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Written by Paul D. Race for Family Garden TrainsTM

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Bachmann G-Gauge Christmas Trains

In this article, I'm using the phrase "Christmas Trains" to describe operating toy or model trains that are painted, labeled, and othewise designed with Christmas themes.

I first got interested in Christmas-themed trains in 2007-2008 when we started hosting Christmas-themed open railroads on our first iteration of the New Boston and Donnels Creek.

At the first event, we ran our "ordinary" trains - mostly AristoCraft Pennsylvania steam pulling freights or varnish of the same brand. They were great, and I doubt anyone cared that they were labeled "Pennsylvania" instead of, say, "North Star and Southern," one of Bachmann's favorite Christmas train labels.

A lionel 0-4-0T pulling an AristoCraft Christmas varnish at a Christmas-themed open railroad in November, 2008.  Click for bigger photo.But in the years following, I couldn't help notice some very cute - yes, that's the word - Christmas-themed offerings from several vendors. After careful shopping, I now own Christmas trains from AristoCraft, Lionel, and Bachmann.

The purpose of this article is to help you with your research if you want a big impressive Christmas-themed train running around your tree or on your garden railroad. Say you want to see if anything is missing from a set you've come across, or you are wondering if pieces from different sets will look good together.

That said, none of these trains are considered collectors' items. I only buy trains to run myself, and that's true of 99.9% of the folks who've bought these Christmas trains. Consequently, you're shopping a used market that often includes people who have no idea what they're selling, and - worse yet - people who know exactly what they're selling and don't tell you the "whole story."

So, despite the fact that I enjoy the Bachmann Christmas trains I own, there are a lot of potential "gotchas" you should also be aware of. So sorry if I list the "gotchas" first. I want you to go into any investment with your eyes wide open.

Just for fun, I'm including a photo from 2018, when I had two Bachmann Christmas locos running on a snowy day. The North Star


Cold Weather and Large Scale Trains

At this point, I confess to having more Christmas trains than I can run on the railroad at the same time. But that's a necessity when you have cold-weather-open railroads as we do. Because things are that much more likely to go wrong, and you're that much more likely to need to put a backup on the track quickly.

Not to mention that many of the trains are over thirty years old, which introduces another level of risk to operating them in cold weather. Soft plastic parts that are already turning brittle from age can disintegrate with normal handling. Lubricants getting thicker as the temperature drops can put extra stress on gears, and so on.

That said, the vast majority of customers over the years have bought these to use around their Christmas trees or on indoor display layouts at banks, etc. So, hopefully, they don't have as many weather-related issues as typical used Big Haulers.

Buying Discontinued Trains

The good thing about Bachmann's Christmas trains is that they made so many of them. The bad part is that they are all discontinued (although one still shows up in their online store from time to time).

That means that you pretty much have to buy on the used market, and you run a risk of the pieces having damage that doesn't show up in the online ads, etc. A locomotive that is "tested" and "runs fine" might still be on its last legs. Handrails may be intact but brittle, and so on.

Even the trains that have been mostly used seasonally indoors may suffer damage from rough handling or clumsy storage. After all, folks who only set up trains once a year seldom know how to handle or pack them away appropriately.

Bachmann's repair department gets overwhelmed easily, and often runs out of commonly used parts, so you may not be able to get a piece you like repaired. If you send them a locomotive and pay for repairs, and they can't fix yours, they might send you one with another road name. And they almost never repair cars, though they do sell some replacement parts.

So you might find yourself buying two sets to get one complete set, or doing repairs, or both.

If all of this makes your nervous, you should remember that LGB and PIKO are both still making brand new Christmas-themed trains. (You can see some examples here.)

The main reason to buy a used Bachmann train is if you prefer the look, not to save money, because you may not. And there were some "dandy sets"

Typical "Big Hauler" Christmas Sets

Most Bachmann Christmas train sets include

  • A standard 4-6-0 locomotive identical in all but paint jobs to the other 4-6-0s produced that year. Since Bachmann gradually improved those locomotives between 1985 and 2015, the later versions are more likely to run well than the earlier versions - even if age alone wasn't an issue.

