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Big Haulers Tips

Bachmann Big Hauler Tips

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photo of Bachmann Big HaulerThe Bachmann Big Hauler is a very popular engine, primarily because it is visually attractive and they can be usually found real cheap. However, the Big Hauler is intended to be a low cost mass manufactured engine and therefore isn't built to be highly durable. This doesn't mean that the Big Hauler is a total piece of junk. It takes a little work, but it can be made to run long and well.

The Big Hauler has a 4-6-0 wheel configuration which is also called a Ten Wheeler. This engine type replaced the 4-4-0 American type in the latter half of the 19th century in fast freight and passenger service. It was larger than the 4-4-0 and could pull a heavier load. The 4 wheel leading truck allowed good tracking at fairly high engine speeds. The 2-6-0 Mogul and 2-8-0 Consolidation tended to replace the 4-4-0 in freight service.

Bachmann's model is of a generic Baldwin product. The scale of the model is debatable. Since Ten Wheelers were built by the thousands over several decades and in various sizes, the model could represent a smaller narrow gauge loco in 1:20.3 scale, or a larger loco in 1:24 scale. 10 Wheelers of the vintage modeled didn't get big enough so that the model could reasonably represent a prototype in 1:29 or 1:32 scale. There were larger and more modern 10 wheelers made, but they don't look anything like this model.

The Bachmann Big Hauler has been built in many versions over the years. I believe that the first version was the Radio Controlled Big Hauler which was produced in about 1990. This version was manufactured for many years thereafter in essentially the same form. It was never very effective as an engine, but it got many of us started in Large Scale. R/C sets could be found at toy discounters for as little as $50.

Either around the same time or a little later, track powered versions appeared. Entire sets could be found at the warehouse stores for around $100 every Christmas time. The first versions had all plastic detail, no external valve gear, very noisy internal gearing and sheet metal wiper style power pickups. The engines evolved over the years slowly gaining some external metal detail, "improved" power pickups, external valve gear, several different internal gearing arrangements, and a variety of different external details. The evolved engines were called the "Plus" series, but in fact, there were many versions of the "Plus" engines. Improvements were usually first applied to engines sold individually, but eventually these improvements made it into engines in found in sets as well.

As of October 2000, a new set, the Chattanooga Railroad, appeared at Costco stores for $90. The set has a Christmas style paint job on the engine and a couple of yellow coaches. I grabbed one on impulse and I found that Bachmann has made some serious improvements over the last few years. This one runs as smoothly and quietly as any large scale loco and is clearly worth the money. Don't expect that ALL of the Big Hauler traits have been fixed however, you'll still have to tweak on it a little.



One of the major complaints against the Big Hauler is the fact that it tends to derail easily. The main culprit is the pilot truck. You can try these things to materially improve the tendency to derail.

Make sure that the truck moves and rotates freely. The most common cause of problems is that the wires that connect the power pickups on the leading truck get pinched and prevent free movement of the truck. To handle 2' radius curves, the truck must be able to move freely over the full width of the mounting slot. If the wires are pinched, loosen the screws in bottom cover next to the truck and free them.

The lead truck often needs to be lubricated to slide freely. Use graphite lubricant on the sliding parts of the truck mount.

Do not tighten the long screw near the pilot truck too tightly. If you do, it will deflect the bottom cover some and may bind up the movement of the lead truck.

Check the gauge of the pilot truck wheels. If the wheels won't slop sideways 1/16" or so you'll have to regauge them. Remove the wheels on the leading truck by pulling them off. Cut the plastic axle shorter by about 1/32" and reinstall the wheels. On some locos, they are gauged too narrowly already. The symptom of too narrow a gauge is that the wheels tend to pop up at the frog of a turnout when they can't fit around the guardrails on both rails at the frog. In this case, twist and pull on them a little to create a small gap between the plastic insulator and the wheel.

weighted front truckWeight the truck. My local Big 5 sporting goods store carries 1 oz lead weights that are shaped like a flattened oval. Use epoxy or Liquid Nails to glue 4 of these to the top of the truck. Make sure that whatever weight that you use does not interfere with the movement of the truck. Check especially for interference with the frame or the cylinder heads.

