Monday, 28 July 2008

Best RTR Diesel?

Over the last few years there has been an increasing amount debate about Ready-To-Run (RTR) locomotives and stock. Steam RTR has improved out of all recognition in recent years. Diesels have improved much more subtly.

There are, I think, three contenders for the best four mil' RTR diesel. My criteria for this is simple - the basic outline of the model does not require altering in order to provide a good likeness of the prototype - even the new Bachmann Class 37 needs some work in order to achieve this.

The first contender has to be the Heljan Hymek - it lacks some of the fine separately applied details which later models have but the overall appearance is absolutely spot on. Although the model still needs its headcodes and couplings fitting (both of which I've always fitted both at the very end of the process) it still looks completely 'right'. The designers were very much on to a winner with this one - something is just so right about the shape of the body. The only real issue is that the buffer beam valances are moulded in plain black plastic and require painting in order to get a result which looks right.

The Hymek just requiring headcoes and coupligs - even without these you can see that the overall look is spot and and very convincing.
For me one of the most convincing RTR diesels of recent years has been the class 66 from Bachmann - it captures the look of the common 'Shed' perfectly - I do think it can be hard to capture something with which people ares o familiar. In the same way the 16T mineral wagon captures the fifties and sixties railway scene, the class 66 is a key component of the post privatisation railway. Bachmann have done themselves proud with this and they created a perfect workman-like model which captures the shape of the class 66 perfectly.

Another key piece of motive power has to be the class 60; Lima did an excellent job in the nineties with their version of this type - however it was held back ultimately due to its old-style mechanism and lacking some of the finer details which we now like to have, but it did capture the look of a sixty very well indeed. However, when the new class 60 from Hornby arrived it immediately knocked the Lima model into touch. It looked right, had a whole host of separately applied details, opening doors, etched grilles, interior details behind the grilles, fully detailed cab interiors in fact everything one could hope for.

An example of the Hornby 60 - how things have changed - this is just how it came, with transfer changes and new wheels (EM). I weathered it for a friend of mine and the result is most pleasing.
The Heljan Hymek doesn't have opening doors, etched grilles, interior details behind the grilles nor fully detailed cab interiors. But I still think it's one of the best. When it goes past on a layout hauling a train, you can't open the doors anyway! I would always take a model which had the right shape and look to it over something with lots of 'extras' that doesn't look right. Hornby sixty's manages to fulfil both of these areas magnificently, but somehow, their Class 31 just doesn't do it for me. The Hymek doesn't have any gimmicks, but captures the look of the uniquely shaped prototype to perfection. This must, surely, but worth more than any number of opening cab doors? I'll leave it for the reader to decide...


  1. A very interesting piece, thank you. Any chance of expanding beyond the top 3 ?

    Just before I read this, I was thinking that a list of 4mm locos with comments on quality (accuracy, running and ease of conversion to P4) would be extremely useful.

    As someone fairly clueless on 4mm stuff (but at home in 2mm scale), its difficult to know what is worth buying and what is, quite frankly, a pile of rubbish. The most recent MRJ with its comparison of a couple of steam kits is a good case; maker with a reputation, yet the kit seemed so poor that it must rank as "not fit for purpose".



  2. Hi Nigel!

    My 'top 3' was really about the look of the model when compared with the prototype rather than running qualities. I take good running as a given on all the current generation diesels! In fact the Hymek has the sort of running qualities which once were only the preserve of the most gifted modellers.

    All the major manufacturer's locos can easily be converted to P4 using wheels from, in my case, either Branchlines or Ultrascale. Only sometimes do locos, such as Bachmann's new class 37s, need brakegear thinning slightly to clear their new wheels.

    Cosmestically and asthetically, diesels can be a minefield! Some people have been quite happy with a model while others loathe the exact same version! Take the Heljan Class 47 for example, I think it looks right and captured the 'duff' look rather well yet friends of mine wouldn't even consider one now! Much preferring the Bachmann model. This is one area where, I think, persoanl opinion must drive what you think looks right - after all it's there to please you and no one else! The has been a huge amount of ndebate on certain models, and not always well reasoned either, some D&E 'modellers' can be very blinkered in their approach sadly.

    However, with the future release from Brian Hanson via Shawplan, the future of finescale diesel modelling looks very promising!

    I don't know if this has been helpful or not! But if there's anything else, just ask away!

    Take care