are non-magnetic wheels necessary with magnetic uncouplers?

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by Wally Hooker, Jul 24, 2008.

  1. Wally Hooker

    Wally Hooker New Member

    Hi All,

    Looks like a great forum here!

    I'm a returning-to-the-hobby newb. I've been converting my old (1970's) Athearn rolling stock to Kadee couplers. I'm using a Kadee #321 uncoupler and code 100 track. I've been experimenting and found the uncoupler sticks to the wheels as the cars pass over and causes an almost instant derailment. Obviously once I glue the uncoupler to the track, this problem will go away. But will there be other problems like resistance or drag from the magnetic force?

    I don't have this problem with my few new trains (Atlas and Branchline), I assume the wheels are made of a non-magnetic alloy. Should I replace all my old wheels? If so, with what make and model? The Walthers catalog has a ton to choose from!

    thanks in advance,
  2. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    The magnetic wheels will make it difficult or impossible to uncouple. The wheelsets will always be drawn to the center of the magnet. There are many brands of wheelsets to choose from, I've used mostly Kadee but then its been a long time since I've bought any. Others will chime in.
  3. Nomad

    Nomad Active Member

    Hi Wally:wave:, and welcome to The Gauge.
    Gary is right. Also, if you put any magnets on the mainline, the magnetic wheels will pull towards the magnet and cause your train to uncouple. Very frustrating.

  4. sgtcarl

    sgtcarl Member


    First and foremost, welcome to the Forum!
    I can't give an opinion which are the best, but I would use Kadee, if I weren't so cheap..., er..budget conscious. :wave:
  5. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    I could be wrong, but I don't know of any wheels being made of steel (magnetic material) - even 50 years ago. What was common (and still is pretty common) were plastic (and sometimes brass or nickel-plated brass) wheels mounted on steel axles.

    I have never experienced a properly located magnet causing problems in HO scale. I have used both between the tracks and under the ties magnets. I have heard that this is a real problem in HOn3 and N, where the axles are closer to the magnets - I'll soon find out about HOn3.

    But I have never left the magnets loose either - I have always glued them in place. I have heard of temporarily gluing them with anything from chewing gum to white glue. I could see where a loose magnet could lift itself to an old Athearn car with the steel weights as well as steel axles.

    I suppose the magnet could pull the steel axles and/or weights towards itself, but as I said, I have never experienced it nor heard of it being a problem in HO standard gauge. The more common problem is slack being caused in the couplers in a train for any reason as it crosses over a magnet, causing an accidental uncoupling. This is why permanent uncoupling magnets are generally avoided on the main line. On the main line, the recommendation is to use electromagnets or skewers for uncoupling.

    If you want non-magnetic axles, Kadee has them in HO. I'm not sure about the other common metal replacement wheel sets like P2K and Intermountain. Again, I'd be more concerned about the steel car weights, but it just hasn't been a commonly reported problem, either.

    hope this helps
  6. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Hi Wally and :welcome1: to the Gauge.
    As noted, it's the steel axles that are the culprits: I've not had any problem, although I don't use a lot of the magnetic uncoupling ramps. I do use one of the Rix magnetic uncoupling wands, though, and the steel ladders and end railings on Athearn cabooses do cause a problem - the caboose is drawn to the magnets, making it difficult to remove the wand, after the uncoupled train has pulled away, without derailing the caboose. :eek:
    Some older Athearn passenger cars did have sintered iron wheels on one side of each truck (for current pick-up for interior lighting), but again, the steel axle would be the cause of more problems than the wheels.

  7. jeffrey-wimberl

    jeffrey-wimberl Active Member

    I had the saaame problem when using Kadee between the rails uncoupling magnets years ago. Now I use under-track magnets.
  8. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Fred is correct, it is the axle which was steel, not the wheels. Was common on all Athearn cars, haven't bought any for a long time, don't know if that is still the case. But I most definately had problems. I used the ubder the ties magnets, and if a car had steel axles, you could not uncouple. Reason being that after you backed the cars over the magnet, the couplers opened, then as you pull away, having successfully uncoupled, the car you left behind sprang forward and recoupled! This because the steel axle was pulled forward to the center of the magnet. Happened every time, unless it was a cut of cars resistant enough to keep from rolling back forward. And yes, occasional unwanted uncoupling if a loco stuttered causing slack in the train while a pair of couplers was over the magnet. Also, the steel ladders on Athearn cabooses did the same thing.

    As a result of all this, I do not use the magnets under through trackage anymore. For my yard, through tracks use electro magnetic uncouplers. I still use magnets on stub sidings, and I prohibit steel axles.
  9. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    A few popular wheel replacements:
    -LL Proto 2k

    NWSL makes absolutely wonderful wheels...they're all I use in On3...but they're probably not the best purchase for installation in 30yr old Bachmann cars. NWSL's wheels are made on a lathe...$6-8 per car...they are probably the finest wheels on the market.
  10. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

    For extremely free-rolling cars, I have even has trouble with steel screws for holding on the trucks or coupler boxes. So, I use nothing but non-magnetic wheelsets and brass screws.
  11. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    brass axles are the least expensive and easiest fix. I haven't had to get any for years but I believe MDC/Roundhouse makes them.
  12. Wally Hooker

    Wally Hooker New Member

    thanks everyone for the answers! I have a bunch of Kadee 520 wheels on order!

  13. FiatFan

    FiatFan Member

    One thing I didn't see mentioned was the steel weights used in cars. I have taken to replacing the steel weights with brass stock. I use 1/16 X 1 inch brass from McMaster-Carr (item #8954K44). Seems to be slightly heavier for the same size than steel. Just my two cents.

  14. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Frankly I am quite baffle since I have never seen this problem once the magnet was glued in place in the 40 years I been using KD couplers..We have several in all three yards,both passenger terminals at the club and no such problem occurs and these are "working" yards.:confused: And in that light I see NO reason to switch out wheel sets.

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