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Aristo Streamliner Passenger Car Tips

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Streamliners

streamlinersThe streamliner passenger car came into existence just before W.W.II as parts of dedicated passenger car and locomotive consists. They were designed to be lightweight to allow high speeds with a single rather small diesel engine. Eventually the railroads migrated them into regular trains based on their ride comfort and splashy looks. During the 40's and early 50's you could occasionally find mixed consists of streamliners and heavyweights pulled by either steam or diesel or both in some places. A steam helper in front of an F7 ABBA set was not uncommon on the Cajon Pass. In later years, solid consists of streamliners could be found across the country.


streamlinersAristo's model of the streamliner car is based on a Budd prototype. The car is 30" long across the stock couplers and 27-1/2" long across the striker plates. This scales out to 66.5' at 1/29 scale which means that this car is a little bit short. Unlike the standard heavyweights, these cars have no internal detail. There is a green tinted film covering the windows. The cars are lit and at night the effect is still quite good. There is an equipment box hanging under the car that looks suspiciously like the fuel tank on an FA. It even includes the cutout for the sound system on/off switch. It would appear that Aristo is recycling some tooling.


more streamlinersThe car is made from a single aluminum extrusion so that it really does look like polished metal because it is. The end caps are molded plastic and the color of the cap and doors attached to the caps do not match the car bodies precisely, but they are close. In the ATSF Warbonnet scheme, the engine color doesn't match the cars, however in the prototype, they didn't match either. The engines were painted steel and the cars were either stainless steel or polished aluminum. I have yet to find a model paint that matches the polished metal of the car bodies.


streamliner obs endAt the Queen Mary show in June 1998, Aristo was showing an end cap for an observation car that had been nickel plated. This end cap matches the car color much better than the unplated plastic versions. Aristo claims that they would make the new observation end caps, car ends and domes available to owners of older cars at a nominal charge when they become available.

My diner appears to have been delivered with the new end caps. The color still doesn't match the car sides exactly, but they are MUCH closer. The car bodies are just too bright to be precisely matched by a coating on plastic.


streamliner mismatched to heavyweightThe height of the streamline cars (6-1/8" above the railhead) is a full 1/2" higher than the Aristo standard heavyweight cars (5-5/8") and the diaphragm offset is even worse at 3/4" so that these two types don't match up too well. The heights of the Aristo FA/FB and their diaphragms do match the streamliners very well.


even more streamlinersThese cars need large radius track to operate properly, the 4 foot radius in this picture is the minimum practical, much more is much better. All the cars come equipped with 4 wheel sprung trucks.


streamliner domeThe Dome car is built in the original short dome configuration. An EMD executive, Cyrus R. Osborn, is credited with conceiving the first dome car. The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad modified a standard car in its own shops in 1947. The Silver Dome was an immediate success. By 1947, several railroads had ordered 40 such cars from Budd.


real big domeIn 1952, ATSF ordered the first of 14 full length dome cars. Eventually 16 more were built by Pullman-Standard. 13 of those original giant domes still run on the Alaska Railroad as private cars owned by Holland America Westours.


inside streamliner domeThe short dome of the Aristo Dome car is easily removed by pressing inward under the center windows at the front and rear. A simple seat assembly is then exposed. This appears to be a vacuum formed piece which is lightly frocked. There are no aisle ways between the seats, but it isn't too obvious when the dome is installed. The dome area isn't explicitly lighted, but some light does leak into the seating area from the front and rear.


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Mounting Kadee Couplers on Aristo Streamliners

wide spacing between streamliner and FAA Kadee #831 mounts directly on the car with no modification. The box mounts in the original screw hole with the original screw and comes out at exactly the right height. However, the car to car spacing leaves a little to be desired as shown in this photo of a streamliner mated to an FA. Two streamliners would be another 1/2" apart. With the stock couplers, the spacing is even worse.


close spacing between FA and streamlinerIf 7/8" to 1" of the coupler mounting tang is cut off and a new mounting hole drilled, the couplers will be spaced far enough back to get the diaphragms to at least a credible spacing. This picture shows a streamliner hooked to an FA which has had its coupler mount modified also. See FA Tips for details on remounting the FA coupler.

