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Assembling Three USA Trains Locos

We purchased three USA Trains locos, in the following order, over the past two months:

1) GP-38

2) 20 tonner

3) SD-40

All of the locos required some assembly.  In this respect, the three locos were not created equal!

1) GP-38.  The first is always the toughest, but this loco is a serious challenge.  Every piece needs to be tested against the hole or slot it is intended to fit. We did not find a single piece that fit correctly first time, without modification.  The coupler bars were particularly difficult.  Each of them needs to be fitted with four small eyebolts, which then have to be mated to corresponding holes at the front and back of the loco.  This is a job for steady, and preferably small, fingers.  This GP-38 came with two different pairs of coupler bars.  With 20-20 hindsight, I should have used the straight ones, not the ones illustrated in the manual.  I could not have assembled this loco without a trigger-sensitive variable-speed drill and a set of jeweller's bits.

2) 20 tonner.  This loco is considerably smaller than the GP-38, and proved to be much easier to assemble.  Most of the pieces fit with little or no massaging.  However, I wonder if its intended purpose (i.e., toy train for Christmas) warrants even this level of difficulty.  I can imagine more than a few Dads with only a passing interest in trains finding the 20 tonner more than they bargained for. 

3) SD-40.  Despite its similarity to the GP-38, this loco was even easier to assemble than the 20 tonner.  The larger size of the SD-40 compared to the GP-38 meant that the components were bigger and easier to handle, especially the coupler bars.  Very few of the pieces - even fewer than the 20 tonner - required any filing.  Almost eveything fit first time through.  NOTE: I did not fit the snow plows because it does not snow in Perth.

CONCLUSION:  If you have to have a GP-38, expect to spend an inordinate amount of time fitting the bits and pieces.  The 20 tonner is, because of its small size and relative lack of complexity (no coupler bars), straightforward to assemble.  The SD-40 is more complex than the 20 tonner, but is at least as easy to assemble and is an order of magnitude easier to assemble than the GP-38. 



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