Look to your track. The Big Hauler is intolerant of rapid changes in grade. If the track drops away from the pilot truck too rapidly, the truck may actually bottom out and just hang there. When this happens, it is not likely that the truck will come back down on the track. Note that added pilot truck weights may interfere with the frame on turns if your track has vertical gradients and the pilot truck spring gets depressed. Either relieve the frame above the front pilot truck axle or fix your track.

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Flaky Power Pickup

The Big Hauler is notorious for having flaky power pickup. The engine is supposed to pick up power on 8 wheels, but in fact the leading truck doesn't contribute much. This leaves four the drivers and they get flaky too. Bachmann has made three different types of power pickups, sheet metal wipers, spring loaded contacts and brass wheel bushings. While the brass bushings are better than the others, they develop problems too.

Old Style Wiper Contacts. If your engine is an old one with strips of metal bent to make wipers, they may be completely worn out or the glue that holds them to the side of the frame has probably let go so that they have lost contact force. Either way, the best bet is to scrap them and install LGB contacts. Then add metal wheels and contacts to the tender. If the original ones aren't actually worn out, they probably still don't touch the wheels at the extremes of the axle play.

photo of axle shimOn the older engines, I glue strips of styrene to the outsides of the frame right above the axle slot to limit the side play so that the contacts have a chance of making contact. I find that it takes about 0.1" of shim on each side to control the axle play.

photo of lgb contact in a big haulerPiston Style Contacts. If your engine has spring loaded contacts, you still might want to shim the drivers as the contacts still don't reach all the time. However, a better solution is to trash the Bachmann contacts and install LGB contacts and then shim the axles. The Bachmann contacts heat under heavy load and the spring looses tension. On this engine, a spring actually melted the contact housing. To entirely replace a contact, pull out the Bachmann contact and unsolder the wire from the back. Then solder the wire to the end of an LGB contact and then install it in the original hole with a glob of hot glue or your favorite structural adhesive. These contacts will last a long time and don't heat much when loaded.

new mechanismBushing Style Contacts. The third style of power contact uses the wheel bushings to provide a connection to the wheels. The bushings are connected to the engine with spring contact fingers mounted to the lower cover. The front truck pickups are wired to these contact springs as well. The wires to the engine body plug into the contact strips so that disconnection or reversal of the power contacts is easy.

All is not well with this new system however. I noticed a pronounced sensitivity to track condition after several hours of running and a couple of disassemblies. One of the spring contacts had become cocked slightly and it rested on an insulator on the rear axle instead of the bushing. Further, the bushings seem to be flakey. There is a wheel position related hesitation on both axles when the engine is run from a Kadee wheel brush. During the hesitation, the engine makes spitting and growling sounds which may be related to motor thrashing while the resistance of the bushing is changing. The engine runs completely smoothly when the brush is used on the pilot wheels.

I isolated the problem to the bushings by connecting directly to the bushing and the wheel. Other than using a conductive oil on the bushings, there doesn't seem that there is much to be done. Perhaps Bachmann will use a ball bearing on the next version as these seem to work fine on locos from other manufacturers.

photo of tender truck with lgb contacts installedTender modifications. There isn't any convenient place on the tender trucks to mount power pickups. I epoxied a 1" square piece of styrene to the bottom of the truck to make a platform where I could epoxy LGB contacts. Solder wires to the contacts before you epoxy them down as the heat of soldering will soften most epoxies. Connect the new contacts back to the engine with some sort of small connector. You might have to rummage around a local electronics or R/C car store to find something suitable or use the method described in the Power Connector Tips page.

Leading Truck. There doesn't seem to be much that can be done to improve the pickup from the front truck except by using conductive oil on the bearings. Make sure that the wires are not broken.

