Pros / It’s affordable.
Cons / The track can spark if the train wheels aren’t aligned.
Verdict / The Bachmann Chattanooga is a high quality model train you can buy at a reasonable price.
This train got high marks from our testers and is equal parts toy and model train. It’s an HO gauge set, which means it’s the ideal size for both play and viewing. You get 155 pieces in the package including a station, 48 figurines, 36 telephone poles and 48 railroad and street signs. You also get five train cars in addition to the engine, which is more than any other train we tested. The 0-6-0 steam locomotive has an operating headlight, and the open quad hopper, single-dome tank car and caboose are all highly detailed. The box car even has a working sliding door.
This isn’t the cheapest train set we tested, and forking out $100 or more might sound like a lot of money. We get that, but the Bachmann Chattanooga is a very high quality model train you’ll be able to buy for a lot less than you’d expect. While the manufacturer price is upwards of $250, you should be able to find this train for sale through secondary retailers online or in store for about half that. This is an amazing deal considering the quality and durability of train along with the multitude of accessories that come with it. The train station signs even say “Plasticville,” which is a great detail. This train is suggested for users older than 13, but we feel the scale would still be appropriate for kids around age 10. If want something for a youngster, check out the Mickey Mouse Train Set.
The set includes 14 pieces of train track made with the E-Z Track system. This means you simply slide two pieces of track together and plastic S-shaped latches on the back lock into place. You can set up an oval as large as 47 x 38 inches, which will feel smaller than the Lionel Pennsylvania Flyer’s 60 x 40-inch track. Still, it’s easy to make this set feel big with all of the included accessories, some of which are clearly meant to be painted if you so desire. Our testers had a lot of fun running the train into the included figurines and building the snap fit train station. Even though the set pieces are supposed to snap together, there are some pieces you’ll need to secure with glue as it’s so delicate and lightweight.
The train runs via a power pack you plug into the wall. Our testers thought it was really easy to use, but beware: the track will spark if the train’s wheels aren’t aligned correctly. The dial had amazing response though, allowing us to speed up and slow down the train on a dime. The upside to this kind of power source is you’ll never have to replace any batteries. Several testers noted this train runs smoothly, and even though it doesn’t have any audio components it was still a lot of fun to use. It can get up to 1.32 feet per second on the track and our testers gave it an A- for overall design and detail.
Another reason this train is a great value is its durability. Along with having exquisitely detailed design and feeling like a quality piece of machinery in your hand, this train can take a beating. We dropped it off a table about 3 feet high a total of four times and only after the last drop did we notice the engine sounded more strained and high-pitched while running. This train did much better than most we tested and earned an A. As one reviewer put it, this train is “fun for the whole family,” at an affordable price.