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136  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: My "retro" HO-scale layout! on: January 24, 2014, 12:01:38 AM
Here is a video I shot of some of the layout in action...
137  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / Re: More powerful controller for non DCC train on: January 23, 2014, 09:57:21 PM
When I was first starting out in model railroading, I typically used those starter power packs as well. But since my dad knew my train layout was expanding, for Christmas 2012 he got me a nice MRC Tech-4 280 power pack, and that made quite a difference.

It allows me to realistically simulate certain speeds, it has enough AC power for my switches and a few lights and Tyco "action" accessories. Nowadays I usually use the "starter" packs for powering other lighted accessories on my layout (I'm thinking of switching them from AC to DC power, but I'm nervous that doing so and having the throttles on a forward speed all the time would overheat the packs.)
It makes sense for when you're starting out to just begin with a starter power pack. Not just Bachmann, but Life-Like, Model Power, AHM and Tyco's as well. Though I know Athearn's train sets came with a rebranded MRC power pack of sorts, along with some of the Walthers TrainLine and Proto 1000 sets, and Atlas also has their "Right Track" power pack too.

I think Bachmann should make a similar type of high-end MRC Tech-style power pack for controlling DC trains in the same manner. After all, Tyco sort of did (though they were basically rebranded MRC power packs with the older gold metal surface.) And I do also remember the Spectrum sets having a decent power pack before they went DCC.
138  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: My "retro" HO-scale layout! on: January 17, 2014, 12:56:47 AM
Thanks for the new pics!  It's nice to see you picked up 2 nice locos-the Trainline and the Proto 1000.
I would say the Trainline is very similar to Bachmann blue box diesel analog models but not competition with Athearn.  I would also put the Proto 1000s in competition with current B-mann offerings.

Yeah, in most cases I don't run any of those "pancake motor" locomotives on my layout, and if I do get one it's usually for collectible purposes, like my vintage Bachmann Union Pacific GP40. (Interesting how Bachmann's locomotives pretty much evolved from the cheap Tyco-like units to nicer mid-range -style units, even if many of them are based off those 1970s and 1980s locomotive prototypes!)
139  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: My "retro" HO-scale layout! on: January 16, 2014, 08:43:13 PM
Been a while, but here's a few updates!

Life-Like coaling tower building kit. Once I get the materials and know-how I may weather some of these buildings.

Life-Like Proto 1000 Santa Fe F3A locomotive. It does have some nice details, even wipers on the locomotive windshield! (For those unfamiliar, Proto 1000 was the mid-range point between Life-Like's lower-end locomotives and cars, and their high-end Proto 2000 line, and was introduced in 1999.)

Bachmann Plasticville pedestrian bridge! I got this as a Christmas present. (I also got the classic Bachmann "Action Depot," but currently have no place to set it up on the layout...)

Walthers Trainline Santa Fe "Bluebonnet" GP9M diesel locomotive. It has a nice flywheel motor and all-wheel driver, and though it's Walther's lowest (non- Life-Like) product line it is meant more to compete with Athearn, Mantua, and Bachmann's Silver Series product lines. (It does use E-Z Mate couplers.)

Current layout overview.

This year my brother and I might move out of our parents' house and get our own place. Size permitting, I might make a whole new layout to go with it; it would have new (improved) landscaping and a new track plan, along with possibly being DCC, but I will also reuse the existing locomotives, rolling stock, buildings and action accessories, etc.
140  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: Need to replace EMD GP40 Santa Fe Diesel on: November 03, 2013, 11:59:23 PM
How about this for a suggestion/compromise: leave one horn hook (X2f) coupler on one end of the loco and change out the coupler at the other end to a knuckle type.  This way rolling stock with either type coupler, can be pulled by the loco.
If you change out the one coupler to a knuckle, you should use a Kadee Height gauge to make sure it is set for the correct  height. 

Yes, I would also recommend doing that. I do NOT advise switching from knuckle to horn-hook couplers. Either go with the conversion car option, or if you can, replace the rolling stock's horn-hooks with new knuckle couplers as well.

By the way, what is the track like? If it's brass, I don't recommend using it. Brass was good for its time, but oxides easier and requires more frequent maintenance. If you do have brass, I'd recommend replacing that with E-Z track (preferably nickel-silver.) I recommend anyone with an older train set (regardless if it's Bachmann, Tyco, AHM or whatever) that came with brass track, do not use the original track and instead get some nice new nickel silver track. Even older locomotives would perform better on it!
141  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: My "retro" HO-scale layout! on: October 08, 2013, 09:53:06 PM
youwill find the magic mates will only stay coupled when they are under tension. if the slack runs in on your train they uncouple. if you are running double headed locomotive4s, and the leader hits a dead spot they uncouple. they were a nice concept that didn't work out under real life3 conditions. conversion cars are much more reliable.

