To paraphrase Vane Jones, "Knowledge is of little value until shared with others."

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Trolley Pole Primer - Part 4 Making Your Own Trolley Poles?

When covering the trolley wheel or slider, no mention was made of what can be done to correct slightly off center wheels or sliders. A small, smooth jaw pair of pliers can be used if the casting is less than a few degrees off center.

While holding the trolley wheel or slider casting with the pliers gently twist the wheel or slider casting. The phosphor-bronze wire used to make the pole can be twisted. If the trolley wheel or slider is more than a few degrees off center, a soldering iron must be used to unsolder and twist the casting into place.

The answers to the Trivia Questions -
1. What prototype trolley car used 2 different trolley bases?
One example is the Aurora Elgin & Fox River Electric 49, a model of which was built in this Blog. The 49 used both a 4-spring horizontal pole base and a 4-spring horizontal back pole base. The reason for using 2 different pole bases was the lack of space between the 2 mounting points of the trolley bases.
The photo was taken by Joe Hazinski. Joe is an operating member of the Fox River Trolley Museum. The model is perched on a side bearing of a prototype truck bolster.

The 49 is not the only example of 2 different trolley pole bases used on the same car. Whenever there was not enough space between the trolley bases, railways commonly used different pole bases on a car to save room.

2. What prototype trolley car used 3 different trolley bases?
The Chicago Aurora & Elgin #11 line car had 3 trolley poles on its roof, Two of the poles were to collect electricity from the overhead wire. The 3rd pole was to apply grease to the trolley wire. This later pole had a 4-spring horizontal back pole base.

For collecting current from the trolley wire, 1 of the poles had a 4-spring horizontal pole base while the other was a 4-spring vertical pole base.
 This is about the only photo of the roof of CA&E 11.

This is a photo of my model of CA&E 11 made by Jean Deschenes.

Again the reason for the 3 different pole bases was a lack of space. One of the pole bases to collect electricity was very close to the overhead tower. The 4-spring vertical pole base was used here.

The pole used to apply grease did not have a wheel or slider at the tip of the pole. A special grease applying appliance was attached when needed.

You may have noticed my trolley poles on NSL models have an aluminum "sox" on the trolley pole near the trolley base and then at the shoe. The NSL used aluminum paint on these areas of the trolley pole to prevent to pole from rusting in place. This made it easier to replace the pole from the base or to remove the shoe from the pole. I paint about 1/4" of the trolley pole with aluminum paint.

When the CA&E received the St. Louis cars in 1946, the trolley poles were painted aluminum. This gave the new cars a more streamline look. The CA&E liked the idea so it started to paint all of their trolley poles aluminum. From a safety standpoint the poles were easier for the conductors and trainmen to see in the dark. Remember, the CA&E used trolley wire only for freight sidings, parts of the main yard in Wheaton, and at the end of the lines in the Fox Valley. All of these were dark at night!

One personal comment about the Wagner slider. In talking to another trolley modeler about this slider design, we agreed having this shoe designed to be working like the PSC wheel would be great. A working slider would have more and better contact with the trolley wire just like the prototype.

Below is a series of published articles on making your own trolley poles. They appeared in the August and September, 1948 issues of "The Model Craftsman". This magazine later became "Railroad Model Craftsman".

You may have wondered why, in the 1st post about trolley bases, the Ohio Brass names of the trolley bases were introduced. Using a manufacturer's name to identify a particular trolley base is used in the following articles. As can be seen, trying to identify a particular trolley base by its spring design can be hard.



The pages were inserted into the post with as many pixels as possible. If you are interested in making your own trolley poles and have difficulty reading any of the pages contact me.

The 1 pole which I wish was made commercially is the US 11.This trolley base was used on many of the early trolley cars in the Chicago area. I tried to make a US 11 trolley pole as mentioned in the article. It didn't turn out too well!

