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Image: Hornby

Network SouthEast Co-Co Diesel Electric Class 50 'Lion'

Hornby Railways R2575

Review and DCC decoder installation by Doug Teggin


Prototype info

The British Rail (BR) Class 50 is a diesel locomotive built from 1967-68 by English Electric at their Vulcan Foundry Works in Newton-le-Willows. Fifty of these locomotives were built to haul express passenger trains on the northern half of the West Coast Main Line. They were originally hired from English Electric Leasings, not being purchased outright by BR until around 1973. Under the pre-1968 classification system these locomotives were known as the English Electric Type 4. The class were affectionately nicknamed "Hoovers" by rail enthusiasts because of their distinctive engine sound, caused by the centrifugal air filters originally fitted. These proved unreliable, and were later removed, but the "Hoover" nickname stuck.

The Class 50 fleet was developed following trials with the prototype Deltic-bodied DP2 locomotive. In many ways, the locomotives were a more powerful and lighter version of the earlier Class 40, and also included a host of complex electronic control gear, which to some extent was their downfall.

Fifty locomotives were built, initially numbered D400-D449. All were delivered in the BR Blue livery with yellow cab fronts. From 1973 onwards, the locomotives were renumbered into the range 50001-50050, to conform with the TOPS system. With the exception of the first-built locomotive, which was renumbered to 50050, the rest of the fleet retained the last two digits of their number, such that D431 would become no. 50031.
Source: Wikipedia

50 002 'Superb' in Network SouthEast livery at Birmingham New Street, 1987.
Photo: Andrew Hadley via Wikipedia


Model info

Length: 275mm; Running No.: 50027 'Lion'; Livery: Network SouthEast; Period: 1980s and as preserved; Finish: Pristine; Detail: Extensive, twin bogie drive, pick-ups on all wheels, DCC ready, NEM couplings; Built: English Electric; Class Introduced: 1967; Number Built: 50; Purpose: Mixed traffic; Suitable Rolling Stock: R4153A, R4154A. Source: Hornby


Detailed parts. In the photos below, you'll see that I've fitted the 5 air hoses to one end that are supplied in the detail pack. I left them off the other end so that a conventional coupler could be fitted to use with coaches and wagons. Notice in this photo the finely detailed windscreen wipers. The ends look quite good.

Ventilation louvers. You can open and close the louvers on the one end on either side of the body under the roof fan. A little wire hook that is supplied can be used to open them. The two images below show you the effect that this gives. Is it a gimmick? Will anyone notice? It looks simple enough, but it is a mechanical feature that is undoubtedly adding to the price again.



Detail on the chassis. Hornby have a very sturdy metal chassis and to get the detail in the right places, they have plastic pieces attached. It is well done.

Opening cab doors. I'm not really sure why they build models with opening cab doors. How much does it add to the price of the model and do we really need them? Perhaps you can add a figure, half in and or leaning out, but I'm sure that H&S would object to some poor OO-scale bloke hanging out the train as it hurtles around the layout.

Body roof access panel (see photos below). I mention this as it intrigues me. Here we have an access panel in the roof of the body that is glued in place (shut). I thought that it may be an experiment by Hornby to give access to the decoder without removing the body, but the real reason that it is there is because this is where there was a recess on the un-refurbished 50s. This was later plated over. This allows Hornby to model both variants.

Inside view

Outside view

Taking the body off is very easy. It is held on by 4 clips and slightly stretching the body open from underneath unclips it. There are two leads that have to be un-hooked on either end and then the body slips off without fuss.

Interesting configuration of the wires and lights. The tubes below carry the light wires over the opening doors and then they lead down behind the cab bulkhead. Contacts for the upper headlights allow the yellow LEDs in the body to pick up current from the chassis. Two LEDs, one white and one red provide alternate forward and reverse lighting. There are no loose wires and the finish of the chassis is impeccable.

Complex circuit board. Diodes, resistors, capacitors, gates and IC chips... We could perhaps have on-board FM radio, but I think that it's all to do with the lighting. One of the little black terminal caps (bottom left of the board) was missing when I opened the box. The wire is not soldered so the cap is needed to keep the contact. I'll tape it in place.

I fitted a R8215 Hornby decoder (below) to the loco. Boy did it suffer. I actually thought there was a problem with the loco and set it to run a bit on my rolling road under DC.

Under DCC using the R8215 Hornby decoder, the front and rear lights flash when the loco is still or running at a crawl. They turn to steady-on when running above speed step 3 or 4.

Under DC, the loco ran smoothly showing no problem.

So I pulled out the Hornby decoder and replaced it with another spare Lenz Gold that I had lying around (photo below). The running characteristics of the loco with the Lenz decoder was fantastic. Smooth slow control at all speeds. No flashing lights at low speed or at a stop.

Below you can see the loco coming into the station. You can just make out the yellow lights above the cab windows.

Below, the loco leaves showing the red lights at the rear.

A casualty of the packaging, these two black pieces of plastic fitted into the holes you see under the chassis. I notice that the foam protection in the box has a bevelled space to prevent knocking these two bits off. You have to put the loco in carefully and correctly orientated. Obviously this was not done. I don't think that they are vital, but they block out some of the open spaces under the chassis so perhaps make it look a bit better when viewed from the side.



A good looking loco. Smooth quiet running. Good traction and torque thanks to the flywheel and all wheel drive. The all wheel pickup ensure faultless running over my not-so-good point-work that is quite testing on some other locos.

The loco pulls with ease a rake of coaches up my 1:40 incline. I assume it would pull a full train of wagons too.

As I mentioned there are some features that are perhaps just gimmicks: adjustable ventilation louvers, working fan, opening doors. Are these features that people expect? Do they sell locos? If other manufacturers do them is everyone obliged to do them?

I like this model and can recommend it to anyone modelling the South-East of England in the Early 1980s.

- April 2008


All text, photos & graphics, unless otherwise indicated 2008 Doug Teggin - All rights reserved.

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