Yeah, the pack only came with eight such couplers, and that might be all I am using. At least they fit well on those Mehano-made locomotives! Their horn-hook couplers were at an unusual height...
142  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: My "retro" HO-scale layout! on: October 08, 2013, 05:46:28 PM
Here's some more updates!

Tyco auto carrier car. It does look neat, but not as realistic as Life-Like's. I'm also planning on getting Bachmann's tri-level auto carrier car from the 1980s, so I can combine the three to make a full auto-carrying train!

The school finally has a playground!

I outfitted a few of my locomotives and cars with IHC "Magic Mate" couplers. They were a bit cumbersome to work with at first, but after a while they turned out to be pretty good! They are designed so they can connect with knuckle and horn/hook couplers, and sometimes makes a handy alternative to "conversion cars."

I got this in yesterday; it's a vintage Bachmann 0-6-0 Santa Fe steam locomotive with slope tender! It was a bit damaged when it arrived, but I did some repairs, and now it runs pretty well.

Here's another vintage HO steam engine I haven't shown yet: Tyco's Chattanooga 0-8-0! The motor is in the tender car, so that makes performance a little off. But it is nicely detailed!

Atlas water tower. As long as I'm using some steam power, this is a nice addition to the layout.
143  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: Train sets with accessories on: September 28, 2013, 11:31:12 PM
I think pretty much everybody has gone to kadee compatable knuckle couplers. no more x2f devil hooks. model power even has talgo trucks with knuckle couplers.

Unfortunately Life-Like still uses the X2F couplers. Are they still stuck in the 1980s or something?!
Of course I've moved up on my layout even though I also started out with a train set. Now I have more higher-quality locomotives, a better power pack, etc.

I know Athearn's train sets come with good-quality locomotives AND the nickel-silver E-Z track! These ones seem more geared toward the novice looking for a more high-quality set (hence the nickel silver track.)
The Walthers Trainline sets also have high-quality locomotives. I have a couple of Trainline locomotives, like the kind their sets include, and they have pretty good can motors and flywheel drive, and they also use Bachmann E-Z Mate couplers. But the Trainline sets come with the steel E-Z track (since Walthers now owns Life-Like, maybe they should include the Power-Loc track instead?)

Now HERE'S a rather hefty-featured Bachmann train set from the early days of E-Z track:

In addition to the usual signs, poles and unpainted figures, it also includes the Plasticville suburban station, farm building set, barn and silo, school house, signal bridge, even the picket fence and park accessory set! And all this for a 56x38 layout. I imagine this was for beginners that wanted to also have buildings on their first layout right away, to add a bit more imagination to their train operations.
144  Discussion Boards / HO / Tyco: one of Bachmann's oldest rivals on: September 28, 2013, 06:20:08 PM
Some of you may already know that I am often interested in vintage HO-scale products (and yes, vintage Bachmann is one of them.) Since the 1970s, Bachmann was one of the top HO train companies.
BUT... during the 1970s and up to the mid-1980s, Bachmann's biggest rival was... Tyco Toys!

Originally an offshoot of Mantua, Tyco was popular during the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s. Tyco and Bachmann were the two big HO train manufacturers of the 1970s (HO was the ONLY scale Tyco manufactured trains in), and they both offered a wide variety of sets, locomotives and rolling stock, buildings and action accessories. (But Tyco never offered scenic/landscaping accessories like Bachmann first did in 1979.)

Tyco even had sets based off the Chattanooga Choo-Choo (years before the Bachmann version), the A-Team, G.I. Joe, Transformers, M.A.S.K. and Rambo.
Unlike Bachmann, Tyco never really offered locomotives based on the most latest models in use during this time (like the F40PH or the GP40.) Their building kits were also typically made by Pola in Europe, then rebranded by Tyco. They even offered building kits based off Pizza Hut, 7-Eleven, Burger King and a 7-UP Plant in the 1980s (some of these were also offered by A.H.M. around this time.)
Tyco even offered some rather unique products, like a large track expander set that featured blocking control and diagrams for a large 4x8 layout: their TycoScene layout board of the 1980s!

