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Module 17F:

USA Trains Passenger Cars

 Please read the introduction in Module 17 if you have not already done so.










In common with Aristo-craft and other large-scale model railroading pioneers in the United States, USA Trains (originally Charles Ro Manufacturing Company) initial foray into passenger cars were based on early designs in use in the late 1880's.

The term "Overton Cars" (and which company first came up with the description) is once again the subject of much debate (linked to the "Sierra" contretemps covered in the earlier "Aristo-craft module). It has been suggested Overton might refer to a small mining town near Jamestown or possibly another township of the same name located in Northern California but we shall probably never know. 

However, the term has come to mean short, open-platform, truss rod, old tyme passenger cars (both short and with clerestory) even if there were no full size prototype although if there had been one

USA Trains flat-roof "Overton" is believed to be one of the most accurate representations of a "shorty" passenger car of the period. There you have it . It may be just a con-incidence but a Richard Cleghorn Overton wrote a history for of "The Burlington Route" and their looks to be a passenger car on the cover!

"Overton" passenger cars were originally available as a set of four comprising combine, observation car and two types of passenger cars butappear to have been eventually offered as separate purchase items . All came with:

• Interior Lighting
• Lighted Marker Lights on Observation Car
• Detailed Interior
• Sliding Door on Combine Car
• Detailed Brass Observation Car Platform
• Quality Graphics
• Length: 14 3/4" (415mm)
• Height: 6 3/4" (170mm)

Some were undecorated or supplied in the livery of the following railroad companies:

R30200 Colorado & Southern Combine
R30201 Rio Grande Combine
R30202 Pennsylvania Combine
R30203 Union Pacific Combine
R30204 Christmas Combine - Red/White
R30205 Undecorated Combine
R30206 Christmas Combine - Green
R30207 Virginia & Truckee Combine
R30208 Baltimore & Ohio Combine

R30300 Colorado & Southern Passenger Car #1
R30301 Rio Grande Passenger Car #1
R30302 Pennsylvania Passenger Car #1
R30303 Union Pacific Passenger Car #1
R30304 Christmas Passenger Car #1 - Red/White
R30305 Undecorated Passenger Car #1
R30306 Christmas Passenger Car #1 - Green
R30307 Virginia & Truckee Passenger Car #1
R30308 Baltimore & Ohio Passenger Car #1

R30400 Colorado & Southern Passenger Car #2
R30401 Rio Grande Passenger Car #2
R30402 Pennsylvania Passenger Car #2
R30403 Union Pacific Passenger Car #2
R30404 Not Produced
R30405 Not Produced
R30406 Not Produced
R30407 Virginia & Truckee Passenger Car #2
R30408 Baltimore & Ohio Passenger Car #2

R30500 Colorado & Southern Observation Car
R30501 Rio Grande Observation Car
R30502 Pennsylvania Observation Car
R30503 Union Pacific Observation Car
R30504 Christmas Observation Car - Red/White
R30505 Undecorated Observation Car
R30506 Christmas Observation Car - Green
R30507 Virginia & Truckee Observation Car
R30508 Baltimore & Ohio Observation Car



At least two special editions were also available to attendees at the National Garden Railroad Convention in 1999 (Dining Car - Blue- C&GRS#1 and Parlour Car (Yellow) C&GRS#2 and a Limited Edition of 500 for Woodlands.

All the above cars were produced to a nominal scale of 1:24 and were capable of negotiating minimum radius 600mm curves.


USA Trains have released such an extensive range of rolling stock over the years that it is sometimes difficult to keep up with events. In 2001 USA Trains were not to be left behind in the case of "Streamlined" Passenger Cars with the heightened customer interest in more modern standard gauge passenger cars to 1:29 scale and launched their own range of Corrugated Extruded Aluminium (or Aluminum for US readers) Cars based on those which started operating on American railroads from around the mid to late 1930's as railroad companies switched over from heavyweight riveted steel construction. 


