Christopher Brimley updated May 13, 2011


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  • Maintenance Of Way Vehicles

    by Paul Knowles

    Photos by the author

    One day I was lucky enough to witness a wheel change-out on a grain car. This occurred near my home in St. Joseph, Missouri, approximately four years ago. Much to my surprise, the railroad was able to perform this task with relative ease. They use a specially designed, heavy duty truck for this service. Equipped with a knuckle-boom crane and a flatbed, the rig can carry a single railcar wheel or a complete truck and wheel assembly. I watched as they backed it up to the rails, extended and then dropped the outriggers. Using the knuckle-boom, they lifted two heavy duty hydraulic jacks from the back of the truck. The jacks were then positioned under the affected railcars jacking pads. Within a minute or so the jacks had raised the carbody high enough to roll the truck out from underneath. Again using the crane they lifted the new wheelset from the bed of the truck and placed it on the rails. The rail truck was then raised, and the twoman crew performed the change-out. In a short time their work was done and they were on their way.

    The prototype for this truck is unique in that its designed to perform two maintenance functions to be a wheel truck as well as a rolling crane maintenance shop. The BN based this hi-rail truck in Alliance, Nebraska, so it could get to the remote areas of mainline track. It is equipped with everything necessary to perform wheel change-outs and major repairs on any MOW crane. Modeled details include: a steel cage containing large wood blocks, re-rail frogs, welding tanks, car jacks made of Plastruct tubing, crane cable, generator, and hose and cable reels from Custom Finishing. The rail wheel is a 36 Athearn wheel, fabricated by removing the bearing cap, adding tube stock for the axle end, and drilling out the end of the tube so the cap can be CA'd back on the wheel. There is also a rack to hang various replacement parts for light rail car repair.
    Model Railroading - March 2006 - Page 34 Model Railroading - March 2006 - Page 35

    I was impressed with this operation, so much so that I wanted to build this truck. After looking through various hobby shops and catalogs, I discovered there are very few Maintenance of Way vehicles (MOW) avaiable...or at least what I wanted. A custombuilt model using parts from various sources was my only option. After some searching I decided to start by using an Atlas Ford 9000 Louisville as my base truck. The frame and chassis were stretched using Evergreen 12" channel to accommodate the long flatbed of the truck (an additional scale 8'). Custom Finishing supplied the fuel tanks, hi-rail wheels and various other parts. The mirrors and grille came from Plano, two-hole Budd wheels and tires are A-Line parts, and finally, the fold-up crane is a Herpa part. Oddball Decals has an excellent selection of MOW decals just for trucks. The only thing that remained was building the wheel bed. This was accomplished using various sizes of Evergreen styrene strips and sheets. The door latches are a Resin Unlimited part. After several measurements and studying lots of prototype photos I finally built my first MOW truck. Since then I have built an entire fleet of various MOW trucks and support vehicles.

    In keeping with the prototype, each model is equipped and built as the individual rail shops would configure their wheel trucks. All of the models are based on prototypes built by Fleet Body & Equipment Company ( Their website contains excellent information to help with most any MOW truck project.
    Model Railroading - March 2006 - Page 36 Model Railroading - March 2006 - Page 37

    Other ideas for MOW trucks could include using Boleys utility truck as a base for a signal maintainers cherry picker. Custom Finishing has really expanded its line of MOW truck kits, which includes a log truck with extendable crane (can be used as a tie truck), three different styles of Kershaw cranes, a wreck truck, track geometry truck, flatbed with National Boom, and tank trucks that can be used as a refueling rigs. Trident makes a really nice variety of light duty Chevy and Ford trucks that can provide a good base for hi-rail support vehicles. Atlas has an excellent Ford F-150 pick-up. This could be an excellent track boss vehicle. There are a variety of other truck tractors that can be used for contemporary MOW trucks: Atlas Ford L9000; Herpa Ford Aeromax; Herpa Mack CH; Herpa International; Athearns R model Mack; Boleys International trucks; and MasterBuilt Models Mack Granite. In the future I look forward to working with Gary and Randy to develop more detailed how-to articles on MOW trucks.

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