  • A single-unit or two-part power supply (a 2-part supply indicates a later train).

  • A variety of cars, such as:

    • Two passenger cars. One is always an "observation car" (has a fancy railing on the back for sightseers). The other is usually a "combine" (half passenger and half baggage). A few have a full passenger coach instead of a combine.

    • One or two freight cars and a caboose, or

    • One or two freight cars and a "combine."

  • A loop of track you can't use outdoors.

Besides these trains, Bachmann also made two "self-propelled" Christmas products:

  • A closed streetcar decorated for Christmas, and

  • A two-piece handcar that features Santa and elves.

Also worth noting: Most of these sets - whatever the name on the box - are labeled for North Pole and Southern. So you often see them listed that way on auction sites. Which can be confusing, but it also means that you don't generally have to worry about mixing pieces from different sets. They mostly share the deep green and dark red color scheme as well.

The one major exception is the locomotive from the North Star Express freight set; it's brown for some reason. But you probably won't come across one in working condition anyway. If you do, don't run it in cold weather.

Premium Sets - There were three notable variations on these standard sets.

  • The passenger version of the "North Star Express was a premium set with an upgraded Anniversary-style locomotive, metal handrails on the coaches, and an extra 8-wheel caboose "thrown in."

  • The "Wonderland Flyer" was a freight set with an upgraded Anniversary-style locomotive, and a combine substituting for the caboose. (Will be documented shortly)

  • The "Holiday Special" set was the top-line premium set, with an Anniversary-style locomotive, metal handrails on the passenger cars, and a streetcar with its own track and power supply. (Will be documented shortly).

The rest of the sets I've come across have exactly the same chance of being intact and useful as any other Bachmann Big Hauler train set made in the same year.

About Missing Accessories

Several - but not all - of the sets came with plastic Santas and elves. Most of the gondolas came loaded with "Christmas presents." A couple premium sets came with other accessories like railroad crossing signs.

When these trains turn up used, most or all of the accessories are missing. So I haven't bothered to document them. I hope that's not an inconvenience.

The Problems With Shipping

When you buy any used train online, you will have to pay to have the thing shipped. Not only could you wind up paying $50-$100 just for shipping, but if the set has the track that came with it, you might wind up paying an extra $20 to get track you will never use.

In addition, most of the boxes for most of these trains are falling apart by now, but if the seller has the box, they almost always get more for the train and you always pay more for shipping. Furthermore, many folks don't know how to get these things back in the box after they've played with them or taken photos, so a train in the box isn't much more likely to be in running condition than a well-packed train that is missing the box.

None of these are considered collectors' items. If you see a set that is complete and intact, but missing the box and track, don't let that hold you back.

Notes on Bachmann's Passenger Cars

  • The shells of Bachmann passenger cars are well made and sturdy enough to last a very long time, even though they feel flimsy compared, say, to LGB.

  • Most Bachmann passenger cars include either metal wheels or metal-rimmed wheels, both of which reduce friction and maintenance.

  • Most Bachmann passenger cars include a lighting circuit that is powered by a nine-volt battery on the bottom of the car.

  • The handrails on most Bachmann passenger cars turn brittle and fail, especially after lots of use outside. (At the moment, you can buy metal replacement handrails for $10 from Bachmann's parts store.) In addition, the "cable" running underneath the car body is subject to breakage from even normal handling.

  • Most Bachmann passenger cars came with Bachmann knuckle couplers, which can fail eventually. If your train comes with Bachmann's LGB-style couplers and they're in very good condition, they will hold together relatively well. Don't rush to replace them with Bachmann's couplers. If you really need knuckle couplers on them, consider Kaydees.

For more information about Bachmann's passenger cars, visit our article on Buying Passenger Cars (Old-Timey).

Notes about Christmas, 2021

I realize that publishing this article this late in the years will frustrate folks, because by now Christmas trains of all sorts are demanding a premium. Plus some of the trains on this list only turn up on eBay every few years, and they usually need at least some repair when they do. So getting your heart set on a particular train a month before Christmas will almost inevitably lead to disappointment.