When the coupler is remounted on some cars, it might have to be modified slightly to make it fit. The width of the channel on the #831 coupler box is marginally too narrow to fit over the ridge on the coupler tang. A motor tool with a 1/4" cutter tool can be used to widen the coupler box very slightly. Alternatively, a sharp hobby knife can be used as well to shave the channel in the coupler box just a little wider.


close streamliner spacingThese two cars have had their couplers mounted to handle S curves. The minimum spacing is about 1/4" so that the striker plates can swing by each other without interference while backing in S curves. The cars will stretch out to about 1/2" spacing when being pulled.

If there are no S curves to deal with, the couplers can be mounted to space the cars even closer together. With the couplers mounted at the minimum spacing, the diaphragm striker plates will just butt when the cars are backed. When the cars stretch out, the gap will grow to just over 1/4" which is large enough to allow the striker plates to clear each other on 4' radius curves.


coupler sightline Depending on if you have S curves or not, the coupler mounting position can be a little different. When the coupler is remounted to handle S curves (7/8" trimmed off) and you sight down the striker plate from the top of the car, the very deepest part of the coupler opening should line up with the striker plate. This leaves enough clearance so that the striker plates will just clear each other when backing through S curves. If you don't have S curves and want a closer spacing, then the striker plate should line up with the approximate center of the coupler opening. In this case, the striker plates will actually touch during backing moves and just clear each other in forward moves on 4' radius curves.

Body mounting couplers on streamliners is probably not a good idea UNLESS your track plan is completely devoid of any kind of S curve and has a very large minimum radius.


coupler tangsIn Feb 2001 when a new baggage car arrived, I discovered that Aristo had changed their tooling and shortened the coupler tang to bring the cars closer together. The photo shows two unmodified trucks. The left one is the older style, the right one is the newer one. As can be seen, they've already cut the tang much shorter.

However, this is still not short enough to suit me so I modified the new truck. Cutting right through the existing screw hole sets the Kadee #831 at just the correct spacing to handle S curves.


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Power Pickup Issues

Aristo streamliners have interior lighting that is powered from the track. These cars use CNC machined wheels where only one wheel is insulated from the solid axle. Power pickup via the bearings is possible on only ONE wheel on each axle. This same approach is used on the 1997 production standard heavyweight cars.

If you find that the lighting flickers excessively, check for continuity at each wheel. Sometimes one or more of the wires will break off the lug that connects to the wheel bearing. This break usually occurs inside the shrink tube installed over the lug and may not be detected if the car is turned upside down. Check the continuity while moving the axle up and down to compress the springs. If your wires have broken, try to replace or reroute the wire so that the movement of the bearing does not put undue stress on the joint.

There is a difference between the early runs of streamliner coaches and the cars built in later production runs. On the earlier cars, there is a lug under the bearing where the power pickup wire attaches. On the newer cars, the wire is soldered directly to the outside of the brass bushing. The wire routing is better so it is much less likely that a power pickup wire will break as it does sometimes on the older cars.

Also, if the bearings have worn too much and become elongated, they can be replaced or rotated 180 degrees to put a new bearing surface at the top. If you do rotate them, be careful as the solder lug will try to rotate as well and the wire will get broken. If the car has the newer style power contact, you will have to remove the bushing, unsolder the wire, file off the old solder and then resolder the wire to the other side.

Power transfer through the bearings is not perfect. A small improvement can be gained by wiring each bearing across to the one on the other side. Since the axle is solid, both bearings are electrically common to one rail. Placing two bearings in parallel adds a little redundancy to the connection between the axle and the cars.

Although you can't see them in this photo, there are two extra wires leading between the car and the engine. I wire power pickups together all along the train so that power pickup is very good even on really dirty track. See my Power Connector Tips page for a little more information on the method that I use. On the older cars, this wire can be soldered to the lug under the bushing. Just pull out the wheelset, cut off the shrink tube with a hobby knife and solder on the new wire. You really don't need to replace the shrink tube because that wheel is connected to the axle anyway and if the lug rubs on the wheel occasionally it won't cause a short circuit. On the newer cars, cut and splice the existing wiring.

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Lighting Issues

streamliner wiring diagramThe streamliner is lit with three 14 volt bayonet base bulbs mounted under the roof. The observation car has three additional lights in the observation end. The baggage car is unlighted. The light is reflected off a white cardboard baffle through a green filter and out the windows. This baffle can be dislodged during shipment and fully or partially obscure the windows on one side. To reposition the baffle, remove two screws under one end of the car and pull the plastic end cap off. Put the baffle back in position and replace the car end cap. Since the bulbs are not visible directly, and their light is diffused by the cardboard baffle and attenuated by the green windows, the intensity as delivered is not overly bright as it is in the Aristo Heavyweight cars.

