Metal wheels are a quick and easy upgrade for model train rolling stock.
After the upgrade you can look forward to fewer derailments and better long term electrical conductivity too… This could be the best value project you’ll ever do on your layout, what’s not to like!
The metal wheels roll better than plastic, attract less dust and grime and add a little extra weight too. It’s pretty much the best thing you can do to improve even the cheapest a freight or passenger car. As an added bonus I have had fewer derailments and find that the metal wheels sort of “polish” the rails to ensure better long term electrical conductivity.
Installation in a plastic truck, it really is easy.
There are holes on the inside face of the truck for the axle tips/ends to fit into, its as easy as (gently!) prying apart the truck and the original plastic stock wheels should pop out quite easy.
If the holes on the inner face of the plastic truck are be a bit small/tight for the replacement metal wheel axle ends, you might try a bit of light gear oil, or some graphite powder – The same sort you might have used to lube a door lock before.
Or there is a perfect tool for the job: Micro-Mark’s HO truck tuner (#82838). Looks to be a great investment if you have a large collection of rolling stock to upgrade. I haven’t personally used one of these tools, but they look pretty great!
Size of wheels?
Typically you’ll need 33″ wheels. Pretty much all my cars will use them.
You might find 28″ wheels on modern tri level auto carriers, or on some older equipment.
Passenger cars will generally use 36″ wheels. I’ll have to double check my Rivarossi Pullman cars before I order the metal replacements.
Where can you get them?
I bought my 33” Intermountain brand metal wheel sets, from Pat at OZ Model Train Supplies, He’s located up on the Gold Coast, and has always been a pleasure to deal with.
 After speaking with Pat he offered up some additional information. He mentioned that if you run Athearn Bluebox cars and want to upgrade the wheelsets, Intermountain Metal Wheels are not suitable, You’ll need to use Kadee 520’s.
Intermountain wheelsets will be too loose in the Athearn truck. Kadee 520’s are slightly longer and a perfect fit!