In case you are interested in pantagraphs, I have little knowledge about prototype and model pantagraphs. I tried to make some minor repairs on pans but the pans did not work any better than they had before starting the work. It's better to replace "broken" pantagraphs with new ones.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Trolley Pole Primer - Part 3 The Care and Feeding of a Trolley Pole

The title is "tongue in cheek". A trolley pole is feed electricity! The "care" is up to the trolley modeler.

Two manufacturers of trolley poles not mentioned in prior posts are MTS and The Car Works. Both provided trolley poles with their brass models. Some of the poles were good while others left a little to be desired. Any trolley poles which came with my MTS or Car Works brass models were replaced. The individual modeler has to decide what to do with his or her models.

Trivia Questions -
1. What prototype trolley car used 2 different trolley bases?
2. What prototype trolley car used 3 different trolley bases?
The answers will appear in the next post.

Over the years manufacturers of O scale trolley poles have made the trolley bases from either machined brass or lost wax brass castings. This is brought to your attention because the machined brass has less resistivity than the brass castings. With a higher resistivity the brass castings tend to become hot when a higher wattage (voltage and amperage) is passed through the metal.

The higher wattage occurs during a short circuit (trolley pole to ground) or when the motor in the power truck draws an excess amount of current. During this time 2 things can happen to a trolley pole - the small springs can be damaged or the brass castings deform!
This is a 4-spring vertical trolley base after a short circuit. The springs have been removed. The high amount of electrical energy caused the chemical blackening to come off the brass casting and the casting started to melt.

Deformed brass castings were covered in a prior post published October 17, 2012 "Model Not Running & the Electrical Short Circuit". The problem and repair of a deformed brass casting used in the trolley base is covered.

From what I am aware the manufacturers of trolley poles stand behind their products and will repair and/or replace them if damaged. I am not too sure what PSC will do as I've never tried to return a damaged item to them.

Besides the deformation of brass castings, trolley poles do get bent, and springs get lost or stretched out. All of this can be fixed on your own.

Before going further the reader has to realize a trolley pole operates in an x, y, and z set of axis. This means a pole works in 3 dimensions at the same time. Much like an airplane which goes forward, side to side, and up and down. It is important the trolley pole is square in relation to itself, the model, and the trolley wire for best operation.

If you want to see how this is applied in the prototype, The Chicago & West Towns Railway line car #15 operated its final years with a unique "S" shaped bend in one of its trolley poles.

From what George Kanary and I can imagine, one day the 15 was rolling into the barn at 22nd and Harlem at too high of a speed. The back wall of the barn was made from brick. Before the car came to a stop, the trolley pole which stuck out over the front of the car rolled down the wall toward the floor. The resultant bend left the pole straight when seen from above but, of course, bent down when viewed from the side.

All the shop crew had to do is to bent the pole up at the same degree as it was bent down, but straight when looked at from above. The shop crew did an excellent job as the "fixed" trolley pole went on to work for a few more years. This is a photo of my #15 with the same type of "S" bend in the trolley pole.
When viewed from above the front trolley pole looks absolutely straight as though the "S" bend was not there.

Another aspect of the operation of a trolley pole is the need to have the shoe or wheel at the end of the pole to be absolutely level in relationship to the overhead (wire, frogs, hangers, pull-offs) of the layout.

This drawing shows the shoe or wheel level. The trolley wire is in what I call the "trolley valley". The 2 points or mountains on either side of the valley must be level and at the same height. If they are not the shoe or wheel will not go through trolley frogs properly. Some hangers or pull-offs may be problems.
More comments are at the end of this post regarding this drawing.

For the repair and checking of trolley poles, I made a repair jig. It's made out of 3/8" wide x 1/8" thick x 6-1/2" long brass with a 2-56 screw soldered squarely in place towards one end.
In the lower photo a small gouge in the brass can be seen to the left of center. The gouge is mentioned again later in this post.

Trolley Base Square
The replacement or repair of trolley springs is the easiest. But before this, the trolley pole is screwed onto the repair jig. Check to see if the trolley base itself is square from side to side as well as fore and aft with the repair jig.
This is an example of a hole not square from side to side or the narrow part of the trolley base. The drawing is over exaggerated.

