Bachmann USA Tank Modifications

Back in August 2018, when it was first released, I wrote a Review of the Bachmann/Model Rail USA Tank.
At the time, I highlighted that it was very difficult to fit screw couplings to the model and consequently put the model on the side-shelf to focus on other projects.

In this article, I describe how I finally fitted screw couplings and while I was doing this, I threw in a few extra minor enhancements for good measure.

Fitting Couplings

The key obstacle to fitting any form of prototypical chain coupling to this model is the complete lack of any provision within and behind the buffer beams to do so:

The left image above shows the front of the loco where the buffer beam is a cast, solid part of the Mazak chassis block. It also has a representation of a 'spring' cast behind it. To fit a hook, I had to make three small drill holes right through the buffer beam and into the 'spring' casting and then open them out to join them into a slot which was big enough to take a Smiths hook. There is insufficient space behind the buffer beam for any sort of real spring, so I allowed the drillings to create a slot in the 'spring' casting which was sufficiently long to allow at least some of a hook to be threaded through. The back end of the hook was cut short and the ends of it splayed out to create a 'jam'. The hook was pressed in through the slot in the bufferbeam so that it jammed in place and then Superglue was used to fix it solid.

The right image above shows the rear of the loco where again, the buffer beam is a cast, solid part of the Mazak part of the body. This area really is the height of poor design: the body attachment screw sits right behind the buffer beam where a chain hook needs to thread through and of course, the chassis block buts right up to the buffer beam. Absolutely no chance of threading a hook with a spring here. Again, I drilled three holes in the buffer beam (there was a plastic 'hook' in a tiney round hole, not even a slot) and opened them out to form a slot. I used the same approach as the front, although this time, the hook does not protrude out of the back of the buffer beam. The same 'sply' and Superglue treatment was used and seems to form a very solid coupling.

My 'mantra' behind fitting springs on all chain/screw couplings has always been based on the principal that springs protect against loco 'snatching', however, this loco is sufficiently geared down that it is never going to 'snatch' and I have a very high proportion of vehicles with springs that thi sloco is likely to couple to that, although I'm not happy with it, the odd loco with no springs isn't really going to cause a problem.

I fitted Smiths 'LP8' screw link couplings to this loco and these were painted in a track-colour brown.

Fitting Brake Pipes

The model is supplied with bufferbeam detail, so no claims to anything special here, so I have simply just fitted them per the instructions. One or two of the holes on the bufferbeam did need opening out for the thinner plastic parts (plastic was thick for hole, but couldn't be thinner as it wouldn't have any strength), but otherwise, they all fitted easily, using a pair of tweazers. I painted the fittings afterwards in a matt black to take off the 'shiney plastic' appearance:

Front Footplate

As part of the detail pack, two front footplates are supplied. Some of the class seem to have operated with these in a vertical position while others seems to have done so in a horizontal position. The plate appears to have been hinged and used to stand on during smokebox maintenence.
No. 30064 ran with the vertical position and this was fitted accordingly:

As supplied, the vertical plate did not fit as the locating lugs which are intended to fit into some ocating holes on the top of the chassis frames cause the plate to jam under the smokebox handrail and therefore, couldn't be fitted. I cut the plastic locating pins off of the plate and this enabled the plate to be located in place and secured with Superglue.

Loading Real Coal

The representation of coal in the bunker on this model actually isn't bad, but I like to load real coal as I believe that nothing less achieves the correct appearance:

When I used to see the real 30064 on the Bluebell railway throughout the 1970's and 80's, the sloping sides to the coal bunker and the way it was stacked up high always used to fascinate me.
To that end, I created a small stack of real coal, but this is not just any coal! This is real coal from a lump (enough for a modeller's needs for years) picked up in the Sheffield Park car park 10 years ago, so not only is this a model of a Bluebell Railway loco, it actually carries real Bluebell Railway coal!
The glueing method used will be familiar to many modellers: I just spread a thin coverage of neat PVA over the existing coal representation and then sprinkled real coal over it.


The Bachmann USA Tank is a superb model. It is incredibly well detailed, it runs very smoothly and has plenty of weight. A few design considerations could have made it easier for those of us who don't belong to the 'NEM pocket brigade', but otherwise a beautiful model.

The real 30064 was one of the 'mainstay' locomotives of the Bluebell Railway throughout the 1970's and early 1980's. Sadly, it was withdrawn in 1983 and has not run since. The Preserved British Steam Locomotives website in the links below shows the loco as it appeared 2017 at Horsted Keynes - a very sad sight for a once popular loco on the Blubell Railway.

Related Articles

Bachmann USA Tank Review
No 30064 on the Bluebell Railway
No 30064 on Preserved British Steam Locomotives
No 30064 pictures by Derek Hayward
Index of Articles

Graham Plowman (Created 16/01/2021, Modified 17/01/2021 2:55:59 PM +11:00)

Locomotive supplied by: Kernow

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