Category Archives: Announced models

Are they allowed to do that?

Well, I’m pleased to say that my predictions for this year’s Hornby range were, to a man, entirely wrong. I refer you to the official Hornby website for this year’s releases. Briefly, the things I’m getting most excited about are the LNER L1 and B17s. The 4-VEP multiple unit is to be introduced, which will be a nice addition to the expanding number of Southern multiple units available (as well as being units that operated locally to me), although I do wonder if it’s perhaps a bit too similar to Bachmann’s 4-CEP. Having said that, I would imagine there are plenty of people who will buy both – I recall them often working alongside one another, sometimes coupled together. And by changing the interior, they could produce the 4-VEGs that were used on the airport service to Gatwick.

Speaking of airport services, a train pack that has piqued my interest is the ‘Imperial Airways’ pack. This consists of a T9, a Pullman composite, a Maunsell brake coach and a bogie utility van, all in Southern livery. This replicates the service that ran out of London Victoria, serving the Imperial Airways airfield at Southampton. Due to the lightly-laid track, the T9 was about the only express engine capable of using the route. I’ve often thought it would be an interesting service to model. AND I WAS RIGHT.

The Railroad range has a number of new additions this year. The GWR County and LMS Patriot have been added, as have the old Lima Class 40 and Class 33. One that rather caught my eye, though, was this:

It’s a freelance 0-4-0 finished in the livery of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway. A neat little model and rather appealing. It appears to be based on the LBSC E2, which was an 0-6-0. But I do wonder how this works in terms of copyright.

Allow me to explain. Bachmann, as I have explained before, holds the licence to produce Thomas the Tank Engine characters for the North American market. A few years back (2005 I believe) they introduced the Junior range in the UK. The locomotives for this were an 0-6-0 side tank and an 0-4-0 saddle tank, both rather freelance-looking but nice enough in their way (I own both, and crude though they are, they have a certain charm). Unfortunately, the tooling they used to make these was developed from the Thomas range. As a result, they got into a bit of trouble with HIT Entertainment, who own the copyright for Thomas. They have since withdrawn those original Junior engines and introduced a generic 0-6-0 saddle tank and diesel shunter.

The problem, you see, was that Bachmann’s tooling was specifically developed for the Thomas range. Hornby can get away with using the same tooling for, say,  Oliver the Western Engine that they use for the 14xx in their regular range because the 14xx was developed first. Now, the engine you see above was originally developed for a battery-powered starter set in Hornby’s Thomas range. That is to say that it was specifically developed as a Thomas character. This, I think, might cause them to fall foul of the same problems as Bachmann. I hope they don’t, as it’s a delightful little engine.

Further Reading – The E2


So, what aren’t they making?

Well, chaps, New Year is nearly upon us, and inevitably that means the new models for next year will shortly be officially announced. Already things are looking exciting. Kernow have their Beattie well tank and Hastings DEMU on the way, Bachmann have promised us a Robinson O4 (not a moment too soon), a Cravens DMU, a retooled Class 03 and a 2-EPB EMU. Dapol have a Class 22 on the way. Even Model Rail are getting in on the act with their Sentinel shunter, something I’ve often thought would be a good choice in ready-to-run, although that’s partly because I like small, quirky locomotives. Roco have their OO9 Double Fairlie on the way, pioneering ready-to-run British narrow gauge in 4mm.

I think the most interesting lot of models, certainly if you’re a diesel person, is in Heljan’s range. We’re promised Lion, the Class 23, the Class 14, the Class 15 and, rather out of left-field, models of all four types of four-wheeled railbus used on British Railways (AC, Park Royal, Wickham and Waggon und Maschinenbrau).

There’s even an all-but-confirmed rumour that Bachmann are to bring out a ready-to-run City of Truro. Everyone’s sworn to secrecy at the moment, but here are the facts as reported in the modelling press.

  • Bachmann is producing a top-secret model.
  • One of the major manufacturers has been developing a model of City of Truro in secret.
  • Bachmann produced a hugely successful model of Deltic for the National Railway Museum and have been looking for a follow-up.
  • They carried out a poll and City of Truro was the National Collection locomotive most wanted.

Basically, this is the worst kept secret since Watergate. I look forward to it, I think City of Truro is a fine and elegant locomotive and I have no doubt that sales will be through the roof, particularly if they produce it as it looked when performing railtours in the 1950s.