But nobody ever reads Christmas train articles I publish in July. So, please enjoy the photos, learn from the descriptions, and bookmark the page for reference in case it motivates you to start keeping an eye out, say, in January.

The Trains

I've owned a few of these, and had my hands on a few more, but I can't say I've owned, or even seen them all. So some of the comments are based on photographs, general knowledge, or other folks' input.

In no particular order, though I tried to put the earlier ones first.

Bachmann's first G-gauge Christmas train, the battery powered 'Holiday Express,' nearly identical to their first battery-powered train. Click for bigger photo.Holiday Express (Battery Powered) (#90102)

This set was based on the very first Big Hauler, a battery-powered train with plastic track and all plastic wheels, including the drivers. It includes a "Gold Belt Line" gondola and 4-wheel ATSF caboose.

In other words, the only thing "Christmassy" about these was the phrase "Holiday Express" on the tender.

The original "Santa Fe" version (#90101) was our first Large Scale train, bought the year they came out (1988). In spite of its issues, we got a lot of "play value" out of it, so I may be unduly prejudiced toward this class of trains.

If the Bachmann Holiday Express has any outside exposure, due to its age, there's a high likelihood that all of the handrails are brittle, and there's the possibility that the traction "tires" on the last set of drivers have disintegrated, rendering the train unusable until you find rubber bands that fit.

That said, a high proportion of these was only used around a Christmas tree, and not in everyday play, so you're more likely to find them in good shape than their non-Christmas twins. A few years ago I picked up one of these that showed no signs of abuse, and I could run it today if I didn't mind spending money on batteries.

Also, the radio control on these came in 27mhz or 49mhz, indicated by a 7 or 9 on the side of the cab. If you could find one of each, you could run them at the same time without interference.

Bachmann's first G-gauge Christmas train, the battery powered 'Holiday Express,' nearly identical to their first battery-powered train. Click for bigger photo.Polar Express

This is the answer to the question "What is the rarest of them all?" When the Chris Van Allsburg book Polar Express came out, Bachmann's designers interviewed the author to learn the exact colors used on the cars in the book. A few years later, they applied them to the cars in this set. Eschewing the combine you find in most Christmas sets, they made a coach and an observation car in Van Allsburg's delightful color scheme and put it behind one of the earliest track-powered 10-wheelers with no upgrades outside of a silkscreened wreath and the name "Polar Epress" on the tender.

Technically, the coaches should have been "heavyweights," not wooden coaches, but Bachmann never made heavyweights in Large Scale.

Bachmann's Polar Express coaches used colors specified by Chris Van Allsburg almost two decades before Warner Brothers tweaked the color scheme for the movie.  Click for bigger photo. In case you wondered why the color scheme looks "wrong" today, you should know that Warner Brothers changed the color scheme for the movie, which came out 19 years later.

Why So Rare? - Trains like this are made in batches, ordered by February, shipped by July, in warehouses by September. So manufacturers have to "guestimate" how many of each set they are likely to sell. Bachmann underestimated this set by, say, a factor of ten. The shelves emptied very quickly and within a few weeks people were offering them for $1000 online - and getting it!

That said, when the movie came out, it changed folks' ideas of what the train should look like. Lionel made a toy battery-powered version that ran on 45mm track, as well as an O gauge set that looked fairly realistic and has been upgraded multiple times. Both of those sold out quickly, but Lionel was able to rush subsequent shipments. And those products met the needs of folks who just wanted a Polar Express train to run around their Christmas trees or with their Christmas villages. (Note: The battery-powered Polar Express train that Lionel is selling today runs on 2" track, not 45mm, so don't buy a new one thinking you can run it on your existing trackage. Look for used sets with the words "G gauge" on the box.)

The movie, and trains that looked like the one in the movie, resulted in some of the Bachmann sets being abandoned and going on the market in the 2004-2015 timeframe. I haven't seen many recently, though, as the people who still own the remaining sets seem to be clinging to them.

