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Precautions on shipping G scale steam (MTH, USA Trains, etc)

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*Updated 02/04/19*


To help eliminate shipping damage on your G scale steam engines I wanted to create a dedicated post to shipping precautions and suggestions. (These recommendations are for steam only, as diesels don't seem to have issues with shipping)  There is a number of suggestions for various steam locomotives below.  





  • Ship via FedEx, NOT UPS!
    • UPS has a long history of destroying G scale models (particularly steam) and some time ago MTH switched from UPS to FedEx for all the shipping because of the frequency and extent of damage to their One Gauge Triplexes. 
  • Label the box neatly with Fragile stickers, apply "Do not stand on end" (to protect from pilot damage from severe nose down impacts), and "this side up" labels.
  • Lastly, and most important  enclose the main box in another that is completely surrounded by 4-6" soft packing material at a minimum.
    • Some engines from USA Trains and Accucraft/AMYL are shipped this way and reduces the instant high G force shock of impacts.  MTH started double boxing with later Triplex shipments. 
  • For all MTH engines in factory pre-formed styrafoam packaging, be sure both engine and tender are in the correct direction and both with wheels DOWN into the thinner bottom half of the packaging.  Thicker part of packaging is the top.



Here is how I recommend boxes be labeled for shipping:



Example: MTH Big Boy (Picture 1 of 2)


Example: MTH Big Boy (Picture 1 of 2)



Special notes for specific models:

- MTH Big Boy:  (One gauge) (**Applies only to model made in 2006**)  (**2015/2017/2018 production doesn't have this risk due to new packaging**)

          - Risk: Broken die cast metal frames (front & rear) (This risk applies to first production run Big Boys only.  Newer engines 70-3026-1 & 70-3027-1 from 2015 Catalog and later have updated stronger frame castings and packaging.)

          - Recommend using a 20.5"x20.5"x40+" outer box (Office supply stores have telescoping boxes of this size) (Keep the overall length under 46" or FedEx will charge $67.50 oversize charge)

                    - 4-6" of soft packing material on each side of the box minimum.

          - If double boxing isn't possible I strongly recommend removing the front and rear engine sets from the boiler and shipping them in a separate box wrapped with 6-8" of bubble wrap into a large barrel/ball.

            (Remove the steam feeder pipes that runs from the rear engine set to the front before shipping.  Remove this with two screws on top and between the cylinders)

- MTH Challenger: (One Gauge)

          - This engine doesn't normally have issues with shipping damage, but if you are looking to be extra careful you can ship in the same larger double box like the MTH Big Boy.

          - Avoid adding additional padding in front of the cowcatcher.

- MTH GS-2/GS-4: (One gauge)

- Risk: Broken cow-catcher

- Remove the front cow catcher before shipping.  Screw the 2 screws back in the holes on the engine so they dont get lost.  Include the cowcatcher in one of the isolated open cut-outs in the Styrofoam box if it will fit.  If not ship separately.

- MTH Hudson: (One gauge)

- Risk: 1) Broken cowcatcher w/Engine & Tender side by side type box  2)Broken front main boiler post  3) Broken front pilot 4 wheel truck post

           - Broken cowcatcher:  If you have box where engine and tender are boxed side by side (not end to end) there is a risk of cowcatcher being damaged.  

                         Option 1:  Remove the front cow catcher before shipping.  Screw the 2 screws back in the holes on the engine so they don't get lost.  

                                          -  Either keep the cowcatcher or ship the cowcatcher separately if you cant fit it in an isolated open cut-out.

                                          -  Remove the front pilot truck from the engine and either keep or ship separately.  Do not ship with just rear connection bolted to the frame.

                         Option 2:  Cut-out additional Styrofoam from in-front and under cowcatcher to ensure it does not make contact.

                         **In either case DO NOT add padding or anything in-front of the cowcatcher where pressure would be put against it**  The boiler front is what holds the engine in place.

            - Broken front pilot 4 wheel truck post (rear post)

                          Recommend removing the 4 wheel truck completely from the engine and either shipping separately or keeping with you if sending engine for repair.

- Also, consider double boxing.  If you have box where tender is behind engine, obtain a U-Haul 15"x15"x48" box and fill with packing peanuts or other good padding.