The trolley base would be tipped to one side or the other if the hole was not squarely drilled. If the trolley base is not square from side to side, it should be returned to the manufacturer for replacement.

If the trolley base is not square fore and aft - for example tipped to the front or back of the base, you'll have to decide what to do. The pole can be used but it may look odd.
This trolley pole has problems. 1. The trolley pole is bent up as it comes out of the base. 2. The trolley base is tipped towards the end of the car. The tipping fore and aft along with the bend in the pole have to be evaluated as to their combined effect on the shoe or wheel meeting the trolley wire.
This is what a trolley pole mounted on the roof should look like.

To realize what is wrong with a tipped trolley base, you'll have to visualize what happens to the contact point of the trolley wire and the trolley's wheel or slider as the base is rotated on the 2-56 screw or the insert rod or screw. The surface between the trolley wire and the "trolley valley" in the wheel or slider becomes skewed.   

Trolley Pole Spring Holders (Wires)
Next check to see if the pieces of wire to hold the springs are square with the trolley base and the repair jig. The pieces of wire, normally 0.040" or 0.060" phosphorus-bronze wire, should be bent back ever so slightly to keep the springs on them.

If the wires are not square with the trolley base and repair jig, 2 pairs of pliers with wide, flat smooth jaws to gently bend the wire(s) flat and square are used. Use 1 pair of pliers to hold where the wire is soldered to the trolley base and another pair of pliers to bend or flatten the wire.
This shows 2 pair of pliers with smooth jaws.
If the wire to hold the springs comes loose from the base it will have to be re-soldered back on. Clean-up the site to be soldered 1st. File away any excess solder and/or jaw (teeth) marks. An adequate, hot soldering iron is required to prevent any cold solder joints.
Forceps are the best to hold wire to be soldered. The serrated jaws (teeth) hold the wire securely. They can either straight or curved.  They can be obtained from medical supply sources, typically bookstores at medical colleges, as well as hobby meets, and fine or hobby tool dealers.

When soldering on the wires, I've used weights to hold the repair jig while various other objects are used to hold the forceps. Sometimes the forceps must be at a 90 degree angle to the trolley base.

I try my best to not hold the repair jig or forceps in my hands during soldering. I concentrate on the soldering! Unfortunately no photos are available of this process.

Trolley Pole Springs
First check the springs to be sure they are all the same length and tension (strength). If not sure, use all new springs from the same package. Uneven springs can cause problems.

Use a magnifying lens and good pointed tweezers to hold the springs when placed on the wires. Time and patience is required! After all the springs are installed apply an extremely small drop of ACC on the ends of the springs with a toothpick or wire probe. Allow to cure before using the trolley pole.

The upward pressure on the trolley wire can be increased by replacing the springs. Contact the trolley pole manufacturers to see if you can obtain springs with more pull (strength).

I do not want to get into altering the pressure on the trolley wire by moving the wire holding the springs. This is something for another day's topic. Furthermore, it can be complicated to get the same results with 2 different trolley poles for the same model.

Trolley Pole Straight
Next check the wire used for the trolley pole. Is it square with the trolley base? In other words, does the wire come out straight and square from the neck of the trolley base? It does NOT go to one side or the other and it does not go down or up. Sometimes the wire gets bent and must be straightened. Two pair of pliers are required - 1 for the neck of the trolley base and the other for the wire.

If the neck of the trolley base is cracked, it can be repaired by using a non-metallic, all enclosing clamp like a wooden clothes pin. Wooden clothes pins make ideal clamps. The wood is easy to alter for your individual needs. The neck can be either soldered or repaired with ACC.

If the trolley pole has been bent in any direction between the trolley base and the slider or wheel, it has to be straightened. If you have ever tried to straighten wire you know this can be difficult. One or 2 pairs of large pliers with smooth jaws are needed.

Since the wire used is usually 0.090" in diameter, the straightening technique used to straighten a piece of brass strip can be used. Use the pliers to squeeze the wire from different angles while rotating the wire through the pliers' jaws. If this does not work the piece of wire has to be replaced usually by the manufacturer.