No word on Hornby’s programme yet, so I’ll no doubt be scouring their website as intently as is possible with a roaring hangover on New Year’s Day.

So, what’s next for the major manufacturers? Well, frankly, I think all bets are off. Take a look at the list above and take a look at some of the models we’ve already had in recent years – the ‘Clan’, the 4-CEP, Falcon, Kestrel, Deltic, Class 17, Q1, T9, the Devon Belle Observation Car. These are models that, not too long ago, would have been considered risky if not downright insane for anyone to produce ready-to-run. Yet even the economic climate hasn’t slowed the flow of oddities. So, these would be my wild guesses.

  • The Class 35, better known as the Metrovick Co-Bo, better known still if you grew up with Thomas the Tank Engine as Boco. It’s the really obvious gap in the diesel range at the moment.
  • DP2, the super-Deltic produced in the 1960s. No more ridiculous than some of the one-offs Heljan has been producing, it was basically a regular Deltic externally. Bachmann, over to you.
  • Duke of Gloucester. A one-off, but it’s an obvious gap in the range of BR Standards. It’s back in the news at the moment and, of course, has done extensive work in preservation.
  • Come to think of it, the other BR standards, namely the 3MT 2-6-0 (i.e. the tender variant of Bachmann’s recent tank) and the 2MT 2-6-0 and 2-6-2T.
  • Upgraded GWR coaching stock. Given Hornby’s upgrade of their Castle class, this is an obvious accompaniment.
  • An upgraded GWR King. Generally, upgraded GWR stuff.
  • Hornby, I have no doubt, will continue to expand the Railroad range. I’d imagine the old Castle and Schools class will find their way there. There’s a fair bit of Lima that would go quite well there, I’m hoping to see the LNER J50 and GWR 94XX.
  • Electric traction is obviously neglected at the moment. So, BR Classes 81-85, the EM1 and EM2 for Easterners and the Class 71 and 74 for Southerners. I note that Hornby have been advertising catenary recently – preparing the ground?
  • Obviously it depends how sales of Bachmann’s new 4-CEP go, but it does seem to be the dawning of the age of the old-skool Southern EMU at the moment. I would imagine a pre-war unit such as a 2-HAL to be a good choice, as it complements existing models but is reasonably different in outline.
  • People keep on asking for the Blue Pullman. Will someone finally grant them mercy?
  • Hornby have re-released the Dean Single and Caledonian Single in a number of guises. The one veteran from the Triang range that hasn’t been re-released is Rocket. Could this be its year?

Those are just my guesses for now, but as I say, nothing is too ridiculous at the moment. Nothing at all.

The Devil is in the detail

As I sort of semi-observed in my last post, we seem to be in something of a golden age as OO modellers. Such is the range and quality of accessories available for our hobby that it’s within the ability of even a beginner to produce the sort of layout that at one time would have been considered a prizewinner.
One rather unexpected consequence of this is that there are people complaining that models are too detailed. The arguments are:
1. Models are now so fragile that even taking them out of the box is hard work.

2. The detail is so superb that people are afraid to modify their models in case they ruin their pride and joy.

3. They’re really expensive.

I suspect this is a case of the manufacturers being “damned if they do, damned if they don’t.” If they start producing less detailed models now, they’ll be condemned for being behind the times. Obviously, the people complaining are in a minority, and I very much doubt that Hornby, Bachmann et al will start taking steps back now.

The question I’d raise, though, is how much detail do you actually need? Obviously what you want to do with your own models is your own choice, and far be it from me to tell you otherwise. But there are two points I’d like to make.

Firstly, there’s the question of whether such detail is necessary. As has been observed elsewhere, beyond a certain point the detail becomes invisible. The pride of my fleet is a Hornby Clan Line. The detail is fantastic, no doubt about it, but at high speed, from a distance, I can’t even see half that detail. Allan Downes has admitted that he often uses his imagination when it comes to complex subjects, because what is important is creating an overall impression. That’s what I aim for myself.

Secondly, there’s the Sore Thumb Problem, which is a term I’ve just invented which has nothing to do with accidents involving pliers. That is, if you have one superbly detailed model, it will stand out like a sore thumb unless everything is to the same level. So if you’ve got your lovely locomotive, you’ll need similarly lovely rolling stock. What about the buildings? It’s no good having a fantastic train if you’re still using a rubbishy old 1970s Hornby station. Okay, what about the track? Looks a little clean, doesn’t it? And so forth.

