Tag Archives: Hornby

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.

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Bugboxes

I think one of the most controversial models in Hornby’s range must surely be their four-wheeled coaches. If you don’t know the ones I mean, I’m talking about these:

IMG_1049They’ve been in the range since the 1970s and have been produced in countless variations, from Somerset and Dorset livery to Departmental yellow, from Southern malachite to Annie and Clarabel. A heck of a lot of railways have at least one, and quite possibly several (Yr. Humble Chronicler has lost count of his own).

The thing is, in their own quiet way, these things seem to spark quite a lot of debate. Many modellers, obviously, have no problem with them. Some would like them better if Hornby also produced a brake coach to go with them. And then there are those who hate them with a passion. The problem is that they’re freelance. As far as anyone can tell, there are no coaches like this out in the real world. These must surely be the last freelance models in the main Hornby range. The critics say that they would prefer it if Hornby produced four-wheelers based on real prototypes.

The question I’d then ask is, which prototypes? Lots of the pre-Grouping railways had coaches similar to this. The difficulty faced by Hornby if they decided to tool up for a more realistic four-wheeler is finding one that would sell in sufficient quantities to justify the expense.

For me, the four-wheeler is just fine. They may not be perfect, but on the other hand, they’re cheap and they at least look like a typical branch line/light railway coach, even if it’s not a specific one. There are alternatives if you don’t like them – a few companies make etched kits of specific four-wheelers. Ratio have for a long time produced a range of Great Western coaches and Smallbrook Studio have recently introduced London, Brighton and South Coast Railway coaches. Smallbrook specialise in Isle of Wight stock in their 4mm/foot range, and due to loading gauge restrictions, the Isle of Wight was using Victorian stock long after it had been retired elsewhere on the Southern Railway.

All this is a rambling precursor to the main point of this post, which is the thing I found at Upminster Depot, which is having an open weekend.

I call it "Clarabel".

I call it "Clarabel".

This is a four-wheeled coach of the Metropolitan District Railway, predecessor of the modern District Line. It has to be said, it does bear a fair resemblance to the Hornby four-wheeler. There are a few differences, true, but otherwise I’d say it’s not a bad likeness.

Unfortunately, the chances of Hornby doing this in District livery are slim to nil. Still, a boy can dream…

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)