Getting Started

Getting Started

Welcome to the exciting world of model railroading with Bachmann Trains, the world's largest manufacturer of model railroad products. On this page, our goal is to answer some of the most-asked questions about the hobby, and specifically, modeling with Bachmann products.

Model railroading is one of the world's most exciting and diverse hobbies. From woodworking to electronics, kit building, artistry, scenery construction, history, train operation strategy, and so much more, there's something for everyone when it comes to model trains.

Choosing Your Scale

The first step when getting started in model railroading is choosing a scale. Model trains come in all shapes and sizes, from intricate miniatures that fit on coffee tables to tough and durable models built to operate in the great outdoors. Bachmann is the only manufacturer to produce models in all popular sizes from N to Large Scale, with a wide selection of products offered within each scale.

What scale you should choose will depend on multiple factors:
  • How much space do you have available for your railroad?
  • Are you planning a permanent layout or setting up a seasonal display?
  • What age is the primary user of your trains?
  • Do you want to run trains indoors or outdoors?
  • Are you interested in switching freight cars or running long mainline trains?
  • Do you want a continuous loop of track or would you prefer a point-to-point setup?

The most important factor to consider is space. How you answer all of the remaining questions will depend largely on this. If you want to run long trains but have limited space, we suggest starting with N Scale. This is the smallest size of train we offer. A typical railcar in this scale measures 4" x 3/4". Even if you plan on just setting up a basic oval of Bachmann E-Z Track®, starting in N Scale will give you the most room to grow your railroad over time.

On the other end of the spectrum is Large Scale. Trains of this size range between 1:29 scale and 1:20.3 scale, but all use the same 45mm track width. These are BIG trains. Designed for indoor or outdoor use, they are tough, durable, and highly detailed models. Large Scale is the best choice if you plan to build a garden railroad, but is also ideal for setting up around the Christmas tree using a simple circle of our steel alloy indoor track.

Perhaps predictably, the most popular size falls between these extremes at 1:87 scale. This is HO scale; our most diverse product line. Featuring a massive selection of train sets, separate sale models, building kits, and scenery items, HO ranks among the most popular scales for modelers worldwide. HO is twice the size of N Scale and can still lend itself well to smaller spaces depending on the scope of the railroad you plan to construct. Within HO Scale is HOn30 Scale, which replicates real-life “narrow gauge” trains that run on smaller tracks than regular trains. HOn30 models run on N Scale track while remaining at 1:87 scale dimensions.

Roughly twice the size of HO is O Scale. O falls between HO and Large Scale with 1:48 scale dimensions. At Bachmann, we offer two O Scale product lines; Williams by Bachmann® 3-Rail, and On30 Scale “narrow gauge”. Williams by Bachmann® operates on traditional O Scale 3-rail track and features both scale (realistically-proportioned) models, and semi-scale (space-saving) models. Like HOn30 Scale, On30 Scale “narrow gauge” replicates real-life trains that run on smaller tracks. On30 models are designed to operate on HO track while being built to O Scale, 1:48 scale dimensions.


Finding the Right Train for You

So you’ve selected your scale. Now the fun really starts! At Bachmann, we offer a broad selection of trains to meet most modelers' needs, from beginner-friendly starter sets to detailed, historically accurate scale models of America’s most iconic trains. We additionally offer an entire range of trains festively decorated for the Christmas season.

If you are new to the hobby, we recommend beginning with a train set. Our extensive selection of starter sets come with everything you need to get up and running in minutes, including a train, track, and electric speed controller. Starter sets also make fantastic gifts. If you already have track or are adding to an existing train collection, our separate-sale locomotives and rolling stock are the way to go. From steam, diesel, and electric locomotives spanning all historical eras, to hundreds of freight and passenger cars, you’ll be sure to find the perfect Bachmann trains to fit your requirements.

Search Our Inventory of Products in all Popular Scales:

Simple Assembly with E-Z Track®

Constructing your railroad has never been more simple than with E-Z Track®! Our signature snap-fit track system will have you finished and running trains in less time than it takes to read this page. E-Z Track® features a realistic “ballasted” appearance on the pre-assembled roadbed, which elevates your trains to an authentic mainline ride height that also keeps them clear of dust or carpet fibers. E-Z Track® straight, curved, turnout, and rerailer tracks are available in N, HO, and Williams by Bachmann® 3-rail O scale. See our book E-Z® Model Railroads for inspiration on building a layout entirely with E-Z Track®.


