Large Scale Central

Onward the Pequod -- Getting a B'mann Railtruck to Work Permanently

The lanai is clear, the MIK is coming, but still, Charlie the Railtruck, my railbound equivalent of Moby Dick, beckons me . The time and space to attack this running problem physically elude me, but the time to plan for a final attempt at repair is at hand.

Charlie has been a running side topic in virtually all of my threads since joining LSC a few years ago. For those who don’t know, Oldest Son had the “bug.” He liked railtrucks. I talked to the family and was given the “go” to purchase either the B’mann or HLW 'truck. To my dying day I will regret my decision to go with the B’mann one. It was a lemon almost from day one. B’mann wouldn’t fix it. They did send a 2-4-2 to honor their warranty, but it was not a railtruck. O.S. was disillusioned, and that pretty much squashed the “bug.”

To summarize the various fits and starts to get it working:

  1. I had it in a private shop that got it working by jumping those stupid pistons in the forward truck, but that was a temporary fix.
  2. Pete Thornton rebuilt the motor. Charlie was off and running…until the motor decided to smoke.
  3. Pete researched and forwarded an equivalent motor. O.S. and I pulled the worm gear off the smoked motor, installed it, and smoked the circuit board.

For most of Charlie’s five years with us, he has been the one thing in this hobby that drives me over the edge…non-functioning motive power sitting on my shelf. An ancient and played out LGB 2071D came back to life after much tinkering and then finally biting the bullet and sending it to TrainLi. Our efforts to breathe life into much loved and much broken LGB m2075 (battery) locomotives finally paid off (albeit not without some expensive mistakes!). Charlie’s status as shelf queen is also a reminder of how fleeting our chances are to get kids involved. That beautiful model with its crappy engineering nags at me like an old injury, and it is time to address it.

That time is now. Given O.S. and I had melted or smoked most of the original electronics, I at least feel freed from trying to restore Charlie. Jim R.'s recent series with his own railtruck has been a great source of inspiration. Both Bill Barnwell and Pete recommended I try another power source, and I bought a USA trains motorblock off of Pete that is ready for the purpose. GRNews is running an article in the next issue about putting battery power in a B’mann railtruck, which is fortuitous for us. I also think we’ve racked up the skill set to either build a powered “pusher wagon” or to modify the 'truck body to fit the new motorblock.

For now, I am going to use this thread to get some broad “go / no-go” guidance, generate a parts list, and finalize my approach. Cutting, sawing, and gluing may have to wait until after Christmas. We’ll see.

I have no published my intent, if only to hold myself to the effort. Charlie will serve the Triple O again…and permanently…or my name is not Ahab…I mean “Eric.”


Don’t know why someone hasn’t suggested replacing the the drive with one out of a aristo rogers 2-4-2 as each driver has it’s own gear box and are still available on line for about $50.00 and yes the gear box part would stick into the body of the bus but it would be no different than a HLW rail truck just cover it up with a box . Part # REA-29400
Aristocraft locomotive gear box REA-29400 NEW in box rare

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@Bill_Barnwell: At your suggestion, I looked into the Aristo motorblock before taking up Pete on his offer for a USA Trains one. The USA Trains motorblock is more generally available and still in production, I believe. Given my 0-and-2 record in repower attempts (Tamiya robotics motors and UK-made, re-gauged motor block) on my LGB m207 projects, that was a big factor. Also, Oldest Son would prefer to keep Charlie’s frame stock in appearance if technically feasible

The 1:24 crew pushed Charlie out to frame the problem:

And a top-down shot courtesy of Officer Keaweau on the nearby and recently repaired observation tower:

The plan is to build the pusher car using our tried and true cane car design on the left. We have a leftover Magnetic Critter controller (link) from our failed attempt to put Christmas Thomas under battery power. This will drive the battery selection, with the caveat being that the charger support future track-to-Lithium-ion battery conversions.

For the record, I did see if the motorblock would fit into some of my HLW minis. Nope. The distance from axel to axel is off relative to the molded on journals of the minis. It’ll be just as easy, if not in fact easier, to make our own pusher car as to modify one of these.

