A Review of Bachmann Class 159

For information on the prototype please visit our class 159 picture page.

When Bachmann first introduced their class 158 they had problems with the moulding process and the construction of the bodywork. As a result they took a bold decision to re-tool the body. This resulted in a very long delay between the announcement of a 159 version and its appearance. I paid a GBP10 deposit against an advance order on 11th March 1996. I finally received my model on 17th July 1998. I hope the production of the class N moguls - two versions of which I also have on advance order - will not be delayed as much as this.

To nail my colours to the mast. The wait has been worth it, producing what must be the finest to date mass-produced model of a British outline multiple unit. I doubt if I could have scratch built a model to abetter quality (and my modelling skills are not that bad!).

For enthusiasts and modellers of the railways of the south of England, Bachmann are currently producing:
product number 31-510 representing unit 159 001 City of Exeter consisting of DMSL 57873, DSL 58718 and DMCL 57873 in Network SouthEast colours and product number 31-512 representing unit 159 009 consisting of DMSL 57881, DSL 58726 and DMCL 52881 in Stagecoach colours - NSE colours with the tacky looking Stagecoach/SWT stickers applied.

The three cars are supplied in separate boxes within a cardboard outer. Care is needed to ensure you have the correct version of the model you want as the same picture (one in NSE colours) is used on all versions of the outers for 3 car 158/9s. Reference is needed to the label on the front of the outer and the product number on the end of the middle box within. The models are well packed in tightly fitting expanded polystyrene trays within tightly fitting cardboard boxes. Getting the box open without tearing it is the first challenge! Although the model is also wrapped in tissue paper within the tray, care is needed removing the model from the tray to avoid damaging the model. (This is common to a lot of Bachmann models these days. Only a few weeks earlier I broke a moulded pipe on the side of an American outline Bachmann Spectrum Baldwin Consolidation steam loco whilst removing it from its tight fitting foam rubber tray.)


In this model the powered car is the central DSL, the DMSL and DMCL being trailers.

Each model car is 304mm over couplings, 36 mm wide, 39mm above rail height, bogie wheelbase 34mm and distance between bogie centres 208mm. Wheels are 11.5mm diameter and are chemically darkened. Major dimensions seem to scale correctly.

The body moulding is extremely well done with separately applied details comprising of the lower front fairing (without the yawning gap experienced in the Hornby Networker), gangway connectors, exhaust pipe, and the best bit I noticed - the hatch lifting handles above the toilet roof. I have yet to find any moulding pips or flash. The body is flush glazed to a similar wonderfully shallow depth as with the Hornby Networker (subjectively I think the Hornby model is slightly more flush than the Bachmann), with smoked colour windows which are a little on the dark side. This prevents you from seeing much of the interior detail, but also from seeing much of the works (of which more later) in the powered car. It also prevents you from regularly noticing that the seat mouldings within the first class section of the DMCL are of the 158 2+2 pattern rather than the 159 2+1 pattern of that caused so much hassle to BREL and BR during the procurement process!

The paint work is extremely well done with crisp lines and realistic looking colours. The numerals and lettering are of a similar high standard. Even with my reading glasses on I had to use a magnifying glass to read what I found to be the pin-sharp "South West Turbo" branding. The moulding and painting of the door opening buttons are a work of art. So impressed with the model was a work colleague of mine that they asked whether pressing the buttons opened the realistic looking plug doors. Well how about it Bachmann?

A cab interior is not fitted as the space is taken up with the head/tail light electronics, but this is hardly noticeable. The windscreen wipers appear to be a painted part of the glazing moulding. But they are very well moulded and painted so this is less objectionable than the separate mouldings which do not hug the bodywork well on the Hornby Networker. The directional head/tail lights are LEDs (the white being represented by a yellow LED). These are not of constant intensity, but there is not that much variance in light intensity once the unit is at a voltage sufficient to set it rolling. Pick up for these lights is from each individual car‚s wheels. There are no intra unit electrical connections. There is just a little light leakage into the cab interior, but this is mostly noticed through the lower part of the cab side window which goes quite deep down the side of the body.

The mouldings on the cab ends are extremely good, although a destination indicator is not fitted. Waterslide transfers are available for common 158/9 destinations from Hurst Models, as are 158 type transparent cab end door covers. I already have mine! A dummy buckeye coupler is fitted to the cab floor at each end of the unit. I have not yet tried a conversion, but fitting of a working Kadee (or similar) coupling looks easy. Intra unit couplings are of a European type. I would like to write that these couplings are of the NEM type, I think they are, but as no-one has ever held up a NEM coupling in front of me and identified it as such I am not sure whether they are or not.

The bogies and underfloor details are also extremely well moulded, with one relevant component picked out in silver. Bogie footsteps and wheel guards are separate mouldings left to be applied by the purchaser.


This is the very best bit! This model is the second application (counting the class 158 as the same model) by Bachmann Industries Europe of a centrally mounted double shaft can motor with twin flywheels, driving a shaft via universal joints to a gear tower in the bogies, driving all eight wheels. Use of this sort of drive on UK outline models is long overdue. Electrical pickup is also from all eight wheels. (The forthcoming - retooled from Mainline - Bachmann Class 42s are rumoured to be coming with 8 wheel drive/pickup.) This drive/pickup arrangement is common on the overwhelming majority of my American outline diesels and on up-market European models - it makes for extremely reliable powerful traction characteristics. OK so you can (just) see the motor through the smoked windows, but I can live with that to experience the superior drive. Indeed Bachmann have applied seat mouldings over drive shaft, so there is still a partially modelled interior. Straight out of the box the model runs smoothly and should improve even more with running in.

On level track, both straight, curved and through pointwork, it performed very well. As a 3 car unit it does struggle a bit with some realistic (?) wheel slip during the reverse curve on my 4% gradient. The powered car alone has no problems on this part of my layout.


This is a superb model, worth every penny. Could Bachmann be persuaded now to produce a 4 COR and a 4 SUB of similar quality, also a class 33 and class 73 ???? (Wishful thinking!)

Colin Duff

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This page was last updated 3 December 2002

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