Review: Hattons Class 66


By Howard Smith

15 January 2020

Hattons Model Railways highly-anticipated Class 66 models are en route to customers - time for a review?

Selecting the magazine review samples we feature, a few days after a friendly, informative chat with Hattons’ helpful staff, 66621 in Freightliner green and 66429 in DRS blue were swiftly dispatched to my desk. This initial production run is unprecedented – 31 models, including tooling variations to account for subclasses, is sure to keep large manufacturers looking over their shoulders.

Selection box
Now the backbone of British freight traffic – 455 having entered traffic since their introduction in 1998 – these functional Co-Co stalwarts imported from their manufacturer GM in Ontario received mixed reviews from drivers, but are seemingly here to stay for the foreseeable future. Multiple operator usage, design alterations to meet emissions targets, operator specifications or changes to group standard practice has seen the class carry exterior detail variations between sub-classes and adopt numerous liveries.

Hattons Class 66 DRS

66429 in Direct Rail Services blue with compass is smartly applied, as with other locomotives.

Hattons felt that a super-detailed model to rival the aging tooling from Hornby and Bachmann was worthy of investment. And the investment has been significant – tooling changes between the locomotives representing the 66/4 and 66/6 sub-classes sees the location of the engine access compartment side door change – a correct single door on 66429 with access steps, 66621 having twin doors. Cab side window styles change between locomotives, too – two panes on 66429, three on 66621. Cooling group design is also different between locomotives, 66429 having the larger roof and bodyside grilles. Attention to detail between variants is spectacular and I can say with confidence that these are the best RTR OO gauge diesel locomotive models I’ve seen to date.

Underframe delights
Hattons models have captured the essence of the pipework to perfection. Die-cast into the metal of the chassis – yet incredibly fine – is the base layer of these, in rows of four, above which is additional pipework detail injection-moulded in plastic. Frame supports are also die-cast, as are the pipework supports, with visible bolts. It looks truly incredible – the more you look, the more you see. Catching my eyes are the bogie links - there to prevent bogie and body from separating in the event of a derailment.

Hattons Class 66 freightliner

Side profile is distinctively GMD and functional. Look at the pipe detail!

The bogies are among the best I’ve seen to date on a British-outline model. Though cast as a one-piece item for production economies, EMD’s HTCR radial bogies reduce operating costs by keeping axles tangential to the curvature of the track. In turn, this improves tractive effort on curved track and reduces railhead and tyre wear. Hattons miniaturised equivalents are beautifully-executed. The outer-part of the bogie frame is injection-moulded as a one-piece item, too, with EMD logo, HTCR-E and part number lettering visible. A particular highlight is the rotating axle caps – a cosmetic push-fit over the axle ends. When running, these look convincing and demonstrate another leap forward in design.

Hattons Class 66 freightliner

Hattons Class 66 direct rail services

Spot the difference. Directional lights and cabside windows are correct for sub-classes.

Cab design               
Hattons lighting setup on this model has switches that can be used to select light features. These enable the locomotive lights to be configured for a particular setup in use. Marker lights, day headlight, night headlight, parking lights, cab lights and tail lights can be switched on or off and configured when using DCC or DC. A decoder with a minimum of four functions is required – a six-function decoder providing better lighting control. For best results, factory DCC-fitted versions with an ESU Loksound V5 decoder and exclusive sound project for Hattons from Legomanbiffo is heartily recommended. Having listened to the charismatic ‘ying ying’ of the two-stoke diesel, it's an epic model that I can endorse with confidence.

Read the full review in the March issue of BRM, on-sale January 30, or download as a digital edition from www.pocketmags.com/BRM