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    W. Midlands
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    Too many to be able to settle down and focus on something! Currently working on the Bournville MRC layout 21B and tinkering with my own N Gauge Midlands caricature when time and family allow!

    When I'm not daydreaming about layouts I'll probably never finish building you'll find me walking the dogs down long disused railways in the middle of nowhere.

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  1. When I tested the current draw of my units, I was surprised at how easy it was to stall them and just how little torque they have. The lightweight nature of these models certainly plays into consideration here. The motors are definitely coreless, their characteristics are near identical to those in recent Farish models I have, which would fit happily into a 00 bogie drive with adequate gearing. I'd be highly surprised if the motor isn't the same or at least heavily based upon those used in Farish models, which are tried and tested; I have two coreless Farish models with 170+ hours clocked on them in exhibition use, and a few more that are over 100 hours. The 117 will certainly take a prototypical trailing load or a second trailer, but a stripped down Dapol bubble car with the geartrain intact I think would be a little much if operated for a period of time; with idler gears pulled they are a lot more freewheeling so would be a more user friendly trailing load. My Farish coreless models don't get so kindly treated, they run with trailing loads of 10+ coaches that have more drag than the 117. They are more than adequate for their intended use with this twin motor setup, but I won't be asking much more of my own units than to haul themselves. Perhaps a single PMV in tow at most as things currently stand. If a 3 car 116 ever materialises then a TC declassified to TS will make an appearance for a 4 car set (hint hint Bachmann!).
  2. I can look back on it now with a nostalgic mind and vague memories, but I was too young to really grasp what I was seeing a lot of the time. For someone older, it was nothing short of depressing. My uncle loved it for the trains but to this day he doesn't remember any of those sights with rose tinted glasses and usually describes most of those trips into the Black Country as going to say goodbye. Something certainly I did myself when Baddesley closed and the last clearing trains were being loaded trackside after the screens had gone, I went as far as to truant from school for that. A loaded class 58 over the viaduct at Sugar Brook was the last thing I ever saw there, and I'm really glad that by then I was old enough to appreciate what I was watching. I didn't watch the lifting, instead I went back to the bare trackbed from the buffers behind Kingsbury oil terminal to Birch Coppice and then to Baddesley about 6 months later and destroyed my bike riding along it. Angelsea sidings was a bit more difficult, it was quite hit and miss in the end and I completely missed the end of Bromford oil by rail even with it on my doorstep. Industrial desolation was the best way to describe the Black Country as I remember it, especially the WR side which was utterly decimated in the late 60s and left to rot throughout the 70s and 80s. I still remember well into the 90s riding the train to Stourbridge and along the route under long swaying grass lay the remnants of yards with dumped vac fitted wagons littering all over the place. The South Staffs line was a real shadow of its former self when I first was taken there with long derelict stations, dismembered sidings and completely lifted routes and junctions everywhere you turned. Pensnett was a happy late survivor, but not far away Round Oak was literally a rusting hulk. Dudley freightliner terminal was in terminal decay. Palethorpes had long been turned into a grim council estate and the once steeply graded junction with the LNWR route was an ugly scar through the houses. Great Bridge with the remnants of the junction to Swan Village and onwards to the old GWR main between Brum and Wolverhampton with Cashmores still there. The trackbed of the OWW main line to Wolverhampton itself could tell a tale, we did go to the remains of Spring Vale, Bilston steelworks, but by then it was little more than a burned flattened wasteland and I would have been 5 at best. And then there was Wednesbury...with the dead and decaying GWR trackbed, lifted Darlaston Loop serving as a dump for industrial units and the recently lifted Princes End branch with its cuttings swiftly being filled in through to Bloomsfield as well as the carcass of Ocker Hill power station looming large amongst the wastelands which once were expansive sidings stick with me. The whole place had a particular smell to it, sort of halfway between burned oil and burned brake pads. Looking back at photos and books from the time, they're kind of bittersweet in that remember so much but so vaguely. I wish I was older at the time, saw more and could remember more. I think that is the crux of why I'll always come back to BR Blue, but why I also always tend to go off it and meander into other things...Thinking back, it really wasn't a good time for the railways, or heavy industry in the Midlands at all.
