Oxford Rail ‘Class N7’ 0-6-2T
Alfred Hill’s most famous locomotive impressed Nigel Gresley, but what about our editor?
The name Alfred John Hill will not be familiar to many railway enthusiasts. He was the last chief mechanical engineer of the Great Eastern Railway, and his reputation is overshadowed by those of his predecessors, the Holdens and the Worsdells. His tenure was tainted by the First World War, so he never really had a chance to become the next Gresley or Churchward. Hill is only credited with four designs, the best known of which is the ‘L77’ 0-6-2T, which broke a long-standing Great Eastern Railway tradition of building 2-4-2Ts for the busy and extensive commuter network around London’s East End and out into Essex. The ‘L77’ even impressed Nigel Gresley, who adopted it as an LNER ‘Group Standard’ 0-6-2T, complementing his own ‘N2s’. The design is better known, therefore, as the LNER ‘N7’. The ‘N7s’ could be found throughout the LNER’S Southern Area, from the Metropolitan/ Great Central Joint, former Great Northern metals from King’s Cross and even onto Southern Railway territory. They were powerful machines, with one being photographed on a 12-coach Norwich-great Yarmouth ‘ Summer Saturday’ service. The ‘N7s’ are most strongly associated with London’s Liverpool Street station. They were ideal machines for the heavy ‘Jazz’ commuter services, while No. 69614 found fame as one of the station’s immaculately presented pilots. Oxford Rail chose this handsome 0- 6-2T for its third ‘OO’ gauge steam-outline model. It’s probably fair to say that both its Adams ‘Radial’ and ‘Dean Goods’ were good in most areas, being let down by a few small but rather important flaws. Will it be third time lucky with the ‘ N7’?
The problem with choosing an LNER Group Standard design is that what it would build was often quite different to what was penned by its constituent railway company. This often leads to quite a minefield of detail combinations. The ‘N7’ is no exception, with six distinct subclasses. For example, those built by the LNER were longer, not as tall, and had left, rather than right-hand drive. Thankfully, the job of reviewing Oxford’s ‘N7’ is made much easier as we were supplied with No. 1002 in Great Eastern Railway grey. This was the first of the production batch of ‘N7s’ to emerge from Stratford and, therefore, we don’t need to worry too much about those pesky LNER alterations! There’s an immediate feeling of quality about the ‘N7’. It’s hefty (thanks to the die-cast metal tanks and bunker) but the extremely fine, separately fitted handrails, brake pipes and brackets for the train destination boards puts it in a class above the ‘Dean Goods’. The ‘face’ is particularly effective and Oxford’s design team has done a good job of replicating the distinctive dish and rings around the smokebox door. The rest of the lines look good and the shape of the tank and bunker closely match F.J. Roche’s and John Gardner’s scale drawings. In short, what we have here is an excellent representation of A. J. Hill’s design. The model is made even more striking by its grey livery. The GER is best known for its beautiful blue colour scheme, but it adopted grey as its house colour during the First World War. Grey was eventually replaced by LNER black after the 1923 Grouping.
No. 1002 would have emerged from Stratford Works with GER initials on the tank sides and cast brass numberplates on the bunker. However, the GER’S new Train Control system demanded that locomotives’ numbers should be clearly seen, so the GER lettering was replaced by 19in high yellow numbers on the tank sides. No. 1002 wore this scheme until replaced by LNER black with red lining sometime around 1925. Colour photographs of this period are very rare, so it’s safe to assume that Oxford got the grey correct. It certainly makes for an interesting looking model! Boiler bands and cab spectacle plates are black, as per the prototype. The brass, copper and burnished steel effects are nicely subtle and very effective. The text is legible on the numberplate under a magnifier but it’s not as crisp and clear as you’d get from the likes of Bachmann or Hornby. The cab interior looks well finished too. You can’t see particularly well (there are no roof ventilators to let the light in!) but although many of the fittings are moulded to the backplate, they’ve been painted effectively. Even the gauge glasses have the distinctive diagonal stripes. The characteristic reversing wheel is a particular joy. So, why doesn’t the ‘N7’ score more in the looks category? The ‘N7’s’ good looks are spoilt slightly by the unsightly gap under the boiler. There’s no representation of the inside Walschaerts valve gear, which means that there’s a lot of daylight visible from normal viewing angles through the wheel spokes on the opposite side. From certain angles, there’s a lot of light visible from under the tanks and boiler, which there wouldn’t be in reality. Our No. 1002 had some minor issues with assembly that spoilt the overall aesthetic. There was a distinctive step where the top of the boiler (where it’s part of the body moulding) meets the bottom of the boiler (part of the chassis). It looks as though the two aren’t assembled properly, although, hopefully, this is an isolated incident. As the chassis is a heavy die-cast component, the top edges of the main frames are represented by small plastic parts. Our No. 1002 had gaps between the two, which suggested that the parts hadn’t gone together very well. Again, this could be peculiar to our sample. Sadly, what is fundamentally a good model has been let down by errors that some simple research could have prevented. Oxford has done quite a bit of homework to give No. 1002 the correct detail combinations, such as the four Ramsbottom safety valves, correct cab roof profile, GER pattern buffers and airpump on the smokebox. But a quick flick through the RCTS ‘green book’ reveals that No. 1002 should have top feed, for a start. It was only fitted with airbrakes and, therefore, shouldn’t have two brake pipes on the bufferbeam.
Eight-pin DCC socket
NEM pockets Sprung buffers