18 September 2023
A sample of one of two new models extracted from Hornby's tooling arrives. Three decades on, has the design aged gracefully?
First things first – nobody is pretending that this is an all-new cutting-edge RTR model. Hornby's Class 40 tooling dates back to its acquisition of Lima in 2004, further modified in 2010. The original tooling dates back to 1988, but this isn't from that era.
D210 Empress of Britain (R30192) sees its latest chassis modifications with a die-cast lump providing much-needed weight – the model still being a little light on its feet at 266g, but traction tyres fitted to two wheels help compensate. Hence, space for a downward-facing speaker is provided, as is an 8-pin decoder interface for plug-and-play ease of use.
For DCC installation and sound upgrades, or interior detailing, accessing the interior is a 'doddle', thanks to a bodyshell that unclips easily with fingernails rather than searching for hidden screws. And the plastic doesn't creak, either! It's a hangover feature from similar models designed during a much simpler era for detail – in this respect, the model has aged well. If only the model revision had provided lights, too...
Running-wise, small motor technology has evolved since 1988. It's a smooth performer, and though I haven't taken the gear-train assembly apart – 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it!' – the Hornby website states it is equipped with a five-pole skew-wound motor.
Decorated etched nameplates are as good as you'll find – commendably fine with red, white, silver and light blue colours. Time-consuming to produce in a factory, they save the purchaser the expense of having them made as an after-market item.
'Railroad Plus' enhanced livery branding is applied to these latest versions. Is it needed to sway buyers?
"Oh, I can buy a model like that for less on eBay" claims the odd social media critic. Perhaps true, but in what state of repair? Many an older model's mechanism and decoration has seen better days. And, the decoration of the originals released many moons ago wasn't all that, anyway – self-coloured plastic with many versions, certainly a far-cry from the high-standard applied to this model which includes intricate etched nameplates as standard in the box. The second-hand market is 'littered' with 'old dogs' and savvy buyers should be wary.
In this, you have a new model, blemish-free and guaranteed to run well. And by that, if it doesn't, you can return it to your retailer for a refund, or exchange it for one that does. At prices well under £100 from retailers, it removes the annoyance of buying a second-hand 'lemon', while keeping the hobby open and more accessible to all budgets.