Thirty-Five Years Later - What you should know. First of all, most of these were given to children to play with, so many were damaged and discarded. And most of the pieces that show up on eBay are also damaged in some way. Almost all of the locomotives have been destroyed, and the ones that weren't were still an early version which didn't hold up well if they were used a lot. I have never seen one in working condition. But if you have the tender, you can easily substitute any of Bachmann's other black locomotives to pull the train. Also, the coaches look great following my Lionel Atlantic or Aristo Pacific, and relettering a tender isn't THAT hard.

Since the track is useless for most purposes and the power supply is generic, the only thing worth considering are the coaches. The paint job holds up very well, but the handrails are soft plastic that can turn brittle over time. Even the coach bodies can be relatively brittle by now, so be careful how you store them.

Also, if you need to open one up, you'll discover that the lighting circuit is wired differently from later coaches. You will need to unscrew all the screws on the bottom and leave the seat layer in place until you loosen two other screws.

On the bright side, they came with metal wheels - not plastic, like some of their contemporaries. And as of November, 2021, you can still order metal handrails from Bachmann's parts department to upgrade them for about $10/car.

Bachmann's North Star Express freight set. Click for bigger photo.North Star Express (Freight)

One of the earliest (~1993-95) sets, and one of the least expensive sets (back in the day), this has a reddish-brown locomotive - the only train on this page to use this color. It is pulling a Texaco tank car and a bobber caboose in the dark red color used on many of the other trains. Please don't confuse this with the much later North Star Express passenger train, which is one of the premium sets.

Remembering that in some of their earliest sets, they made as few changes as they could reasonably get away with to offer a "Christmas" version of a set, I suspect that the Texaco car was a money-saving move, if not actually underwritten by Texaco!

Sadly, the early design and the age of this locomotive have resulted in multiple reports of the main gear on the axle breaking after about ten years of Christmas-only use. In other words, don't kill yourself to track this one down. But if you come across one that runs, don't use it in a cold-weather open railroad - mine earned a trip to the parts bin that way.

Bachmann's North Pole Special freight train. Click for bigger photo.North Pole Special

This set may earn an award for longevity - it was available for years. It was also the biggest freight train set.

Ironically, this is the Christmas version of a set that was only sold for a short period of time - the ET&WNC "Tweetsie" set, right down to the number "12" on the locomotive. (Yes, the paint job is very slightly different, but #12 is a real ET&WNC locomotive that has been preserved and is painted green.)

The same locomotive, with minor alterations, was used in other sets, including the Night Before Christmas set, which is still advertised on Bachmann's web page.

Cars included an "NPS North Pole Tree Farm" flat car," a Happy Holidays" box car, and a "North Pole and Southern" combine. (The photo of the "tree farm" car includes logs, which I don't think were original to the set, but I could be wrong.) The North Pole and Southern combine, which is used in multiple sets.  Click for bigger photos.

Like the locomotive, the paint job on the combine was used on several other sets, including the deep red, the frosted windows with tiny wreaths and the silkscreened swag pattern under the windows.

Bachmann's Northern Lights freight train. Click for bigger photo.Northern Lights

This is another freight set that uses the Tweetsie locomotive color scheme, albeit with gold running gear and a row of colored LEDs lining the locomotive boiler and tender. (Click here for a closeup.

Its gondola and caboose are white with candy canes, but the most distinctive part of this set is the "Reindeer Transport Car.". When these sets turn up used, the stock car is nearly always missing, because folks tend to hold onto it to run with their other trains. (An animated version of this car, with reindeer bobbing their heads, was also produced, but it didn't come in a set to my knowledge.)

The car wheels are all metal-rimmed, which is good.

The two-part power supply indicates that it's not one of the earliest models, but I haven't had my hands on one to know for sure which version of the 4-6-0 is included.

Bachmann's Night Before Christmas freight train. Click for bigger photo.Night before Christmas

This is a smaller version of the set above (without the LEDs on the locomotive). It's also the only Bachmann Christmas train still listed on their web page or (currently) available new through Amazon and other vendors.

