Review: Hornby Class 43 HST - With TTS sound

Written by Richard Grigg, photos by Gwion Rhys Davies


Initially intended as a "stop gap" solution whilst development and testing of the Advanced Passenger Train (APT) progressed, the Class 43s (aka the High Speed Train and the Intercity 125) went on to become the backbone of intercity rail travel within the UK when the aforementioned APT project was ultimately deemed a failure and cancelled.

Between 1975 and 1982 a total of 197 members of the class were built at Crewe and on November 1st 1987 they set a world record for diesel traction, by achieving a collosal speed of 148 MPH. In regular service, however they are limited to a maximum pace of 125 MPH. The class 43s were initially fitted with the 12 cylinder Paxman Valenta diesel engines with turbo chargers, giving them the distinctive and unique sound known by several enthusiasts as the "Valenta Scream". Nowadays these have been replaced with more eco-friendly MTU (Motoren- und Turbinen - Union) engines from Germany.

After giving sterling service for over 40 years the old class 43s are slowly being replaced with the younger and more modern class 800s, however they're not going to completely disappear as some of them are heading to Scotland to work trains from Edinburgh and Glasgow to Aberdeen and Inverness while the GWR are also keeping a few to run services between Cardiff and Penzance.

In this review we will be taking a look at one of Hornby's most recent offerings of the class 43 in the form of the HST pack (R3602TTS) which contains 43078 (named Golowan Festival Penzance) and 43079, sporting the Intercity "swallow" livery and fitted with Twin Track Sound (TTS) decoders.

RRP:- £299.00

Also available:

  • R3608- BR Intercity 125 livery (ex-Lima tooling) from the Railroad range

  • R3685- GWR livery "Meningitis Trust Support For Life"

  • R3696- GWR livery "Old Oak Common" (coming 4th quarter 2019)

  • R3698- Scot Rail livery (coming 2nd quarter 2019)

  • R3802- LNER livery (coming 4th quarter 2019)

  • R3808- Cross Country livery (coming 4th quarter 2019)


These models are placed in a different type of packing to which we are use to nowadays. Both locos, wrapped in tissue paper, are placed in a polystyrene tray and then covered by a sheet of card. The whole assembly is then placed in a well presented cardboard box which features illustrations of the models along with the relevant information regarding both the prototype and the TTS system, (more on the latter to come). Also enclosed is a small accessory pack containing a pair of cosmetic knuckle couplers as well as the care/maintenance leaflet, the TTS Sound decoder manual for the class 43 and an instruction leaflet on HST driving tips.


The class 43s boast a considerable amount of detail in spite of their basic shape. Starting with the roof both models feature exhaust outlets, air vents, raised panels, ribbed roofing and rivets. Both sides contain separately fitted handrails, moulded rivets, panel lines, air vents and flush glazing.

Both models also feature spring loaded doors which can be opened. Although it's a great little gimmick to add it was not really necessary as it doesn't, in my opinion, offer anything that you could do with it practically, except for maybe displaying one on a HST depot layout/diorama with a worker climbing into or out of the cab, but even then this scenario involves having to remove the spring to keep the door permanently open.

The rear of the models also include flush glazing, along with the corridor connectors while the iconic fronts feature separately fitted windscreen wipers, flush glazing on the front view screen and over the light clusters. There's also moulded panel detailing on the lower part of the "nose" and a moulded grill over the horns between the lights.

Below the running board the intricate details continue on and between the bogies.

Livery Application

Of all the liveries carried by the class 43s over the last four decades the Intercity "swallow" livery is by far my personal favourite as it was the first colour scheme that I saw them in and Hornby has finished it perfectly with no flaws that I can see.

The yellow fronts contrast against the black, white and beige with red lining really well. The swallow symbol is printed clean and crisply in silver along with the Intercity lettering. Also present is the overhead power cable warning signs which, although small in OO scale, show up really well. In addition to these is the specifications label of the class located on the back of the models.

43078 has an additional decal over 43079 in the form of a nameplate, 'Golowan Festival Penzance' , finished in silver lettering with a deep red background. The nameplate is printed on the model cleanly however a metal etched option would have been appreciated.

A curious observation I made was that the un-powered model has the nameplates rather than the motorised one. When buying this pack I initially assumed that 43078 would be the motorised model rather than the unnamed 43079, but it's not really an issue and at the end of the day it doesn't matter which model has the motor. As long as one is there that's all that matters.

