Founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the home of its North American headquarters, Bachmann is today part of the Kader group, who model products are made at a Chinese Government joint-venture plant in Dongguan, China. Bachmann's brand is the largest seller, in terms of volume, of model trains in the world. Bachmann primarily specializes in entry level train sets, and premium offerings in many scales. The Spectrum line is the high quality, model railroad product line, offered in N, HO, Large Scale, On30, and Williams O gauge all aimed for the hobbyist market. Bachmann is the producer of the famous railroad village product line known as "Plasticville." The turnover for Bachmann model trains for the year ended 31 December 2006 was approximately $46.87 million, a slight increase of 3.36% as compared to 2005.
Founded in 1833 by Henry Carlisle, the company originally specialised in vanity products such as parasol handles and Spanish combs made of ivory horns. Its target market was aristocracy in the American South and Louisiana. After the Civil War it continued to make other types of hair ornaments and handles for walking canes now out of Tortoise shell and ivory. In 1899 Carlisle's firm merged with a competing firm run by Henry G. Bachmann and changed its name to Bachmann Bros. By 1902 Bachmann Bros. started to use celluloid for its products and by 1912 introduced optical frames that were made from it. It was around this time that Bachmann Bros. began experimenting in plastic. In 1927, shortly before they moved to their final Philadelphia address, they became the first American manufacturer of sunglasses. The line, "Solarex" would become very popular worldwide and would later be purchased by the US Army and United States Army Air Forces for their personnel during WWII. During WWII Bachmann Bros. was awarded the coveted Army-Navy "E" Award for outstanding contribution to the war effort by an American company.
Other notable products include Birds of the World Model kits, Plasticville USA, shooting glasses for Winchester Repeating Arms Company (now the U.S. Repeating Arms Company), and Stein Eriksenski goggles.
Because of the sudden popularity of N scale model railroading around 1966, Bachmann entered the trains market by starting its N scale trains products in June 1968, with cars packaged in white jewel cases. However, problems of initial run led to a retooling the following year. In 1970 Bachmann entered the HO trains market. A second retooling occurred around 1973, when trains started to be packaged in black jewel cases . In 1978 Bachmann changed its logo to the present one. Trains began to be packaged in blue jewel cases. Bachmann Bros. held exclusive licenses to produce models of trains manufactured by Budd Company Passenger trains and United Aircraft's high-speed train.
Several product lines are produced under the Bachmann name including:
In 1988 Bachmann introduced the "Spectrum" line of higher quality equipment, including updated motors, more realistic paint schemes, and better detail. Spectrum was considered a totally different company from the regular Bachmann company. The initial offering was a GE 44 Ton Diesel. Later on, the Spectrum line expanded to include a Pennsylvania Railroad K-4 Pacific, an EMD GP30, and a General Electric Dash 8-40C. In 1998, Bachmann introduced their Spectrum H0 scale 2-8-0 Consolidation, which was selected "Model of the Year" by the readers of Model Railroader magazine. By 2000 Spectrum was no longer considered a separate product and became one of the Bachmann product lines, as Spectrum was finally included in Bachmann's regular catalogues.
Big Haulers and Spectrum large scale models
In 1988 Bachmann started to produce large scale (also known as G Scale or garden scale) train sets called the Big Haulers. They were first introduced in sets consisting of a locomotive, one or two freight cars and a caboose, Set 90100 was the first set. The locomotives were battery powered and were radio controlled. In 1989 They began making train sets using track powered electric locomotives. In 1989 Bachmann also began selling locomotives, freight Cars, and passenger cars as separate items. Since the early years Bachamnn introduced a high quality line of prototype 1:20.3 locomotives and rolling stock in their Spectrum Line.
In 2007 Bachmann purchased the Williams Electric Trains company, which has allowed the company to expand into the O scale market. Williams offers a more "traditional" train layout reminiscent of the 1950s.
Today and DCC
In an effort to fill the quality gap the between the Spectrum brand and the regular Bachmann trains, Bachmann introduced a mid ranged "Bachmann plus" series in 1992 when production was moved to China. Eventually the entire product line would be upgraded to the low quality of the plus series which led to the drop of the plus series and the birth of the current silver series in 1997. Bachmann doubled the MSRP of its products, and cars are now packaged in clear plastic display jewel cases. In 2001, Bachmann started to produce trains in On30 scale (O scale on HO tracks). In 2002, Bachmann introduced its Thomas and Friends range in H0/00 scale. New products have been released since 2005, usually new rolling stock and engines which have moving eyes. In 2007, a new line of structures was released. In 2010, Bachmann released several Garden Scale models of Thomas & Friends characters.
Since 2006 Bachmann has been concentrating on implementing a Digital Command Control ("DCC") system and products in its product lines, with the help and partnership of the German company, Lenz Elektronik, GmbH. Bachmann is expected to release its Dynamis DCC system in 2007, which would enable Bachmann to catch up technologically with other DCC companies. Currently Bachmann HO Spectrum lines are DCC on board, while the vast majority of its N Spectrum lines are DCC-ready.
Following the war's end, Bachmann came up with the product which made their name a household word..."Plasticville USA"...an assemble yourself kit of homes, stores, and other buildings to enhance train layouts. Plasticville USA products are still popular accessories forLionel and American Flyer trains. Bachmann's Plasticville products, originally in O scale, and later expanded to HO scale, and N scale were originally manufactured by Bachmann in Philadelphia, but later manufactured in Hong Kong. They have been made exclusively in China by plastics moulding manufacturer Kader Holdings Company Limited since 1999. The hobby of collecting Plasticville has increased in recent years to the point that the Plasticville Collectors Association was founded in 1999 and incorporated in 2001.