The Tweetsie locomotive is retained (with gray/silver running gear), as is the white gondola with candy canes. But this bobber caboose is deep red, and could go with most of the other trains on this page.

The car wheels are all metal or metal-rimmed, which is good.

Click to check stock at AmazonIf you're inclined to see the Night Before Christmas set on Amazon, click on the button at the right.

Bachmann's White Christmas Express freight train. Sorry, we don't have a bigger photo.White Christmas Express Freight

This is a fairly rare set - in fact I had a lot of trouble just getting photographs of it.

This mostly-silver locomotive in this set is a standard early-era 4-6-0 with plastic running gear. The same loco is used in the passenger train labeled "White Christmas Express."

I point it out because a nearly identical locomotive is used in the passenger train labeled "North Star Epress." But that locomotive has "Anniversary" features, including metal running gear and better engineering overall. So look at the closeup photos when you're considering with this color scheme - it might be a winner, and it might not.

Most unusual about this set is that there is no writing on the train (other than the number of the locomotive and the "built date" of the gondola).

  • The locomotive has a Santa sticker on the cab window, the only indication that it's meant to be a Christmas loco.

  • The tender has miscellaneous Christmas graphics.

  • The dark green gondola has silkscreened icicles and wreaths.

  • The bobber caboose has icicles and a silkscreened picture of Santa's sleigh and reindeer.

I wonder if this set was made to sell in non-English-speaking countries. Which might also explain where so few sets turn up in the U.S.

Though the gondola and caboose seldom turn up these days, the locomotive from this set and the passenger version (below) turn up fairly often.

Bachmann's White Christmas Express passenger train. Sorry, we don't have a bigger photo.White Christmas Express Passenger train (90076)

This set is much more common than the freight version. It uses the mostly-silver locomotive from the freight set, but has the train's name on the tender.

The paint job on the combine and observation car is shared with several other sets, including the deep red, the frosted windows with tiny wreaths and the silkscreened swag pattern under the windows. However, the cars are labeled "White Christmas Express" instead of "North Pole and Southern," Bachmann's usual label for these.

The two-part power supply system indicates that it is one of the newer sets.

The most remarkable thing about this set is that it is twin to one of the premium sets, the North Pole Express passenger set (below).

Bachmann's North Star Express passenger train.  Click for bigger photo.North Star Express Passenger train (#90041)

Years after introducing the North Star Express freight train with its odd brown locomotive and Texaco tanker, Bachmann introduced the North Star Express passenger train with upgraded features.

The coaches look like twins to the coaches of the "White Christmas Express" (except for the name boards), but they have metal handrails, an upgrade that's worth paying for if you have a passenger set and want to do it yourself by ordering the parts from Bachmann.

Interestingly, the second coach in this set and at least some of the White Christmas sets is not an observation car. This is actually a plus, if you want to mix and match cars from different trains.

The two-part power supply isn't unexpected in a train produced during the "Anniversary" era (starting in late 2000).

The "bonus" in this set is an eight-wheeled caboose. I believe this is the only 8-wheel Christmas caboose Bachmann ever offered. It is unlighted, which is actually a little surprising, given the upgrades of the other pieces of this set.

If you go shopping for this set by name, please don't confuse it with the freight version. They have almost nothing in common.

Bachmann's Wonderland Flyer freight train.  Click for bigger photo.Wonderland Flyer

This is the only freight set that is pulled by the upgraded Anniversary-type locomotive. It's also the only set that has a red locomotive. (I don't count the reddish brown of the North Star freight version.)

That said, it borrows the deep red "Seasons' Greetings" combine and the "Happy Holidays" boxcar from the North Pole Special, as well as the green gondola from the White Christmas Express freight set.

Of course all of these look better when they're pulled by a locomotive that has metal running gear and lots of extra detail.

Bachmann's Holiday Special passenger train.  Click for bigger photo.Holiday Special

This megaset not only featured many upgrades - it also included a 4-wheel streetcar that had its own power supply and loop of track.

The locomotive is an Anniversary-style. It is painted green (the most common color of these), but the paint job has extra filigree you don't see on the other trains.

