Dapol Class 142 ‘Pacer’ DMU
◆ 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.