  3. Much like the way the GPO (Openreach nowdays) works, things keep coming around full circle and repeating. This time its not just a case of sticking blue stock onto a normally steam layout to get my fix, that layout is long gone so a new build is required. The lack of decent representative DMUs was always a sticking point for me, but the lack of high density units is well and truly over with the release of the 117. So now I can really get my teeth into what I remember without needing to hack up a disappointing running Lima class 117ish looking model to make a disappointing poorly rejigged class 116 wannabe. Growing up in and around Sutton Coldfield, high density units are quite simply everything. If it wasn't a high density unit on the Cross City line, it was an engineering diversion which brought a splash of variety and sometimes a Peak. Otherwise I was truly spoiled for freight. Back then the variety and opportunity to go and watch just about every kind of train was right on my doorstep and my uncle was more than happy to take me with him on his travels around the nearby rail sites. I had the Sutton Park line or a trip to Baddesley and Birch Coppice collieries which took in Hams Hall power station and Kingsbury oil terminal. Sometimes a bit further out to Hartshill Quarry, Coventry Colliery and Daw Mill too. I have very vague recollections of the South Staffs route from Walsall to Lichfield, particularly Charringtons at Brownhills as that lasted longer, but also watching the clearing of Norton Junction and marshalling yard (known then as Bescot down empty sidings?) from the former bridge carrying the Lichfield Road. That must have been 1984. Then there was the pipe mill and oil depot at Bromford, and of course Washwood Heath within walking distance from home. Depots I had Bescot and Saltley, and the wagon works at Duddeston. Then there was the Black Country and everything the rest of the South Staffs line had to offer. Its frightening when I think that almost every single one of those places is now consigned to history and has been for decades. A good few I witnessed being lifted, and some like the Baddesley branch and the South Staffs line between Rushall and Brownhills I now use as dog walking routes. I think this is why I really can't get on with the class 66 in particular. They never ran those routes, they directly replaced those locomotives which form those memories too. Without a doubt a much needed replacement to a well and truly worn out fleet, but to me they are little more than a graphic symbol of the rot and ruin...probably in much the same way that a fair share of those who remember the end of steam look on the BR Blue period. Incidentally, my first 'new' build that I actually remember seeing was a class 58 on Baddesley some time in 1985, so really the doyen of the end of BR Blue. I can guarantee that I will have seen a few brand new class 56 before then which will have been blue, but I don't remember them that early in my life. I more remember the Rats and Peaks as they were on their last legs and there was more of a fuss when they showed up.
  4. My one concern with the Bachmann drivetrain is that to fit those motors into the bogies and with such a low current draw even when stalled, they have to be very small, so I wouldn't want to add too much of a trailing load. I'd leave the motor and drivetrain in and strip out the idler gears to the axles of the Dapol model with the motor disconnested. Less rolling resistance than just pulling the driveshafts and motor, much less work than stripping it down to get at the motor, and easier to reinstate.
  5. My own take on these is that compared with the Dapol bubble cars, the wipers are much of a muchness, there isn't that great a difference between them. The Dapol cab glazing I would say is marginally better, being less prismatic about the edges, which perhaps makes you notice the wipers less. The Dapol body stands up really quite well except for the guards door error (on the 121) and undersized roof vents, but the paint finish on the Dapol units which while good just isn't quite as refined. The yellow on the cab ends of one of my 122s is a bit caked in paint which obliterates some finer detail, not to mention the upside down W masquerading as an M which I have yet to fix. The interior and chassis detail on the Bachmann units are considerably ahead of the game, having that flat floor (no bulge, no step up) in the passenger area of the DMS over the drive bogie is nothing short of excellent. Some have said the seats are too high up, perhaps a smidge, but its leagues ahead of the seat padding being up near the window level with the floor not much lower. I'll take the Bachmann mechanism over the Dapol one in a heartbeat, each of my Dapol 122 units draw more current than a pair of Bachmann 117s running in multiple, and that is after I modified my Dapol units to run single bogie powered. When running at full pelt, yes, my motors are less quiet than that of others. However, I don't remember these units as high speed thrash monsters, at a sedate trundle and up to around 50mph they are more than quiet enough for me. The 116 is high on my wish list now. The differences are subtle enough with the DMS and DMBS that not much tooling alteration is needed. Roof domes, 2 digit headcode on Green and plain blue, guards door handrails; it was good enough for Dapol with the 121/122! A TS would be needed which would be the big cost, but that would also be the icing on the cake for me. I'd be very happy indeed to run a 117 TCL with an otherwise class 116 for a variation of 4 car unit that wasn't all too uncommon in the late '80s early '90s Birmingham area.
  6. Passing through the guards compartment was never an issue when I was riding these daily, on particularly overcrowded services the guards compartment often became standing room. Quite often I'd prefer to ride in the guards compartment and chat with the guard on my way to school. The only time accessing toilets was an issue was when a 121 was substituted or added to strengthen, or the train was formed of motor vehicles with no trailer. Speaking of school runs and toilets in 117s...The school time services out of Blake Street of an afternoon would also frequently have the toilets well and truly decommissioned by Wylde Green. I remember one service in particular having to be stopped by Chester Road because of a fire in the toilets, which was handy because I got off there every day any way.
