Bachmann first announced the introduction of these ex South Eastern and Chatham Railway 60ft Birdcage coaches back in March 2013. Has it been worth the wait? Although at the time of writing only the BR Crimson versions are due this month, I have to say, yes very much so. The review is is a version of one I have written for British Railway Modelling magazine the electronic version of which is published today with printed copies to be available next week.
These 60ft three coach ‘birdcage’ sets were introduced by the South Eastern and Chatham Railway (SE&CR) between 1912 and 1915; and comprising of 62 sets were the most numerous sets compared to the previous 50ft examples. With the birdcage lookouts over each of the guards compartments these sets typify the standard SE&CR non-corridor coaching stock.
The sets comprised originally of: 2nd / 3rd class composite Brake Lavatory (later declassified to Brake Lavatory Third (SR Diagram 162), a 1st / 2nd (later declassified to 1st / 3rd) Lavatory Composite (SR Diagram 315/6) and the Brake Third (SR Diagram 160), The Composites were built in batches with two distinct body side variations, with the initial batch having two wide windows on each side for the saloon, whilst the later batch had one wide and one narrow window for the saloon; Bachmann have tooled for both versions. The Southern Railway renumbered both the individual coach and set numbers between 1923 and 1929.
The initial Bachmann releases are as follows:
39-600 SE&CR 60’ Birdcage Brake Composite SE&CR Dark Lake, No.1174 Set 138
39-610 SE&CR 60’ Birdcage Composite SE&CR Dark Lake, No. 1178 Set 138
39-620 SE&CR 60’ Birdcage Brake 3rd SE&CR Dark Lake, No. 1182 Set 138
39-601 ex SE&CR 60’ Birdcage Brake Lavatory SR Olive Green, No. 3518 Set 613
39-611 ex SE&CR 60’ Birdcage Composite SR Olive Green, No. 5423 Set 613 (Two wide saloon window style)
39-621 ex SE&CR 60’ Birdcage Brake 3rd SR Olive Green, No. 3446 Set 613
39-602 ex SE&CR 60’ Birdcage Brake Lavatory BR Crimson, No. 5468 Set 595
39-612 ex SE&CR 60’ Birdcage Composite BR Crimson, No. 5468 Set 595
39-622 ex SE&CR 60’ Birdcage Brake 3rd BR Crimson, No. 3428 Set 595
The SR versions are due to follow in October / November with the SE&CR versions November / December.
Separately applied fittings include the roof vents, vacuum pipes, handrails and grab handles. The brake ends also have separately applied lamp irons and brake control apparatus. The glazing is commendably flush and the window corner radii, especially in the drop lights are very nicely prototypically small. A representation of the internal window bars is included on the luggage compartment door window glazing.
The body is removed via easing the four clips located on each side to reveal a moulded interior with partitions, table in the saloon and even lavatories (where appropriate) and the seating painted in respective colours.
The underframe detailing is exquisite with finely mounded brake details, 4 sets of very finely moulded queen post truss rodding and even the turnbuckles. The buffers are separate moulded items and not sprung.
Dynamos and battery boxes are fitted only to the the SE&CR composite, and on the SR / BR versions the Composite and the Brake Third as the electric lighting was through cabled to the other coaches in the set.
The all new well detailed 8ft Heavy Fox coil spring bolster bogies fitted with metal wheels sets and pin point axles running in metal bearings are very freewheeling. Detachable couplings in NEM pockets are mounted on the now standard close coupling mechanism.
The resulting gap (4mm on the straight) between coaches could still benefit from being reduced slightly with perhaps an alternative to the supplied tension lock coupling (I test fitted Kadee No.18s, although of course the prototypes were not buckeye fitted, and this reduced the gap to 2mm) if your minimum radii allows. The coaches when test ran, run very smoothly both hauled and propelled though a complex range of pointwork.
No internal lighting is fitted but each bogie includes wiper pickups so this might be a potential option in the future.
Depending on the lighting that the coaches are viewed under the rendition of the crimson livery might appear to some to be slightly on the dark side, although it does match previous ready to crimson releases in that respect. The initial SE&CR Dark Lake livery sample as previously shown by Bachmann has been commented on as being too brown and Bachmann I believe are currently looking at revising this to give a deeper red colour.
Please note: all the images on this post are copyright and courtesy of A York and BRM Magazine.
Bachmann have been given assistance in the research and preparation of these excellent models by friend Trevor Rapley the owner of, albeit one of the earlier 50ft version, birdcage Brake lavatory Composites preserved on the Bluebell Railway and the results speak for themselves (although I am sure someone will moan cryptically due to finding maybe a rivet slightly in the wrong place). The introduction of these sets with their distinct character, being of pre-grouping origin, that were long lived and little modified during their lifetime; along with recent and planned (check back on here after midday on Monday 11th for a further announcement) South Eastern & Chatham Railway / Eastern Section Southern Railway locomotives; will ensure that these excellent coaches prove popular.