The coaches have a brighter, more elaborate paint job than the dark red coaches of the other trains. They also feature metal handrails. Surprisingly, they have no interior lighting. If you like Bachmann's system, you can order the sets from the Bachmann parts department. Or use a more modern system of your choosing.

The "closed" streetcar features green in its paint job, whereas most of the Christmas streetcars sold separately feature red. They are charming, but not robust.

Bachmann's Large Scale streetcar in Christmas colors.  Click for bigger photo.Closed Streetcar

Speaking of streetcars, Bachmann made a dandy Large Scale model of a turn-of-the-previous-century 4-wheel streetcar. Dozens of these wandered the streets of neighboring cities in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and some ran right up until the cities tore the trolley tracks up (often due to back-room deals between city commissioners and auto factory owners).

Bachmann made these in two different colors. The red version was sold separately. The green version most often appeared as part of the Holiday Special megaset shown above, though it was occasionally sold separately..

Accessories - When released, these cars included Santa, an elf, and a pack of Christmas presents. Most or all of these are usually missing when these turn up on the used market.

Handling - They are fun to run and to watch. That said, their wheelbase is more rigid than, say, the Eggliners, which were originally engineered by AristoCraft, and which handle rough trackage better. Power pickup shoes on a streetcar with interior lighting.  Click for bigger picture.

Lighting - All of these (to my knowledge) have "directional headlights," which means that only the headlight on the "front" end of the car shines (if you reverse the car, the other headlight shines.)

Some of these were factory-equipped with interior lighting and some were not. How can you tell? The streetcars that came from the factory with interior lighting had little pickup "shoes" between the wheels. In addition, those cars seem to run better for me that the cars without those shoes, so they're a benefit even if you aren't running trains in dim light.

As of December, 2021, you can order lighting kits from Bachmann, but they don't include the little shoes.

Open Streetcar?Bachmann also made an "open" streetcar, but never made it in Christmas colors.

In addition, their gearing is weak, leading to a much higher rate of failure than, say, the Aristo motor blocks. You can buy replacement chasses and even gears from Bachmann, but some folks have figured out how to replace the workings with Aristo motor blocks (currently used in Bachmann's eggliners). The wheels don't line up exactly with the frame, but the folks who do this report a much more reliable mechanism.

Note: Bachmann's On30 streetcars are identical to their Large Scale brethren, just smaller. So if you go looking for these online, don't accidentally spring for something much too small.

Bachmann's Large Scale handcar with Santa and Elves. Sorry, a bigger photo is not available.Handcar

Bachmann also made a short run of a handcar that featured Santa and elves. (The non-Christmas version featured two workers and a boss freeloading on the little trailer).

Most of these that turn up on auction sites are already broken in some way, and many are missing elves. This photo is the one Bachmann used in its advertising, showing the elf on the front handbar holding a lantern.

Based on the high proportion of non-working and/or incomplete sets I've seen, I would caution you to get guarantees that any set you pick up is 100% there and 100% running. Also, you cannot get the replacement gears or other parts from Bachmann at this time.

In other words, if you have your heart set on a Santa-powered handcar, you might want to consider another manufacturer.


Bachmann's Christmas Eggliner with Candy Cane pattern.  Click for a slightly larger photo. These dandy little locomotives are based on products originally made by AristoCraft, a major manufacturer of high-quality garden trains that unfortunately went out of business as a result of the 2008 recession.

Bachmann bought at least some of the molds and maybe some of the spare parts, and they used them to create this line of short-but-sweet self-powered vehicles.

As far as I know, Bachmann's first Christmas-themed eggliner was #96276, which had wreath and garland graphics.These are out of stock every place I checked.

The Bachmann-branded Eggliners being produced today seem to be using the same power trucks Aristo used in some of their locomotives - much more durable and reliable than the trucks in Bachmann's streetcars. They will pull a short string of cars, too. In fact, if you're considering setting up a display railroad where the trains will need to run unattended for hours, a short train pulled by an Eggliner may be your best choice.