DCC and Sound

In today's digital age, you can use new technologies to bring more life and action to your models than ever before. DCC or Digital Command Control expands the model railroading experience by giving you the ability to operate multiple trains independently of each other, with fully interactive light and sound features on each locomotive (depending on the model). At Bachmann, we offer three types of DCC-equipped models to suit varying modelers' needs:

DCC Onboard

DCC On Board® is our base DCC line. Models in this series feature a factory installed dual-mode decoder for both DCC and standard DC operation, as well as fully interactive directional lighting (on certain models).

Sound Value Onboard

DCC Sound Value® models include all of the features of DCC On Board® models, with the added benefit of a factory installed speaker and pre-programmed interactive sounds. These typically include model-specific diesel prime-mover or steam “chuff” sounds, a horn or whistle, and a bell.

Sound Onboard

DCC Sound On Board® is included in our top-of-the-line DCC and sound-equipped models and features additional interactive light functionality such as ditch lights, marker lights, emergency beacons, and interior lighting (on select models). Additional sound functionality is also included, with sounds such as, but not limited to, brake effects, crew alerters, sanders, and station announcements.


The E-Z Command® System

To bring DCC to your railroad, Bachmann offers the E-Z Command® control system. Simple to use with push-button and control dial operation, the E-Z Command® Plus control center works readily with Bachmann E-Z Track® as well as other track systems, and all DCC-equipped models from Bachmann and other manufacturers.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What scales does Bachmann offer?
    Bachmann is the only manufacturer to offer products in N Scale (1:160 scale), HOn30 Scale (1:87 scale narrow gauge), HO Scale (1:87 scale), On30 Scale (1:48 scale narrow gauge), O Scale (1:48 scale), and Large Scale (1:29, 1:22.5, and 1:20.3 scale).
  • How are Bachmann trains powered?
    Unless otherwise stated, all Bachmann models run on standard 12VDC electric power.
  • Can trains of multiple sizes run on the same track?
    Different scales cannot generally be operated together, however, HOn30 narrow gauge models will run on N Scale track, and On30 narrow gauge models will run on HO track.
  • Will Bachmann's DCC-equipped models work on non-DCC setups?
    Yes, all of our DCC-equipped models come with dual-mode decoders installed, which allow them to operate both on DCC and standard DC-powered railroads.
  • Will my non-DCC trains work on E-Z Command®?
    Yes, the E-Z Command® system allows the operator to run one non-DCC locomotive in addition to their DCC-powered models. Please see your E-Z Command® instructions for further details.
  • Will my Bachmann train work with track or control systems from other manufacturers?
    Yes, Bachmann models are built to the universal standards of the National Model Railroad Association and will work on track or control systems by other manufacturers.
  • Will trains from other manufacturers run on E-Z Track®?
    Yes, E-Z Track® conforms to National Model Railroad Association standards and is fully compatible with most trains of the same scale, regardless of manufacturer.
  • Will Bachmann trains couple with trains from other manufacturers?
    Bachmann trains are generally designed to be compatible with other models. Our HO and N Scale E-Z Mate® couplers will couple with knuckle couplers from most other manufacturers of North American models. Likewise, our Williams by Bachmann® trains feature knuckle couplers compatible with O Scale trains from other manufacturers.
  • What ages are model trains appropriate for?
    Our standard-line models are designed for use by ages 14+, however, they may be used by children below this age with direct adult supervision. All of our models contain small parts that can be choking hazards.
  • Do you offer any model trains for children?
    Our Thomas & Friends™ licensed HO and Large Scale products are designed for use by children 8+ years of age. Please note that our N Scale Thomas & Friends™ line and HO Narrow Gauge line are suitable for 14+ only.
  • Will my Thomas & Friends™ trains work with other trains of the same scale?
    All of our Thomas & Friends™ models will work on the same track as our standard line trains of the same scale, however, the HO models feature European-style hook-and-loop couplers which are compatible with other models of British design, but not models with our standard E-Z Mate® couplers. Our N Scale Thomas & Friends™ and Large Scale models likewise feature couplers that will not work with our standard line models of these scales.
  • Can model trains be operated indoors and outdoors?
    Bachmann N, HO, On30, and Williams by Bachmann® O Scale trains are designed for indoor use ONLY. Bachmann Large Scale products will operate either indoors or outdoors unless otherwise specified.