This brings us to my first two engineering questions:

  1. Journals. Our cane cars use simple wooden block with metal grommets in them. Beyond aesthetics, is there a reason to get something more robust for the pusher car? I’d been snooping around on Ozark Miniatures (link) for ideas, but I am not wed to any company.
  2. Coupling. The pusher car has to be able transfer thrust to Charlie. Pushing cars around the Triple O has shown hook-and-loops tend to ride up on each other. Would knuckle couplers be a better option? Or link-and-pin? Maybe just a simple tow-bar configuration with a bolt, nut, and washers? How much to our R1 curves factor into the decision?

Thanks, and have a great week!


As far as coupling your pusher car to the rail truck, forget link and pin. They do not push well.
Knuckle couplers are OK but a tow bar (draw bar) would look better. :wink:

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As long as everything is well fastened together, the journals and grommets should work. But they are taking the strain of pushing that big railtruck. More likely the journal/frame joint will be a problem. I would glue and screw it.

the railtruck is not long. so no problem being pushed through R1 curves.
do you know the trix mecanic toys? those bars with a lot of holes in them, to be united by bolts and screws?
i got some bars of the same principle, but made from plastic.
one of these bars on a motorized tender is pushing a former LGB Harlequin battery loco around my layouts for decades now.
as a bar has less play than hook and loop, it is not notable that the loco is being pushed.

Sorry to hear you’re having so many problems - but at least consider “alternatives” (though that MAY be what you DON’T want!). This started out as a Bachmann Railtruck and includes everything - sound AND battery!

More here:

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Eric, something to consider… the rear axle of the rail truck is quite deep under the body. Mechanically I would recommend getting the attachment point for your push bar as close to the differential as possible. The further to the rear that pivot point is the more leverage it gives the push vehicle to derail the rear of the rail truck on the tighter curves, having only on wheel flange to keep it on the track.

I would be prepared to possibly make a load (added weight) over the rear axle should derailments of the rear axle rear their ugly head. It may not take much, if any, just be prepared.

Personally I would find a small piece of brass or aluminum to make the push (draw) bar from. Plastic has many places in my builds, structural components is not one of them.

Best of luck and keep us posted.


If your using the motor block for a push drive there is no reason that the journals have to interact with the axels at all they can be mounted just not quite touching and be decorative. If that made sense stick with me :grinning: If you want the journals to actually function find some brass tubing just slightly larger than the axels and use it as a bushing inserted into the back of the white metal journals.

If you need journals let me know I have 3-4 different kinds produced by Ozark, glad to send some along. If interested I can send a picture of the different types I have.

I think Bob is correct about the push point, get it up as close to the rear axel of the truck as possible.

Hi Everyone,

Thanks for the responses. I am glad we are on sound footing. I am still trying to get Oldest Son to consider cutting his 'truck and installing the motorblock into the bed making a six-wheeled version of Bruce’s example. We’ll see, but for reasons of his own, he seems hard bent on a pusher car based solution.

@Bob_Cope, that was an especially useful tip regarding the draw (push) bar placement; I’d not have thought of that. I have some brass sheet on hand from some other project and the tin snips to cut it. The hobby shop also has a variety of widths and thicknesses, so we are good to go.

@Rick_Marty, we’d love to see the photos. I’ll let O.S. see if that is the direction he wants to take.

I’ve got some personal and professional clobber coming up, but I’ll see if I can get O.S. to cut the timbers for the pusher car frame in the meantime (he’s done this for his Roman siege engines, so it is in his skill set) so we can proceed to mounting the motor block. I anticipate flowing the battery and related gear once (if?) I survive Christmas shopping…


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Well, I’d sure go with O.S. - it will make it HIS and keep his attention longer.

Have fun!

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Actually this is the only journals that I have that would work for you, the good news is that I have lots of them. You can see the back side of the one on the right it has the axel drill indent and the upper part is made to glue to the side and bottom of your side sill. The one at the top though upside down shows what the outside looks like.

If the boy wants to use them shoot me your addy and I willl send them along.

He just went to bed. I’ll hit him up tomorrow. Thanks for providing the option, whatever he may choose!

@Rick_Marty. O.S. thought those journals were “cool.” I have sent a PM. Thanks for making them available!



Oldest Son (O.S.) took advantage of my preoccupation with other matters to cut timbers that were
a.) straight, and
b.) the correct length.

