Vintage N Scale B&M Motive Power #2
Bev-Bel (Bachmann) GP40 303 –
This locomotive is something that just sort of popped-up one day while I was researching the Bev-Bel RS3 I have already discussed. I really didn’t know it existed, and no one mentioned it to me, but I discovered it on www.Bev-Bel.com (which is an excellent resource for those interested in these things). When I found the blurb about it there was no picture, just some basic details like the road number, so I really didn’t have any idea what it looked like. A short time later, while browsing eBay, I discovered this example up for auction as an Atlas. One look told me that it wasn’t an Atlas, I own an Atlas B&M GP40 and even a brief glance shows the quality differences. I double checked with the Bev-Bel site and, after confirming the road number and looking closely at the photos in the listing, I was sure I had located the mysterious Bev-Bel (Bachmann) GP40. After a brief bidding war, which ended up at around $30, I needed only to wait patiently for my locomotive to arrive in the mail.
What wasn’t obvious in the listing photos, and one reason eBay can be dangerous for collectors, was the amount of damage that the locomotive had. Both sets of steps had some amount of damage, the paint had flaked off of a lot of the handrails (paint never seems to stick to those), and the couplers were missing from both ends. I spent a night in reconstructive surgery and, while I had the thing apart, I took the liberty of pulling out the windows to strip the blue paint off of them. Yes, Bev-Bel painted the windows and the number boards at the same time as the rest of the locomotive (1), that little lazy detail almost led me to believe that the GP40 predated the RS3 (more on that later). At any rate those blue windows drove me nuts so I had to strip them as best as I could. Of course being brittle they broke out in several pieces that then needed to be repaired once I reassembled the cab (2). Like most older Bachmann units this locomotive is something of a dog when it comes to operations, this one has the black split frame and white gearing, I don’t know if the entire Bev-Bel production run was the same. It runs okay around a loop of track but it has traction tires that prevent pickup on the affected wheels and there is no real slow speed, so switching is very difficult at best. On the other hand these Bachmann units were really meant as “train set” locomotives so it pretty much does what it is supposed to.
Now, about that dating theory… Considering the paint quality of the other Bev-Bel B&M offerings (RS3, GP38, and the F7A) I would put the GP40 at the bottom of the barrel. Add to that the fact that the Bachmann GP40 had been in production for quite some time when production of the other units began and you might be forgiven for thinking that this was Bev-Bel’s first attempt at an N scale B&M locomotive. Frankly, I don’t know. None of the evidence, to be found online, points to this locomotive predating the RS3 and I would like to think that the much nicer RS3 was the original iron in the fire, especially considering the price point of each in today’s market.
So, wrapping things up, if you collect B&M or Bev-Bel in N scale then this locomotive might be for you. If you want something cheap for operations, remember that new Bachmann N scale GP40s retail for not much more than I paid for this and they typically run a better (even if the shell hasn’t really changed much). A quick “blue dip” and some Microscale decals on a discounted new-production GP40 could set you up with basically the same thing in a better package. Due to what I noted above, I wouldn’t recommend this older one for an operations layout and paint flakes off the handrails every time they are touched, this locomotive is going to be a display piece if you have any hope of keeping it nice (3). On a positive note, it did turn out to be pretty rare (or at least not common, as I haven’t seen another for auction since), so this might be a good one to add to your N scale collection just for the sake of having it.
I think I will start adding some “Real Steel” facts (those that I can find) to go along with my N scale equipment posts. In that spirit:
B&M Rostered 18 EMD (Electro Motive Division) GP40-2 B-B locomotives numbered 300-317. The real B&M GP40-2 units were not equipped with dynamic brakes but the Bachmann GP40 shell is, so there is another discrepancy for rivet counters.
(1) The GP40 is the same “blue dip” as most early B&M offerings.
(2) The brittleness and the glued down cab roof may be why Bev Bel decided to just paint the windows rather than remove them prior to painting and keep them clear.
(3) Even in new condition I don’t think you could really call these things “Nice”, but whatever.