23 April 2021
As Bachmann releases its latest iteration of the Type 2 Bo-Bo from English Electric, Andy York examines the model, with a history of the sub-class.
With their expanding and diversifying operations after 1998, Direct Rail Services (DRS) had ten Class 20s, later expanding to a fleet of 15, rebuilt by Wabtec between 1998 and 1999. These locomotives were distinguishable from their predecessors by the plated nose and cab ends with reinforced cab windows with Wipac lights fitted, plus increased fuel capacity with tanks in front of the cab and in the nose. Multiple Unit connectors were added to the ends allowing operation with other Class 20/3 locomotives. The fleet of Class 20/3s owned by DRS saw frequent work across Britain in pairs (or with Class 37s) on nuclear flask trains, the company's speciality. DRS supplied Class 20s for use with the Rail Head Treatment Train in winter, too.
It’s almost 20 years since Bachmann introduced a Class 20 to its Branchline range, which became its first sound-fitted model in 2005, but, make no mistake, this model isn't just a reworking of that well-regarded model, but a newly-tooled one with a view to delivering the features that modellers of today wish to see in a new product. The old benefits of a beautifully-running model that looked the part haven’t been lost, though, and the model has performed to the same standards as my old fleet on test.
Starting inside-out, the model has an all-new chassis block, running plate and bogies. The five-pole motor has been laid lower to facilitate more space at the top for the circuitry. The board has a pre-fitted speaker, which sits behind the engine-room grilles, plug and socket connections for all wiring and a PluX22 decoder socket meaning that sound-fitting will be as simple as it can be once the two screws securing the body have been removed.
Beneath the chassis, the white tanks can be removed for analogue users to configure lighting modes via DIP switches. Operation of the cab light, which is a yellow LED with directional function can be switched as day or night mode with a purer white light.
The new body tooling covers the cab-roof radio pods and ventilators, and the distinctive cab and nose ends of a Class 20/3 with the removal of doors and headcode panels to give a clean look with the plated surface. At the base of the cab end and above the bufferbeam at the nose end are the prominent Wipac light boxes with headlights and taillights. Centrally-mounted at both ends are the multiple working connector sockets in their downward-facing mountings and, at a higher level, the forward running light. The grille vent at the top of the cab end doesn't seem to quite match the appearance of the prototype images that I have seen of 20306. The aforementioned cab lighting really shows up the level of internal detail. To fit a crew, the cab interior can be removed from inside but it requires a little persuasion. The detailing pack includes the usual bufferbeam piping, cosmetic screw-link couplings and snowploughs. The sprung metal buffers are in polished steel, representing how the locomotive was initially delivered.
Body decoration is up to Bachmann’s usual high standard and this model, 20306, is in the early style of DRS branding with pale blue panels over the base Oxford Blue colouring. The locomotive retained this livery from its introduction with DRS in 1999 through to its withdrawal in 2013.
For those who prefer the later ‘Compass’ branded locomotives, Bachmann is releasing 20312 in this livery at the same time. That seems a good enough reason to indulge in two models so that trains can be double-headed or 'topped and tailed'. DRS disposed of some of its fleet and one such example is the model of 20311 in Harry Needle Railroad Company’s somewhat bright orange livery – an ideal accompaniment to Bachmann’s Underground S Stock for trains between the works at Derby and the TfL network.
I’m delighted to see what’s inside this new model as it will, in time, provide an ideal platform for new models of earlier Class 20s.