The History of Bachmann Trains

Bachmann Trains is a product of Bachmann Industries, which is headquartered in Hong Kong and specializes in model railroading. Originally, it was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and today happen to be a part of the Kader Group. Over the years, Bachmann Trains have gained a lot of popularity across the world for its intricately designed model trains. When Bachmann Trains were first introduced, they were simply entry-level train sets.

In 1988, it introduced Spectrum, which was a high-quality line of train models developed for experienced hobbyists. Over time, the manufacturer has improved its quality and standards and continues to sell its train models. Let’s dig a bit deeper into history and try to discover what is Bachmann Industries up to today.


Henry Carlisle was the founder of Bachmann Industries in 1833. At the time, the company specialized in making vanity products such as Spanish combs and parasol handles made from ivory horns. Furthermore, the target market of the company was aristocracy in Louisiana and the American South. Post the Civil War, the company continued making products such as hair ornaments and handles for the walking stick but this time they were being made using Tortoise Shell and ivory.

Then, in 1899 Carlisle’s company joined hands with another company owned by Henry G. Bachmann and was named Bachmann Bros. Later in 1902 Bachmann Bros started using celluloid for its products and in 1912, introduced optical lenses that were made from the same material. This was also the time when Bachmann Bros. began experimenting with plastic. In 1927, just before they were about to shift to their final location in Philadelphia, the company had become the first American manufacturers of sunglasses. Their line ‘Solex’ would become immensely popular in the years to come and was even purchased by the US Army and United States Army Air Force for their personnel during WWII.

Model Railroading Products

In 1966, the N scale railroading model had gained quite a success. Considering its popularity, Bachmann entered the train market by starting the production of its N scale model in June 1968. The cars were packaged in white jewel cases, which itself became the company’s identity. However, the initial models had some problems and therefore, needed to be corrected. Then in 1978, Bachmann entered the HO trains market.

In 1973, a second retooling was conducted but this time around the cars were packaged in black jewel cases. In 1978, Bachmann changes its logo to the one we see today. Now, the cars were being packaged in blue jewel cases. Furthermore, Bachmann held exclusive rights to manufacturer models of trains that were manufactured by Budd Company Passenger Trains and United Aircraft’s high-speed train.


SpectrumSpectrum was introduced by Bachmann in 1988, which included train models of high-quality. The cars had updated motors, paint schemes that were more realistic and better detail. As a result, Spectrum was thought to be a completely different company than the original Bachmann company. The first model to have been introduced was a GE 44 Ton Diesel.

Later on, the Spectrum line expanded further and was now featuring models such as Pennsylvania Railroad K-4 Pacific, an EMD GP30, and a General Electric Dash 8-40C. Then in 1988, Bachmann introduced what they called Spectrum HO scale 2-8-0 Consolidation. The model went on to receive the “Model of the Year” award by the readers of Model Railroader magazine. By 2000, Spectrum was no longer a separate company it once used to be and was now a part of the product lines owned by Bachmann.

Big Haulers and Spectrum large scale models

In 1988, while Bachmann had introduced the Spectrum models, it began to produce large scale models as well that was called the Big Haulers. Initially, they were sold as sets including a locomotive, one or two freight cars along with a caboose. Set 90100 happened to be the first set. Furthermore, the locomotives were powered by batteries and controlled via radio. In 1989, the company started producing train sets using train powered electric locomotives. A nearly year later, Bachmann began selling its freight cars, locomotives, and passenger cars as separate items.


Bachmann in 2007 purchased the Williams Electric Trains, which allowed the company to take a step further into the O scale market. The train models offered and sold by Williams were similar to the traditional trains of the 1950s, which featured diesel engines and rolling stock similar to the O gauge products first introduced by Lionel Trains during the golden era of model railroads. Their steam engine models included semi-scale and scale representations in addition to their classic “Hudson” engine, which was a piece of art.

It was a high-quality, beautifully designed, die-cast engine offering optimum value and performance. In 2015, Bachmann had introduced Williams 44 ton switcher that received rave reviews. The company then moved further with using newer tooling techniques to incorporate more features and advancing Williams to a higher level.

Today and DCC

In 1992, Bachmann introduced its new series called “Bachmann Plus” to remove the quality gap existing between the Spectrum brand and the regular Bachmann trains. It was also the time when production had shifted to China. As time passed, the quality of standard trains was improved to the quality of plus series. As a result, the sales of the plus series dropped and the current silver series was reborn in 1997.

In addition to that, Bachmann increased the prices of its products and now the cars were packaged in transparent plastic jewel cases. Then in 2001, Bachmann introduced trains on the On30 scale. A year later in 2002, Bachmann introduced its Thomas and Friends range in HO/100 scale. Since 2005, the company has been rolling out newer models with new engines and rolling stock that have moving eyes. In addition to that, Bachmann since 2006 in collaboration with a German company named Lenz Elektronik has been trying to incorporate the Digital Command Control system in its lines of products.


As the war ended, Bachmann introduced a new product line named “Plasticville USA’. This product line was totally different than what Bachmann manufactured. It was an assemble yourself kit of stores, homes, and other buildings to enhance train layouts. Originally, Bachmann’s Plasticville products were manufactured in O scale but later expanded to HO scale and N scale as well. These models were manufactured in Philadelphia prior to moving to Hong Kong. Plasticville has been a very successful product line of Bachmann. It had grown to the point where the Plasticville Collectors Association was formed in 1999 and then incorporated in 2001.

E-Z Track

Similar to other train manufacturers, Bachmann used the conventional snap-track, which was made from brass before switching to steel in the early 1980s. Then in 1994, Bachmann introduced what was nothing less than revolutionary, the E-Z track. It was a HO track built onto a roadbed made of moulded plastic and could be assembled like the typical HO track. As a result, owners could operate the HO trains on the floor without having to worry about dust, carpet fibers, and lint, etc. Additionally, the E-Z track was offered in steel only but a nickel-silver version was also introduced later on.

Global Expansion

Kader, while working under the Bachmann brand established itself as a company that was the largest volume seller of model railways. Mind that it had already introduced its own brands to the markets of North America. Therefore, Kader by using the name Bachmann went on a shopping spree and acquired several other companies in other parts of the world. This was also done to combat the poor-quality perceptions related to Hong Kong.

By 1985, Bachmann had established its offices in France and Italy. Four years later, a European division was setup that reused the moulds previously used for the Palitoy Mainline model railway products. Down the road, Bachmann acquired the location of Palitoy and established its headquarter in Barwell, Leicestershire, England. In 1991, Bachmann opened a sales office in Canada. However, it was closed in 1996.

Furthermore, the Liliput of Austria was purchased by Bachmann in 1992 and established its headquarters in Furth, Germany. Then in 1997, it moved to Germany, which serves as the German Liliput headquarters even today.

In addition to that, Bachmann took another major step and started working with the Chinese National Railway in 1999. In 2000, the company started manufacturing its first model “East Wind 11 Diesel”. The first Chinese retail shop opened in 2005 in Shanghai.

Kader’s business model from day one has remained the same. From its first purchase of Bachmann, it purchases a brand that is known for its quality in the target market or country. Then, the company puts an end to the local in-country production facilities. Using state of the art technology such as AutoCAD systems, it re-engineers the train models in Hong Kong. Finally, it reduces its production costs by manufacturing its models in a plant jointly owned in Dongguan, China.

Final Word

From what history has informed us, we can conclude that Bachmann Trains continue to reign the world of train models. It has updated, discovered, and introduced newer models and acquired companies along the way to becoming the only competition in the market. Its product line, primarily based on its business model has set it up for many years to come.