|Written by Paul D. Race for and|
Since Bachmann introduced its line of On30 trains, model railroaders from many scales have noticed the unique potential of these trains. They are models of narrow gauge railroads, which tended to have relatively small trains and equipment. And this, in turn, allows you to fit a lot of model railroading into very small space without using trains so small that you can't really see what's going on half the time.
Bachmann's first On30 train sets used a "Mogul" 2-6-0 locomotive that was a model of a popular Baldwin locomotive first made in the late 1800s. These moguls were used into the 1930s by narrow gauge railroads to haul both freight and passenger trains. But user soon expressed in interest in having bigger freight haulers as well as smaller industrial-style locomotives. And Bachmann made both, providing many opportunities for modeling different kinds of railroads.
We first started listing On30 trains in our buyer's guides in 2004. Almost immediately several train sets and locomotives became virtually unavailable, because demand was so strong. Now we are confident that enough of our recommended suppliers carry enough of these fine products to keep you from being disappointed, unless you wait until December to place your order.
Note about DCC: For "serious" model railroaders, some of the locomotives on this page include a built-in DCC decoder. This is a feature that allows you to control more than one train on the same track, if you also purchase the Bachmann DCC Controller.
Note about Availability and Pricing: Before Bachmann started making On30 trains, only a few handcrafted brass pieces a year were usually available for On30 hobbiests, and the market was very small. The number of people modeling any particular narrow gauge line was even smaller (unless you count Rio Grande, which has a relatively large following). To this day, Bachmann tends to make relatively small runs of most On30 products. For example, they may order one batch of an East Broad Top (EBT) set, then not make another EBT set again until they've also modeled a dozen other lines. So if you see any On30 products for a railroad you want to model, get them now - they may not be available for long, and once they become unavailable, they may remain so for years. If you "click through" to see details on a product, and nothing happens at all, or you are routed to a supplier's home page, please let me know and I will remove the product from the buyer's guide until I can find a replacement or another supplier. For more detailed information about why products seem to come and go and why I have stopped listing prices for certain products, please see my article "About Pricing and Availability."
Note about Suppliers: While we try to help you get the trains and other products you want by recommending suppliers with a good record of customer service, all transactions between you and the supplier you chose to provide your trains are governed by the published policies on the supplier's web site. So please print off any order confirmation screens and save copies of invoices, etc., so you can contact the appropriate supplier should any problems occur. (They almost never do, but you want to be on the safe side.)
Porter's "tank" engines had no tenders. Instead the water they needed was carried in tanks right on the locomotive. On this model, the tank wraps around the boiler, giving the locomotive a "potbelly" appearance. Without a tender, an engineer could switch cars much more efficiently, and the weight of the water over the axles gave tank engines additional traction. This helped make Porter's tank engines mighty for their size - they could fit almost anywhere, pulling heavy loads over hastily-laid track. Though the earliest Porters were build well before the turn of the century, many stayed in service until well into the 1950s. This model has vertical panelling to represent a wooden cab. It is painted a soft black color but has no road name in case you want to add your own.
Features of this model include:
A Pennsylvania version of the Porter 0-4-0T also available. Its cab represents a slightly different construction, which could represent "all-metal," however.
Paneled, Unlettered 0-4-2T - When a Porter might have to go beyond easy access to fuel, the Porter company recommended these 0-4-2T locomotives. The non-powered trailing wheels supported an extra-large fuel compartment. A special counterbalancing design kept most of the weight on the drivers, though. Like their little 0-4-0T brothers, these Porters could run on almost any kind of track. This model has all of the same features as the 0-4-0T described above. The cab on this version represents a wooden panel.
Two-Truck Shay - Ephraim Shay was scholar and logging company owner who solved a decades-old problem: how do you build a small, but powerful steam engine that doesn't literally pound the rails (a real problem on light, hastily-laid trackage)? The answer was to move the pistons to the side and use gear shafts to drive the wheels. This not only spread out the force of the pistons, but it "geared down" the torque, allowing a relatively small boiler to provide a great deal of pulling power. Yes, you couldn't go very fast, but it wasn't safe to go more than a few miles an hour on most industrial railroads anyway. Shays were favorites on 30" logging and mining railroads in hilly regions.
Bachmann Spectrum Ohio River and Western Mogul - During and just after the American Civil War, most locomotives had four "pilot wheels" (which helped to steer the engine around curves) and four "drivers," which delivered steam power to the tracks. But as boilers became more efficient, it proved possible to get enough power to drive six drivers with the same size of boiler. So the Mogul, which was named after the railroad "barons" of the late 1800s, traded a pair of pilot wheels for a pair of drivers and "never looked back." Eventually larger railroads made their locomotives bigger and added many more wheels, but the Mogul was suprisingly useful for short passenger hauls and fast freight where a bigger locomotive would have been "overkill." Narrow-gauge Baldwin-built Moguls like this model could be seen in most parts of the country right up until 1930, when many smaller railroads were forced to close, taking their hardworking equipment with them.
This model is an upgraded version of the locomotive included with most Bachmann On30 Starter Sets. Features of this model include:
Bachmann Spectrum DCC-Equipped Outside-Frame Consolidation, Little River Logging - The Consolidation, which has one pair of pilot wheels and eight drivers (2-8-0) was a logical step beyond the mogul (2-6-0). Most consolidations were used for freight or switching duties, and this locomotive will perform both admirably on your On30 railroad. But wait, this isn't an ordinary consolidation. This is a model of one of the few locomotives ever built that had the drivers inside the locomotive frame instead of outside. But there was not enough room within the frame for the counterweights, so those were placed at the end of the axles outside the frame, which makes for a very unusual site as the engine steams slowly past you, counterweights spinning away just inside the equally active Walschaert valve gear. If you haven't seen one in action, I can only describe it as looking something like an egg-beater coming down the track. Don't run it too fast, though or it all becomes a blur. Slow and steady operations are the best for this model.
This model is also equipped for DCC, a technology that allows you to control more than one train on the same track. The train will run fine on ordinary DC current, such as the kind that comes in the On30 Starter Sets. But with the Bachmann DCC Controller, you can add many operational possibilities to a relatively simple railroad.
Features of this locomotive include:
The need for larger and larger boilers eventually made the outside frame Consolidation obsolete, but many of the individual engines were in service for forty years or more. Click on the photograph if you want to see more detail.
A Painted, but Unlettered version of the outside-frame Consolidation is also available, in case you want to add your own railroad name. Click to see a larger photo.
Bachmann Spectrum Climax - For industrial lines that needed maximum power with minimum stress on the rails, "geared" locomotives seemed to be the solution. This locomotive built by the Climax Locomotive Works, has diagonal cylinders that drive a flywheel attached to a gearing system. Underneath the locomotive, a system of gears transfers power to all four axles. Although this system increases the number of moving parts, it has two distinct advantages over standard locomotive drive mechanisms:
This model represents a 28-ton engine that was produced until 1904 and continued in scattered service into the early 1950s. Features of Bachmann's Climax models include:
A California Mining Company Climax is also available. Click to see a larger photo.
Bachmann DCC Gasoline Switcher - Sooner or later, every industrial railroad that stayed business had to go to a power source that required less maintenance than their old steam engines. Four-wheeled gasoline and diesel-powered locomotives were built by locomotive companies like Baldwin; they were also sometimes "kludged" together in the industry's welding shop. Bachmann offers this locomotive with DCC, so it can be run on the same track with other DCC locomotives by adding the Bachmann DCC Controller. In fact, if you wish to experiment with DCC, this is probably the locomotive to start with. Featured include:
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