METAL REPLACEMENT WHEELS AND PLASTIC AXLE-CENTERING WASHERS
Manufacturer: Gary Raymond, P.O. Box 1722, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360. Price: Wheels $3.25 per axle, washers 69-cents per bag of eight.
METAL WHEELS HAVE been attracting a lot of attention for the past year and a half, and Gary Raymond's advertisements are part of the reason. He was the first to offer "aftermarket" metal replacement wheelsets on a national basis and probably supplies more variety in wheel size and materials than any other manufacturer.
Why metal wheels? They almost never wear out, they tend to attract less dirt than plastic and so keep rails cleaner, and they look and sound more real than plastic. Some tests suggest certain metal wheels may have rolling qualities somewhat preferable to plastic. And, because they tend to be a little heavy, metal wheels add a nice heft and inertia to rolling stock. Aside from the possibility of limiting maximum train length because of that extra weight (and I have no evidence to suggest they do), metal wheels appear to have no disadvantages.
Gary Raymond's one inch diameter wheels actually measure 1 1/32 inches across the tread and 1 1/4 inches across the flange. They represent a 33 inch standard gauge wheel in gauge one (3/8-inch scale) and a 26-inch diameter wheel (the most common size) in 1:24 scale. Actually, the tread diameter in 1:24 scale is slightly undersize and the flange diameter is a little oversize, but the eye sees an average of the two so the wheels are a good visual compromise. (They represent a 24-inch wheel in 1:22.5 scale, but the most common size in that scale is the next step up: 1 1/8 inch.) The face of Gary's wheel is much flatter than, for example, an LGB plastic wheel and its flange height slightly reduced, making the wheel look a little more realistic, especially when you paint it. Metal blackener darkens the plating very little.
Our samples are nickel plated brass with blued, carbon steel axles . Plastic bushings fit into the center of each wheel disc and over the axle. The double insulation allows the wheels to pick up electricity for lighting a car, powering a motor from a tender truck, or activating a sound system in a freight car.
Gary Raymond has spent a lot of time optimizing the gauge of his wheels. They operate on LGB track and turnouts at least as well as LGB's own wheels and the slightly reduced flange size tends to avoid rocks and twigs on the roadbed while suffering no loss of stability. Extended operation over all parts of my outdoor layout resulted in no derailments or anomalies.
The black nylon washers are for centering wheelsets between truck sideframes for smoother- and more free-rolling freight and passenger cars. They come in two thicknesses: 1/32 inch for LGB, Bachmann, Delton, and Ro/USA trucks; and 1/16 inch for Model Die Casting trucks. They work.
Gary Raymond's still may be the only "one inch" diameter metal wheels available. If you want wheels in that size you should have little hesitation with regard either to their appearance or performance.--RR