So far this year Hornby have definitely be hitting the back of the net with their locomotive releases. The K1 and J15 have both been well received and provided much encouragement that Hornby are back in the saddle. The latest release to arrive is the LSWR/Southern/BR Drummond 700 class ‘Black Motor’. The version illustrated is the early British Rail livery R3240. Hornby are currently producing four variants of this model 700
Packaged in the contemporary vacuum formed cradle and carton the locomotive arrived damage free. Included in the box is an accessory package including tender brake pull rods and vacuum pipe and the front tension lock coupling, and an easy to follow instruction leaflet.
The models initial appearance is on a par with both the J15 and K1 recently reviewed here, but overall isn’t quite as good as the two previous releases. This has to be taken in context however, this model is very good, but not quite as good as the others. The livery and finish of the model is up to the standard we have come to expect from contemporary Hornby releases. The paint finish is blemish free, the printing is opaque and crisp as are borders between colours. The finish is a matt/satin finish with the bias towards the matt end of the spectrum. The locomotive chosen, 30693, wore this plain black livery up to 1961 at least, and at the end of this era it had also received overhead warning electrification flashes. The overhead warnings omission should not be considered an error in this instance, the livery being correct for British Rail use throughout the 1950’s. Detail components are neatly fitted with no evidence of paint or glue blemishes.
The prototype locomotives were extensively reworked during their life with the Southern Railway and this model reproduces this later version with a taller cab and higher, longer boiler brought about by a desire to improve the performance of the class as a whole, which included the fitting of a superheater. Primarily the class was used for goods traffic and performed well on these tasks. They were also known to be used for passenger services on occasion, photographic evidence being available for workings in the 1960’s around Guildford, and in the Meon Valley in Hampshire in the 1940’s. The model is assembled in a logical way and is easy to take apart for maintenance or to fit a DCC chip. The engine superstructure and cabsides are metal, mounted on a plastic running plate. The smokebox on the prototype exhibits a number of different patterns of rivet positions and this model captures the prototype appearance of one of those patterns. (No, I didn’t count the rivets). Handrails are pre blackened and like the J15 are fitted in handrail knobs parallel to the locomotive footplate. They should be parallel to the boiler and whilst incorrect this isn’t particularly noticeable. There are some minor tooling slide marks around the top rear of the smokebox where it joins the boiler. This does show up under the harsh lighting of the photography but under normal lighting its not apparent.
There’s a mix of moulded and separate cab fittings which with the open cab are visible and well detailed. Cab glazing shows some edge refraction and the cab sides and roof are nicely thin, (especially considering the cabsides are metal), rather than the Mr Magoo specs and virtual armour plating seen on other contemporary steam locomotive models. The metal fall plate between locomotive and tender is positioned at an angle of approximately 30 degrees and does not foul any movement on second radius curves. Lamp irons are in the correct locations on both locomotive and tender, and the split between the engine superstructure and chassis pipework is very effective and discreet.
The chassis is an interesting comparison with the J15 model. There are some similarities with them and some differences which makes me think this design is perhaps older, with a bit of ‘design clever’ left in it, than the J15, despite the release sequence. Like the J15 the wiring loom is channelled tidily through the rear of the chassis and to the tender in a semi permanent connection. The motor is a sealed unit in the 700 class, and sits in the bottom of the cast boiler rather like the J15. Unlike the J15 there is no fly wheel with the 700’s however there is space for at least one at the leading end of the motor. The chassis of the 700 runs well and quietly, but isn’t as smooth as the J15 at the lower speeds, the flywheels definitely working to the J15’s advantage in this respect.
Transmission on the 700 is through a worm gear driving through a further gear wheel to the rear axle. The motor wiring is in part taped to the outside of the motor, rather like the early ‘design clever’ 42xx. However the design of the J15 chassis mechanism looks more modern and far better engineered with a double flywheel, tidier wiring to the loom and a better tower system to the final drive. Electrical pick up is through phosphor bronze wipers bearing on the rear of the wheel tyres on both engine and tender.
A nice cosmetic touch is the moulded section of internal valve gear on the top of the chassis block, with the high boiler and plenty of visible room underneath the boiler, this simple addition looks really good, and hopefully we’ll see this in more widespread on other models in the future. The wheels have the correct balance weight positions and theres external brake pull rods on the chassis. There are however no pull rods supplied across the chassis which seems a bit of an odd omission, when other similar models in the range have them supplied.
The Tender for this model is well detailed and accurate for this chosen locomotive. The tender is almost identical to the T9 model of a few years back. Additional pickups run along two ridges within the tender chassis, to an 8-Pin DCC socket. The engine to tender drawbar has a close coupling locator on it, but without a bit of effort the close coupling cannot be used. On the J15 the drawbar is adjustable by slackening the mounting screw. On the 700 series there is no screw, the fixing is a pin with a tight interference fit. It does require some considerable effort to move the pin sufficiently to use the close coupling setting, so take care if doing this modification. The more often this is done the looser the pin will become, and the close coupling setting precludes it fitting back into the packaging until its re-set to normal distance. With the close setting I have had no problems with any fouling on Peco Streamline medium radius curves. The images on this page illustrate the ‘as supplied’ coupling distance.
See here for an iphone snap of the revised setting albionyard.700.jpg
Fitting DCC sound to this model will be a bit of a challenge. Unlike the J15 and K1 tender there is no pre engineered facility to fit a speaker. The underneath of the tender water tank has metal weights held in position by screws, these will need to be removed to fit a speaker and an aperture/s made to allow sound to escape. A sugar cube speaker looks the most likely solution with a locomotive chip within the water space of the tender. Brake pull rods are supplied for the tender, and brake shoes are in line with the wheelsets (as they are on the engine). One tender wheelset was stiff and skidded on occasion which turned out to be a poorly adjusted pick up.
So there you have it, another very good quality locomotive release from Hornby. It’s another ‘plain Jane’ locomotive, and had we not had the K1 and J15 releases immediately preceding it, I feel it would have been considered a significant step forward. It has no significant shortcomings, but compared against the K1/J15 from the same stable its clear to see its not at the top of the league, but is still very much in the top half of the table.
albionyard J15 review
albionyard K1 review
That Hornby is producing these journeyman locomotives to such high standards is very encouraging. I’d very much like to see a similar take on their next D&E release, and with the Class 71 already following this pattern, its going to be a good year for Hornby.
Hornby R3240 Drummond 700 Class DCC Ready
Product ref CHL01-P91044