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West Yorkshire Sow's Ear - 1 : Diagnosis



I have two Hornby 155s sitting in the pile of stock boxes


One is in Regional Railways livery. I've had it for at least 15 years and it's never run. It was meant as material for converting into 153s to support a proposed club layout project which never happened


The other is in West Yorkshire red and white . This was acquired as a modest priced placeholder for a later club layout project (which got as far as running bare boards and some scenery before it died ). It has a decoder (a Macoder if you ask), it's run , and as Blacklade is supposed to have services south from West Yorkshire via Sheffield, its perfectly in place. Since the thing actually ran quite well, it was a regular on the layout until I installed Knightwing point motors (the dummy prototype sort cast in whitemetal) . These fouled the "black box" on the underframe, so the unit was stopped.


As the packets of NNK/MTK underframe castings have turned up, and as the 101 is now done, and the Kirk Gresley 51' pigeon van well advanced, attention has turned to the poor old W.Yorks 155 while I still have some modelling time. I want at least to get this started , and resuscitation turned from a good intention into an actual project.


Sorting out the various RTR DMUs and their shortcomings has always been a good intention for the future. However with the 101 done, we move on to the next. The W Yorks 158 is in their later livery and not really suitable for an "early period" sequence set in 1985-90. The 155 is eminently suitable.


The Hornby, (ex Dapol) 155 dates from around 1990, and has not been in the catalogue for a few years now. It's quite probable Hornby will never produce it again. It's not a great model, dating from a time when OO RTR was much more basic than would be tolerated nowadays, and originated by a company whose standards were some distance behind the cutting edge at the time . It was the least worst of the 3 modern multiple units Dapol produced in the Dave Boyle era - the Dapol Pendolino was a crude lemon beside its excellent rival the Bachmann Voyager, and the Dapol 150 is a model that is spoken of with a shudder when old modern image modellers sit in the pub by the fire and tell of the terrible hardships they endured in their youth. Hornby seem to have chucked the tooling for those two in the skip (where it belonged) but they re-ran the 155 for a number of years with a decent finish and an improved mechanism.


However it's considerably cruder than the 156 they inherited from Lima , and since only 7 units survive, owned by West Yorkshire , the rest being converted to 153s in 1990-2, its commercial potential is pretty limited.


For these reasons it is most unlikely anyone will ever produce another RTR model . Like the EM2s, it's been stranded by the tide of history. Unlike the EM2s, it's never going to be iconic. It's a grubby middle-weight Sprinter.


And next to a Hornby 153 (like wot I've got ...) it looks rough.


There's so much wrong with this model that simply listing the issues is going to be quite enough for a substantial post. I'm not aiming at "the definitive 155". Assuming anyone could ever be bothered to attempt it, you wouldn't go this route . It has been suggested that a 155 can be converted from two Hornby 153s - a sort of reverse version of what BR did. However that would cost you at least £200 in raw materials, and assuming a professional paint job is required, the bill will be close to £300.There would also be the fun and games of hacking the chassis and consisting two separate mechanisms requiring two decoders. Money is tight, and even if I could source 2 x 153 it's not on for lots of reasons. I'm not that desperate for a perfect 155.


So this is an attempt to patch up the unit I have , at minimal cost using stuff I have in stock, and tackle the shortcomings as far as I sensibly can.


Here's a picture of the trailer car dismantled to help you spot the problems:



Starting at the bottom - the black boxes on the underframe have to go : not only are they very wrong, the model is out of gauge with them. Fortunately this isn't going to be too hard, as can be seen.


The tension-locks go and Kadees need to be fitted. I'm hoping I will be able to consist this unit with a 153 - the mechanical mismatch between a Limby motor bogie and a big Bachmann centre motor drive having proved impossible. This also means close coupling to minimise the Straits of Dover between the two vehicles.


Unfortunately it's not going to be possible to fit working gangways and eliminate the gap completely. I have an Express Models lighting kit - arguably lights are needed on a second generation DMU and they are certainly an operator's convenience. These kits rely on wiring through from the power car, and they recommend you route the cable and plugs through a hole in the gangway between the vehicles. That's incompatible with fitting a paper bellows gangway. The Kadees would be in the way if I tried routing it below the gangway. And it looks very much as if the gangways are a little too narrow anyway. I wouldn't be surprised to find that the whole unit is 1-2mm too narrow, and that they've lost it in the gangways. (I have a decent scale side elevation drawing from Railnews Stockspot, but no scale drawings of the end from which to check).


There is no solebar. The bodyside has been continued right the way down to the bottom of the chassis, and no doubt panel proportions have been played about with in the vertical axis (I said it wasn't up to modern standards...) . I gather the traditional fix for this was to paint a "fake solebar" along the bottom edge of the bodyshell


Ploughs will be fitted , as I have some. Correct from the mid to late 90s but not in 1987-91. So ok when running in a "late period" running session (2000-06) but not for "early" (1985-90)


The interior is incomplete. On the power car this is because the motor bogie fills up the driving end and the start of the passenger saloon. The only way you could address that would be to scrap the existing mechanism and replace with a Black Beetle and dummy at a cost of about £65, which is a step further than I'm prepared to go. There's a vast gaping hole in the floor at the cab end of the trailer, because they've used the same chassis moulding for power car and trailer car. For reasons which escape me, they've left out any interior at the inner ends as well - the seat moulding stops one window before the end of the passenger saloon and the rest of the vehicle is empty , so you can see straight through to the end doors on the other side.


Providing extra seats and partitions at the inner ends is easy enough. On the trailer car I can fit partitions behind the cab and behind the vestibule , and extend the seating forward by one window : unfortunately because of the way the bogie is pivoted and retained at the sides it's not possible simply to extend the floor all the way, and nothing but complete reconstruction of the chassis at this end, with a totally restructured bogie and an entirely new pivot and retention arrangement would address that. Again, this kind of drastic rebuilding is further than I'm prepared to go: the more modest work will address most of the problem, and a one window gap in the trailer car seating will have to be lived with.


It looks as if there should be clear plastic covers on the gangway doors at the cab ends . One or two shots show a yellow plate (eg 155 341), but generally the cover is clear but frequently very dirty. If it's dirty , it will conceal the wires running up from the Express Models lighting. I'm not renumbering - Sandakan's quality of finish is very good indeed and for my purposes one W Yorks 155 is as good as another.


The final issue - and a major one - is the glazing. The real things are flush-glazed. So are Hornby's 153s. The ex Dapol 155 is not, with very obvious ledges at the windows. The glazing comes out easily enough , but the only way I can see of fixing the problem is to cut out each pane individually and slightly oversize then file to a fit and fix . I am going to give it a first shot on the door windows , where the recess looks particularly bad - if that works , then I may be up for doing all 44 windows in the passenger saloons


As far as I'm aware there's no replacement glazing available from any source


If anyone knows how this problem has been tackled by anyone in the past, I'd appreciate the info. If the work is really too difficult or securing too uncertain I might have to leave the main saloon windows as is , but it's a big visual issue , and I'd really like to avoid that

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