Dapol Class 142 ‘Pacer’ DMU

Model Rail (UK) - - Reviews -

◆ SCALE ‘N’ ◆ MODEL Dapol ND-116A Class 142 Pacer ‘North­ern’ ◆ PRICE (RRP) £135.95 ◆ PE­RIOD 1985+ ◆ RE­GION North and South West Eng­land, South Wales, de­pend­ing on liv­ery and era ◆ AVAIL­ABIL­ITY Dapol stock­ists

When they were in­tro­duced in 1985, Bri­tish Rail’s ‘Pacer’ units – com­pris­ing bus bod­ies fitted to a four-wheel chas­sis de­rived from air-braked freight stock – were a stop­gap mea­sure, in­tended to give 20 years of ser­vice be­fore be­ing re­placed. Only now, 34 years later, is the end in sight for these rail­buses which, while largely unloved and un­cel­e­brated, have given stead­fast and un­fussy ser­vice on nu­mer­ous routes in the North of Eng­land, the South West and South Wales.

There were sev­eral dif­fer­ent classes of ‘Pacer’. The Class 142 ve­hi­cles, as mod­elled by Dapol, are the most nu­mer­ous and 96

sets were built us­ing widened Ley­land Na­tional bus bod­ies by Ley­land and BREL (Bri­tish Rail En­gi­neer­ing Lim­ited) in Work­ing­ton be­tween 1985 and 1987.

In the pri­vati­sa­tion era the units have been in ser­vice with nu­mer­ous op­er­a­tors: in the first tranche of re­leases Dapol is of­fer­ing sets in Re­gional Rail­ways, Tyne & Wear PTE, Ar­riva Trains Wales, North­ern Spirit and North­ern liv­er­ies, with both DC and DCC ver­sions avail­able. Their rigid, two-axle chas­sis, with­out sec­ondary sus­pen­sion, means that in ser­vice they have be­come known for lively rid­ing and nick­named ‘nod­ding don­keys’, while their long wheel­base can lead to in­tru­sive flange-squeal on curved track, mak­ing them un­pop­u­lar with the trav­el­ling pub­lic. Be­cause they do not com­ply with cur­rent dis­abil­ity ac­cess reg­u­la­tions, all ‘Pacer’ trains are sched­uled for with­drawal by the end of 2019.

Dapol’s model ver­sion is nicely pack­aged in the model firm’s fa­mil­iar clear plas­tic jewel case

with a dark grey foam insert that holds things se­curely. In­deed, its grip is so tight that to re­move the model from the box it’s es­sen­tial to lift the en­tire insert out, and then gen­tly re­lease the two ve­hi­cles.

Un­der ob­ser­va­tion the model clearly cap­tures the char­ac­ter and look of the ‘Pacer’ – the fa­mil­iar bus body with its many fine riv­ets and roof air con­di­tion­ing packs is nicely moulded. Dapol is of­fer­ing ver­sions with both the original ten-rib and later three-rib roofs. How­ever, it is read­ily ap­par­ent that the pro­por­tions of the side are not quite right; the windows are too shal­low and the two rows of riv­ets be­low are too high. Also, the an­gled cut-in at the base of the body is too flat.

It may be that these are com­pro­mises forced on Dapol by a desire to in­cor­po­rate a low-pro­file mo­tor chas­sis, how­ever af­ter such a long de­vel­op­ment pe­riod it does seem a pity that these is­sues – which were iden­ti­fied and fed back to Dapol long be­fore pro­duc­tion – could not be cor­rected.

The face of the model is rea­son­able but would be im­proved if the (work­ing) head/ tail light clus­ters were slightly more pro­nounced. The roof ra­dio pods on 142065, the unit de­picted, should be slightly off­set. The liv­ery ap­pli­ca­tion is very neat; our re­view sam­ple was in the now-ob­so­lete North­ern liv­ery of pur­ple, blue and white and this has been well ap­plied, with the finer mark­ings present in­clud­ing cy­cle area stick­ers printed on the glaz­ing.

At the outer ends the model

has work­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tions of the pro­to­type’s BSI cou­plings. These are com­pat­i­ble with each other and with the same cou­plers on Dapol’s well-re­garded Class 156 and 153 units, mean­ing they can run in mul­ti­ple, as they some­times do on the net­work. The in­ner cou­pling is also in­ter­est­ing and en­ables track power to be shared be­tween ve­hi­cles. Some care is re­quired in align­ing two pairs of prongs which click to­gether and in­cor­po­rate pairs of brass tabs which bear on each other. With pick-ups on all eight wheels this should en­sure the unit is sure-footed over point­work, and un­der test this ar­range­ment ap­peared to be very ef­fec­tive.


Be­fore cou­pling, the bel­lows gang­ways can be ex­tended; they are able to con­certina and en­sure that no day­light is vis­i­ble be­tween the cars dur­ing op­er­a­tion. The pow­ered ve­hi­cle has a mo­tor with fly­wheels fitted be­low win­dow height, and both axles are driven. Per­for­mance un­der DC – par­tic­u­larly when cou­pled to its sis­ter trailer – was very smooth and con­sis­tent through­out the power range and the model comes with a Next18 de­coder socket.

The large glazed area means that a prom­i­nent red wire in­side is very vis­i­ble; ton­ing this down with black marker or cov­er­ing it with black in­su­la­tion tape would im­prove the model’s ap­pear­ance. With an RRP of £135, but on sale for around £115-£120, as a com­plete ‘train in a box’ it rep­re­sents good value against some more re­cent mod­els. The Dapol Class 142 ‘Pacer’ has taken eight years to reach the shops. Like the pro­to­type, it may not be per­fect but it is a de­cent train-on-a-bud­get and is sure to be pop­u­lar. For any­one mod­el­ling the last 35 years, these hum­drum ‘nod­ding don­keys’ were no less a part of the picture than the more glam­orous ex­press race­horses.

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