If you run in total or near total darkness, you may find some light leakage right through the plastic on the painted car ends. This can be fixed by removing the end and painting the inside black. The newer nickel plated car ends are completely opaque.


streamliner obs endI investigated installing LED lighting in the observation end. I wanted to run red side markers and a white center light. Before somebody flames me for non prototypical marker lighting, the GIRR has different operating rules that most other railroads. The lighting is arranged to suit the chief operator's whim.

The observation end is held to the car with two screws in the floor and a big glob of hot glue along the inside of the roofline. There may also be some tape along the insides of the walls.

There may be a light leak along the joint between the end cap and the carbody. When the end is off, this can be mitigated by placing a piece of electrical tape with one third of its width folded back on itself inside the car roof under the joint to shield the gap.

As it turns out, a red LED doesn't illuminate the side marker lenses very well. There is great lighting out the side but relatively poor lighting to the rear. Maybe a frosted lens LED would work better. The lens is fairly small, a 5 mm LED won't fit without drilling it. A 3 mm LED fits well.


streamliner lightingI ended up just painting the bulbs bright red and this provided adequate results. The stock bulbs are glued into the lenses with a hot melt glue and looked like that they would be hard to remove without destroying them. However, I just turned on the lights for a minute or so at 18 volts and the bulbs got hot enough to soften the glue so that they just pulled right out. Excess glue can be cleaned off the bulbs with lacquer thinner. There is enough residual glue in the lenses to hold the bulbs in place after reinstallation. While the bulb is out, excess glue can be cleaned out the lens with a 3/16" drill bit.

Since I run 22 volts of DCC on the track when these cars are running, the bulbs run too bright and are being overstressed. After they eventually burn out, maybe I'll investigate changing the interior lighting to a strip of ultra bright green LEDs and changing the observation end to red LEDs with a white LED in the center light. A failed bulb near the end could be removed, but the center one is too hard to get to. It looks like the easiest way to eliminate the center bulb would be to apply an intentional overvoltage to the car to burn it out and then leave it in place. Alternately, a wire could be spliced from end to end to replace the string running down the bulb sockets and the exiting wiring to the sockets could just be cut. A strip of wood or plastic with a string of series connected LEDs attached could then be pushed in the car from one and attached to the body at both ends. The string could then be wired to the car by splicing it into the existing power wiring and attaching the other end to the car body at some convenient point.


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Suspension Issues

The Aristo Streamliner uses fully sprung trucks. Each sideframe uses 4 identical springs, the two outer ones are more compressed than the inner ones. These springs allow the wheels to follow imperfect track. Since the car is quite long and the wheelbase of the trucks is long, the car would be very sensitive to poorly leveled track without some form of compliance.

The initial run of Streamliner cars (shipped in early 1997) used a steel spring wound with 0.018" wire. The car would slightly compress the springs under its own weight (it is a fairly heavy car). I found that the car tracked well and rarely derailed.

When the next batch of cars arrived (early 1998), I found that Aristo had changed the springs. They were wound with 0.025" wire and were MUCH stiffer. They were so stiff that the car did not compress the springs at all so that the trucks were essentially rigid. Besides the spring difference, the trucks were also attached tighter so that they could not rock. This car derailed very often on my less than perfect track.

Just loosening the truck pivot screw one turn helped a lot. At least the trucks could individually follow the track to a limited extent, but the car still derailed quite often. When the spring set was swapped between the older car and the newer car, and the problem followed the springs.

After removing all of the inner springs, the car behaved much better, but it still derailed sometimes. The suspension was still stiffer than the older car and the car still did not compress the remaining springs while standing.

The truck springs for the FA-1 locomotive were similar to the original Streamliner springs, but just a little softer. After changing out all 16 springs, the car's derailment problems vanished. However, the car rode just a little too low. Replacing the inner soft springs with the original stiff springs brought the car back to the same height as the older car. Suspension compression and tracking capability was then identical to the older car as well.

The FA springs are black, the ATSF Streamliner springs are silver but it is hard to tell the difference from a distance. It would be nice to have all silver springs but derailments are a much more serious problem than a minor color mismatch.

These springs are much easier to deal with than Aristo freight car springs. A small pair of needle nose pliers or a Kadee 5-finger grabber tool makes changing the springs quick and easy. The only minor hassle is inserting the inner spring next to the torsion bar.

It is my understanding that Aristo will be changing the springs on newer cars (late 1998).

