Bachmann (China) Street Cars

Introduced: 1982 (Brill Trolley) and 1983 (PCC Interurban Streamlined Car)

OK, these are not the greatest looking street cars I've ever seen. I mean, could those passenger "silhouettes" be any less convincing? Frankly, they look like something straight out of a circa-1940 Lionel catalog. I guess the best term to describe these models is "serviceable" ("workmanlike"? "plebian"? "half-ass"?). In any case, let's face it - when it comes to N scale street cars, it's not like there are a bazillion other options.

Both models sport pretty much the same basic "guts" (although obviously the individual chasses are differently shaped). The motor is an open-sided, 3-pole, skew-wound job. The chassis is all-metal and split-frame. All gearing is plastic. All wheels are geared and provide pickup (no traction tires). In the case of the Brill Trolley, non-directional lights are mounted to both ends of the chassis. The PCC car has a single (non-directional) headlight. Current is transferred from the trucks to the chassis halves via oval brass contacts (IE, no wires). The wheel flanges are reasonably sized, so no problems on Code-55 track. Oh, and this may come as a shock to you, but the trolley poles are non-functioning (IE, they don't conduct electricity).

Performance is surprisingly good. Pickup is great (no problems through turnouts), throttle response is smooth, and slow speed performance is excellent. On the downside, they're kind of noisy. Also, the top-end speed is ridiculously high.

So, y'know, overall they're kind of toyish looking and running. But given the dearth of other options, I guess I'll stick with an overall rating of "serviceable".

Big Caveat - when purchasing one of these things, absolutely do "try before you buy" (if at all possible). The white plastic gears Bachmann used to use in these models back in the 80's and 90's were notoriously awful and prone to cracking,. Consequently, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find these older runs with their gears intact. However, starting sometime in the early 2000's, Bachmann changed the composition of their gears to a much more reliable black plastic. And it may just be my imagination, but I think the black plastic gears actually make less noise than do the white ones. Earlier runs will be found in the old Bachmann "white cardboard box", whereas newer runs come in plastic jewell cases.

These models were revised slightly circa 2015 (with the major change being a new closed-sided can motor with brass worms). Additionally, the chasses were altered a bit to accommodate said new motor. I'm told that the shells might also have been updated with this release (still the same basic size/shape, but with improved/finer detailing). However, I have yet to see any side-by-side comparison photos of the two versions, so I can neither confirm nor deny that the shells were in fact changed.

To remove the Brill Trolley shell, pry the four clips away from the shell tabs (two on each end) and then wiggle it up and off. For the Interurban shell, simply spread the shell sides apart (at which point it should slide off).

Grade: B

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