed (good!)

  • SD9 - promised many times, even has an ART number, shown for years on the St. Aubins sale page

  • never made, but advertised by St. Aubins, ART-23500 series
  • Aristo-Craft eventually stated it will never be made
  • Streamliners - lowered with interior detail and led lighting - promised mid 2008, they made only one run, ATSF around beginning of 2008, second run PRR only, arrived October 2008

  • in 2007 catalog, shows new production style with interiors, ball bearings, lowered
  • promised mid 2008 in forum 6/3/2007
  • 6 road names shown on advertisement of Garden Railways
  • Only ATSF were made, no other road names
  • "We ran lowered streamliners with led lighting, ball bearing races and seated passengers.", , 9/2/2008, this is the thread where Aristo-Craft also says: "We work off of reservations made by our customers ......... the dealers. We do not need one to one orders, but an indication there is an interest. So far the interest in other than ATSF streamliners is minimal and so we wait. Place an order with your dealer and let him place an order with us and you will see the product. No interest ....no product as we don't have room here to keep product hoping for some interest."

 

  • Streamliners - Interior and/or lowering kits for old streamliners - has not happened, promised (effectively) twice, latest promise is no later than early 2009.

  • "The next time we run Streamliners we will make kits, It will be sometime next year once the current run sells out." , forum , 6/3/2007
  • "The next time we do run these we will run some lighting kits or early next year either way", , Aristo-Craft forum, 9/4/2008
  • So, the "next time" has come and gone twice, early 2008 ATSF, October 2008 PRR, and still no kits to update older cars.
  • Streamliners - smoothside dome/diner - no dates

  • here's some part numbers:
    • 33306 Coach (not in stock) - will it be re-issued?
    • 33406 Observation (not in stock) - will it be re-issued?
    • 33506 Baggage (new) - promised in new products (was old full dome #)
    • 33606 Dome/Diner (new) - promised in new products
    • These were from the "2008 New Item List", a word document posted on the forum on 1/3/2008.
  • advertised in the 2007 catalog
  • "Yes, we will bring back the older ones too with interiors like we did with the smoothsides. The engineering designs are done for the new ones,  but our plate is pretty full and I can't give you a date right now. Whats required our stamping tools, not molds per se, but there is a lot of work to do.  When it's imminent I'll comment here.", Aristo-Craft forum, 1/4/2008
  • "We are working on a Dome/Diner combination, but it will not be a full dome length.", , Aristo-Craft forum, 1/29/2008
  • SW1500 switcher:

EMD SW1500 switcher, ART-22400, as identified in the Aristo-Craft Trains 1996 Catalog "1996 New Products" section on page 54.

  • "all purpose" well cars (european)

  • in development 2007 catalog
  • mentioned on the forum that they would considerUS sales/prototype
  • Tank cars, new road names:

Promised and in the 2008 catalog:

  • GATX
  • UTLX
  • General Molasses
  • Stauffer Chemical
  • Corn Industrial
  • Redpath
  • BCR
  • BA Oil
  • Sub-Pages

    Click the links below to go "deeper" into details on individual Aristo-Craft motive power topics

      Motive Power Versions     Prime Mover Basics    Original Style Diesel Trucks    New SS Wheels & Motor Blocks 
      Aristo-Craft Smoke Units    Aristo-Craft Weights    0-4-0 Switcher  4-6-2 Original Pacific 
    4-6-2 New Pacific    2-8-0 C16 
    2-8-0 Consolidation   2-8-2 Mikado (electric)  
    2-8-2 Mikado (live steam)    4-8-4 Northern    2-8-8-2 Mallet  2-10-2 Santa Fe type  
    Classic Rail Bus  Dash 9  Doodlebug    E8 
    FA-1, FB-1    GP40  PCC Car    Rail Bus (brass)
    Rail Car (brass)   RDC-1    RDC-3    RS-3 
      SD45  Speeder (brass)    U25B  Aristo-Craft Catalog
    2 axle motor blocks       
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