Mods & Tips for the USAT F3

Here's some things you can do to keep your F3 running and looking nice


There are numerous small details that can be damaged or fall off.

There is a small square block right under the diaphragm at the end of the units. This is glued on and comes off easily. Scrape the paint off it and re-glue securely.

The brake hoses also should be glued securely. Be sure to trim the pins that project inside the body so you can pull the chassis out. These pins project just enough to block removal.

The coupler lifting mechanisms are a bit fragile. You can replace the small eyelets with brass ones from micromark. If you have changed to other couplers, you might find a way to block the rod up away from the couplers, since they can hang up on it.


The "old style" axles were known to split. See the section on split axles. The new ones can too, just not as often. You can reinforce the outer part of the plastic housing with nylon thread/line and then coat in epoxy, that will prevent it from happening, or do the sleeves. 

One other way to help is to remove the traction tired axles and replace with "solid" ones. When the loco stalls or has a derailment, those traction tires grab like crazy, and too much force is transmitted, and the axle slips, or the housing cracks. By going to "solid" wheels, you avoid this "mechanical stalling" and overloading the wheelsets.

I have swapped out all the traction-tired axles, and when I am doing this on a used or older loco, 9 times out of 10 the cracked axles are on the wheelsets with traction tires. Draw your own conclusions.


When I swap out the traction tired wheelsets, I reason I can "afford" to get rid of the"skates" or sliders for power pickup. Not only is this an improvment in appearance, but they hang up on things causing derailaments and they can also short out on live frogs.

Weight "Corrosion":

When I took the loco apart, the weights had some white, powdery deposits. It turns out this is common, and is lead carbonate, caused by the interaction of lead with sulphides and carbon dioxide:

This is not uncommon, and is driven by the environment. I gave it a coating of an anticorrosive (Lanocote) spray, that will keep the air off it, and look nicer. A few quick swipes with a wire brush and then a spray: (use a mask, the powdery dust is poisonous)


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