Written by Richard Grigg.
Lately, in the railway modelling community, we have been graced with the presence of royalty. This is Hornby's retooled GWR 60XX class, affectionately known as the "King Class". In this review we shall be looking closely at King Class no: 6021 'King Richard II' in BR blue with early crest and TTS sound (item no: R3370TTS) retailed with an RRP of £179.99.
In recent times Hornby's packing for single sale locomotives has undergone a redesign. It now closely resembles Bachmann's model. Hornby's is held securely in the now familiar "block of ice" style plastic packing which in turn is held snugly inside a recessed box. The whole assembly is then covered in a card sleeve that displays a side view of the model. On the front the top features a bird's eye view of the engine whilst the rear of the sleeve gives you some historical information on both the class as a whole and the particular member of the class you've purchased (see if you can spot the small typo error for this model). Also included in the box are the operating and maintenance instructions for the King Class as well as the all important sound decoder manual. The locomotive also comes with a pack of add on details including, amongst other things, brake rods and etched number plates. Rather unusually there appears to be no etched nameplates as these would have been welcomed.
In terms of detail Hornby has really gone to town on this model. If I was to talk at length about each and every piece of detail then this section of the review would go on for a while. To try and keep it short I'll just talk in depth about two elements of detail which I believe sets the standards for the rest of the model. When it comes to the coal in the bunker/tender manufacturers always try their best to make it appear as realistic as possible. They will, however, make the coal load removable or, in some rare cases, dispense with it altogether so that modellers can create and install their own. In the case of the new King Class the fake coal load is one of the better efforts I've ever seen -rather than resembling an ant hill the coal slopes from the rear of the tender to the front in a realistic way. Although it can be removed I can see a lot of people opting to keep it in place and just applying a light dusting of black weathering powder to it. Moving from the tender we come to the cab - and what a cab it is. All the fittings of a standard GWR steam locomotive are present on the back-head. What's more they're all painted, from the red regulator and reversing wheel right down to the gauges. These are not only painted white but the sharp eyed will also make out the needles on the dials. Hornby has even gone the extra mile by adding cab fitting. In 00 scale this could so easily have been overlooked e.g. the vacuum brake handle and the controls for adjusting the dampers.
Although my preferred interest lies with the pre-grouping and 'Big Four' eras there is one livery from the nationalisation era that I do have a liking for. This is the BR blue and I'm pleased to say that not only is it present on this model but as far as I can see Hornby has recreated it without any flaws. The black and white lining together with the early BR crest compliments the dark blue perfectly.
'King Richard II' is not only DCC fitted but also incorporates Hornby's TTS (Twin Track Sound) sound system allowing the model to run on both DC and DCC without needing the decoder chip from the tender removed. The fitted sound decoder allows the engine to play a speed synchronised 'chuffing' sound. This turns to a coasting sound as the model slows down and there is also the usual sounds associated with steam engines. These are as follows:
• A variety of whistles (short, medium, long & two bursts)
• Wheel slip
• Coal shoveling
• Blow down
• Safety valve
• Water injector
• Cylinder drain cocks
• Blower valve
• Guard's whistle
• Coupler clank
• Fireman's breakfast
The only criticism I have with the sound effects is that some of them sound more or less the same as each other (Blow down, Safety valve, Water injector, Cylinder drain cocks and Blower valve). Perhaps Hornby should look into making these particular sounds more distinguishable from each other. On a personal note I've been a volunteer guard on the Gwilli Railway for over 7 years and I have never heard a guard's whistle like the one on this model's sound decoder. This is one sound effect I would certainly re-record. TTS is still a new concept and it can still be improved upon. For example locomotives presently fitted with TTS are able to play sounds whilst running from a DCC controller whilst with a DC controller the same does not apply. It seems to me that future development of this system could see TTS fitted stock being able to play a select few sounds on DC analogue. In addition, TTS steam engines do not include light effects.I believe Hornby can remedy this by fitting a micro LED into the fire hole flickering in a realistic fashion.
The motor assembly for the King Class comprises a sealed, long life 5 pole skew-wound motor resulting in the locomotive moving in a smooth and elegant glide. So, regardless of which ever control method is used, one knows one has a real high quality mechanism inside the model when the slow speed performance in DC matches the exact same performance in DCC. This certainly rings true in this case.
All I can say is that Hornby have really out-done themselves with this latest version of the King Class. The retooling is a major improvement from the one in earlier models and the inclusion of TTS with this particular engine is just the icing on the cake. As I've already stated there is room to improve and develop the TTS system and the inclusion of a light in the firebox would do wonders to enhance the realism even further. But, that said, this locomotive is still great value for money and, as far as I'm concerned, is worthy of being one of Hornby's elite model steam engines in their current range. DJ models are going to have to do something pretty special with their version of the King Class to try and top Hornby.
With this I give an overall score of 9.5/10.