Trolley Wheel or Slider Square
The trolley wheel or slider is next. There are 2 different square-ness test to be done.

First, check to see if the wheel or slider are on square to the trolley pole. The wheel or slider should not be tilted up or down or side to side. The small loop for the trolley rope should be on the bottom. Watch out for the springs horizontal backward base (Ohio Brass Form I) as the trolley pole may look backward!

The tipped trolley wheel casting in the drawing above can be the result of the hole in the casting not being drilled square or being too large. The other cause may be a bend at the end of the trolley pole.

If you decide to change the wheel or slider, when using either an old or new one, inspect to see if it is clean of any old solder, sprue, and casting material from a sloppy fitted mold. The hole may need to be drilled out further for the trolley pole. If the hole is drilled out, you will find it helpful if all the holes in your wheels and sliders are the same depth. Use a new drill a couple of thousandths of an inch larger than the trolley pole diameter - never larger. Hand drill the hole to guarantee the quality of the drilling.

The 2nd test for square-ness is the ability of the wheel or slider to rotate 360 degrees on the wire used for the trolley pole. In the repair jig described above, a cut-off wheel in a Dremel Tool was used to gouge out a depression where the trolley rope loop fits. This helps with checking newly attached trolley wheels or sliders for square-ness.

Think of the wheel or slider as the tail of an airplane with the horizontal and vertical stabilizers forming an upside-down letter "T".

When the plane is flying level to the horizon, the horizontal stabilizers are level to the horizon. While the vertical stabilizer is 90 degrees to the horizon. The wheel or slider has to be level and square to the balance of the trolley pole to be level and square to the overhead.

It's this later part about the slider or wheel being level with the overhead which will cause problems with dewirements having apparently no reason for happening.

Preparation for Operation
Before you operate a new trolley pole, using a small fine file, open-up the throat of the shoe or wheel. This will help in guiding the trolley wire along with any small wire obstacle through the "trolley valley" of the shoe or wheel.
This view is looking down on the wheel or shoe.

A certain amount of solder MUST be present to hold the wire to its hanger. Try to file the blobs as best you can. BUT do not remove all of the solder!
Filing out the "trolley valley" part of the shoe of wheel will increase the contact between the pole and the wire making operation of your trolley better.
"Painting" a Trolley Pole Black
NEVER paint a trolley pole with black paint! The black paint will flake off the springs. Plus the balance of the pole will look like it was painted.
If you need to refinish the look of a trolley pole, remove the springs and dip the complete trolley pole in chemical blackener. Allow the trolley pole to dry, usually over night. Replace the springs.
The springs should not be treated with the chemical blackener. They will start to rust which is impossible to stop! The springs will have to be replaced.
After the springs have been placed back on the trolley pole, dip the trolley pole 1/2 at a time in Neolube and allow to dry. The isopropyl alcohol will quickly evaporate. Then treat the other half of the trolley pole in the same way.
When dry, the now black trolley pole can be placed on the model. It will operate better than original and retain the matte black finish for a long time! Neolube conducts electricity.
More comments in the next post.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Trolley Pole Primer - Part 2 The Pole and the Fittings at the Top of the Pole

Before staring the material of this post allow me to make editor's comments. In mentioning any manufacturer I am not endorsing or attempting to push the manufacturer's products. I have at all times tried to remain neutral regarding the hobby manufacturers and their products. However, in writing about my experiences in all fairness to the readers of this blog, I do have to point out the positives and negatives of an item, process, method, etc.

Depending upon the topic of the post manufacturers, suppliers, painters, and various other individuals who have been involved in the trolley end of the model railway business in the United States will be mentioned. This is done to fill in any voids which may appear. My sole purpose is to provide information. It is up to the reader of this blog to use his or her discretion in obtaining goods and services just as in buying an computer, furniture, personal goods and services, etc.

Trolley poles themselves are hollow tubes. If they were not hallow, but solid, they would weigh too much to be supported on the roof of the car.