These new streamlined cars were derived from those made by Pullman although the former had smooth body panels whereas other companies adopted a more typical "go faster appearance" ribs. It was quite common for streamliner sets to be deployed on named trains as a premium service to passengers. Here are just a few notable examples, some iconic and others a bit more obscure:




Broadway Limited.jpg

Broadway Limited

The Broadway Limited was the Pennsylvania Railroad's premier passenger train  between New York City and Chicago. It operated from 1912 to 1995. 


California Zephyr

Operated jointly by CB&Q, D&RGW and WP and ran from Chicago to Oakland, California from 1948 to 1970 via OmahaDenver, and Salt Lake City.

Panama limited.jpg

The Panama Limited

This flagship passenger train was operated by the Illinois Central Railroad between 1911 and 1970 between Chicago (illinois) and St. Louis (Missouri).

City of Loas Angeles.jpg

City of Los Angeles

The pride of Union Pacific's extensive streamliner fleet operated between Chicago and Los Angeles via Omaha and Salt Lake City.

20th century Limited 2.jpg

20th Century Limited

An express passenger train on the New York Central Railroad (NYC) from 1902 to 1967 travelling between Grand Central Station  in New York and Chicago.  

For more information on the legendary "Streamliner" Trains across the USA click the adjacent button:

You can also witness them in action in the following videos:

This is a list of Corrugated Aluminium Passenger Cars in the company's "Ultimate Series"as taken from a Composite of  US Trains Catalogues and other databases.  You will observe that virtually every major railroad livery is catered for:

Santa Fe "Super Chief" (Silver Livery)

R31000 Santa Fe Super Chief Observation - Vista Canyon       
R31001 Santa Fe Super Chief Coach # 3
R31002 Santa Fe Super Chief Coach # 4
R31003 Santa Fe Super Chief Diner # 2
R31004 Santa Fe Super Chief Sleeper # 1 - Palm Leaf
R31005 Santa Fe Super Chief Sleeper # 2 - Palm Path
R31006 Santa Fe Super Chief Vista Dome # 1 - # 503 (Long)
R31007 Santa Fe Super Chief Vista Dome # 2 - # 50   (Long)


R310001 Santa Fe Super Chief Railway Post Office
R310002 Santa Fe Super Chief Baggage
R310003 Santa Fe Super Chief Combine


California  Zephyr (Silver Livery)


R31010 California Zephyr Observation - Silver Sky
R31011 California Zephyr Coach # 1 - Silver Aspen
R31012 California Zephyr Coach # 2 - Silver Pine
R31013 California Zephyr Diner - Silver Banquet
R31014 California Zephyr Sleeper # 1 - Silver Summit
R31015 California Zephyr Sleeper # 2 - Silver Gorge
R31016 California Zephyr Vista Dome # 1 - Silver Colt  (Short)
R31017 California Zephyr Vista Dome # 2 - Silver Mustang (Short)
R31018 California Zephyr Vista Dome # 3 - Silver Bronco (Short)
R31019 California Zephyr Vista Dome # 4 - Silver Pony (Short)


R310101 California Zephyr Railway Post Office - Silver Pouch
R310102 California Zephyr Baggage - Silver Antelope
R310103 California Zephyr Combine - 1231


Pennsylvania Broadway Ltd. (Tuscan Red/Black Livery)


R31020 Pennsylvania Broadway Limited Observation - Skyline View
R31021 Pennsylvania Broadway Limited Coach # 1
R31022 Pennsylvania Broadway Limited Coach # 2
R31023 Pennsylvania Broadway Limited Coach Diner
R31024 Pennsylvania Broadway Limited Sleeper # 1 - Juniata Rapids
R31025 Pennsylvania Broadway Limited Sleeper # 2 - Schuylkill Rapids
R31026 Pennsylvania Broadway Limited Vista Dome # 1 - Sky Dome
R31027 Pennsylvania Broadway Limited Vista Dome # 2

R310201 Pennsylvania Broadway Limited Railway Post Office
R310202 Pennsylvania Broadway Limited Baggage
R310203 Pennsylvania Broadway Limited Combine



New York Central "20th Century Limited" (Two-tone Grey Livery)

