BACHMANN COACH/COMBINE KITS
BY DEAN LOWE
I MUST ADMIT, I have had my eye out for a coach appropriate for Colorado narrow gauge railroading. Yes, I know LGB (in 1:22.5 scale) and Delton/Caledonia Express (in 1:24 scale) have offered passenger cars for years, but I prefer the "bullnose" roof design typical of so many Denver & Rio Grande and Colorado & Southern cars.
Even though I model in 1:22.5 scale, when Bachmann first introduced its passenger cars in that scale as ready-to-run models I paid little attention. I guess that was mainly because they came in standard gauge road names and paint schemes. Then Bachmann came out with the new, inexpensive "G-Kits". I took a closer look and the first thing I noticed was the roof. The "bullnose" overhang with its nice downward curve hit the "bullseye" for me. Also the cars are 1 5/8 inches, or almost 3 scale feet, longer than LGB's. That may not sound like much but it is enough to make the car look lower and to accentuate its narrow gauge character.
NOTES ON BUILDING THE KITS
Two things concerned me when I opened the first box. It had no instructions; just a parts list and an exploded view. Also the plastic coach body seemed very thin and flimsy. As it turned out, neither was a problem:
The only difficult part of the assembly is the battery powered lighting system. Everything else goes together without the need for instructions. Since I have never liked fooling with batteries, I just discarded most of the Bachmann lighting components and wired the bulbs to run on track power. That was extremely easy because Bachmann's trucks are nearly an exact copy of LGB's coach trucks, including the bosses to accept LGB 3019/3 lighting brushes. All I did was slip on a set of brushes, solder a pair of leads to the brush housings, and connect the leads to the Bachmann bulb socket leads. I replaced the plastic wheels with a pair of my metal wheelsets and, voila, light!
My worries about the car's apparent flimsiness were flimsier than the car. When you screw together the floor, seats, body, and roof, the car is actually very sturdy. As a matter of fact, when I cut two combines in half to make the double door baggage car, the thin walls were actually an advantage; they made the cutting much easier.
The kits come with both hook/loop and Bachmann knuckle couplers. I used USA Trains' knuckle couplers to match the rest of my cars. When I mounted them, I drilled a hole 1/4-inch closer to the knuckle. That brings the coupled coaches half an inch closer together.
DETAILS, PAINT, AND LETTERING
My next change was to replace Bachmann's plastic parts with the metal end rail detail kits from Phoenix Scale Miniatures. They are very clean English pewter castings and add much durability and appearance. I sprayed those parts, and the L-shaped plastic handrails Bachmann supplies for the car ends, with Krylon Semi-Flat Black before I installed them.
I replaced the kit's plastic roof hardware with Ozark Miniatures' OM-30 roof vents and smoke jacks.
I also prefer clear "glass" in the clerestory windows, so I replaced the crinkled, pink material in the kit with strips of .010-inch thick clear styrene. I glued it in place with CA (superglue) and "frosted" it with a shot of Testor's Dullcote.
I painted my coaches with Floquil colors: Pullman Green for the bodies, Rail Brown for the seats, and Grimy Black for the roofs. I airbrushed Engine Black on the end platforms, and lightly misted some on the roofs to represent soot. On the end coach, I added Tomar Industries' marker lights and drumhead for a nice touch.
If you are modeling Rio Grande or C&S coaches, OR's art director, Larry Larsen, now offers excellent new dry transfer sets. I have used both and they are perfect reproductions of each prototype. They go on effortlessly and the price is very reasonable. That's all there was to it. For very little expense I put together a beautiful trio of nicely detailed coaches. But regardless of price, I prefer their appearance to any cars currently available.