USAT Rolling Stock

(remember: links to sub-pages at the bottom of this page)

click to jump to the bottom



USA Trains (USAT) has basically an excellent line of 1:29 products. The "Ultimate" series always has metal wheels. There is also a 1:24 series, called the American series. It was bought from someone (I need the name here), and they have kept it going. There are some 1:29 models that are not great, like the flat cars, though.

The detail on the 1:29 stuff is great, a cut above Aristo rolling stock. This detail is often more fragile, mostly in terms of the latching mechanisms for the doors, etc.. By contrast, Aristo doors do not open on several of their box cars, and the latches are not scale.

In addition, USAT puts the Kadee 830 coupler pad with the correct setback and holes on all their cars. Exceptions:

  • caboose (missing mounting pad)
  • container cars (missing mounting pad)
  • cars that should have a cushion-type underframe(SP Hydra-Cushion / ATSF Shock Control) (mounting holes are there, but should have positioned the draft gear 0.6 to 0.85" further out from the end of the car.:

Data on USAT products:

There is a nice Yahoo group that has a registry of their 1:24 reefer series, that many people collect: There is also a photo database that has scans of catalogs and other cars. I'm hoping some day it will be expanded to more, since the streamlined passenger cars have had different road numbers over the years, while keeping the same USAT part number.


USAT Ultimate freight trucks

Recently Ted Doskaris brought to my attention that there are more variations in the trucks on this series than I realized. I started with the 40 foot box cars. I had noticed that my 10,000 gallon tank cars had sprung trucks. Now it seems that there are even more variations.

USAT 40' cars (box, reefer, etc.) - even though unsprung they performed better than Aristo sprung trucks on my layout. Loosen the side frame screws 1/4 turn to give a bit of equalization.

  • Bettendorf plastic trucks, weighing 0.42 pounds / 6.8 oz, appear to be made of nylon
  • unsprung sideframes
  • Stainless steel axle
  • non-magnetic wheels with a thin "black oxide" coating, which wears off the treads quickly with no "mess" on the rails.Typically undergauge, 1.561-1.565",  1.370" wheel over flanges, 1.125" max tread diameter, 0.1225 flange depth, pretty deep, tread width .2"
  • USAT Part 2033 - Bettendorf truck provision for electric pick-up, without wheels. come with hook and loop attached, and center mounting screw and washer.

USAT 10,000 gallon tank cars, container/well cars

  • Bettendorf plastic trucks
  • sprung sideframes
  • Stainless steel axle
  • non-magnetic wheels with a thin "black oxide" coating.

USAT "modern" tank car and the 4 bay center flow hopper

  • modern roller bearing trucks - all metal
  • sprung sideframes
  • Stainless steel axle
  • non-magnetic wheels with thick paint on the them, including the wheel treads. Looks to be the same paint as the trucks. I recommend a wire brush on a dremel tool, since this paint will rapidly come off onto your rails. Do it when you first get the cars.

Overall tips on trucks:

When pulling out the wheels on trucks with plastic sideframed, they are normally flexible enough to pull one journal off one axle end, and then pull the axle out of the other journal. If you have a hard time, you can remove one sideframe screw.

With metal trucks, it's a necessity to remove the sideframe, sometimes both.

On the unsprung trucks, back the sideframe screws out 1/4 turn and twist them a bit, this will give you a little equalization. I have great success with 50 car trains with USAT cars and unsprung trucks.

The wheels are always out of gauge from the factory, usually tight. When gauging them (I use the Aristo gauge), watch to see if the wheel slips on the plastic insulator. If so, be sure to use a drop of CA glue there. I drop it on the inside so any extra does not show. I make sure it wicks into the interface between the axle and the insulator and also the wheel and the insulator, both points can slip. In my case, if the gauge can be adjusted easily by hand, use the glue.

With the wheels out, I lubricate the axle journals.

  • For plastic sideframes, I use Hob-E-lube dry graphite with molybdenum, as the moly has a tendency to "plate" itself to plastic nicely.
  • For metal sideframes, I prefer a heavy oil, like the Hob-e-Lube heavy oil. I feel that the heavy oil stays put better, and lubes better than grease, since the clearance between the axle and the journal is usually pretty "loose".

The way I lube plastic sideframes:

  • Put some graphite in one journal "hole" pointing up.
  • Place one axle tip into the graphited journal.
  • Now while holding the axle in the journal, turn the truck over and now put graphite into the other journal, and bend the sideframe to get the axle in it.
  • This way, you have the lubrication at the very end of the journal.
  • Now, I use a wire brush on a drill press to spin the wheels, which cleans any paint off the tread and burnishes the graphite into the bearings, and gets rid of the excess graphite.

Don't over tighten the sideframe screws, again, for unsprung trucks, back each out 1/4 to 1/2 turn, and that will give you a bit of equalization in the truck, making it track even better over switches and rough track.

To verify you have it right, hold a sideframe in each hand and twist back and forth a bit. You should feel a little play on each side. Adjust the screws as necessary.


Ultimate series Kadee body mount tips:

I've converted to body mounts for all my 40 foot freight cars.

First, remove the trucks. While they are off, check the wheel gauge and lubricate the journals if necessary.

Next, remove the coupler lift bars at each end. Use a small screwdriver to lift out the end near the coupler. Now, carefully work the bar out of the clip near the ladder. If this is tight, then try using an awl to push out the clip. Some have enough play to remove the lift bar without breaking the clip. These things can go flying, so put your finger over it.

Next, remove the rod between the brake wheel and the plastic "pivot" mechanism that takes the motion underneath to the brake cylinder. You want to pull the rod away from the plastic part on the underbody. Be gentle so you don't rip the whole thing apart. I hold the rod, and then use a flat blade screwdriver resting on the underbody with the blade on the plastic where it attaches to the rod.

Now remove all 8 screws, and pull them all the way out of the body.

You can now carefully remove the underbody. Opening the car doors and pushing from inside helps.

Add Kadee 830's to each end, using 2 screws and putting the nuts inside the body. Tighten well, hold the nut. You don't want to pull the whole thing apart because you did not tighten it well.

Now reassemble the underbody. Put the 8 screws back in one by one, you can look inside the car door to locate the bosses for the screws. If you have small hands, you might be able to put them inside to guide the screws, but try not to do this, it's easy to break off the door latches and door tracks. If you do this, take off anything on your wrist or fingers.

Next remove the couplers from the trucks, and trim the tang extension off. The coupler screw will now be about 1/4" from the end. You can use a razor saw, but they clip off cleanly with a good pair of flush cut dykes.

Mount the trucks backwards so the coupler tangs point inwards. Doing this allows you to reverse the operation later, or convert back to truck mount Kadees. You can always cut the entire coupler tang off later, but this works fine.

USAT part numbers for rolling stock:

Please visit the main USAT Motive power page, I put all the numbers there.


In 2011, USAT showed some new body mount couplers with draft gear:




Bay Window Caboose0-6-0 USRA switcher4-6-2 K4 Pacific2-8-2 EBT #12
Goose #560' Box  
   streamliners      Heavyweights 
Weather Underground PWS KCACARLS78