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Matching the Plastic Color to the Body Color

end cap comparisonOrlando Pinelli writes:

Try using 3M aluminum duct tape. I apply it with a dry transfer tool [no sharp edges] If you are careful it will "stretch" enough to fill the valleys on the car sides nicely. I've included a few pics to show the results. It is so thin, it is like paint film. One view is before and after, showing two tails, and the other shows the matching bright finish to a car side. It's a tip I picked up from Dana Barlow at "G" Action models.

modified end cap vs carbody


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Lowering the Aristo Streamliner

comparison of modified to stock streamlinerThe stock Aristo Streamliner rides too tall. There is too much space between the truck and the carbody. However, the cars can be lowered in about 10 minutes with a replacement bolster. The rub is that little detail about the replacement bolster.

There was a one page article published in the August 2000 issue (page 92) of Garden Railways magazine that contained instructions for lowering the streamliners. The author used two replacement bolsters from an Aristo Heavyweight to replace the existing bolster. This lowered the car by 1/4". However, modifying the car that way is not without difficulty. First, you have to get four bolsters for each car. Recently Aristo began to sell them in pairs for $1.89 for just that purpose and they will be included with the new smoothside cars. However, the parts and trucks require modification. The pivot hole in the truck needs to be drilled out a little to accommodate the larger pivot post on the HW bolster. Both bolsters need to be cut down in length to sit flat on the carbody. New holes need to be positioned and drilled to mount them. The bolster that supports the curved slot in the truck needs to be trimmed to fit next to the other part. Then the post on that bolster needs to be filed to fit in the slot. This seemed like too much work.


bolster drawingInstead, I designed a replacement bolster that can be built up from sheet 0.060" styrene and 0.25" rod or tube. The built up part was then used a pattern for a silicone rubber mold so that bolsters could be cast in resin to make many parts quickly. It took longer to make the pattern that to modify a few HW bolsters, but the payback in time and cost was significant after a few cars were modified. I modified six cars. This bolster will fit the fluted side Streamliner or the newer Aristo Smoothside cars.

I had received several requests for these parts so others could easily modify their cars too. I didn't want to manufacture them myself, but my oldest son, Richard, did. He got some valuable experience in running a small business and made enough on the side to buy himself a laptop computer to take off to college. Richard has stopped making the parts, but my younger boys are taking over the business to fill the need for parts for the new Smoothside cars which need the same treatment. See Bolster Ordering Info for ordering instructions.

Using these replacement bolsters is the easiest way to lower a Streamliner or Smoothside. You don't even have to open up the car. However, if you are so inclined, you can make your own bolsters by following the pattern above or you can do it without making a new bolster by moving the car floor instead. This requires partial disassembly of the car. See the description of the other method below.

This bolster is thinner than the HW bolster, it lowers the car by 0.29" so that the trucks just clear the carbody when rotated. If this is too low on any particular car, the carbody can be spaced back up with washers under the mount points for the bolster. A styrene shim would also need to be glued to the back of the bolster to take up the compression load in the middle. This part is designed to fit right back in place of the existing part without the need to drill any holes or cut any wires.

The pivot post can be made from either rod or tube stock or wood dowel. I used styrene tube stock. The tube stock had much too big a hole in the center so I filled the posts with a little casting resin to make them solid, then drilled out the clearance hole for the truck pivot screws. This way, the screw hole is already in the cast piece ready to accept a screw.


stock bolsterThe stock Aristo bolster is attached to the carbody with 4 screws, one in each corner. The wires from the trucks also go though cutouts in the bolster and through the carbody. This is an early car. It has TWO wires, new cars have only one that goes through the body, the other terminates in a lug screwed to the car bottom. The second wire was an unanticipated problem as it is screwed to the carbody on the inside. The rub was that the screw that holds the wire to the body goes through the floor and back into the bolster. The end of the screw can be seen in the photo as a black dot just above one of the pivots.


stock bolster removedThis is a better view of the offending screw after the bolster had been removed.


stock bolster installedGetting the bolster off this car involved some gouging on the original bolster. The region around the offending screw was gouged apart with a pair of diagonal cutters until the bolster released. Then the side straps had to be cut on both sides to allow the wires to escape. On newer cars, only one side of the bolster needs to be cut. Cutting the bolster is no problem as it will be discarded anyway.


new bolsterThe replacement bolster is a single cast resin part that fits right back where the old one went. This one is cast in Alumilite, a very strong resin.


new bolster installedThe replacement bolster goes right in where the stock one was using the original screws with no modification to the truck or the carbody.


new bolster installedNow the truck tucks tightly under the carbody with no visible gap between the truck and the car.