R31030 New York Central 20th Century Limited Observation - Manhattan Island
R31031 New York Central 20th Century Coach # 1 # 2600
R31032 New York Central 20th Century Coach # 2 # 2601
R31033 New York Central 20th Century Diner # 2
R31034 New York Central 20th Century Sleeper # 1 Hudson River
R31035 New York Central 20th Century Sleeper # 2 Chicago River
R31036 New York Central 20th Century Vista Dome # 1 Sky View  (Short)
R31037 New York Central 20th Century Vista Dome # 2 Horizon View  (Short)

R310301 New York Central 20th Century Railway Post Office
R310302 New York Central 20th Century Baggage
R310303 New York Central 20th Century Combine



Baltimore & Ohio "Capitol Limited" (Blue/Grey Livery)

R31040 Baltimore & Ohio Capitol Limited Observation - Napanee
R31041 Baltimore & Ohio Capitol Limited Coach # 1
R31042 Stock Number Not Used
R31043 Baltimore & Ohio Capitol Limited Diner
R31044 Baltimore & Ohio Capitol Limited Sleeper # 1 - Muscatatuck
R31045 Stock Number Not Used
R31046 Baltimore & Ohio Capitol Limited Vista Dome # 1 - High Dome (Long)

R310401 Baltimore & Ohio Capitol Limited Railway Post Office
R310402 Baltimore & Ohio Capitol Limited Baggage
R310403 Baltimore & Ohio Capitol Limited Combine



Union Pacific "City of Los Angeles" (Yellow/Grey Livery)

R31050 Union Pacific City of Los Angeles Observation - Sun Valley
R31051 Union Pacific City of Los Angeles Coach # 1 - Las Vegas
R31052 Union Pacific City of Los Angeles Coach # 2 - Salt Lake
R31053 Union Pacific City of Los Angeles Diner - Baltimore
R31054 Union Pacific City of Los Angeles Sleeper # 1 - Pacific Harbor
R31055 Union Pacific City of Los Angeles Sleeper # 2 - Pacific Sands
R31056 Union Pacific City of Los Angeles Vista Dome # 1 (Short)
R31057 Union Pacific City of Los Angeles Vista Dome # 2 (Short)

R310501 Union Pacific City of Los Angeles Railway Post Office
R310502 Union Pacific City of Los Angeles Baggage
R310503 Union Pacific City of Los Angeles Combine


Great Northern "Empire Builder"  (Green/Orange Livery)

R31060 Great Northern Empire Builder Observation, 1193 - Rocky Coulet
R31061 Great Northern Empire Builder Coach # 1, 1215
R31062 Great Northern Empire Builder Coach # 2, 1218
R31063 Great Northern Empire Builder Diner, 1251 - Lake Wenatchee
R31064 Great Northern Empire Builder Sleeper # 1, 1372 - Akamina Pass
R31065 Great Northern Empire Builder Sleeper # 2, 1371 - Pitamakin Pass
R31066 Great Northern Empire Builder Vista Dome, 1322 - Glacier View (Short)
R31067 Great Northern Empire Builder Vista Dome, 1331 - Glacier View (Short)

R310601 Great Northern Empire Builder Railway Post Office (RPO), 38
R310602 Great Northern Empire Builder Baggage, 262
R310603 Great Northern Empire Builder Combine, 1201


Amtrak  (Silver Livery)

R31070 Amtrak Observation - Wingate Brook
R31071 Amtrak Coach # 1 - # 5280
R31072 Amtrak Coach # 2 - # 5289
R31073 Amtrak Diner
R31074 Amtrak Sleeper # 1 - Pacific Waves
R31075 Amtrak Sleeper # 2 - Pacific Ocean
R31076 Amtrak Vista Dome # 1 - Silver Castle (Long)
R31077 Amtrak Vista Dome #2 (Short)


Northern Pacific "Northcoast Limited"  (Two-tone Green)

