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Bachmann On30 0-6-0 steam locomotive

Read this review from the November 2019 Model Railroader
Bachmann On30 0-6-0 steam locomotive

Whether it’s logging, mining, or in-plant switching, all private narrow-gauge railroads have one thing in common – they need a reliable locomotive to move their rolling stock. Bachmann’s latest addition to its Spectrum line of On30 steam locomotives is a home-grown 0-6-0 tender-style switcher. The ready-to-run model comes with a dual-mode motor and lighting decoder that operates on Digital Command Control (DCC) and direct-current (DC) layouts. A plug-and-play SoundTraxx Tsunami 16-bit sound module is sold separately.

A freelanced model. The 0-6-0 tender switcher locomotive type had its heyday in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This particular wheel arrangement was good for moving cars in tight spaces and working small yards, waterfronts, and industrial complexes.

The Bachmann 0-6-0 is a narrow-gauge version of this once popular switcher. The model has a Baldwin builder’s plate on the smokebox with a construction date of 1910. When I asked a Bachmann rep about the model’s prototype, they admitted that it’s a “kitbash” of the On30 2-6-0, which is based on a Colorado & Southern prototype.

For the 0-6-0, Bachmann removed the 2-6-0’s lead truck and added a switching pilot. The 0-6-0 also sports a new headlight; cab detail changes; and a new, shorter tender.

I wasn’t put off by the 0-6-0 being a freelanced model. Logging and mining railroads often modified secondhand locomotives to suit their operating needs.

How it’s built. Bachmann’s 0-6-0 is made primarily from plastic shells with a metal chassis under the tender and a metal weight in the boiler. Factory-installed plastic detail parts include handrails, grab irons, and uncoupling levers.

Most of the parts are cleanly molded, although the sand pipes had some flash that needed to be carefully removed with a sharp hobby knife.

Unlike other Bachman On30 models, which include a few smokestack options, the 0-6-0’s smokestack isn’t removable.

To give the locomotive an industrial look, Bachmann plated over the forward cab side windows. It’s easy to remove the plastic plates and replace them with glazing for those who prefer that look.

Holding all the electronics for the locomotive, the tender attaches to the engine with a metal, two-position drawbar. The close-coupled position places the tender a scale 9" from the back of the engine. The tender also has a six-pin wired tether that plugs into the bottom of the locomotive under the firebox.

All lettering on the locomotive and tender is opaque and neatly applied.

Performance. A brass-flywheel-equipped can motor is mounted inside the weight in the boiler. The motor drives a gear tower hidden inside the firebox that powers the rear driver set. The remaining drivers are linked via the metal side rods. The locomotive collects power from all six drivers and all eight tender wheels.

The model’s dual-mode mechanism ran smoothly during both DC and DCC tests. Speed performance is shown in the chart at left.

Straight from the box, our sample was a smooth, quiet runner. It will negotiate an 18" radius curve, even with the tender in the close-coupled position. The center driver is sprung, allowing for lateral motion. This helps the engine to navigate sharp curves and turnouts.

While the locomotive hauled three plastic Bachmann boxcars and a caboose up my On30 layout’s 5 percent grade without difficulty, its drivers did slip some when I swapped the plastic cars for three die-cast metal log cars (which are much heavier) up the same steep hill.

The model has HO scale E-Z Mate Mark II magnetic couplers set to the same height as HO couplers. I found that the locomotive’s couplers sit a bit too high to match other On30 rolling stock. This caused the locomotive to uncouple cars at one grade transition point on my layout. I swapped the stock couplers for Kadee overset shank couplers, which eliminated the problem.

The model also includes white light-emitting diode (LED) headlights. When the locomotive changes direction with the headlights on, the headlight opposite the direction of travel resets to dim. In DCC, the lights can be either both turned on or off.

The 0-6-0 comes with the speaker already installed. The sound module (sold separately) simply plugs into the circuit board in the tender.

Adding sound. For this review we also received the optional SoundTraxx Tsunami sound module. After removing two screws from the bottom of the tender, I slid the tender shell off the chassis. The sound module has a 21-pin plug that fits into the main printed-circuit (PC) board. The speaker is already installed under the main PC board.

The steam sounds include user-triggered coupler crash, steam release, bell, and long and short whistle blasts. There are three whistle sound options to choose from.

Many of the locomotive’s lighting, sound, and performance features can be adjusted with programmable configuration variables (CVs). A short printed guide is included with the module. More comprehensive SoundTraxx Tsunami programming manuals are available as free downloads at

The decoder had the volume set to the maximum level, which I found too loud for my layout room. By programming CV128 to a value of 175, I dropped the volume by about 30 percent.

The locomotive doesn’t use a cam to synchronize the exhaust sounds. Using CV116, I adjusted the exhaust to the correct four chuffs per wheel revolution at a slow speed appropriate for my layout.

Despite not being based upon a particular prototype, this 0-6-0 has the right look and feel for a narrow-gauge switcher, and its diminutive proportions make it a perfect candidate for adding to a small layout when you want to run something a bit bigger than a 14-ton Heisler. Plus, with all-wheel pickup and smooth operating characteristics, it’s a reliable runner. I, for one, look forward to using it to switch the new quarry on my On30 layout. Watch a video of the 0-6-0 in action at

Price: $399 (DCC no sound), optional plug-and-play sound module $129
Bachmann Trains
1400 E. Erie Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19124
Road names: Three Rivers Steel; Midwest Quarry & Mining Co.; Allegheny Ironworks; and painted black but unlettered
Era: late 19th to mid-20th century
• Features
• Close-coupled tender
• E-Z Mate Mark II magnetic couplers
• Hidden drive train and see-through clearance under boiler
• Metal gears
• Operating LED headlights
• Precision motor with flywheels
• Sound ready with factory-installed speaker and 21-pin DCC socket
• Weight: 15 ounces

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Freight yard design and operation.

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