It was sort of similar to the Bachmann Power House train set layout board of the 1980s, but designed more realistically, and could be expanded to support a 4x6 layout with a passing siding, and even had strategic placement of accessories. This layout board was often included with some of their train sets, and at the time was an innovative way for playing with HO trains on the floor, before today's roadbed track.
Tyco also offered some rather cool action accessories that still look pretty good on a layout today:

Just as Bachmann had some of their own exclusive action accessories in the 1970s and 1980s, Tyco also had their own as well. Some of these could also be used with Bachmann E-Z track with some modification.
During this time, Tyco's other big product was slot cars. Although Bachmann did make slot cars for a while, I don't think they were as popular as Tyco's, and were discontinued in the early 1980s. It was HO trains where Bachmann and Tyco really competed with each other.

As the 1980s went on, Bachmann was growing and Tyco was shrinking, partly due to the general loss of interest in model railroading as a kids' toy, and partly because by the late 1980s and early 1990s, their products could be seen as a joke in the model railroad market, especially compared to the more high-end stuff of the time like Bachmann's then-new Spectrum line. Tyco never had such an equivalent (like Life-Like did with their Proto 2000 line.) Tyco last offered HO-scale trains in 1993, and then finally went out of business in 1998 (their slot and RC cars were acquired by Mattel in 1997.)
Of course, Bachmann lived on, and is still a major player in the HO train market today. Tyco didn't even survive long enough to come out with a roadbed track to compete with Bachmann's E-Z Track!

Just to make a note, I actually like both Bachmann and Tyco's output they offered during that time. In fact, if I were making an HO-scale layout in 1979, even if I started with a Tyco train set, I would probably also be using Bachmann Plasticville kits and some of their action accessories, rolling stock and locomotives in conjunction with Tyco's equivalents (very much like my current layout, where I use a combination of different manufacturers' products.)
Though today Tyco locomotives can vary wildly in terms of operation. I only have two: a small Tyco diesel switcher and an 0-8-0 Chattanooga steam locomotive and tender car. The switcher runs really well, but the Chattanooga sometimes struggles due to its "PowerTorque" pancake motor.

I am also a member of the Tyco Collectors' Forum, since I like both Bachmann and Tyco's stuff.
145  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / Re: what was everyones frist train set on: September 28, 2013, 05:48:20 PM
My first train set was, believe it or not, a LIFE-LIKE set! To be precise, it was the Toys R' Us Express, from when I was a kid in the 1990s, which I got as a Christmas present:

(Our local Toys R' Us used to sell a lot of HO train products, mostly Bachmann and Life-Like.)
Rather basic, but a nice little set, and for a kid my age, the Power-Loc track was pretty good for playing with it on the floor. During this time, I wasn't really interested in setting up a real model railroad yet, but I did get some extra track so it wouldn't just go in a circle every time.
But what REALLY made my layout take off was what I got for Christmas 2000:

Set it up on a 4x8 sheet of plywood, along with some additional accessories I got. A lot like those older high-end Tyco train sets of the 1970s.

Of course now I have moved up from most of the Power-Loc track and those low-end "retro" Life-Like locomotives.
146  Discussion Boards / HO / Train sets with accessories on: September 28, 2013, 10:21:30 AM
I'm not sure about some of you guys, but I think a train set is usually a great way to start a model railroad. You get the train and enough track to get you started. But sometimes, I feel if you want to start a model railroad, the train sets that come with accessories is a really good idea. Bachmann's sets that feature some kind of accessories would usually come with their signs and utility poles and (unpainted) figures, and I recall a few would even include their Plasticville suburban station building kit!

This kind of harkens back to the olden days of some train sets that would also include such accessories to add to the play value for younger ones and to also make the most of starting a model railroad; even some of Bachmann's older sets were like this:

It would be also a bit cheaper than buying the parts separately.

Any comments/opinions?
147  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / The classic "Bach Man" comic instruction manual! on: September 14, 2013, 07:11:20 PM
I'm sure anyone who purchased a Bachmann train set in the late 1980s or early 1990s will recognize this. As one way for them to try and step ahead of the competition at the time, Bachmann had a clever means of an instruction manual, done as a comic book; this way kids could also easily get into model railroading, and there's lots for them to get into. This may have also been the debut appearance of the Bach Man!

OK, so the story opens on a stereotypical "perfect" comic family (complete with a pet dog that thinks his own thoughts ala Snoopy and Garfield!), purchasing a Bachmann train set...

