Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Bachmann E-Z App HO scale RS-3

Read this review from Model Railroader magazine
Bachmann E-Z App RS-3
Bachmann E-Z App HO scale Alco RS-3
The Bachmann E-Z App RS-3 doesn't have a Digital Command Control decoder or onboard sound system. The printed-circuit board with the Bluetooth receiver is mounted atop the motor and mechanism.

The HO scale Alco RS-3 models a workhorse road-switcher and introduces Bachmann Trains’ new E-Z App touch-screen train control. Bachmann’s E-Z App product line of locomotives and train sets features Bluetooth-based technology from BlueRail Trains that lets modelers run locomotive models using an Apple iPhone, iPad, or other Bluetooth 4-supporting iOS device.Simple to use without any programming whatsoever, E-Z App control operates on direct-current (DC) and Digital Command Control (DCC) layouts.

Alco RS-3. Introduced in 1950, Alco built more than 1,300 RS-3 diesel-electric locomotives for railroads in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The RS-3 featured Alco’s 1,600-hp 244 prime mover. Although RS-3 production ended in the mid-1950s, the Alco road switcher served for decades, and some remain in tourist train service today.

The Bachmann model’s dimensions match those of a prototype drawing in the Model Railroader Cyclopedia: Vol. 2, Diesel Locomotives (Kalmbach Publishing Co., out of print). The arrangement of various details, especially access-door louvers, changed over the course of the RS-3 production run. Modelers and railfans refer to these details as distinct “phases,” even though the various changes were ongoing. The details on the Bachmann model, especially the horizontal louvers on the battery box doors, correctly model a phase Ib RS-3 that was produced between 1950 and 1953.

The molded detail on the model’s plastic body shell is well defined. The single-chime air horn is a separate part. All handrails are made of scale-profile acetal plastic. On our review sample the handrail on the fireman’s side was warped inward.

All the model’s paint features sharp color separation. The model is decorated for Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry. no. 2099. However, this prototype is actually an RS-2, which is nearly identical to an early production RS-3. The main spotting differences are the RS-3 has a battery box on the running board behind the cab and the RS-2 has fuel fillers and gauges on the sides of its cab.

Mechanism. I removed the couplers, plastic fuel tank, and two screws under the fuel tank that held the plastic body shell to the die-cast metal chassis. The shell, including the running boards and pilots, could then be easily lifted off.

The flywheel-equipped motor is mounted in the center of the chassis. Driveshafts with worm gears transfer power from the motor to each truck-mounted gearbox.

A printed-circuit board that includes the Bluetooth receiver is screwed into a set of additional die-cast metal weights. There’s no speaker or DCC decoder. A light-emitting diode at each end of the chassis provides illumination for the directional headlights.
Bachmann E-Z App touch screen
The E-Z App touch screen features controls that are easy to use on an Apple iPad or iPhone.

E-Z setup and operation. Bluetooth is a wireless technology for exchanging data across short distances and is commonly found in cell phones and related home electronics. One of my favorite things about E-Z App is that because it’s based on Bluetooth, it doesn’t require a Wi-Fi signal to operate. There’s no need to worry about setting up a Wi-Fi router or a separate computer to run a layout. The only time you need a connection to the Internet is to download the app itself, which took less than a minute.

After typing “Bachmann E-Z App” into the App Store search box of my iPad, I easily found and downloaded the free app. I then placed the locomotive on our layout, turned on power to the rails, and clicked on the E-Z app screen icon.

I touched connect next to bachmann loco on the screen and was ready to run trains. The locomotive name can be easily changed to the road number or anything else the user wants.

There are control screens for running either single or multiple locomotives. The control screens are very intuitive, with a throttle and buttons to trigger effects such as the headlights, horn, and bell. There are also buttons for direction and start up/shut down.

Throttle control with the E-Z App was surprisingly precise for a touch screen. I could use my finger to slide the throttle up and down. I could also tap the screen above or below the throttle to adjust the speed. Pressing the loco stop and the for/rev direction buttons performed those tasks.