   MTH factory Box: (Tender behind engine [end-to-end] version)


   U-haul 15"x15"x48  (Larger U-Haul box for factory engine behind tender version of MTH Hudson box)


- MTH Triplex:  (One gauge)

          - Risk: Broken smokebox door/headlight / Boiler tabs that connect to frame

          - Follow all packing instructions as noted in the special packaging guide provided by MTH:  2-8-8-2_Triplex_Packing_Instructions.pdf

- For all engines (New in the box or already unpackaged), cut-out/remove additional foam from around the front headlight. (Cut-out from above, in front and below the headlight).  Make sure you have plenty of space.  This ensures the headlight will not be broken off in a severe impact.



          - Consider using a 20.5"x20.5"x40+" outer box (Office supply stores have telescoping boxes of this size)

                    - 4-6" of soft packing material on each side of the box.


- USA Trains Hudson / Big Boy:  (1:29 G scale)

          - Risk:  Die cast metal hold down posts for the main bolts can break off.  (Post off USA Trains Hudson pictured)


          - Use This End Up stickers all the way around

          - Use additional packing material around the wooden box inside the shipping box if there isn't any.  (USA Trains supplies it with original box but sometimes they get removed later by owners)

          - USA Trains is currently out of stock on the replacement die cast frames for the Hudson (when I checked on 11/22/2016) likely due to this very issue.  Additional replacements will be pending future production run.

          - USA Trains Big Boy:  Be careful in handling the engine when on the earlier production run platforms as they can split down the middle requiring significant work to repair.  

                                   Most current production Big Boys have updated thicker platform made out of stronger material to avoid this issue.


              Example:  USA Trains Big Boy wooden platform with bolts and brackets to repair split down the middle in one of the wheel grooves:



                        New version: (thicker and different material that shouldn't split)





Final Comments:

My suggestion is if you have ANY G scale or One gauge steam engine (MTH or otherwise) that does not normally have a secondary outer foam packing, to make sure you double box your engine with a secondary box completely surrounded by packing peanuts, soft sheet foam(soft foam NOT Styrofoam), etc.  (I would suggest 4-6" of soft packing material on all sides at a minimum!)  Engines that don't have die cast metal frames may be less subject to shipping damage but they are not immune.  I've seen shipping damage on other G scale models (not just the Big Boy, not just MTH models) so this suggestion applies to ALL G scale steam!  Also DO NOT put additional padding in front of the cowcatcher, they are not designed to take the full weight of the engine, it is the main boiler itself that does.


The biggest reason this is so important is because of the current state of model production in this scale (Accucraft, USA Trains, MTH, etc) once a production run of engines is made it could be some time before the next run is made of that particular model and the number of replacement parts is finite.  We really need to do all we can to ensure that our engines are not lost because of needless shipping damage and unavailability of parts.  Trust me it's worth the time and extra cost & effort.





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 Thanks Ray!

I have ran into this where people have not only shipped stuff without proper protection, they also have omitted packing that came with the original engine. The styro blocks on the inside ends of USA's boxes must be in place to prevent end damage, for example. I've got broken stuff from people making their own packaging and wrapping stuff too tight or lacking protection.

 I was amazed at MTH's new packaging with the metal shipping cradles. After receiving broken engines from other manufacturers, I understand why they upgraded.

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Well said Raymond! I, for one, certainly don't plan to be shipping any more metal steam locomotives, especially not articulated locomotives! Better to take a long road trip and pick them up yourself, or, buy from a local hobby shop!

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I just bought an MTH Hudson on Ebay, and yes, the guy I bought it from said  it was shipped to him by UPS, because the lead truck was broken and the stud, part of the frame was also busted, no other damage.  I glued the stud back with CA and bought another lead truck, 25.00 plus 7.75 shipping.  They did take note and made the connect loop, which is plastic, thicker and stronger, so that is good.  The CA worked well, but I will still remember to pick it up by the wheels and not the boiler. Bob.

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Updated the post to include more pictures and detail.  Also posted specific precaution about USA Trains Hudson as I've recently had a die cast shipping post break off. (And USA Trains is currently out of stock on replacement frames).

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Here's a USA SD70MAC that I bought off eBay months ago.

This is how it was packed and engine was destroyed...Can't imagine what was going thru the sellers head when they packed it??!!

