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Hornby LNER J15

Paul Johnson.
Hornby J15 in BR black late crest no 65445 catalogue no R3232
Here’s the smallest 0-6-0 tender locomotive we are likely to see in OO RTR. Immediate reaction is that it is good all around, fully captures the character of this compact machine, usually known as a ‘small goods’ and very valuable for all of the GER - with which it originated in 1883 - then the LNER and BR(ER) before the last were withdrawn in the early sixties. It’s advantage was that being lightweight for a railway locomotive it could work on weak bridges and relatively poor track formations which abounded in East Anglia. The ruler tells me it is accurate in all main dimensions, and since the appearance is right, Hornby appear to have done a fine job. All the daylight that should be present under the boiler is there, the drive train fully concealed inside the small boiler and firebox
One criticism. The underside of the boiler is cast as part of the chassis block – more on this later – and it didn’t fully insert into the body, so that a half millimetre wide ‘step’ is seen both sides along the lower boiler side. It was possible to slightly file away the two interior positions where body and mechanism make contact, so that the mechanism went fully home inside the body, and the ‘step’ disappears. A caution comes with this, the clearance for the wheels inside the splashers is made very close indeed by this mod, and since it is all cast metal cutting a little too much away could result in a short circuit occurring while running. I rather feel that Hornby may have done this deliberately, seeing how small the clearances are, and gone for safety...
Watch out for the cab roof too, this is plastic and quite bendy – don’t lean on it!
Very clear on this model that Hornby have backed away a little from previous levels of detail. There’s no control wheel (for the brake pump I believe) on the cab front, and the tarpaulin support frame on the tender is absent , also the level of cab detail is reduced. There is a visible error in the boiler side handrails, with the stanchions horizontal instead of radial to the boiler, I am going to live with that; it’s a manufacturing compromise because the boiler is cast metal, to make the casting tool release simpler. Glazing, paint job, numbers all very neat in Hornby’s usual style.
The ‘coal’ was stuck lightly in the tender, levered it out. It’s going to get real coal and the tarp rail as added detail.
Now this is just so good. Smooth and dead quiet mechanism that ran perfectly straight out of the box. The motor and flywheels lie inside the boiler, on a section representing much of the boiler underside, cast solid with the rest of the chassis block. Comes apaert for service very easily, extremely good design which should be adaptable if Hornby want to do other small locos. (In fact the 700 class LSWR 0-6-0 due out later in 2015 is very similar internally judging from the service diagram Hornby have shown.) Geared at 44:1, which I think is the highest ratio I have seen on a RTR steam model, and a very good choice. It can haul sixty RTR wagons without trouble once run in and with the big heavy weight taken out of the tender, and that would be an extraordinary load for a small engine.(It runs fine for me without the tender weight.) They did get out on the main line even in BR days, and could and did (relatively slowly) pull heavy loads in emergencies. Fitted it with a Lenz standard in the tender socket, excellent running as expected. I really appreciate this performance, having built one of these from a kit in the past, it was such a struggle getting a good hidden drive in the cramped space available. Hornby make it look easy...
It came neatly greased on the moving parts, and will get more grease as required. Very neat mechanism hidden in the boiler and firebox, the axles run in brass bearings, the motor mount is screw assembled, in short very neatly done.
The layout curves I have allow use of the closer spacing on the loco to tender drawbar – but it won’t properly connect because the electrical wiring fouls; I reckon if persisted with the edge of the coupling link would cut through the wiring insulation in time. Made a new drawbar with the closer spacing only; loco and tender look really well this close with the fall plate going under a platform near the base of the tender brake handle pillar.
The loco is nearly all metal to get enough weight in for traction. The casting is very fine, and the all up loco weight came in at 183g, or seven and a quarter ounces. Any steam layout really needs a small 0-6-0 somewhere, up until about 1967, and this is a good model example. It’s such a pretty little machine, can you resist it?
Overall ranking
9. It has a couple of faults, remarked on above. But also so many good features. The drive alone is a straight 10, a superior item. 

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