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There are at least SIX different motor/gearing systems in use in Big Haulers. The later versions have the motor mounted in a metal bracket with the gearing. I don't have a 4th generation loco, but from reports from the field this one seems to be more robust than the earlier versions. Even so, I've still heard of the gearing getting mangled. Engines with this gearing will have a bulge on the bottom cover right between the rear drivers. This bulge clears the larger gear needed on the axle so that a reasonable reduction ratio could be achieved without intermediate gearing. The 5th generation has an intermediate reduction gear and a more substantial gearbox This version seems to be holding up well in real life service. The 6th generation is the "10th Anniversary Edition" (aka "Annie") version. I don't have one of these, but reports from the field indicate that it has the same gearing as the 5th generation drive, but with a 7 pole motor. The 7 pole motor allows it to run more smoothly at very low speed.

photo of rc version gear trainThe R/C Big Hauler uses a gearing system that is similar to the early track powered version, but it has a smaller lower voltage motor. I refer to this gearing as the 1st generation as I believe that this was the first kind of Big Hauler marketed.

photo of 2nd generation track powered gear trainThe early track powered version (2nd generation) uses the same gearing as the first generation but it has a larger motor. Due to all these gears, these make the most noise. In my limited experience the gears don't seem to strip as much as the 3rd generation type. The version has a large gear reduction ratio so that the motor runs fast (hence lots of noise) but this also reduces the load on the motor itself which tends to allow it to draw a little less current than the later versions. This engine runs fine on the puny power pack that is included in the Big Hauler sets. The later versions, especially the 3rd and 4th generations, tend to really tax the little power pack as the motors on the newer units run at higher shaft torque, lower motor speed and therefore higher motor current.

photo of motor secured with a tie wrapThe 3rd generation version uses a brass worm on the motor and plastic reduction gears. These seem to the most prone to wiping out the gearing. Worm gears, when placed under load, tend to thrust perpendicular to the motor shaft. If the motor is not mounted firmly (see below), this thrust tries to make the worm walk over the teeth on the meshed gear. This is evidenced by a clear popping or clicking noise, particularly when running loaded in reverse. This version was produced from the early 90's to about 1997 so the majority of Big Haulers out there, including many of the "Plus" versions will have this type of gearing.

4th generation gearingI don't have a 4th generation Big Hauler, but Dan Pierce sent a photo of his. This one uses a worm on the motor and a single gear on the axle. The motor and rear axle are held in a bracket made from a piece of sheet metal bent into a U shape. The axle gear is fairly wide and centered on the axle. There is a bump on the lower cover to clear this gear. The bump is also centered.

This version should have had a lower gear failure rate, but it didn't appear to work to well. There have been many reports of this configuration eating its gearing under load.

gearing detailThe 5th version is shown in the photo. This version appeared sometime during 2000. This one has an intermediate reduction gear and a more substantial metal gearbox assembly. The axle gear is narrower and offset from the center. The bump in the lower cover is also offset from the center.

There have been reports that this version has a tendency to slip. The large axle gear is apparently not attached well enough to the axle and can slip on the axle. Mine has not done this, but those with the problem have reported that if a hole is drilled in the plastic bushing next to the large gear and right through the axle and the bushing on the other side and a pin is inserted, the axle then becomes locked to the gear. The hole should be just large enough to clear the pin. A piece of steel wire would work. Then ends should be folded down to capture the wire.

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Motor Mount Modifications

A common problem with Big Haulers is stripped gears. There are a variety of causes, but a major one is that the motor mount is inadequate. Other causes are heavy loads in high heat and inadequate lubrication. I can't recommend much about operation in high heat except maybe don't do it, but the other problems can be fixed.

In the earlier versions, the motor is held in by two mechanisms, neither of which is adequate. Glue holds it in place, that is until the motor heats up and the glue lets go. Also the motor is pinched in saddles. Unfortunately, one of the saddles is in the bottom cover which is not very stiff. Under heavy loads, the whole bottom cover will flex in response to motor loads and the motor squirms around.

photo of motor secured with a tie wrapFor those of you that have the gearing with the brass worm and multiple reduction gears (3rd generation), you should make this modification to the motor mounts or you probably WILL strip some gears eventually. The earlier versions without the brass worm don't seem to need this modification, but it won't hurt. The 4th and 5th generations don't seem to need this modification either.

