Bachmann Amtrak HHP-8

Until recently there wasn’t a whole lot of options for N scale engines if you were interested in running electric locomotives that could be seen around the North East Corridor. Arguably not much has changed in that respect, although Kato’s ACS-64 Sprinter and Atlas’ ALP-45 are available today.

Bachmann made an E-60 from around 1984 to 2008, and a version of the Budd Metroliner all the way back in 1969. Neither were all that great looking, neither were DCC ready. and honestly like most of Bachmann’s stuff from the ’90s and earlier, they kinda sucked. They weren’t particularly detailed, they were kind of noisy – but at least they were cheap.

While ALP-44s and AEM-7s were released in the larger scales, they never made it down to N Scale.

In 2005 Bachmann modernized their offerings for NEC power with the release of their N scale versions of the Acela and the HHP-8. By this point I was out of the hobby and didn’t pick either up and when I returned to the hobby last year I was on the hunt for them.

Both have been discontinued for quite some time, and I haven’t been able to find the N scale Acela set anywhere other than E-Bay for an insane markup. However, this past December while visiting Ready To Roll Trains in Miami FL I found a brand new in box HHP-8 that they were selling without the “discontinued for several years, nobody else has one” markup.

Sold from the Bachmann Spectrum line, the HHP-8 was a marked departure for Bachmann – mainly in that it’s extremely well detailed. This might be the first time (along with the Acela) that Bachmann produced a model that looks as good up close as it does from 10 feet away.

The HHP-8 was also the first locomotive that Bachmann ever released that came with DCC pre-installed. While the decoder that Bachmann used was fairly basic compared to what you can get today, it was a DCC engine – from Bachmann in 2005.

Also of note – those pantographs, they’re not just there for looks. Bachmann’s HHP-8 has the ability to run off of powered N Scale catenary wire. Think about that for a second – who actually runs powered catenary in N Scale? No seriously – who does this? Please tell me, because I REALLY want to see their layout, if they’re that dedicated to build a powered catenary system in N Scale they have got to have an amazing layout…

Honestly, this thing looks fantastic from pretty much every angle.

At the end of the day though, this is still a mid-2000s Bachmann engine and it still carries the baggage of the crappy Bachmann’s that have come before it. Problem number 1 being those outdated rapido couplers. I get that in 2005 they were still extremely common and that Bachmann themselves were still producing a lot of stuff with those couplers. But it still bugs me that Bachmann made the HHP-8 this detailed, they went to the trouble of designing the thing to be powered off overhead catenary (even though there’s probably only 1 person in the entire world who has powered catenary in N scale) and then they put rapido couplers on the thing. I’ve heard that it might be possible to convert these to Micro-Trains couplers, but from what I’ve read doing so requires modifying the coupler pocket which doesn’t sound appealing to me.

Then there’s that featureless cockpit. There’s all this detail on the rest of the engine with some humongous windows into the cockpit – and Bachmann said “yeah we’re done…” Again, there’s all this detail around the front of the engine, with a void inside those windows… Bachman could have at least put in some contouring to suggest a control stand in there…

Bachmann’s HHP-8 also can’t escape that it’s a mid-2000’s Bachmann, and most Bachmann’s that came before it are noisy runners. When we tested it in the store it was loud and growly especially at low speeds. Plus it didn’t really want to run at low speeds, it needed quite a bit of voltage to get moving and when it did it was already at a medium speed and wanted to run quick. The folks at Ready to Roll thought that this was due to the fact that the engine had been sitting for quite a while, and that with a little lube and a real break-in that it would run better.

The reviews of the HHP-8 back when it was released tell a different story, all of them noted that it really doesn’t run at a low speed and that it’s noisy. So it seems like what I’m getting from my HHP-8 is normal.

I love having the HHP-8 on the layout for it’s looks alone. But it doesn’t get a lot of use since all of my Kato Amfleets and the Viewliner Sleeper have Micro-Trains compatible couplers. If I get the Lux Modellbau track cleaning and vacuum cars there’s a good chance that the HHP-8 will get relegated to MOW duties as both of those cars have rapido couplers and they’re not self powered. But right now the HHP-8 spends a lot of time parked over in the West Yard along with the Rapido FL9 where they’re both admired but rarely run.