R31080 Northern Pacific Northcoast Limited Observation
R31081 Northern Pacific Northcoast Limited Coach
R31082 Stock Number Not Used
R31083 Northern Pacific Northcoast Limited Diner
R31084 Northern Pacific Northcoast Limited Sleeper
R31085 Stock Number Not Used
R31086 Northern Pacific Northcoast Limited Vista Dome # 1 - # 550 (Short)
R31087 Northern Pacific Northcoast Limited Vista Dome # 2 - # 551 (Short)
R31088 Northern Pacific Northcoast Limited Vista Dome # 3 - # 552 (Short)
R31089 Stock Number Not Used

R310801 Northern Pacific Northcoast Limited Railway Post Office
R310802 Northern Pacific Northcoast Limited Baggage
R310803 Northern Pacific Northcoast Limited Combine


Southern Pacific "Daylight Limited" (Red/Orange Livery)

R31090 Southern Pacific Daylight Observation
R31091 Southern Pacific Daylight Coach # 1 - # 2355
R31092 Southern Pacific Daylight Coach # 2 - # 2356
R31093 Southern Pacific Daylight # 2
R31094 Southern Pacific Daylight Sleeper # 1 - # 9030
R31095 Southern Pacific Daylight Sleeper # 2 - # 9033
R31096 Southern Pacific Daylight Vista Dome # 1 - # 3604 (Long)
R31097 Southern Pacific Daylight Vista Dome # 2 - # 3603 (Long)

R310901 Southern Pacific Daylight Railway Post Office
R310902 Southern Pacific Daylight Baggage
R310903 Southern Pacific Daylight Combine


Atlantic Coast Line "The Champion" (Silver/Purple Livery)

R31100 Atlantic Coast Line The Champion Observation - 260
R31101 Atlantic Coast Line The Champion Coach - 1082
R31102 Stock Number Not Used
R31103 Atlantic Coast Line The Champion Diner - Tampa
R31104 Atlantic Coast Line The Champion Sleeper - Berkeley County
R31105 Stock Number Not Used
R31106 Atlantic Coast Line The Champion Vista Dome - Coastal View


Canadian Pacific (Silver Livery)

R31110 Canadian Pacific Observation - Seaview
R31111 Canadian Pacific Coach # 1 - # 100
R31112 Canadian Pacific Coach # 2 - # 129
R31113 Canadian Pacific Diner - Louise
R31114 Canadian Pacific Sleeper - Carleton Manor
R31115 Stock Number Not Used
R31116 Canadian Pacific Vista Dome # 1 - Skyline # 515 (Short)
R31117 Canadian Pacific Vista Dome # 2 - Skyline # 500 (Short)

R311101 Canadian Pacific Railway Post Office
R311102 Canadian Pacific Baggage
R311103 Canadian Pacific Combine


Southern "The Southerner" (Silver Livery)

R31120 Southern The Southerner Observation - Louisiana
R31121 Southern The Southerner Coach - Georgia
R31122 Stock Number Not Used
R31123 Southern The Southerner Diner - Virginia
R31124 Southern The Southerner Sleeper - South Carolina
R31125 Stock Number Not Used
R31126 Southern The Southerner Vista Dome (Short)

Denver & Rio Grande Western "Ski Train" (Silver/Yellow Livery)

R31130 Rio Grande Ski Train Observation - Colorado
R31131 Rio Grande Ski Train Coach # 1 - # 1241
R31132 Rio Grande Ski Train Coach # 2 - # 1242
R31133 Rio Grande Ski Train Diner
R31134 Rio Grande Ski Train Sleeper # 1 - Heber C Kimball
R31135 Rio Grande Ski Train Sleeper # 2 - David Moffat
R31136 Rio Grande Ski Train Vista Dome # 1 - # 1248 (Short)
R31137 Rio Grande Ski Train Vista Dome # 2 - # 1250 (Short)

R311301 Rio Grande Ski Train Railway Post Office
R311302 Rio Grande Ski Train Baggage
R311303 Rio Grande Ski Train Combine


Lehigh Valley  (Dark Red Livery)

R31140 Lehigh Valley Observation - Black Diamond
R31141 Lehigh Valley Coach # 1 - # 1515
R31142 Lehigh Valley Coach # 2 - # 1516
R31143 Lehigh Valley Diner
R31144 Lehigh Valley Sleeper


