05 May 2020
A Princess Royal locomotive has been in the firm’s portfolio for generations, though Tony Wright claims its latest, re-tooled model is stunning.
A ‘Princess Royal’ was one of the first locomotives produced by Rovex, which became Tri-ang, which then became Tri-ang/Hornby and finally Hornby. Getting on for 70 years ago, how much has changed! Various manifestations of a ‘Prinnie’ have been in the firm’s portfolio for generations, culminating in this latest, re-tooled model; which is simply stunning.
‘The ‘Princesses’ were Stanier’s first ‘Pacifics’, introduced in 1933, not long after he became CME of the LMS. Indeed, it could be argued they were enlarged ‘Kings’, given that his training was at Swindon. They utilised several GWR features – four cylinders, a tapered boiler, a low degree of superheat, a Belpaire firebox and a domeless boiler. The first two were originally coupled to Fowler-style flat-sided tenders of a larger design, but they still looked puny compared with the locomotive. ‘Proper’ Stanier tenders were then built of 9T capacity and later with 10T capacity. These larger tenders suited the locomotives much better. Indeed, along with the Raven A2s coupled to Gresley tenders, the ‘Princess Royals’ were among the longest express passenger steam locomotives to run in this country. Eventually, 13 were built – with numerous detail differences – the third being unique in being turbine-driven. It was later rebuilt into a conventional locomotive, only to be smashed beyond repair at Harrow, in 1952. The 12 survivors ran until the early-1960s, when they were withdrawn from front-line WCML service. Two have been preserved – Nos. 6201 and 6203.
Hornby's finest LMS 4-6-2 Princess Royal class locomotive to date, ideal for LMS and BR Western Region modellers.
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The sample received represents No. 6201 Princess Elizabeth in its third manifestation, with a domed boiler and 10T tender – representing its 1936/’37 condition. It’s correctly fitted with a shorter firebox, with the leading washout plugs in the boiler. Boilers were frequently changed. In all principal dimensions, this beautiful model checks out exactly with the drawings at my disposal. It also checks out in detail dimensions, too. Speaking of detail, and attention to it, this is no longer the ‘generic’ approach that used to be common in RTR models, with manufacturers merely rebranding locomotives with no thought to the minutiae of differences so loved of ‘engine pickers’. It’s difficult to know where to start, but mention must be made of the slidebar/crosshead arrangement. The first two, Nos. 6200 and 6201 inherited the Swindonian style of slidebars, with markedly, tapered ‘fishtail’ ends. This style was not perpetuated by the rest. They also never received footsteps on the curved footplate section at the front, and these are, correctly, missing. For absolute accuracy, the ‘blister’ on the nearside of the smokebox should extend on to the boiler, there should be a crosshead-driven pump below the nearside lower slidebar and a speedometer drive should be attached to the rear nearside crankpin. These are minor details, some of which modellers may wish to alter/add. Even the different style of reversing rod has been accommodated; the type modelled only common to the first two.
The cab interior detail is exemplary, the roof ventilator slides and there’s even a firebox glow! The cab doors are modelled as half-open in a fixed position. The tender is the equal of the locomotive, even down to the legible plates on the rear. The livery is brilliantly-applied, with all the lining present. It equals (if not betters) the standards of many top professional painters. All buffers are sprung.
Underframe detail – when added from the accessory pack – enhances brake detail.
Performance is more than adequate. All the wheels are true-round, have consistent back-to-backs and ran equally well through hand-built pointwork and Peco track. On test on ‘Little Bytham’, this locomotive whirled 12 kit-built bogie coaches around with ease and could have taken more. There’s a tiny tight spot, though this will disappear with running-in. There’s not quite enough ‘lean’ on the return cranks, which rather makes the motion ‘lacking in action’ as the locomotive runs. It might be adjustable, though I haven’t tried. The locomotive and tender are coupled together with a two-position drawbar, and semi-joined by the DCC plug and socket wiring. There’s ample space inside the tender to fit a decoder and a speaker for those who wish to upgrade, though its models of No. 6212 Duchess of Kent and No. 46211 Queen Maud are also available DCC-fitted. There looks as if there might be a hole in the chassis beneath the chimney to take a future smoke unit. Pick-ups on all the drivers and tender wheels ensured jerk-free running.
Smooth running and tractive effort provided in a neat package with a clever chassis design.
There’s the usual pack of add-on bits for the modeller to fit, including front steps, cylinder drain cocks, tension-lock front coupling and locomotive brake pull rodding. There’s also a flanged pony wheel for those with more-generous curves.
In conclusion; a quite outstanding new locomotive, up to the highest standards now being set RTR. At the price asked, speaking with a professional painter recently, he said he couldn’t paint a kit-built model for that! Thoroughly recommended.
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