If ever you wanted to know how to capture the functional, brooding mass of the last pannier, this is it. Bachmanns 94XX.
The first thing that struck me on opening the box, (no video, sorry about that), is it just captures the look and physical presence of the real thing. That’s one of model railways intangibles, some models just have it, and others, don’t. It has literal mass too, 285 grams of it, immediately apparent on picking it up. On initial inspection no blemishes, and the accessory pack and etched plates were included. The first thing for me is to establish if the model runs on DC, it did and with no apparent issues, quiet and smooth in both directions through the whole speed range. Included in the box are further details including screw couplings, cab doors, ATC boxes, steam heat pipes and etched cabside numbers.
The whole model has a pleasing appearance, as mentioned above it has a definite presence and captures the outline of the prototype very well. Tooling mould lines are almost non existent, only under the harshest lighting can you see the tool slide marks at the top of the smokebox, along the top and bottom of the tank sides. The join on the tank sides is just at the join of the radius to the flat surface helping minimise its appearance. Digging deeper into the appearance, this model represents one of the first nine, Great Western, built locomotives from Swindon works. Whilst doing the sitting back and just looking, there was a feeling that something wasn’t quite right, and it took a few hours of revisiting the model to identify the issue. Very simply the front guard irons and sandboxes are missing, but don’t immediately run to your local foamathon outlet, its a simple couple of items missing from this specific, individual, you know this one right here, example. The others are alright, breath, relax! ‘Stuff’ happens sometimes.
The livery of the model is excellent. There’s regularly comments regarding the correct colour, for me the colour is right and is a very close match to one of the first release Bachmann high cab 8750’s, so there’s consistency in Bachmanns approach. The finish on the plastic of the body shell is brilliant, the handrails and lamp irons also show no colour variation. Clean demarcation between colours is evident across the model and the GWR logos are nicely represented in three colours, and in the correct position for a Great Western loco released in service, rather than any subsequent variations. The route restriction marking is in red centrally placed above the number plate. The replacement etched plates are a fraction larger than the printed number, and will accurately cover the print if fitted. This is also true of Modelmaster plates, (this loco identity is being changed imminently). Correctly representing a first build Great Western engine, no smokebox fittings or number plate are provided.
The first ten engines of the class were Swindon built and this model represents the type as released into service. As such there were a few differences to the remaining later contractor built engines. The first ten locomotives were built with a Swindon No10 superheated boiler, however there was not visible external difference. Running a measuring stick across the model from both GA dimensions and those from the Roche drawing all the key dimensions match the model. At the rear of the locomotive the bunker steps originally faced outward on the rear face of the locomotives and this is correctly represented with the appropriate handrail above them. These are shown correctly for this livery variant’ Later livery models feature the bunker steps as moved to the side of the footplate with an additional grab rail which is featured on the British Rail livery releases 35-026 and 35-027. The fire iron brackets on the 94xx’s were a regular squared off shape which is replicated, rather than the typical curved GWR fire irons over other bunker fitted types. The lamp irons and all the fittings have a finesse to them, and a nice touch in the clam shell packaging is the accommodation for the top bunker lamp iron. The cab profile matches both photographs and drawing, rivet patterns are all in appropriate places and groupings. No, I didn’t count them.
Cab internal details are very good and there is a open firehole for an LED representation of the fire being fed. Noticeable in the cab are the details on the rear internal face of the cab ventilating doors, a noticeable omission from most other models. Door handrails and cab sides are commendably thin and the backhead details well represented and painted. The only let down for me on the cab is the glazing, which does have some prismatic effects, nothing really of note, but its one of my ‘things’.
The cab roof sliding vent is solid with the roof grab rail in place. Moving forward along the model the whistles and whistle guards are represented with the S shaped pipes into the cab face represented. The thickness, or rather lack of thickness of the pipes and the painting of the whistles are worthy of note.
The tank top fittings all show the same finesse and attention to detail that the cab area does. Platework is represented accurately with relief rather than grooves cutting into the bodywork. Top feed pipes are separate fittings rather than moulded into the safety valve showing a little daylight underneath, this adds to the character, showing depth rather than a block appearance that other models may have. The cutaway underneath the tanks is deep enough to allow the injectors and tank supports to be separate fittings, again emphasising ‘space’ around the components rather than solid forms. On the right hand side there is one small vertical pipe missing from the front of the cab into the footplate, but for those minded it’ll be an easy fix. Boiler and firebox profiles and shapes all look accurate and well captured. The main tank rails are plastic, and are adequate for the job in hand. On the footplate front left hand side there are two spare lamp iron locations, again correct for this livery, the BR versions will include the bracket representing three lamp iron variants.
Under the tank there’s the representation of the main frame valve gear picked out in red. This, the reversing lever and sandbox levers are all noticeable, particularly the threading of the sandbox lever through the tank supports. These really add to the character, the height of the boiler above the frames and side tank profile means you can see through the locomotive, and this is captured particularly well.
The face of the model is, like the rest of the body, caught just right. This being the Great Western version no smokebox plate or shed plate is featured, though will do on the BR liveries. The profile of the door matches images with a correct profile, something which seems often missed by all manufacturers at some stage. The steam lance fitting is featured and the step at the base of the door sits above the angled steam chest cover plate, arguably the most noticeable feature of the Great Western built engines. The contractor built locomotives (35-026 35-026SF 35-027 35-027SF), didn’t have this cover fitted and the BR livery models reflect this correctly.
