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Author Topic: Bachmann in 1992 and 1996  (Read 1978 times)

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« on: October 06, 2014, 11:48:04 PM »

A while back I acquired catalogs of Bachmann's products from 1992 and 1996. It's interesting seeing how the company was back then. All three of them have train products for HO, N and G gauges (no Spectrum stuff; that used to be cataloged separately.)

The 1992 catalog advertises the "King of the Rail" series train sets; each one including a chrome-finish F9 Santa Fe Warbonnet diesel locomotive, along with signs, poles and figures. There is the "Thunder Chief," with the loco pulling two freight cars and caboose around a 36" circle of track, the "Tornado" with the loco hauling three freight cars and caboose on a 45x36" oval of track with a bridge-and-trestle set, and the similar "Lightning Express," but with six freight cars, a 54x36" oval of track, and more signs, poles and figures. Some familiar sets are also included like the "Old Timer" sets, the "Smokey Mountain Express," the "Golden Spike," and the "Overland Limited" (featuring an 87x40" figure-eight track layout using a 90-degree cross track.) One set, the "Empire Builder" (featuring a figure-8 over/under track layout with the blinking bridge and dual crossing gate), curiously features a Mehano GP18 locomotive in Union Pacific colors (obviously this set initially came out before Bachmann began making their own high-quality locos.) 1992 is also when the Bachmann Plus line was introduced: several older steam locomotives like their older Consolidation and their 4-8-4s (like the Class J and the Daylight) were upgraded into the Plus series with much better motors and all-wheel drive, and new diesels included the F7 and B23-7. Many older steam and diesels were still being sold during this time, even their old DD40X and SD40-2 with "space age electronics!" Their rolling stock was still the old type with plastic wheels and truck-mounted X2F couplers, and they still had about as many operating accessories as they had in the 1980s (including long-discontinued models like their operating log car, action depot and operating caboose), and their "Snap=It" action accessories building kits. (I have the "Log Loader," but it's REALLY tricky to assemble.)
All track was mostly steel, except for their 30-degree crossing, which still used brass track. A number of their older Plasticville accessories and building kits were still available, and they also had the "Highlights" series of lighted accessories (basically the same as Model Power's light-ups, like the traffic lights, Exxon station signs, crossing signals and billboards.)
All their N-gauge stuff is unchanged at the time, and features nickel-silver track. The Plasticville O-gauge kits and accessories are still available, and the "Scenic Classic" building and landscape kits are still shown but with "DISCONTINUED" printed over them.
They also had their Magnum series of Spectrum power packs sold, along with their "Big Hauler" G-gauge train sets, along with some new locomotives also in the "Plus" series.

