Now that it is December, we have entered Christmas-shopping-in-earnest season. Bah Humbug, et cetera, but, partly because it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, and partly because it might be useful round about now, here is a review of one of Hornby’s best-sellers, the Black 5…
Hornby Stanier Standard 5MT (R2449)
William Stanier introduced his Standard 5 Mixed Traffic locomotive, better known as the ‘Black 5’, in 1934 as a general purpose engine. Nearly 850 were built, and they survived until the end of steam, with four participating in the famous ‘15 Guinea Special’, the last scheduled mainline steam train to run in Britain. They were highly regarded by their crews, and their enduring popularity resulted in 18 being preserved.
Hornby’s model has been out now for a few years in its new, extensively retooled guise. It was one of the first in the range to be modernised – a reflection on its enduring popularity. Mine is Hornby R2449 ‘The Glasgow Highlander’ in BR late black, and it has electrical pick-ups on all wheels, resulting in very smooth running. The now-standard 5-pole motor mechanism housed in the locomotive body replaces the old ‘tender/Ringfield’ combination. The new motor in the new chassis has equally new gearing, and this is where my major criticism of the model must be made. Of course the tender/Ringfield combination usually coupled a ludicrous top speed to a truly horrendous haulage capacity, which is why Hornby has gone to such pains in the last decade to change it. However, while the new Black 5 is much heavier than previous incarnations of the model, thus improving its haulage capabilities enormously, it seems slow – and not merely in comparison to older versions. It is slow compared to Hornby’s N15 and Royal Scot – both of which are retooled 5-pole-motored 4-6-0s.
The Black 5s were, as their nickname implies, turned out only in black, and Hornby’s different examples have only really differed inasmuch as they are either LMS black, BR Early Crest black, or BR Late Crest black. As we have come to expect, printing, painting and lettering are all exemplary, with some now available in factory-weathered condition as well. The one notable visual difference is the presence or absence of a nameplate, and Hornby have made models of these locomotives too – although since only 5 were named, of a class comprising 842 members, these engines were the exception rather than the rule.
Yet bizarrely this is where the real strength of the locomotive lies. They were handsome engines, found – in BR days – all over the rail network, and yet somehow anonymous – which means that Hornby can change nothing but the running numbers every year and not run out of specific locomotives for a very long time. And modellers can reproduce, in prototypical form, double-headed trains. These engines frequently worked coupled together, and Hornby’s use of optional slim-profile couplings in standard NEM pockets makes reproducing this type of train formation simplicity itself. The use of two engines together also compensates for the aforementioned slow running properties, for two reasons: firstly, double-headed trains tended to be heavy and therefore wouldn’t have run that fast anyway; and secondly the beautifully reproduced motion of the wheels, pistons and coupling rods can only really be appreciated at slower speeds anyway.
This is, as certain larger officials of the rail network might have noted, a Really Useful Engine for the modeller. Its MT designation means it is equally at home on mineral trains, mixed goods, tanker trains, suburban services, expresses and even Pullman trains. Suitable coaching stock is available from Hornby (the Stanier coaches and Pullmans) and Bachmann (their Mk1s suit the BR engines, whether crimson and cream for the early crest models or maroon for the later ones). Lima Midland/LMS stock such as their bogie parcels van is also suitable and is readily available on the second-hand market.
Ultimately this model is well worth purchasing. Concerns about speed aside, it is mechanically very sound, and will run happily for hours on end without signs of difficulty. It can find a useful home on many layouts, and for those of you fortunate enough to be able to afford two it is an excellent model for double-heading. I have no hesitation in recommending it.
Overall Rating: 8/10