Monday, 7 March 2011

Low Tech Class 47

Sometimes low tech does have its advantages. It's less scary, less expensive and more forgiving. I'm sure this applies in many parts of life. And learning and developing skills on something which is perceived as simpler can be very useful experience.

This latter idea, I think, applies very validly to the current crop of RTR models - these aren't low tech by any means anymore, but learning skills on models like these seems to frighten many people. It almost seems a little bit pathetic now that people are scared to touch a model because they've paid maybe twenty quid more than the older version, but that fear is definitely there.

It seems now that with better RTR more people are actually less likely to do anything further to them. A shame as many newer models take very kindly to a little bit of work here and there to really lift them and exploit their full potential. But how do you get this experience? The answer, is low tech...

The humble Lima class 47 - basic, ‘plasticy’, eff all in terms of separately applied details (the buffers don't count!) and as common as a people carrier on the school run. But I think it still, in its own way captures the look of a Class 47 – it’s not perfect, far from it! The moulding is delightfully fine – the roof details are very good indeed. Lima’s tool makers produced wonderfully subtle results. I think it makes a wonderful project that is neither costly nor scary. Working from a base such as this, you can take it as far you want or feel comfortable. I think that it can provide the perfect learning project – something which many diesel and electric modellers have done in ‘years gone by’ when we didn’t have a choice!

In my case cost was an enormous factor – last year I was out of work and money was rather tight. The purchase of a Lima class 47 at a Toyfair in Beverley provided the impetus. An unboxed loco bought for a little over £15 was going to be the basis. It was in the correct livery too which was a bonus. The triple grey is pretty good, nice and thin too - with replacement sector markings it'll be spot on! I had spare Ultrascale wheels at home so even with a set of Extreme Etchings roof grilles the budget was still less than thirty pounds! I’m back in work now though, but the thought of a cheap but value for money, project still appeals with all the other costs which life brings.

The plan had been to replace the mechanism with either that from a Proto1000/2000 PA-1 or spare Heljan bogies (all of which are in a drawer in the workshop), but when I tested it, it ran surprisingly well! With a couple of hours' running in it was rather nice. Not as smooth as a central-motored model but very good and more than good enough for the duties I had in mind for it – once chipped, which is the only other large cost, it should be a nice reliable performer.

So, aside from a ‘Duff on a budget’ what is the intended outcome of the project? The answer fits in with a theme I am currently developing, so the model will become one of Immingham's class 47's, no 47 294. I've found various photos of it but the one which made me decide which of the Immingham ones I wanted to do was this. With it being on an ex-Scunthorpe steel working was even better! But the model will be in a condition more typical of the breed, something more like this.

So there we have the outline of the project – it’s progressed fairly well in short bursts since the summer and should soon be ready for patch painting, numbering and finishing!


  1. Hi James - what are you doing about the awful shape of the windscreens?

  2. Hi James!

    If you look at the last picture you'll see that there's a lot of bare plastic. This is a result of the window frames being pared (is that the correct spelling?!) down and the I have reprofiled the windscreens. Using photos as a guide a huge improvement can be made.

    The results are probably best suited to liveries, like this one, where the frames have darker surrounds but it is a huge improvement!

  3. I guess therefore, you'll be making you're own custom flush glazing? The windscreens were the one area the Lima model was a let down... I always loved the finesse of the bodyshell especially the roof fans.

  4. I'll be fitting all new glazing to the model - though if Shawplan are likely to have new glazing for the Lima 47 soon I'll use that and just make new windscreens!

    The finesse of the tooling is very impressive - although some of Lima's bodys had flaws (like the Class 40 and 37) the details were beautifully produced. I think Bachmann and Hornby (only their 60 is up there) have a long way to go to match this level of subtly in their diesel bodies, although in other ways they have moved things forward enormously.

    Tha fan grilles were such that fitting many of the A1 fan grilles were probably actually far coarser than the moulded items they were intended to replace.

    With Shawplan's new products combined with carefully selected base models, it seems a pretty good tie to be modelling diesels at the moment!