Large Scale Central

Comparing Reefers...LGB/USTrains

Today I pulled down a few tote boxes of USTrains. and LGB old style iced reefers, and looked at three types represented in the mix.

The first question I would like to have provided from “Perts under pressure” (Experts) is the actual scale of an LGB reefer, that was marketed as being 1:22.5.

As soon as that question is factually answered, it will settle the main question for all of these cars.

I have encountered three varieties of cars in this group.

The USTrains wood sided, truss rod/wood framed cars seem to have had some with metal ends and some were wooden, both types came with or without roof ice hatches. The ice hatches can be opened.

The LGB cars all had truss rods and wooden under frames, along with wood ends and roof ice hatches. The ice hatches cannot be opened.

Comparing the size of the cars, leaves the feeling that they are all of the same measurements. The grab irons are all the same in size. the LGB cars have two separate grabs on each roof hatch platform, while the USTrains car has one moulded “L” shaped one.

There are a few variations in rivet patterns. The LGB car has moulded on stirrup steps, while the USTrains car has replaceable ones, and an added one under each door.

The LGB cars all have a solid brass rod for the brake wheel; the USTrains cars vary from all brass to part brass and part plastic. The UStrains car has a small brake platform on the end.

The under frames (Simulated wood with metal truss rods) almost appear to be from the same moulds.

Both makes of cars come equipped with plastic arch bar trucks. The LGB sideframes appear to be just a bit thicker, and are equalized, while the USTrains are not equalized.

All of the cars in this group of 11, are dated to have been acquired sometime in the early 90’s; so that there may have been minor changes in the moulds since then.

All of the USTrains cars were lettered for United Fruit Express, except for one, lettered for Borden’s Milk products.

The LGB car was lettered for "The United Fruit Express.

When a proper statement, after measurements, is made as to the scale of the LGB car, then it will determine the exact scale of both makes of all the cars, as they are both the same size in all diamentions

I am aware that USTrains claim that their cars are 1:24…I’d just appreciate proof from someone.

The LGB cars are the same scale as their box cars, gondolas, flat cars, and tank cars, and claimed to be 1:22.5.

Except for the moulded on syrup steps, which can’t be replaced when knocked off; I suggest that the LGB Reefers are a bit more durable in the real world of actual operations, than the USTrains cars. Both makes are nicely detailed.

Fred Mills

Before they were “USA Trains” they were “Charles Ro Manufacturing” and I have a few of these.

I collect the USA Trains Woodside reefers and the LGB reefers. Mostly the beer ones. The LGB cars are more robust. I once read that Charlie Ro actually copied the LGB cars almost to a “T” when he designed his cars. Side by side, the LGB reefer is a little larger than the older Charles Ro/USAT reefers. I understand the LGB cars are 1:22 and the USA Trains “Woodside” and “Ultimate” Series are 1:29; the “American” Series is 1:24.

Also saw recently that one of the very early Charles Ro reefers (Necco Wafers) did not have a middle grab iron on the side. Don’t think it was broken off - I think it did not have one in the first place. Not a big deal, but I also read that on the prototypical reefers, they didn’t have a grab iron in the middle of the car; only one on each corner. The Delton reefers are like that, with only one on each corner. Another thing on the USA Trains cars - the early ones had a plastic brake wheel rod, many of the later ones had a brass rod, like the LGB reefers did.

The underbelly of the newer USA Trains cars have mounting pads to accommodate body-mount Kadee couplers more easily. Unfortunately, the older USAT reefers did not have coupler mounting pads, making it much more difficult to fabricate and go the preferred body-mount route.

I put Bachmann 92421 .31mm metal wheels on all my USAT and LGB cars and they run beautifully. Only think missing on them are the #1 Kadee’s. (

Fred, I’m assuming you deliberately left out the USAT 1:29 reefers, in both 40’ and 50’ right? They are well scaled to 1:29 and have a higher level of detail.

A typical confusion for USAT products is when you say USAT Reefer, you can be talking about a 1:24 or a 1:29 product. I often have someone ask about couplers on a USAT reefer, and often they have the impression that there is only one, and don’t know about the other scale one. I ask which scale they have, 1:24 or 1:29 and normally they have no clue.

Regards, Greg

Greg; I was only writing about the wood under frame/truss rod cars, not the modern reefers…I stated that clearly in my observations. Those cars, as stated are exactly the same size as the LGB cars…I measured them. Whatever they call them, they are basically the same moulds as the original run…I do note minor changes, to the latest cars…the ones that everyone calls “The Bheer reefers”.

I have converted many many of the reefers I’m speaking of…earlier ones had Ro’s name on the bottom of the body casting, but the latest have USTrains on them. They are all the same size as the LGB cars…I have measured them. All of them have Arch Bar trucks. I also stated that the LGB cars appeared more durable…and have proved it in our operations.

