Bachmann Spectrum Model Trains


Ryan C Kunkle

Bachmann's Spectrum Line is the premier line of trains from the long-standing leader in the hobby. Bachmann has long been known for its low-priced entry-level train sets. Beginning in 1990, the company debuted a new line which has raised the bar for the entire industry with every new release.

A Leader in Innovation

The first release in the Spectrum line was the HO scale GE C40-8 locomotive. Then, one of the most modern engines on the rails, the Spectrum model was remarkable for several reasons. It was touted as being able to match the 4000 hp prototype for pulling power. A heavy metal chassis and new motor delivered some of the smoothest performance available at the time, at a cost comparable to mid-grade models. In addition to the power under the hood, the models featured a higher level of detail on the shell as well. These were the first ready to run diesels with separate grab irons. The engines also featured coupler cut levers and a crew in the cab.

Spectrum followed this release with a Pennsylvania Railroad K4s Pacific and matching passenger cars. The lighted cars featured detailed interiors and still hold up well against today's new quality passenger car models — at about 2/3 the cost.

Bachmann changed the game in a big way again when they rolled out their next steam locomotive, a Baldwin 2-8-0. Although the engine was not based on any specific railroad's locomotives, it was close enough to pass for dozens and easy to kitbash for those who demanded a more specific look. Aside from the many added details, most of which are easy to remove including the sand and steam domes, these steam engines broke the mold by featuring a cleverly engineered drive. For the first time, the open space between the frame and boiler was free of worm gears and motor shafts. In short, this engine was like nothing ever seen in the hobby before.

Since then, Bachmann's Spectrum line has continued to roll out one new release after another — everything from GE industrial diesels to 2-6-6-2's. While others eventually catch up and may even improve on what Spectrum starts, Bachmann seems to continue to think outside the box and raise the bar with each new announcement. One thing that hasn't changed however is Bachmann's commitment to offering these revolutions at a price the average modeler can afford.

N Scale

Bachmann has followed most of their HO releases with similar N scale models. While the smaller size means more molded on details than the HO counterparts, these locomotives still stand up well against the competition in quality and cost.

Like the HO market, Bachmann has begun offering complete sets in the Spectrum line. These starter sets stand tall over others for quality. Still affordable for beginners, these sets are a good option for the new-comer who intends to stay in the hobby for a long time.

G Gauge

Bachmann entered the G Gauge market and created a niche for itself with affordable American prototype models that could go inside or out. It has added to that line with Spectrum models.

Like their smaller cousins, Spectrum G Gauge trains stand tall on detail. Most feature realistic sounds along with smooth operations. Bachmann's G gauge trains are scaled larger than most, 1:20.3. This makes the track gauge appropriate for narrow gauge trains. But the models will work with those from other manufacturers.

Bachmann debuted its new G line with a 2-truck Shay. The large size made the many moving parts of these geared engines easy to appreciate. They remain popular models today. Bachmann's latest Spectrum G gauge releases have included stunning models of Rio Grande "Mudhens" and long cabooses with complete interiors.


As if breaking new ground in HO, N, and G weren't enough, Bachmann created a whole new market in O narrow gauge, with On30. Using its HO track, the new models featured a Spectrum level of detail and operating qualities.

This new scale has opened the world of narrow gauge to many who could only dream of the expensive brass imports than filled the market before. It has even created a secondary market of suppliers of the more realistic track, conversion kits for On3 and more rolling stock.