Open both the top and bottom of the engine and wrap a long heavy duty cable tie around the motor and the iron weight mounted on top of the frame as shown in the photo above. Cinch that sucker down TIGHT. This holds the motor in the frame half of the saddles and materially improves problems with stripped gears. This is most important on the types with a brass worm gear and multiple nylon reduction gears.

Now that I've recommend that you cable tie the motor, you MUST make sure that you have the new motor mount ring. The new motor mount ring is a white plastic ring that wraps around the motor bearing on the worm end. This part can be clearly seen in the photo. The old type is yellowish clear plastic and is much softer. If you cable tie the motor down with an old ring, the ring will slowly deform and the worm will bear hard against the first gear. This increases the load on the motor and wears the gears and bearings out much faster. If you have an old style ring, write Bachmann and ask for a new one, they'll send it out free.

If you already have stripped gears but the rest of the engine is intact, send Bachmann the bad gears and they'll probably send new ones back for free.

I've probably had better luck than many people with Big Hauler gears because my engines lead a sheltered life. The always stay in a cool basement which never gets warmer than 60 F. This is a far cry from sitting on the ground in Phoenix in the summer where the ground level temperatures can exceed 140 F. At these temperatures, the plastic gears will soften and be much more susceptible to being mangled.

Even so, I spun the gear on the driver axle on an old Big Hauler. This happened after I added weight and could pull a heavier load. It was a simple matter to repair the gear, almost in place. I slid the gear off the knurled section of the axle and then coated the knurling with a filled epoxy. I then slid the gear back over the knurling to the proper position and allowed the epoxy to set. The epoxy grabbed on the knurling and on the ripped up plastic that had slid on the knurling and mechanically bonded the gear back on the axle. This patch has not given me any more trouble in 8 years of blatant abuse.

I think that one of the basic reasons for Big Haulers stripping gears more often that other locos is that there is only one gear train to take up the load. Other locos usually have 2 or 4 gear trains so that the stresses placed on those gears are proportionally less. Add this to some heat and sloppy meshing and disaster is very likely.

The Delton C-16 had only one drive gear and it has a reputation for stripping and wearing gears too. BBT's Bachmann conversion also has only one gear train, but it is an industrial strength system and doesn't seem to suffer the same difficulties.

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The Radio Controlled Big Hauler

The Big Hauler was made in a R/C version. This engine looked externally identical to an early track powered version but ran from internal batteries and a rudimentary radio control system. The engine was available only in train sets.

The R/C gear is a simple AM system that operates at 27 MHz although there may have been some 49 MHz systems out there as well. If the engine ran out of range of the transmitter, it would run at its default setting of full forward until it came back into range. This made backing moves difficult as the engine would try to go forward every time it lost its RF signal which would often result in severe bucking.

When working properly, the motor control system is very effective. The engine can be nudged along at very low speeds and it runs steadily, that is as long as you are close enough to the engine to prevent it from running away.

The R/C receiver is mounted on a circuit board in the smoke box and is a little difficult to get to. The antenna wire runs down the left side of the engine and loops through the cab. It has to be disconnected at a screw terminal about halfway along the left side of the boiler before the shell can be removed.

The RF receiver circuits take up roughly the front 1/3 of the circuit board. The H-bridge motor controller takes up the center 1/3 of the board and the sound system takes up the rearmost 1/3 of the board. The wire leading to the tender carries the signal to the speaker. In a track powered Big Hauler, this wire carries the pulses from the sound switch.