New Haven (Silver / Red Livery)

R31150 New Haven Observation - Bunker Hill
R31151 New Haven Coach # 1 - # 8600
R31152 New Haven Coach # 2 - # 8702
R31153 New Haven Diner - Myles Standish
R31154 New Haven Sleeper - Rocky Point


Erie Lackawanna (Silver/Black Livery)

R31160 Erie Lackawanna The Phoebe Snow Observation
R31161 Erie Lackawanna The Phoebe Coach # 1 - # 1301
R31162 Erie Lackawanna The Phoebe Coach # 2 - # 1302
R31163 Erie Lackawanna The Phoebe Diner
R31164 Erie Lackawanna The Phoebe Sleeper - Benjamin Lodes


Missouri Pacific (The Eagle)

R31170 Missouri Pacific The Eagle Observation - Shrine Tower
R31171 Missouri Pacific The Eagle Observation Coach
R31172 Stock Number Not Used
R31173 Missouri Pacific The Eagle Observation Diner
R31174 Missouri Pacific The Eagle Observation Sleeper
R31175 Stock Number Not used
R31176 Missouri Pacific The Eagle Observation Vista Dome


Pennsylvania "Congressional" (Silver/Black/Gold Livery)

R312200 Pennsylvania Congressional Observation
R312201 Pennsylvania Congressional Parlor # 1
R312202 Pennsylvania Congressional Parlor # 2
R312203 Pennsylvania Congressional Parlor # 3
R312204 Pennsylvania Congressional Parlor # 4
R312205 Pennsylvania Congressional Diner
R312206 Pennsylvania Congressional Coach # 1
R312207 Pennsylvania Congressional Coach # 2
R312208 Pennsylvania Congressional Coach # 3
R312209 Pennsylvania Congressional Coach # 4

The Technical Specification is much the same for each car:

  • 1:29 Scale

  • Extruded aluminium car bodies (available as smooth side/smooth roof, fluted side/fluted roof, smooth side/fluted roof and fluted side/fluted roof according to road name)

  • Full length passenger cars complete with lighted interiors and painted passengers

  • Opening end and vestibule doors with separate door handles

  • Lowering steps

  • Authentic roof ventilators

  • Full underframe detail

  • Fully sprung diecast trucks

  • Diecast couplers

  • Metal wheels

  • Soft rubber diaphragms between units (con't compress)

  • Vista Dome cars have upper seating area with figures

  • Separately applied detail parts such as handrails (metal), coupler lift bar, air hoses, and grab irons

  • Observation cars have lighted drumhead and marker lights (two position switch fitted).


Length: Approx 33" (351/2" with couplers)

Width: Approx. 4.5"

Height: Approx. 5.5"

Weight: 10 lbs (4.54 Kilos)

Good points in expert reviews were that the cars were solid, mostly of metal construction, to scale lengthwise, had excellent paint and graphics (although coaches with a black roof tended to scuff), were highly detailed, and included figures. The Observation marker and drum-head lights can be switched on separately from the interior passenger lights. It was also possible to create 8 or 10 car sets for some road names using duplicate cars with different numbers.

Negative features noted were unsightly shiny silver wheels, and the rather pronounced roof joints on dome and observation cars.

Overall the reaction seems to have been favourable but note that they need a powerful locomotive to pull them and operate best on minimum 8' Diameter (4' radius) curves.

For Zenner Passenger Cars please use the following link to the website  :  

This nighttime scene of lit Newqida HSB passenger cars was uploaded by Mike Skorpion:

Mike Skorpion also supplied this video clip of the two-tone Fichtelbergbahn Passenger Cars running on his layout:


In March 2017 at the East Coast Large Scale Train Show USA Trains announced the upcoming release of a collection of heavyweight passenger cars incorporating the same level of detail and realism previously offered in their Ultimate Series Passenger Cars. This led to a high level of anticipation but there were initial production delays and it was to be April 2018 before footage emerged of the initial run of these new cars at the Fairplex Gardens Railroad in Pomona, California. By all accounts they were well received and operated flawlessly for 2.5 hours. You can check out the actual video here:

