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USATC S160 Class Steam Locomotive

Image of Stuart JordanSTUART JORDAN gives a brief history of these American trains used extensively in post-war Europe.


The easiest way to disrupt your enemy in war is to restrict their movements and supplies, and this was no exception during the Second World War. As the fighting raged across Europe for six years, ordnance and troop trains were attacked by deadly air attack, leaving a large amount of stock destroyed. Railways and locomotives were very much a priority target for both sides.

USATC S160 Locomotive image Rattlesnake.

After their entry into the war in 1941, the American President Roosevelt introduced the Lend-Lease program, in which material, oil, and military vehicles were provided to the UK and other allies. This plan also included locomotives.

The United States Army Transportation Corps (USATC) developed a 2-8-0 Consolidation Class steam locomotive, designated Class S160, which was specifically designed to fit the UK loading gauge. This design would replace Europe's shattered locomotive stock.

Between 1942 and 1943, nearly 800 of these locomotives were built in the American locomotive works of Baldwin, Alco and Lima and shipped across the Atlantic Ocean, where they were stored at the GWR Depot at Ebbw Junction in Wales. They were then moved in batches to the LNER Doncaster Works where they were finished. They were given the nickname Rattlesnake due to the distinctive clattering of their rod bearings.

Four hundred S160s saw immediate work on British railways, working on GWR, LNER, LMS, and Southern lines; increasing the capacity of the networks in the build-up to the D-Day Landings. In the lead up to invasion they were shipped back to Ebbw Junction, ready to be sent to France.

After the war, the USATC locomotives were distributed across Europe to Austria, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, the Soviet Union, Spain, Turkey and Yugoslavia, with other examples following American troops to North African countries as well.

Only a few of these widely used locomotives exist today in preservation in the UK and the US.

Roco and Fleischmann are producing models in HO Scale of the USATC S160, as well as USATC Rolling Stock.

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USATC S160 Locomotive image RC72150.

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