On30 Narrow Gauge Model Railroading

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Bachmann Spectrum On30 14-Ton Two-Truck Stearns-Heisler

The Stearns-Heisler continues Bachmann's collection of On30 geared steam locomotives along with their On30 Shay and On30 Climax. This 14-ton two-truck engine was an early Heisler, manufactured from the late 1890s.

The Heisler locomotive was the last variant of the three major types of geared steam locomotive. Its designer and manufacturers claimed it was the fastest of the three but retained the low-speed hauling capability. As such it was used in mining and logging/lumbering industries as well as other places which required heavy hauling. From a 1923 Heisler marketing catalog:

"Why you can haul at least 30% more per ton of locomotive with the modern Heisler"

Bachmann has delivered a DCC-equipped model with the fine detailing expected in the Spectrum® line, along with 16-bit Tsunami® plug-and-play sound capability. (Separate-sale Bachmann Item No. 44953, Stearns-Heisler Sound Module, required for sound on board performance)
Features include:

  • DCC-equipped for speed, direction and lighting control
  • Sound ready with factory-installed speaker
  • Dual-mode NMRA-compliant decoder
  • Die-cast construction
  • Coreless motor
  • All-gear drive
  • Enclosed gearbox
  • Heavy-duty universals and driveshafts
  • Prototypically powered trucks and gearboxes
  • Constant soft white LED lighting
  • Blackened brass handrails and piping
  • E-Z Mate® Mark II couplers
  • Choice of three stacks and optional oil bunker included
  • Contoured wheel spokes per prototype
  • Plug-and-play sound-ready (Tsunami® sound module available separately)

Bachmann On30 Stearns-Heisler Model Information:

Manfacturer: Bachmann Release Date: 2013
MSRP (USD): $419-$450 Catalogs: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
Length: 144 mm / 5.65 in Weight: 358 g / 12.6 oz
Length over couplers: 160 mm / 6.28 in Within On30 Clearance Gauge: Yes
Width: 46 mm / 1.78 in Height: 70 mm / 2.74 in
Front Coupler: Bachmann E-Z Mate® Mark II Rear Coupler: Bachmann E-Z Mate® Mark II
Front Coupler Height (note 2): Pass Rear Coupler Height (note 2): Pass
Recommended Radius: 15 in or greater Reported Minimum Radius (note 4):
NMRA Conformance Warrant: No NMRA S-4 Wheels (note 2): Pass
NMRA S-2 Couplers (note 2): Pass NMRA S-9 Electrical:
NMRA S-7 Clearance (note 3): Pass RP-25 Wheel Contour: no statement
RP-9.1.1 Electrical Interface and Wire Color Code:
Power Modes: DC, NMRA DCC Interface Socket: Yes
DCC: Bachmann Dual mode DC/DCC on board DCC Sound: Optional - Bachmann (Tsunami)
Sound Decoder Item No. 44953, MSRP $129
Power pickup: All wheel DCC Sound control on DC power: Automatic
engine sounds, only (no user control on DC)
Drawbar Pull (note 1): TBC Primary Construction Material: Diecast
Model Evaluated: Bachmann Item No. 28803 Evaluation Date: May 2018
Fidelity to the Prototype: Other than being a very small Heisler, it is judged excellent!
  • Item No. 28801, Colorado Mining Co. #4
  • Item No. 28802, Painted & unlettered - Black
  • Item No. 28803, Painted & unlettered - Black with white pinstripes & running board stripes
  • Item No. 28804, Painted & unlettered - Black with red windows + white running board stripes + white tires
  • Item No. 28805, Greenbriar & Big Run Lumber Co. #5
  • Item No. 28806, Midwest Quarry & Mining Co. #4
  1. Measured using Micro-Mark 84708 Digital Pull Meter
  2. Measured using NMRA HO Standards Gauge
  3. Measured using NMRA On30 Clearance Gauge
  4. May require adjustments to run through this radius
  5. For parts, contact Bachmann Trains or shop online at the Bachmann Online Store

Bachmann On30 Stearns-Heisler: Tune-ups, Updates and Conversions

Bachmann On30 Stearns-Heisler: Additional Articles of Interest

Heisler Locomotives: Books for further reading 

Heisler Locomotive Works. Heisler Geared Locomotives Catalog. Erie, Penna.: Heisler Locomotive Works, 1923, 38 pages.
About this book from BarnesandNoble.com: In 1892 Charles Heisler received a patent for a new kind of geared locomotive. Equipped with twin canted cylinders, the engine utilized a drive shaft to power outboard axles and connecting rods to power the inboard axles. As a result of this 'vee-twin' arrangement, the Heisler was one of the fastest geared steam locomotives, providing more power with lower operating costs. Over 600 Heislers were produced from the 1890's until 1941, when the Heisler Locomotive Works closed its doors. This reproduction of the company's illustrated catalog dates from the 1920's. It shows the full line of Heisler products and presents a compelling argument for their use.

Kline, B.F.G., Jr. The Heisler Locomotive, 1891-1941. Kline, 1982, 199 pages.
About this book from BookFinder.com: Fascinating and handsomely done authoritative history of the Heisler geared locomotive. Chapters include a biography of Charles L. Heisler, a description of the Stearns Manufacturing Co., the Heisler Locomotive Works, the Whitney Engineering Co., the origins, development and refinement of the Heisler, the purpose, distribution and performance of the Heisler, competitors of the Heisler, the construction of a Heisler, Heisler's last years, detailed scale drawings, builder lists, and an owner list. Illustrated throughout with black and white photos. With bibliography and index. Some copies of the book contain an Addenda and Errata Sheet with list of existing Heislers as of November, 1982.

Heisler Locomotives: Other references



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An active modeler in 1:64 scale (S scale) since 1998 and a relatively new On30 modeler, Michael's primary interests are in model railroading, structure modeling and control systems for model railroading. Michael is a life member of the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA), a member of the National Association of S Gaugers (NASG) and the Bristol S Gauge Railroaders.

Michael and his wife Deane Louise co-own Pine Canyon Scale Models, a manufacturer of S Scale and O scale structures.

Michael is a past chair of the NMRA's Digital Command Control (DCC) Working Group and was a contributor to the NMRA's DCC Standards activities. Michael continues to play an active role in the use of NMRA DCC in S Scale model railroading.

Michael previously served as the NASG National Secretary and Librarian for the NASG's Russell M. Mobley Memorial Library.


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