Saturday, 29 December 2007


The Class 56 has been a big part of the British railway scene for the best part of thirty years, with examples still in active service today.

The class is a particular favourite of mine. At one time, wherever my Dad and I went we would see them. Familiarity sometimes breeds contempt, but for me, this never happened with 'Grids'! (The nickname, incidentally, I have been told comes from the rather prominent horn grilles on the cab front - though as with many nicknames, various explanations exist!) I fondly remember spending hours on York Station when Farewell Tour ran in 2004 - the Station seemed to be packed with enthusiasts who patiently waited for the locos to be swapped round after a problem with their multiple working gear. Nobody complained though, we got an extra hour or so of seeing the locos!

For the Diesel and Electric modellers, the 56 is a key part of many layout schemes. Therefore, if a manufacturer could produce a good model of one to modern standards, then they're bound to be onto a winner! The thing is that the model we have become so used, originally from Mainline, was one of the best of its generation, and still stands up well to this day. In terms of capturing the look of the prototype, it did very well; this showed up some more recent releases which have failed to capture the look of their own prototypes in any shape or form!

I've had high expectations for this model since I learned of Hornby's intention to produce it. Their Class 60 is the benchmark for Diesels now, so I was very much looking forward to this release! Sadly, it lacks the 'wow' factor of the Sixty. I'm not quite sure why though. One reason may be that it has a couple of issues which I think really let it down.

But before that, I'd rather consider the positive aspects of the model. It undoubtedly looks like a class 56. The face has been captured rather nicely and the nose equipment is very nice indeed, and is a world away from that on the Mainline model! The underframe and bogies look superb - the area around the fuel tank and battery boxes is every bit as good as the Sixty!

Compare it with the underframe of 56 003 and you'll see just how good it looks.

Once this area is covered in grime it will really come to life. As ever, Hornby have done a wonderful job with the cab interiors and the glazing is a good effort too. it still has that prismatic effect which most moulded glazing has, but it's not that bad. Something to replace in the fullness of time though. The bodyside grilles at the number 1 end are nicely etched and are pleasingly flush with the bodyside. The shoulder grilles seem to be faithful reproductions too. The windscreen wipers are reasonably fine, but I wonder why we can't have etched wipers. Most die-cast buses get etched wipers and they really do enhance the front end appearance of the models.

For the later type of cab Hornby seem to have captured the look quite well - I can't comment on the earlier 'cabbed' examples because I haven't had a good look as yet. The cabs are different, but not obviously. The aluminium cabs are more 'rounded'.

The worst part of the whole model, for me, are the fan grilles. They suggest the roof is made either from concrete or three inch steel plate!

It really puzzles me how this could be considered to be acceptable. It really lets the whole model down, since we tend to view models from above. Thankfully Shawplan's range of parts will come to our rescue here!

When Hornby's class 50 appeared, we all of a sudden had the perfect non-rotating oval buffers - which were available at quite a decent price from spares dealers too! However, the buffers are poor, which seems odd because Hornby's class 50's buffers are very near perfect. Something else to replace, but there's no reason why this couldn't be right in the first place. The only other thing which I think I'll amend will be the horn grilles because they're printed on the model.

The mechanism is right up to the standard we expect. But remove the fan drive belt, on mine it acted as a very effective brake! I'm tempted to fit a small coreless motor to power the fans! Re-wheeling should be fairly simple. Brake blocks are in line for OO, but I for other gauges they may cause problems. A simple solution may be their removal! You can't really see them in real life anyway!

Perhaps the ultimate test of a new model is whether it makes one want to abandon or dispose of your previous models of the same type. The new 56 doesn't make me want to bid farwell to my previously converted models.

New and Old - Hornby's new class 56 alongside a converted Mainline model - I think that the Mainline can hold its own still. Its tooling may be a little heavier, but it still looks rather good.
My much travelled (and slightly careworn!) model of 56 031 still compares well with the new model. Well enough, I hope, to sit along side each other and not be from obviously different sources. It has, of course, had an awful lot done to it; but I see no reason to replace it. Likewise the other couple of 56's I've been working on (for some time!) will be finished as planned. I would like to incorpate some parts from the new model though - if I can get the undertframe parts as spares I'll have an awful lot of work saved!

I can see the new Class 56 being very popular - in many ways this is deservedly so. For me, sadly, a couple of silly errors take the edge of the release. This is a real shame. But don't let these stop you, it will form the basis for a superb model!

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