About the time I was spending a bundle on Bachmann EZ Track from the Bachmann Online Store, I also purchased my first N Scale diesel locomotive.
I wanted to start running two locomotives at the same time on my track, using the Bachmann EZ Command DCC controller. Since I already had the Whistle-Stop DCC steam engine, I opted to go DCC diesel.
Again, the Bachmann store lured me in with its beautiful and detailed selection of trains. Although I was disillusioned at the Bachmann full-retail pricing, I nonetheless was committed to Bachmann for my train layout. I also wasn’t sure, at the time, if trains from other manufacturers would even run on EZ Track (they will.) So, to be absolutely sure all my new gear would play together nicely, I chose my first DCC Diesel Locomotive:
Yes, I purchased the Bachmann GP40 CSX #6001 (BAC-66354) from the Bachmann Online Store, at full retail of $299 (I’m pretty sure that’s what it cost, it was over a year ago.) I wanted to ensure if there was any problems with the new loco that I was dealing directly with Bachmann to get it worked out. Somehow that felt worth the extra 20% I’d spend. While I may have paid a little more, this diesel locomotive has been worth every penny– not just as a loco, but as a tool to help me learn about the model train hobby. There’s so much to say about how this loco has impacted me, I’ll just do my best to keep my thoughts structured–
DEPENDABILTY: This GP40 has been one of my go-to locos from out of the box a year ago til today. It always runs well and when it doesn’t, it’s the track’s fault. It pulls a respectable load, 9 Bachmann mixed freight cars plus a caboose. I’ve read a ton online that Bachmann locomotives range from grades A+ to D; all I can say in my limited experience is that this locomotive has never disappointed me with its performance. So, I’ve never needed to deal with warranty issues or Bachmann after-sales service.
DCC DECODER: This loco is equipped with a SoundTraxx Econami Sound Value Package DCC Decoder. This was my first experience even hearing about what DCC decoders are and how some have sounds and others don’t. Unlike my first DCC steam loco, the Whistle-Stop–which had little information on its onboard DCC sound decoder–the Bachmann GP40 has a TON of information about how it works available on the SoundTraxx website. By going to the Manuals Section for the Econami Digital Sound Decoder, I downloaded the Econami Diesel Quick Start Guide, the Econami Diesel Users Guide, the Econami Diesel Technical Reference and the Econami Diesel Sound Selection Reference. This amazing documents–comprehensive, organized and clearly written– were my first DCC Sound Decoder textbooks. I printed them out and use them as a reference constantly.
MULTIPLE DCC OPERATIONS: The DCC GP40 and the DCC Whistle-Stop gave me an introduction to multiple locos on the track using the Bachmann EZ Command. The EZ Command allows control of up to 8 locos according to its manual (but not at the same time, with just a 1 amp power supply.) It’s at this point that I discovered the EZ Command only can control the first 10 functions of a loco, and according to the Econami Manuals, there should be 28 functions available! There should also be a way to modify Configuration Variables (CVs)! I looked at my Bachmann EZ Command as if it had betrayed me. These were severe limitations and I was going to have to rethink using the EZ Command for my permanent layout’s DCC component.
COUPLERS: Since all my locos and cars were Bachmann, I just sort of assumed that Bachmann’s EZ couplers were going to be fine and work together. I had no idea that coupler choices were such a big deal in the model train community. There’s so much more to say on this topic, I’ll save it for its own post later. Suffice it to say that my first introduction to couplers, especially the Bachmann EZ Mate Mark II couplers, began with this GP40.
TOUGH AS NAILS: This loco is solid. As a total beginner, I dropped this loco on the floor more than twice. I crashed it, more than 20 times. To date, it still works great and nothing noticeable has broken off it. It’s detailed, but not TOO detailed. It comes in a sturdy hard plastic case with soft plastic inserts that cradle the loco beautifully and stand up to frequent use. All in all, the is a perfect loco for beginners, kids and klutzes (I am 2 of these 3!)
In conclusion, this Bachmann GP40 helped shape a positive introduction to DCC N scale trains. Had it stopped working, been complicated to use, broke up easily or had difficult, vague instructions, that might have influenced whether I would continue in the model train hobby. It has totally delivered for me and it will always be a special loco in my collection.
Yes, I I ended up buying 2 identical GP40’s! Click on the pic above for the video I created about them. I mention in the video the GP40 cost me about $200, but that’s actually not correct. I bought the first one for $299 and the second one on sale for $200 from another hobby website. So, $250/loco is more accurate. This particular model is discontinued, unfortunately.
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