February 28, 2013

"Suburban Shortness: Gresley N2 plus Gresley Teaks"

I get genuinely cross sometimes about my lack of being able to run trains, but now I can say with confidence that I have my first "complete" train to run on my work in progress first proper layout. My suburban tank engine of Gresley class N2, no.69522, has had a few layers of grime applied to her coat of Johnson's Klear, as have the superb Hornby teaks she pulls behind her.

It's a short train of Gresley brake third plus an all third, but I have a cunning plan as I have evidence this was a very real train used in the late 1940s...but more details on that, the weathering of this train, and the building of the new layout, in March.

Until then, enjoy the rest of February!

February 25, 2013

"Hornby Thompson L1 Musings"

I love Hornby's Thompson L1. They are simply superb models. I have four of them, with three out of the four currently awaiting renumbering and rebranding.

One of those awaiting rebranding is no.67717, which is an apple green variant, which has BRITISH RAILWAYS in bold on the tanksides, and the curly style numeral six in its number.

I was researching potential subjects when I came across this delightful combination in the L1 edition of Yeadon's Register.

The locomotive has LNER apple green livery, with LNER lettering, but the full British Railways numbering, and with a curly six to boot!

I am very tempted to model this locomotive, partly because with careful removal of the numerals and lettering, it's not actually going to be that difficult a conversion. My only question is: did it have a smokebox numberplate at this point in time or not? Another of life's little research headaches!

No matter, for it's quite clear at a glance that up to 1950 there were still apple green L1s sans the smokebox numberplate. 67702 may well have been one of those few locomotives so treated.

Then of course, you have to take into account electric lighting fitted, and non electric lighting fitted locomotives!

Until next time, when I hope to be continuing the work on a certain Thompson Pacific...!

February 24, 2013

"Rant of the Week: Ranting about ranting!"

Ranting about ranting. A popular past time on several model railway forums at the minute. 

You can't say this, you can't say that, you don't know that or the most infuriating one, you don't know that, I do but I'm not letting on what the answer is

End result is that people start complaining about other people complaining.

Complaining about complaining. Ranting about ranting. It's an absolutely exasperating concept. 

Model X has a detail wrong. Modeller 1 says its fine, not bothered. Modeller 2 says he doesn't like the look of it, but thinks adding an after market extra would improve it. Modeller 3 says Modeller 2 is a whiner and then Modeller 1 joins in to start complaining about how ungrateful Modeller 2 is.

Modellers 4 and 5 then ask why Modellers 1 and 3 are complaining about Modeller 2's plans for improving Model X, as the core subject - railway modelling - is defined by actually doing more than opening the red/blue/blue & silver/yellow cardboard box and plonking it on some track, and at what point did the hobby arbitrarily decide that modellers shouldn't critique models in order to make them better or personalise them...?

Modellers 1, 3, and 6, 7, 8, 9 and probably 10 onwards all start to chime in with posts supporting how absolutely phenomenal Model X is (even if there's a missing detail, or the motor arrangement peeks into the corridor partition, or in fact the bogies have been designed the wrong way and, guess what, traction tyres and strange couplings are provided as standard...which don't actually work) and that Modellers 2, 4 and 5 are ungrateful/missing the point/have OCD/fill in the insult of your choice here.

This may sound a familiar concept to you. Guess what: it's been symptomatic of a few years in which we've seen some fantastic models from the major manufacturers, and at least one particular lemon, which was given a thorough looking over by some very well informed modellers, and actually drew the conclusion that it wasn't very good. 

It started out with a release of a four car EMU. Some people pointed out potential pitfalls, and accuracy problems, explained how to fix them and make the model better. This is inherently a good thing. 

Positive, constructive critique that (by way of being critical - not unkind, critical, which is an entirely different thing) shows how a model can be improved using A or B after market products. This helps everyone. People can make up their mind whether to buy, with whatever faults there are, and if they do want to improve the model, how to.

