Heljan Mk. 1

19 October 2021
Howard Smith looks at the latest batch of these O gauge coaches from the manufacturer, available in new liveries with different bogies, too.

Let’s not forget that it took a Danish manufacturer to introduce a series of ready-to-run O gauge models of British diesel-electric and diesel-hydraulic locomotives, rejuvenating the scale, while introducing it to a new audience. Shortly after its foray into the scale, it was quick to realise that customers purchasing its locomotives possibly weren’t prepared to assemble coaching stock kits too, and in 2010, announced a range of Mk. 1 coaches.

Many a model found its way to budding O gauge enthusiasts, displacing often tired-looking kit-built efforts, or butchered under scale Lima Mk. 1 coach conversions on club layouts. The manufacturer issued models with BR.1 bogies, as fitted to early batches of the coaches introduced from 1951, and employed under vehicles constructed until 1958. Reviews were generally positive at the time, my only criticisms being the reduced curvature and tumblehome to the sides and bogie detail appearing a little crude.

Heljan Mk. 1

Maximising potential from its existing tooling, Heljan has introduced new batches of its Mk. 1s with later Commonwealth and B4 bogies, as fitted to later builds to improve ride qualities of the BR.1 bogies with their leaf-sprung primaries.

Available from Heljan stockists is a Second Corridor (SK), Brake Second Corridor (BSK), Second Open (SO), First Corridor (FK), Restaurant Mini Buffet (RMB) and Gangway Brake (BG), in liveries carried from 1958 until the early-2000s. The manufacturer has selected BR maroon, BR blue/grey, Network SouthEast, Regional Railways and Intercity liveries to apply to models, respecting prototype practice. Hence, not all liveries are available with a choice of Commonwealth or B4 bogies.

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The detail to its new bogie iterations are excellent, though long overdue. Its B4 variant is highly-detailed, with raised axlebox lettering – ‘BR SKF’ – clearly legible. Coil spring shapes are superbly moulded and the correct dip in the end stretchers of what are fabricated bogies on the prototypes, shows excellent observation. Wheels adopt the correct shape, with accurate tyre thickness, unlike those highlighted under its previous iterations with BR.1 bogies.

Where bogies of Commonwealth design are fitted, these too offer excellent detail, the ESC markings visible to each corner. Even the holes present on the prototypes from the presence of a core when casted are depicted. The SKF logo is faithfully represented.

Heljan Mk. 1 O gauge

These are the best RTR iterations of the B4 and Commonwealth bogie we’ve seen in this scale, and complement the excellent application and choice of liveries now present from the manufacturer. The coach sides remain a little flat in appearance, but only so if viewed from a three-quarter or ‘end on’ view. Livery application is excellent and viewers may recall I repainted one of its coaches into Regional Railways livery some six years ago for BRM – no longer required.

Given the long lifespan of the coaches and that many saw use post public transport, further modifications to these vehicles and liveries are possible for modellers. Value for money, and recommended.