VIDEO: Unboxing Heljan's Class 03

19 February 2020
Howard Smith casts an eye over the latest RTR locomotive to come from the Danish manufacturer. Does it live up to expectations?

The rapid dieselisation of Britain’s railways yielded many new designs of motive power, many of which would have to prove themselves in use. The Beeching axe severed many of the country’s lines which connected smaller rail-served manufacturers, docks or branch lines to pick-up goods interchanges. Before it did, however, these routes that required locomotives with light axle loadings and short wheelbases to negotiate the tight track radii were operated by a variety of compact locomotives.


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British Railways identified a requirement for 230 shunting locomotives to a lighter axle loading than its standard Class 08 shunters. Built between BR’s Doncaster and Swindon works, the class of diesel-mechanical locomotives were 19T lighter than the Class 08s and entered service numbered D2000-D2199 and D2370-D2399. The mechanical drive from the 203hp Gardner engine to a five-speed gearbox and final drive unit was less-cumbersome and lighter than a generator and two large traction motors. The class was mostly used on short freight work, though some members would see use as station pilots, often coupled to a runner wagon or ‘match truck’ to complete track circuits because of their short wheelbase.

For the O gauge modeller, kits for this locomotive have been available for some time, and a ready-made – though unpainted – brass model was issued a number of years ago from Bachmann. Modellers have had access to this prototype in model form in limited numbers, though surely Heljan has made it more accessible with the release of this new model in RTR form. At 875g, the model has a useful tractive effort. We received a sample of D2011 in BR green with late crest and conical chimney (2051). The locomotive is one of only two from this batch to have the chimney, the other eight have the wider ‘flowerpot’ chimney. For such a locomotive to be issued with a choice of 10 liveries, from BR green to BR blue, industrial blue/yellow and industrial yellow is great for modellers, though I wonder who will be brave enough to paint a model into First Capital Connect purple as applied to 03179 Clive when based at Hornsey depot?

Read the full review in the Spring 2020 issue of BRM, on-sale February 27.