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The HO Trolleybus by Aristo Craft (top) and Second Generation EHEIM (bottom)

The HO Trolleybus, Part 1: Rails or Wires

By John S, Halajk, TCA 84-20653 (AKA: Dr. Brass), and Charles Jacomino, TCA 04-58134 (AKA: SEPTA Charlie)                                       Winter 2021

Here in the U.S. one can find two major HO Trolleybus Systems for sale on eBay (©). The purpose of this article is to inform the reader that the two major overhead Trolleybus Systems, Early EHEIM/Aristo Craft (herein called RAILS) and the AHM/EHEIM/BRAWA (herein called WIRES), are totally incompatible with each other.

In addition, we wish to give the reader some guidance in choosing one or the other. They are the same basic body design (as you can see in the above photo) evolving from G. Eheim's design of the 1950s. In the early 1960s the design went from RAILS to WIRES to simplify and reduce costs. Simply put, a WIRES bus designed for WIRES will not negotiate a RAIL loop and vice versa. The key reason is the gap between power RAILS or power WIRES. (One can bend the bus power poles to adjust the gap, but we do not recommend doing such.) See the photo below:

The RAIL gap is wider than the WIRE gap.

Here the Power Poles Gap difference can be clearly seen.

The above photos show the evolution of the pole systems and the gap difference. An HO modeler would prefer the WIRE overhead design.  It simply looks more realistic, but that realism comes at a price. Care must be taken during construction to properly space the poles. (It would be nice to have the flexibility of layout adjustment!) The early RAIL Sets made the layout adjustable by supplying metal bases as shown below.

Out of the box RAIL (Aristo Craft) Starter Set with Metal Bases

The bases are not plentiful, but they can be duplicated using metal bar stock. The key is to have a recessed area to secure the locking nut.  One can use the bases for WIRES support poles as shown on the photos below. This allows the plentiful supply of WIRES Trolleybus Sets the flexibility of rapid setup and adjustment. Part 2 of this series will show more details.

BRAWA Bus with ARISTO Metal Bases

Enjoy the video of the RAIL Starter Set with metal support pole bases.

CAUTION: Do not run the bus for extended periods of time, say more than five minutes, until you know how warm the shell gets. Frequently check to see if the plastic shell is getting warm. Allow things to cool down for a least fifteen minutes. As you learn the heat-up and cool-down times, mark it on the bottom of the bus.

You will find many RAIL shells warped by the heat load of the motor and/or lights. The authors are uncertain if the WIRES design warps because of heat load. If anyone knows, please advise. We suggest installing LED lights in place of the incandescent factory installed light bulbs. We have seen the Tri Axel Trailers warp because of the trailer lights.

The Early RAIL Line ran for about ten years while the WIRES Line ran for about thirty years. There are several different Buses that one can acquire. Collectors favor the Tri Axel and Hinged Buses. The author's favorite is the RAIL line which has more mass in the bus shells.  The WIRES Line is the only one that offers the Hinged Bus Designs. Here are a few of the buses.

Tri Axel Trolleybus with Trailer by Aristo Craft

EHEIM Tri Axel Trolleybus


Samples of the later Starter Sets by with WIRES


Enjoy the video of the RAIL Starter Set with metal support pole bases.

In 2019 Dale A. Heuer published a Copyrighted Document:
"The Evolution and a History of Trolley Bus … Evaluation of my Trolley Bus Collection."

If you are considering installing a Trolleybus System, this is an excellent resource to read before purchasing items. Contact Dale.

Finally, here is access to a non-copyrighted Aristo Craft pdf that we can share with you. If anyone has access to a WIRES version, please advise.

Surprise, Surprise! They look OK with O Gauge Trains, but S Gauge would be closer to scale.

Sample of Bus against 1/45 scale model

Should you have any questions, contact or

Second Decade.
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