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Hornby Class 31
Paul Johnson.
Hornby Brush type 2 pilot class (‘skinhead’) as D5512 R2420 (Hornby mistakenly label it class 31, it became class 30 under TOPS)
Unfortunately Hornby have dropped the ball on this model. The failure to recess the cab side windows properly makes it a poor likeness to the prototype from any end on view. Generally the dimensions are fine, and the execution of the bodywork very refined. The decoration of the model is well done, all neatly applied, good cab interiors on view through the very clear glazing too. None of this good stuff overcomes the basic inaccuracy though, the cleverest forgery of a nine pound note won’t fool anyone...
The detail is well applied and mostly has not fallen off. Every now and again one of the very fine sandpipes on the bogies comes loose and starts to trail on the track; the loco runs so quietly that the tick-tick-tick noise this makes is quite noticeable. (My trains go on the track and stay there long term with no handling so I am pretty confident these are coming loose of their own accord. ) The opening doors and rotating fan are unnecessary gimmicks (the fan needs to rotate while the loco stands to be worthwhile).
The loco ran quietly and reasonably well as received. It was a little lumpy at low speeds, and not quite as free running as I expected when compared to the Bachmann centre motor diesels I already owned. Removing the drive belt to the fan cured the lumpiness and made it somewhat more free running, and reaming out the centre axles so these wheels are idle delivered very free running. (Because the centre wheels are correctly smaller in diameter, driving them at the same rotational rate means they skid all the time.)


Modified, it will run realistically at a dead slow crawl, up to a top speed the rather sluggish prototype would only achieve if dropped off a cliff. With pickups on all wheels, current collection is excellent, provided the bogie holds together (see below). Amply powerful to haul any load the prototype did: most layouts probably cannot accommodate the size of train this chassis will pull.


Hornby have used a close coupling mechanism on this model. Unfortunately the design used works poorly with the standard tension lock coupler, often setting over to one side on exiting a curve and provoking derailment in the coupled on vehicle. (It will work well if Hornby’s R8220 coupler is used, or other couplers which form a ‘rigid bar’ link as this then supplies the restoring force to straighten up the coupler on leaving a  curve.) Not needing this mechanism it has been cut away, and a coupler mount glued to each bogie base.
Grease lubrication adequately applied on receipt, no need to lubricate since. After about a year in operation the loco unexpectedly derailed. This turned out to be caused by an end wheelset that had fallen out of an axle bearing. The axle ends run in brass bars which perform the pick-up, (split axle current collection) and these bars were curved outwards as seen in plan to the extent that at the outside ends the axle end could come free from the bearing hole. Straightened the brass bars and added washers to keep the axles centred, has run completely reliably since.


Very simple to fit a decoder, the good drive train design means that excellent performance is available with a budget decoder like the Bachmann 36-553. Any competent decoder will work well in short.
Particularly welcome that Hornby covered the original ‘skinhead’ pilot scheme version without headcode box in addition to the regular production build version.
Overall ranking
3  A real curate’s egg, so very good in some parts, but with major problems elsewhere. The chassis once modified is a first class unit, I have transferred them to much altered Airfix bodies with flush glazing, which while a little less refined do get the basic prototype appearance right. That way I have Brush type 2s which look right and run beautifully – a model which Hornby could very easily make with some revisions.

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