I am NOT speaking of the modern reefers… I may be talking about the so-called “American Series” cars…which are, as I have stated, exactly the same dimensions as the LGB cars…so does that make the LGB cars 1:24 scale…when LGB always state that they are 1:22.5.

Even the replacement grabs are the same as the LGB ones. Those steps on the lower corner of the cars are called stirrup steps, not grab irons.

I thought this was a HOBBY

No-mater what scale is decided on; remember that the Delton line was 1:24… and LGB has been noted for using a “Rubber” 1:22.5 scale…and as stated by Michael…Charlie copied the LGB car to the “T” not the smaller Delton car.

Originally, the LGB reefers were modelled as NG cars, and Charlie was trying to compete at that time, with LGB…1:29 was not known at that time…LGB was the game to be in…Delton, the poor sister started out modelling in 1:24, later Aristo carried on with a few of the old Delton items. Compare a Delton 1:24 reefer with the USTrains and LGB cars…that shows that there is a difference in scale between the Delton cars and the other two.

Fred, please clarify which USA Trains reefers are the same size as LGB reefers. My LGB reefers are larger than all my USA Trains reefers. All of my USA Trains reefers have Arch bar trucks. What are the ‘billboard’ graphics or “R” numbers of the early 90’s USAT cars that are the same size as the larger LGB reefers that you’re referring to? All I can think of is that you’re talking about the first runs of Charles Ro reefers.

Here’s my understanding. When Charles Ro started making box cars in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s, they were made to the same dimensions as the wood-sided narrow gauge cars. Then he started making the “Ultimate” series at 1:29 scale. So I think there’s a mixture of Charles Ro 1:24 and 1:29 cars out there.

Please correct me if I’m wrong.

These are pictures of one of the USA Trains reefers Fred is talking about. When placed side by side with the LGB car they were the same size so must be the first run of Charles Ro cars as Mike says.

Size doesn’t matter to me. I just like the pictures on the USA reefers.

Doc Watson

The really old Charls Ro cars had the molded on stirrup steps just like the LGB cars. And if you take the USA cars apart, you can see where a mold plug was made to replace the side hatches on the LGB cars. If you take the under-frames of the LGB car, the USA car and the Bachmann boxcar, you can see that they are almost identical. I suspect that the same molds were used, at least originally, with modifications, to make both cars. As you stated Fred, they are identical in size.

Now the USA (Charles Ro) cars are advertised to be 1:24. The LGB cars are supposedly 1:22.5, but the box just says G scale. So I guess, the 1:22.5 car is a smaller car in a larger scale, so it comes out to the same as the larger 1:24 th car in a smaller scale. If you want to look at it that way. But we all know about LGB’s rubber rulers.

I treat the cars (LGB and USA) as the same scale when I run them (1:24). Mixed together in a train, they look like they belong together, because they are the same size.

Thanks guys for your observations, and thoughts.


Fred Mills, BSc, (Sd, ss) said:

Thanks guys for your observations, and thoughts.


But did you find an answer? I have a Delton wood reefer and a USA all wood reefer on the track right now that I can do a side-by side photo of if you like. That might help settle the claim that USA was 1:24 if they are in fact noticeably smaller.

@Rooster - Yeah, it’s a hobby and you are free not to obsess on scale. Not everyone has your ability to build by eye and get believable results ( think the information Fred is seeking is interesting from a historical perspective of the development of Large Scale.

Yes Jon; please show any picture(s) comparing the Delton Reefer, with any of any/all of the USTrains/Ro wood reefers, and the LGB wood reefer. That would be most appreciated. Thank you.

Fred Mills

One so called “Obsession” I seem to have picked up, is the refusal to believe that any of the Ro/USTrains wood reefers…NOT the modern steel under frame ones…are 1:24 scale…and I’m just trying to make some sense out of the question by getting all said cars together (Just one of each, not every car lettering scheme) so that they can be compared. I don’t think I have a Delton reefer, although I just may have one out in the storage shed…I can’t check at this time.

What scale they are, as many have suggested, really doesn’t matter, as long as the person(s) owning/running them is happy and contented. If your eye determines your scale, and you are happy…what could be sweeter than that…!!!

LGB was known for promoting what they called “G” Scale, and that term seemed to get plastered on the boxes of anything that runs on #1 gauge track. They also claimed that all their original products were 1:22.5 scale. Supposedly “G” came from the “G” in their old “Lehmann-Gross-Bahn”, or Lehmann BIG Trains name.

Just about every manufacturer wanting to jump on the band wagon in Large Scale, at one time or another called their stuff “G” Scale, just because it ran on the same #1 Gauge track; not because it was actually the same 1:22.5 scale, claimed by LGB.

Many, many people have pointed out LGB’s use of a “Rubber ruler” when producing much of their product line, supposedly in 1:22.5 scale.

I have never stated that what size a person chooses to model is wrong. I have not brought this subject up to cause any political scandal.

Thank you all for putting up with my obsession, and for trying to help answer my rather simple questions.