Click to check stock at AmazonRight now the only Christmas eggliner that seems to be currently available is the candy cane version shown above. As of this writing, three different vendors are selling it through Amazon. To see the listing, please click the button on the right.

Bachmann's Metal-Geared Christmas 4-6-0 (#91805)

Bachmann's new metal-geared, Pitmann-equipped, DC-ready Christmas ten-wheeler.  Click to see a listing on Amazon.A few years ago, Bachmann announced a line of metal-geared 4-6-0s, which cost many times more than any of the other locomotives on this page so far. They all list in the $1000 range, though, of course, discounters are selling them for less.

The current versions also feature Pittman motors, the most popular motor for model trains of all scales. They include all the extra piping and other detailing that the Anniversary locomotives included. Plus, for "rivet-counters" (extra-picky modelers), they produced new molds for the tender that folks say are much more realistic.

Unlike the other locomotives on this page, they do not include a built-in sound system. But they do have a speaker built into the tender, and a plug for plugging in the sound system or controller of your choice. (For example DCC with sound).

In other words, it's a top-notch model that competes favorably with brands that have long boasted better running and or better detailing than Bachmann's standard 4-6-0s. And it's still cheaper than, say, a new LGB Mogul.

Best Uses - Bachmann is no longer making Christmas-themed passenger or freight cars, but you can use this locomotive to pull any car from any train on this page. Or most cars from most other Large Scale trains. So if you already have a Christmas train and your locomotive has crapped out, or you want a more impressive locomotive, this might be a good choice.

Or if you have a vision of an elaborate Christmas train and you want to start with this, then keeping your eye out for other pieces, that's fine, too.

The only caveat is is you want to pull an AristoCraft train with these, the couplers are not exactly compatible. No problem, you close both couplers, then drop one into the other, still closed.

About Display Railroad Use - If you are setting up a Christmas display railroad and want to use this locomotive, be sure to design things so that it is out of reach of small children. For Christmas railroads that children can reach, consider the Eggliner, which is pretty robust and can pull short trains easily.

Note for November, 2021 - At the moment, these are getting hard to find. One vendor who sells on Amazon still claims you should be able to get yours before Christmas. Other vendors advertise them on "backorder." That said, I have no idea whether Bachmann will ever produce another run of these. My apologies.

Click to check stock at AmazonTo see Amazon's listing for Bachmann's new, metal-geared, Pitmann-equipped, DC-ready Christmas ten-wheeler, click the button on the right.


As you've seen, each of the sets above have advantages and disadvantages. How to decide?

  • Buying Multiple Used Sets for Redundancy - If you want an elaborate Christmas railroad using Bachmann trains, and you pull from this list, you'll most likely wind up buying multiple used trains, just so you have two working locomotives on hand. Again, almost all of the cars can be mixed-and-matched (though a few came with LGB-style couplers).

  • Focusing on the Best Locomotive - If you want to focus on the best locomotive choices (not counting the new, metal-geared version), you'll probably want to track down sets that used Anniversary engineering. The motor/gear parts are far better than the early sets, and somewhat better even than the later non-"Annie" sets, but to me, the metal valve gear and extra detail makes them worth the extra investment. These are the locomotives from the:

    Of course, all of the caveats of buying used apply.

  • Starting With One New Train - If you just want to buy one new train with everything you need to get started, and you like the look of Bachmann's trains, your only choice is the Night Before Christmas set.

  • Highly-Dependable One-Piece or Short Train - If you need a one-piece unit as a secondary train or to pull a short train on a display that children may be able to reach, consider an Eggliner. They are more rugged and more reliable under careless handing than any other item on this page.

  • Only the Best - If you are starting an elaborate display, you could start by buying the New Metal-Geared Christmas Locomotive, then picking up any combination of used sets whose cars appeal to you. For example, the North Star Express passenger cars have metal handrails, metal wheels, and interior lighting. And if you buy the set with a working locomotive, you'll have an Anniversary-style backup for your primary hauler.

