Well I have to say that I'm moderately impressed with the Hornby 31 - at
least with the blue version. Never was a big 'skinhead' fan, so these
comments are aimed purely and simply at the banger blue model which has been
trundling around my layout for the last hour or so.
Firstly it runs beautifully, silky smooth, more so after fitting a Lenz Gold
decoder. Prior to that starting and stopping were a tad 'sudden' but the
back-emf feature of the Gold decoder has certainly improved matters. I'd
have preferred a heavier loco, which would have been perfectly feasible had
Hornby not persisted with their working fan. Eliminating that might also
have allowed easier decoder location - I'm not all together happy with the
suggested (and adopted) arrangement. I'm waiting for the decoder to slip
and foul up with the flywheel drive mechanism, and I'm confident it will.
I don't like the way Hornby have mounted their NEM coupler sockets. My
railway uses Bachmann mini-type couplings throughout and Hornby's feeble
attempt at close coupling causes more problems then it solves. The NEM
socket should be mounted on the bogie where it belongs! Nothing derails on
my layout except when attached to my Hornby class 50, or this new 31,
which indicates that the coupler mount is the issue and nothing else. One
shouldn't have to be selective about what one can, or can't tow behind a
loco. I can see anyone trying to use one of these locos on sharp setrack
curves having serious problems.
The front end appearance isn't quite right. Either the outer cab front
windows are too deep, or too narrow. I can't make my mind up which, but one
thing is for certain and that is they're not correct. I'm working here from
photo comparisons and not from scale drawings, which might explain my
uncertainty. Other than that I think that the model looks something like a
class 31. The fine detail work is exemplary, although I have to say that
some of it would have been more readily appreciated if it hadn't fallen off
whilst attempting to remove the body to allow the fitting of the DCC
decoder. If detail so fine is going to be provided then I believe it should
be adequately secured. The sand pipes on the inner bogie ends have all now
fallen off, and my eyesight is struggling to allow me to refit them. I just
don't see the point in the sprung opening doors. If they can't be opened
and left open, they're a waste of time.
Correct me if I'm wrong but shouldn't the orange decoder wire go to the pin
marked '1'? If I plugged my decoder in that way round the lights wouldn't
work. This harps back to the problems with the original release of class
50s. I can't believe that Hornby have got it wrong again?
Finally I don't particularly like the weathering. It's certainly not the
worst I've seen on a factory weathered loco, but it's still fairly naff.
I've no problem with Hornby choosing to weather locos, but surely it makes
more sense to leave that to a later release, giving modellers the choice
(especially with the potentially most popular livery variation) of having
self-weathered or ex-works condition loco(s). At least with the latter it's
much easier to renumber, and as a result have the potential for buying more
than one rather than have to wait for any future releases.
Overall I like the model, but think it's somewhat over-priced. The latter
has certainly been an issue in the shop with a number of customers saying
it's too expensive and leaving with yet another Bachmann diesel instead.
I've personally bitten the price bullet with this first blue release, and
much as I'd potentially like another two or three to add to my loco fleet,
I'm afraid the price is a major put-off. I'm not saying I won't get more,
but I'll now wait until an ex-works blue model is released. I'm buggered if
I'm going to try renumbering a weathered blue loco.
I only picked up this months Rail express yesterday and have not really read
through it, but I am sure they reviewed the blue 31 and said "the best rtr
I take it your not as impressed John?
Got to admit i may buy one when i see it, but the price is a big off put for
I agree wholeheartedly with the weathering issue. I have no factory
weathered locos and I'm not going to start now, so my 31 purchase will have
to wait. Until I read your appraisal, I didn't realise that the first blue
release was to be weathered - madness in my opinion. I've been quite looking
forward to the 31. Now I'll just be spending my pennies elsewhere.