Some of the poles were a tube like a pipe while others were tapered at one or both ends. For most O scale poles a piece of phosphor bronze wire is used. As far as I know only the Precision Scale trolley pole is a brass casting and is tapered.

Trolley poles come in various lengths. Cars carrying only a single pole mounted in the center (length) of the car are longer than normal. Normal, if there is one, is 12 to 14 scale feet.

The concern is, is the center of the mounting point of the trolley base in the correct position for the car. This should be determined from either plans or photos of the prototype car. In the past articles about what is the correct location of the center point of a trolley pole base have been written.

PE had the 800-929 series of double truck cars which as originally built had only 1 trolley pole. When the subway was built, in order to reverse the direction of travel of the cars, because there was not sufficient room to walk the single pole around to the other end, the cars were double poled. This is mentioned as there has to be some allowances in the exact, required center point location of a trolley base.

Even if you obtain the model built-up and finished by a reputable manufacturer check the centers of the trolley bases for correctness. For example, the CA&E Cincinnati passenger cars made by St. Petersburg Tram Collection did not have the trolley bases mounted in the correct position. The mounting points have to be changed by the modeler.

Furthermore, sometimes the length of a trolley pole has to be adjusted to the car on which it is used. More on this later in this post.

Next comes the strange thing at the end of the trolley pole - the most common are either a trolley wheel or a shoe (slider). Sometimes a "V" shaped object is fitted called a sleet scraper. Another object used is a "greaser" or an "applicator".

Originally a 10", 12" or larger diameter wheel was used. Initially the wheel would rotate but over time it would be worn into a hexagon shape with the wheel sliding along on one of the planes of the hexagon. Over time the trolley companies discovered smaller size wheels could be used.

The slider was an invention based on the wheel worn into a hexagon shape. As you will see there are many sliders which were invented by the manufacturers. The advantage of the slider is it can provide better, continuous contact with the trolley wire thereby providing for more electrical current to be transferred from the trolley wire to the trolley pole.

The disadvantage of the slider is the trolley wire has to be lubricated to prevent premature wear of the wire. This is the reason for the "greaser" or "applicator" at the end of a trolley pole.

Another disadvantage of the slider is the potential of the slider catching the trolley wire during back-up (reverse) moves of the trolley car. Care has to be taken during back-up moves. Normally the opposite trolley pole is raised during back-up moves. The trolley wheel is better for switching where the car moves back and forth with a trolley guide, a human holding onto the trolley rope.

How does all of the above apply to the modeler. Before you order poles from a manufacturer find out if you can get the length of the pole made to order. Since PSC has a pole kit, you can cut the pole to any length you want.

Already mention has been made about the pole fitting the model. Single truck cars often had longer than normal trolley poles mainly for ease of hooking down the pole. When I was working on a model of a North Shore Line coach, I was surprised to find photos and scale drawings which showed the trolley poles did not extend over the ends of the car.

This photo shows the trolley pole of the NSL coach (model on the left) sticking out over the end of the car and above the roof of the model on the right. The poles on this car had to be shortened.

I replaced the trolley poles on a Sunset model of the Electroliner for a friend. I was surprised to find out how short the trolley poles were. The trolley poles on a North Shore standard passenger car or Electroliner could not extend out too far or else they would foul one another on the sharp curves on the Chicago "L". This photo is a comparison of 2 trolley poles. The pole at the top of the photo is from an NSL coach (not the one shown above). The pole at the bottom of the photo is from a Sunset Electroliner. The Sunset slider has been replaced.

When it comes to the end of the pole, a sleet scraper should never be applied to the end of a pole unless the pole is a dummy model of the prototype. The sleet scraper is in a "V" shape and intended to scrape the sleet off the wire. On a layout it could snag the overhead wire and ruin the trolley operation.

While  know there were other sleet scrapers used, the "V" shape is the only one I've seen in person.

The "greaser" or "applicator" applied, depending upon the trolley line, a mixture of beeswax or paraffin, mineral oil, and graphite onto the trolley wire once a week or so. It lubricated the trolley wire for the use of a slider or shoe current collector.