So what is the difference between "Heavyweight" and "Lightweight" Passenger Cars? Essentially this refers to the weight and construction methods used to build the original prototype cars in the early 1900's onwards. Ornate heavyweight cars of the 1920's were generally constructed using heavy underframes  supporting heavy riveted metal steel or substantial wooden bodies. They used old fashioned technology and some early examples sported clerestory windows and even concrete floors to increase the weight to achieve a better ride. The resultant coach would weight about 85 tons (a ton per foot of length) and sometimes with as many as three 6-wheel trucks to support the resultant load. Needless to say these cars required a considerable amount of motive power to move them.


From around 1930 onwards manufacturers such as Budd and Pullman adopted more modern building techniques where the body itself formed part of the structural integrity of the car whilst achieving a weight reduction of around 25 ton per coach. These were formed from stainless steel and extruded aluminium to produce far more streamlined designs which were easier to maintain and could be used in long consists on high-speed mainlines during the 1940's and 1950's - the heyday of sophisticated rail travel in the USA. 


It was noticeable that when Amtrak acquired the rolling stock they only agreed to take the "lightweight" version from the rosters of the "legacy" railroad operators.

The USA Trains heavyweight passenger cars are an accurate representation being some 33" in length with mostly metal construction. This is in line with the company's " Ultimate Series - as real as it gets" mantra for it's top of the line rolling stock in 1;29 scale. USA Trains advertise these as 7-Car Sets comprising four name Pullman Cars, 1 Baggage - Club Car, One Diner Car and 1 Observation" but they are all available for purchase separately enabling you to assemble whatever length train you feel like. This does not necessarily fall into "beginner" territory unless one's pockets are very deep as the cars are priced at around US$ 480 - US $500 each. Thus even the suggested 7 car consist would set you back around (US$ 3380 = £2650 at current exchange rates) and that doesn't even include the motive power! However, if you purchase through Charles Ro, the parent company,  they sometimes have "Combination Specials" offering a welcome bulk quantity discount on say, 5, 8 or 10 cars purchased at one time.

I think it is very much a case of you get what you pay for and many North American standard gauge modellers will probably be tempted to take the plunge and purchase at least a few cars in their favorite road name, of which there are six to choose from: 

  • New Your Central "20th Century Limited"

  • Pennsylvania "Broadway Limited"

  • Baltimore & Ohio "Capitol Limited"

  • Santa Fe "The Chief"

  • Union Pacific "Overland"

  • Southern Pacific "Daylight"













Technical Specification


Main features:
- LED lighting that stays lit after the train stops
- Authentic roof ventilators
- Die-cast “cushioned” coupler
- Full interiors with painted figures
- Opening doors with separate door handles
- Full underframe detail
- Rubber diaphragms between units
- Separately applied coupler lift bar, air hoses & grab irons
- Observation features lighted drum head, illuminated marker lights and metal platform railings
- Sprung die-cast metal trucks
- Metal wheels
- Fold down steps on vestibule ends

Length: 850 mm (33 1/2 inches)
Width: 146 mm (5 3/4 inches)
Height: 146mm (5.75 inches)

Minimum Track Diameter: 8' (4' radius)

Pullman Passenger Coach.jpg

Here are just a few of the 50 or so versions currently available (unfortunately few images of the finished products appear to exist):

R32051 Southern Pacific Coach#2 (2119) G
R32042 Santa Fe The Chief Coach #2 Green
R32049 Santa Fe The Chief Observation (C
R32050 Southern pacific baggage - Club C
R32016  NYC 20th Century Ltd
R32020 Pennsy Broadway Ltd
R32023 Pennsy Broadway Ltd
R32037 UP Overland Route Sleeper #3 (Edg
R32023 Pennsy Broadway Ltd
R32031 UP Overland Route Coach #1 (402)

This is a complete, and rather colourful listing, of those versions likely to be available at time of writing. For more up-to-date information contact your local USA Trains stockist, USA Trains direct or Charles Ro:

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