Brake rods

I’ve been building several HO scale resin freight car kits over the last several months. I’ve always had a problem determining the length of the center rod on the brake gear. I figured out a simple way to make these the correct length. I know if I’ve had a problem with a modeling detail, others have also experienced a similar issue.

I was working on a pair of Missouri Pacific box car underframes when I came up with this technique.

No matter if you are installing K or AB brake systems, the brake rod orientation is similar. A center rod connects the two levers that transmit the force to apply the brakes. The green arrow in the image above points to this detail. But what is the distance between the levers for the rod? It’s different on cars of different lengths. It’s always been a puzzle for me until recently working on these underframes.

After I completed the brake details on one underframe. I realized the distance between the levers needs to be the same, or slightly shorter, than the distance between the left legs of the lever hangars closest to the brake cylinder. The image above has a couple of green lines added beside the lever hangars and just above the scale ruler. The length for this 40-foot box car application would be about seven-feet, three-inches.

That’s the length between the right angle bends on the ends of the wire I used for this application.

Here’s a look after the brake hardware is installed. I suspect someone else uses a similar method, but I don’t recall seeing this tip in a modeling article or on a blog.

When you build your freight car models, measure the distance between the left legs of the lever hangars to guide your work. The measurement will be different on freight cars that are shorter and longer than 40-feet.

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3 thoughts on “Brake rods”

  1. Interesting observation for KC brake systems, however, I think other factors apply for AB brakes such as presence and type of slack adjusters, and I’ve seen different lengths on 40 ft. box cars from different builders or built by different railroads. Other factors may be cross tie spacing. placement of AB brake components, inline vs. transverse mounting of the air reservoir, etc. I’m not convinced there’s a hard and fast rule on length for cars with AB brakes.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Nelson. I shouldn’t have included the AB brake detail since I don’t really model it much at all. But, there would be similar applications on older cars that have had their K brake components updated with AB hardware. The brake rods would not have changed much at all. But those would be a minority. Your points need to be considered for many other applications. – Eric H.

  2. Hi Eric
    In the past I would make the levers and rod as an assembly and install it before putting in the “staples”. You can set the angle of the levers, etc. I also attach the lever to the rod of the brake cylinder before installing the staples. I found this easier than installing the rod afterwards.
    Just a thought

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