He also took his time and used a square clamp to make sure the frame came together nicely, and he cut the plexiglass subfloor that will be the way we attach the motorblock to the frame. O.S. was at school, so my 1:24 buddies decided to show off his work for him:

He has to clean up his cuts on the plexiglass, but he is justifiably proud of the results to date. Rick’s journals arrived in the meantime, and when O.S. saw how “cool” they looked, it really spiked his interest, as it’ll make the pusher car look special relative to our cane cars.

It is a busy week, which may delay progress. I’d like to get to the hardware store at least to get screws that will allow us to mount the car’s frame to the motorblock, which would then enable us to fit the journals. Hopefully, some widget will jump out as an obvious item to become the drawbar, too. I’d like to get that placed before we start figuring out how to put in the yet-to-be-bought battery and our spare magnetic critter controller.

The electronics will determine the final version of the pusher car. O.S. and I are leaning towards making this a gondola of indeterminate height. Gondolas, we have discovered, are the most “fun” rolling stock, as they can carry anything from rocks to pets to 1:24-ish Romans. In the event we need the space for the battery or the controller, a gondola will allow easy access for puttering and repair. We can easily fashion a tarp and install some tie-downs.

I am also looking ahead to the 'truck’s bed. The drawbar placement and means of attachment will be the initial driver. The bed has a large “box” that holds the mostly-smoked circuit board. We can ditch it, but it was still able to pass power to the headlamps, so we may try to save that. I imagine the battery will go in the bed, too, and possible the critter controller. I’ll offer him a chance to build something elaborate to cover it all, but I suspect he will lean towards a tarp and tie downs.

The project will lurch forward, but it will be slow as we get into Thanksgiving and the Advent-Christmas season. I think we are on a solid path forward, and O.S. seems genuinely enthusiastic about this project, which is more than I could ask for!

Have a great week!




O.S. took the deck and spray painted it flat black after he squared the edges a bit. He learned not to

a.) leave freshly spray-painted surfaces in the rain, and
b.) not hold the can too close to the object getting painted!

Neither are bad lessons; all flaws will disappear beneath the false decking; and he is still excited about the project.

We did not get to the hardware store for those screws or the drawbar. We will try and get there soon.



Modeling took a backseat to rigging for Advent and Christmas. Nonetheless, the screws to mount the deck are now on hand, and I have nice piece of brass (and metal drill bit!) to make the draw-bar. Pete T. (@Peter_Thornton) had a close-up of a drawbar on his B’mann “Eureka” rebuild that I think we can copy.

I’ll have O.S. mount the deck with E6000 this week, then we’ll solder on some leads from the motorblock for the eventual battery rig (order on hold pending assessment of Christmas shopping damage…). Once that is all done, we’ll mount Rick’s journals (got to find some color photos to see how we should paint them!). That will get us to where we need to be to putter with the drawbar issue.

Have a great week!


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Torrential rains, relative cold, and the lingering effects of a booster shot rendered tonight’s working session rather short. Still, O.S. got the deck glued to the frame, much to the satisfaction of Opal:

We also cracked open the motor block to see which of the four posts would lead to the motor. O.S. points to the outer posts:

We talked through mounting the motor block to the frame. He will center the lid for the motor block on the underside, mark the location of the screw holes with a drop of white paint, and then tap the holes. I then mentioned the drawbar issue. I am not sure he understood that this will be arguably the hardest part of the project.

O.S. briefly argued in favor of track power as we inspected the motor block’s internals. He correctly noted we would not have to buy a battery and charger and thus could proceed with the project more quickly. These were all cogent arguments, but, as I would like to install battery and R/C in other models, I consider the investment in the charger and experience worthwhile. He was more impressed by the fact he could run Charlie even when the track gremlins strike! He has even begun machinating on how to transform Charlie into a track cleaning vehicle. I’ll let him work on that!

Updates as progress merits!



Incremental progress today…

I let O.S. measure and place the top of the motor block:

This included doing match with fractions, so he gets bonus points! I had to explain to him quite frequently if this was not centered, he’d be back at square one. Patience is not a genetic trait in our family…

After getting it all set, he clamped everything in place and tapped out the holes to mount the frame to the deck:

We then worked together to get wire leads soldered to the motor leads:

For the life of us, that black wire would not stay soldered to its post! I have to go to the hardware store tomorrow, and I may just get some crimpable doo-dad or another.

I continue to pace the project to his patience for it, and, between that resource having been expended, chores still before us, and some seasonal activities to attend, we put everything away.

Enjoy Your Weekends!


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