The "equipment box" under the car is a problem. It hangs so low that it will drag on the track when the carbody is lowered. This part is really the fuel tank of an FA that has been hung under the car to represent underfloor equipment. They never looked quite right anyway so I just take them off and chuck them in my scrap parts box. Maybe later, I'll make a more reasonable looking equipment box.


streamliner vs standard heavyweight Now that the car is lowered, it more closely matches the standard heavyweight car but it is still just a little high.


modified streamliner vs FAThe downside is that the cars are now significantly lower than the Aristo FA with which they used to match to very well. Since the FA is also too tall, the obvious solution is to lower the FA.


modified streamliner vs lowered FA Larry Cooper has done this as described in a Large Scale Central Article. I did this FA as described in my FA Tips page. They FA and streamliner still don't match perfectly. The FA was lowered by 0.2" and the streamliner by 0.29" so that there is still a 0.09" mismatch, but at least both units look good individually and the mismatch really doesn't show up at any distance.


There is another way to lower the Streamliner without replacing the bolster. Mark A. Scyphers sent me a description of his method. Instead of moving the trucks with respect to the floor, he moves the whole floor.

floor coming outFirst, I removed the ends via the four small screws on the bottom. I then carefully slid the floor (with trucks, tanks, and box intact) out of the shell. It took a few whacks with a soft mallet on the edge of the floor, then it slid right out. I carefully removed the lights from the ceiling along the way, too.


floor going in The floor then slipped right back into the shell in the wide space between the groove and the ridge above it. The floor just fits between this ridge and the plastic mounting pins that hold the name plaques to the body. I replaced the lights on the ceiling, and slipped the ends back into the car. Everything miraculously fit like a glove!


sheet metal screwsThe small metal tangs that mount the floor to the ends now sit about 3/8" above the original location, so I simply sent longer sheet metal screws throughout the existing holes in the plastic ends and into the metal tangs. When tightened, the tangs drew toward the plastic nicely, securing the floor against the ridge I previously mentioned! The modification appears to have automatically lowered the shell about 3/8". Now the existing tanks and the equipment box still ride at the factory height, although they are slightly raised up under the bottom of the body (at least I no longer have to see that silly switch opening in the box !!). I don't have any curves smaller than a 10' radius, but I do have some pretty tight turnouts, as well as an 'S' curve double turnout between my mainlines. The streamliner takes them without flinching a bit (although I go very slow through these anyway). Honestly, I'm in disbelief that this mod was so simple. It took less than 20 minutes on the kitchen table and only required 4 sheet metal screws! I have also shortened the couplers by about 1/2", and the car STILL takes the 'S' and the turnouts in stride behind my USA F3 loco.


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Lubrication

I use LGB 50019 Special Oil (my favorite stuff) to lubricate the wheel bushings. I've been using this LGB oil on all my wheel journals and over the test of time, it has worked very well indeed, even on bushings that require electrical conductivity.

The trucks don't rotate particularly freely either without some treatment with graphite. Squirt some powered graphite around the curved slot on the bottom of each truck and work it in. Freedom of truck rotation will be materially improved.

The suspension of the cars with softer springs may hang up a little when compressed. Graphite applied to the sliders at the sides of the journals will eliminate this potential problem.

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Compatibility with the LGB F7 and Streamliner Cars

FA and LGB F7I had an opportunity to compare the Aristo Streamliner set with the LGB F7 and streamliner cars. Side by side, these trains are both impressive.


LGB streamliner setThe LGB streamliner set is an impressive set. It ran very well indeed.


LGB F7 vs LGB streamlinerI found the LGB engines to be quite good looking and the sound in the F7B was outstanding. However, the engines were really big, a little taller than the LGB cars. I found the LGB streamliner cars to be rather plain looking. The shiny fluted sides of the Aristo cars were much more visually appealing.


LGB F7 vs Aristo FAThe F7 is taller than the Aristo FA. Also the engines run at much different speeds so that running an ABBA set, half LGB and half Aristo just didn't work out.


LGB streamliner vs Aristo FAThe LGB cars mated up pretty well with the Aristo engine.


LGB streamliner vs Aristo streamliner The height of the LGB cars and the Aristo cars isn't too much different.



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© 1997-2002 George Schreyer
Created Dec 17, 1997
Last Updated July 18, 2002

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