Graham Farish first announced that they would be producing brand new tooled Bulleid Merchant Navy Pacifics in N gauge back in March 2012. For any N gauge Southern Region modellers I can wholeheartedly say it has been very much been worth the wait. I am fortunate, even as a 4mm modeller, to have obtained one of these models to review before they hit the retailers’ shelves over the next few weeks.
The four models being initially produced by Graham Farish all represent members of the final third series of ten engines that entered traffic between September 1948 and April 1949 under the auspices of the newly formed British Railways, some three years since the introduction of the final members of the second series. They were numbered from new 35021 to 35030.
Further details of the three different series of the Merchant Navy class can be found on my very first ‘Talking Stock’ post here with illustrations based on my 4mm scale kit built examples. In brief; the third series differed from the first twenty members class, whilst although maintaining the more angular body shape from the second series, they had the wedge shape cab from new with three side windows and as a weight save measure had a fabricated (instead of cast) trailing truck.
They were also eventually paired with larger 6000 gallon tenders on an asymmetrical wheelbase of 7’4” + 7’0” (rather than the previous 5000 and 5,100 gallon tenders of the first two batches with 6’6” + 6’6” wheelbase). Although it should also be noted that when initially introduced due to a number of the 6000 gallon tenders, being built at Brighton, not being initially available 35021, 35022 and 35024 were paired with 5,500 gallon battle of Britain tenders whilst 35026 and 35027 were paired with 4,500 gallon West Country class tenders. Their eventual 6000 gallon tenders were available within a couple of months. My own 4mm model of 35022 paired with its temporary 5000 gallon light pacific tender can be seen here.
The Initial four versions being produced by Graham Farish are as follows:
- 372-310, No. 35024 “East Asiatic Company” in British Railways Express passenger blue the livery she carried between October 1950 and June 1951.
- 372-311, No. 35023 “Holland-Afrika Line” in BR Brunswick Green with early emblem livery as she carried between February 1952 and her rebuilding in February 1957. 35023 was one of only three members of the class not to carry the BR Blue livery (along with 35011 and 35014)
- 372-312, No. 35028. “Clan Line” in BR Brunswick Green with late crest, the only Merchant Navy to gain the late crest in original form. She carried this livery between August 1958 and being the last of the class to be rebuilt in October 1959
- 372-313, No. 35021. “New Zealand Line” in lined Malachite Green livery with “British Railways” lettering in Yellow Gill Sans which represents her condition between receiving her correct 6000 gallon tender in November 1948 and being repainted in BR Blue in November 1950.
During the periods represented by the liveries above 35028 was allocated to Stewarts Lane and for a few months before rebuilding Nine Elms, whilst the other three were all Exmouth Junction allocated locomotives.
The models have captured the characteristic look of these engines extremely well, and the level of detail really shows how much N gauge Ready To Run models have substantially improved over the last few years. This model in my opinion lifts the bar for N Gauge models even higher.
The exceptional detail includes: the front and rear lamp irons, with the three above the front beam separately applied in combination with the electric lamps, whilst the rest of the irons and lamps on and above the smoke box door and tender rear are moulded, fine ‘Bullied clasp type’ break gear including the external rodding, the rear tender ladders and a good representaion of the cab backhead. The very fine smoke deflectors appear to be separately applied etched brass fitments, although even the tender raves that are moulded also appear impressively thin. The removable coal load is cast metal to add some additional weight to the tender.
My first impression out of the box was that the gap between the locomotive and tender is slightly too large and that the connecting rod is quite obviously cranked part way along its length to enable the model to navigate 9” radius curves. The only other such compromise I thought Graham Farish had made was the omission of the front steps and cylinder drain pipes; however these are amazingly included within the accessory detail pack, for modellers with more generous curves, to fit (the drain pipes would benefit from a touch of copper paint). The detailing pack also includes: cab doors, an engine head signal disc (which will actually fit over the front buffer beam lamp irons), an alternative front bogie block (for those not wishing to fit a front coupling, although no coupling was included with my model), a front coupling hook complete with a representation of a screw coupling and steam / vacuum pipes for the front buffer beam! I would point out that the front steps are handed and my detail pack contained two of the same hand! It has only been in the last few years that such additional details have been included with 4mm scale RTR models (although I you think they are difficult to fit in 4mm you should try these!).
Running straight of the box was exceptionally smooth with pick ups also included on the tender wheels, which appear to be split axles running in bushes, with electrical transfer carried to the locomotive via the permanently fixed draw bar.
Its first run was in fact on Jerry Clifford’s exceptional 2mm finescale layout Tucking Mill, and she even managed to negotiate, albeit by bumping over them, the 2mm finescale points (which of course in reality, being made to N Gauge standards, the model is not designed to do!) I have not yet been able to give her a full run with a full rake of coaches but I have no fear that she will not perform exceptionally well. They would certainly look good in front of a rake of the latest Graham Farish Bullied that arrived last year or once once released in BR(s) livery the Dapol Maunsell coaches .
I can only say that this is an exceptional model and I repeat my opinion that it lifts the N Gauge RTR standards bar even higher, well done Graham Farish. I certainly believe this excellent model, will prove popular, and with any luck might in the future lead to some of the earlier Merchant Navy series and variations being tooled.