The R/C Big Hauler is designed to run from 9 volts generated by six internal D batteries. These batteries also give the engine quite a bit of weight and with the traction tires, the engine can pull fairly well on good batteries. However, the engine can also flatten the batteries fairly quickly. There is an adapter cable included to use an R/C car type sub-C rechargeable battery pack. The voltage of the sub-C pack is typically 7.2 volts so that the engine runs a little slower on the rechargeable battery than a good set of alkaline batteries.

The R/C Big Hauler has another problem. Its plastic drivers are intended to run on plastic track. After extended running on tight radius metal track, the flanges will get roughed up and eventually, they will generate so much traction against the rails in turns that the outside rear driver will literally climb the rail and derail. As much as I tried, I couldn't get the wheel resurfaced adequately so I replaced the drivers with a metal set that was made for the same vintage track powered Big Hauler. The gearing was identical so it fit right on. However, the downside is that for some reason, every time the engine ran in reverse over a turnout, some sort of radio interference was generated and the engine tended to try to reverse and buck. I never did fix this problem, we just had to stay near the engine so that the radio signal was fairly strong. We did find that by touching the transmitter antenna to the track, that the track tended to conduct the radio signal to the engine and it did run better.

The R/C Big Hauler was not equipped with smoke, but I found that the smoke stacks themselves make an excellent replacement oil stack for a Bachmann Shay. The stack needs to be filed before it will fit, but once in place and airbrushed with a light coating of engine black, it matches the Shay smokebox color very well. The sound generators also transplant into a Shay well and produce a credible chuffing sound for considerably less investment than a digital sound system.

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Periodic Maintenance

Proper lubrication is critical in maintaining a Big Hauler's health. Every few months, you should follow a lubrication schedule.

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What To Do In Case Of Total Devastation

If your Big Hauler is really too far gone for remedial work, you have several options:

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After market Upgrades

BBT CRES siderodsBarry of Barry's Big Trains sent me a set of his new laser cut stainless steel siderods for the Big Hauler. He makes these because the Bachmann siderods sometimes don't fit his mechanisms due to some rather poor tolerance control at the Bachmann factory. After looking around for an engine to install them on, I realized that none of my engines really needed them. I did test fit them on an R/C Big Hauler and found that they fit fine. I put the old rods back on because it didn't seem right to put such a nice set of hardware on an engine that hardly runs anymore. I'm going to save them for an eventual BBT chassis upgrade.

BBT metal crosshead guides Barry also sent me a set of metal crosshead guides. These are intended to replace the ones that so often break off Big Haulers. I didn't install these either but I did overlay them on a couple of Bachmann engines and it looks like they would fit well. Some Big Haulers have bumps on the stock plastic guides that cause the engine to click as it runs. These parts would fix that.

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Sound System Modifications

The Bachmann sound system can be inexpensively upgraded to sound much better. An article (Feb. 98) in Garden Railways Magazine describes the three upgrades to the stock Bachmann sound system. You can also find a draft of the article at Better Big Hauler Sound for Under a Buck.

The wire between the engine and tender usually becomes very stiff with age or in the cold and the connector can tend to pull out in turns or it may even tip the engine or tender. This can cause the sound to become intermittent or stop altogether or it can cause derailments. I replace it with fine gauge speaker wire. You can get the old contacts out of the connector shell by using a fine point tool to depress the clips that hold the contacts into the shell. It is easier to do it if you cut the old wire and strip off the sleeving so that you can tug on the old wires individually. If you don't pull the contacts out of the shell, then leave a half inch or so of wire in the old shell and splice on a new flexible wire.

For those of you that haven't bothered to trace it out, here is my interpretation of the schematic of the sound generator in a Big Hauler. This same circuit is included on the rear third of the circuit board in an R/C Big Hauler.

Stock Bachmann Sound Board

schematic of stock bachmann sound board

As of sometime in 2000, Bachmann has changed the sound board. The new circuit can be identified from the outside of the tender as it has a volume control knob underneath the tender floor. It no longer will blow a continuous chuff when stopped, but the chuff profile is poor, it's decay is way too long. This can be fixed, see Better Big Hauler Sound for Under a Buck for more info.

