HO scale Model Railroading has come a long way in the last decade or so. The fidelity and quality of the products available to the average modeler is pretty staggering. However, there are still two major weak points on every single locomotive and piece of rolling stock: Couplers and wheels.
Sergent Engineering has done a great job mass producing an alternative coupler. They’re not used as widely as they ought to be but they’re available and I don’t really know how they could be improved upon. Wheelsets have continued to be a problem though. Exact Rail released some awhile back, but as far as I know they haven’t been re-run and are impossible to find. Other manufacturers do offer Code 88 wheels that look ok when viewed head on as if you’re standing between the rails (an uncommon and rather dangerous perch in the real world) but are sadly ho-hum when viewed from the side or back. Axle detail is nonexistent.
Fortunately, the new “Definitive” 1:87.1 wheelsets from Arrowhead models are a huge improvement on the status quo and are actually available and surprisingly well priced. I bought two 24 packs from M.B. Klein for $85.90 plus s+h. That comes out to about $1.79 per wheelset or just over $7.15 per 2 truck piece of rolling stock.
I won’t go into the full details as they’re available on Arrowhead’s website: https://arrowheadmodels.com/collections/shop/products/36-the-definitive-ho-scale-wheelset-ahp-1029 but I will point out that they’re currently only available from various retailers. As of this writing M.B. Klein reports 12 sets of the 36″ and 10 sets of the 33″ wheels.
It sounds like Arrowhead’s dealer network bought more than expected so hopefully we will see another run of these in the near future.
The first use I have for these wheels is on the A-Line Gunderson Twin-Stack that I built a couple of years ago and originally fitted out for Proto:87. I’ve soured a bit on P:87 (which I’ve been meaning to explain and will once I have the time to write a post) and wanted a good semi-scale option to replace the original wheels with. The Arrowhead offering is perfect for this car as the wheels are not tucked away like they are on something like a boxcar. On intermodal cars the axle and rear profile of the wheels on each bolster truck are very visible and as the photo above shows, the P:87 wheels just don’t look as good even with their exact scale tread.
Some paint and weathering is needed but I’m pleased with this upgrade. It’s definitely worth doing on any car where the wheels and axles can be seen from multiple angles.