Model Rail (UK)
Dapol Class 59
Initial impressions are favourable, with Dapol undoubtedly getting the overall body profile spot-on
Both myself and Chris Leigh are big fans of the General Motors Class 59s, and I’ve enjoyed many hours on Westbury station watching the fleet grapple with heavily loaded aggregate trains from the nearby Mendip quarries. I was also lucky enough to see the National Power – and later EWS – Class 59/2s closer to home, working limestone and coal trains around the North West and the High Peak.
Lima released an impressive Class 59 model in the mid-1990s, subsequently enhanced and re-launched by Hornby in the mid-noughties. As good as this tooling is at capturing the look of the prototypes, its 30-year-old roots mean it lags way behind contemporary models with higher detail and technical specifications. When Dapol announced its intention to create a high-specification ‘OO’ Class 59, it certainly generated plenty of excitement. None of us expected, however, that it would take seven years before the models would eventually arrive! Thankfully, the wait is finally over, with the first raft of models landing in December and covering each of the three prototype sub-classes. On offer is 59005 in original Yeoman silver/blue, 59103 in ARC yellow/ grey, 59204 in National Power blue and 59206 in DB Schenker red/grey, each with an array of prototype-specific detail differences.
All models are available in three different formats: Dcc-ready, Dcc-fitted (£206.73) and DCC sound with pre-installed smoke generator (£237.50). Under review here is 59206, in
Dcc-ready format, the prototype being notable as the first locomotive in the UK to gain DB’S famous red/grey house colours in 2009.
Initial impressions are favourable, with Dapol undoubtedly getting the overall body profile spot-on. It’s a heavy model too, at over 670g, so there’s plenty of ballast to aid haulage. The radiator roof grilles are finely rendered with an etched metal overlay, with the cooling elements visible below. The bulky exhaust unit also looks the part, finished in an effective metallic coating. The body’s characteristic corrugated sides and panel lines are crisply moulded, as are the side grilles. Impressively, the recessed cab door handrails are separate fittings – it would have been tempting to mould these with the body, but the fine wire parts look so much better.
On this DB example, the cab doors have correctly gained extra handles in the lower position, which was a later
modification, and the doors can be opened just a fraction before they hit the cast chassis block. As they’re sprung, they can’t be posed ajar, so I’m not sure how useful this feature is.
On the cab ends, the air horn grilles are also etched overlays, neatly fitted and giving an extra sense of refinement. The wipers are also impressive, along with the lamp brackets and protruding multiple working sockets. This ‘59/2’ features the ‘Wipac’-style light clusters, presenting a family likeness to the later Class 66 design and quite a contrast to the original Class 59/0.
The buffers are sprung, but the rectangular heads have an irritating habit of rotating out of alignment. In a clever piece of design, the cab fronts and headstocks are moulded integrally, avoiding any unseemly horizontal joints. Furthermore, a choice of slot-in valances is provided, with or without slots for the NEM coupler pockets to protrude, along with dummy screw couplings and brake hoses, allowing fully detailed ends to be rendered.
Another convenient feature of the design is the ease with which the body can be removed. After unplugging the couplers, the shell is simply unclipped with a fingernail and lifted off. There are no fiddly wire harnesses, as the power for the lighting units is transferred via sprung brass contacts.
The main circuit board atop the hefty metal chassis block is home to the 21-pin DCC interface, plus two threeposition slide switches to customise operation of the cab interior and head/tail lights when running on analogue control. Full instructions are provided, although the two faded pages of A4 paper were a little disappointing compared to the plush user manuals currently offered with other models.
While the body is removed, the housing for the smoke generator unit can be seen and there’s ample room for a speaker, if fitting your own sound package. Below the PCB sits a powerful, five-pole motor with twin flywheels, driving all six axles via cardan shafts.
Below the footplate, the exposed framework is adorned with a mix of moulded and separately applied pipework and conduit, mirroring the equipment of the prototype closely. Reservoir tanks, battery boxes and fuel tank are impressive, as are the distinctive bogie frames, which were such a massive departure
from anything that we’d previously seen from British Rail.
Although the brake shoes do not line up with the ‘OO’ wheels, the sanding pipes do, and rotating axleboxes are a welcome addition. After countless hours of testing, the ‘59’ has been running extremely smoothly (helped by observing the recommended 30-minute running-in period), with ample haulage capabilities. Dapol’s JHA hoppers are the perfect match for the ‘59’, but these wagons are quite heavy.
Thankfully, our Class 59 hauled my rake of nine JHAS – plus a handful of Accurascale PTAS
– without any problems. And it’s also worth mentioning that the rotating axlebox covers have also performed perfectly throughout testing.
The lighting was a little disappointing under analogue control, with the head and tail lights only being energised once the locomotive had reached a certain speed.
As a result, slow-speed running led to flickering headlights or no lights at all – a shame given how beautifully the mechanism performed.
My only other gripe concerns the bright copper power collection strips that are visible on the inner bogie frames. A dash of paint is required in order to blend them into their surroundings.
Unsurprisingly, sales of Dapol’s ‘59s’ have been brisk and five further livery options were announced before Christmas, featuring the later Yeoman livery, EWS red/gold, MRL green/silver, revised ARC grey/yellow and Freightliner’s orange/black scheme, all of which are due early next year. And don’t forget that the unique
GBRF 59003 is also being offered as part of the Gaugemaster Collection.
With the exception of a few minor quibbles, this is an excellent model. The paint finish is neatly applied, and a set of optional etched nameplates were an unexpected bonus. I’m certainly looking forward to adding another ‘59’ or two to my collection! (GD)