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 N Trolleys: Bachmann


BACHMANN N-GAUGE TROLLEYS

In 1982 Bachmann added N-gauge trolleys to its extensive product line with the Brill Trolley. Another classic trolley design, the streamlined PCC Streetcar, followed in 1983. Firmly rooted in Bachmann's entry-level market positioning in that era, each is powered by a similar chassis of very basic design, with cast metal left and right frame halves filling the body shell. These are bolted together (but slightly separated) with insulating hardware, pinching the open box motor and two light bulbs in between, making the electrical contacts with them. The plastic drive trucks are also pinched in place (able to swivel) and have phosphor-bronze contact pieces on each side that ride on half-axles and make contact with the underside of each chassis half, transmitting power from the track to the frame.

The half-axle ends press into a white insulating plastic axle gear, which is turned by white plastic worms mounted on the motor's long shafts. These cars suffer from splitting of the axle gears, due to the force fit of the half-axles within them. The split happens between gear teeth, widening the tooth spacing of those teeth to the point where the gearing binds, limiting the trolley to about one wheel rotation of travel in each direction. The early models came in a white cardboard box with a display window and black border edges. Later the box border edges were changed to orange.

Due to the size of the motor, these models are oversized in all dimensions for true 1:160 N scale and ride too high on their trucks. Both ends of the PCC lack the smooth curving style of the real thing. The quality of operation is hit-or-miss, with the gear mesh changing as the trucks swivel and the long motor shafts free to deviate from the chassis centerline. The paint schemes are generally "representative," not true-to-life. While unique when first produced and still a market mainstay, over the decades Bachmann's Brill and PCC have gotten "long in the tooth" and been surpassed by newer, more accurate models with better, smaller motors and more sophisticated drivetrains.

In about 2003 Bachmann upgraded the chassis design with a black gear material that seem more resistant to the chronic splitting problem. The motors and the half-chassis castings seem to be of improved quality, but the fundamental design shortcomings remain. The packaging was changed to a clear plastic "jewel case." In about 2015 enclosed can motors replaced the open box motors, with modifications to the split-frame motor cavity to suit.

I recommend avoiding second-hand "white gear cardboard box" Bachmanns at all costs, no matter how low the cost. If you buy the "black gear" variety, realize that it is a low-cost, mass-market product by design. The black silhouettes in the white windows should be a dead giveaway.

Bachmann's more recent Peter Witt Streetcar, introduced in 2011, is a different matter entirely. It is highly engineered to modern standards, and basic DCC digital control is included as standard equipment. (It can still be operated on basic DC power, too.) This model also passes muster as an accurate scale replica of the particular design once used in Baltimore, Maryland. The other paint schemes are representative and nicely done, but no cars exactly like these actually existed.

Bachmann's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) is set on the high side, and retail discounting is common. If you're in the market, shop around for a good price. - R. D. Kerr


BRILL TROLLEY (1982-Present)

51-610-26 Market Street

51-610-26
MARKET STREET

Red and white #45
"MARKET STREET"
1982-unknown

51-610-27 Phila Rapid Transit

51-610-27
PHILADELPHIA RAPID TRANSIT

Yellow and green #304
PRT (on ends)
1982-unknown

51-610-28 South Shore Lines

51-610-28
SOUTH SHORE LINES

Orange and red #34
"SOUTH SHORE"
1982-unknown

51-610-29 South Hills Lines

51-610-29
SOUTH HILLS LINES

Black and yellow #38
"SOUTH HILLS LINES"
1982-unknown

61085 Christmas

61085
Christmas

Green, white and red
"HAPPY HOLIDAYS"
2007-present

61086 New Orleans

61086
New Orleans (Desire St.)

Green and red

2011-present

61087 United Traction

61087
United Traction

White and red
UNITED TRACTION CO.
2013-present

61090 Main Street

61090
Main Street

Red and white
MAIN ST
about 1992-2014

61091 Chicago

61091
Chicago

Red and white #5451 with CSL emblem

2015-present

61092 New York

61092
New York Third Avenue

Red and white with yellow doors
THIRD AVENUE RAILWAY SYSTEM
2011-present

61093 Green

61093
Green

Green and white

2007-present

61098 Yellow 36

61098
Yellow #36

Yellow and white #36

about 1992-2012


PCC STREETCAR (1983-Present)

51-629 C1 SEPTA PTC

51-629 C1
SEPTA PTC

Green and cream with silver roof #2773

1983-unknown

51-629 C2 Chicago

51-629 C2
Chicago Transit Authority

Green and white #7123
CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY
1983-unknown

51-629 C3 Pacific Electric

51-629 C3
Pacific Electric

Red and orange with silver roof #5612
PACIFIC ELECTRIC
1983-unknown

51-629 C4 Pittsburgh Railways

51-629 C4
Pittsburgh Railways

Red and yellow with white roof #1451
PITTSBURGH RAILWAYS
1983-unknown

51-629 C5 Undecorated

51-629 C5
Undecorated

grey plastic

about 1983-unknown

51-629 E4 SEPTA PTC

51-629 E4
SEPTA PTC

Green and cream with silver roof #2773

about 1980s

62989 #7407

62989
7407

Orange with grey roof #7407

about 1992-after 2003

62990 Boston - no photo available

62990
Boston

Orange

2015 (in catalog but likely not produced)

62991 Cincinnati

62991
Cincinnati

Yellow with black belt stripes

2011-2012

62992 Kansas City

62992
Kansas City

Cream and black

2011-2013

62993 Toronto Transit

62993
Toronto Transit

Dark red and cream

2011-2014

62994 St. Louis Railways

62994
St. Louis Railways

Red and white

2011-present

62995 PTC

62995
PTC

Green and cream (with cream roof)

before 2003-present

62996 Los Angeles

62996
Los Angeles

Dark green and yellow

before 2012-present

62997 Philadelphia - SEPTA

62997
Philadelphia - SEPTA

Red. white and blue

2012-present

62998 Yellow

62998
Yellow

yellow/orange with grey roof

unknown-2011

62999 PTC

62999
PTC

silver and cream

2015-present


PETER WITT STREETCAR (2011-Present)

84651 Toronto

84651
Toronto

Dark red and cream

2011-present

84652 Chicago

84652
Chicago Surface Lines

Red and white #6319

2011-present

84653 Brooklyn and Queens

84653
Brooklyn and Queens Transit

Green #8454

2011-present

84654 Baltimore Transit

84654
Baltimore Transit Co.

Yellow and white #6119

2011-present

84655 Los Angeles

84655
Los Angeles Railway

Dark green and yellow #2602

2011-present

84656 St. Louis

84656
St. Louis Railways

Red and white #1341

2011-present


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