06 August 2020
Hattons has worked in consort with Heljan to produce this injection-moulded O gauge steam locomotive to rival many metal-bodied models of this popular LNER prototype. Andy York reviews.
Hattons production of a ready-to-run O gauge A4 'Pacific' is an admirable project bringing a top-link steam express locomotive to market for a similar price as we may expect a mass-market diesel. It’s certainly impressive when you’ve carefully removed the model from its protective packaging and wooden plinth which secures it well in transit and take time to admire the vast array of fine detail.
O gauge steam locomotives have long been dominated by metal-bodied products but the economies of injection-moulded plastic have been employed to bring a beautiful-looking model to the shelf at reasonable price, and Hattons has worked in consort with Heljan to produce this model. Although the bodywork components are plastic there is plenty of metal within the chassis construction and weighting in the boiler to ensure that this 2.3kg model has the mass and performance to tackle what is likely to be expected of it on a layout; in fact it has exceeded the performance of its A3 model on test.
Our review model is of 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley in the livery that it wore on main line railtours across the network in the mid-1990s with a pleasing tone of British Railways express blue with black and white lining. The giveaway for the period is the inclusion of overhead warning flashes on the locomotive and tender, details which would not have been seen in this livery whilst in service in the 1950s. The locomotive also has a double chimney, which it never carried when in BR blue ownership.
Hattons, through the extensive tooling suite for the models, has provided for the significant variations within the class in the course of their life; single and double chimney locomotives with corridor and non-corridor tenders in streamlined and non-streamlined form. In each of the principal liveries from LNER silver as first introduced through to the preservation era, Hattons has produced numbered and named locomotives, plus unnumbered models in LNER silver, LNER garter blue, British Railways express blue and British Railways green in early and late crest forms. There are a few significant liveries which have not yet been planned, LNER apple green and NE wartime black; maybe they will come about in the future?
I have just priced a resin and brass kit up with the wheels, motor and gearbox and it comes to roughly the cost of this model. It then has to be built, painted and decorated which is many, many hours or a hefty bill to a professional builder and painter. Straight out of the box the model is ready to go, as more of the additional parts supplied with the A3 are now factory-fitted on the A4 which is at a slight variation with the accompanying instruction booklet.
It is very straightforward to fit a DCC decoder. The tender should be disconnected from the locomotive via the drawbar screw and unplug the connecting wire plug. The tender body is released by two screws beneath the tender chassis and the tender body can then be removed to reveal the socket for an ESU L-type decoder. If you wish to fit a sound speaker there are two potential positions; below the decoder socket in the tender or below the chimney in the locomotive. Should you wish to fit the speaker in the better position inside the smokebox, this will involve the removal of the locomotive body where the instructions should be followed very carefully as this involves removing the expansion link bracket.
The standard of finish and decoration is high. I have read some comments about the curved lining around the smokebox area of the locomotive so I have looked into this area more closely. It is a horrendously complex area of changing shape and curvature which must be a nightmare to tampo-print onto but I have found that the lining (and degree of separation between white and black lines which continuously changes) has been accurately spaced to give the illusion from the side elevation that the lines are equidistant. Just below this our model of Sir Nigel Gresley has polished steel treadplates on the streamlined casing over the cylinders, I’ve not been able to find a picture of the real locomotive in this state, but I am assured that it was done on occasion when the locomotive was ‘bulled-up’ for some tours.
I can’t find anything to really fault on the model, bar the omission of the vertical cab handrail on the locomotive cab side. It was simply overlooked despite several stages of cross-checking. These things can happen when concentrating on other lesser detail but, being honest, it’s not a problem for a modeller to add their own if they so wish – that will be an awful lot easier than building a whole kit!
I have tested the model over a short section of O gauge trackwork and pointwork and it’s remarkably smooth and quiet. Sadly I don’t have the means to give it a longer loaded run, but I am assured its capacities have exceeded the previous A3 so that should be good for a long trainload of kit-built coaches. In short, this model is probably one of the most impressive RTR products I have unboxed and it will find a lot of loving homes and display cases given the price point.