19 October 2018
Hornby’s TTS system provides a budget route into DCC sound. Even better when it comes fitted to this wallet-friendly Railroad model.
As part of its drive to improve the efficiency of steam traction after Nationalisation, British Railways built ten of its Standard 9F 2-10-0s with experimental Franco-Crosti boilers in 1955. Pioneered in Italy in the 1930s, the concept uses hot exhaust gases to pre-heat the water supply for the boiler. The feedwater heater is essentially a second boiler, giving modified locomotives their distinctive appearance.
Franco-Crosti boilers were fitted to many steam locomotives in Italy, and to small numbers of West German, Belgian and British machines. BR Nos. 92020-029 were delivered with the distinctive side exhaust arrangement and feedwater heater drum under the boiler between the frames. Other features included the additional stepboards and handrail on the right-hand side of the cab and a standard chimney with blanking plate inside (it was only used when lighting up).
Unfortunately, BR found that Nos. 92020-029 didn’t deliver the expected improvements and were more complicated to maintain than conventional 9Fs, as well as unpleasant for footplate crews. Acidic flue gases also caused corrosion in the feedwater heaters and it was decided to convert the ten locomotives to a more conventional arrangement in 1959-62. The preheaters remained in place under the standard boiler, but with the door removed and blanked off. Converted Franco-Crosti 9Fs were also downgraded to 8F power classification. All were allocated to the London Midland Region at Wellingborough (15A) and employed on heavy coal and ironstone drags on the Midland Main Line. As a popular subject for kit-builders and kit-bashers, the ‘Crostis’ retained a high enough profile to eventually start figuring in ‘wish list’ polls and attract the attention of Hornby.
Hornby’s model was released in 2015 as one of the first all-new models dedicated to the Railroad range. With an RRP of £119.99 and decent levels of detail it blurred the lines between Railroad and the ‘red box’ range but was well received by BR era modellers who welcomed its good looks and reasonable pricing. Now Hornby has taken the ‘Crosti’ a step further by introducing a version with Twin Track Sound (TTS) and DCC.
Early emblem black No. 92025 is Hornby’s chosen subject, delivered in (almost) original form with all the Franco-Crosti trimmings and the additional smoke deflector added by BR in an attempt to keep exhaust from the side chimney out of the cab. This locomotive was delivered to Wellingborough in June 1955, stored in April 1959 and rebuilt in 1960, finally being withdrawn from Birkenhead in November 1967. It’s probably fair to say that although the model features some separately fitted detail, such as wire handrails, a tender ladder and turned brass safety valves, it is clear that it was designed to keep within a tight budget. That said, it’s far from being a poor model; it conveys the ungainly appearance of the prototype effectively, overall shape and detail is good and details such as the external pipework are crisply moulded. Don’t let the Railroad box put you off – this is a credible model that also offers lots of potential for super-detailing and weathering.
If you’re looking for a cheaper way into DCC sound, this 9F (and the expanding range of TTS models) is certainly worth a look. There are more advanced sound decoders on the market, but for many modellers this will be more than satisfactory. The two-cylinder sound is simple but effective but only works on DCC power. A downward-facing, 28mm diameter round speaker is fitted in the tender.
A total of 15 functions includes background steam/exhaust/coasting (F1), four different whistles, wheel slip, coal shovelling, injectors, blower on/off and even the fireman’s breakfast sizzling. A comprehensive instruction sheet is provided to guide you through the many sound and decoder functions. Read it thoroughly before you get started.
Kindly supplied by Hornby, our sample performed well on test and operated faultlessly with an NCE PowerCab controller on Peco Code 75 track. Haulage power wasn’t up to the exceptional standards of the Bachmann 9F, but No. 92025 ran smoothly and quietly straight from the box.
With an RRP of £154.99 at launch it’s around £100 less than most sound-fitted British OO models and pitched at a price point similar to many medium and large steam locomotives. For comparison, a Bachmann DCC Ready, weathered 9F is £164.95 while a Hornby ‘red box’ LNER B1 4-6-0 without DCC or sound is £159.95.
Although the full-size locomotives weren’t a success, they’ve benefitted from our enthusiasm for quirky and different subjects. The addition of TTS sound has given Hornby’s model an extra dimension at a price that should appeal to a wide audience. Highly recommended.
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