However with a recent lemon of the last two years, a change started happening. A sudden undercurrent of positivity. It was absolutely frowned on to make any criticism of the model, drawing quite surprising abuse aimed at modellers doing their level best to give a reasoned and balanced one. Ranting about so-called complaining that...wasn't actually complaining at all.

Complaining implies there was no truth to the critique: that it was unsubstantiated and put across in a very negative manner. This could not be further from the truth with the many honest and thoughtful individuals, reviewers and bloggers in the model railway community. 

It has however become the fashion to make it look like this is the case, for whatever purposes that entails.

As such, I am now reading a lot of posts ranting and raving about a lot of ranting and raving that doesn't seem to actually exist. 

This has been happening an awful lot lately and I simply don't understand why it has been allowed to be so one sided against any form of critique.

I fully agree with the view that sometimes people need to be reigned in with what they say and "engage the grey matter" in order to present their views in the most constructive manner, but it goes both ways. 

Without any constructive criticism or discussion of a model beyond "X and Y are producing this, how much does it cost and when is it coming", what exactly does this hobby entail then? Opening the box and putting it on a section of set track? Slaps on the back when the latest new red or blue box appears, without then going on and talking about what you're doing with it thereafter?

Years ago on a certain model railway forum, we were positively encouraged to talk about using RTR as a basis for improving or personalising for our own use. You know, the thing I talked about earlier - what was it called? Modelling? 

Now on certain forums (and I do use the plural here with good reason) it's almost become offensive for anyone to suggest that a new off the shelf model can be enhanced. At what point did looking at a new model and saying "that doesn't look right - here's a method of improving it" suddenly become something to be sneered at? 

You know, the very thing which defines railway modelling - individualism and creative use of materials to model a chosen subject - becoming the very thing which gets peoples backs up with new releases?

There's been a similar aggravation with the cost of new models. In my view, the consumer has a right to question whether he's getting the bang for his buck. He or she is always going to compare to similar products in the market and ask whether the specifications of one and its cost are comparable to another. 

Let's take the recent Hornby 2-BIL as an example. I personally don't care who chose what or who got what to market first, the fact is Bachmann did the 4CEP, Hornby did the 4VEP and have now done a 5-BEL and a 2-BIL whereas Bachmann have done a 2-EPB, are doing a Thumper unit and have also done the 350 Desiro in the meantime. 

All perfectly comparable EMU/DMU units of varying specifications and prices that you could have a fair and reasonable debate on price against specification on.

In fact, it's pretty easy to do a comparison of similar models. Try the Hornby 4VEP against the Bachmann 4CEP: which is better value for money? Look at their specifications, RRPs and their accuracy to their respective prototypes. 

In my view, that's a one horse race where only the model in the blue box is actually in the race. I say this having owned both models for an extended period, and the former causing a lot of angst in terms of trying to get it to a form which was acceptable to me. It wasn't possible, more for the wholly inadequate running characteristics, and particularly and markedly when the latter was just so weighty and smooth in its movements.

Let's take another example: which flips the debate a little bit. The Hornby B1 can be rightly compared to the Bachmann B1 by virtue of being the same locomotive prototype, more or less (though the two models actually cater for different batches and other details) and although the Bachmann B1 has a new lease of life with its excellent new chassis, the body is showing its age, and Hornby's model overall eclipses it. 

This is a fair comparison. I don't think it's negative, nasty or otherwise to say that the Bachmann model is inferior. It's a stonewall fact of the matter that it is not as good as the Hornby B1.

However, can the Bachmann B1 with some work be turned into a good model? Yes it can, undoubtedly so. There's lots of material out there on the model railway forums which show what can be done to a Bachmann B1.

The Hornby B1 is by no means 100% perfect either. Neither the chimney nor the dome are very good for shape against the prototype, however the rest of the model is excellent. In my case, neither item is poor enough to warrant changing, but for some modellers it is, and that's fine. It's their model and they want theirs to be more accurate. I respect those modellers greatly for it, as they are doing something creative which will enhance their model, for them. 

