Magnetic Flat Car Loads - Proof of Concept.

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MOWboss

Member
I've been playing around with the idea of magnetic loads for flat cars.. It struck me that every flat car has a metal weight plate under the plastic deck. I set out to find a magnet that was small enough and strong enough that it would securely hold a load on a flat car deck.

For my test load I found a 2" x 1" x 1/2" magnet. By itself this magnet was so strong that it was painful to pull it off the flat car. So I cut down to a smaller 1/2" x 1/2" x 1/2" cube. I selected a resin casting of a lumber load. I chopped out a cavity to insert the magnets. The magnets proved strong enough that I was able to glue scale 4 x 4's to the bottom of the lumber loads. Multiple trips around the layout and the load stayed in place. To remove the load you still have to hold the flat car down to break the magnetic grip. THIS IS GOING TO WORK......

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I've long had the habit of cutting up scrap bits of 3/4" lumber into random lengths of 1, 2, 3, 4 inch lengths that I would clad with scrap scribed sheeting to represent various size HO crates. The sheeting was haphazard; horizontal boards, vertical boards, plywood. If the scrap sheet fit it was stuck on the scrap wood core. All of these crates would end up on loading platforms around the layout. To install a magnet into an existing crate I needed a round magnet; it had to be 3/4" or less, short in height and strong enough to "stick" to the metal weigh plate under the plastic flat car deck. I found this 8 pack at my local Home Depot. I actually took an old flat car with the metal plate attached to it to try and determine the magnetic strength. I have to say its frustrating to find the right magnet. "Hobby magnets" don't have a strength or pull force rating.
Being sold in their blister packs it's hard to determine the strength of just one magnet. These magnets were 8/$4 and seemed a good investment at 50 cents a load.


The other magnet that I'm using are the old kitchen cabinet magnets from decades ago. This is what they look like once the plastic case is removed.
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I took all the magnets out of the package and oriented and marked the poles in one direction. Don't know if this is an issue - but I don't know what I don't know.
I used a 3/4" Fostner bit to drill a hole in the underside of the crates I've made over the years. I wanted the magnet to be flush with the bottom of the crate. I felt that it would give me maximum "stick" to the flat car deck and allow me to add 4 x 4 spacers that would look good sitting on a loading platform. I pumped RTV silicone into the hole, oriented the magnet and laid a metal plate across the base to keep the magnet flush with the bottom. 4 x 4 spacers were glued on after the silicone cured.
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Some of my guidelines.

I run short (40') cars on my layout. Flat car loads will be no longer than 16 feet. (1 magnet). This has given me the extra bonus of mixed loads; I can now put a load of lumber on one half and a large crate on the other half. I can actually off load one item, leave it on a loading dock and send the flat car on to the next customer.

Small crates (1", 2" +/-) will get glued together to make up one 16' load.
Beware that small crates (1" x 1") next to each other with magnets will repel.
Crates can be loaded into gondolas.
Apparently orienting the magnetic poles allows me to stack one crate on top of another with sufficient "grip" to ride around the layout. Beware height limits.
The magnets imbedded inside wooden cores weigh almost nothing

Some examples of mix & match loads; same two flats with loads swapped around - gondola with load
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Operation is now enhanced - Loads can sit on the customers dock until the "empty" flat car arrives. Or the flat car load can be off loaded at the end user.
 

MOWboss

Member
I use 2mm magnets and they are very strong on all my loads.
For example, during operations, the main load is removed and replace with junk on the flat cars.

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Very nice. You're where I hope to go. So far I've added magnets to crates I've made over the years and lumber loads.
I just discovered that some old (Roundhouse?) flat cars have a cast white metal - nonmagnetic frame. I've cut a length
of metal banding between the plastic deck and the cast frame.
Can you clarify are your magnets in the flat car floor? If so what is your "junk" made from? I have some 1/8" rare earth magnets I'm going to a experiment with.
 

