Whilst North Ballachulish is primarily intended to be set in 1970/71 its not escaped my attention that the infrastructure would still be set in the steam era and that from time to time there may be an excuse to take the layout back 10 years. Hornby bringing the K1 out recently tempted me a little too much so I now have one – lets take a closer look because on first glance this looks a cracker.
Dimensionally the basics are absolutely spot on for the model, wheelbase both on loco and tender, boiler width and length and total length over buffers. That to me is the battle half won. get that right and you are well on the way to a good model. Offering the model up to the drawings I hold shows me that the obvious pitfalls of having things like boiler fittings and cylinders etc misplaced have been avoided and these are all correctly positioned. All of a sudden this review became a mission to try to actually find something wrong with the model!
The mouldings are very sharp and the detail well defined – I focused a bit cruelly on the sandbox fillers and lubricators here because I was so impressed – no fudging here and some wonderful detail that hitherto you’d only expect on an etched brass kit. The smokebox door dart is a separate item which will come as good news to all of us who hate those horrible moulded on jobs that look so clumsy..
The next striking thing to me was the quality of the lining. You just cant get better than this – I wish my skills with a bow pen were up to this level! The valve gear and connecting rods are nicely done for a RTR model. In the past to me this has been a downfall with RTR steam locos – quite often the rods looked like girders and often let down the appearance of a model but these look the part and are detailed as well.
The tender follows the standard of the loco, excellent lining separate lamp irons, none of the clumsy two dimensional mouldings of yore. It does score well on the underframes – Ive got quite a few models which have axleboxes on the tenders which are – well distinctly flat but these have depth. I’ve one gripe here though from the photos Ive seen the ends of the tender frames should be straight – not scalloped as they are on the model. What makes it look odder to me is the cab steps have the correct straight edges for this loco. A minor thing and to a modeler not hard to put right if you so wish. So the 60 million dollar question – how does it run? Now when I’m buying a loco despite the fact I’m going to take it to bits to either re-wheel it to EM or pull the existing wheels out to EM I always go to my local model shop – Arcadia in Shaw – and take a few out of the box and take home the sweetest runner. This was different as the loco came by post and it was straight out of the box and onto the track. Its good. Very good. at slow speed both forward and backwards it ran smoothly at slow speed with not a hint of binding, jerkiness or wobbling like a crab along the rails. As you ratchet the speed up it runs as smooth until at flat out there was just a slightest hint of a wobble – but probably due to my hypercritical eyes. The casual observer will as like not notice it.
So is there anything wrong with this model then? Its been well chronicled by the rabid hordes on the web that some of the models have come out of the box with bowed footplates – probably as a result of over enthusiastic body fixing! On this model there is a slightly perceptible rise to the footplate of a fraction of a mil – Ive eased the fixing screws off now and it appears to have leveled off. The tender frames Ive mentioned but apart from that the only other thing Id question is the loco chimney which seems to me, comparing it to photos of the real thing, very slightly undernourished. Again it may be the camera angle and I am being very hypercritical here as it can only be a midges appendage out if it even is out in the first place!
The gripes that came a couple of years ago with the so called “Design Clever” are firmly banished to history with the K1. Its a superb model. All of the critical dimensions are correct, and its ever, ever so finely detailed, a real modelers model. the absolute deal clincher for me is the running. This loco raises the bar for Hornby and is going to keep the other manufacturers well and truly on their toes. Which is very good news for us modelers.
There will be a part two to this review to follow shortly which will deal with how I convert this loco to my chosen gauge in 4mm, EM. Hopefully I will show just how easy it is and get a few converts to the 18.2mm gauge along the way – watch this space.