I believe completely in the right of the individual to look at critiques other modellers give on new models, and make their minds up for themselves with all the information to hand. Not to be told what to do or what to think without being able to read a range of views.

A very wise man once said that "It is important to draw wisdom from different places. If you take it from only one place it will become rigid and stale".

It is the same with opinions on model railway products. That's why we have forums. To discuss the pros and cons of the various products on offer, and how to improve them if they are not wholly to our liking.

That is what I was always led to believe. It is becoming much more difficult to believe that, however.

I fear the real death of the hobby won't be old age, interest or disposable income. It will be the death of debate, and the ability to constructively critique a model and see what can be done to improve on it.

Until next time.

"Great Northern: a few minor updates..."

I've very much enjoyed building my replacement A1/1 Great Northern from Graeme King's resin parts. 

I'm now at a stage where the locomotive doesn't look different, update to update, but there's been quite a few changes of a minor variety which have brought the engine closer to completion.

The main change from last time is the side sheets on the tender. These have now been straightened, and will be finished off with a bit of Humbrol plastic filler to blend in the Gamesworkshops green putty before adding the handrails.

I've also done the steam pipe, and handrails on the boiler (both sides) and the tiny little grab handles on the lower side of the smoke deflectors. The front coupling has also been test fitted at this stage. I do hope to get some time in the next week to fit the side frames of the chassis, but I ran out of time this week sadly.

I do of course have to fit the reversing rod and the casing on the side of the firebox too, along with straightening out the cab side sheets. After that...and we're into the painting stage. I can't wait to see it in blue, it will be the culmination of around six years worth of modelling in all its forms (resulting mostly in failure) but now producing a locomotive satisfactory for my needs.

Until next time, when I will show some updates on the apple green version of 60113 as well. It's had the major parts cut and shut, but not glued together. This model is much, much further along, and I am dreading the tender cut and shut I am likely to have to do on the apple green one (which is perhaps why I am holding back so much on it).

Have a very good Sunday!

February 20, 2013

"Long term project updates: 60113 Great Northern"

Having had both of my A1/1 chassis back from a good friend recently, who very kindly took on the job to fit  Graeme King's excellent etched parts for the valve gear, I've restarted work on both of my Thompson Great Northern conversions. For the time being, I will be concentrating my efforts on the model destined to be painted in express passenger blue, and numbered 60113 with the original straight sided nameplates.

I have made a slight deviation from Graeme King's method of dealing with the front bogie (which you can read about by clicking here), and chose to go for something within my skill set. Basically, I used a set of pliers to turn up the ends of the connector, to form a U shape. I drilled a new hole, just off centre of the square part at the rear of the connector, and the result can be seen below:

The idea behind it is that it gives the bogie enough manoeuvrability on the track, whilst also giving the correct wheelbase, and allowing the resin side frame pieces to fit either side.

This chassis, incidentally, was a spare I bought off eBay some years ago, which was DCC fitted with a very nice chip whose origins I have been unable to discover. It runs very, very smoothly on DCC, and unlike all other DCC fitted chassis I have used does not stutter on DC for various reasons in reverse.

Forward and reverse gear proved remarkably smooth. The model will get a run in next month at High Wycombe Model Railway Club, when I hope to have completed more of it (perhaps even in blue paint by then) and have finished a large amount of the build on the apple green variant too.

Until next time.

February 11, 2013

"Thompson D Class 4-4-0, The Morpeth: finished!"

You may recall some time ago, that I started work on building a model of Edward Thompson's lone D Class 4-4-0, no.62768 The Morpeth

Well, I say some time ago...I actually started talking about this project on the 14th October 2011! The initial build actually didn't take very long as I planned out the whole thing prior to the delivery of my Hornby Railroad D49 model. 

So, a short recap...

I started building the D Class on the 10th November 2011. I had concentrated on the running plate to begin with, cutting and shutting various components (you can read more about this stage of the build here).

Then started a procession of short and sweet blogs, ranging from detailing the smokebox door to fitting a new coupled wheelset. You can read on the physical side of the build here, here, here and finally here.

