It would come as a very big “Bah! Humbug!” indeed if the world’s largest maker of model trains and model railroad equipment were to overlook the Christmas market. In the USA especially, the seasonally decorated electric train going round and round the base of the Christmas tree is something approaching the iconic status of the tree itself. A slight exaggeration maybe, but important enough for all the major players in the model railroad business to recognize the importance of the occasion – and the market – with suitably kitted out merchandise. Here, we’re going to take a look at two of Bachmann’s Christmas train sets and see what they offer the serious railroader or what paths into the hobby proper open up with the purchase of a Christmas tree train set.
Something for everyone.
First amongst Bachmann’s 2010 Christmas offerings is the Thomas Holiday Special – a Christmas train set in popular HO gauge, consisting of the now very familiar British outline 0-6-0 Class E2 tank engine in vaguely London and North East Railway powder blue livery, along with a candy-cane striped tank car, an open wagon with a Christmas tree inside and a 6 wheeler coach, in suitably Christmassy green. There is a 56″ by 38″ oval of Bachmann’s E-Z snap-fit track, and a power pack and speed/direction controller complete the contents of the box. Thomas comes in wintery, but seasonal garb – with a snowplow on the front and a Santa hat on his smokestack. Oh yes, and the eyes on the front of the boiler, which do so much to humanize the locos in this series, move. This has a recommended retail price of $145.00, although street prices may well be less. As an actual model, it measures up pretty well too. Proportions of the locomotive and wagons are very nice and crisply detailed and the E-Z track is indeed, easily assembled and ready for operation in just minutes. More importantly, it’s a great introduction to accepted standards of realism in HO gauge model railroading.
…and the big stuff!
Moving on up and into territory traditionally held by Lionel, Bachman Christmas train sets can also be had in G scale, or 1:20.3. For the newcomers to model-trainspeak, this means that the model is one-twentieth and point three the size of the real thing it is depicting. In plain language, these are quite satisfyingly big models. My personal favorite is the White Christmas Express, a late 19th Century wood-fired 4-6-0 ten-wheeler with the big balloon smokestack, tender and two vintage clerestory coaches. In this scale, the basic supplied oval of track requires an 8ft 2″ by 4ft 3″ space (compare this with the roughly 4ft by 3 ft space needed for the HO set) for setting up, but assembly and operation is no more challenging than in HO gauge.
The set contains, as you would expect, the track, plus a power pack and speed/direction controller and all the instructions for set up, if needed, on a DVD. The loco has operating headlights, realistic steam train sounds and the coaches have opening doors and interior lighting. But best of all, it looks so right! Bachmann have been very restrained in their decoration of the items in this set, so that if, heaven forbid, the days of steaming round the Christmas tree were to end, the locomotive and coaches could easily find new identities with new paintjobs in a highly detailed garden layout. At a retail price of $440.00, it isn’t the cheapest option, but as with everything in this life, you get what you pay for.
Bachmann Christmas train sets are a great introduction to the hobby and to the range of product made by this model train giant. I have just briefly touched on a couple of my particular favorites, but the N gauge enthusiast hasn’t been forgotten, nor has the On30 narrow gauger. Start dreaming now, because Christmas will be here before you know it.