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Bachmann Industries Train Catalog - World's largest manufacturer of model toy trains

Updated on June 1, 2011

A photo history of Bachmann - images from a long history of model trains

1960 N Scale Train Set from Bachmann Bros.
1960 N Scale Train Set from Bachmann Bros.
Early days of train manufacturing.
Early days of train manufacturing.
Today's retro Plasticville sets of prebuilt models from Bachmann.
Today's retro Plasticville sets of prebuilt models from Bachmann.
Vintage Plasticville by Bachmann
Vintage Plasticville by Bachmann
Inside the Bachmann Train Factories.
Inside the Bachmann Train Factories.
Even today making model trains requires a lot of handiwork.
Even today making model trains requires a lot of handiwork.
Your model train has been touched by many hands.
Your model train has been touched by many hands.
Vintage Bachmann HO crossing gate
Vintage Bachmann HO crossing gate
1970 Bachmann Train Catalog
1970 Bachmann Train Catalog
Inside the 1970 Bachmann Train Catalog.
Inside the 1970 Bachmann Train Catalog.
1978's Talking Train Station from the train catalog
1978's Talking Train Station from the train catalog

From humble beginnings to mega company

If you're into model railroads then you are bound to have come across the Bachmann Trains logo. You probably even have several Bachmann trains running on your model railroad right now. But how much do you know about the company?

For example did you know that Bachmann trains is the world's largest manufacturer of model trains?

Bachmann Industries - The Company Today

"Bachmann" today is a brand name owned by parent company Kader Holdings Company Limited. In today's world of international conglomerates, Kader is a Chinese company registered in Bermuda.

"Bachmann Bros. Inc." was acquired by Kader in 1988, and is now described as a company researches, designs and distributes model trains in the US in various scales. Kader also owns proprietary brands of "Bachmann Branchline" (in the United Kingdom, the brand is focused on OO scale model railroads), "Bachmann China" (started in 2000, the Company distributes and markets Chinese outline model railroads and is headquartered in Shanghai), "Liliput" (acquired in 1992, the Liliput brand is focused on the German market), "Graham Farish" (acquired in 1999 and is focused on the N scale models in the UK) and "Williams by Bachmann" (specialises in O scale model railroads for the US market).

Besides its own brands, Kader also provides design, engineering and manufacturing services to other brands, they manufacture model railroads for clients in Japan, Europe and the United States. Chances are that even if you don't have a Bachmann model train in your roster, Bachmann manufactured it anyway.

As you can see there has been a lot of consolidation in the model train market over the past twenty years. In total Kader produces 1.3 million train sets annually for the U.S. market alone.

As recently as late 2008, Kader purchased the company Sanda Kan which is a developer and manufacturer of precision models. It produces a full range of model train locomotives, from the very small 1:220 scale to the large 1:22 scale products plus other hobby items include electronic slot racing cars, sophisticated digital controls as well as accessories such as scenery, promotional cars and trucks. It continues to work closely with some of the world’s leading brands from concept to mould construction through to final production.

In addition to model trains, Kader also owns the Plasticville line of pre-made model railroad buildings and the conglomerate manufacturer traditional toys such as plush stuffed animals. All this from a company that began making flashlights and light bulbs in 1949 and entered the toy market in the 50s and 60s. By the seventies they were making popular toys such as the original Star Wars figurines, Teddy Ruskin and Cabbage Patch Kids.

Today Bachmann Industries USA is currently only engaged in distribution, marketing and service activities. I personally attest to the excellent service department located in Philly. The trains are expensive especially the Spectrum line but the company has a very good and inexpensive service department. You might not get a quick turnaround but I found that the service is top notch. I even had a service tech call me on the phone to let me know the status of a model.

Early History of Bachmann

The original Bachmann company has its roots in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and was founded in 1833 by Henry Carlisle to make parasol handles and hair combs. It became Bachmann Bros. when it merged with a competitor run by Henry G. Bachmann. They started experimenting with the new plastics becoming available in the 1920s and became the first American firm to produce sunglasses in 1927. Famously in the model railroading hobby they produced the popular Plastic-ville line of model structures that you can still by today.

In the 60s, N scale trains became very popular and Bachmann made its first forray into the model train market with N scale trains products in June 1968. Remember up to this point the train market was dominated by big O Lionel and S scale American Flyer train sets that took up a lot of room so the much smaller N scale was a novelty and an opportunity for more people to get into the hobby. In In 1970 Bachmann entered the HO trains market.

Now as an army brat coming to age with my father stationed in Heidelberg Germany I can attest to the quality of American made trains of that era. While the German trains (Fleismann, Marklin, LGB) were finely machined, made of high standards and cost a small fortune, the American trains were cheap and poorly made. The European models were made for collectors while the American trains seemed taylored for impulse purchase.

