Thursday, 26 May 2016

Hornby Class 47 TTS - Sound on a Budget

It's all too easy to be critical of Lima models - as they come, they can appear crude and basic to our eyes these days. And they are basic, but at the time of their release they represented progress from older models. The standard of tooling was a world away from some of the models then on sale. Even today new manufacturers struggle to capture moulded detail with the same delicate and subtle touch of the Lima toolmakers. And it's this which leads me to persevere with a number of Lima types. My recently finished class 40 is an excellent example of the potential some of the Lima models still have. I'm also building a fleet of class 47s based on the Lima model for exactly the same reason! Which brings me neatly to the model in question here.

The outline is unmistakenly Lima - is this a winning combination of Lima's tool making with a better mechanism (and sound!) for much less than the more sophisticated alternatives?

Hornby acquired Lima and its range a number of years ago - I suspect it was mainly to Hornby a foothold in the European market but the range of British models also came with this. A select few have made their way into Hornby's budget range of 'Railroad' models. The former Lima class 47 has appeared in a number of guises under the Hornby label. This model, however, is one of the more notable versions.

The former Lima model has received an all new power bogie which runs quite nicely and is very quiet in operation - the model has all wheel pick and runs very confidently at low speed. The old Lima bogie tooling has been modified further to accommodate NEM coupling pockets and have lost the massive Lima style couplings! Of course this isn't the first release of the Railroad version of the class 47, but this is the first Railroad version I've had myself. Well, not strictly true, I've had a couple of Railroad bodies which I've bought second hand, but it's identical to the Lima version so it tells you very little! They both have the same lovely and subtle tooling around the roof but suffer from the same issues which I've covered elsewhere - in the main, it's the window surrounds which are the worst bit with more subtle problems with the shape and curvature of the 'nose' and the horn cowling. All issues which can easily be corrected. The only other thing is an odd one - for some reason Hornby have changed the buffers which are fitted to the model compared with the Lima ones - the latter's were a nice size and proportion, even if not that detailed at all whereas Hornby's are rather short stubby things which give the front of the loco a slightly odd, 'bunged up' look. Lots of potential for the 'real modeller'...!

Decoration is to a high standrad and the paint very well applied but I'm not convinced by the colours - it doesn't sit well with with either locos which have retained their Lima paintwork or have been resprayed using Pheonix paints. The lack of OLE flashes and the orange cantrail stripe are very obvious by their absence. Although I realise this is a budget model, leaving details like these seems a real shame - it does appear as penny pinching, regardless of what the financial implications for Hornby. If the windscreen wipers can be picked out in black, why not add add the cantrail stripe instead?

While the coupling would have been welcomed like a long lost relative twenty years ago, the funny short buffers really spoil things. The bright red tail lamps look wrong too - when the lamps are off, the have a much darker, crimson and . maroon appearance. Red looks rather toy like I feel.

The chassis is exactly the same as the Lima version with a lot of plastic where there should be daylight, the 'moulded gap'. It does give the model a rather dated appearance - although I'm happy to chop and modify Lima models, it's a different situation here. With the Lima ones I'm hacking at older models which I've bought cheaply or had for years, here we have a brand new model which needs the same treatment! Not a problem but some people may be apprehensive. But we need to remember that this is a budget model which is priced some considerable way below other RTR class 47s on the market. At £89.99 it's still not cheap but for what you get as a package, it's rather good. Of course the main attraction is the sound!

So for less than the cost of a sound decoder, we have a complete locomotive. But the main question is, is it any good? Hornby have been very keen to promote their Twin Track Sound (TTS) products. The price is, I think, the main selling point.

Much of it is subjective. For me sound is good up to a point but overly loud locos can dominate layouts and not be particularly pleasing. When a train passes the sound of the loco is only part of it - watch a freight pass and its the roar of the wagons which causes most noise. Few layouts really use sound effectively, Mark Tatlow's Portchullin is one where sound seems to be perfectly executed, subtle unlike many exhibition layouts running sound locos! So is sound part of our pursiut of realism or just a bit of fun? Well, that's up to the individual - I can see the fun my little boy had running the loco up and down a four foot test track!

