SEmG

A Review of Hornby train pack R2001 Class 466 "Networker"


Introduction:

Because the Southern is the poor sister when it comes to trade support I always make a point of buying a sample any Southern RTR model regardless of whether it matches my chosen modelling period or location. I have for a long time particularly been looking forward to being able to buy a RTR "Southern" EMU; the last time I did so was obtaining a Hornby Dublo EMU (not actually a model of a Southern prototype!) during the death throes of the Meccano Company in 1964.

Unfortunately the thoroughness of this review is impeded by the fact that I have so far been unable to locate anything other than the most sketchiest information about the prototype, let alone comprehensive data and scale drawings.

Prototype Overview:

The class 466 EMU is a 2 car inner suburban unit consisting of a driving motor standard and a driving trailer standard. One of these cars has a single toilet - prototype information is required to determine whether this is in the motor or the trailer - my guess is it is in the trailer and this is the basis upon which I will make observations in this review. The class 466 is one of the earliest of the "Networker" generation of EMUs which embody plenty of new technology - specifically using three phase AC drive. This particular incarnation of the Networker design philosophy has 750 volts DC third rail pick-up only. Class 466s were introduced in 1993 as part of a 30 million modernisation programme of services into Kent from London by Network SouthEast - then branded "Kent Link Networker". These services are now run by Connex South East.

Visit our class 465/466 picture page.

Model Overview:

The model comes in a custom moulded expanded polystyrene tray within a one piece cardboard box. The first impression is of a quality model a cut above the run-of-the-mill Hornby output. Closer inspection unfortunately reveals that this model is proverbially like the curate's egg; the overall quality of this model is not consistent. The model represents unit number 466040 consisting of (assumption mentioned above applies) driving motor standard 64899 and driving trailer toilet standard 78351. It is painted in the Network SouthEast Networker livery of off-white (including roof) with red and blue horizontal bands sweeping up toward the cab ends. It is lettered for "Network SouthEast" and "Kent Link Networker". The unit comes ready presented with service headcode71 to Cannon St via Bexleyheath. Three alternative headcodes are available for the purchaser to apply (see later).

Bodywork:

The bodies are made up of a heavy diecast underframe (which adds essential weight) and a plastic upper body. I am pleased to report that unlike previous model offerings (e.g. the Lima class 117 DMU) the body mouldings are different, accurately representing the differing bodies of the two cars. The bodies are extremely well moulded with very fine detail, albeit of what is actually a clean surfaced prototype. The upper body is presumably of clear plastic spray painted (with printed numerals and lettering) providing splendidly flush - actually very very slightly inset - windows which are highlighted by a very accurately painted aluminium coloured frames. The painting around the cabs is excellent, producing a very realistic looking model. The inner car ends are well detailed by separately applied rubber corridor diaphragms and plastic pipe and cable work.

The model motor is contained wholly within the power bogie (see later) so there are no "workings" intruding into the insides which are filled by reasonably detailed seat, partition and cab mouldings (which are again correctly different between the cars) in light blue. I believe the real thing has a checked moquette in a basically light blue scheme. A driver and some passengers, and interior lighting would have been icing on the cake!

Working cab headlights and taillights shine through the cab ends (the real things are behind glass) and illuminate correctly according to the direction of travel. The headlights are represented by weak yellow LEDs and do not give the impression of the piercing rays of light that they are meant to represent. However the light they emit is not visible elsewhere, unlike the more accurate looking strong red LED tail lights which can also be seen through the cab interior.

Alternative headcodes supplied are:

22 Victoria via Bromley
72 Charing X via Bexleyheath
87 London Bridge via Greenwich

These alternatives are supplied printed on self adhesive paper which when fixed gives detail proud of the cab window front spoiling the wonderfully flush look. I would have preferred waterslide transfers which would be thinner.

Unfortunately this otherwise wonderfully accurate looking bit of modelling is let down by three points:

Firstly the (admittedly) small moulding pip is clearly visible on the roofs; why oh why cannot manufacturers file these down before painting?

Secondly the separately applied cab handrails and windscreen wipers, which are of engineering plastic, are very delicate, easily damaged and the handrail does not hug the body wrap well. Very easily these cab handrails can resemble wayward beard whiskers. Lifelike Proto 2000 models have similarly delicate detail, but Lifelike are able to get their castings to fit better and they are not so prone to bending and breakage.

Finally there is an inexplicable unprototypical gap between the underside of the cabs and the dumb buffers.

Good News - the atrocious tension link coupling is gone! Bad news - the (non functional) plastic moulding representing the automatic coupling of the real thing looks undersized (when comparing to pictures of a prototype) to me. It is not possible to couple this model to anything else unless you fit some form of working model coupling. Because of the complex front underframe shape fitting something like a Kadee does not look straightforward. The cars are coupled together with a slim metal bar coupling linking the two inner bogies together. This bar is mounted barely above track level and on early releases it had been causing short circuits across certain items of complicated track work. Hornby have corrected this problem following a product recall and subsequent modification. Some early batches of this modification have in themselves caused other problems (see later).

