DJ Models HA/Class 71 now available

From the Modelling Secretary:

Good News!  After a long wait DJ Models crowd-funded HA/Class 71 locomotives are now available.

Because, in my capacity of acting General Secretary, I was busy preparing for this year’s AGM the delivery of DJ Models HA/Class 71 models a week before left me with insufficient time to write a comprehensive review or take photographs. So what follows are my first impressions bolstered by another appraisal and tests conducted by two members of the East Sussex Finescale Group.  Photographs and a more reflective review will follow in a later.

Railway Modellers working in 4mm scale will be aware that Hornby has gone into direct competition with “Southern” models from two new entrants to the model railway market. The first was with Oxford Rail over the Adams Radial tank locomotive.  Here the common conclusion is that both versions have strengths and weaknesses, similarities and differences, and they are both good models, but there is no runaway leader.  The second competition is with DJ Models over the HA/BR Class 71 electric locomotive.  In the case of the Radial Tank Oxford Rail were first out, but not by a long time, but with the HA Hornby were first to the market by ten months.  DJ Models claim its model’s development was extended to produce an even better model than originally conceived and to produce what could be the best detailed UK model of an electric locomotive ever.  Has Dave Jones succeeded?

To begin with the packaging. Most railway models these days are delicate things with lots of separately applied fine detail.  Because they have to travel from China and then be distributed around the world they need to be well packed.  However, some models recently have been so well packed that it is difficult to get them out of their packaging, and in doing so, ironically, damage results.  This model potentially falls into this class.  Like many models these days it is encased in clear plastic frame, fitting the top, bottom and ends, then enclosed in a clear plastic sheaf, so enclosing the sides.  This model goes one further in that the clear plastic frame also has sides, all elements clipping together tightly.  It is then encased in a clear plastic sheaf, even though none of the model is exposed.  This is then surrounded by thick foam and put into a sturdy cardboard box.  Fortunately on this model much of the detail has to be applied by the modeller so it does not get knocked off in the tussle to get the plastic frame apart.

Once out of the packaging, it looks like an HA!

To inspect the body and bogies closely. Rivet detail around the grilles is more prominent compared to Hornby’s and Hornby’s matches pictures better.  Rivet detail on the roof is about the same prominence on both.  Cantrail rain strips on the DJ model are over-prominent, larger than pictures show, but Hornby’s rain strips are conversely too slight compared to pictures.  On the subject of these rainstrips, research by the East Sussex Finescale Group has determined that these started to be fitted from September 1963, not necessarily at the same time as a major overhaul and re-paint into BR loco green.  Thus, and photographs support this, some HAs did run in “malachite” green with a red/white stripe with rainstrips.  Hattons have commissioned two special edition HAs representing the first and last Golden Arrows.  Their description of the green/red stripe version states it depicts “the first Golden Arrow service (hauled by E5015 in June 1961)” but a picture of their model shows a model of E5015 with rainstrips.  Whilst pictures may prove that E5015 did run at some time in its first livery with rainstrips, unless someone can produce a pictures of it like this on the first Golden Arrow it looks like this claim may be incorrect.  So far DJ Models have not produced an HA without rainstrips.

Generally the details in DJM mouldings are slightly more prominent but crisper than Hornby’s. The DJM model has separately fitted handrails and lamp brackets, whereas Hornby’s are moulded on.  On the DJM model the windscreen wipers are finer, bogie mouldings better defined, footsteps on cab fronts and over buffers are less prominent than on Hornby’s, all a better match to pictures.

To the parts to be affixed by the modeller, a bag contains the bogie to body brackets and pickup beams, plus a gap-free lower front valance and associated pipes. The first two, the instructions state, provide the option of not fitting if platform clearances are too tight.  Because the pick-up beams need to be fitted I have not yet been able to determine if they align with conductor rail fitted to the end of 4mm scale length sleepers or to a third rail fitted to the sleeper ends of the more common HO scale track.

One of the features that really lets down Hornby’s model is the headcodes being depicted by stickers applied to the outside of the cab widows. The DJ Models version uses an ingenious, but actually so simple it is surprising this has not been done before, system to provide interchangeable headcodes behind the cab window.  The headcodes are printed onto clear thin plastic slides which are inserted up to the window from behind the bufferbeam.  A bag of two passenger, two goods, white and red blank headcodes is supplied, but no doubt modellers will produce their own.  A further refinement is the font size and weight of these supplied headcodes being specific to the era of the model.  This is such an advance it seems churlish to remark that some of the supplied slides might need trimming to insert easily and that as the headcodes sit about 1mm behind the windows, rather than flush, they do not look totally right.

