Getting Kadee Ribbed Back Wheels Ready To Use

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B-end detail on a 36′ boxcar.  Note the ribbed back wheels.

I was recently working on that Accurail 36′ double sheathed boxcar that I got at Trainfest, and looking at photos of prototype cars for identifying trucks, wheels, and other details, and I realized that most of the photos I was looking at showed some prominent ribbed back wheels.  I’ve been using Reboxx or Intermountain wheels for my cars recently, and hadn’t thought much about the ribbed back variety coming in the semi-scale wheel size.

As I started looking around to find wheels, the options in HO are limited.  There are old standard tread wheels from Life-Like (no longer made, but available on eBay and at some train shows) and there are Kadee wheels that have the proper semi-scale construction, but having used them once, I remember them being black, and feeling ‘funny’.  So I asked a few friends what they use.  The conversation turned to the Kadee wheels and how awful they are to keep clean.  The reasons suggested was that Kadee either paints the wheels black, and the paint picks up gunk from the rails, or the metal that Kadee uses for the wheels is inferior and has pits in it.  Being curious, I volunteered to do some testing to see if the wheels could be cleaned up, or if other options needed to be found.

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Materials for this project:  Kadee semi-scale 33″ ribbed back wheels and “Dialux Vert” polish.  (Not pictured, my Dremel and buffing head)

The suggestion on how to clean the wheels from on friend was to use the “green abrasive stuff from the cheap Dremel parts kit” and the Dremel with a polishing head, to remove the paint from the tread.  Not having any of that non-specific materials, I went and found a polishing material on Amazon that was identified as looking like the same stuff.  The “Dialux Vert” is fairly firm, but the buffing wheel for my Dremel picks it up nicely, and (to me) it has no odor.

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Kadee wheels out of the package.  The tread is a somewhat rough, black color.

Taking the wheels, I simply picked up some of the Dialux Vert on the buffing head and dug in.  It didn’t take long for the black paint to start coming off.  I estimated it was about 1-2 minutes per wheel to get them cleaned up.  With these you have to be careful to hit only the tread because the axels are plastic.  After about five minutes, I had two wheels (enough for one truck), and gave everything a test.  From the photos you can see I need to spend maybe another minute or two cleaning the treads, but I can do that final cleanup after I paint and weather the wheels to make sure everything is clear.  The metal wheels are smooth, roll nicely, and on a layout should be easy to maintain just like the Reboxx or Intermountain wheels.

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Wheels after about 2 minutes of Dialux Vert and buffing head on the Dremel.  The black paint has come off to reveal a nice smooth metal tread.

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It only took about 5 minutes to clean up the wheels for one truck.  In the grand scheme of things, I can probably get a whole package of these wheels done while watching a TV show, and the effort is worth it in the overall result.

Overall, I’m thrilled with this experiment, as I have plans that include building a bunch of older equipment that the appropriate wheels are the ribbed back variety.  It just confirms once again that when you have a question, ask.  You’re sure to get answers you can investigate and see if they’ll work for you.

Time to get back to the workbench!

-JD

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