During World War I, Uncle Sam nationalized the railroads when they proved unequal to the task of moving massive amounts of men and materiel for the war effort. The agency that ran the trains was the United States Railroad Administration, or USRA, and one of its chief accomplishments was the creation of 12 steam engine designs that lasted for decades. According to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, USRA locomotives were “the first successful standardization of American motive power” — and the only standard designs until the diesel era.
With 255 engines delivered to 23 railroads, production numbers for the government-issue 0-6-0 were the second-highest of any USRA design. And more than any other USRA engine, the six-coupled switcher was found from coast to coast, from Maine to Texas, and on railroads large and small. Its short wheelbase enabled it to slip into industrial and wharf sidings where larger engines couldn’t go, and the cut out or sloping tenders used on many roads offered better visibility for backup moves. Owners were generally quite pleased with the quality of the government’s design, and many 0-6-0s lasted into the 1950s.
The RailKing USRA 0-6-0 sports Imperial-level details like legible builders plates and a real coal load, as well as all the operating features you’d want in a steam switcher: smooth, steady operation down to 3 scale miles per hour; remote Proto-Couplers front and rear; chuffing sounds and puffing smoke synchronized with the drivers at a correct four chuffs per revolution; adjustable smoke intensity; great pulling power; directional headlight and backup light; and authentic stream-era sounds.