Wrapped in a cardboard tube with kraft paper filler??




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I have posted some additional updates that includes example of broken hold down posts on USA Trains Hudson.  USA Trains is out of stock on the engine frames likely due to this very reason. (I cant imagine why else people would been to be replacing their engine frames.)

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Apologies in advance for resurrecting an old thread. But this is very much of concern for me since i just sold a custom engine with many fragile brass accessories on it, and am wanting badly to make it survivable from the shipping monkeys.

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It's going to depend on the engine but the best thing I'm guessing you can do is wrap the engine and tender separately in bubble wrap.  Wrap around and around the side of the engine with a large amount of over-lap on the front and rear end.  you will want to tape the ends closed.  Same for the tender.  You will want to put the engine and tender standing upright (top side up) and label the box with this end up stickers all the way around.  If this is a heavy G scale steam engine I might suggest up to 1ft off padding all the way around the engine on all sided and ends.  That should ensure it makes it safely.   

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I have studied your information here before and certainly agree and  wish sellers would adhere to it.


But, I think the  majority of sellers could care less. They get the money and it's gone. End of story. IMO


Sadly my big boy and even another displayed only triplex convinced me I will never buy a used engine again unless I'm at a train show so I can  carry it home.


The Post Office (Delivery Service) also contributes to damage as well. They have played football with numerous purchases I have received in O and a few G scale over the years.


Even one of the brand new Factory shipping boxes you sent me of ONE   American Freedom passenger car.


THAT'S the post office. Luckily the car was not damaged. Just the outer and inner box.


Between lackadaisical shippers and the postal service the chances you get one of these Big G engines shipped USED from a private seller in the mail undamaged is slim. IMO


Humorously, on the other side one exception if Joe  EVER sells me his Clinchfield Challenger I'll waiver this bad attitude about shipping.:Smirk_Face_Emoji_large(24x24):




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When MTH switched from using UPS to Fedex the damage and severity of damage went down significantly on the One Gauge.  No shipper is perfect for sure but UPS is particularly bad which is why I avoid them.  But either way regardless of how you ship if you are shipping One Gauge / G scale steam it is worth the effort to take every extra precaution to help minimize the chance of damage.  I just recently revised my shipping advisory for the MTH Hudson.  Will keep updating and maybe we can get damage rates down to as close to zero as possible.

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These are all good suggestions.  I've been shipping locos 18 years that I sell on eBay and now this year on my own new website, and I've never had a locomotive damaged during shipment.  The double box with insulation materials is definitely important, for diesel locomotives too.  I use foam peanuts or sometimes add the air bag packets insulation too.  A few other precautions.  Don't depend upon the foam encasement  that some locomotives come in, such as the LGB locomotives.  That's hard material and if there's wiggle room between the locomotive and the encasement, the locomotive is going to bang against it if the shipping box is dropped during the transportation process.  So I insert small bubble wrap pieces in various places, to include the wheels/motor block, so that the locomotive is held firmly in place.  If you can hear or feel something moving inside when you shake the box, then you know there's still wiggle room you need to fix with more small bubble wrap.


I always use FedEx Ground/Home Delivery mode for USA shipments with full value insurance and signature receipt........this protects both the seller and the buyer from possible damage or loss during the transportation process.  I agree, UPS has been more vulnerable to shipment damage, but I haven't used them for years now.  USPS Priority Mail works well too for USA shipments but FedEx Ground is cheaper for large locos other than to Hawaii and Alaska.  For overseas shipments, e.g., Europe, I use USPS Priority Mail International which is the most reasonable and safest overseas shipping mode for us individuals.


Don't use FedEx Smart Post mode of shipping for anything valuable.  I learned my lesson a few years ago when I sold an Aristocraft track cleaning car to someone using that mode.  If you're not familiar with this service, FedEx handles the shipment to the destination city, then turns it over to the USPS for the actual delivery to the recipient.  In this example, the package arrived mangled on one end and destroyed the item.  I filed a claims with the photos of the damaged item with both FedEx and USPS for insurance coverage and they both accursed the other of causing the damage, so I got no reimbursement and had to reimburse my buyer for the item and shipping costs.  Plus the maximum allowed insurance for this mode of shipment is $100.  So, AVOID this mode, very cheap cost, if you want to ship anything value and fragile. 

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