23 June 2023
Sporting Abellio Scotrail ‘Highland Explorer’ colours, has there ever been a more-complex livery to miniaturise than this? Howard Smith believes not.
There can be few liveries as evocative, or as complex as this. Applied to ScotRail’s fleet of five Class 153s, modified to carry extra bicycles and luggage onto West Highland line services between Glasgow and Oban – the vinyls highlight landmarks and many of the picture-perfect scenes of one of the UK’s most beautiful scenic journeys. Here's what we noticed about this new Hornby model:
Working with Scotrail’s Class 156s from July, 2021 – also available from Hornby (R2950) – the units are known as 'Active Travel Carriages'. Modified units have 24 seats (20 around tables and four airline-style), and can carry up to 20 cycles in racks, or large items of luggage. There are spaces for tandem cycles and an e-bike charging socket, too! While Hornby’s tooling – inherited from Lima – hasn't changed internally or externally to reflect changes made to the prototype, the exterior carries the distinctive livery.
Tampo-printing is a time-consuming process. Instead, Hornby has opted for a colour-printing process to apply the ‘would-be’ vinyls to these bodyshells. From normal viewing distances, the livery is convincing, but a closer look reveals areas where the technique struggles – the Scotrail logo, OHLE signs, door buttons and Abellio logos, for example.
Performance-wise, the Lima model remains unchanged. This eight-pin DCC ready model would benefit from a decoder for slow-speed running, more-so if coupling to a Class 156, as per the prototypes. Sourcing a mid-range decoder with configurable speed curve options, and spending a few hours fine-tuning it to perform closely (if not identically) to the Class 156’s speed characteristics, acceleration, and deceleration would be worthwhile. It would avoid potential wheel-slip, excessive wear, and mis-matched shunting at speed – always good practice!
For what it’s worth, the livery is far better than what I, or many others could achieve in model form. But, I feel this newly-used technique on models calls for a careful, hybrid approach – use it for large complex areas, but retain limited use of tampo-printing for concise details.
Read more of our thoughts on this new model in the August 2023 issue of BRM. Subscribe today so you don't miss out!