It's hard to believe that it would be over a year from the date this photograph was taken, before any more progress on the lone Thompson D Class model would be made!

I decided earlier this evening that the model simply had to be finished. It has been sitting in a corner looking decidedly dusty and forlorn, and to be quite frank that would never do! So I decided to finish it at last.

I used Modelmaster's Mixed Traffic lining out for the majority of the model. I won't be using those again, as the transfers were very wide (bizarrely incorporating a strip of clear transfer paper either side), and they gave a lot of trouble in trying to seal them. Fox Transfers boiler band, numerals and lettering were used.

The whole model was sealed with a few coats of Johnson's Klear, applied by airbrush. 

Overall, The Morpeth was a fun, cheap project to do, and has given me a truly unique model.

It's not a perfect model however, and on reflection, I have improved my skills somewhat since I started the project, and can do better than this now, but there's a palpable sense of satisfaction that I did it all myself, and that it's finally finished. One day I may try again and see if I can't beat this standard by some way.

I will have to have a line up of my Thompson design machines, to see what locomotives are missing from the overall line up. Off the top of my head, I need a Thompson Q1, a K5, a K1/1, one of the D20 rebuilds and a Thompson B2 to complete the set (I don't count Great Northern as it's very much in hand).

This model will now go into the queue for weathering, and will probably be done at the same time as no.61665 Leicester City B17, which I worked on recently.

I've yet to see a photograph of this unique machine looking anything other than well look after, whilst in BR livery, so it's unlikely to become too grimy. Just "one driver, carefully looked after" in over look!

I personally don't understand the vitriol aimed at it. It looks very Great Eastern, and very handsome to me! Edward Thompson may have been onto something with the aesthetics...

Until next time!

February 10, 2013

"A Sunday afternoon with a Gresley N2...69522"

Sir Nigel Gresley's N2 class 0-6-2T locomotives are one of the most handsome tank locomotives ever built. Powerful, rugged, and distinctive, they were effectively a development of Ivatt's similar (but smaller boilered) earlier N1 class locomotives of 1907 (I plan on modelling the latter as well as the former, but more on that at a later date).

The Great Northern Railway initially built sixty of these suburban tank locomotives, ten at Doncaster and the rest at North British. All of these locomotives had condensing gear and short chimneys, and right hand drive, and all were in service by the end of 1921. The London & North Eastern Railway then built a further forty seven to add to the original sixty, bringing the class numbers up to 107. 

The class worked throughout the southern section of the East Coast Main Line, and a selection of the class worked West Riding and Scottish services throughout their lives, eventually being displaced by Gresley's V1 and V3 classes.

One has been preserved, no.1744 as seen above at the Mid Hants Railway in 2011. 

For both of my planned new layouts, the Gresley N2 has an important role to play, whether it's condensing fitted versions or non-condensing fitted N2s. They will pull a variety of suburban stock, mostly ready to run Gresley and Thompson vehicles from Hornby, but I am planning to build a few quad-arts (which are absolutely necessary for Ganwick Curve). 

With that in mind, you will recall that recently I wrote something of a mini review on Hornby's Gresley N2, split from their Olympics 1948 train pack. 

It's a terrific model, but it required renumbering as it is a condensing fitted locomotive, intended for use in London on the Metropolitan line, and not suitable for the number Hornby picked (a non condensing N2 built for use in Scotland).

I therefore plucked up the courage, and had a go this afternoon.

One thing clear to me was that my choice of renumbering for my four London based N2s was very limited. I have only been able to find photographs of four of these locomotives with "British Railways" branding on the cabsides, in unlined black, though I am sure there must be a good deal more who had that combination.

In a rare twist, neither the appropriate Yeadon's Register nor RCTS volume 9A was particularly helpful on this occasion, although it fell to the former to provide me with the first N2 for the stockist: no.69522. This was somewhat helpful as it meant only changing the two digits, using the now standard technique of some T-Cut colour restorer, applied liberally with a cotton bud and careful rubbing down thereafter.

