Written by Tony Richards.
One of the most eagerly-awaited releases in ‘OO’ this year has been Dapol’s model of one of the initial batch of AEC streamlined railcars. Featured in this review is No.11, the original being one of three lavatory-fitted 63 seat units, which entered service in February 1936 and ran on through to its withdrawl in November 1956. The model has also been released in a later GWR livery and without valancing over the bogies. BR liveried editions are also available in 'chocolate and cream' and 'blood and custard'.
The Great Western railcars were iconic vehicles, their design very much in keeping with the style of their times and they symbolised a spirit of modernity and progress which the Great Western was not slow to capitalise upon. Nos.1-18 were, broadly speaking, very similar in outline to Dapol’s release with 19-38 being far less streamlined and more angular in design, as represented by the popular Lima / Hornby 'OO' models.
Between Nos.1 and 38, a small number were also built with buffers and drawbars to pull trailers [some of the second type running as three-car units], some had a more conventional coach appearance at one end and others were designed without side windows to carry express parcels.
Powered by twin AEC 8 litre diesel bus engines of a proven design, each with its own gearbox, and giving it a maximum speed of 80mph, No.11 started its life at Weymouth but was finally shedded at Landore. Other south Wales locations for railcars of both types include Ebbw Junction, Carmarthen, Neath, Llanelli, Ponypool Rd. and Llantrisant.
Previous r-t-r model history
A ready-to-run version of the second design of railcar [in both passenger and parcels configuration] has been available in ‘OO’ for over 30 years. Originally manufactured by Lima, and later taken into production by Hornby [with an improved chassis / drive]. Whilst the body moulding is now showing its age, it remains widely available and throughout its life has been produced in a number of liveries in both parcels and passenger configurations.
The version released by Dapol is entirely new to the r-t-r market however, although in kit form modellers will probably best remember the white-metal Anbrico release, now a relatively scarce item. K’s made a white-metal kit for the second version and this appears fairly regularly on eBay.
In on-line video reviews in particular, there appears to be a growing trend towards spending the first ten minutes of the piece describing the packaging: suffice to say, the model comes securely packed in an extremely stout box.
What does impress immediately however is the weight of the model: it is heavy. One is also quickly impressed by the quality of the finish. The livery is very neatly applied with the gold lining particularly so. The boundaries between the colours are sharp and clean, with absolutely no overspray observable anywhere. Look at the fine lining separating the roof from the upper body for example.
The windows, large and such a feature of the original, are flush-glazed with the framing of the sliding glass vents finely picked out. The complicated three-dimensional curves of the driving ends are well modelled and capture the image of razor-edged streamlining extremely effectively. Tooling this must have been quite a complicated affair.
The model has operational, directional running lights together with an interior lighting bar. Although the sides of the railcar are completely flush, separately fitted fine handrails have been provided, inset, for the central entrance.
The model also carries vestigial buffer stems as fitted to the earlier cars, of little real use save at the lowest of speeds and, correctly, has no coupling mechanism: this car ran as a single unit alone.
Because the bogies are fully enclosed, railing this model is a little fiddley: a railing ramp will help enormously here.
In comparison with the impressive exterior, the interior is maybe a little sparse. A self-coloured one-piece moulding comprises the floor, seats and driving cabs. A large raised section in this unit is also quite noticeable and on No.11 is full height on one side as the photograph above shows, this representing the side of the lavatory compartment. The raised section of the floor is there to cover the large, fly-wheel equipped can motor. In truth, all of this is not that hugely obtrusive but once you know it's there you do rather tend to see it. Painting the seats in a matt finish to simulate olive-green moquette would help greatly, as would fitting seated passengers. The floor could be painted matt black and that would help disguise the motor bulge. There are no cab controls either, apart from two seats.
I'm left thinking that a ha'porth of tar may perhaps have been wasted here and more care with the interior would have lifted this model from being simply superb to absolutely magnificent. But equally so, this will not concern the majority of purchasers and, in all honesty, I can live with it. Be aware though, adaptations may invalidate the model's warranty.
At stated, the model is powered by a large, fly-wheeled equipped 5 pole motor which drives by shaft to the powered bogie. Straight from the box, it ran superbly. Starting from an almost imperceptible crawl, it progressed quietly and responsively. Running down to a halt was equally smooth with the model creeping to a standstill. The running lights were neither too bright nor too large but tended to become visible only once the model had reached a scale 15 or 20mph. In daylight, the interior lighting had to be looked for and so was not obtrusive. In darker conditions it was most realistic.
Dismantling the model is extremely simple. To remove the body, gently prise the sides apart a little way at the centre and, with a slight shake, the chassis unit will drop out. Removing the seating unit to access DCC fitments, two screws, one each fore and aft, need undoing and, with care, the seating can be lifted away [it does not detach entirely however because of the fixed wiring leading up to the lighting bar]. There's nothing more to it than that and no awkward wiring to stuff back in place.
Notwithstanding the perhaps basic interior, this is an extremely fine model of an iconic diesel railcar. Dapol has done well to capture the characteristic outline admirably and, doubtless, this will be a popular production, one which could run in several liveries and be used without stretching credibility on many layouts set in south Wales and beyond. Whether one details the interior or not, it is for me the model of the year, one which was worth waiting for and one which knocks the now outdated Lima / Hornby model firmly into a cocked hat.