See what I mean by the "perfect" family? The "boxcar full of cookies" reminds me of how they sometimes did that with the model trains on Gumby.
Though the scaling isn't entirely accurate, I think they are supposed to be trying to set up an HO-scale train set here, probably one of Bachmann's "starter" sets.

Of course, the family is initially baffled by their attempts to get the trains going, even the father! I do find the boy's "Is that IT?" reaction amusing, as if he feels they were ripped off.

LOL at "No! Rugs are trouble." That's the case when using standard model railroad track, and this was before Bachmann developed roadbed track in 1994 with their "E-Z Track." I know back then, the only real option for playing with the trains on a floor was with some kind of layout board on the floor, regardless if it's a piece of plywood set on the floor, the layout mat included with Bachmann's old "Powerhouse" train set of the mid-1980s, or their arch rival Tyco's "TycoScene" layout board.

Bachmann changed the Simplimatic plug design some time in the early 1990s, and still uses that design today. Also back at this time, their train sets would always use a curved terminal rerailrer track, unlike the E-Z Track sets using an oval that come with a straight terminal rerailer. Also note the track in this looks like it's brass, though I think by the late 1980s all of Bachmann's train sets came with steel track...

LOL at the "All the other cars" sign.

Even though I use a more advanced MRC Tech 4 280 power pack on my train layout with an on/off switch, I still unplug it when my trains are not in use anyway.

Many of those accessories and buildings are still available today. Though some of their more interesting operating accessories, like the tri-level auto carrier, log loader/unloader, action depot and action caboose were discontinued once E-Z Track hit the market. (I think Bachmann should have made E-Z Track -compatible versions of the action caboose, etc. Some of those were pretty cool!)

I'm sure many of you will enjoy this trip down memory lane. I myself am into vintage (1970s - 1990s) model railroading products and accessories of the time, including what Bachmann had to offer back then!
Too bad this wasn't updated to reflect the new E-Z Track in 1994, if they did at all. I wonder what a more contemporary take on this would be like?
148  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: My "retro" HO-scale layout! on: September 14, 2013, 06:56:28 PM

Don't you recall Athearn from the 70s and 80s?

I'm actually considering a classic Athearn locomotive as well... maybe their Santa Fe F-7 or something. I am also thinking about getting a newer Athearn engine, along with a Santa Fe Proto 1000 F3A locomotive.
Unlike old locomotives in many cases, the old low-end rolling stock will still usually look good on freight trains, particularly if they are weathered. (I'd do that, but I don't have the time and stuff to do so.)
And for the heck of it, I am also thinking of getting a classic Santa Fe or Union Pacific Bachmann GP-40. But like I said, many of those old Bachmann X2Fs cannot be easily replaced due to their somewhat proprietary design (I think). Unless maybe an E-Z Mate coupler with a small makeshift adapter is used... Until then, at least I have a few "conversion" cars; in which they'd have an X2F coupler on one end and a knuckle coupler on the other. This was often used back when knuckle couplers were somewhat of a premium back in the 1980s and 1990s, instead of being the norm like today.
149  Discussion Boards / HO / My "retro" HO-scale layout! on: September 14, 2013, 02:57:50 PM
I am both a (currently) budgeted model railroader, and that I also enjoy classic HO-scale train stuff (especially from Bachmann, Tyco, IHC, Life-Like and Atlas.) So I thought that for my basement model train layout I can use a lot of that stuff, yet still continuously update it for the new millenium. So far, I have my trains running mostly on Atlas nickel-silver track, a mix of Code-100 and Code-83 (some of it is True Track.) A little of it is steel, but I am not going to bother with brass track on my layout. Right now it is a Standard-DC layout with blocking, but I will also probably eventually upgrade to DCC (I will probably so so by getting the Bachmann E-Z Command train set or something, but retrofit my layout to work with the DCC controls and locomotives.)
Like many model railroaders typically would, I usually like to vary in manufacturers of products, so that it isn't entirely a Bachmann layout, or a Tyco layout or whatever. This makes the layout seem more realistic.


Overviews. I have it set up on a 4x8 sheet of plywood, because that's all we have room for, but you can get a lot done on a 4x8 layout anyways. The track plan is partially based off some of Tyco's "Layout Expander System" track plans. I refer to this land as "Sheffingtown." The main railroad I use is BNSF.

The controls. Note the Tyco blocking switch and buttons for "action" accessories. It should be noted that during the 1970s and early 1980s, Tyco was pretty much Bachmann's biggest rival when it came to HO-scale trains, so I use quite a bit of both.

