Bachmann log skidder and crates on flatcar

A 1:20.3-scale model
Bachmann skidder/crates on flatcar
Kevin Strong
1:20.3-scale log skidder and crates on 20', gauge-1 flatcar
Bachmann Industries
1400 East Erie Avenue
Philadelphia PA 19124
Price: $99 (skidder available separately, $52)
Web site:

Non-operating plastic model of a log skidder mounted on a short flatcar. Log skidder dimensions: Length, 7½; width, 2¾"; height, 67/8 ".
Flatcar dimensions: length, 11¾"; width, 3½" (minus stake pockets)

Pros: Skidder boiler and mechanism well detailed; varying size of prototype skidders makes it appropriate for many scales

Cons: No simulated wood grain on top of skids; flatcar and skidder quite small for stated scale; no way to mount included hook-and-loop couplers
Bachmann skidder/crates on flatcar
Kevin Strong
Bachmann skidder/crates on flatcar
Kevin Strong
Small, portable, steam power plants were commonplace in lumber operations in the late 1800s to early 1900s. These "donkey engines," as they were sometimes called, were mounted on large timber skids so they could be easily moved from one location to the next. They would be used for a variety of things, from dragging logs to powering saw mills-whatever was needed of them at the time. They came in a variety of sizes and configurations but all had the same general components-a vertical boiler, and two cylinders that drove various drums, usually via some sort of clutch arrangement.

Bachmann's model of one such steam engine is a welcome addition for anyone modeling a lumbering operation. Up until now, models of these were only available as kits.

Bachmann's model depicts a very small log skidder (in the stated scale of 1:20.3). It scales to just over 11' tall from the bottom of the skids to the top of the stack. From photos I found on the internet, skidders came in a variety of sizes, so while this skidder is definitely on the small side in 1:20.3, it also works as a moderate size skidder in 1:22 and 1:24 scales and a large one in 1:29 and 1:32 scales. It would fit well in a logging scene in almost any garden railroad depicting the early-to-mid-20th century.

It's fairly well detailed, considering it's a non-operating model. The boiler is satin black, the skids are brown, and drums and frame are a slightly redder shade of brown. Drums have simulated cables wrapped around the hubs. Throttle valves and clutch handles all appear to be there.
There are two cross-beams connecting the skids, with small, round indentations in them, which I assume to be used to hold the detachable stack so that it could fit through tunnels and bridges. From a practical standpoint, I'd think the fireman would prefer that those cross timbers not be there when he's trying to put coal in the firebox but, without knowing if there's a specific prototype for this or not, I'm hesitant to criticize it for that detail. There are also two small crates attached to the flatcar, which I presume would hold parts or something of that nature. Everything comes tied down to the flatcar with thin wire that doesn't look too bad from a scale perspective, even though it might be there just to keep things in place during shipping.

My only gripe with the skidder is that, while Bachmann did a good job with the simulated wood grain on the sides of the skids, they only did it on the outside surface. The tops, bottoms, and insides are smooth and very plastic looking. Some 60-grit sandpaper would take care of that.

The flatcar is not new, being one of three small "20-foot" cars that Bachmann introduced a little over 10 years ago (there was also a boxcar and gondola). They're billed as "1:20.3" but, when you compare them to the 1:20.3 equipment in Bachmann's "Spectrum" line and that from other manufacturers, they're very small and don't really fit in well. This is a purely generic flatcar that happens to be 20' long in 1:20.3. In 1:24, it would be a generic 24' car. In 1:29, it would be a generic 29'-long car. In 1:20.3, the car scales to a very narrow 6' wide. While there is evidence of some very early narrow-gauge freight equipment built to such a narrow width, it was not common and I seldom see reference to anything that narrow being built after 1880. The wheels scale to 20", which were also pretty much gone from the scene by the 1900s. If you're modeling 1:20.3-particularly post 1900s-you may be better served to just buy the skidder itself and put it on one of your existing 1:20.3 flatcars.

Size notwithstanding, the car looks pretty good. It's well detailed, with simulated wood grain on all the appropriate surfaces. Couplers are body mounted, typical of Bachmann's "Spectrum" 1:20.3 equipment but the coupler is set to the lower height of the truck-mounted couplers on the company's "Big Hauler" equipment. I'm not sure how well the body-mounted couplers will work with the truck-mounted couplers on really tight (2' radius) curves. The draft gear just screws onto the frame and can easily be replaced by a third-party coupler. Bachmann includes a package of the old style, hook-and-loop couplers but there is no means of actually mounting them, making them useless. Trucks are free-rolling and the wheels fall within G1MRA and NMRA standards.

I'm impressed with this log skidder. I can't wait to give it a coat of paint to make it look more realistic, then sit it out on my Tuscarora Railroad, where lumber operations provide a fair amount of the freight traffic. Modeling in 1:20.3, I'm not quite as excited about the flatcar as I am the skidder, but if I were in any other scale, I'd have no reason to be disappointed in that, either.


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