The original Bachmann Company, founded in 1833, made vanity products such as combs, from ivory and tortoiseshell. Shortly after 1900 the company began using celluloid, one of the original thermoplastics, to manufacture products such as spectacle frames. As part of their long involvement with manufacturing plastic products, in 1947 Bachmann released a mass-market plastic fence intended for decorating Christmas trees. However, in the absence of any other similar product the plastic fences were quickly adopted by early model train enthusiasts to enhance their hobby train layouts.
When Bachmann, realizing this was a new and growing market, began producing other products for the burgeoning model train market, leading eventually to the Plasticville line of scale model buildings. These Plasticville scale model buildings and other accessories are still popular with Lionel and American Flyer model train enthusiasts today. The original Bachmann’s Plasticville products in O scale were later expanded to ranges in HO scale and N scale, with Bachmann manufacturing these at their Philadelphia plant.
Throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s, Bachmann continued to produce a wide range of plastic toys as well as the model trains. The toy range included slot cars, planes, military toys and robots, as well as an ‘Animals of the World’ series but Bachmann continued to expand its range of model trains.
Having entered this market in 1968 with N scale model trains to meet the growing demand for what was then a relatively new scale, Bachmann then added HO scale model trains in 1970 in an attempt to boost sales.
As a result of falling profits and financial difficulties Bachmann Brothers was, in 1984, acquired by Kader Industrial Company Limited, a manufacturing company founded in Hong Kong in 1948. Kader changed the name to Bachmann Industries and used the brand to expand the offering of its own products to North American customers.
As well as introducing its own brands to North America, Kader under the Bachmann brand, built itself up as the largest volume seller of model railways by purchasing other failing companies, using the Bachmann name to front a series of purchases in the rest of the world to combat the then poor perceptions of Hong Kong based production quality. Kader established a European division in 1989, initially reusing the molds previously used for the Palitov Company’s ‘Mainline’ UK model railway products to create the Bachmann Branchline model trains series.
In 1992 Kader bought Liliput of Austria and in 2000 purchased Graham Farish, a major UK model train manufacturer since the 1940s.
For each takeover Kader’s business model, commencing from its original purchase of Bachmann to the present day, has been to buy a recognized quality brand in the target market or country. Kader then closes the local company’s in-country production facilities, re-engineers the models in Hong Kong to improve the quality and reduces costs by manufacturing the products in their production plant in Dongguan in Mainland China.
Bachmann Industries currently offer model trains, together with buildings and other accessories, in HO sale, N scale, On30 [narrow gauge] scale and G scale, all around the world.
Examples of the Bachmann major current global offerings are:
- North America – Bachmann Industries;
- United Kingdon:
- Bachmann Branchline offer 00 gauge models
- Graham Farish produce British scale (1:148) N gauge models under the Graham Farish name;
- Europe – Liliput and Palitov;
- China – in 2000, Bachmann commenced manufacturing Chinese outline model trains under the Bachmann China name, and in 2005 the world’s first Bachmann specialty retail shop was opened in Shanghai.
- Bachmann is certainly a bigger, but quite different company from that small family business that started in Philadelphia 175 years ago.