I got this in today; the Bachmann action caboose! It was made some time in the late 1970s or the 1980s (latest I know it was still available was 1987.) I want to try and replace the X2F couplers with knuckle couplers, but this has extended talgo trucks, and they have unusual horn-hook couplers that must be screwed in and the holes are in a weird size, compared to other manufacturers' couplers, and I don't really want to take the body-mount approach with this caboose.

Residential area of my layout, including the nice little Plasticville Cape Cod house.

Life-Like downtown business center next to a Pola/Tyco/IHC Loew's movie theater with a customized marquee.

Plasticville post office. I got this because just about every town needs a post office, and I like the small size of it.

Plasticville school house. I plan to add a playground behind it (probably the Bachmann playground accessory set), and maybe even expand the building so it's not so small (or at least add a portable, like some schools do.)

Every town should have a fire station, too. I went with the Life-Like one because it reminded me quite a bit of the fire stations we have in my hometown of Brockton, MA.

A smaller, second train is parked on this inner loop - the "B" block. I still do like the classic look and feel of steam when it comes to model railroading. Maybe some day I'll get a nicer Bachmann steam locomotive.

Plasticville switch tower, at a rather convenient location.

Even though this is a "retro" layout, I mostly try to use more modern locomotives, like this Walthers Trainline ATSF Dash 8-40BW. It came with X2F horn-hook couplers (one of them was damaged), so I replaced them with E-Z Mate couplers, because I prefer knuckle couplers over the X2Fs.

Tyco crane car and maintenance tender, made some time in the 1970s. Very similar to Bachmann's current crane car and boom tender (which was introduced in 1979, apparently to compete with Tyco's version.)

A modified Life-Like KFC building kit. Since I like their chicken, I couldn't resist. Plus, it's a great attention-grabber on my layout anyways.

Used car lot, operating coal tipple and general store, all mostly from Life-Like. (Unlike several of you here, I started my model railroad using Life-Like products, which is why I also like that company's offerings  Cheesy )

Tyco diesel switcher locomotive, again Santa Fe. The front coupler I found really difficult to remove, but I was able to replace the back coupler with an E-Z Mate knuckle coupler, to make it more compatible with my rolling stock, which I also mostly retrofitted with knuckle couplers (Tyco and Life-Like stuff mostly gets the SceneMaster knuckle couplers from Walthers.)

Tyco freight unloading depot. You press a button and hold it down, and the little plow scoops a pipe section off the flatcar. Very interesting, and it's too bad Bachmann never made a similar version.

Tyco piggyback loader/unloader and steam whistle billboard. Unlike the Bachmann electronic steam whistle accessory, this uses an electrically-operated air whistle, similar to the whistles found in old Lionel steam engines, that is activated via a pushbutton. It also sounds better than Bachmann's diesel horn storage tank accessory!

Life-Like dual operating crossing gate. Very similar to Bachmann's version they've had since 1976. This will only work with Life-Like's Power-Loc track (it came with my Life-Like "Freight Runner" train set), so I used special Power-Loc adapter tracks to connect them (these adapter sections will also work really well with E-Z track.) I am thinking of modifying it some day so the lights will flash and the gates will be motorized.

Tyco operating crossing signal from the early 1980s. It works slightly similar to the crossing gate, but when the train runs over the pressure sensor, it activates a small wind-up bell housed in the loading dock, and the lights flash alternately. The lights don't really work right now, but the bell does, and is pretty neat.

Tyco pressure-operated pipe loader.

A small accident scene I staged on my layout.

Life-Like stock pen with cow and pig figures. I haven't gotten around to painting some of the human figures yet.

Tyco lighted freight station. This was made some time in the 1970s, and is very nicely detailed.
Life-Like "Snap-Loc" train station building kit. This was introduced in the late 1990s, obviously to compete with Bachmann's Plasticville snap-together building kits. It came with my Freight Runner train set, and looks very nice (I also have a Bachmann Plasticville suburban station, but right now I don't really have any room for it...)

A small fruit stand next to an apple orchard.

Note the Tyco billboard in the background.

My other locomotives I often use on my layout. The blue-and-yellow one is made by Mehano, and I plan to replace its X2Fs with E-Z Mate couplers. The two Life-Like engines on the left are a bit low-end, but do look nice (the hi-nose GP38-2 came with the Freight Runner set I mentioned), and the other three have more powerful can motors and smooth eight-wheel drive. Once I get more cash, I might get a good-quality Bachmann (BN)SF locomotive of some sort, or maybe once I make the move to DCC or something.

Any comments/questions?
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