  7. Not that much which really worth posting an update over, more borne out of frustration than a lack of progress, but that frustration has resulted in a lack of progress. I was originally going to build the engine shed at the top of the incline opposite the winding house, with a loading plant arrangement on the high level behind, but the more I planned and laid out temporary structures the more cluttered it became. The real location is desolate and sparse, so I felt it better to remove the engine shed to the high level and to leave the incline top as its own entity. The upper level track has been laid to reflect the changes, which is where the frustration builds in. Peco bullhead points worked fine with none of the shorting issues people noted until precicely the moment I fixed them in place. More accurately several months after they were fixed in place and I then powered up the layout to test it again. Just about everything shorts on both points laid in the prone to problem locations people are reporting. I'll admit my issues are worstened by a gradient change thought the pointwork, so it is more self inflicted. But I literally chucked a dust sheet at it and have left it sitting again rather than what I should have done in converting those points to a more conventional electrofrog arrangement.
  8. I concur with this, I started building a US layout at the start of lockdown using points bought literally days before the shops closed. Running through brand new trackwork even with droppers to every section of track, continuity through the switch blades is so erratic that even my larger 6 axle tunnel motors can stall out where there are two points back to back. I had to bond the stock rails to the switch rails to improve matters, and even then I still get the occasional stall on the stamped switch blades. This before ballasting has been applied, so I haven't even managed to get adhesives into the pointwork to really gum things up yet! Even a Scaletrains unit with their on board keep alive was stalling before I bonded the rails! Thankfully the Bullhead points don't suffer the same with their milled switch blades, but the shorting issue is equally as frustrating. To address the shorting I get sporadically enough to be irritating on my little quarry layout with Hornby Sentinels, W4 and B2 Pecketts as well as Hattons AB tanks, I have decided to bond the rails anyway and convert the frogs to the more usual electrofrog format. Which will be interesting considering the track has been laid for more than long enough now...
  9. I hadn't really cottoned on to the guards handrails before, but the Dapol unit is configured more in keeping with the class 122, which does have the split handrail arrangement as seen on your model. In my defence, I've only had Dapols class 122s so it never stood out to me before now. That is of course not to say that doors and other furniture could have been swapped between units, so it is entirely possible that a class 121 ended up with something originally from a class 122 (or any other unit with the same tumblehome really). Incidentally the class 116 also has the split handrail arrangement about the guard doors while the 117 has the one piece handrails in keeping with the 121. What your side by sides also show is just how much more finessed the Bachmann underframe detail is, and how undernourished the Dapol roof ventilators are. The main fault for me with the Bachmann unit is the total lack of roof ribs, they weren't very prominent on the real thing but you could certainly notice them; especially when they peeled down to bare metal and started rusting. The Dapol roof ribs are a shade too heavily done for my liking, but at least they are present. If fixing the roof on either unit was on the cards by a modeller, I think some shading with an airbrush to give a representation of the panels on the Bachmann roof is the easier fix of the two. Dapols roof could do with new larger ventilators and perhaps the ribs toning down, which just seems that bit more work to me. Overall the two stand side by side very well, they don't run well together mind you! Even on DCC....I know I said I was going to hold off with the DCC, but I caved to curiosity and tried MUing a 122 with the 117. Speed matching them is a royal pain, and you can absolutely forget it on DC.
  10. Care is certainly needed when coupling these, laying on a soft flat surface to couple putting as little force into the coupling cam and then tilting the model upright to rail it is certainly more ideal, but that in itself presents issues. What if that is not an option? What if the constraints of the layout mean it has to be assembled and then lifted to a storage cassette? I know plenty of exhibition layouts where there just isn't room to assemble a 3 car unit in anywhere near as ideal a manner. Having to couple and uncouple this unit repeatedly for exhibition or even club room conditions is going to present problems. My units simply will not be going to the club, or be made available for exhibition use. I've killed a Blue Pullman doing exactly that already, I've learned that lesson. Also, if anyone is interested I measured the max current draw on straight DC of each 3 car unit to be 205mA and 202mA, with a 40mph(ish) canter coming in at 120mA. Throwing a spirited start from an isolator straight to half power registered 180mA before settling down to 120~130mA. I have to say, I am more than impressed. By comparison, one of my Dapol 122s drew 160mA to get moving, 320mA for approx 40mph running and peaked out at 420mA. And that's one which I removed a driveshaft and geartrain on the now undriven bogie to improve its running. For now, I'm holding out on DCCing both of mine until a v5 project is ready from a certain someone...
