Of course, it's prudent to remember that Bachmann is a 180+ years manufacturer/marketer. Maybe not the same cachet...at least to this crowd...as "Lionel", but all in all quite successful and durable in their own M.O..
So, O3R hasn't quite panned out, apparently. Ford had its Edsel, Chevrolet its Vega, Pontiac its Fiero, ...and Lionel had its HO, several pushes of the car up the hill with a rope, in fact.
A few Yorks back I also collared a Bachmann rep for a chat. Just from their display you could tell that O gauge trains...WBB (O3R), NOT their highly successful, innovative On30 line...was a 'stepchild' in the family. I challenged 'Jack'...I believe was his name...to consider a shot in the arm for their newest acquisition.
I had two memorable encounters/experiences that year. First, while working behind the Trains counter at the LHS, I watched enviously as the crowds daily gathered at the Radio Control counter(s) in the store to see the latest and greatest new products capitalizing on the rapid changes afforded by BATTERY TECHNOLOGY. It touched every branch of that hobby. Gas-powered engines were passé. Electric motors, brushless motors, micro-motors...in airplanes, drones, helicopters, cars, trucks, speedboats, sailing boats, military equipment, construction equipment. Totally untethered. Lights, cameras, action, sounds.
But not in T-R-A-I-N-S.
There were days, I swear, that given an appropriate sized, handy flyswatter, I'd have taken out one of those mini-drones the R/C crew flew around the Trains Dept...just to disturb the crickets in our corner!
Anyhow, the other 'event' was encountering a vendor in Orange Hall who was selling battery power, R/C conversions for trains...principally G scale, ...but also demonstrating installation in O scale/gauge equipment!! Whoa!!!! Now, successful 'Dead Rail' conversions in G scale were a no-brainer based on multiple DIY articles in some hobby periodicals by then. But, O scale?? Not so much. But there they were...DCC, sound, and no wires to the track. I was mesmerized. So I decided to give it a try for myself...but on an LGB mogul that I had. A few weeks thereafter, I took that mogul and its battery/electronics equipped tender over to the R/C department, put it on the carpeted floor...NO track...turned it on, and with black box in hand ran proudly ran it past the counters, R/C crew, and their customers. Take THAT!!
So, meanwhile, back at that York discussion with 'Jack'. I dared suggest their resuscitation and barnstorming entry into the world of O gauge (NOT On30!) might be starter sets with BATTERY POWER, remote control, durable equipment (the Williams stepchildren)...and (drum roll) a new variant of their highly successful HO E-Z track line; O gauge E-Z track, 2-rail. Both engines/rolling stock features (e.g., wheel treadwidth, flange depth, etc.) and track features(e.g., rail height) designed to enable running on existing 3-rail layouts. You know..."The future can be NOW on your existing 3-rail layout!"...sort of hype.
Ah, well, Jack was a true ambassador for the hobby...he had boundless tact. As I concluded my blather, he smiled and then told me a story about Bachmann's recent experience with marrying batteries with trains. Bachmann HAD been discussing battery power for trains...in the search for new products. However, it seems some chap decided to execute one of those DIY conversions on his Bachmann 'Big Hauler' train set. Of course he didn't exactly follow the instructions/advice of others. A battery is a battery, right? A charger is a charger, right? Battery + charger were not compatible, house fire occurred, lawyer hired, went to court. Bachmann (deepest pockets, of course) named to be complicit and liable for damages. ( ) Cut to the chase, Bachmann's involvement was dismissed (common sense prevailed).
But 'collateral' damage was done;The legal staff declared that any thoughts of putting batteries in trains should be quashed. Too risky. Not enough safeguards. Too many idiots (my thoughts, not theirs!), And so, even though it had, indeed, been considered, it would never again be discussed...until the legal beagles could agree it was acceptable. Well, Jack's version was more polite, but no more optimistic.
It's really too bad, too. It's the sort of resuscitation that the WBB pieces to the future puzzle could possibly hold. After all, there's no denying that Lionel has a firm grip on the starter set market for O3R. There's also no denying that no O3R trains manufacturer has made that first offering of a 'Dead Rail' set into the starter market. Bachmann is, however, king-on-the-hill for starter sets in HO/N/G/On30. Battery powered hobby products is fast losing its innovative charm. It's becoming the gorilla-sized norm in the world of powered hobby products. When...and IF...it ever becomes a participant among the giants of our hobby...trains..., it will already be ho-hum. The excitement will be fast departing.
I agree with all who will miss WBB's O3R products. The realities of today's O3R business are really tough, it would seem. If it must be, ...R.I.P., WBB.