MTH produces some finely-detailed 1/48 scale freight cars, including these Plate F hi-cube boxcars.

These boxcars are dimensionally accurate and feature individual wire grabs, metal crossover platforms, and fine end rails & stirrups.  The cars are only produced in 3-rail, but converting them to 2-rail is easy :-)

I use a number of these cars for paper service on my layout.  I standardize with Lionel roller bearing trucks (the ones with rotating bearing caps) and Northwest Shortline 145 tread wheelsets.  Here is a method I came up with for 2-railing my MTH cars:


An MTH boxcar...Obviously ;-)
1 pair of Lionel roller bearing trucks
1 set of NWSL #8293-4 wheelsets (these are 36" wheels; 145 tread)
0.197 Acrylic Sheet
10-32 x 5/8 machine screws 


Small phillips-head screwdriver
Metal Punch & Hammer
Power Drill
3/32 Drill Bit
11/64 Drill Bit
10/32 Tap
Dremel Tool with Cut-off Disc


Disassemble the car by removing the 4 door-track screws and  the 4 carbody screws.  Remove the factory trucks.


Now cut small squares of .197 acrylic and epoxy to the top surface of the boxcar floor.

These squares will never be seen by humans (other than yourself) so they need not be pretty.  They only need to cover the large bolster-hole while fitting between the screws.  Cutting squares with tin snips makes the work fast and easy.

Once the epoxy sets, flip the car floor over and use a punch to mark the center of the large bolster hole. 

I lucked out in that the diameter of my punch matches that of the hole...this makes marking the exact center of the hole very easy!  I find that placing the boxcar floor on a scrap piece of 2 x 4 works well.

Now, drill a pilot hole using the small 3/32 bit.

Then, drill a larger hole with the 11/64 bit.  Clean up any plastic shavings around the holes.

Cut threads into the holes by winding in a 10-32 tap.  Take your time and be sure the tap is vertical.

Take the Lionel trucks and, using a Dremel, make two parallel cuts to get rid of the couplers.  Loosen the sideframe screws and remove the Lionel hi-rail axles.  Insert the NWSL axles, then re-tighten the screws.  Make sure that the insulated side of the NWSL axles are all on the same side of the truck:-)

The difference between the Lionel 3R and NWSL 145 tread wheels:

All that is left is to attach the Lionel trucks with 10-32 machine screws and reassemble the car.

A big improvement!  The narrow sideframes, rotating bearing caps, and fine tread wheels look least to me anyway.

Next up is building coupler yokes, striker plates and adding couplers...stay tuned!


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