I find these two statements totally contradictory. If the coupler is
mounted on the bogie as you prefer, then the front end appearance must
be worse than not "quite right" - simply because the whole of the lower
front end would then swing with the bogie, with a gap between bogie and
I think that body mounted couplers give a much better appearance, and
if Hornby are moving towards finer scale by doing this, then more power
"John Turner" wrote
Surely Hornby tried their coupling design pulling the "recommended freight
rolling stock" round their own selection of "recommended radius" track!!?
(ie. 2nd or 3rd radius Hornby setrack)
Said Fil, naively.
I don't follow your arguments. There has to be a compromise somewhere to
allow a model to operate on below scale curves, and I'm happy to accept a
bogie mounted coupling as this facilitates reliable operation.
My comment about front end appearance was purely and simply down to the
shape of the cab front outer windows.
But if that causes derailments is it a better option? Incidentally my
layout curves are not particularly tight. Nothing less than 2'0" anywhere,
with 3'0" closer to the average.
"Fil Downs" wrote
Maybe they did, but one can only report sensibly on personal experience, but
why would one need to be restricted to *recommended freight rolling stock*?
Around here 31s were used regularly on passenger trains, but ironically my
31 is perfectly happy with Bachmann Mk1 coaches, but doesn't like any number
of Hornby items of freight stock.
Oh I'm impressed, don't get me wrong. That doesn't mean to say I think it's
One customer bought one in the shop yesterday, but commented that he thought
it was too expensive. He said he'd have had two if they'd been the same
price as the Bachmann 37.
I was lucky enough to pick up my Dutch liveried one for £71.99 at
One thing I discovered on the detailing front was the fact that the Multiple
working sockets/connectors are at the wrong sides from each other on the
bufferbeam...unless they were different on the skinhead 31's?
Could well be, if the loco you refer to is (D)5500 > 5517 & 19 [or their
TOPS equivalent] then they were wired for 'Red Circle' electro-magnetic
control, whilst the rest are wired for 'Blue Star' electro-pneumatic
I've not had one in my hands, but I've looked at one in a cabinet of the
local shop, and think its a nice model, but its not 40-45 better than a Lima
I agree regarding the price. My local shop wants 79.99GBP. Its a lot of
money for one loco. If had been about 45-50GBP I would buy one.
Same goes for the Class 50 and Heljan 47. Nice locos, but there a heavy
investment. I was quite happy in the days of Lima, when 30 quid was the
going rate. As at that price I would be happy to get the model home, and
detail/weather the model. At 80 quid, its going to be silk gloves, and not
going even the get near the "works" for modifications! Indeed at 30 quid,
and regular releases of the latest liveries, it was a much more affordable
hobby to try and keep up with the current scene!
I'm waiting for the bogies to become available, so I can repower a Lima 31
body/underframe I've working on as a Network Rail yellow machine!
I guess my experience is all with Kadee or Microtrains couplers, which
seem to allow operation on quite small radius curves even when body
mounted, providing that you allow for easements when laying out the
For many years seeing couplers and therefore all the other
paraphernalia swinging with the bogie as the loco moves around curves
has been something to avoid. I can understand difficulties mixing body
mounted and bogie mounted couplers, especially with tight curves, and
even more so when the coupler is predominately a relatively long
horizontal bar. I agree that if you want to run trains around 2'
radius curves with those couplers you will need bogie mounts.
However you must agree with me that the appearance of the loco is
vastly improved with body mounted couplers, and it was your comments
about the appearance of the front end of the loco and the lack of bogie
mounted couplers which prompted my response.
It seems to me that Hornby are beginning to produce fine models - but
it also seems to me that if they allow the compromises necessary to
allow operation on tight radius curves, then they will never make what
would be seen around the world as a top class model.
I've plenty of experience with Kadees too, but exclusively on USA outline HO
scale, which is another of my interests. Body mounted couplers work fine of
course - providing all of your stock is so mounted, and this is the crucial
difference with UK models where generally speaking the norm is to bogie
In any event the coupler pocket on both the Hornby 31 & 50 is NOT body
mounted, it's mouted in some sort of moveable cradle betwixt body and bogie,
and as a result is neither one thing nor the other.