  11. Yes, the DMBS and DMS will run without the trailer. I've already begun to wonder if I can capitalise on people only wanting 2 car units and cut n' shut some TCL to stitch together a TS for a 4 car with the cab roof domes replaced to have destination blinds. Technically that idea will also need the windows of the surviving TCL altering too...
  12. There is some motor noise from each twin as you'd expect for two motors per unit, but its not obtrusive. Wheel on rail is probably louder than mechanism noise from both of mine. Both units are also very well speed matched, with current draw almost identical for each unit.
  13. My local shop was indeed open today which was a really nice surprise as I wasn't expecting it. Even better was the news that they have 117s, so the pair I had ordered what seems like an age ago were ready to come home. Blue/Grey for me, I spent my entire childhood riding these units...well, more accurately whatever hybrids Tyseley decided to chuck out to service right up to their replacement by class 323 EMUs. I almost walked out with a 121 as well, absolutely stunning those are. The Dapol units are decent (mechanically and electrically not so good, I've had to sort too many issues with my remaining two 122s), but the Bachmann 121 is in a whole new league. First impressions handling while unboxing, really was the lack of weight in the DMBS and DMS. Then the detailing hit, these really are eye candy! And when the separate parts are fitted along with some generous weathering, these units will be absolutely wonderful. The B/G units underbody doesn't stand out nearly as much as on the Green units, but it is impressive none the less! The hand grabs on the cab front are a bit heavy handed, especially when compared to H0 models I have, and the windscreen wipers are also a bit clunky, but to be honest they are still equal to the Dapol units in that regard. I prefer the finish of these Bachmann units. Then when railing up one of pleasant surprise, because both the DMBS and DMS are motorised on the inner end, which I hadn't really read much about. Suddenly lightweight goes out of the equation. My big concern going in to these units was the couplers. And having handled them, to be honest, I still really do not like them in the slightest. They aren't too obtrusive when running, certainly no more so than on my N Gauge class 101s used on Bournville. But what I really don't like about them is the force required to couple and uncouple them. Those sprung buffers are actually needed! One of the very first things I did was to see if these units operate as a DMBS/DMS twin set, which they do. However, uncoupling those two even with the tool provided it felt like I was going to break something in the close coupling cam. Having done so now, I think my method of uncoupling is going to have to include a scalpel blade to insert between the coupler faces in order to pry them apart. I really do not trust the coupling cam to last very long otherwise. When running in, the interior lights on DC are a little overzealous, they are certainly something I'll be toning down. Those toilet windows positively glow! But for now they do show off that lower floor achieved in these units. It makes a world of difference when you are used to Dapols effort along with a plethora of windows to look into. The interior colouring is pleasant, the partition walls aren't just bare plastic coloured and match my memories of walking along these units some 27 years ago. Outside, I do like the bi-colour marker lights, the warm white isn't overly bright like on other units and the red is quite subtle too. My trepidation over the couplers aside, I'm actually quite impressed at the amount of model we're getting at this price point. Maybe that's the past few H0 scale locomotives I've bought conditioning me to higher prices, but these cost the same as a single (sound fitted) 4 axle US diesel locomotive. Class 116 next please!...(with a class 127 TSL)
  14. I remember the big outcry when Athearn released their 'definitive' Genesis GP7/GP9 with some shape errors. They were among the first to admit the model wasn't as good as it could have been, and the model was duly retooled to correct issues with the cab and the body for later batches. I actually quite like the 45, it succeeds in capturing the hulk of these beasts even knowing the errors are there. I can overlook the heavy rivet and missing grille detail as that can still be fixed though I would much rather they were correct, its knowing that they have shape errors and what those errors are that sticks for me. For a model of this price point, they really should be getting the shape right long before it goes to tooling. Here we are again with a Heljan model showing errors to the roofline and how it interacts with cab windows/doors. At least they are consistent in their inconsistencies. Having said that, if I was in the market specifically for a /1 I'd probably still be tempted as its not as incorrect as the class 25 is, and its nowhere near the magnitude of DP2. I'm more interested in the sealed beam than an ETH machine and on that point, this is not really an improvement over the ageing Bachman 45. Like the 25, I'll now be waiting to see the competitions livery sample efforts rather than putting a pre-order in. If it makes the bargain bins I'll probably find it hard to say no eventually, but I won't be replacing my existing 45s.
  15. If the speaker in other Bachmann/Farish models I've played with is anything to go by, they'll be a candidate for swift replacement. I'm thinking with a Bowser dual speaker setup, these work great in other installs I've retrofitted with them and they should nestle into under DMU chassis gubbins very well. I'm hoping an Earthmover is a viable option mind you. Still waiting to hear when my local shop is reopening, let alone when they'll be taking delivery of the pair I have on pre-order.
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