Hawkesburytrain

Well-Known Member
Very nice. You're where I hope to go. So far I've added magnets to crates I've made over the years and lumber loads.
I just discovered that some old (Roundhouse?) flat cars have a cast white metal - nonmagnetic frame. I've cut a length
of metal banding between the plastic deck and the cast frame.
Can you clarify are your magnets in the flat car floor? If so what is your "junk" made from? I have some 1/8" rare earth magnets I'm going to a experiment with.

I drilled a 2mm hole to insert the magnet and also install the same magnet under all the loads even the scrap. For example, I made a small tarp and glued a magnet under the tarp. Same for the piece of wood, I drilled a hole in the 2x4 (HO scale) and inserted a magnet.
 

MOWboss

Member
I drilled a 2mm hole to insert the magnet and also install the same magnet under all the loads even the scrap. For example, I made a small tarp and glued a magnet under the tarp. Same for the piece of wood, I drilled a hole in the 2x4 (HO scale) and inserted a magnet.
Slick idea using an embedded magnet to attach another magnet.
Will your 2mm magnet stick to the plastic floor of a normal flat car with a metal weight plate under it?

I've been testing 1/8 x 1/4 rare earth magnets this weekend. They will stick to the flat car floor (weight plate underneath). I have some nonmagnetic pallets ( manufacturer escapes me) that have a space under the top board around .070. The 1/8 magnets, on their side is .125 and the look isn't right. There are 1/16 rare earth magnets available that I can bury up inside the pallet space for a better look.
I discovered a 2mm x 1mm rare earth magnet has a pull force of .03 pounds. The 1/16 x 1/8 has a pull force of .17 pounds. If your magnets "stick" then there's a reasonable chance the larger 1/16 will work.
To be honest pull force info is really a reference number for me. I have no way of telling just what pull force I need.
 

Hawkesburytrain

Well-Known Member
Will your 2mm magnet stick to the plastic floor of a normal flat car with a metal weight plate under it?

The answer is no since it's not that strong. That is why I drilled a 2mm hole and glued the magnet in the hole. All my flat cars have a redone flat bed out of scale lumber (except 2).
My covered bridge which is 23" long has 4 x 2mm magnets holding it down, in case I have a problem inside the bridge or if someone wants to see the inside since it's a prototypical bridge build to scale.
 

MOWboss

Member
The answer is no since it's not that strong. That is why I drilled a 2mm hole and glued the magnet in the hole. All my flat cars have a redone flat bed out of scale lumber (except 2).
My covered bridge which is 23" long has 4 x 2mm magnets holding it down, in case I have a problem inside the bridge or if someone wants to see the inside since it's a prototypical bridge build to scale.
Thanks Hawkesburytrain. I was afraid that was the answer. I'll be looking at Neo magnets that Smudge 617 suggested.
 

Smudge617

Well-Known Member
Thanks Hawkesburytrain. I was afraid that was the answer. I'll be looking at Neo magnets that Smudge 617 suggested.
I've only got one flatcar so far, which I've loaded with "logs", stuck together with wood glue, added a few rusty chains, and stuck it down with
blu-tak, that works for me, but yes Neo magnets are probably a good alternative as that's the direction you want to go.
 

Hawkesburytrain

Well-Known Member
Thanks Hawkesburytrain. I was afraid that was the answer. I'll be looking at Neo magnets that Smudge 617 suggested.
No problem, personally I found them to strong for what I wanted. I guess it depends on the weight of your load. I needed the magnets to be easily removable.
 

MOWboss

Member
I've only got one flatcar so far, which I've loaded with "logs", stuck together with wood glue, added a few rusty chains, and stuck it down with
blu-tak, that works for me, but yes Neo magnets are probably a good alternative as that's the direction you want to go.
I have a small fleet of roundhouse skeleton cars. I glued up a triangle of cut logs and wrapped in chain. They travel well the short distance from my forest to the sawmill.
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