There are plenty who’ll disagree with me, and hey – I have no objection to the manufacturers continuing along the super-detail path. But it’s not really for me. I’m clearly not the only one who thinks this, my evidence being the Hornby Railroad range. Initially marketed as something of a “kiddie” range, I’ll be honest, I expected it to go the way of Playtrains or the Stationmaster range (two earlier attempts to sell starter sets to children, the Stationmaster range being exceptionally garish). Except that this time, it wasn’t just for kids. As well as the predictable 0-4-0s and the long-overdue-for-retirement 0-6-0s, there was an A3 and a Class 47. The next year brought A4s, the 9F and the Class 37 – perfectly good models, but superseded by better ones. This year will see the Deltic and the Black 5 added to the range. As well as this, some of the more toylike stock from the Hornby and former Lima range is now offered, plus the now-slightly-dated Gresley, Stanier and Pullman stock that until recently sat proudly in the main range.

Last year, the Railroad version of Evening Star was even nominated for a “Best Locomotive” award. Bachmann’s response is not recorded. Opinion on modelling forums seems to be favourable. Evidently, quite a lot of people are happy to settle with a pretty good model rather than pay fifty pounds more for an excellent model. I think Hornby have been pretty shrewd with this, because it means they now cater for both the pro- and anti-super detail markets. I for one would like to see more additions to the range – how about the old Schools, Castles, Duchesses or B12s? And aren’t the Kings getting a bit long in the tooth? And hey, do you still have the tooling for the Lima J50, because if so [400 other suggestions cut for the sake of sanity]

This year's Hornby Black 5

This year's Hornby Black 5


This year's other Hornby Black 5. See if you can guess which one is the super-detailed one! (Clue: It's exactly the one you think it is)

This year's other Hornby Black 5. See if you can guess which one is the super-detailed one! (Clue: It's exactly the one you think it is)




Ready-to-run Class 07… sort of

We seem to have reached the stage in OO scale modelling where there is no such thing as a stupid suggestion. Beattie well tanks, Southern Region multiple units, BR Clans and the Kestrel prototype diesel would all, not so long ago, have been considered a mildly insane prospect for the ready-to-run manufacturer. And all are either on the drawing board or in the run-up to release. We’ve actually got to the stage where the manufacturers are running out of diesel locomotives to make.

However, while we wait for the Class 14, 15, 03 and no doubt 23 and 28 in due course, there’s another class that’s been stealthily prepared with almost no attention from the model press, and is now not far from its release.

The prototype. Thanks, Wikipedia!

The prototype. Thanks, Wikipedia!

It’s a humble shunter with a relatively small area of operations, being based in BR days at Southampton Docks, replacing the old USA tanks. The class was also capable of shunting EMUs (three worked at Bournemouth doing just this). A number were sold into industry and seven survive to the present day. In many ways, it’s a better candidate for a ready-to-run model than some of the prototypes that are already being manufactured. It’s not surprising that Bachmann have snapped it up.

What is slightly surprising, and what accounts for the lack of attention in the modelling press, is that it’s to be made for the American market. It will only be available in the UK via import. No word on price, but it’ll probably be between £30 and £40. It will only be available in one livery, which will be non-prototypical. Here’s a photo.



Yep, that’s the catch. It’s a Thomas the Tank Engine character. See, the great thing about Thomas and Friends is that the engines are, with a few notable exceptions, based on real life prototypes. Our man Salty here is a character invented for the TV series rather than the original books who is, yes, a dock shunter. By coincidence, shunter number 2991 is one of the survivors, currently based at Eastleigh (it’s the one in the photo up there).

The model isn’t perfect – some compromises have clearly been made for the sake of producing a model robust enough for children’s use, and the bonnets look a little low compared to the cab. But with a repaint and detailing, it would make an interesting addition to an industrial, dockside or depot scene. You might have to remove the face – I’m not sure whether this was a feature of the prototype or not.

If you’d prefer something more detailed – Silver Fox produce a resin kit that uses a Bachmann chassis.

See also – A nice photo of the prototype. – About Salty (more photos) – Withdrawals.