Bachmann Baldwin Inside Frame 4-4-0 in On30
Reviewed by Chris Lane
The 4-4-0 "American" was the quintessential wheel arrangement in North America. Starting with the standardization of the design in the 1850's through the end of the steam era, thousands of 4-4-0s plied the rails. While often thought of as a strictly passenger locomotive, the American hauled its share of freight also, owing to a design that was flexible on rough track. The 4-4-0 was built in every size from tiny narrow gauge locos to large, modern and fast passenger engines. This new model from Bachmann well represents the small, narrow gauge end of the spectrum.
This diminutive eight-wheeler displays typical Baldwin characteristics of locomotives built around the turn of the century. The time period clues are the rounded dome covers, extended smokebox, cab location and flared tender. Earlier versions would likely have had a short smokebox ending just ahead of the cylinders and more ornate dome covers. A later version would have had a one-piece, extended smokebox as well as a straight-sided tender and a cab located further back on the boiler. The model is offered in two base configurations. Bachmann calls them the 1890's wood cab with oil headlight and the 1920's steel cab with electric visor headlight. The wood cab version is equipped with wood-slate road pilot, and has the distinctive curved Baldwin tender truck design, spoked lead truck wheels and capped stack from the late 1890's period. The steel cab version sports a later archbar tender truck style in addition to solid lead truck wheels, a shotgun stack and a steam dynamo for the electric headlight and is equipped with a switcher pilot. Per the usual Bachmann practice, they have included a wealth of extra parts to customize the appearance and era of your locomotive. Each locomotive provides your choice of fuel, be it the drop-in oil bunker, stock coal load, or woodpile with dainty fuel bunker extension fence. This photo-etched piece is especially nice, and can also be used for the coal load, by trimming the edges of the cast plastic coal pile. Also included are the appropriate parts for the front of the tender bunker for each fuel and an oil burner firebox door. Nifty bunker mounted toolboxes complete the parts assortment in addition to the complementing style of lead truck, stack and pilot that the locomotive comes equipped with stock. All of these parts, combined with the six different paint styles offered, give the modeler tremendous flexibility in the final appearance of their locomotive.
The locomotive is finished in the matte engine black finish we've come to expect from Bachmann in addition to their fine rendition of the oil and graphite colored smokebox. In addition to the plain black schemes you see in the photos, the 1890's version also comes with red cab windows and brass trim, and an ornate gold pinstriped and lined version that also has red cab windows. Similarly, the 1910 version comes with red cab windows and white trim, and a model with all of the above with additional white pinstriping. The finish is excellent and is rounded out by the legible Baldwin builder's plate and red number plate on the smokebox front.
The model is packed with detail, from the two versions of headlights, the air compressor and associated piping, the brake shoes, rigging and cylinders, the rivets on tender tank and smokebox, to the full cab interior. All the detail parts are nicely rendered and present a consistent scale appearance. Really, the only nit I could find to pick is the contour of the steam dome looks a little off. Bachmann really nailed the classic Baldwin cover design on their Forney and 2-8-0, which is why I even noticed it here. It does not however, detract from the overall excellent appearance of the locomotive.
The locomotive and tender come equipped with EZ Mate® Mark II couplers set at standard On30 (HO) height. It is great to see a fully working coupler on the road pilot version of the engine. A growing number of On30 modelers are installing On3 size couplers on their On30 equipment, set at the On3 coupler height. While changing out the knuckles poses no great obstacle, raising the height would require some modification to the tender and a major reconfiguration of the pilot deck. The wheels are all in gauge and have a full O scale narrow gauge tread and flange, rather than a warmed-over HO wheel profile. Kudos to Bachmann for doing it right, and this is a major reason why their On30 products perform so well.
Bachmann says this locomotive is based on designs for 30" railways and scanning copies of Baldwin narrow gauge locomotive catalogs, I see no reason to dispute that assertion. It is clear this locomotive is on the small end of the 30" spectrum and is quite similar in dimensions to a 24" gauge Mt. Gretna locomotive built in 1989. The locomotive drivers are a scale 34", the boiler diameter is 3', the locomotive length is 20' 6", the tender length is 14' 7", and the tank width is 6' 1". Basically, this is a small locomotive, as evidenced by my scale 5' 10 Fr. Julian who is praying that this little lokie can make enough steam to get he and his fellow friars over the hill and back to the mission.
1600 E. Erie Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19124
Model locomotives of small prototypes have a reputation as fickle performers, but I am pleased to report that this model exhibited excellent running qualities right out of the box. The locomotive had no trouble in either forward or reverse through 18" radius curves and Atlas Snap Switches. Like all On30 locomotives, both appearance and reliability improve with wider radius curves and turnouts. Starts were smooth and slow and no electrical contact issues were observed over a variety of layout operating conditions. The locomotive is equipped with the DCC ON BOARD™ dual DCC/DC decoder and appears to be the best version of the decoder to date. Earlier versions seemed to limit the fine running qualities and slow speed capabilities of the mechanisms. The 4-4-0 ran just as well under decoder control as it did with the locomotive jumpered for straight DC, albeit with a slightly higher starting voltage. The decoder sits in the tender and as per Bachmann's practice is connected using a standard NMRA 8-pin plug. Combined with the pre-drilled holes in the tender floor, this makes adding a sound decoder a snap. Rounding out the electrical features is a yellow-white LED headlight, which provides a realistic glow when the locomotive is moving in the forward direction.
If you are looking for a dainty loco with beautiful lines for your On30 layout, you can't go wrong with this 4-4-0. This rare blend of excellent appearance and outstanding performance is available in six versions and retails for $290.