New on the Layout – Bachman GG-1

I’ve mentioned in an earlier post that the first DCC engine I purchased was a Kato GG-1. Back in 2001, if you were going to find a GG-1 in N Scale it was going to be brass and it was going to cost you A LOT of money.

In 2008 though, things changed, Kato released their first version of the GG1 in 2008 with a DCC equipped version in 2011. So when the decision was made to build a new layout a few years ago, and that it was DCC – the Kato GG-1 was at the top of the Buy List.

Kato GG1 4859 on the East Side Grade.

The model is every bit what you’d expect from Kato – nicely detailed and runs well if a bit fast. The pantographs look good, although I keep them down so the don’t snag on anything. The only complaint I have is that the couplers can be finicky and coupling them to other cars with either Kato’s knuckle couplers or Micro-Trains couplers can be a little frustrating…

However, as I purchased more DCC sound engines the GG1 started to feel a little … lacking… Without sound I felt like I was missing something with the GG1.

In the years since Kato released the GG1, two other players have entered the mix – Broadway Limited and Bachmann and both of them offer GG1 versions with DCC AND sound. The Bachmann version is in stores, but the Broadway Limited version is not… Oh and the Bachmann version is cheaper.

I saw a few samples of the Bachmann version at TrainFest a few months ago, and I’ve been softening my “No Bachmann on the layout” stance ever since I got the HHP-8 last year so I bought one of the DCC SoundValue GG1s that Trainworld has had on clearance for ages.

Bachman DCC Soundvalue GG1

Side by side, the Kato and Bachmann look almost identical (I know they’re different colors – that’s not what I meant), I didn’t see any detail that was on one but missing on the other. I think the biggest difference on the two is the trucks. On the Kato version the four sets of trucks are mounted independent of each other however on the Bachman version two truck sets on either end of the engine share a frame mount…

On the Kato version there’s no bar connecting the front 4 wheel truck with the 6 wheel truck behind it like you can see on the Bachmann GG1 above

For the most part I’m happy with the purchase. I’m particularly happy with the automatic sound functions with the model automatically doing things like switching on the bell when the train is running slowly (as if approaching a station).

Having grown up in the North East, I’m sure I’ve seen Amtrak and New Jersey Transit GG1s running on parts of the North East Corridor – but I honestly don’t remember it. I certainly don’t remember what they sounded like, so having the sound equipped version on the layout definitely adds some missing color.

There are a few things I’m not happy about though, and the biggest is the pantograph on the Bachmann version. On the Kato version it’s easy to raise and lower and not being spring loaded means that when you put it down – it stays down.

The Bachmann version is a different story, it is a spring loaded pantograph that when retracted puts the spring under tension – it doesn’t actually want to be retracted. There’s a clip of some sort to hold the whole thing in the down position, and I haven’t figured it out.

Kato on the left, Bachmann on the right

I’m not entirely sure how I managed to release the clip to extend the pantograph the first time, and once I got it extended I had a heck of a time getting it back down – there’s a good chance that I managed to bend something in my efforts to get that pantograph back down, and now that it’s down, I’ll likely never put it back up again.

The other issue – is the coupler, and honestly I’m not sure if it’s the coupler on the Kato version of the Bachmann version. My plan had been that the two GG1 would be coupled together and run as a two engine consist. Then I’d have a pair of GG1s running with sound provided by one of them – seemed like a great plan until I discovered that the couplers are not compatible… For the first time ever, I have two knuckle couplers that will not couple with each other, and what’s really odd is that they have no problem coupling to passenger cars with Kato knuckle couplers… Both GG1s couple just fine to my Kato Amfleet cars – but they will not couple with each other.

The solution most likely is going to be to replace the couplers on the Kato GG1 with Micro-Train couplers which I was hoping to not have to do. Either way, it’s not something that is going to happen for a while.