There was more work to do at the front end, however. The photograph in Yeadon's Register showed that the handrail on no.69522 was above the upper smokebox door strap, not below it as on Hornby's model.

I simply hand drilled two new holes, filled in the old ones using Humbrol plastic model filler, carefully sanding the excess away with a foam wet'n'dry pad, and then painted the smokebox door using Gamesworkshops acrylic Abaddon Black.

I changed the smokebox number by carefully cutting out individual numbers from a Fox transfers sheet. they are slightly bigger than Hornby's numerals, which is no bad thing as they look to be much closer to scale size.

After placing the waterside transfers on the smokebox numberplate, and the newly added Fox Transfers numeral 2s onto the bunker sides, I allowed the model to dry before applying a few coats of Johnson's Klear via airbrush directly onto the tank and bunker sides to seal them onto the model.

A single LNER pattern lamp from the Springside range was glued to the upper lamp bracket. A destination headboard for the smokebox door brackets is on order, amongst a variety of others.

The result is a very clean no.69522, which we will put right in a future blog on weathering. I have three more of these particular Hornby N2s to renumber and modify. The quick and relaxing Sunday afternoon spent sorting this one has convinced me that it's probably best to get them all done this way before sending them all to the weathering booth, en-masse, for a bit of grime!

Until next time.

February 08, 2013

"Final proof sample of the book delivered!"

We are so close to printing and binding the first edition of "Tale of the Unnamed Engine" that the excitement is palpable. We came a further step closer today with the final proof version of the book, seen above.

This is more or less the final version of the book. There are a few specific changes I have to make inside the book, but the front and back covers are now locked down: they will not be changed.

One of the things you can't see in these photographs (particularly frustrating!) is how light the colours are. They come out much darker in photographs. The actual printed book will come out a lot lighter in any event, as this is RGB digital printing, as opposed to CMYK printing on an actual press, as the book will be made.

Note the wonderful artwork includes Stephen and Stanley on the front cover! Along with the Unnamed Engine, Sir Ralph Wedgwood, and...who's that on the far right? Dean's work has absolutely blown me away in print. I knew it was of a very, very high standard, but in book form it goes even further than that!

I have increased the first batch of books from 500 to 1000 due to unprecedented demand. I will be opening up the BRWS Ltd Amazon store soon for pre-order worldwide. I have reserved a number of books for individual shops and one locomotive group.

One promise I want to make to all those who will be stocking the book, is that BRWS Ltd will not undercut any of our stockists. We will sell the book at full RRP (to be announced) with P&P added on top of that.

We are now so close to release. All that remains is to sort out any remaining discrepancies or mistakes, and to finalise the making of the individual plates for printing, so that we can have them printed and bound before the end of February, with deliveries starting in early March.

The realisation of the dream is far, far better than I could have ever imagined it.

I am also going to get carpal tunnel from signing 1000 books. That's a guarantee!

Until next time.

February 06, 2013

"61665 Leicester City: Hornby B17 conversion"

You'll recall from my recent Hornby B17 review last year that I intended to rename and renumber my own example into no.61679 Charlton Athletic. What I didn't tell you back then was that I was researching another class member: an actual B17 as opposed to a fictional one, to partner my South East London based footballer.

An example of Grimsby Town was bought from one of the box shifters for a mere £89 (for a model of this quality, it's a staggeringly good price), and the model waited its turn in the queue dutifully for a few weeks before I managed to get some modelling done last week.

It differs from the previous releases by pulling a London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) Group Standard tender: something I hope we will see in apple green one day, and being pulled by another locomotive class from Hornby. Patience is a virtue...

The new identity of the model would be another footballer, but with something of a twist. I wanted to have another of the unusual changeover liveries found at the nationalisation of the railways in 1948, or just after, and on close inspection of specific books such as The Power of the B17s and B2s, and RCTS LNER Volume 2A, I found one identity which was unusual, but also easily attainable.

I was however slightly aggrieved by British Railways' of 1949's sense of humour...

