Bachmann (China) GE U36B

Introduced: 1974 (redesigned in 1987 and again in the 90s)

This model has evolved over the years - coming in three distinctly different versions. The first version features the same mechanism used in Bachmann's GP40 models of the 1970s. It is identified by its noisy brass gears, combination black/white metal chassis and the words "Bachmann" and "Hong Kong" stamped on the bottom of the fuel tank. It also came with two chassis-mounted lights (non-directional). It did not have traction tires, so all wheels provide pickup. The motor is a cheap looking open-sided 3-poler.

A new and improved Chinese-manufactured mechanism was introduced in 1987 (designed for Bachmann's GP50 model but also replacing the old GP40 and U36B mechanisms). These have plastic gears, traction tires, a split-frame chassis, an improved (skew-wound) motor and a non-directional headlight mounted to the front of the chassis. These are stamped "Bachmann" and "China" on the sides of the fuel tank. The shell remained unchanged from the initial version.

The split-frame version was slightly altered at some point in the 90s. The original (and unreliable) white plastic gears were replaced with black plastic gears. Also, the two little sticky-uppy prongs on the front of the chassis were removed (don't ask me why). The motor may also be slightly smaller than previously, although it's kind of hard to tell for sure -

All versions feature all-wheel drive and truck-mounted Rapido-style couplers. The wheel flanges are reasonably sized, so these could actually be run on Code-55 track.

From the blobby shell, to the redwood tree sized handrails, to the horrendous paint, to the gaping pilots, pound for pound these may be the ugliest locomotives I own. I mean, what is up with that crazy horn cluster? It looks like some kind of miniature Vogon death ship landed on the roof or something. OK, performance on either version is (I suppose) going to be adequate enough for the trainset crowd, but certainly nothing to write home about. Both of them can circumnavigate a circle of track without embarassing themselves, so no "D" or "F" here. However, if you must run one of these do avoid the uber loud "metal gears" version. The plastic gear version runs a bit smoother and a lot quieter. But adequate performance aside, it's tough to get past the looks. Lord, they be ugly.

The first version came in Bachmann's blue/clear clamshell box, the second version (1987 to the early 2000's) can be found in Bachmann's venerable white cardboard box, and the most recent version can be found in Bachmann's "jewel box with blue-paper inserts". As of this 2017 writing, Bachmann no longer lists these models on their website, so it's likely that they've been discontinued.

Grade: C (and I guess maybe a C+ for the newer version)

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