Friday, 12 April 2013

The Duff Option?

The Class 47 has been a feature of Britain's railway network since 1962; finishing in 1968 a total of 512 were constructed. They've enjoyed a strange love hate relationship with enthusiasts, initially unloved by many as they replaced steam locomotives but as time has passed and they have become regarded as 'classic traction' an increasing number of enthusiasts have warmed to them.

Modelling them in 4mm/ft used to be easy – most modellers used the Lima model, detailed and running on Ultrascales. The really radical modellers added suspect A1 Models fan grilles and even a SE Finecast Flushglaze pack! The old Hornby model tended to be overlooked.

But now we have options from Hornby (original and remotored Lima), Lima, Heljan, Bachmann and Vi Trains. All with their good and bad points.

My take on the Heljan model - a lot of work but undoubtedly looks like a forty-seven! Just a case of whether all the extra work is now worth is bearing in mind the newest version of this long serving type.
Heljan's Class 47 is quite a significant model as really it marked a turning point for the hobby; it was they first of the new generation of ready-to-run locomotives. The one problem it has is that it is slightly too wide - something made more obvious on the original releases due to the bogie side frames being set back too far. Sadly at the time a few people, both on the net and in magazines, seemed to jump on this bandwagon and lambast the model without looking at it properly. The original moulded cab handrails didn't help either but once replaced this problem went away. Despite the problems I think it can be made into an excellent looking model, one which wonderfully captures the look of the prototype.

Bachmann’s Class 47 looks quite good on first glance, though not perfect and has led to debate about the front end proportions. I actually thought their class 57 was a good looking model, though it did have the odd detail issue, though most models do. Bachmann's original class 47 release came in for a lot of criticism - the most obvious thing was the model's prominent rivet/bolt heads around front windows. This led to a number of comments in magazines and the net about how wrong it was - in fact there are bolt heads around the windows; however they are the heads of countersunk screws which secure the windscreens in place but are not very prominent. The most significant issue, I thought, was carrying over various class 57 specific components - the underframe tank moulding and the bogie sideframe moulding. Ian Fleming, best known for wagons, 'amended' one of the early releases to produce a more accurate model. Thankfully later releases have seen this rectified. I haven't tried the earlier style of Bachmann's 47 so I can't speak from my own experience but Jonathan Hughes has worked wonders with one!

Bachmann’s mid-life Class 47 is also around and has come in a variety of forms but shares similar issues with the original releases – notably debate concerning the windscreen area. This is part of a model which can make or break a model. And sometimes if it’s only slightly out it’ll look like what it’s supposed to but not quite right and you may struggle to work out what’s wrong as the error may be very small. Is this the case with Bachmann’s models of the class? I’m not sure.

I still like the Lima model – it can be acquired quite cheaply if you shop around and is an excellent basis for detailing and one which first time detailers can use without fear of ‘wrecking’ an expensive loco! Rather than repeat myself, have a look here!

The Vi Trains model has some lovely and delicate tooling – the connection between Vi and lima is well known, so this isn’t entirely surprising. The shape seems pretty good and I’m using one for a conversion of mine using recovered Heljan parts and a spare Lima chassis frame. What really seems to spoil things is the rather thick glazing...

The original Hornby model is a bit rough round the edges but the shape is very good indeed! With work it can look superb! The chassis isn’t really worth tackling as it’s quite easy to source an alternative which will offer better running and detailing. And these bodies can be had for very little too! This is what happens when a master has a Hornby Class 47 in his hands.

But with all this choice I really can’t decide the best way to proceed. For running gear the Bachmann chassis with Penbits sprung running gear is an obvious choice I feel - or indeed Heljan with Penbits running gear. But body wise?!

Shawplan offer all sorts of very useful parts which makes it easy to choose a more basic starting as key character details can be easily source from them and fitted without worrying how to repeat it on another model consistently. Their windscreen surrounds and cab window frames mean it should be easy to achieve a refined appearance even on the Hornby body without too much effort.

So where does all of this leave us? I'm not really sure. To hand I have spares or complete locos from Heljan, Lima, Vi Trains, Bachmann and Hornby! So which do I go?

Any suggestions are most welcome.


  1. Hmmmm...

    It appears that I have a grubby Lima 47 that I picked up from eBay for not-a-lot of money, pre-fitted with P4 Ultrascales.

    I shall be taking notes on the improvements that are needed...


  2. ...a well introduced and thought out article James. Yes, food for thought and something similar to some of my ponderings. I've yet to try a Heljan, but I have a ViT in the drawer, mainly because I like the bogie frames... and don't want to have to do all of that again to the Bach one. The other point is their intermixability... will a Heljan look tubby against a ViT???? discuss indeed!

  3. Does this help at all?

  4. Well James, I thought you'd get more of a debate than this... I know there was some more of FB, but really thought we'd see a debate of all the competitors attributes and fors vs againsts... Perhaps a short-list of those aspects might inspire further debate; as long as it's gentlemanly then it might be worth pursuing. Your call. Anyway... good luck with S4North this weekend - I'll be on "Dad duty" for my eldest's birthday, so no modelling for me... but I have the MHR diesel gala next weekend so hopefully that should be good.. weather permitting.

  5. Hi Jon

    Basically vitrains looks best out of the box but hornby, Lima and bachmann are the most accurate. The hornby one is crude but accurate while the bachmann one looks odd. Lima is probably best although the windscreens are wrong. Heljan is well know for its over width but th windows are the wrong shape too. Vitrains is about as wrong as heljan but as with a lot of lima stuff hides it well. It looks like its on stilts but he cantrail is in the right place. Thus the height has been lost from the body so like heljan it's a very difficult fix.