Originally like most other train manufacturers, Bachmann's train sets used conventional snap-track (originally in brass, then switching to steel in the early 1980s.) In 1994, Bachmann introduced the then-revolutionary E-Z track, that featured HO track built onto a moulded plastic roadbed that could be assembled like typical HO track. This allowed for operating HO trains on the floor without worry of dust, lint and carpet fibres, though traditional tabletop layouts could also be designed using this track system.
While integrated-roadbed track was not invented by Bachmann (foreign train manufacturers such as Kato Precision Railroad Models and Märklin Trains all had their own types of roadbed track), the E-Z Track was still new and innovative to the North American HO train market. Originally offered only in steel, a nickel-silver version of the track line came out in 1996, and a wide variety of track length and turnout selections became available in the line, including E-Z Command DCC turnouts. After the success of the HO track line, E-Z Track was also made available in N scale as well.
During the 1960s Bachmann produced plastic models of animals (Animals of the World series, Birds of the World series, and Dogs of the World series) called Nature Craft Kits. They also produced their own Mini-planes, Slot cars marketed in both HO and a slightly smaller version of 1/32 scale cars and sets, with 1/32 scale track purchased from Strombecker Corporation, whom by the early 1970s closed down its slot car business; military models (with Fujimi) that include fighter planes, helicopters, and Tanks; and toy robots called "Toys of Tomorrow" (with Tomy). Bachmann would drop the toy robots within a couple of years. The Bachmann-Fujimi models would be dropped during the 1970s. Bachmann dropped Slot Cars and Mini-Planes from its product lines after the Kader takeover (see below) but instead entered the Radio-controlled model market. In 1982 they revived their Nature Craft Kits as Birds of the World. By 1987 they have dropped all other toys and only concentrated on Model Trains and Accessories.In 1998 Bachmann did try to sell a short lived product, a radio controlled motorcycle.
Bachmann's Mini-planes list included several commercial airline models, such as Boeing 707 in American Airlines, Pan American World Airways, Trans World Airlines and fictional Bachmann Airlines marking, Convair CV880 in Delta Air Lines and TWA marking, Boeing 727 in Delta, Eastern Airlines TWA and United Airlines marking, Douglas DC-9 in Delta, Eastern and TWA marking, Douglas DC-8 in United and Japan Airlines marking, Boeing 747 in Japan Airlines, Pan Am and Lufthansa marking, Douglas DC-10 in American marking,Ford Tri-motor in TWA marking, and Douglas DC-3 in American Airlines marking.
Complete list of 22 Bachmann Birds of the World officially released to the public: Baltimore Oriole, Goldfinch, Bluebird, Scarlet Tanager, Woodpecker, Robin, Parakeet, Cardinal, Barn Swallow, Blue Jay, Canary, Painted Bunting, Hooded Warbler, Parrot, Hoopoe, Kinglet, Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, Bohemian Waxwing, Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, Screech Owl, Meadowlark, European Goldfinch. [Announced but never put into production: Evening Grosbeak, Pitta, Weaver Bird.]
Complete list of 11 Bachmann Dogs of the World officially released to the public: Collie, German Shepherd, Pointer, Wire-Haired Terrier, Poodle, Basset Hound, Cocker Spaniel, St. Bernard, Boxer, Dalmatian, Mongrel.
Complete list of 9 Bachmann Animals of the World officially released to the public: Squirrel Monkey, Giant Panda, Deer, Cow and Calf, Tiger, Lion, Zebra, Morgan Horse, Leopard.
In light of dwindling interest in model railroading, the Crowther brothers decided, in 1981, to sell to their manufacturer, the Kader Group. Kader changed the name to Bachmann Industries and used the new brand to expand worldwide, such as the European market. It is also part of the strategy to take over other failing companies in Europe and put them under one single name. The packaging changed from plastic jewel cases to white paper boxes with cellophane window. Starting from 1982 Bachmann began to slowly retool individual product lines one by one. A typical example would be the replacement of metal gears to cheaper plastic ones in the Diesel locomotives. By 1992 all cars were manufactured in China.
As well as introducing its own brands to North America, Kader, under the Bachmann brand, built itself up as the largest volume seller of model railways by purchasing other failing companies, using the Bachmann name to front a series of purchases in the rest of the world to combat the then poor perceptions of Hong Kong based production quality.
In 1989 a European division was set up initially reusing the moulds previously used for the Palitoy Mainline model railway products to create the Bachmann Branchline models. It took over Palitoy's location and established its European headquarters in Barwell, Leicestershire, England, which continues today as the Bachmann UK headquarters.
In 1991 Bachmann established a sales office in Ontario, Canada, but had it closed down in 1996.
In 1992 it bought Liliput of Austria, and established its Continental Europe headquarters in Fürth, Germany. In 1997 it moved to Altdorf bei Nürnberg, Germany, which continues today as the German Liliput headquarters.
In 2000 it bought Graham Farish.
Bachmann started to work with the Chinese National Railway in 1999, and in 2000 started to produce its first model "East Wind 11 Diesel". Chinese outline models under the Bachmann China name, opening the world's first Bachmann speciality retail shop in Shanghai in 2005. Bachmann China is based in Shanghai.
Kader's business model for each take over, from its original purchase of Bachmann to the present day, is to buy a perceived quality brand in the target market or country. The company then closes local in-country production facilities. Armed with state-of-the-art manufacturing machines and AutoCAD systems, Bachmann then improves quality by re-engineering the models in Hong Kong, and reduces cost by producing the models in its jointly owned plant in Dongguan, China.