And it's rather good - for the money, it's surprisingly good! It's not to the same quality as a top end set up, as you might expect, but still good from the test running I've done - I could have filmed it, but it would have looked like all of those video reviews on You Tube which also show you how to open the boxes... But this from Hornby will give you a good idea of the range of sounds -

My main issue is the severe lack of weight which affects the model's tractive effort significantly - Lima used the rather crude but effective method of sections of steel bar for weighting its British models, Hornby have used a die-cast weight in its place. There is a cut out to accommodate the speaker which reduces the weight even more. Once I get to work I'll address the weight issue - anyone who's converted Lima models will be used to this anyway! It should improve both haulage and slow speed running.

The roof is one of the best areas with this model - since we normally look down on a our models, this is no bad thing either. The subtlety of the Lima tool making is not always equalled by more recent releases.

As a package, I think the model works really well - you can argue that it lacks all sorts of things. These extras will cost money, and Bachmann provide a readily available alternative if you desire more factory applied details and a choice of liveries anyway. So a basic model which is well proportioned and sounds pretty good for this sort of money sits quite well with me. If you shop around you can get the TTS class 47 for just short of seventy quid too which makes it a very attractive proposition, especially as second hand prices on eBay and Facebook seem to verging on the ridiculous! Plus it provides an excellent base for further work. Spend a few quid on parts from Shawplan and along with a few other details and time you can easily build a model which can easily eclipse more expensive options. This is definitely an option which deserves consideration.


Hornby Railroad Class 47 TTS

Friday, 13 May 2016

Evening Stars

Class 66, 66779 is the final member of its class to be built for the UK and European markets. Since 1998 the class 66 has been a key part of the railway scene all over Britain and this loco represents the end of this era of locomotive construction. GB Railfreight has decided to mark this by naming the loco Evening Star, the name which was given to the BR 9F, 92220, which was built at Swindon Works in 1960 and was the final mainline steam locomotive built for use in the UK. It was named at the National Railway Museum in York on 10th May 2016.

The plate below the name reads -



This is in the style and sentiment of the plates below the nameplates on 92220 Evening Star, noting its significance and GBRF have said that when the loco is withdrawn it will be donated to the National Collection.


GB Railfreight

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Penbits Class 37

Of all the recent innovations within the hobby, the easy availability of sprung diesel bogies must rate very highly indeed. Both Penbits, as here, and Rumney Models (I have a set of their Warship bogies to build soon) have established a range of bogies for a variety of classes.

For a while now I've been working on Penbits bogies for a class 47 and a class 37, the latter can be seen here. The kits are very well designed and the brake gear is superb - a bit fiddly in places due to the small size of components, but it all goes together rather well. The one disadvantage of modelling diesel locos is that there is a lot of brake gear and it can get repetitive. A little and often approach works very well!

The Penbits bogies all complete and working very nicely; over the last couple of days I've added the cosmetic frames with their separate brake cylinders and steps. The brake cylinders are the last of my stock of Hornby Class 50 ones. The steps are modified from the Bachmann originals with PH Designs step treads epoxied on. As they come the PHD etch for the steps have the two lower the steps mis-spaced. So, whilst the solution isn't perfect, the overall effect is relatively pleasing. But at five quid a set for the steps, just using the treads isn't very cost effective - I used them as I had them in stock and had intended to use them for the model before realising the issue with them.

So the model is mechanically complete now, all the remains is to add the remaining details, and there are a lot of them, especially around the underframe - it could take a while!

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Birchwood Casey Super Blue

After sixteen years my bottle of 'Birchwood Casey Super Blue' has finally run out! I bought my bottle from Martyn Welch when he was demonstrating at York MRS one year. I think I was about sixteen at the time. It's great stuff too - intended for re-bluing shot guns, it works well on nickel silver and brass too as well as the obvious steel, for which it is really intended. For chassis and running gear this is much better than painting, you loose any chance of paint gumming anything up. I have moved to 'painting' all my chassis with this, as it leaves a lovely dull metallic appearance which, once weathered, is just right for these part of a vehicle. As you can see, it worked very effectively on these Penbits bogies too.