Ox­ford Rail ‘Class N7’ 0-6-2T

Model Rail (UK) - - Reviews -

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’?

GREY AREA

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

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