07 August 2020
Andy York shares his thoughts on this model of the plucky 0-6-0T, so popular with enthusiasts.
The old Hornby (ex-Dapol) 0-6-0T 'Terrier' was long in the tooth and was ready for a modern replacement. At the point of announcement by Dapol/Rails of Sheffield, research and design was well underway. Meanwhile, under wraps, Hornby was also working to replace its aged model and announced its version the January after, as featured in the ‘James May’s Big Trouble in Model Britain’ BBC4 series, which led to a small arms race. Hornby was determined to get its to market first (as reviewed in BRM May 2019), while Rails and Dapol took the opportunity to make further improvements to their model. So, is there a difference?
The first four models of the 12 previously announced have now arrived, in the form of two BR lined black A1X examples in early and late crest guise, the umber LBSC livery and K&ESR blue A1 early models, with the rest to follow. Such are the permutations of variations between the models to reflect the real things, there’s a huge variety of potential to come, too. It should be noted that examples produced by Dapol are of the locomotives as they were in service and not as preserved. As there have been various changes and loose interpretations over the years, extensive research has been carried out to replicate this as accurately as is reasonable.
No longer does a generic model of a class suffice purporting to masquerade as individual locomotives with a 'one size fits none' approach, and so Rails and Dapol have worked upon extensive tooling to cater for the wide variety of observations of a class that were notionally referred to as ‘Terriers’ because of their exhaust bark.
The long story starts back in the early 1870s with the introduction of the A1 class for suburban work. Of the original class of 50 locomotives, 17 were rebuilt as A1X class with new boilers, extended smokeboxes and the removal of the sandboxes and condensing pipes.
Our review model represents Bodiam in Kent and East Sussex Railway’s blue livery. The locomotive was built for the LB&SCR as No. 70 Poplar and sold to the Rother Valley Railway (later to become the K&ESR) in 1901, still in original A1 form. The front end of such locomotives is the best indicator of what class they are, with the short smokebox and wing plates extending to the front of the sandboxes, short hinges on the smokebox door and the smooth finish to the door surround. The model captures this face exquisitely and accurately. At the rear of the locomotive, the model has the original style of bunker with open coal rails as added by the K&ESR after acquisition and a toolbox that sits on the bufferbeam.
It’s a little unusual to see a OO gauge model without a coal load in the bunker, but I view that as a positive as it’s more likely that modellers will bring a more accurate coal load to an in-service model. My thanks to James Hilsdon for allowing me to look at reference photographs of Bodiam in this form so that I can say with confidence that it has been accurately represented. The only minor points in that regards show that vacuum brake pipes and stands had been fitted to the bufferbeam at some point and that there were boltheads on the bunker sides for fixing the coal rails, but that would have meant a new cab tooling just for one locomotive. There are different cab backs between models, smoothed rivetted seam, bolted centre seam and a forthcoming single sheet; the top of the back extends into the roof, which looks a little odd under close examination but isn't overly intrusive. Beneath the boiler is a representation of the internal motion to the cylinders.
I won’t fault any aspect of the decoration and livery; it is really nicely executed. One visual area of this model that I feel is better, in particular, is the blackened wheels, coupling rods and crank pins. Inside the cab, too, there are clear distinctions. Dapol’s spectacle window glazing uses individual circular parts, better than the full width part used by Hornby, which means the gauges and piping are better portrayed. On top of that, the Dapol model has a firebox LED, which has random flickering even with analogue control, which can be tweaked on DCC models. The rear sheet of the cab even includes doors to the bunker on the interior, so that is really well executed, although I feel the mustard yellow flooring is crying out for toning down. It will be a tight fit to get a crew in there but it would certainly look better manned.
For the photographs, I removed the tension-lock couplings as they look monstrous on such a diminutive and elegant model. To remove the body, simply unscrew the NEM coupling pockets and lift the body from the running plate. A thin-bladed screwdriver may be necessary just above the securing points if it doesn’t immediately separate. On lifting the body away, I managed to separate one of the wires from the inbuilt speaker but it’s a straightforward fix. Inside we get to see the compact five-pole motor, circuitry and Next18 decoder socket. I do like the Next18 standard as it doesn’t waste space and is the easiest decoder type to fit. Rails will be providing sound-fitted models in due course, but sound fitting would be as simple as it comes, thanks to that speaker which has been pre-fitted inside the tank body.
Although the model only weighs in at 100g, it feels nicely balanced and I know Dapol has worked to get good adhesive mass into the model with a die-cast chassis and running plate; its performance on the test track wasn’t a problem with six coaches on the flat. The motor is smooth and adequately quiet with good performance over pointwork. Electrical pickup is via copper contacts to the rear of the wheel faces, which can be accessed after removing the keeper plate. There is also a degree of vertical springing to the centre axle, which helps to maintain contact over any slightly raised areas of trackwork.
In summary, this is a very well executed model of an attractive and interesting prototype. Yes, there are differences between this and its competitor. Which one is better for you may depend on which permutation is available, but in a head-to-head my decision is on the Rails/Dapol side due to the ease of DCC fitting, sound provision and additional functionality; a technical win. In addition, there is a greater variety of models available, with clear evidence that the tooling produced will be able to replicate virtually every locomotive in this complex class.