Fred Mills

Info from “EMD Trainman” for clarification on USA Trains scales:

USA Trains began as Charles Ro Trains in 1987, and there was just one series of trains. After the name changed to USA Trains in 1989, there was more product expanding to what it is today. There are now three different series of USA Trains and here are the differences:

#1 The USA American series: This is a 1:24 scale ratio series product line up which was the original product line up made by Charles Ro back in 1987. This series is not exactly the most realistic one USA Trains makes, but you don’t have to worry about buying 20ft diameter curves to run any of this series on. On this series the detail parts such as grab irons and steps come in a kit bag and you install them. This series also comes with plastic wheels to further reduce costs.

Here is a list of American Series rolling stock that was made:

  1. Woodside Box car
  2. Woodside Reefer Car
  3. Simulated Steel Box car not to confused with the Ultimate series 40ft box car
  4. Two Tier Auto Carrier
  5. All Work Series Rolling Stock
  6. Ore Car
  7. Piggy Back Flat Car
  8. Pipe Load Flat Car
  9. Woodside Caboose
  10. Center Beam Flat Car

The center beam flat car and piggy back flat car are no where near the correct size for the scale ratio, but USA Trains captures enough in the model for people to buy and you don’t need 20ft diameter curves to run a full size center beam flat car in G scale.
There is no American Series locomotives at this time.

#2 The Ultimate Series: “As Real AS It Gets” was USA Trains motto when they introduced this new exciting series of more modern type rolling stock which is all 1:29 scale ratio. This is the most realistic series of rolling stock that USA Trains offers. I’m not saying they have the correct amount of rivets or brakes or exact measurements for their scale, so please no 100 responses about this is not correct or that is not correct for this road name. I’m just saying the Ultimate Series is USA Trains most realistic line up, as well as very detailed line up. There are a lot of fragile detail parts on this series also. Here is a list of Ultimate Series rolling stock that USA Trains makes. This series of rolling stock already has the detail parts already installed. This series also comes standard with a nice upgrade set of metal wheels.

  1. Extruded Aluminum Passenger Car
  2. Center Cupola Caboose
  3. Bay Window Caboose
  4. Extended Vision Caboose
  5. 55ft 4 Bay ACF Hopper Car
  6. 55ft Modern Tank Car
  7. Depressed Center Flat Car
  8. Intermodal Container Car
  9. 40ft Box Car
  10. 50FT Box Car
  11. 40FT Reefer Car
  12. 50FT Mechanical Reefer Car
  13. 70 Ton 3 Bay Hopper Car
  14. 10,000 Gallon Tank Carr
  15. Woodchip Hopper Car
  16. Intermodal 5 Unit Articulated set


  1. Dockside 0-6-0T Switcher
  2. SD70-MAC
  3. PA1 / PB1
  4. SD40-2
  5. GP-30
  6. GP38-2
  7. GP-7 / GP-9
  8. F3A / F3B
  9. S-4 Switcher
  10. NW-2 Switcher
  11. 44 Tonner Switcher
  12. Speeder

#3) The Prestige Series: This is USA Trains newest series and is also a 1:29 scale ratio. What makes this series different is that it’s made mainly from die-cast metal and has a lot of metal detail parts making this series the Cadillac of USA Trains. This wonderful series only has locomotives in it and includes sound.

Here is a list of Prestige Series Locomotives

  1. GG1 Locomotive
  2. J1E Hudson
  3. Big Boy Steam Locomotive

Here’s a mixture of LGB, USA, and Delton. Cars look to be close in size. Remember the prototype reefers were various sizes, so as Don says, size doesn’t matter. It’s what you do with the cars that matters. (

Do they represent 30’ cars? 27’ or 32’?
Measure the length and use the scale calculator.
A 30’ car in 1/24 (1/2"= 1’) would be 15" long.
As to width and height, who knows if LGB/USA kept those in the same scale as the length.

OK Fred - Here ya go. Probably more information than anyone wants. In the background a Delton box car, in the middle a USA Wood Reefer and in the foreground a Delton reefer…

Same three, end view…

Length measurements…

The Delton reefer walkways are 400mm end to end…

And the USA walkways are 384mm end to end…

Width measurements.

Delton is about 4.125" wide at the roof eves. Sorry about the change of units; I should have flipped the small ruler over…

And the USA about 4.375" at the roof eves…

Height above the rail head on the Delton is about 5.5" at the roof walk…

And the USA about 5.75 above the rail head at the roof walk…

So what does this mean? The USA is shorter, but slightly taller and wider than the 1:24 Delton car. If the USA was 1:22 it should be larger in all dimensions, not just height and width. My guess; they are both approximately 1:24 but modeled from different prototypes. YMMV.

Right on, Jon.

To scale the car, you need to know the exact size of the prototype.

Those cars can be any scale Fred wants them to be. Calling them 30ft puts them close to 1/24 as to length. Height inside was usually 7 to 8 ft.

width varied according to they type of car.