A quick start guide is included with the model. A more extensive user guide is available as a free download at

Performance. For E-Z App control, the locomotive uses constant voltage to the rails. I ran the RS-3 on a DC

layout with a power pack turned all the way up to 14.5V and a DCC layout that supplied 15V to the rails. The model’s motor was a bit noisy, but it ran smoothly throughout its speed range. The instructions state not to exceed 18V.

In the settings menu, I could add acceleration and deceleration momentum, but users should take note of the instructions, as these values work opposite of the momentum configuration variables in DCC. When using the E-Z App control, a higher value indicates less momentum. The default value is 255, which means the locomotive will stop instantly. I set both values to 4, which provided for more realistically gradual starts and stops.

I appreciated the operation mode check boxes. By default this is set to full speed. Other options are passenger, switcher, and freight. When freight was checked, the top speed was reduced from 82 scale mph to a more realistic 60 scale mph. It’s easy to change this setting on the fly, so when using the RS-3 to work a yard, I could change the setting to switcher and the model would creep through the ladder tracks at a prototypically slow speed.

The range of the Bluetooth signal is impressive. With the RS-3 on the test track in our workshop, I ran the locomotive from down the hall, which was about 100 feet away.

Since the model doesn’t have a DCC decoder, it can’t be run with a DCC throttle. However, the locomotive can be controlled with a the variable voltage dial of a DC power pack by turning the power pack throttle all the way up and flipping the direction switch four times. There is a delay in the throttle response time, though, and I found that the locomotive ran much more reliably with E-Z App control.

On our layout and during tests in the workshop, the RS-3 easily negotiated 18" radius curves and no. 5 turnouts without losing track power or the E-Z App signal. The four-axle locomotive has a respectable 2-ounce drawbar pull, which is equivalent to 28 free-rolling HO scale freight cars on straight and level track.

Sound and other options. The sound effects play through the device speaker. The sounds are generic rather than prototype specific. This was disappointing, as I would’ve liked to hear the distinctive growl of the Alco 244 prime mover. The engine rpm sounds increase and decrease with the throttle.

In addition to the horn and bell, sound effects include the coupler, radiator fans, and air compressor. Since the same app is used in a holiday set, an extras screen features a list of Christmas carols that will play as the headlights flash in time with the music.

Although an E-Z App locomotive can only be assigned to one smart device at a time, a single smart device can be used to control several locomotives simultaneously. However, there isn’t a provision for consisting locomotives together.

There are fun options for changing the look of the touch screen. All are reminiscent of a model train power pack. I would like to see an option that looked like a prototypical steam or diesel cab.

More to come. In addition to the RS-3, Bachmann announced E-Z App-equipped HO scale Electro-Motive Division FT and GP35 diesels, as well as train sets featuring these locomotives. As of this writing, an Android version is in development but not yet available.

Although I would’ve preferred more prototypical sounds, overall I’m impressed with the E-Z App train control system. It’s quick to set up, easy to use, and reliable. I look forward to seeing further developments in this technology from Bachmann.


Price: $239

Bachmann Industries
1400 E. Erie Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19124

Era: 1950 to 1970s

Road names: Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry.; Boston & Maine; Denver & Rio Grande Western; New York, New Haven & Hartford; Pennsylvania

▪▪All axles powered
▪▪All-wheel electrical pickup
▪▪Can motor with dual brass flywheels
▪▪Directional light-emitting diode (LED) headlights
▪▪E-Z Mate Mark II knuckle couplers at correct height
▪▪Minimum radius: 18" RP-25 contour metal wheels in gauge
▪▪Weight: 10.7 ounces
▪▪Wireless control with Bluetooth 4 supporting Apple iOS device

Join the discussion

Read and share your comments on this article
Comment on this article
Want to leave a comment?
Only registered members of are allowed to comment on this article. Registration is FREE and only takes a couple minutes.

Login or Register now.
Great Scenery Tips

Great Scenery Tips

Realistic creeks and streams.

Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!
By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Model Railroader magazine. Please view our privacy policy