In 1988 Bachmann entered the high quality end of the market with its Spectrum line of trains. This line has higher quality equipment, including updated motors, more realistic paint schemes, and better detail than the standard line. From experience I can tell you that a Spectrum line train runs much quieter than a standard train and has a much better mechanism.

With the focus on better quality train sets and the consolidation of the Bachmann properties and the high tech manufacturing process now available, the trains on the market today are amazingly detailed with advanced running mechanisms.

Today's Bachmann Trains

New Bachmann Products

Bachmann Train Sets - How To

Setting up a Bachmann On30 train set

The Bachmann Line of Trains

Today Bachmann sells train sets in all popular sizes except for the tiny Z scale.They also manufacture model train track, model buildings, accessories, model figures and digital controllers. Many trains feature DCC control and sound. Because of Bachmann's size they have branched out into more narrowly focused specialty markets such as the following:

On30 Narrow Gauge

When Bachmann entered the then obscure On30 market (narrow gauge modeling with O scale trains running on HO track) in 1998 with the introduction a model of a 2-6-0 steam locomotive, it kick started the scale into what has become regarded as the fastest growing gauge/scale combination. Originally released for the Christmas village market, the train was quickly adopted by On30 modelers. Previously modelers in this scale had to either build equipment from scratch or purchase expensive models. Here Bachmann was offering a ready to run On30 model at a relatively inexpensive price.

On30 is popular because it uses HO track capable of tight corners while maintaining a large size for lots of detail. Many modelers in this scale model logging, mining and short line operations with funky backwoods type of equipment.

Thomas the Train

Bachmann sells a version of the popular kids program Thomas the Train in both HO and G scale versions. The Thomas and Friends electric train line from Bachmann USA began in 2002. In 2009 the G scale version called "Large Scale Thomas & Friends" was released. Note Bachmann has the rights to market these trains in the US. In other countries other model train manufacturers produce Thomas the Train electric trains.

Christmas Sets

Model train sets are a classic Christmas gift and Bachmann has plenty of ready to run, out of the box train sets for this market. Bachmann also markets trains to the Christmas Village market especially its On30 size and Trolley sets. Bachmann even sells a Trolley set with a reversing unit so that a trolley can travel back and forth in your ceramic version of a Victorian village.

Spectrum Line

Not too long ago Bachmann was not known for its quality. Cheap parts and the quest for mass marketed products and a drive for bottom line profits lead to the production of inferior models with famously poor detail poorly made mechanisms. The emphasis was on quick fun not serious modeling.

In a turnaround move, Bachmann decided to take on critics of the quality of Bachmann trains in 1988 with the release of their Spectrum HO GE 44 Tonner. Originally the idea was to have Spectrum as its own company but now Spectrum part of the overall Bachmann brand and has lead to a turnaround of Bachmann's overall image. As the world's largest producer of model train sets, with sets aimed at different areas of the market including the impulse purchase, one can see how a manufacturer's image can be damaged. These days experienced modelers know that Bachmann can produce high quality products. The Spectrum line has had a lot to do with this image upgrade.

Today with computer aided design and advanced manufacturing Bachmann has put its previous poor image behind it and is making some of the best model trains on the market.

If you enjoyed this article on Bachmann trains you might also enjoy the following:

Copyright Edward M. Fielding


Submit a Comment
  • profile image

    Michael Cerza 

    3 years ago

    The beauty of Bachmann Industries is the fact you can start in model railroading with value priced starter sets, and if the model hobby gets you like it does for many enthusiasts, then you can add to your railroad empire with great high end products designed for the discriminating collector who wants good value and fine detailing in their model railroad products. Bachmann does this better than anyone else in the model railroad world, and it is amazing how they turned around their rather "toy like" image with beautiful, state of the art railroad model products that get better year after year. It is simply amazing what they have done for the hobby.

  • DREAM ON profile image


    7 years ago

    Recently I was looking at my neighbors Bachmann trains and I decided to learn more.Your hub gave a wealth of information,Thank you.

  • alocsin profile image

    Aurelio Locsin 

    8 years ago from Orange County, CA

    I didn't know this about Bachmann. (I've got their HO Brill.) Linking this to my model railroad hub.

  • Eiddwen profile image


    8 years ago from Wales

    My partner loves his trains so I am bookmarking this hub for him.

    Thanks for sharing and here's to many more hubs to share.

    Takec are


  • profile image

    Deirdre R 

    8 years ago

    your enthusiasm really shines through :-)

  • peanutroaster profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from New England

    Who doesn't love a model train!


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