The On-Line Magazine of Rideable Model Railroading

  NUMBER 183


© March 3, 2012   

 ©Discover Live Steam. This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed without written permission.

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Trailering Your Trains


Written by Tony Windsor


I have two locomotives. The first is an electric 2 axle Plum Cove box cab. It pulls a little two seat riding car. My main locomotive is a narrow-gauge live steamer called a “Wren”. 

The Wren is built in 3.75" scale.  That translates to 3.75 inches on the model equals 1 foot in the real world.  The Wren locomotive was designed by Kerr Stuart and built by Enos Yoder of the Manatee Railroad.  The Wren is equipped with a tender which must be moved along with my other rolling stock.  It consists of a Foster’s Lager beer tank car (I’m a professional drinker) and a 2 axle "bobber" caboose.

To get my train from here to there, I purchased a brand new 6' x 8' single axle "Covenant" trailer for $1,650.00 in Hudson, Florida.  I immediately did a little modification on the trailer.  I "flipped" the axle so that the springs rest on top of the axle (left). This had the effect of raising the trailer floor by 6" to accommodate the loading elevators at the railroad clubs that I frequent.

Doing this will affect the center of gravity of your trailer.  I'm not recommending it.  In fact, I suggest you don't modify your trailer.  In other words, don't try this at home.

A 6 foot wide trailer is large enough to haul 3 rows of equipment.  In place of a "track" inside the trailer I installed 3 sets of wheel guides made from 1-1/4" high by 2" wide wooden strips spaced 7-1/8” outer edge to outer edge (right).  This setup allows the train wheel flanges to ride ON the trailer floor between the wood strips. It also means the trailer would have to bounce up over 1-1/4" to derail the consist.

To restrict fore and aft movement, I installed wood stop blocks at the door and front of the trailer to restrain the train (above).  That is my entire set up.  No other tie downs are used.

After more than 5,000 miles I have not had one single derailment. But, I’m cautious enough to have 2-1/4" thick polyurethane 2' x 8' sheets between the tracks, just in case they hit each other. I do not – repeat - do not strap my consist to the floor of the trailer. There has been no need to waste my time strapping the entire consist to the floor. I store my trains in the trailer in the shade near the park model house where I live in a nice campground in Riverview, Florida.

Through the years I have seen a lot of people with their trailers pull up to the lift elevators and spend a lot of time un-strapping their consist.  They have gone to a lot of effort to strap everything down.  So where are these folks coming from, South Africa or the moon?  Gee whizzzzzz!

I secure the trailer hitch and door with three "Gorilla" brand bolt-cutter and dynamite proof locks and 1/4" dia. wire rope strung from the trailer to a tree with another Gorilla lock. I do not use chain.  Bolt cutters can cut chain easy enough but can't cut wire rope. The 4 locks cost about $110.00. By-the-way, bolt cutters at a hardware store cost about $30.00 while wire rope cutters (specialty item) cost about $140.00.  I'm betting that the crooks that are looking for something to steal tend to use a bolt cutter.

Using this trailer set-up, I figure I have driven over 2.5 million miles around the USA, Central and South America, and the roughest road I’ve ever been on is the last stretch of road to the Manatee Railroad.  I've never had a problem, not even on that road.


Editor's Note: 

You many hear from other folks that a 2 axle trailer has a better ride than a 1 axle trailer. It's a fact that a 2 axle trailer has much more load capacity and is more expensive to purchase.

The biggest single factor in a smooth riding trailer is the same thing that makes for a smooth riding truck.  When it's empty or near empty, it's going to ride rough.  When you load it down, it rides much better.  I have a single axle trailer and when I'm transporting only a couple of my rail cars, it tends to bounce a lot.  But when I load it down with a heavy locomotive, it rides as smooth as silk. So try to estimate the weight you need to pull and match the trailer's capacity with that weight.

Also, check the towing capacity of your vehicle in your owner's manual. Don't tow more than your vehicle is rated to handle.


Tony Windsor

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