The new board seems to have some leakage that will flatten the battery over a period of a few months. If you are not going to use it for awhile, it might be best to turn it off with the volume control under the tender.

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Smoke System

If the smoker works, but smokes weakly, it may be possible to improve the smoke output at zero cost, see my Smoke Tips page for details. The downside is that it may go through smoke fluid faster and be even more likely to burn up if it runs dry.

The Bachmann smoke system tends to burn up fairly often, so if you like smoke, you are better off replacing the smoke generator with an LGB unit, see Smoke Tips for a little more information on the smoke units. The Ten Wheeler smoke generator is similar to the one in the Shay, and the same modifications can be done.

There are a couple of differences between the Big Hauler and the Shay. The Ten Wheeler smoke unit is fastened from the bottom so you have remove the shell to remove the smoke generator. Also, the stack on some units is just a little too small to accept an LGB smoke unit so you will have to drill it out. A 3/8" drill is just right, the smoke unit body will drop through and the lip on the top will hold the unit right at the top of the stack. The Shay had a conveniently placed hole in the heat sink to allow the mounting of the regulator IC, on the Big Hauler, I had to drill a mounting hole. Other than that, the modification is essentially the same as for the Shay.

If your stack has a "final" on the top it may not fit properly with an LGB smoke unit installed. it can either be discarded or ground down to clear the lip of the LGB smoke unit.

If your Big Hauler has a funnel stack, you'll have to figure out the mounting yourself. I don't have a funnel so I haven't worked out the details.

schematic of big hauler smoke circuitThis is the circuit that I used for the Big Hauler smoke upgrade. I wired it to improve the brightness of the headlight too. My headlight had burned out so I replaced it with a grain-of-wheat bulb (Radio Shack 272-1092c). This is a 12 volt bulb so it needed a 47 ohm resistor in series with it to drop the voltage at the bulb to about 12 volts so that it wouldn't burn up immediately. You may also need a resistor in series with the Bachmann bulb if it burns too bright. You could also use a 5 volt Grain-of-Wheat bulb and wire it at the output of the regulator. You will then have to wire the smoke switch directly in series with the smoke unit so that you can shut off the smoke without turning off the headlight.

If your Big Hauler smoke unit is still working, you can just add the part of the circuit to the left of the switch and your smoke will run better at low speed with PWC. However it will also be at more risk if you should let it run dry.

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Headlight Replacement With A White LED

Bright white LEDs (Light Emitting Diode) are available that are much brighter than most incandescent bulbs used as large scale locomotive headlights. This section describes changing the headlight in the circuit above to an LED.

Big Hauler with GOW HeadlightThe Big Hauler on the left has a Radio Shack 12v 60 mA Grain-of-Wheat bulb running at its ratings. The Shay on the right has the stock Bachmann bulb that came on the early production Shays, later Shays have a much more wimpy standard yellow LED as a headlight. You can see that the Big Hauler light is not very bright as compared to the Shay.

Big Hauler with White LED HeadlightThis photo shows the same two engines after a bright white LED has been installed in the Big Hauler. The LED is running at its rated 20 mA vs the 60 mA that the old GOW bulb took. Now compare the brightness of the two locos using the Shay as a reference to see how much brighter the white LED is.

LED circuitThis is the modification that was made to the smoke circuit above. The LED runs off rectified track power and its current is controlled with a large series resistor that approximates a true current source. The right value for the voltage available is 600 ohm. I got the value by paralleling two 1200 ohm resistors. With Aristo PWC on th track, the LED comes on very bright before the engine even starts to move.

LED installedThe LED is installed in place of the original lamp, but it has to face forward to project its beam. The LED leads are insulated with shrink tube and one lead is pressed into the original support. The support had to be drilled out just a little to accommodate one lead and its shrink tube. The other lead goes into the boiler just in front of the support. A dab of hot glue holds the LED in position.

modified headlight housing and LEDThe headlight housing can just be pulled off the loco. The LED wouldn't go into the housing until a little gouging was done. The original hole is drilled out to 1/4" and another 1/4" hole is drilled in front of it so that the two holes merge together. The resultant shape is then filed out to an oval. This allows the LED housing to slip up inside the headlight housing.

