16 December 2019
Small industrial locomotives are 'all the rage'. Howard Smith examines Hornby's latest iteration.
Small industrial locomotives are all the rage at the moment. Many of the model railways on the exhibition circuit are smaller than before, with many home layouts no longer than the wall of a spare bedroom. Compact end-to-end layouts are à la mode and modellers are seeking suitable subjects for these, turning to industrial themes for inspiration. Hornby was quick to realise this with the release of its Sentinel shunters, continuing with its W4 0-4-0ST 'Peckett'. The locomotives have sold well for the manufacturer, many models finding a home on existing model railways, though I suspect they have been equally responsible for the creation of many a new layout. Its latest ‘Peckett’ depicts the B2 0-6-0ST variant.
Peckett 0-6-0ST Westminster is a fine model. Be wary of the safety valves, prone to bending if not handled with care. Drain cocks on the cylinders are equally delicate, though superb.
Kindly sent for review by Hornby is a sample of B2 0-6-0 ‘Peckett’ No. 1378 Westminster, the prototype of which was constructed at the locomotive manufacturer’s Bristol works in 1914. Built for a War Office order, it was delivered to Sir John Jackson on November 6 of the same year for use on the Larkhill Military Railway. Later, it moved to the Fovant Military Railway on Salisbury Plain. After the end of WWI, it was sold to Associated Portland Cement (APC), then sent to its Houghton Regis, Dunstable site and later to its Shipton-on-Cherwell site. It ended its working life as APC’s No. 5 at Kiddlington Works, Oxfordshire. Sold in 1972, the locomotive is now preserved.
Instantly obvious when handling is the weight of the model for its size. At 179g with three driven axles, this small locomotive is a capable item and can haul a scale-length train with ease. The die-cast chassis, buffer beams and running plate are mostly responsible for this weight, making it usefully robust.
Peer closely along the length of the chassis and a pleasing revelation of the rivets and bolts that hold cylinders, slide bar hanger and brake hangers into place is observed. Even the riveted ashpan between the middle and rearmost axle is to be found. A closer study of the chassis, above the running plate reveals the springs, intricately-represented. All exquisite. This extra detail elevates the model from being ‘good’ to a masterpiece. For those still in doubt, simply peer inside the cab - the backhead detail is of the highest order and some of the best I've seen on a OO gauge model for some time. Though the moulded firebox door detail with sight gauges appears identical to its previous W4 ‘Peckett’, on which some of the CAD artwork for this new model was based, the separately-fitted spoked injector control wheels and pipework appear marginally finer with better definition. I defy anyone to justify how this model could be better without these details and yet, its price remains sensible.
Two screws permit access to remove the bodyshell from the chassis. Its design offers sufficient space ahead of the motor to fit most standard DCC decoders, once the blanking plug is removed.
Hornby began the CAD design for this model in July 2017, completing it the following month, helped no-doubt by access to the works drawings from ‘Peckett'. Though the B2 given its lineage shares similarities with the W4 previously released by Hornby, its design team has still invested considerable time into the model.
Well-observed valve gear with lubricator detail and discreet crank pins benefit the model immensely. A faint hairline mould line appears either side of the plastic water tank centre line and diagonally to the front of the running plate on this die-cast part. Neither are visible from most angles and they don't offend, but I wonder if the first could have been located behind the grab rails? The finesse of components is just ‘right’, though handle with care to avoid bending the safety valves and cab roof-mounted whistle.
The motor is discreetly hidden and provides ample smooth power to the centre axle. The connecting rod and anodised slide bar are accurate in their angle and portrayal, with crank pins to a scale size, its wheels looking equally authentic, too. Buffer beam detail is superb, a draw-hook and turned push-fit buffers complete the look.
In addition to this smart livery, the locomotives are also available in two colliery liveries - Sherwood Colliery Co. olive green as No. 4 Sherwood and NCB blue as works No. 1455. The livery application on our sample is exceptional for its uniformity, crispness of edges and lack of detritus that is sometimes apparent under the paint of models. Bar the underside of the water tanks, which have the smallest amount of black overspray that isn't visible from normal viewing angles, I have nothing but praise to offer for its meticulous application by the factory workers. The colours on this livery are tasteful with green, red, golds and silver, all to a satin finish. I have visions of an effective production line spraying each and applying them in a manner which doesn’t cover adjacent areas with glue. As with its W4 ‘Peckett’, the smaller details are wonderfully picked out without overspray and not a trace of glue in sight. The builder’s plate is quite legible under magnification, while the Portland Cement circle logo is beautifully-depicted.
A photograph found on the internet of works No. 1378 at Associated Portland Cement, Shipton on Cherwell highlights how the prototype locomotive was transformed throughout its life, having lost its front buffers for 'dumb' buffers by July, 1964, with its cab having gained side tarpaulins over its exposed apertures – creature comforts for its crew. Its dome looked fairly dented, too, with an upturned bucket located on the running plate. A nameplate, not included, could easily be added by the modeller from one of the many aftermarket etched plate manufacturers. Such small modifications can make your sample of this outstanding model stand out from the crowd.
Inside the cab, backhead detail is exquisite.
Hornby was renowned for its small locomotives, the tooling for which is still used in many of its starter train sets, though for more-discerning modellers, time has got the better of these. However, through Hornby's 'bread and butter' main line locomotives we see a new generation of highly-detailed smaller locomotives emerge, not for its train sets, but destined largely for those with existing model railways.
With its forthcoming Ruston 48DS 0-4-0, Hornby’s small locomotive trend is set to continue and I expect we'll see further models of similar compact design emerge with time. An excellent model, which, whether fitted with its six-pin decoder, or in its DCC-ready guise is unsurprisingly proving to be a good seller. Highly recommended.