Your Opinion of Bachmann Is Outdated

You want to start a flame war on an online N scale discussion group? It’s easy. Just complain about Bachmann trains. You’re bound to attract a large group of people with strong opinions. It happens so often that I made up a meme for the situation.

That’s how sick I am of people complaining.

Bachmann earned its reputation for bad N scale locomotives throughout the late 20th century. I had a few, back in the early ’80s, and they really were bad, but so were a lot of others. (Atlas, to name one, was selling some real crap in those days.) But times change. Atlas started putting out better engines, Kato planted their flag on the US hobby scene, and smaller manufacturers like Intermountain upped the game. Bachmann’s Spectrum line of locomotives has been around for a while now, and they’re generally good…but yet the reputation lingers.

Their 44-tonner came out nearly eight years ago, and I promptly got one. In fact, it was my very first DCC-equipped locomotive. Sure, it has its quirks. The decoder was pretty no-frills even by 2009 standards, and the truck sideframes hung low enough to sometimes catch on Atlas switch machines. A little filing on the switch machine housings solved the clearance issue. The engine runs great on both analog and digital.

Last year, it seemed like everyone I know got a sound-equipped N scale locomotive. We had so many to choose from: the Broadway Limited M1, the Atlas S-2, BLI’s Alco PA diesels. I wasn’t looking to get into sound myself, but that’s the only way I could get my Centipedes, so I hopped on the bandwagon, too.

A lot of those new choo-choo noises I’m hearing these days are coming from Bachmann engines. A bunch of my friends treated themselves to the new Pennsy K4. It was Sam, though, who was smitten the hardest. He picked up a Bachmann DD40AX and a large pile of their SD-45s, all sound equipped. He presented an SD-45 to me, too. I took it to a couple of the spring shows, ran it, and…

I like it. A lot.

Like my 44-tonner, the SD-45 also has some quirks. Cab window visors are separately-applied parts, and rather fragile. I’ve already had to glue one back on. Truck-to-chassis electrical contact is not up to current best practice; wipers on the truck make sliding contact with the chassis itself, not a phosper-bronze strip like you’d find on a typical Atlas or Kato product. Dave found an article in the May/June 2017 issue of N Scale Railroading describing how to polish up the chassis for more reliable contact. I did it for the front truck (removing the rear truck requires detaching the decoder), and it did improve contact. It ran great at April’s Lockport show.

Next time you’re whining about how awful Bachmann is, you may notice me tuning you out. Now you know why.