June 06, 2011

"Hornby Railroad Tornado - Review"

“It's the best of British – a brand new, mainline steam locomotive for the 21st Century”

“The A1 Trust's number 60163, Tornado, is now available in model form, from Hornby!”

“How will the Mighty Tornado fare in this model review, with tests on style, strength and SHEER POWER?”

First Impressions

In 2008, 60163 Tornado was released to traffic for the first time, running in on the Great Central Railway in her grey livery, before being painted in her most recognisable British Railways Apple Green livery.

The locomotive was the culmination of a shared dream: People who shared a vision, and were determined to turn it into a reality.

The engine has achieved super star status, appearing markedly in the national press as the star of Top Gear's Race to the North – and now, it has been immortalised by Hornby in three model variations to be released this year.

The first, and the subject of this review, is the budget “Railroad” range Tornado.

On receiving the model, the first thing I noticed was a little sticker applied to the handsome yellow and red packaging – a “DCC Ready” sticker. The box is the standard Hornby affair, though annoyingly it does not use the plastic inserts of previous Railroad models, regressing somewhat to the polysterene tray of previous years.

At a first glance, the bulk of the new build Peppercorn A1 is captured extremely well. Most notable are the roller bearing axle boxes on tender and engine, the shape of the cab roof – unique to Tornado – the placement of the A1 whistle (different from the original engines) and the plain stovepipe chimney.

On the front bufferbeam, the electric lighting and their lamp brackets are absent, but the holes for their placement are not, leaving three distinct square holes in the running plate. The hole for the vacuum pipe in the bufferbeam is also present, but no detail is provided with this budget model to fit.

A spare pipe can be fitted very easily to the front end, improving the look.

The handrails on the cab, tender and smoke deflectors are moulded onto the model, much like the Railroad Flying Scotsman model. The handrail for the boiler is separately fitted.

The buffers are not sprung, and are moulded onto the model. This is something of a disappointment as my example had some damage to the right hand buffer. The plastic is clearly not durable enough, and caution is advised when handling the buffers. If you are brave enough, as I intend to be, to fit new buffers, spare sprung buffers can be obtained from Bachmann of the correct LNER type.

The tender shares this type of buffer. Detail on the rear of the tender body is crisply moulded, though again there is no vacuum pipe, but a hole for fitting one remains present.

The tender is probably the strongest part of the model, capturing every single unique detail of Tornado's tender, down to the anti-slide plating on the water tank, to the cabinet of dials on the front. The spoked wheels are a joy to behold, and capture the prototype extremely well.

The connection between the tender and locomotive is a simple bar arrangement, with two holes for changing the gap between cab and tender. This means the tender, like the Bachmann Peppercorn A1s, does not have pickups of any form.

This is the first time I have seen this particular arrangement on a Hornby model, and I don't like it very much. It seems a rather flimsy arrangement, compared with the other other Railroad Pacifics plug in connection.

The cab is also moulded very well, entirely in plastic and as part of the injection moulded bodyshell. Two cab seats are provided, one either side. The cab roof, though relatively plain, is a very accurate presentation of the prototype's different curvature to the roof.

The chassis is a very familiar affair, if you are familiar with Hornby's other Pacifics in their Railroad and Super Detail ranges. The cartazzi wheelset – the two small wheels under the cab – are flangeless, allowing the model to negotiate tight curves with ease. A relief for my tiny trainset!

The wheels have plastic centres, with metal rims pressed onto them. The only real complaint here is the colour of the plastic – it does not match the green of the bodyshell very well.

When lined up alongside two Bachmann Peppercorn A1s, the differences are clear. The top engine is Bachmann's W.P. Allen model, and the bottom is Bachmann's own model of Tornado, first released in 2010.

The first obvious difference between the three models is the application of their liveries. The Railroad is a budget model, and has a much simplified livery. The white/black/white lining of the prototype is reduced to simple white lining on the locomotive, and to white/green/white on the tender.

The extensive red lining on the running plate, and frames of the locomotive and tender have also been excluded. The overhead warning stickers are also absent.

At the front end, the white lining on the bufferbeam has also been excluded. For a budget model, this is understandable.

The nameplates are printed onto the smoke deflectors and are easily legible. The cabside numbers and British Railways branding on the tender are neatly applied too.

More disappointingly, no silver paint has been applied to the smokebox – one of Tornado's most recognisable features are her burnished smokebox straps and handrail, and to some extent this changes the “face” of the model somewhat. The very prominent chime whistle Tornado carries behind her right hand smoke deflector is there, but is both unpainted, and very plainly moulded.

This is a very minor quibble with an otherwise excellently painted model. The livery application is crisp and sharp, the model looking smart regardless of its much simplified livery.

Haulage Capacity

Each model has to pull a train of coaches, the standard coach being used for this test the ubiquitous Hornby Mk1 coach.

The weight of one Hornby Mk1 Coach is 5 ounces, roughly 140 grams. The Railroad Tornado weighed in at ounces, approximately grams, and its tender weighed in at ounces, approximately grams.

The model, according to Hornby, utilises a 3-pole motor, not a 5-pole one. It did not seem to make much of a difference, as the Tornado model was both quiet, smooth running, and powerful. 14 coaches were pulled on the level without any problems.

The only misgiving I have is the front bogie. Like all the Pacifics in the Hornby range, older types of pointwork seem to give these trouble. The Railroad Tornado derailed twice whilst conducting this test. Aside from that, it is a terrific model.

Recommended Retail Price

The recommended retail price for the Railroad Tornado model is £76.99. In comparison, the cost of a full spec A4 Pacific is now reaching the £140 mark, whereas the high spec Tornado model (not yet released) is £92.99. Until that model is released, it's fruitless to ask whether or not the Railroad model is value for money against it.

However, it is definitely value for money against the Bachmann Tornado model, with an RRP comparable to the Hornby A4s, of £141.95 – the next batch of these models will be released towards the end of next year.

Overall, I'm sold on the virtues of the Railroad range – affordable, well performing models that look enough like their prototypes to delight and entertain any child or railway enthusiast on their train set.

So on that bombshell, it's time to end – until next time, thank you for watching!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

many thanks for your comments, i have got the Tornado in the pullman set which i purchased for just 90 pounds, and I i am just running it in. it seems to be very good, for the railroad range the detailing is higher than anticipated, i will however add some extra detailing of my own. I am very pleased with the overall look of the loco, quiet, powerful with good speed. excellent value for money with what you get in the set as a whole