USAT Streamliner Rolling Resistance

As previously mentioned, these cars are heavy. The trucks are nicely built, and roll relatively freely, but each truck has carbon brush pickups on them.

I hate carbon brushes, there seems to be no way to keep them in a low friction mode. (In all fairness, the quality of the wheel plating and the brushes on the USAT streamliners is the best I have seen).

The best technique I have found for any carbon brushes is to keep them as clean as possible. Unfortunately, this often makes them squeak. Lubrication with the wrong lube gums something up, making a mess and often overheating things not to mention poor electrical pickup. Be sure to run the "conductive lube" that is a clear, thin, watery fluid.

In the case of the USAT streamliners, I run about 8 of them, and I have some steep grades. So, I'm looking for a solution.

There was a company called Great Big Trains that sold a conversion kit, and would even convert the trucks for you if you sent them in. As of October 2008, it seems that the company is not running, I heard some rumors about illness in the family.

The conversion was to do something like Aristo does on their heavyweights, i.e. one wheel electrically connected to the axle, and then pick up power from the axle.

Great Big Trains sold a metal spacer, you pulled one wheel off, tossed the plastic insulator (both wheels are insulated), put on the metal spacer and pressed the wheel back on. Then you put a wire in the journal, press in the ball bearing, and you pick up from the wheel to the axle to the ball bearing to the wire. I would think it would be best to do this to all wheels, thus you would have 4 wheel pickup typically.

Here's the information I have, archiving it here:

USA® Conversion Kit Instructions

The kit consists of eight 6mm unflanged bearings and four insert bushings. Each axle will have one wheel as a pick up, and one wheel insulated. Since the truck frame is metal this will allow each truck assembly to be electrified using one truck as a plus pickup and one as a minus pickup for the lighting. The cost for the kit is $25.00.

To do the conversion yourself, disassemble the truck by removing the brush holder and four screws that hold the side frames on.

You will need to get a #2 screw extractor and a tap holder to hold the extractor. Insert the extractor into the bushing and turn counter clockwise and pull towards you; the bushing will come out easily.

You will notice that the bushing hole is two sizes: the outer hole is .258 dia. and about 1/16' in depth. The inner hole is .235 dia. and about 3/16" in depth which allows for a press fit of the 6mm bearings.

When pressing in the bearings try to press it in flush with the inner bearing hole.

Remove 1 wheel from the axle and remove the plastic bushing. You will have to get a .315 chucking reamer to enlarge the ID hole on the wheel from .313 to .315. The bushing OD is .316 and will allow for a press fit. Install the metal bushing and reinstall the wheel on the axle.

Install nylon spacer on the axle. Since the bearings are recessed this will keep the axles from to much side play.

Before reassembling the truck, rotate each spring on the side frames about four complete turns. This will remove the paint and assure good electrical contact between the lower and upper part of the side frame.

Attach the red wire to one truck and the black to the other truck. I find that by adding a small lug to the wire and attaching the lug to the hole that was used to hold the brush holder on the frame works fine.

If you would like Great Big Trains to do the conversion for you (drilling, bearings, and bushing), the cost will be $45.00 for a pair of trucks plus shipping.

George Bellopatrick, Great Big Trains
Phone: 303-362-0951
Fax: 303-256-5489

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Great Big Trains
P.O. Box 461916
Aurora, CO 80014                     

  Maybe now that I have a small lathe/mill I will see what I can do myself.


Weather Underground PWS KCACARLS78