On Hornby’s model the booster unit can be seen through the “engine room” droplight, but in reality it is below the window and cannot be seen unless you are standing right next to the window and look in. On the DJ Model’s version this window is obscured black.  This is a matter of personal taste, but I think it looks better and matches pictures better.

The length of this model, both over extended buffers and body side bottom is the same as Hornby’s. So whilst the length over extended buffers matches a works drawing and scale drawings, the length of the body side bottom on both models is shorter than on the drawings.  As Hornby’s model was produced from a laser scan of E5001, the conclusion must be that both the models must be correct and the drawings incorrect in this respect.  At first I thought the DJM version was lower than Hornby’s, but on parallel tracks on a level surface, with a spirit level between the two models the roofs are found to be the same height.  However, when viewed side by side DJM’s bottom of body, cab front handrails and bottom of cab windows are fractionally higher than Hornby’s.  However, the space between the bottom of the cab front and bottom of the windows is identical on both models, both of which are 1mm less than on drawings.  Unfortunately the headcode windows of the DJM model are definitely too narrow by just under 1mm, though the width of window pillars and size of windows each side are correct.  Looking at the cab fronts head-on the profile does not look quite right.  On comparing with head-on photographs it is noticeable that the taper, i.e. tuck-in, of the lower cab front sides is largely absent on the DJ Models version but correct on Hornby’s.  On the B side of the locomotive, on the DJ Models version the gap between the right hand set of grilles and the riveted strip to their left is slightly larger than on Hornby’s and as seen in photographs, however the DJM model matches drawings in this respect.  Given that Hornby’s model was produced from a laser scan of the real thing, by now I am doubting some of the elements on both works and scale drawings.

As to decoration, the “early” green on the versions with red/white stripes is to my eyes too yellow, not that believable. I had to get out a DJM BR loco green version to compare and to establish they are not the same shade of green.  The BR loco green and BR blue versions are OK, as is the warning panel yellow – i.e. believable, albeit on the dull side.

Electrically this model has provision for a 21 pin DCC decoder and mounting for a loudspeaker for DCC sound. Unfortunately there are no holes underneath to help sound project.  For DC users switches are underneath to turn off separately the marker lights and cab lights.

Hornby’s HA has a working pantograph, a feature of limited value and use in my opinion. It results in their pantograph being over-scale.  The DJM’s pantograph is cosmetic and finer.  However, as a result it is not sprung to retain contact with an overhead wire nor does it self-level, so care is needed to avoid it looking asymmetrical, a.k.a. wonky.

Finally to running the model. Not only have I not had the time yet to run my new models I also cannot currently run models.  Good news, after 47 months of retirement I have a definitive plan for a layout and I have started building baseboards.  Bad news, this is taking up space for a test track.  On inspection, pleasingly the wheel profile and tyres on DJM’s model are much finer, whereas Hornby’s are more train set like.  I have not yet checked the back to back measurements.  The DJM Model weighs 351g to Hornby’s substantial 490g.  This may well lead to a difference in performance between the two, which my friends in East Sussex have been able to test.  DJ Models and Hornby’s locomotives ran superbly straight from the box.  In the case of the DJM offering it was only objectively tested after being lubricated in accordance with the supplied instructions after ten minutes of running, and before a further half-hour of running in.  Whereas the Hornby HA romps away with an enthusiastic turn of speed the DJM HA was noticeably lack-lustre struggling to achieve a “scale” 45mph taking some 1min 50secs 45secs to make a circuit of the scale mile test track.  Just to be sure two standard DC controllers were tried with no appreciable difference in the speed of the DJM HA.  Both versions hauled seven bogie coaches with ease, thence ten.  Twelve bogies were pushing the DJM model to its limit (the circuit slowing to some 2min 15secs) with slippage taking place with fourteen bogies.  By comparison the much heavier Hornby HA still romped away.  The early conclusion being that whilst the Hornby HA may be unnecessarily fast the DJM version was decidedly slow.  However, these tests need to be qualified in that only one model was available for testing and that whilst this was a random sample there is the potential that it is not one of the best runners.

My initial conclusion is that the situation is as with the Adams Radial tank, no runaway leader. Whilst the DJ Models version has significantly better features than Hornby’s in the form of interchangeable headcodes, a much finer pantograph, and finer wheels, it is let down by shape, proportion and moulding issues, plus it may not be such a good runner.