The chimney, correctly copper capped, at its join with the smokebox sits almost flush, its height and diameter all in proportion to the rest of the model. Lamp irons are fitted and the face completed by a well formed handrail with fine handrail knobs. Correctly the handrail isn’t fixed to the tank front and stops short by the depth of the tank steps. Sprung buffers are fitted which is an improvement over the 64xx’s but don’t feature the foot tread on the top particularly well, which will be an easy fix with etched components from Shawplan.
The chassis of the model reflects good contemporary construction. Driving through a vertical gear train to the rear axle, coupling rods provide the drive to the centre and forward wheels with a knuckle joint prototypically aft of the centre crankpin. Gearing allows a good turn of speed and a responsive control at very low speeds. Quality of the assembly is very good overall however this example was missing its front sandboxes on both sides. There are glue witness marks where they were fitted, but obviously between assembly and packing they made a successful escape bid. Other models have not suffered this indignity and the sandboxes are extant, so just a fault with this specific example.
The drive train is compact enough not to impinge on either the cab interior or the space forward of the firebox. The chassis fixes to the main footplate of the locomotive with two screws at either end of the model. The footplate is diecast metal, be careful when using these, a cross threaded screw will be a proper pain in the backside to resolve. The speaker for DCC sound is fitted to all variants and sits discretely underneath the PCB board.
The chassis is rigid with axles of 2.98 mm diameter running in brass bearings, very similar in design to the Hornby 08. For EM/P4 modellers the opportunity to convert the model looks viable and relatively simple. However the clearance between the internal splasher faces is 62mm, and they are cast metal, if that’s insufficient etched splashers might be an option.
The coreless motor sits between the gearbox and the DCC socket. The DCC recommended chip is a Bachmann 36-567 Next 18 decoder, all wiring runs are tidy from both pickup connections and to and from the PCB board. As its a coreless motor dont try running this with your coal burning H&M Duette it won’t end well! Transfer of power from the pickup strips is by two pads making a physical connection to a PCB mounted in the chassis, so there’s no direct wire connection.
Performance of the model is one of the best I’ve had. The chassis runs through the whole speed range very effectively, I’ve only used DC but have no reason to think that DCC won’t be as good. The chassis was run on Bachrus rollers for about an hour, at varying speeds in each direction. There was no noticeable improvement or degradation in that period from the initial trial straight from the carton. The track used on the test is Peco Code 75 bullhead and regular Streamline track with medium radius points being the tightest radius used, together with running through Kato unitrack points and curves equivalent to third radius set track.
As part of my test procedure I use Woodland scenics incline sets of either two or three percent grade, For this model I chose the three percent incline and set up a 65 inch length climb. My test methodology is quite straightforward, I have a selection of known weight, car wheel balance weights in fact, and load the wagon as required until the locomotive fails both pushing and pulling uphill. Well its fair to say this one gave me a bit of a pleasant surprise. With a standing start, both pushing and pulling the loco ‘failed’ ie slipped to a stand or wouldn’t move from a static position, with 1.09Kg on the wagon. That is the most I’ve seen on a locomotive of this size. The weight of the model is undoubtedly a factor at 285 grammes, no guesses where the pies went! The chassis weight isn’t significantly more than the early non DCC high cab panniers from Bachmann. The big difference almost certainly comes from the diecast footplate section allowing a significant gain in traction. Inside the plastic body the side tanks and bunker are also weighted, with sufficient space for a NEXT 18 chip to fit at the front end of the chassis and body cavity.
The DC model has an LED firebox glowing feature, there are however two LEDs which will allow a fire flicker in DCC controlled modes. DC has a constant non flickering mode which increases in brightness with the power application.
For DC the glow is a red colour which isn’t particularly noticeable, the image above was taken in very low light to emphasise the effect. For me this doesn’t work very well, however it will certainly appeal to many purchasers. It is a red colour too and I’d prefer an orange to yellow spectrum colour, however in normal lighting on both Shelfie2 and Shelfie3 it really wasn’t noticeable.
So the future for this model is to be changed to a BR livery version of the first nine but in the late 50’s. This means the rear bunker steps will be moved and a respray with renumber into BR black. Looking at the body construction this variant could be made from the tooling options announced in the range, so if you don’t want to do an early one yourself there’s the potential in a year or so for a standard or commission release in this configuration.
So what do I think of it? In summary its an excellent and accurate model of a 94XX locomotive, not your typical branch line locomotive, but a powerful heavy shunting and secondary lines and branches piece of motive power. With a wide range of allocations across the Western Region, and indeed the Midland with Lickey banking duties its a very useful addition to the RTR western fleet. The detail options are correct to type, livery and era and look like that’ll be reflected across the other releases of this type.The performance is outstanding, being able to move 1.09 kg from a standing start on a three percent grade for a locomotive of this size is very impressive indeed, the cast footplate being a big advantage in this respect.
Bachmann in my opinion have captured the essence of this prototype, both in appearance and perfomance. Job Done!