This is a very nice looking locomotive that is at least capable of performing very well. However, there is a serious QC issue with the first run that must be addressed before it will do so (but more on that in a moment).
The locomotive shell is metal, with the smokestack and domes being separately applied detail pieces (held to the shell with small screws). The chassis is all metal and split-frame. Pickup is provided by all eight tender wheels and four of the six drivers (the forward pair being equipped with traction tires). The pilot truck is electrically neutral. Current is transferred from the engine to the tender by way of two stiff wires inside the plastic drawbar.
The forward two driver axles are geared (with the rear drivers being turned solely by the cranks). All gearing is plastic. An LED board on the front of the chassis provides directional lighting. Wheels are blackened and low-profile (no problems on code-55 track). The pilot coupler is a functional one-piece knuckle. The tender coupler is a chassis-mounted "E-Z Mate" (Bachmann's version of the McHenry coupler). Clear plastic shrouds wrapped around the chassis insulate it from the shell.
The really exciting new feature here is the tiny coreless 5-pole motor (excluding high-end brass, the first coreless motor ever in a North American N scale locomotive). As pictured below, a mini-flywheel / worm assembly is fixed to the driveshaft.
The tender is the same "USRA-Medium" tender used on Bachmann's DCC 2-8-0 Consolidation model... almost. Although the two share the same PC board, this one does not have a pin/socket arrangement for the wiring harness (said wires providing motor and lighting control for the engine). The tender chassis is metal, whereas the shell is plastic. Current collection is of the "low-friction" ilk. There is no backup light.
The tender PC board is actually two boards in one (functionally speaking). The forward half is the "main board" (to which the wiring harness is soldered) and the rear half is the "DCC board". The DCC board is designed such that it can be snapped off from the main board (should you want to swap in a different decoder or run without a decoder entirely). Instructions included in the box show where to solder decoder wires to the main board (for running a different decoder) or what contacts to bridge on the main board if you want to run without a decoder.
At first blush, this is a fine running locomotive - smooth and quiet, perfect pickup, nimble throttle response, excellent slow-speed creep and a very reasonable top-end speed. Better still, mine can haul 26 40' box cars on a flat oval with 11"-radius curves, so pulling power is quite respectable. OK, yes, the driver axles do have a bit of free-play to them (resulting in a very slight side-to-side wobble), but that's a minor quibble at best. Another minor annoyance are the crank pins on the rear drivers. Bachmann opted to use tiny hex bolts instead of push studs for these, and as such, they have a tendancy to work themselves loose over time. Fixing them in place with a bit of Loctite is one suggested solution to the problem.
Minor quibbles aside, though, there was a major QC problem with the first production run of these models that needs to be addressed before they will run properly. As it turns out, Bachmann's factory installed the pilot truck upside-down, and with the net result being a pilot truck that constantly derails and a locomotive with hugely diminished pulling power. Fortunately, the solution to the problem is pretty simple - remove the screw that holds the pilot truck to its vertical arm, flip the truck over (black side up, grey side down) and screw it back to the arm. Et voila - a steamer that runs every bit as good as it looks! Yeah, kind of a black eye for Bachmann, but something that will presumeably be addressed in future runs.
Note - for those folks with access to a DCC system, changing the decoder setting for CV2 (vstart) from its default value of 10 to 0 makes for much better slow-speed control (in both DC and DCC modes).
I'm told that this model is largely based on a Maryland & Pennsylvania prototype (#28) built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1910 (although some of the detailing has been fudged, the drivers are 63" instead of 52", and the tender is completely wrong). And although Ten-Wheelers were common enough among other railroads, it's unlikely that any of them had 4-6-0's that looked exactly like this one (steam being what it is). Consequently, most of Bachmann's livery schemes are going to be fantasies and foobies at best.
Trivia - As of this 2015 writing, Bachmann also sells an analog version of this model (IE, no decoder). However, these are only available as part of Bachmann's "Trailblazer" train set.
- DCC-equipped for speed, direction, and lighting
- Dual-mode NMRA-compliant decoder
- Precision can motor
- Die-cast boiler and chassis
- Separate domes and stack
- Finescale detailing including bell, whistle, and piping
- Walschaert valve gear
- Blackened metal wheels / high quality traction tires
- Detailed backhead
- N scale RP25 wheel contours
- E-Z MateŽ Mark II coupler
Removing the engine shell is pretty easy. Start by disconnecting the handgrabs from the front of the shell, and then remove the screw on the bottom (back by the drawbar pegs). Lastly, spread the sides of the shell apart a bit (back by the cab) and then apply a bit of upward and forward pressure to pop the shell off.
Grade: A (with the above caveat re the pilot truck)