Electrical pickup / contactor for electric trains and busses
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The invention is a new electric-contactor suitable for application to electrically driven apparatus, such as model trains, wherein electricity that is available to a train car's wheels can now be further conducted by low friction rollers located between the train's wheels and a train car; thereby reducing friction and eliminating the drag and wear from carbon brushes presently utilized for this purpose, and thus enabling greater efficiency in the overall operation of the train, or other mobile apparatus.

Hays, Jeffrey (Reno, NV, US)
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Primary Examiner:
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
John F. Harck (San Rafael, CA, US)
I claim as my invention:

1. A device for conducting electricity from an electric train wheel, rail, track or cable wire where the electricity is picked-up by an electrical contact roller for conveyance to a mobile apparatus, comprising: a) a device comprised of a electrically conductive roller or rollers riding on an electrically conductive axle situate within an electrically conductive axle housing; b) a device wherein the said roller-axle-housing apparatus is affixed to or made a part of a mounting plate; c) a device wherein there is an adjustable tension spring mechanism to control roller contact pressure; d) a device wherein the electricity is conveyed via the device to a feed wire.

2. A device according to claim 1 wherein the mounting plate and roller-axle-housing assembly is sized to fit various model railway gauges.

3. A device according to claim 1 wherein the mounting plate is of a conductive material.

4. A device according to claim 1 wherein the mounting plate is of a non-conducting material.

5. A device according to claim 1 wherein apparatus is enclosed in an external housing designed to be affixed to a wand or pole.

6. A device according to claim 5 wherein the external housing is insulated from the roller-axle-housing apparatus.

7. A device according to claim 2 wherein the mounting assembly is designed to contain the roller-axle-housing assembly.

8. A device according to claim 2 wherein the apparatus is sized to fit industrial and commercial apparatus.



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1. Field of Invention

The present invention relates to a new device for the transfer of electric power from a train's wheels directly to a train car or other similar apparatus via low-friction rollers contacting the wheel(s) of the towed car, and a method of reducing and adjusting any friction or drag on the mobile (rolling) apparatus. In particular, the new device uses free-running contact rollers to conduct electricity from an electrically charged source, such as train wheels in contact with an electrically charged track, into the mobile apparatus.

2. Description of Related Art

The need for reduced friction and drag on trailered or towed train cars or other mobile apparatus which are pulled by an electrically driven engine in contact with train tracks deriving power from an exterior source is recognized as a priority for increased efficiency in operations. Present methods of electrical pickup include brushes or scrapers torsioned between the mobile apparatus and the electric track. These methods produce considerable drag on the mobile apparatus, wear out, required regular maintenance, and generally result in reduced efficiency and reduced free rolling motion that might otherwise obtain to the apparatus. Further, these methods of power transfer create wear on the track, train wheel or axle, and are frequently the cause of power interruptions and “flickering” in the mobile apparatus.

The wear produced upon or by existing contactors, either to portions of the mobile apparatus or to the track is objectionable, requiring frequent cleaning and replacement of the brushes, scrapers, and to some extent the track itself. Combined with the innate resistance, or friction, inherent in the application of such devices, is their inability to maintain a constant electrical contact, hence producing power interruptions which can lead to the reduced life expectancy of the powered components they feed, such as lights, motors and switches.

What is needed therefore, is a practical, cost-effective, low-friction device to conduct power from to the mobile apparatus, without further deleterious contact with the track.


The present invention consists of a free-wheeling conductive roller device that contacts THE WHEEL(S) of a train car, preferably intended for an electric model train, so that the otherwise non-locomotive cars may obtain to electricity derived from the train wheels riding on powered track(s), to provide electricity for lights, switches and motors that may be in said cars.

Further, the invention will allow consistent contact with the electrically charged wheel(s) in a manner that reduces friction, flickering from power interruptions, and is not subject to contamination or oxidation of the tracks.


FIG. 1 is a view of the preferred embodiment of the invention as shown from the underside of a railroad car, in contact with the train's wheels.

FIG. 2 is an expanded view of the preferred embodiment.


The invention is a new electric-contactor device suitable for application to electrically driven apparatus, such as model trains, whereby electricity is conveyed from the car's wheels, which ride on the track, to individual cars. The new invention provides a path for source electricity to the car, while reducing friction on the wheels, thus enabling greater efficiency in the overall operation of the train.