Special Features

Both units are fitted with Hornby's TTS system and feature the following sounds:

  • Engine start/stop

  • Horn high-low

  • Horn high-low-high

  • Brake squeal

  • Notch up

  • Notch down

  • Return to idle

  • Thrash (the "Valenta Scream" )

  • Cold start override

  • Compressor

  • Cab door slam

  • Fan

  • Horn high-low-high (passing)

  • Horn (fancy)

  • Primer

  • Slow flange squeal

  • Driver's safety device (in cab)

  • Horn high-low (prototype loco)

  • Horn high-low-high (prototype loco)

  • Windscreen wipers

  • AWS test (in cab)

  • Fire bell test

  • Guard's whistle

  • Guard to driver buzzer (in cab)

  • Aux (if used in locomotive)

Both models also feature fully working directional lights and cab lighting. Hornby's TTS system is basically DCC sound on a budget and even though it's low in quality compared to other sound decoders/speakers available they still nevertheless produce good enough sounds for the price you pay. You really can suspend believe that these models each contain a OO scale Paxman Valenta engine... just without the copious amounts of clag.

Before I move on I must point out a problem I've encountered recently with the TTS decoder. Basically, you can operate a locomotive fitted with a TTS decoder on either DCC or DC without having to remove it or alter it in any way, which is the case with the other TTS fitted loco I have in my collection. This is possible because of CV-29=4 on the decoder which, in it's default setting, allows both DC and DCC operation to be active at the same time. However when I first ran the models to run them in on DC nothing happened, making me think that there was a problem, until I tried DCC and found they worked fine.

The obvious solution is to check the configuration on CV-29=4 but the point is that I shouldn't need to check as both DC and DCC operation should be possible straight out of the box, as indicated in the instruction manual. It seems to me that Hornby needs to check the decoders before distribution to the retailers and avoid contradiction and inconvenience.


43079 is fitted with a powerful 5-pole skew wound motor with twin fly wheels and drive shafts to both bogies. After the initial run-in period it ran smoothly and with very little sound. The model also has a considerable amount of weight to it too, which gives it adequate tractive effort, certainly enough to pull/push itself, it's un-motorised partner and a rake of MK3 coaches with the minimum effort. For my purposes I have an 8+2 HST consist (2x first opens, 1x buffet, 4x standard opens and 1x trailer guard second + the two 43s) and the sole motorised unit in the train is more than enough to handle the combined weight. The number of MK3s in the rake changes with each company but with their light weight the locomotive is never going to struggle on the flat.

Depending on the angle, longer trains may struggle on gradients which are not gradual.

The DCC system in the models allows you to run them as a prototypical consist which means that they'll run just like the real thing. Full details and instructions are enclosed with the pack.

Final Thoughts

Since it was re-tooled the class 43 has become on of the best models of the modern era to be produced by Hornby. The details, decals and livery combined with the quality mechanism and smooth running makes it a firm favourite with many railway modellers and enthusiasts alike.

That being said the teething troubles encountered with the TTS decoder at the start does cast a small black cloud over an otherwise fantastic system and in my opinion Hornby really needs to address this for future releases.

But in spite of that I still recommend picking one up and if anyone who's read my review of Bachmann's H1 Atlantic is wondering if I think £299.00 is a ridiculously high RRP, my answer in this particular case is... no it's not. Think about it, you're getting a pair of highly detailed models, each of which has working lights and sound decoders containing 25 sound descriptions each and to cap it all one model contains a high quality mechanism capable of pulling itself and an entire train.

Ever since Hornby released the Virgin liveried class 43s with the TTS Sound system I've been waiting for them to appear in the Intercity "swallow" guise and as soon as they were announced last year I immediately pre-ordered them along with the matching MK3s to go with them. This particular class sporting this particular livery is really personal and special to me, even more so now with the recent death of my father, as it was he who took me to Swansea High Street station as a child and it was there I first saw the iconic high speed train in all it's glory. Finally having a model of this childhood favourite in my collection rekindles many happy memories of the times I spent with my father and long may it continue to do so.

Pros and Cons


  • Smooth running

  • Emence tractive effort

  • Good quality sound decoders for the price paid

  • Immaculate detailing

  • Sharp livery and decals

  • High quality motor mechanism


  • Lack of metal etched nameplates

  • Contradicting DCC instructions regarding CVs

With this I give an overall score of 8.5/10.