A few facts and figures - the bodies scale in a length of 65ft 6in (excluding dumb buffers) 9ft wide at mid body and 12ft 6in high above the rail top. How does this measure up to the real thing? The model motor car weighs 14oz and the model trailer 10oz.

Bogies, Motor and Electrics :

The bogies have reasonably detailed cosmetic plastic side frames over much chunkier inside model frames. Therefore there is less daylight apparent underneath than there should be. The real thing has one P3 type power bogie and one T3 type trailer bogie under each car. The model has 4 identical looking bogies - lacking drawings or decent pictures of the prototype bogies I do not know whether the model is visually correct. On older dc drive EMUs the power bogies are of a much heavier construction than trailer bogies, or are the AC traction motors and running gear on the prototype so lightweight that they can be accommodated within what is otherwise a trailer bogie? The wheels are of 12mm diameter and have an oxidised copper finish. This makes a change from the usual bright metal Hornby things, but contrarily do not real wheels on modern EMUs tend to look bright in places because of the use of disc brakes?

The small motor is contained wholly within the inner bogie of the power car. Unfortunately the motor, which lies horizontally, only drives one axle via worm gear. The wheels on this axle have traction tyres. I will comment on its running qualities in the next section, however it is worth noting here that Tenshodo manage to pack 4 wheel drive into their "spuds", as do Steam Era Models into their "Black Beetle" motor bogie. Both of these types also do not intrude into body space. The Hornby motor has non replaceable carbon brushes so the whole motor has to be replaced every 150 hours! Hornby, of course, recommend recourse to a service dealer but it is a simple job that any proficient modeller ought to be able to cope with: lever out the power bogie, remove motor keeper plate (one screw) and unsolder the leads. Installation of the new motor being the reverse procedure. The motored car has 8 wheel pick-up. The trailer also has 4 wheel pick-up in its outer bogie, but these feed the head/tail lamp LEDs on the cab of that car. The metal bar coupler between the cars is electrically live, but without taking the cars to bits I cannot establish whether this serves any useful purpose because it does not seem to feed any pick-up from the trailer to the motored car.

A few facts and figures: The bogie wheel base scales in at 8ft 6in, the bogie centres are 46ft 6in apart, and the wheel diameters 3ft. Is this correct? The cars couple a scale 3ft between ends with a scale 1ft gap between the diaphragms.

Running Properties:

This is by far the very worse bit of this model - in a word - poor! Hopefully things ought to improve with running-in, but the majority of my model engine purchases this year have been Lifelike Proto 2000 or Bachmann Branchline locos, and even though both manufacturers also recommend running-in, their products always run superbly straight out of the box, even at very slow speeds. Out of the box this model is a hesitant runner despite all that weight, with much wheel spinning until the traction tyres eventually gain hold and the model jerks into movement. Perhaps Hornby intended this to represent leaf-fall season running! Any form of an upward gradient has this model stalling instantly whether pushing or pulling its trailer.

So now you suspect why there are no working couplers on this - nothing to do with accurate looks - more to do with the fact it is struggling to propel itself let alone anything else! Hopefully Hornby will improve the drive of this model as they have done with previous models in the past, such as their class 58. As for me, I have by additional expenditure purchased a "Black Beetle" 34mm wheelbase 12mm wheel diameter motor bogie from Branchlines of Exeter to attempt a transplant.

Interestingly the Hornby Dublo EMU also only had one axle motored and the motored wheels had traction tyres. This model was however powered by a redoubtable ringfield motor in the body. When the Dublo model was first designed a member of the Meccano design committee was sceptical about its hauling power, but when pointed out it had sufficient traction to pull itself plus a few trailers - which after all was all the prototype was powered to do - his reservation was withdrawn. Unfortunately this more modern Hornby EMU struggles to meet such haulage criterion. Certainly my 33 year old Hornby Dublo EMU is still more capable of hauling its trailer up a gradient than its young Hornby successor!

However, to be more positive I did test it - albeit on the flat - on British trainset geometry 2nd radius curves (17in radius), and it did run round them easily.

Other Early Problems:

When I obtained my model one car had its two windscreen wipers missing - I eventually found one lying around in the box but the other was completely gone. Also a pick-up shoe beam moulding was missing from the bogie on the trailer car. Upon contacting the retailer I was told that this was caused by the handling by Hornby during the product recall to modify the inter-car coupling. Apparently they had not noticed they had knocked bits off when doing the corrective work. Unfortunately another example of poor quality control was exhibited on my model that could not be attributed to the recall : the orange paint highlighting the lifting points had smeared up the body sides spoiling the paint finish. Nice to have this level of detail - shame poor handling during manufacturing had spoiled the finish. I was able to remove the smeared paint myself by gentle abrasion with the end of an ink rubber.

Conclusion:

This model is a vast improvement on previous toy-like Hornby offerings and with the few qualifications mentioned above, which prevent this model being described as excellent, it is a good looking model. Its running cannot, however, be described in any complimentary manner. In this respect it compares badly to the recently released Bachmann Class 158 DMU. Both are about the same price, and whilst accepting the Bachmann has its 8 wheel drive unit mounted within the body preventing interior detail, in running the Bachmann class 158 completely outclasses the Hornby class 466.

Colin Duff. January 1998.

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