The invention consists of electrically conductive rollers, such as brass, affixed to a metal axle located within a metal housing, carried on a mounting plate that can be attached to the underside of a rail car “truck” in a manner so as to provide constant contact between the roller(s) and the electrically conducting train's wheels by use of an adjustable tensioner or spring.

The design and configuration of the device is such as to allow for a low coefficient of friction while maintaining constant contact with the conducting train's wheels, by use of an adjustable tension spring that maintains relatively consistent contact pressure between the roller(s) and the train's wheels.

Electricity is conducted from the charged rail, through the train's wheels to the roller(s), axle and housing, and thus through an electric conductor (pigtail) to provide an electrical feed to on-board equipment.

In accordance with the above-described mechanics of how this invention works to conduct electricity available from a power source to the mobile apparatus, the method of attachment of the device to a train wheel truck will vary in accordance with the particular application.

In one embodiment of the invention, the device, being the “roller-axle-housing-conductor-tensioning assembly” (hereafter “Roller-Contactor”), is made a part of, or attached to, a mounting plate configured to be affixed to the underside of a rail car truck (wheel assembly) by a mounting screw, with any of a variety of mounting blocks (spacers) to accommodate various models of wheel assemblies.

In another embodiment of the invention, the device is mounted in a housing suitable to contain the Roller-Contactor, for the application intended.

The present invention can be carried out on wide variety of sizes from a distance of only a few millimeters between the rollers to several feet for large apparatus.

The Roller-Contactor can be adapted to a wide variety of applications, including but not limited to model railroad cars, as well as to full size industrial and commercial vehicles.

While these descriptions directly describe the above embodiments, it is understood that those skilled in the art may conceive modifications and/or variations to the specific embodiments shown and described herein; including models of the device suitable for attachment to sliding doors and such where it is desirable to convey electricity from a power source to an electrically operated sign, fixture or appliance thereon. Any such modifications or variations that fall within the purview of this description are intended to be included therein as well. It is understood that the description herein is intended to be illustrative only and is not intended to be limitative.


The preferred embodiment of this invention is shown in FIG. 1 and FIG. 2. With reference to FIG. 2, the invention consists of an electrically conductive metal roller 1, secured upon a metal axle 2, which is encased in a metal axle housing 3. The metal roller(s) 1 are affixed to the metal axle 2 by washer(s) 4 and nuts(s) 5. Axle housing 3 is attached to a slotted, adjustable mounting plate 6. Mounting plate 6 is secured to the underside of a railroad car truck (railroad car wheel assembly) with mounting screw 13, which protrudes through washer 12, electrical pigtail 11, tension spring 10, and washer 9, thusly through sleeve 8 and into mounting block 7. Mounting block 7 together with sleeve 8 are sized to fit various railroad car configurations, and may be affixed to the railroad car wheel truck by an appropriate adhesive or fastening device, such as a screw 13.

It should be understood that electrical energy is transferred from the electric rail to the train's wheel(s) and thus to the roller(s); and from the roller(s) to the axle, housing, tensioning spring and pigtail, respectively. Where the applied voltage is DC (direct current), two such assemblies shall be required per rail car in order to contact each rail track, enabling completion of the electrical circuit.

FIG. 1 shows the preferred embodiment of the invention fully assembled and in contact with the train's wheels 14, as viewed from the bottom of the truck assembly.

It should be noted that tubing 8 and mounting block 7 may be of various lengths and sizes to accommodate attachment to various railroad wheel trucks; and that the slotted mounting plate 6 can likewise be suitably sized. Longitudinal adjustment is made possible by the elongated slot in mounting plate 6 and the corresponding shape of the tensioning spring 10 to enable secure, low-friction contact with the train's wheel(s).

It is therefore seen that the roller set(s) of this invention can be sized to match a wide variety of model cars, trains and busses, as well as industrial, commercial and municipal applications. The electrical continuity is conveyed to the car or other mobile apparatus with the least amount of friction or wear, providing an improved method of electrical conductivity and reduced drag on propulsive motors and gears of the engine tasked with pulling these cars.

Contacting the train's wheels, rather than the track, obviates the need to constantly remove dirt and oxidation from the track. Further, due to the Roller-Contactor being in contact with several wheels on each car, flickering is significantly reduced and the life expectancy of lights and other electrical devices on the car is extended.