Improving the Bachmann USRA 0-6-0 Switcher


Active Member
Jun 4, 2001
Huntsville, TX USA
I got one of these in a train set from Hobby Lobby during their 1/2 price sale this week. I knew from the start that it wasn't considered a good engine, but I figured I'd give it a shot and see if I could "improve" it.

The one I got has blackened siderods and black boiler handrails, and electrical pickup in the tender. The front axle has traction tires.

A PC-board drawbar connects the tender to the locomotive. Metal channels on the board transfer current from wipers on the front truck of the tender to contacts beneath the motor (which is located in the cab). It is essential for the model to pick up current from the tender or it will stall when going over the insulated frogs on turnouts.

I realized pretty quickly that current was not making it from the tender to the motor. The problem was with the wipers and electrical contacts under the motor. To fix the problem, I removed the front truck of the tender and bent the wiper blades up so that they would contact the drawbar. I also removed the drawbar from the locomotive and bent down the contact points under the motor. (After replacing the drawbar, you should feel some resistance if you move it back and forth.) Now the engine really has tender pickup!

The locomotive also operates very jerkily, and it wobbles a lot. This problem is caused in part by another problem that appears, at first, as being mainly aesthetic. The back end of the USRA 0-6-0 and it's cousin, the 2-6-2 Prairie , appears to be hiked up. But after studying it a bit, I realized that the front is actually too low.

There is a screw that connects the front end of the chassis to a weight located in the boiler (the boiler shell connects to the weight by a screw located in one of the domes). This screw also serves as the pivot on which the pilot of the 2-6-2 version is mounted. With the boiler tilted down at that angle, the siderods were bumping into part of the boiler shell. I removed the screw and placed a small piece of wood (12" x 12" in N-scale, I think) between the boiler weight and chassis. This makes the model look a lot better, and solves the jerky/wobbly operation problem.

The starting speed is pretty high, but then I don't have a very sophisticated power pack (I'm not referring to the one that came with the set). It slips a lot when going in reverse, too--so I don't think that it is very suitable for switching operations. But it does run well enough for me for mainline use. It's currently sitting in its new home on my office layout (which is just a simple loop of track). All in all, I'm pretty pleased with it, considering the bargain price of the set!