I had found four photographs of this locomotive, no.61665 Leicester City, with the branding, rather than the emblem, in this livery and on each occasion the lettering is in a different place on the tender sides, or in a larger font! I ended up picking a late September 1949 photograph for the left hand side, with 9in lettering, and an August 1949 photograph for the right hand side with the same 9in lettering. You will see the lettering is not in line with the numbers as a result.

There is a photograph of sister engine no.61660 Hull City in a similar form but looking closely I think she carries 8in lettering which is a shade smaller. You couldn't model that identity using this model as a basis though, as Hull City had a westinghouse pump fitted, and this model does not. 

I'm more or less convinced that Leicester City was the only choice possible with this model for 1949, and with the BRITISH RAILWAYS branding.

The first job was to strip away the original branding, and prepare the locomotive for its new identity. I used T-Cut straight from the bottle, applied liberally with a cotton bud, rubbing carefully over the emblem on the tender, and the numbers on the cabside, until they were completely removed.

On the advice of a friend, and in seeking a shinier finish than normal on the boiler and tender, I used a little T-Cut, rubbed in carefully using a cotton bud to selected areas, before buffing the model with a clean cotton bud afterwards.

I'm very much taken with the "T-Cut" method of transfer removal now, as all the numbers and letters were removed without problems on the last six models I have renumbered. It has also proven to polish up the boiler and tender rather nicely on this model in particular, though I must confess that I think the shine gives the BR dark green a depth it doesn't have straight out of the box. Credit must be given to Dave Smith, who has been very helpful and informative on weathering matters recently.

I must also confess to having spent many hours on his twitter feed and blog, studying his weathering techniques carefully. His models always exude a wonderfully oily, smoky air and even look like they've actually been cleaned. See one of his excellent models here.

Once the polishing stage was completed, I took to adding my transfers. They are all waterslide transfers, though the cabside numbers are from Modelmaster, and the tender branding is from Fox Transfers. 

I much prefer Fox's transfers, due to the way the film virtually disappears underneath a few coats of Johnson's Klear.

I had arrived at the halfway point, and took a bit of time to study the model more carefully. One of the things I think Hornby nailed was the smokebox saddle, which always looked rather odd to me on the tender drive version, and was that niggling reason for never buying one previously. 

Another thing they very much got right was the "face" of the model, seen below:

It was well worth waiting for Hornby to perfect this model: it's come out a right cracker! If I had one criticism, it would be that the smokebox numberplate, supplied by Modelmaster, looks right in all but colour. The brass colour really does look very odd on no.61665. I intend to put that right...

I hope Leicester City fans will appreciate the pain I went through this evening after work! 

Changing the name and colours on Hornby's footballer nameplate was much harder than I thought it would be! I think the results were worth it, and though it's a really cruel close up above, I don't think they look too bad on the finished locomotive. They are not perfect, but they are a good first attempt, and hopefully Charlton Athletic's will be better when I fit them.

Modelmaster nameplates were used, being of roughly the same size as Hornby's older model, are now a tiny bit too small for the new model. This however isn't really noticeable so long as you paint over the original nameplate prior to fitting the brass replacements.  

I used Gamesworkshops Enchanted Blue acrylic paint to paint over Grimsby Town's colours, with HMRS' LNER Loco sheet's white/black lining out used to create the two panels either side of the football motif. I then used a needle to paint some Abaddon Black from the same Gamesworkshops range to cover up the excess blue. 

The result is Leicester's colours adding a dash of colour to a dark green engine. I used Johnson's Klear to seal the paint and transfers, and left them to dry whilst I tackled the rest of the locomotive's detailing parts.

Hornby's detailing pack includes brake rigging for locomotive and tender, cylinder drain cocks, front coupling for the bufferbeam, a variety of pipes, steps for the front running plate and finally a set of guard irons (which are the wrong shape but a good effort) all to be fitted to the locomotive. I managed to get them all done in record time, partly by remembering the three hours it had taken when fitting out no.61679's detailing parts previously.

