In the late 1950s, Nashvillearea toy manufacturer Kusan was making products that might be the epitome of the term “toy train.” Geared toward the entry level of the market, these items were colorful and affordable.
The company’s “K” Series boxcars were produced between 1956 and ’60. They could be produced rapidly in the Franklin, Tenn., plant, as each had only 10 parts.
The molds were derived from acquired Auburn Model Trains tooling – in fact, the models were produced under the Kusan Model Trains brand.
What distinguished them was one side door was molded open and the other closed. This kept down the costs and parts count. Another notable item was each boxcar or kit included a figure molded in red, green, white, or black plastic (more variations might exist) that could be glued in the car if desired.
The cars came ready to run or as kits for a slightly lower price. The trucks and wheelsets were plastic and had non-operating couplers.
Road names included Kusan Railroad; Minneapolis & St. Louis; Chicago, Burlington & Quincy; Louisville & Nashville; Union Pacific; Missouri- Kansas-Texas; New Haven; and Rock Island. A black New Haven and a Western Pacific variation have been reported.
While certainly not on par with Lionel’s no. 6464 nearscale boxcars, KMT’s “K” Series cars provided a lot of play value for very little money.
You can find them today at swap meets and on online auctions for $8 to $20 depending on condition. There are also some unassembled kits out there in their boxes that feature really spectacular color artwork.
More pricing information is available in Greenberg’s Guide to Kusan Trains (published 1987), and you can find more about the history of the cars in the July 2017 issue of Classic Toy Trains.