The hard blue color of the LED can be toned down a bit by painting the LED housing with a very thin coat of Tamiya Clear Yellow paint. Keep the layer VERY thin, dry brushing or airbrushing works well. The yellow paint cuts the blue color. If you use too much the light will be distinctly yellow or even green.

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Taking A Big Hauler Apart

The Big Hauler is designed to be cheap to manufacture so its fairly easy to put together and therefore, it is easy to take apart.

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The Chattanooga Choo Choo

the Chattanooga Choo Choo Bachmann has come out with a new low cost set ($89.99 in Oct 2000 at Costco while they've got them) with a significantly upgraded locomotive. The set has the same coaches are previous sets, the same light duty track and the same wimpy power pack (but with no AC output terminals). There is an engineer figure in the cab. A fireman figure, a comic book style instruction book and a VHS video are also included. All the wheels in the set are metal.

The new loco pulls only marginally well, but due to the new axle bushings and improved gearing, it might be able handle increased weight for better traction. The results of some testing can be found on my Tractive Effort Tests page. The engine draws less current that most locos making it a good candidate for battery power.

The locomotive detail is improved as well. All the grab irons are brass rod and there is a Walsharts type of valve gear installed. The headlight is unchanged, as is the smoke unit. The tender still has all plastic details.

The sound system in the tender has been "upgraded" too. It now issues a timed chuff when it is triggered so that it will no longer stop with a chuff constantly blowing. However, the decay time of the chuff is way too long so that the chuffs tend to blend together at high speeds. This is easily fixed, see Better Bachmann Sound for About a Buck for instructions.

Chattanooga Choo Choo SetThe set comes packed with the loco, a combo coach and an observation coach (without drumhead). Both the coaches are lighted using the standard 9 volt battery. These coaches eat up expensive 9v batteries fairly quickly. Since the wheels are metal and the pickup pockets are still there, the lighting can be converted to track power fairly easily.

Casey JonesA similar set is available at Sam's Club for $99.99. I haven't seen this set (the photo was provided by Lou Grandieri) but the Bach-man says that the set has the same new mechanism as the Chattanooga Railroad set. The engine doesn't have the external valve gear but the paint job is much better, less work will be required to convert the road name and weather the loco. I also understand that Orchard Supply Hardware has yet a third special set for a similar cost.

new mechanismThe mechanism in this loco is all new, at least to me. The troublesome wheel contact wipers and plungers are gone, replaced with metal bushings on the axles that both pick up power and support the locomotive. These bushings are substantially heavier duty than the plastic bearings in former Big Haulers. The bottom engine cover is electrically connected to the loco with two small plugs so that the entire cover can be removed and placed aside during loco maintenance. This also means that the power pickups can be disconnected easily for a battery power conversion without making any permanent modifications to the engine.

gearing detailThe locomotive gearing is also substantially upgraded. It is now a two step reduction gear system enclosed in a metal frame. The motor is also attached to this frame so that the problems that the older locos had with gear alignment may be solved. The gear train runs nearly silently.

When I had the loco open for lubrication, I checked the minimum speed. Unloaded, the drives will turn at 6 RPM at only 0.9 volts DC. This is the lowest starting voltage that I have measured so far on any loco. The mechanism would actually run as low as 0.7 volts, but it would not run consistently.

crossguide mold markThis loco had an audible tick in the valve gear, once per driver turn. I tracked it down to a mold mark on the inside of the lower crossguide on one side. The mark is about halfway down the length of the crossguide, also about halfway between the crosshead and the little sliver of plastic in the photo. The crosshead would pop over the mark and make a click. A little careful file work removed the mold mark and the tick.

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© 1997-2002 George Schreyer
Created Oct 5, 1997
Last Updated April 18, 2002