The Right Royal

Having had all the pomp, circumstance and fanfare associated with a royal wedding over the last few days, I thought it was about time to add to this blog another discussion on a royal – a Royal Scot, in fact, as made by Hornby. Yes, it’s toy train review time again! I was lucky enough to see the real thing recently, when 46115 Scots Guardsman came into Aberdeen on its way to Inverness. Here is a record of that happy meeting:

However, that’s a photo of the real thing, and this is a review of a version 76 times smaller… To business!

Hornby Rebuilt Royal Scot ‘Royal Inniskilling Fusilier’ (R2728)

Originally designed and built in 1927 by Henry Fowler as a parallel-boilered design, the LMS ‘Royal Scot’ class was, until the introduction of the Princess Royal and Princess Coronation pacifics, that company’s crack express locomotive, the first to really escape the legacy of the Midland Railway’s notorious ‘small engine’ policy. William Stanier then redesigned the class with a tapered boiler and reconstruction started in 1943. These were, according to some, best regarded as ‘paper’ rebuilds, since the end result was so different from the original starting point that they could be better considered new engines. Earning a BR power classification of 7P, these were amongst the most powerful 4-6-0s in Britain, and were a regular sight on the West Coast Main Line until their eventual withdrawal in 1965. Two have been preserved: 46100 Royal Scot, which toured the North American continent in 1933; and 46115 Scots Guardsman, the star of the famous 1936 documentary ‘The Night Mail’.

Hornby’s model of Stanier’s rebuilt version of the class was brought out in 2007. It is locomotive driven, using Hornby’s standard 5-pole motor, and has pick-ups on the six driving wheels and six tender wheels. As we have come to expect of Hornby’s recent 4-6-0 releases, the front bogie is held in place with a central pin rather than the old style of swing arm, and there is no hint of plastic to be found in the running gear: all is made of fine cast metal pieces. The large driving wheels seem unusually well balanced – this chassis displays no hint of a wobble or any kind of mechanical weakness. One slight issue that should be pointed out – although it has no bearing on running quality – is that the front bogie has fractionally too little ‘play’ either laterally or vertically: this locomotive will not comfortably manoeuvre on to Hornby’s raised turntable, and nor will it sit perfectly on 2nd radius curves, as the bogie has a tendency to twist the forward axle away from the inside rail of the curve. That said, it should be reiterated that this has no effect on running quality, and the locomotive will happily handle 2nd radius curves (the minimum Hornby recommend) at speed. It is also worth noting that should you wish to run the model on these curves, the steam pipes under the cylinders will need to be trimmed back, as they are in the photographs that accompany this article.

Royal Inniskilling Fusilier demonstrating the front axle twisting on the curve of the track

So far Hornby have offered this locomotive in three liveries: early crest Brunswick green, late crest Brunswick green, and original LMS black (without smoke deflectors). Brunswick green variants, of both periods, have also been offered in weathered condition. As we have come to expect (if not outright demand), the liveries are perfectly applied. The cab area is superbly detailed too, with spectacle plates on the windows and opening roof vents, as well as a wealth of interior detail and nice representations of the pipework under the footplate. Up front, the chimney has been rectified – locomotives from Hornby’s first batch had a distinctly poor chimney – while the distinctive shape of the smoke deflectors has been well captured. Admittedly they suffer from being made of plastic (Bachmann’s unrebuilt Patriot features brass smoke deflectors, which look rather better) but there are aftermarket products available to those who care to alter such details.

Note the trimmed-back steam blast pipes

In terms of running quality, this engine has completely won me over. I bought mine because of familial connections with the regiment that is the locomotive’s namesake (my model is of 46120 Royal Inniskilling Fuslier). I didn’t buy it because I thought it handsome, or because my layout required it. However, it has proven such an excellent performer that I keep looking for excuses to run it. Of Hornby’s three primary LMS passenger locomotives it is far and away the best – its haulage power is far better than the Princess Royal, and neither the Princess nor Coronation can compare in terms of detailing (though both those locomotives do have the advantage of offering more livery options). It is worth noting at this point that, aside from minor detail differences, Hornby’s rebuilt Patriot is essentially the same as the rebuilt Royal Scot, and that this review is equally applicable to both classes.

There is a wide range of stock suitable for this model. Hornby’s Stanier coaches are the obvious companions, but so too are Hornby’s steel-sided Pullmans, Bachmann’s Mk1s and Mk2s (especially for the preserved Scots Guardsman, a model of which Hornby has announced for this year (2011)) and suitable mail or parcels stock. Hornby’s CCTs and Bachmann’s GUVs, parcels vans and full brakes can be assembled into a suitable rake which will look entirely at home thundering at speed around your layout.

I must finish by concluding that of Hornby’s three LMS main passenger types the Royal Scot is best both in terms of appearance and performance. It stands comparison with Hornby’s recent 4-6-0s, too: with a better chassis than the Black 5, and more pulling power than the King Arthur, it deserves consideration as being amongst the very best that Hornby has to offer.

Overall Rating: 9.5/10

About Gavin

I am a 32-year-old PhD student in Aberdeen, Scotland. I work in QC at an e-learning company. I'm originally Northern Irish, though I've lived here in Aberdeen for several years. I am, essentially, somebody who is very normal, yet to whom very strange things keep happening...
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