Bachmann Industries, which produces Bachmann train sets, is the world’s largest maker of model trains and railway equipment. By slowly and steadily acquiring larger and larger chunks of the market, but absorbing other makers who have run into trouble, Bachmann is, in a sense, the Microsoft of model-railroading. Most surprising of all is how little time, in relative terms, Bachmann has been in the train set business: the first N gauge products under the Bachmann name appeared in 1968, followed by the HO gauge range in 1970. Since that time, Bachmann train sets can be had in just about all of the major scales, with the exception of diminutive 1:220 Z scale. Your train box may say Lilliput (European, mostly German prototypes) or Graham Farish (British N gauge), but it’s all still Bachmann. As well as its very extensive range of American models from both the steam and diesel eras in N, HO and O gauges, Bachmann has recently begun to fly the flag for some of the more specialized model-railroading niches – narrow gauge modeling.
A word or two about gauge.
Gauge refers to the space between the two parallel tracks that the train runs on. In the real world, by far the largest proportion of mainline railroad tracks are spaced precisely 4 ft 8½” apart. Indeed, it is so ubiquitous that this spacing, 4ft 8½” is referred to as standard gauge. However, some railroads and some whole countries have, for various reasons, spaced the rails closer together. In Southern Africa, Japan, Thailand, the Malay Peninsula and New Zealand, for example, the space is 3ft 6″. In the USA, 3ft was common in mountainous areas, where construction is greatly simplified if narrower gauges are used. Europe still has a number of charming short-lines still in operation today where the gauge is as little as 2ft 6″.
In the model-railroading world, Bachmann, more than any other single manufacturer, makes it possible to experience the singular joys of narrow gauge railroads in HO, O and G gauges. Lilliput, Bachmann’s European subsidiary, makes a range of 2ft 6″ prototype locomotives and rolling stock in HO gauge, while under the Bachmann brand, there is a growing range of On30 models – On30 being 1/48th scale models running on 30″ gauge track – 30″ in the real world, that is; 16.5mm wide on your model railroad. Bachmann’s G scale models represent the big and rather expensive end of the hobby. These are wonderfully large, detailed and chunky pieces of metal and plastic. They steam, they’re ready for digital command control (DCC) and as if this wasn’t enough, they’ll run outside in the garden as well!
Bachmann train sets really do offer a great entry point to the hobby of model-railroading. The catalog shows a number of appealing themed starter sets, for the younger train-fans. The popular Thomas the Tank Engine sets are well represented in this range, but these are good quality model trains, which run on exactly the same HO track as any of the more expensive prototype models made by Bachmann that sell for a higher price. The volume of production and shrewdly targeted marketing by this company means that Bachmann is here to stay and we, the model railroaders of the world are all the more fortunate for it.