About 1954-55, Rich Wagner experimented with a current collector on the end of a trolley pole to lubricate his trolley wire. See Trolley Talk #2. He sold the device with the idea, the modelers who purchased it would report back on how well it worked.

Today, some modelers use liquid lock lubricant which is graphite in an alcohol mixture. Neolube is a similar product. Either can be applied once a month or so depending upon how many trolleys are operated off the trolley wire. Graphite being pure carbon is an excellent conductor. Also, depending upon the metal, the graphite adheres to the crystals of the metal for a period of time providing long lasting effects.

The wheels provided by the scale manufacturers mimic how a trolley wheel looks. Except for the PSC trolley wheel they are non-rotating. The other manufacturers provide the standard NMRA 6" diameter x 3" wide wheel. Q-Car also provides a scale size 5.5" diameter x 1.5" wheel.

The photo shows the NMRA wheel, scale size wheel, and the working wheel.

The PSC working wheel comes as 2 brass castings. Time is required to clean up the castings, increase the depth of the dimples to hold the wheel's axel, squeeze the ends of the harp to hold the wheel, and finally install the wheel on the trolley pole.

This PSC scan below may be out of order however, it offers a few different visual explanations of some of the unique features of their trolley poles.
1.Starting on the left notice the "exploded" view of the trolley base. The "stud" sticking straight down means the pole has to be installed using the insert mount type of installation. 2. Next notice the trolley wheel and yoke. If you obtain older castings, after Kemtron sold out to PSC but before a few years ago, the castings were not as good as the Kemtron or the newer PSC castings.
3. The trolley shoe is next. After cleaning up the casting check the depth of the hole for the trolley pole. You may have to drill the hole to a uniform depth. I do not have any particular depth in mind other than the slider should be square on the trolley pole.
4. Next look at the roof bushing. You can use this bushing or one you make for the roof of your model.
5. Not shown are replacement springs. They are shown on the same page as the trolley pole. Do not be thrown off by the erroneous numbers shown in the listings.
6. The trolley base is lost wax castings. I have found them to be too fragile for operating trolley poles. I've installed them on non-operating models used for presentations or the shelf. That said, some modelers have not had problems with the PSC poles in operation.

All the work  which goes into making the PSC wheel work is well rewarded as the trolley wheel rotates as the model goes by. I have PSC operating trolley wheels on a few cars. They work equally well going forward or in reverse. For individuals who do not believe the wheel rotates, the model can be slowed down to show them.

From the 4 manufacturers, 3 different sliders are available. All the sliders are brass castings. Some modelers prefer the Wagner sliders because it tends to give the most amount of contact area with the trolley wire and least amount of de-wirements. The photo has the brass casting and the casting after chemically darkened. 
This photo is a Wagner slider on the trolley wire. It shows the amount of shoe contact with the wire.
The Wagner slider is a non-working in that all the sliders were made so the shoe would rock back and forth in the slider body. This would allow the angle of the shoe to conform to the trolley wire. Actually, the Wagner slider is patterned after a slider where the shoe could rotate counter clockwise (per the photo above) when the pole was used in a back-up move to prevent the shoe from snagging on the trolley wire.
If one is careful, cars can be backed-up using a pole with a Wagner slider. The back move must be very slow. At the 1st sign the slider is going to snag the wire - the wire tends to go up as the slider is caught - stop the model!

The slider available from Q-Car Company looks to me like the style of slider the Chicago Aurora & Elgin used on its equipment. Two photos are of CA&E cars. Take a look at the sliders on the end of the trolley poles. If the sliders are looked at close enough, space can be seen through the part of the slider holding the shoe.

The Q-Car Company slider as a brass casting and as chemically blackened. The casting comes with a sculptured out portion resembling the area in the CA&E shoes where light can be seen coming through. 
This is a Q-Car slider on the trolley wire. The amount of wire contact is seen.

The slider available from PSC looks like the style of slider used by the North Shore Line on its equipment. Compare the sliders in the photos below with the PSC graphic above and photos below.

