USA Trains GE 44 Ton Loco Experiences & Body Mounting Kadee Centerset Couplers

USA Trains GE 44 Ton Loco Experiences & Body Mounting Kadee Centerset Couplers

Ted Doskaris
Rev GE-A Initial Release
Nov. 17, 2020


Comparatively, the USA Trains factory truck mount coupler is very low to the railhead as shown below.

Shown above is the loco equipped with body mounted CamPac BoxTM fitted with Kadee centerset coupler where the truck can freely be moved without interference.




Damage Assessment
CamPac Box Installation
Installation of Factory Parts






The USA Trains 1/29 "G" scale GE 44 Ton loco has been out of production for awhile; however, many are in use and very much appreciated by folks that have them. It's a good "Goat" as it comes (came) from the factory having traction tires on its inboard axle wheels in addition to being weighted to about 5 pounds. Accordingly, this scale model 44 Tonner can pull more cars than its prototype that was rated under 400 horsepower.

This loco is very realistic, being close to prototype, including its height from the railhead.

A USA Trains GE 44 Ton preowned Erie Lackawanna loco had been obtained for development of the CamPac 3-D printed coupler boxes.

Though at first inspection the loco appeared to have little use (wheels & power pickup skates had little wear), much of the damage found may have resulted from the loco being dropped.

It's unusual for a USA Trains loco to have truck mount couplers. As shown below, perhaps USA Trains developers reasoned there was not sufficient space between the truck and pilot to incorporate body mounts commonly done on their other locos.

Though the loco had its grab irons installed (maybe done by factory), it did not have its railings & cut levers installed, but they were found in the box. It's normal for the customer to install those parts.


To be described in this vignette will include issues borne from repairing this example loco, installing factory parts, and replacing its factory truck low mounted couplers with body mounted 3-D printed CamPac BoxesTM fitted with Kadee centerset couplers from the 907 kit.





Damage Assessment

To be Illustrated encapsulates what was found to be damaged with the body shell removed.

As shown below, with the lead weight having be discovered sheared off, greater damage would have resulted during shipping & handling in its box with the weight free to bash-in the loco's internals.

The cab's underside walls include "J Clips" for fasten the cab to the chassis. Below is a better view showing the 3 of them broken off!


The illustration below concerns how the loco's cab floor might be prevented from separating. (The floor telescopes into the cab.)

Note: It's possible the shown standoff posts were factory eliminated depending on how the floor could have been fastened to the cab at different production runs.

The chassis mounting post for the switch board proved to be so brittle, that when exposed, it had been broken or broke when removing the screw.


When the loco was test run, it exhibited a ratcheting sound from the rear truck!  With the gear box (aka, motor block) lid removed, gear damage was discovered - illustrated below.

The front truck also had split axle collars, though gear teeth were Okay - shown below.


Repairs to this particular loco will be shown later.





CamPac Box Installation

Follow the "Installation Guide for USA Trains GE 44 Tonner & CamPac Components" located on Colin Camarillo's website where the CamPac BoxesTM can also be obtained.

That said, much of what's entailed is described as follows:

CamPac BoxTM Preparation:

The box is to be preassembled as illustrated below.


CamPac parts can be pre painted to match a loco's livery as shown below.


The relationship of the box and pedestal with fasteners to be used for mounting is illustrated below.


Chassis Preparation:

The only loco modification needed to accept CamPac 3-D printed coupler boxes is to cut out a rectangular shape notch in each pilot. Of course, the factory truck mount couplers are to be removed.


To allow access to do this work necessitates trucks to be temporally separated from the chassis. (The trucks and interconnecting wires need not be totally removed.) These operations are illustrated below.


To mount the CamPac pedestal to the chassis, longer screws will be substituted for existing chassis screws.

The CamPac pedestal is mounted to the chassis as shown below.

Mounting the CamPac BoxesTM is illustrated & described in the "Installation Guide for USA Trains GE 44 Tonner & CamPac Components"

Shown below is what the example loco's CamPac BoxTM looks like when painted and installed.






Repairs & fixes done to the example loco include:
(1) Replacing axles gears in both trucks
(2) Remounting sheared off lead weight
(3) Fastening front hood to chassis
(4) Fastening cab to chassis
(5) Servicing switch board


Replacing axles gears in both trucks Bad Axle Collars and /or Gears:

The truck's sideframes can be separated from the gear box (aka, motor block) after the truck is unfastened from the "A" frame as previously shown in section, Chassis Preparation.

The example Erie Lackawanna 44 Tonner described in this vignette was acquired by Colin Camarillo in used condition. This loco had axle collars spilt on both trucks, and the rear truck had one axle with worn gear teeth - example shown below with axles popped-up from the motor block.



Replacement Gears:

Replacement axles complete with new wheels & gear typically can be obtained from USA Trains, P/N R22-170 or R22-171 for use with traction tires.  However, there is a more durable aftermarket gear only replacement alternative - albeit more costly.  In this regard, replacement gears had been obtained by Colin Camarillo from Jiro Yeramian (who does not seem to promote them). It's said these new gears are machined from durable Delrin.

Illustrated below is one of Jiro's aftermarket gears compared to one of the USA Trains' gears that had been removed from the motor block.

