Delivered via its current day namesake, my Hornby 21C3 ‘Royal Mail’ arrived this week. It is gratifying to see a project that I have in a small part been involved with for nearly two years come to fruition. I have already posted on this blog a few times about the Merchant Navy classes, in connection with the prototype, my kit built examples, progress of the Hornby versions since their announcement in 2015 and also the variations possible from the first releases. Click here to see a list of such posts.
So far the first two have arrived in the guise of R3434 21C1 ‘Channel Packet’ and R3435 21C3 ‘Royal Mail’ with the other two BR liveried versions of the first releases due in the next couple of months. This post is not a full review as such but aims to discuss some of the features of the model, although I hope the pictures (and thanks to Andy York and BRM magazine for some of the images on this post) speak more than my words. Ultimately tooling will be such that the majority of the number of the variations / modifications of the Merchant Navy class in their original form can be produced, but of course it will be a number of years before all will be seen.
Starting with the chassis and drive, a large 5 pole motor and brass flywheel drives the rear axle via a gear tower and provided very smooth and powerful running and impressive haulage as I have witnessed on the High Wycombe and District MRS layout Hinton Parva. Electrical pick up is via the driving wheels on the loco and those on the tender, the drawbar between the loco and is of the latest permanently fixed style, with two positions via a screw on the loco, to allow close coupling should your layout curves allow.
The wiring between the loco and tender terminates in the usual Hornby plug and socket, but as the they are permanently coupled there should be no need to repeatedly remove the plug from the socket.
The coupling rods are some of the best I have seen on a ready-to-run locomotive, even down the to representation of the lubricating oil filler corks. The Bulleid-Fuirth-Brown wheels are well represented although the metal tyres might look better slightly toned down a little.
The fixed rear pony truck has flangeless wheels as is Hornby’s current way for pacific wheel arrangements allowing for a better representation of the ashpan etc. It may be possible if your curves allow to fit a flanged wheelset if you wish. The pony truck is also a separate component, held on with a single screw which should allow for Hornby to change between the cast and fabricated versions of the different prototypes in the future.
Thankfully Hornby have decided to factory fit the characteristic brake rodding on both the loco and tender (although some owners have reported that they have had to re glue the rodding at some of the mounting points), the former, was on their past Bulleid models difficult to glue in place due to the small contact area and type of plastic they use.
For those wanting to get under the body it is easily removed by first removing the front bogie, held in place with one screw, and then the two chassis to body screws. The DCC socket and space for a speaker is within the tender, the body of which is simply held on with two screws.
The body captures the shape and curves of the original well, being as in her very early condition with ‘widows peak’ cowl above the smokebox there are no smoke deflectors and if being a little critical the front edge of the body side, due to the limitations of the tooling for a mass production model ,are perhaps slightly too thick and I may well look to bevel these from the inside edge slightly to deceive the eye in the area (although part of me is still deciding whether to forward date this model by cutting back the front sides, fitting smoke deflectors and the later top cowl). The front electric lamps and lamp irons above the buffer beam have a slight backward lean to them, but can be tweaked very carefully upright. Looking down the chimney you even see a representation of the locomotives blast pipe, (21C1 also has its unique chimney cover plate modelled in the open position).
The cab is very well represented, complete with nice representations of the two part cab doors, with great attention detail internally with exceptional printing of the various pipework, handles, gauges and dials. The cab roof, complete with lifting eyes etc., has a separately applied ventilator that can be opened or closed. The side windows are neatly glazed and modelled in the open position (rear pane slide behind the front pane and are complete with the windshield.
The nameplates and smokebox door roundel on 21C3 and also the number and tender ‘Southern’ plates on 21c1 (with the roundel correctly being the initial style inverted horseshoe) are separate parts but flat printed rather than having any cast relief such as you would get with etched versions. I have therefore already replaced those on my 21C3 with etched plates from Fox Transfers. For those also wanting etched number plates and Southern plates for 21C1 these are also available from Fox Transfers. The nameplates are simply held in place by three spigots one in the middle and one at each end of the ‘Merchant Navy Class’ cross bar lettering and they came away from the model easily using the tip of a modelling scalpel enabling the etched plates to be glued in place directly to the body side. The overall painting, lining, printing of the numbers and ‘Sunshine’ Southern lettering, correctly slightly different between the numbers and the Southern lettering, and the larger ‘C’ as part of the 21C3 number is of Hornby’s usual high standard.
Included with the loco is an accessory pack that contains a pair of front steps for the loco buffers (which might like the wheel tyres benefit from being toned down from the bright steel) and rear steps for the bufferbeam on the tender, cylinder drain cocks and also steam and vacuum pipes. As with previous Hornby Bulleid pacifics the front steps in particular require glue to affix and is a little tricky, I may well end up replacing these with more robust lost wax castings from RT models, the other items all have positive location holes for fitting. A front tension lock coupling is also included.
Just like when the rebuilt Merchant Navy model was first introduced in 2000 it raised the bar as far as models from Hornby was concerned, I feel that once again the Merchant Navy has been the cause of the bar being set even higher and I am pretty certain that it is no coincidence that it coincides with Paul Isle, whom it has been a pleasure to assist, coming on board at Hornby as head researcher. I look forward to the release of more members of the class and variations in due course, as they are sure to be popular.