The PSC slider as a brass casing and after chemically blackened.  Normally the casting is flat in the area under the shoe. As the hot casting cools the metal contracts leaving the cheeks slightly pulled in.
This is a PSC slider on the trolley wire. The amount of contact with the wire can be seen.
Finally; springs, trolley wheels, and trolley sliders are available individually from the manufacturers. Springs can be obtained with different "pull" on the trolley pole. This translates into different pressure on the wire.

The availability of springs and trolley wheels and sliders means you are able to repair trolley poles. More on this and other info on trolley poles in the next post.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Trolley Pole Primer - Part 1 The Basics and the Base

The one item which makes a trolley model unique is the trolley pole! While this comment may seem obvious to us trolley modelers, it is the part of the model which draws the attention of the average non-trolley modeler and brings the question, "Does the model pick-up electricity from the wire?" 

Steam and diesel models don't have anything as odd or unique as a trolley pole!
My idea was to write everything in just one post. As my brain kicked into gear the realization set in, this was going to be one of those subjects requiring more than just a quickie writing.

We will start from the bottom of the trolley pole up in describing the differences between the trolley poles and their manufacturers. There are 4 different designs of trolley poles available based upon the trolley's base available in O scale. 

A trolley base is "an iron base attached to the roof of the car and having a swiveling socket for the bottom end of the trolley pole. The socket and pole are normally held in an upright position by one or more stiff coil springs which are compressed when the pole is pulled down on an angle." 1911 Electric Railway Dictionary

From the description the trolley base includes the object attached to the trolley boards on the roof of the car plus the spring holders and a pivot which allows the pole to move up and down.

For the part attached to the trolley boards on the roof on the car, many modelers use a soft metal casing available from Current Line Models or Q-Car. If a soft metal casting isn't used something which was included on the model, if it came already built-up, or we build our own.

Various prototype manufacturers produced trolley poles over the years trolleys were in use. These included:
     Ohio Brass,
     Union Standard made by R. D. Nuttall Company,
     National Ball and Rolling Bearing,
     Bayonet Roller-Ball made by Bayonet Trolley Harp Company,
     Sterling Roller-Bearing Trolley Base by Sterling-Meaker Company,
     Holland Ball-Bearing by Holland Trolley Supply Company, and

Each manufacturer supplied a number of different trolley pole bases. Some of the trolley pole base designs were unique to the company while other bases looked similar to other companies' bases.

We are lucky as there are 4 sources of trolley poles in O scale. In alphabetical order the manufacturers of O scale trolley poles are:

  • Current Line Models (originally Wagner Car Company)
  • Midcco Models - Jim Osborn
  • Precision Scale Models (PSC)
  • Q-Car Company
You can look up Current Line, PSC, and Q-Car trolley products on the web. Jim Osborn sells poles by word of mouth and at trolley meets. Here is one of his flyers.

Note the date on the flyer, prices may have changed so contact Jim Osborn 1st before sanding any money. 

You can buy direct from the manufacturers or from the several trolley model suppliers. Check the right side and bottom of this web page.

The underlined part of the following descriptions were given by the Wagner Car Company to their trolley poles. For the most part the descriptions are the ones used by trolley modelers.

1. Four Spring Horizontal Forward - the Ohio Brass name is Ohio Brass Form 20
   Probably the most common of all the different styles of trolley pole bases.
Trying to find a photo of this style of base was hard. Everyone takes photos of the entire car (model) while few concentrate on just the trolley pole and its base.

2. Two Spring Vertical Forward or 4 Spring Vertical Forward  - the Ohio Brass name is either
    Ohio Brass Form 10 or 11 depending upon the number of springs. Apparently these trolley poles could be obtained for just streetcars or for heavier duty.
The 3 photos above were supplied by Carl Lantz.
The above photo shows the bearings required to support the pole upon which it rotates 360 degrees. The page goes into the amount of weight the bearings can support.

3. Four Spring Horizontal Back - the Ohio Brass name is Ohio Brass Form 1
Please excuse the quality of the photo. The photo was taken from an early issue of Trolley Talk. The photo was taken before the entire trolley pole was blackened making the parts of the base easier to see..

