Bachmann Thomas the Tank Engine train set

A ready-to-run set of a popular fictional locomotive from a PBS show

Large scale, gauge 1, ready-to-run Thomas the Tank Engine train set
Bachmann Trains
1400 E. Erie Avenue
Philadelphia PA 19124
Price: $385
Web site: www.bachmanntrains.com

Non-scale-specific toy-train set; locomotive, two passenger cars, track, transformer, all necessary wiring, instruction book and product DVD included. Locomotive: 0-6-0T with blind center drivers; see-through spoked wheels; non-working front and rear lights; removable cab roof; replaceable hook-and-loop couplers; open side windows; operating eyes; correct color, graphics, and engine number. Dimensions: length over buffers 12½, width 4½", height 6". Annie and Clarabel coaches: two-axle cars; spoked, metal wheelsets; removable roofs; replaceable hook-and-loop couplers; plastic end and side windows; no interior detail; car faces with contoured noses; correct graphics and color. Dimensions: length over buffers 14¼", width 4¼", height 55/8". Power pack and track: 18V, 1-amp pack; oval of 2' radius sectional track with joiners; black-plastic ties; hollow, shaped-sheet-metal rails; 12 curves and two 117/8" straight sections.

Pros: Overall appealing impression, well engineered, robust engine and cars; runs well; nice detail and paint; moving eyes; controller works well, easy to operate by children
Cons: Non-working lights; track not suitable for outdoors; not scale specific (original Thomas was based on a London, Brighton & South Coast Railway E2, which would make the correct scale [if an accurate model] 1:32)

Bachmann’s Thomas (left) is considerably larger than Lionel’s old offering.
Gary Raymond
Thomas’s coach. Bachmann’s is on the right, Lionel’s on the left.
Gary Raymond
Gary Raymond
Gary Raymond
After 15 years absence, the most lovable toy-train engine in modeldom is available again. Like a toddler you grew to love and hadn't seen for years, who shows up at your door years later, a bigger and more developed teenager, Thomas has reappeared, bigger, more developed, and more robust. Originally produced by Lionel in 1994, Thomas is now being produced by Bachmann, who acquired the licensing and, with new tooling, has released their gauge-1 version of this iconic engine.

Annie and Clarabel have also matured. Longer, sleeker, and more elegantly outfitted, with panes in their windows, wonderful large-spoked wheels, and cute noses with perky contours (not just painted on, as in Lionel's version).

This product is significant. Bachmann must be given credit for reintroducing the line (Percy and the Troublesome Trucks are following), which should contribute to an increase in youngsters getting into model trains. My five-year-old grandson Max is thrilled about Thomas and treats him with great reverence.

This is a completely redesigned Thomas and is a serious upgrade over Lionel's original effort. There is more detail and the engine is significantly larger, much more reminiscent of a true English tank engine and less of a toy. It does retain the roving eyes and unquestionably lovable feel of Sodor's finest.

Thomas is, of course, a "toy" product and Bachmann chose to build a high-quality toy. They increased the size of Thomas for more visual appeal and it seems consistent with the fact that they offer large (narrow gauge) models in 1:20.3 scale. As a toy it works well. However, Bachmann could, instead, have offered Thomas as a more accurate scale model consistent with Thomas' heritage as a standard-gauge engine, based on an LBSC (London, Brighton & South Coast Railway) E2 0-6-0T. British engines of the period were beautiful and elegant, and a well executed, 1:32-scale Thomas would also be very appealing. However, since this product is a representation of a fictional engine character I don't have a problem with it being in the "wrong" scale.

The engine runs well and, at the time of testing, had two hours on it (the break-in time recommended by Bachmann). For the purposes of calculating scale miles per hour I estimated Thomas' scale at around 1:25. Minimum scale speed without stall or hesitation was about 2.5 s.m.p.h. at 2.6V and .25 amps. This is very low current draw, an indicator of a well designed, efficient power train. Performance with Annie and Clarabel in tow was close, indicating the motor mechanism should be able to handle more cars and a lot of use. Scale speed at 18V and .42 amps was approx. 66 s.m.p.h. With the train, top speed was approximately 60 s.m.p.h at 15.4V and .72 amps, safely within the power pack's 1-amp rating. For the size of this train, that is a fast clip. On level track the drawbar capacity was 8 ounces at .9 amps, or about six to seven cars.

The engine does not have working lights, something my grandson quickly noticed. Although there is no sound or smoke system (which I didn't miss), I think the lights should have been functional.
The engine and cars come with LGB-type hook-and-loop couplers. They are removable and could probably be replaced with other types without much trouble if desired. The train will negotiate 2'-radius curves and ran reliably for hours without derailments on the tight radius supplied.

The track is not of the same quality as the engine and cars. I fastened the oval of track to a plywood sheet using finish nails and the supplied track joiners. It was solid then and I had no derailments or electrical problems. I don't think the track would hold up well if on carpet or a floor, especially once it had been stepped on a couple of times. Bachmann recommends more robust brass track for outdoor use. I think it would have been better to provide track in the set that would not become obsolete if the train moves outdoors, but this is not a huge issue for me.

The set is nicely packaged and includes instructions for break in and servicing. Overall appearance of the train is impressive. Paint and graphics are nicely done and the engine and cars have a solid, quality feel to them. I think they should hold up well with reasonable care. Bachmann has shown greater attention to detail, robustness, and overall quality than its predecessors. Although it is not a scale model, this train seems better than a toy. Overall, it is an excellent product that offers good value and is a welcome addition to one-gauge trains for junior engineers in training.

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