Aimed at O gauge newcomers and GWR fans alike, Dapol's model iteration of the Collett locomotive is measured by Howard Smith.
One of the most antiquated of locomotive designs, the GWR's Collett 14XX Class can trace its roots back to the railway's George Armstrong 517 Class of 1868. Numbered 4800 to 4874 when introduced from 1932, the final locomotives of the 75-strong Class survived into the 1960s, with No. 1450 being the last locomotive to see active service, retiring from Oxford shed in May, 1965. Locomotives were built with auto gear for working with auto trailers and fitted with Automatic Train Control (ATC). A later batch of locomotives numbered 5800 to 5819 was constructed in 1933, without auto gear, though some class members would be fitted with ATC equipment, later.
The flyweight 0-4-2 wheel configuration suited the Class for its light passenger and mixed-freight duties, being six tonnes lighter than a 57XX 0-6-0T 'Pannier' locomotive. They were more efficient in their consumption of fuel for their given duties owing to their lower boiler pressure, smaller 16in diameter cylinders and larger 5ft 2in driving wheels, enabling the GWR to maintain many rural passenger and pick-up freight services across its vast network of secondary routes, from the South West, through the Midlands and Wales. No 1450 became a celebrity when featured in the 1953 film, The Titfield Thunderbolt and has been preserved with three others, Nos. 1420, 1442 and 1466.
Models of the 14XX and 58XX Classes were announced for O gauge by Dapol at the Telford Gauge O Guild exhibition in September, 2017. Models are now arriving with customers and Dapol has kindly offered a review sample of No. 5819 in unlined black with early BR crest for scrutiny.
FROM THE BOX
A plastic frame in two halves, screwed together, secures the locomotive inside the foam within the box. The solution parts from the manufacturer's traditional foam-only packaging which was prone to catch fine details if not lifted with care from the box. An upgrade, then?
An 0-4-2T wheel configuration is a challenge to ensure correct weighting over the driven axles without neglecting the springing of the trailing axle to prevent derailing if running in reverse. Dapol's model runs smoothly and confidently, however, thanks to a weight balance point in the centre of the hub of the rear driving axle thanks to the design of its die-cast chassis and running plate. The even weight distribution is managed by the chassis across potential track undulations by a vertically-sprung rear driving axle and a compensated trailing axle. The leading axle is rigid, providing stability. Its 697g weight isn't much for O gauge, but is quite adequate for the small four-coupled locomotive which often would only be tasked with a few bogie coaches, at most. Dapol's model offers great slow-running capabilities.
The manufacturer has made an excellent effort at capturing the lines and details of the prototype. Early CAD images revealed by the manufacturer and posted on Rmweb.co.uk highlighted minor detail discrepancies on riveted panels joins, which Dapol has corrected before production, demonstrating it values customer feedback.
Dapol's new 0-4-2Ts are available in DC, DCC, or DCC sound-fitted guises. For modellers wishing to upgrade DC models – regardless of manufacturer – to DCC or DCC sound at a later date, a common headache has been in the disassembly of locomotives, without damaging intricate detail. Dapol's considered solution for rapid Printed Circuit Board (PCB) access is to offer a smokebox door which can be gently prised from the boiler using the hinged side for leverage – don't pull on it using the smokebox dart or these might break! The PCB then slides out, offering a straightforward fit, and slides back in, engaging easily. DCC fitting has never been so logical – a new industry standard, we hope.
A further design consideration made by the manufacturer is its removable cab roof, allowing a crew to be positioned in the cab easily. Held in-situ by a magnet, it's a snug fit, and prevents the use of adhesives by modellers, particularly helpful given the close proximity of the glazed cab windows.
Inside the cab, backhead detail is exquisite. Gauges are clearly legible, right down to the needles, with discernible numeration to the face of dials. The best I've seen on an RTR model in the scale. The pipes feeding these are highlighted with an authentic shade of copper paint.
Boiler water level sight gauges are painted a copper colour, with correct black and white stripes as would be seen behind the glass. It would appear that decals have been used for these stripes. Regulator and reverser are picked out in red, with silver handles. Completing the look is the ATC cab apparatus in the corner and a flickering LED light located in the firebox – a subtle yet satisfying animation, which complements DCC sound-fitted models.
Un-numbered versions of each livery are available, allowing modellers to model specific locomotives. A great deal of effort has been made to ensure the locomotive shape looks correct. When placed side-by-side with RTR locomotives of etched construction, which carried an RRP of more than double the price, or more, it's difficult to discern where the extra value is over this injection-moulded plastic equivalent. Perhaps the thickness of the thinner brass around the water tank tops is the only noticeable difference? The shapes on this locomotive all look correct, as does the excellent rivet detail, which surrounds a great deal of the model. Particular favourite areas for me have to be the sanding gear rods to the front, boiler wash-out plugs and two whistles. Sprung metal buffers and articulated screw couplings are provided.
Battery boxes for the ATC equipment are modelled, located behind the trailing axle on the driver's side. Modellers seeking to refine detail will be hard-pushed to find much at fault, though the smokebox door number and shed plate could be enhanced with raised etched replacements over the printed versions present. Handrails and lamp brackets are separately-applied and well-observed.
Dapol's 14XX models are an ideal companion to its recently-released GWR autocoach to form a short push-pull consist. The manufacturer's 58XX iterations are ideal for running with kit-built four-wheel coaches if running an earlier period, or with later bogie non-corridor stock, or a selection of goods vehicles for the BR period. These small and accessible locomotives are making a large impression, finding homes with many existing and new O gauge modellers, enticing more to join the scale. Highly-recommended.