The 1996 catalog is similar in many ways, but also marks some new arrivals. A big new arrival at this time is nickel-silver E-Z Track (as the steel version had debuted two years prior), initially only available in full 18" and 22" radius curves, 9" and 3" straights, curve and straight terminal rerailers, 30-degree crossing, standard "old-style" turnouts and the older-style bumpers (still found in the track expander sets.)
By this time, most of the crummy older-style locomotives with single-truck pancake motors and truck-mounted couplers are only found in their "regular" train sets, and with the exception of the 0-6-0 steam engines, are no longer sold separately, in lieu of a much wider selection of "Bachmann Plus" locomotives, including the F7 with more new rodenames, the B23-7, SD45 and B30-7 (new for that year.) They still come with X2F couplers, as I don't think Kadee's exclusive patent had expired yet at the time. Also with the exception of "old timers" rolling stock, the older-style freight cars and cabooses with plastic wheels and talgo-truck couplers are only sold in train sets; similar separately-sold rolling stock is now equipped with metal wheels and body-muonted couplers (still X2Fs) and are billed as "Silver Series" rolling stock. (It's a lot like the rolling stock Bachmann makes today!)
Interesting train sets worth mentioning in the 1996 catalog are the Cannonball Express, including a 65x38" double-oval of E-Z Track with manual switches, and their Gandy Dancer handcar (the big selling point of the set), along with a chrome Santa Fe F9 diesel locomotive, three freight cars and caboose, and the usual signs, poles and figures. There are also "The Galaxy" and "The Meteor" starter sets, each with a freight train hauled by a chrome Santa Fe F9 diesel, a 47x38" oval of E-Z track, and including the signs, poles and figures. There is also the 1990s version of "The Thunderbolt," with the older Santa Fe GP40 (in Warbonnet colors) pulling five freight cars and a caboose on a 56x38" oval of E-Z track, and the usual figures, signs and poles. There is also "The Golden Star," similar to the above set but with the old Union Pacific GP40 and caboose, and including a bunch of Plasticville building kits, including the Suburban Station, Barn, Farm Building set, School House and Signal Bridge, along with a picket fence set, park assortment accessory set, and the usual figures, signs and poles. According to the blurb, it says the set "not only gives you a fantastic train, it also gives you an instant rural community! (I'm actually buying one of these sets off eBay for setting up at my local hobby shop's railroad museum as an operating HO layout for display and for kids to run!) The "Old Time Village," "Smokey Mountain Express" and "Overland Limited" sets are still available, but now with E-Z track (and the Overland Limited now has a 65x38" oval of E-Z Track, not as good an option as the 22" radius oval now included with the set!) All of these sets still came with their 1980s-style power pack.
But Bachmann didn't stop there with their train sets, they had also introduced the Silver Series train sets that include the Spectrum "Magnum" power pack, nickel-silver E-Z Track, and their higher-quality rolling stock and Bachmann Plus locomotives (though their "The Patriot" Amtrak set actually includes their Spectrum Amtrak F40PH!) One of them, the "Trail Blazer" (the one with the Conrail B23-7 diesel, three freight cars and extended vision caboose), we have at the hobby shop/museum and plan to also run this as well! (The locomotive works really well.) They still have the X2F couplers during this time though. Also, all sets are listed as including the illustrated "Bach Man" instruction manual (IDK if they updated it to reflect E-Z Track, or if it was the 1988 original with the stereotypical "perfect" comic family.)
In addition to the E-Z Track available, Bachmann still had "classic" (sectional) steel track available in 1996 for those still using it, but only in 18" radius curves and 9" straights, and manual and remote switches. Operating accessories in 1996 still included the classic "Gandy Dancer" handcar, crane and floodlight cars, the crummy diesel horn tank and the steam whistle shed, and lighted freight and passenger stations still available today. They also still had the tri-level car transporter available in 1996, along with the older version of their dual crossing gate (non-E-Z Track version), even that crappy version that had the "flashing lights and bells" was still being made in 1996! (Bachmann should really consider making some nice scale-model flashing crossing signals for the intermediate and advance hobbyists.) They also still had their blinking bridge and trestle sets (and non-blinking bridge), but these would not work with E-Z Track (the blinking bridge did come with track on it, so you COULD use it on an E-Z Track layout if you aren't using the trestles.) The usual Plasticville building kits, accessories and figures are also still available in the catalog, but they also have the Bachmann Plus series of building kits, along with introducing the "Silver Series" of Plasticville building kits.
In N-gauge, they introduced the Bachmann Plus line of N-scale F7 locomotives, along with a 16-wheel drive DD40AX. New "classic"-style passenger cars are also introduced in the Plus series, along with there being the Bachmann Plus series of N-gauge building kits. A G-gauge Spectrum locomotive is also introduced: the Two-Truck Shay steam engine!

I will soon get around to scanning both catalogs and uploading them to this site (loads of good vintage train catalogs and instructions are up here!)

Still interesting to see what Bachmann was like in the 1990s. Not much seems to have changed since then in some ways. Worth of note is how the locomotives and rolling stock in train sets are different than what was sold separately at the time, though today's lower-end Bachmann train sets use the same higher-quality locomotives sold in the base Bachmann line (i.e. with all-wheel drive and can motors, as well as optional DCC), and cheaper versions of the rolling stock with plastic wheels but still with body-mounted knuckle couplers. There doesn't seem to be any "Silver Series" or "Bachmann Plus" equivalent offered today, but I suppose this may be what their newer GG1 and NS "Heritage" locos may fall into if such a category still existed.
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