The nameplates were refitted into the running plate, a dab of glue on the back sealing them back into place.

 I had a go at repainting the front numberplate so that it was white, but it's not quite there...I may just cover the whole smokebox front with muck in the weathering stage so that the white doesn't show and be done with it!

Overall, I'm really happy with how no. 61665 has turned out thus far. It was very much worth having a go at changing the nameplates, and the new techniques I have been employing for my last few models have differently shown me the light. 

Gone will be the days of hand varnishing transfers to seal them: Johnson's Klear airbrushes really well and gives a superb finish. Gone also, are the days of using meths and cotton buds to remove numbers and emblems: T-Cut is the best thing that has happened to my modelling for some years I think!

So there you have it: no.61679 gains a sister engine, and I gain an unusually liveried locomotive from one of my favourite classes. This is likely to be the last B17 I will be buying, unless Hornby release a B17 with the group standard tender and in apple green.

It must be said however: it's one of those "must buy before you die" models and the urge to get another and add a third footballer into the stock list is very strong. I will resist, however, as the intention is to get a few more B1s, V2s and at least one more L1 to complete the intended mixed traffic and suburban stock list for Ganwick Curve and other projects.

The next stage for no.61665 is a trip back to the weathering booth, for a spot of very light weathering. I want my footballers to be clean for their football specials they will be pulling!

Until next time, thanks for reading. 

February 05, 2013

"Hornby Gresley N2: Is it an Olympian?"

I managed to get what I consider to be the bargain of the century last weekend: no less than four of Hornby's Olympic 1948 train packs, which include a partially retooled Hornby Gresley N2, and a pair of Hornby's top of the range teak models...for just £59.

£59! For a train pack with an RRP in excess of £200! It was too good to pass up. I have already decided that I will offset the cost of the train packs I bought by selling off some unneeded Bachmann Mk1s and Gresley teaks in carmine and cream livery. Going for the years 1948-50 for my next layout absolutely means going 1948-50!

I'm genuinely surprised by how nice the model is. The finish on the model is miles better than previous incarnations, particularly the numbering and lettering on the tank and bunker sides. The safety valves and whistle are not from the old model, but new items altogether, getting the shape much better than on the previous inherited tooling. The whistle in particular is a thing of beauty, proper turned metal forming the distinctive bell shape rather nicely.

The black satin finish is very pleasing too, and I was rather surprised to see that

Hornby upgraded their N2 model with a new DCC ready chassis, and have included a surprising addition of sprung buffers and a few other cosmetic changes to bring the N2 up to a reasonable standard, though it is a disappointment to note that it does not have NEM pockets, which surely should have been included in the tooling up of a new chassis?

In addition, the mechanism still protrudes into the cab. I suspect a carefully placed driver and fireman each side will make this more difficult to make out in the darkness of the cab!

Overall I'm actually very happy with it. Having got a few of these at so cheap a price with the post nationalisation teak coaches, it was well worth holding on until now to buy it.

At full RRP I don't think Hornby went far enough in their retooling to justify the high price, but in the end the model itself is more than adequate for that intended, and will probably produce a very nice model when renumbered and weathered.

On that note, why did Hornby pick that number? It's one of the Scottish region ones which didn't have condensing apparatus. Most strange!

For all its minor niggly faults, I can't help but grin when I look at Hornby's N2. One of these has been sat on my train set every year for as long as I can remember, and I was always disappointed with the running qualities. It sounded like a right bag of spanners!

This new version is sublime. Very smooth, quiet and surprisingly powerful despite being much, much lighter than the version it replaces.

Overall it's a thumbs up from me but I wish Hornby had gone just a little further with their retooling of the N2. NEM pockets for the couplings, the mechanism going further forward under the boiler, and perhaps one of their excellent standard couplings (supplied with the recent Thompson L1, B1, O1 and B17 models as standard) for the front bufferbeam.

Until next time, when I will be researching suitable numbers and trying out some more weathering techniques on this most handsome of tank locomotive designs.