As can be seen above, the axle stubs can be pressed in the new gear using a vise with sockets to cover over the axle tips. The internal ring within the gear will assure it's centered and properly gauged when pressing on the wheel stub axles.


Removing / Replacing Axles:

Whilst working on a truck's gear box (aka, motor block), its advisable to prevent the axles from popping out before removing the lid - example method shown below.

After the motor block lid is taken off (it's fastened by 4 screws), an individual axle assembly can then be removed or replaced without affecting the other axle held in with a rubber band - shown below.

Because various USA Trains locos do differ, shown below is how the GE 44 Tonner axle bushings should be inserted in its motor block pocket.

With the axle's brass bushings properly oriented, seated and gear meshed, a rubber band can be temporarily placed spanning under the motor block from axle tip to tip to retain it until the lid is fastened. (In fact, putting the rubber band on before finally seating the bushing and meshing the gear teeth makes it easier to manipulate the axle to do just that and then retain it.)

Once installed, the gears must be lubricated before installing the motor block lid.

The USA Trains 44 Tonner owners manual (excerpt shown above) specifies using Hob-E- Lube brand moly grease - example application shown below.

With the gears installed and motor blocks buttoned up, a test can be done to verify smooth operation.

As shown in the example setup below, I found with as little as 1.6 volts DC applied across the power pickup skates, the wheels turned. This is very excellent. (I noticed other loco models may start wheel turning at about 1.9 VDC.)



Remounting sheared off lead weight:

A method used for reattaching the sheared off weight is illustrated below.



Fixing Headlight:

A method to repair the front hood's broken headlight lens (P/N not listed) and its surrounding split bezel (aka, lens cover P/N R22-151) is illustrated below.

Note:  USA Trains likely can have replacement parts, but obtaining not listed parts like the lens may require speaking to someone that could be problematic during the COVID 19 pandemic.

Note: The example tacky glue used is white when wet but dries clear, so not too noticeable when looking at the replaced lens.


Fastening front hood to chassis:

A method is used to thread 2 new screw holes located on the underside walls of the front hood as an alternative for attaching it to the chassis because the hood's interior posts for mounting are too damaged and too brittle. The new holes are located adjacent to the no longer used interior posts - illustrated below.

The vertical splits at the front corners of the hood were mitigated by dripping CA glue down through the screw holes, letting it dry, and then carefully using a mounting screw with progressive back & forth motion to re-thread the holes.

With the hood having the newly added threaded holes for mounting, the chassis must have corresponding hole locations for inserting the mounting screws to be threaded into the hood - illustrated below.



Chassis Standoffs for Cab Floor:

Depending on production run dates, the use of 4 chassis standoffs to support the cab floor may not be needed, so the factory may have removed them. However, if the chassis standoffs are needed to support the cab's floor, a method for improvising substitutes is illustrated below.



Fastening Cab to Chassis:

For mounting the cab, it comes from the factory with 4 plastic "J" clips on its underside which snap into corresponding chassis slots. The example 44 Tonner had 3 broken off clips - maybe because of the plastic aging and becoming brittle. 

An example method is used to thread 3 new screw holes in the underside of the cab where it had mounting clips - illustrated below. The screws are used to fasten the cab to the chassis.



Switch Board:

The switch board includes 4 open frame On-Off slid switches for controlling motors, lights, smoke, and sound - if so equipped. The board is fastened on 2 chassis standoff posts with screws. The example loco had one broken chassis post - maybe because of the plastic aging and becoming brittle. The post shown below on its side was CA glued back on the chassis.

The board's open frame switches are subject to oxidation that manifests in electrical resistance or outright failure to make electrical contact when actuated. I found on other USA Trains locos, virtually all of which that use these switches, continuity may be restored to working order by applying Deoxit D5. So it's behooving to do preemptive maintenance whilst the loco is taken apart - illustrated below.





Installation of Factory Parts

With the example loco repairs completed and reassembled, the factory air hoses, cut levers and railings were installed.

Comment: The example loco had tight fitting air hoses and lose fitting cut lever eyelets.


Air Hose Installation:

It does not matter if cut levers or railings are first installed or not - except maybe for working room.



Cut Lever Installation:

The cut lever includes a hoop that emulates a prototype that serves to uncouple the coupler. To provide working room, the cut lever is best installed before pilot railings are installed.

First, plastic eyelets are to be installed on the cut lever that is made of hardened wire - illustrated below.

Caution: Making sharp bends (or unbending) in the cut lever wire when attempting to install eyelets can cause it to break apart owing to it's hardening.

The wire must be lay flat before it's installed on the top of the pilot. Mild bending to straighten it is okay to do.

Comment:  Most other locos have the cut lever installed on the face of the pilot.  An example method to install the cut lever (same for both ends of loco) is illustrated below.



Railings Installation:

It does not matter if side or end railings are first installed.


Side Railing Installation:

A example method for installing side railings is illustrated below.


End Railing Installation:

An example method for installing the end railings is the same for both front and rear pilots - illustrated below.


Shown below are pictures of the loco with repairs done, factory parts installed and equipped with CamPac BoxesTM fitted with Kadee centerset couplers.

Loco's front shown below.

Loco's rear shown below.






Finally, Colin's example loco is ready to roar to life!

If video below looks blurred, set resolution to 1080P





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