Bachmann (China) PRR GG-1

Introduced: 2016

These fine looking and sweet running models are available either DCC-Ready or equipped with a factory-installed Soundtraxx DCC-Sound decoder (the latter version being designed to run equally well on DCC or analog layouts).

The finely detailed and crisply painted shells are all plastic -

Clear plastic window inserts clip to the inside of the shell. The all-metal pantographs are sprung and moveable (you can either have them all the way up, or locked down flat). Note that the procedure for unlocking the pants is (at first glance) not entirely obvious. However, instructions are included in the box if you can't figure it out on your own.

Despite what Bachmann originally stated on their website, the pantographs are not functional (insofar as they are not designed to conduct current from overhead wires to the locomotive PC board). My suspicion is that that bit of misinformation was a copy/paste error from the feature list for Bachmann's earlier HO scale GG-1.

DCC-Ready Version -

The locomotive chassis is one big hunk of metal (IE, not split-frame). Pickup is provided by ten of the twelve drivers on the center trucks (one driver per truck is equipped with a traction tire). The outer two trucks are electrically neutral. Wheelback wipers collect current from the drivers (with wires then transferring current from the wipers to the PC board screwed to the top of the chassis). The motor is a closed-sided can, so I can't really really comment on its internal specifications. It does appear to be a new motor for Bachmann as I haven't seen any other Bachmann locomotives that use that particular part number (#10220).

Each motorshaft is equipped with a small flywheel, and each flywheel has a slotted plastic cup wherein the plastic dog-bone style driveshafts seat. The other end of the driveshaft has a ball-and-pin connector that clicks into a slotted plastic cup connected to a brass worm on top of each truck gear tower. Plastic brackets clipped to the tops of the gear towers keep the trucks from falling out of the chassis.

The DCC-Ready version has an LED for the forward headlight on the main PC board. Wires from the main PC board run back to a secondary LED board mounted on the back end of the chassis (for the "rear" headlight). Oddly enough, lighting is not directional (IE both LEDs are fully lit when current is present). Conversely, the numberboards are not lit.

Installing a decoder in the DCC-Ready version requires that the "dummy plug" be clipped off the back end of the PC board. This will then reveal the contacts where you would solder decoder wires. So, although technically "DCC-Ready", installing a decoder in one of these models is not going to be a simple operation by any stretch of the imagination.

All six driver axles are geared and all gearing is white plastic. The outer trucks are not geared.

The central truck sideframes (for the drivers) are loosely looped over the tops of the truck tower assemblies. The outer trucks are screwed to extensions off the driver sideframe pieces. Metal leaf springs on top of said extensions provide downward pressure on the entire truck assembly. Coiled suspension springs provide downward pressure on the outer trucks. The couplers are truck-mounted E-Z Mates. Rapido-style couplers are included in a little baggie inside the box (extra E-Z Mates and a couple of replacement step ladders are included as well). The wheels are low-profile and have no problems on Atlas Code-55 track.

DCC-Sound Version -

The DCC-Sound version comes with a decoder built right into its PC board (said board runs the entire length of the chassis). LEDs on either end of the board provide directional lighting (the "rear" LED, although always on, is dimmed). Two large capacitors attached to the underside of the board should help to ameliorate any conductivity issues on iffy/dirty track. Wires from the decoder board run to a speaker which is mounted inside of a round hole in the chassis. There aren't any speaker holes in the shell or the chassis, but that doesn't seem to be an issue as the sound is nicely beefy.

Note that the prototypical GG-1 was an electric locomotive and, as such, generated little or no sound (often to the detriment of railroad workers, who nicknamed it "the widowmaker"). In other words, don't be alarmed when you fire up your GG-1 model and it doesn't make any sound at all - that's prototypical. The sounds that it actually does generate are more "situational" than ongoing and consist of - bell (F1), long horn (F2), short horn (F3), pantograph (F4), blower (F5), and compressor (F6). Additionally, F0 turns the headlights on and off, F7 dims the headlight and F8 mutes the speaker. Analog users will hear a series of automated sounds as the locomotive starts up (bell, short horn, blowers, etc) before it finally quiets down and goes about the business of just running.

Performance on these models is outstanding in every way. My two samples ran smoothly and whisper-quiet at all throttle levels. Pickup is solid, with mine deftly able to glide through insulated-frog turnounts at yard speeds. My analog version can creep along one-tie-at-a-time at the extreme low end of the throttle. And although my DCC-Sound version doesn't go quite that slow (at speed step 1), this is most likely due to the relatively high voltages that I prefer to use for DCC track power. And in any case, it's still plenty slow as is. On the other hand, the top-end speed seems a little high for both of them, but since they're passenger locomotives perhaps this was intentional.

I didn't have any problems with any of the wheels derailing (even on curves as sharp as 9.75" radius). Pulling power is strong, with mine easily able to haul fifteen 85' passenger cars through curves on level track. And although I don't know what the actual upper limit might be (I don't own a zillion passenger cars), I wouldn't bet money against it pulling 30+ cars. Overall, these are gorgeous looking locomotives that perform nigh flawlessly. In fact, they compare quite favorably with Kato's equally nice GG-1 models (well, except in the pricetag department - Bachmann is definitely not giving these things away).

Prototype -

The electric GG-1 was introduced in the 1930s by the Pennsylvania Railroad, which needed a locomotive that could carry more rolling stock at greater speeds. Its dynamic streamlined design captured the public's imagination and made it the star of countless movies and advertisements.

Model Features -

- All-new tooling
- Die-cast frame
- 12-wheel drive
- Twin moveable metal pantographs
- Available either DCC-Ready or with factory-installed Sound Value SoundTraxx DCC decoder
- Soft white LED directional headlights with dimming function (DCC-Sound version only)
- DCC Sound features include prototypical motors with blowers, air compressors, short and long horns, and bell - all in 16-bit polyphonic sound
- E-Z Mate Mark II couplers.
- Performs best on 11.25" radius curves or greater

Shell removal on these models is quite simple - just remove the four small screws on the bottom of the chassis (two on each end). Once the screws are out, the shell should just slide up and off. Note - do not pull down on the trucks when trying to get the shell off. If you do, chances are you will pop loose one of the brackets that hold the trucks inside the chassis (and then, boing, out come the driveshafts too). Then you'll get to spend a good long time taking the whole thing apart and then putting it all back together (yeah, don't ask me how I know this).

Grade: A

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