11 March 2020
Andy York praises Bachmann's new multiple-unit for its innovative chassis, lighting features and close-coupling ability.
I’m certainly not decrying the model, not one bit, but for me BR’s Class 158 introduced from 1989 meant the end of so many locomotive-hauled secondary passenger services with their spread across the whole network at a rapid rate. Of course, they were generally more comfortable, faster and with better facilities (what have the Romans ever done for us?) but they heralded the end of window-hanging and the beat of Type 2 and 3 haulage. Aside from some brake and air-conditioning reliability issues they were the face of a more efficient railway to come.
The Class 158 arrived on the market just before Christmas and the three-car Class 159 with its centre trailer vehicle in revised Network SouthEast livery is now available. Each of the Regional Railways, East Midlands Trains, GWR and Network SouthEast models are available in DCC-ready and sound-fitted form variants.
Bachmann’s Plux22 decoder is only 3.5mm thick which further helps to conceal the provision.
Out of the box the immediate impression is of typical Bachmann livery application quality; it’s faultless. The chassis and underframe details are excellent too, with no ugly compromises around tanks and equipment boxes; link that to the low floor depth inside the vehicles which means interesting interior detail such as luggage racks can be modelled in addition to the seating, and it seems inconceivable how all this can be achieved, until I got to completely dismantle the vehicles. After unscrewing the front valance of the car, prise off the bodyshell and then unscrew the ceiling circuit board with their interior LEDs. The seating unit is then unscrewed and removed and then the main circuit board can be lifted up to reveal the small three-pole motor concealed within the underframe gearbox with a cardan shaft and small gearbox unit to drive both axles of the inner bogie of the vehicle, as with the real units. Simple when you see it, but a brilliant bit of design. Both driving vehicles are motorised and the performance is quite strong considering the diminutive size of the drive mechanism.
Whilst the model looks the part from every angle, the real story lies inside the model with the innovative chassis.
Good design continues with the provision for DCC decoder fitting; a section of the underframe shown in the clear instruction unplugs to reveal the PluX22 blanking plug and socket. The use of connective 12-pin couplings between vehicles means that only one decoder is needed per train, giving full control over the day or night directional lighting, passenger saloon lighting, door interlocking lights and back-lit destinations over the driver’s windscreen. Analogue users can choose their lighting modes from the four dipswitches under the chassis.
There are no ugly tension-lock couplings on the ends of the model nor NEM pockets, but a good representation of the prototypical BSI coupling which enables the modeller to realistically couple two units together.
Read the full review in the Spring 2020 issue of BRM, available to download from www.pocketmags.com/brm