4. PE air pneumatic (spring powered) available from Jim Osborn
    The in depth reason for the PE to develop and use the air pneumatic trolley pole is lost on me. PE developed and used the air pneumatic trolley pole base to keep the trolley pole from flying up in the air after a dewirement and destroying the span and associated wires suspending the trolley wire. Apparently the PE had not heard of or believed in the trolley retriever.

The air pneumatic part of the trolley pole base was used to lower the trolley pole in case it went too far up into the air. A lever was tripped as the trolley pole went up causing compressed air to be released into the cylinder. A piston in the cylinder pushed the pole down.
Suydam O scale brass model of a PE car with air pneumatic trolley poles.

I do not know if a trolley railway could specify a particular pole base or if the railway had to take what the builder of the car had. If a series of photos of PCC cars are examined, all of the PCC's came equipped with the vertical spring trolley base.

All of the CA&E cars were equipped with the horizontal spring base, except #20 the line car; until the St. Louis Car Co. delivered the 450 series of cars with vertical spring bases.

The North Shore Line had all 3 of the common trolley bases - springs horizontal, vertical, and backward in use at the same time.  The NSL kept the same type of trolley base on a car for the life of the car. As a car was shopped and some made into Silverliners, it emerged with the same trolley bases.

If the trolley base includes a "plate" attached to the trolley boards on the roof of the car plus the spring and pivot which allows the pole to move up and down plus a swiveling socket for the bottom end of the trolley pole. The swiveling socket has to be the 2-56 screw or something like it or the pole would not rotate in a 360 degree arc.

So how is a model trolley pole attached to a trolley model? There are 2 different way. Both ways have as many pluses and minuses. You'll have to decide which method is best for you. Furthermore, the descriptions below and installation instructions can vary depending upon the model and the modeler.

The 1st method, which I call the "screw mount", is to mount the 2-56 screw through the roof pointing up. The key is to have enough material in the roof to support the trolley pole. The drawing shows the best way to mount the screw in a brass roof. The 2-56 screw has to be insulated from the roof and the balance of the model to prevent short circuits.

The primary reason for having enough material under the brass roof is to protect the 2-56 screw plus the brass roof material from damage should the 2-56 screw receive a sharp blow from the side. The screw can be bent or dislodged and the brass roof severely bent out of shape.

The other method of mounting a trolley pole on a model is the "insert mount". First, either a 2-56 screw has to be screwed into the trolley base and cut short with out its head. Or, piece of 0.090" diameter brass has to be threaded 2-56 with enough threads to just screw into the trolley base. The balance of the 0.090" brass rod is cut so enough will fit into the insert in the roof of the model.
To prepare the model find out what size styrene tubing is required to accept a piece of brass tubing into which the either the 2-56 screw of the 0.090" rod will fit. Glue the piece of styrene to a piece of 0.020" thick styrene sheet to make the insulation for the trolley boards and the roof of the model. A soft metal casting of the piece of trolley base can be glued on top of the piece of 0.020" styrene sheet.
Glue a piece of plastic or other non-conductive material inside the roof to be used as a vertical support of the insert. Drill a hole for the styrene insulation tube into the trolley boards through the roof and vertical support piece.
A piece of wire has to be soldered to the piece of brass tubing into which the 2-56 screw or 0.090" brass rod will fit.  The wire is used to bring the trolley wire current into the model. The piece of brass rod can be glued into the styrene insulating tube.
For both of the methods of mounting the trolley base, my explanation was kept brief. You should discuss the pro and cons plus how to mount the base with another modeler who has used both methods.
One more piece of detail before we move on. The 4-Spring Horizontal Backward Base, due to the swing of the trolley harp as the pole moved up and down, can "cut" into the trolley base attached to the roof boards. This can happen with either the screw or insert mount. Due to the small size of the parts, the action of the trolley harp has to be seen to appreciate what is happening.
If you are not too confused we'll go onto the pole and the items at the top of the pole in the next post. There still are many areas to cover regarding trolley poles.