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New Life for a Battery-Powered Bachmann Ten-Wheeler, by Dave Knoch. Click to see a bigger photo. Garden Railroading  Primer Articles: All about getting a Garden Railroad up and running well Garden Train Store: Index to train, track, and other products for Garden Railroading
Large Scale Starter Sets: Begin with a train you'll be proud to run Best Choices for Beginning Garden Railroaders: a short list of things you're  most likely to need when starting out
Large Scale Track order Form Sturdy buildings for your garden railroad.
Large Scale Christmas Trains: Trains with a holiday theme for garden or professional display railroads.Free Large Scale  Signs and Graphics: Bring your railroad to life with street signs, business signs, and railroad signs
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Collectible Trains and Villages: On30 Trains and accessories  designed by Thomas Kinkade and others

Written by Dave Knoch for Family Garden Trains(tm)

Garden Railroading on a Shoe-String: An introduction to low-cost outdoor railroading.  Click to go to article.This article is part of our series on "Garden Railroading on a Shoe String" which contains links, tips, and tricks, for using low-cost approaches and products to create attractive, reliable railroads in your back yard.

Editor's Note: Dave Knoch has been running battery powered trains in his garden railroad for many years, often on plastic or aluminum track. When he saw our article about Garden Railroading with Toy Trains, he offered to share some of his experiences with our readers.

If you have an old Bachmann locomotive in need of repair, you might contact Bachmann before you do anything - they will fix all of their electrically powered locomotives for a flat fee, and sometimes they'll take a look at the battery powered ones too. But we included this article as an example of how to retrofit almost any battery-powered locomotive with a directional switch if desired. If you have any questions for Dave, contact us and we'll pass your comments to him.

New Life for a Battery-Powered Bachmann Ten-Wheeler

I bought the original battery-operated Bachmann 10-wheeler Circus Train years ago. After it broke, I put it in an old picnic cooler and basically forgot all about it. Recently we were cleaning out the garage and I decided to see if anyone at our Central California Coast Garden Railway Society would like it. I asked if anyone there knew how to repair it. The answer I got back was, "Why would anyone want to spend at least $90 to repair an old engine that was probably now worth only $40?"

When I got home I looked at my beautiful red, white and blue engine and thought to myself, "What have I got to lose?" I decided to try and make it runable again myself.

I no longer had the simple remote control that came with the set. So I figured I would simply operate it with a basic 3-way switch (forward/stop/backward) that you can get from Radio Shack. This isn't the same exact switch, but it gives you some idea.

I laid my engine on a thick piece of soft foam, which would be my "operating table." First, I had to figure out how to pull the engine apart. I removed all the screws that I found in the bottom and sprung apart the tabs on the cab so it would slip off the base. I removed the running boards on each side.

Eventually, the top finally came off, revealing the innards. Because I no longer had the remote, I removed the whole circuit board and most of the wires.

Basically, the only wires I left were the red and blue power leads to the motor.

I also took a hacksaw and removed any interior walls which would obstruct my new race-car type battery which I would use to power the engine.

I also glued two strips of triangular basswood in the two sides of the rear of the former battery compartment. These were to hold the new battery pack vertical. (You can see them in the photo below.)

Next, I tackled installing the control switch. I removed the plastic bell from the top of the boiler and enlarged the hole large enough so that the switch could be installed.

Click for a pdf of this diagram.

Click for bigger photo.In the diagram above and the photo to the right, I show how I wired the motor to the switch. The colors of the wires are not significant for this application. The main point is to have the motor wired to the center row of tabs on the switch. Then you need a line from each battery wire that splits off and feeds opposite sides of the outside row of tabs. That way when the toggle is thrown one direction, electricity flows through the switch (and through the motor) one way. When you throw the toggle the other direction, electricity flows through the switch (and motor) the other way. When the toggle is standing up straight, no current flows to the motor. If you can only come up with a "double pole double throw" switch, you won't have the "off" position.

I soldered each connection. Where the wires branched off, I covered the joint with electrical tape.

To finish the job I reinserted the two screws in the sideframe (between the drive wheels), one on each side. To charge or change batteries all you have to do is remove these.

Click for bigger photo.When two of my grandkids came up for Thanksgiving we set up some straight track on top of a sixty foot retaining wall along the upper side of our yard and the three of us had a great time watching the resurrected old beauty roar down the right-of-way. And I was mighty thankful for two things: First, that I hadn't thrown this beautiful engine on the scrap heap, and second, to discover that a rank amateur like me could make such a simple conversion for the cost of only a three-way switch! - Dave Knoch

Click for bigger photo.

Here are other articles with tips and tricks about running battery-powered toy trains outside.

Garden Railroading on a Shoe-String: An introduction to low-cost outdoor railroading.  Click to go to article.

Garden Railroading on a Shoe String
- Our lead article on "Shoe-String Garden Railroads," with many ideas and links to helpful articles.

Garden Railroading with Toy Trains, including brand descriptions, buying advice, etc. Click to go to article.

Garden Railroading with Toy Trains
- For more information about garden railroading with toy trains, including brand descriptions, buying advice, etc., click on the little picture to the right.

Click for information and tips about budgeting for a 'shoe-string' garden railroad.

Budgeting for a Shoe-String Garden Railroad
- Lists potential expenses most folks don't think about ahead of time, along with ways to reduce or skirt them with planning.

Evan Morse's Shoestring Railroading Tips. Click to go to article.

Evan Morse's Shoestring Railroading Tips
- Things that work for one Shoestring Railroader, mostly about track.

Instructions for changing a Lionel Ready-to-Play Hogwarts Express from 2

Converting Lionel's "Ready to Play" Trains to 45mm
- Lionel's current line of battery-powered toy trains run on 2" track. But they don't have to.

Lionel's G Gauge Toy Trains. Click to go to article.

Lionel's G Gauge Toy Trains
- All about the battery-powered G gauge toy trains Lionel made in the 2011-2015 period. Most are a great choice for a "shoe-string" railroad.

Reconfiguring a Bachmann 10-wheeler to run without the (lost) remote. Click to go to article.

New Life for a Battery-Powered Bachmann Ten-Wheeler
- Lose the remote? You can use these tips to add directional switching to battery-powered locomotives.

Into the Woods - an elaborate trestle-based railroad in a forest, with instructions GeoCacher's can use to unlock and run a toy train.

Into the Woods
- a Geo-cacher builds an elaborate trestle-based dogbone railroad in a forest, then locks up a Scientific Toys/Ez-Tec train set with clues that fellow geocachers can use to get the train out and run it.

Check our buyers guide to the trains and accessories you're mostly likely to need first.

Click for Halloween fun! New Halloween Trains and Towns!

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