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American Geared Locomotives

by Doug Teggin

Part 1 - Historical Background ~ Part 2 - Bachmann & Rivarossi models ~ Part 3 - DCC installation


There are a few model companies producing geared locos. On30 locos are very popular in the US and G scale Shay locos are also common in many a garden layout. You will find good brass models and also live steam and miniatures too.

Bachmann produce HO, On30 and G scale Shay locomotive models and are perhaps the most popular manufacturer of these locos. They also produce a Climax model.

Rivarossi produced two Heisler Locomotive models, a two truck and a three truck version.


Model Summary


Bachmann Spectrum H0 Scale 80-Ton Three Truck Shay Locomotive - DCC Ready

The Bachmann HO scale range consists of HO scale models from North America. HO are 1/87 scale models, running on the same 16.5mm track gauge as OO scale models. The Spectrum range are also HO and N Scale American prototypes but feature a greater level of detail and improved mechanisms.

The 3 models show here (right) represent the Bachmann Shays produced. From top to bottom: Wooden Cab version, Steel Cab version and Steel Cab oil burning version

As well as producing painted unlettered locos - ready for personal customisation, Bachmann produce Shays in the company liveries for Greenbrier & Elk River, Ely Thomas Lumber Co., Weyerhaeuser Timber, Cass Scenic Rail Road, W.M. Ritter Lumber Co. and WVP&P Co.


Bachmann Spectrum H0 Scale 50-Ton Class B Two Truck Climax Locomotive - DCC Ready

As well as producing painted unlettered models, Bachmann produce Climax locos in the company liveries for Moore-Keppel & Co., West Virginia Pulp & Paper, W. M. Ritter Lumber Co. and Clear Lake Lumber Co.


Rivarossi HO Scale Two Truck & Three Truck Steam Heisler

Rivarossi has produced the Heisler in two truck wood burning and oil burning  models with the following liveries: McCloud River, Georgia Pacific, Coos Bay Lumber, West Side Lumber Co., Potlach, Pickering and Boise Cascade. The model was produced as a three truck model for Lehigh Navigation Coal Co, St. Regis Paper Co. and Cass Scenic Railway.

Bachmann Spectrum
80 Ton, Three-Truck Shay
HO Scale, Item #81901
The Shay was one of the most unusual steam locomotives ever conceived. Designed to power logging or mining operations, this standard gauge workhorse features a steel or wood-style cab appropriate to prototype.

Click on the images on the right for larger versions.


Features of the model include:

• DCC ready
• directional lighting
• complete prototype drive train
• scale metal driveline
• precision sealed can motor with metal motor bearings
• separately applied stack, domes and cab
• separate detail parts, including bell, whistle, pop valves, cut levers, and handrails
• separate sanding lines
• detailed cab interior
• lighted firebox
• finescale deadwoods (pilot beams)
• operating piston rods and valve gears
• finescale brake rigging and double truss rods
• RP25 wheels with tapered spokes on locomotive
and tender
• E-Z Mateฎ Mark II couplers

Note the off-set boiler (above), allowing space for the pistons on the right hand side of the loco.

Here (above) from the underside, you see the independent trucks and the connecting rod on the right hand side of the loco (bottom of picture). The universal joints and sleeves on the connecting rods allow full truck movement.
Comparative views (above) of the right hand side and left hand side of the loco.
From the connecting rod, gears mesh with the wheels driving all the axels of all three tracks.

The model has a very slow movement. Even at full speed, it travels at a moderate pace around the tracks. This is all about power, torque and steadiness. Not about speed.

Most of this model is made of metal giving it a substantial feel in the hand and a steady movement on the track. The parts are well made and sturdy.


Bachmann Spectrum
50-Ton Two Truck Class B Climax
HO Scale, Item #82801
Inspired by one of only four remaining operational Climaxes, this Spectrum model also represents one of the last Climaxes to be used in revenue service, eventually ending its illustrious industrial career in the late 1960s. The standard gauge prototype still operates in tourist service on the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad in Durbin, West Virginia.

Click on the images on the right for larger versions.


Features of the model include:
• DCC ready
• die-cast construction
• 5-pole skew wound motor
• all-wheel electrical pickup
• three-gearbox power train for realistic operation
• scale-speed gearing
• detailed cab interior
• amber LED headlight and backup light
• separately applied stack, domes, and cab
• separate detail parts, including bell, whistle, pop valves, and handrails
• E-Z Mateฎ Mark II couplers
Again, we see independent trucks with universal joints and sleeves on the central drive shaft. Bevelled gears drive all the axels.
Another slow mover. The movement of the piston rods set at steep angles driving flywheels and gearboxes under the loco is very interesting to watch. It has a very slow operation, but again with plenty of torque.

Metal and plastic construction. Directional lighting and a detail pack included.



Two Truck & Three Truck Steam Heisler
HO Scale

New Rivarossi 2006 logo used above. These models were first produced in the 80's and then updated at the end of 2002. In 2003, Lima was forced into liquidation and in October 2004 Hornby acquired the assets of Lima, including Rivarossi.

These Rivarossi models, produced in the early 00's are made with an all-new body that completely eliminates moulded-on detail. All of the piping, sand lines, air lines, and more are separate details.

Blackened wire grab irons and handrails add to the realistic effect. There's also a solid-brass whistle, pop valves, bell, front number plate and photo-etched builders plates. And check out the other new features like flush-fitting cab windows, optional headlight styles and working knuckle couplers.

Inside that beautiful body lurks a tough, new drive that works like a real Heisler! A can motor and new gearbox are connected to a super replica of the V-2 "motor engine," so the crankshaft, rods and valve gear move like the originals.

Driveshafts transmit power to solid-metal worm gears on one axle, and side rods power all of the wheels just as the prototype did. Best of all, the models are DCC-ready so you can plug in your favourite decoder and start running.

A larger weight and an optional traction-tire-equipped driver set are included to improve pulling power. Plus, the trucks have been carefully engineered to provide all-wheel electrical pickup and still take incredibly sharp curves with ease.

Perfect for any industry from logging to coal mining to industrial switching these new models are offered in both 2 and 3 Truck versions. Each is fully assembled and factory painted. Various road names are available.

Click on the images on the right for larger versions.


The Rivarossi 3 Truck model depicts a large standard gauge three truck machine, and is quite impressive.

The underlying shell is enhanced with many added details- fine black wire handrails, coupler cut bars, air brake pump, reservoir, and piping, with the smoke box number plate, bell, whistle and safety vales in brass.

The loco has blackened wheels, with fine flanges, and brake gear in line with the wheel treads.

The working motion is a treat and the model is powered from a motor in the cab and bunker which drives the trucks using the central drive shaft with universal joints, as per proto type; the gearbox is hidden in the firebox. The loco sports a good plain satin black finish with dark graphite smoke box. The markings are clearly printed, and several different roadnames are offered.

This older model - produced in the 80's used the chassis as a common conductor - a bit tricky, but not impossible to fit a DCC decoder. Still a very solid and robust model that runs perfectly.

Click on the images on the right for larger versions.



Part 1 - Historical Background ~ Part 2 - Bachmann & Rivarossi models ~ Part 3 - DCC installation


 - December 2006


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