Trolley Modelling Question

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by Skunk Valley, Mar 16, 2004.

  1. Skunk Valley

    Skunk Valley Member

    Any trolley experts here?

    I see an article occasionally about a trolley line or layout. Our club has a spot for one on a city scene module.

    Can you really get HO models that'll handle a 7 - 8 inch radius curve? If so, who makes them? Anything else I need to know before trying something like this?
  2. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Absolutely. The easiest to find and undoubtedly cheapest are the Bachmann Brill and PCC trolley models--these run about $30 and have fairly well-detailed bodies. With some modification they can handle a 6-8" curve.

    These modifications are covered in the April 1989 Model Railroader, which was the end-cap for a series called "O'Dell County Traction." The main problems with the Bachmann are the trolley poles (which should be exchanged for more functional ones), the headlights (a bit of lucite leading from a center light, which blocks the free motion of the trucks, can easily be replaced by a simple bidirectional lighting kit), and the frame around the trucks (a little cutting allows for more free movement in the trucks.) But for $30 it's still a nice li'l piece.

    There are other relatively low-cost trolley models: Bowser makes a Brill, a PCC and an IRR interurban. Most commercial trolley models will handle those sharp curves--some of the larger interurban cars may have trouble, but if you're just modeling an in-town trolley system you shouldn't have any problem.

    Issue 2 in a trolley model is overhead wire. For simplicity you might want to power the trolley in the traditional manner rather than by overhead, but it's nice to at least hang dummy wire. Some trolley modelers who use two-rail power, who want to do it the easy way, even ensure that their trolley poles hang slightly below the trolley wire rather than touching it, to avoid snags. This makes Real Trolleymen gasp with horror, however: Real Trolleys are powered off the wire! But I won't tell if you don't...

    Try, their "Schoolhouse" section includes extensive files on how to hang trolley wire, lay in-street track, and more. also includes more traction-modeling hints.
  3. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    Please don't tell Chris either! I feel so sorry for him when I hear him gasp like that, espsecially when you consider hte distance between us! :D :D :D
  4. interurban

    interurban Active Member


    GASP GASP AND GASP AGAIN :cry: :cry: :cry: :cry:
  5. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    i herd dat

    All the way down here at the knob!
  6. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Check for threads started by Interurben (Chris). A lot of them are about his trolley modelling.
    Of course, he cheats a bit and uses pantographs instead of real trolley poles. :wave: :wave:
    If you get the old Tyco/Mantua 4 wheeler, it once had a set of track with a 4.5" radius ... we measured it last weekend.
  7. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    I very much crave that TYCO trolley track for my downtown section--I have a pair of Ken Kidder lightweight single-truck Birneys that I'd love to race around those 4.5" curves!

    In terms of trolley power, I have all sorts of weird plans for my own modeling--I have to have two-rail for at least part of the line, since I also run diesels and part was third-rail...I am trying to figure out ways to turn a pantograph into a sort of SPDT switch: when the panto is up power can be taken from the overhead wire, when the panto is down power can be taken from the tracks. I'm trying to figure out a way to do it with trolley poles (both poles down=power from wheels, one pole down=power from overhead) but haven't figured out a way to do it.

    Trolley people are just odd. Gotta love us!!
  8. Skunk Valley

    Skunk Valley Member

    Thanks for the info, guys.

    Looks like it may be time to set up a test track. Thinking a "racetrack" with 8, 7 1/2, 7, and 6 1/2 inch radius turns oughta cover the spectrum. I have one of the Bachmann bargains and a Dremel. I'll probably start off as ...gasp... and then see how an overhead system works.

    I'll keep you posted.
  9. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I did that mod with one of my Tyco trolleys.
    You need to install 2 trolley poles. They are wired to the motor brushes.
    Take 2 wires and connect to the wheels -- one on each side -- and run these up through the roof to make the tie down hooks. When a pole is tucked under the hook, it is connected to the rail. The other pole runs on the OH. If you hook down both poles, it runs on 2-rail.
    It does mean that you only pick up from one rail. I think there is an NMRA standard that covers which rail, and what polarity. (Positive on the OH means forward?)
    Don't know if you can work it for pantos.
  10. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Ah! That would certainly do it...and true, it would allow for power pickup when in "overhead mode" from only one side, but it would work! I'm not sure but that would even be BETTER because then one could get power from "live" overhead when running on two-conductor track (for the diesels.)

    For pantographs, I figure that the + terminal of the motor will be wired to the pantograph, which when in the "up" position will come into contact with the trolley wire, and the - terminal to one side of the wheels. When in the "down" position, I want to rig some sort of spring or switch directly beneath the panto that will lead to the other side of the wheels. This way, when running with pantos up they will operate off the panto, when down off the "third rail"!
  11. Skunk Valley

    Skunk Valley Member

    Update on the experiment:

    Laid a section of flextrack with a 7 inch radius 90 degree turn. Popped the top off the Bachmann Trolley. The unpowered truck followed the curve ok. The power truck wouldn't. It only took a little filing on the frame where the truck snaps in to free it up. Worked great.

    Slipped the body back on, and sure enough, the headlight/taillight system interfered, so pulled it out. Worked great.

    So now I'll go forward with the proposal that the local club add a trolley line to the city scene module. If that succeeds, I'll start working on the "Gasp" factor.
  12. interurban

    interurban Active Member

    :thumb: Looking forward to some pics!!!:p
    Gasp:cry: or no gasp:D
  13. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    One of the nice things about powering from overhead, aside from authenticity, is that you can use things like Richard Orr single-point turnouts instead of converted regular turnouts--trolley turnouts in the city use a single point instead of two points--the outside "point" doesn't move--and the turnout itself is sharply curved. The Orr switches in particular describe a 6" radius curve.

    The problem is that they are cast as a single unit and so both tracks are the same polarity.

    Of course, if you're just making a simple loop of trolley track (a la John Allen's trolley line in Port on the G&D) then switches are unnecessary.
  14. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    The Bachmann trolley, for my money, sits way too high up on it's trucks, although it does have the advantage of being ready to run. The Bowser model is unpainted, but seems to me to be a much more "serious" model. You can run it under the wires, or track powered only, and I believe there is an article on the Trolleyville website for a slight modification which decreases the minimum turn radius.


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