    Alternatively, the Aristo Christmas passenger cars (also discontinued, and not mentioned anywhere else in this article) have similar colors to the red on the locomotive. The illuminated ones are more rugged.

Though all but a few of the trains on this page are discontinued, enough of the pieces turn up occasionally to give you at least some choices, as long as you're aware of the potentials issues that stem from buying used, and possibly abused, trains.

Keep in Touch

If you're headed toward or past Springfield, Ohio, please let me know, and I'll see if we can work out a quick visit.

Finally, please let us know about your ongoing projects. Ask questions, send corrections, suggest article ideas, send photos, whatever you think will help you or your fellow railroaders. In the meantime, enjoy your trains, and especially enjoy any time you have with your family in the coming weeks,

Paul Race

Return to the Family Garden Trains Home PageReturn to Family Garden Trains' Home Page - The home page with links to all the other stuff, including design guidelines, construction techniques, structure tips, free graphics, and more.

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Visit our Garden Train Store<sup><small>TM</small></sup> Bachmann Starter Set Buyer's Guide

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Click to see new and vintage-style Lionel trains.
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Visit related pages and affiliated sites:
- Trains and Hobbies -
Return to Family Garden Trains Home page
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Garden Railroading Primer Articles: All about getting a Garden Railroad up and running well Big Indoor Trains Primer Articles: All about setting up and displaying indoor display trains and towns. Garden Train Store: Index to train, track, and other products for Garden RailroadingBig Christmas Trains: Directory of Large Scale and O Scale trains with holiday themes
On30 and O Gauge trains to go with indoor display villages and railroads
Visit Lionel Trains. Click to see Thomas Kinkaded-inspired Holiday Trains and Villages. Big Christmas Train Primer: Choosing and using model trains with holiday themes Free Large Scale Signs and Graphics: Bring your railroad to life with street signs, business signs, and railroad signs Click to see HO scale trains with your favorite team's colors.
- Christmas Memories and Collectibles -
Visit the FamilyChristmasOnline site. Visit Howard Lamey's glitterhouse gallery, with free project plans, graphics, and instructions. Click to return to the Old Christmas Tree Lights Table of Contents Page Click to sign up for Maria Cudequest's craft and collectibles blog.
Click to visit Fred's Noel-Kat store.
Visit the largest and most complete cardboard Christmas 'Putz' house resource on the Internet.
- Family Activities and Crafts -
Click to see reviews of our favorite family-friendly Christmas movies. Free, Family-Friendly Christmas Stories Decorate your tree the old-fashioned way with these kid-friendly projects. Free plans and instructions for starting a hobby building vintage-style cardboard Christmas houses. Click to find free, family-friendly Christmas poems and - in some cases - their stories. Traditional Home-Made Ornaments
- Music -
Heartland-inspired music, history, and acoustic instrument tips.
Best-loved railroad songs and the stories behind them.
Visit musings about music on our sister site, School of the Rock With a few tools and an hour or two of work, you can make your guitar, banjo, or mandolin much more responsive.  Instruments with movable bridges can have better-than-new intonation as well. Acoustic-based, traditional, singer-songwriter, and folk music with a Western focus. Check out our article on finding good used guitars.
Carols of many countries, including music, lyrics, and the story behind the songs. X and Y-generation Christians take Contemporary Christian music, including worship, for granted, but the first generation of Contemporary Christian musicians faced strong, and often bitter resistance. Different kinds of music call for different kinds of banjos.  Just trying to steer you in the right direction. New, used, or vintage - tips for whatever your needs and preferences. Wax recordings from the early 1900s, mostly collected by George Nelson.  Download them all for a 'period' album. Explains the various kinds of acoustic guitar and what to look for in each.
Look to Riverboat Music buyers' guide for descriptions of musical instruments by people who play musical instruments. Learn 5-string banjo at your own speed, with many examples and user-friendly explanations. Explains the various kinds of banjos and what each is good for. Learn more about our newsletter for roots-based and acoustic music. Folks with Bb or Eb instruments can contribute to worship services, but the WAY they do depends on the way the worship leader approaches the music. A page devoted to some of Paul's own music endeavors.