Modellers of heavy freight operations in N gauge will welcome the release of feature rich models of the Romanian-built Class 56. Two models have been released using the same body shell tooling: No. 56 013 in Railfreight Coal livery and No. 56 018 in EWS maroon and gold. One represents the class in BR sector condition whilst the second is a late life example as operated by EWS. The fate of the two locomotives chosen by Dapol could not be more stark: No. 56 013 was withdrawn in 1993 and disposed of in 2001 whilst No.56 018 survives to this day following hire to Fertis for work in France and a chance of main line service with UK Rail Leasing.
No. 56 018 photographed at Warrington Arpley when finished in Fertis livery.
The first batch of 30 Class 56 Co-Co locomotives (represented by the two models featured in this review) were constructed by Electroputere of Craiova in Romania, a subsidiary of Brush, using components manufactured in the UK. Delivery took place in 1976-77 and records show that many were poorly assembled delaying their introduction to traffic. Dapol’s Class 56 boast many class-specific details representing the Romanian type including more rounded cab shape compared to the flatter steel cabs of later locomotives; recessed marker lights, flush air horn cover panels and side radiator grilles.
Dapol’s Class 56 boast many class-specific details representing the Romanian type including more rounded cab shape compared to the flatter steel cabs of later locomotives; recessed marker lights, flush air horn cover panels and side radiator grilles.
The Dapol model matches published drawings well and has the right proportions, making it the best representation of the class in N gauge by a long mile. Particular attention was paid to the cab roof when preparing this review, an area which has particularly tricky curves. Many enthusiasts regard this as a key area in capturing the character of the locomotive and the model matches photographs pretty well. However, the same examination revealed a small discrepancy in the cab side windows. They appear to be around 0.5mm too shallow and on the Coal Sector liveried model, results in the black cab surround colour not matching the upper grey panel, which is also a tad too deep. The front cab windows, the cab front and height from the top of the buffer beam fairing and the cab roof shows the overall dimensions of the cab to be correct.
Fine tooling is apparent over the whole model and extends to the bogie side frames where the detail is particularly complex and well executed. To appreciate it better, the bogies would benefit from a little weathering which will highlight the detail. NEM coupling pockets are integral with the bogie frames and can be fitted with Dapol’s new buck-eye coupling or a standard Rapido type, both of which were supplied with the models.
A key feature of Class 56s and a sub-class specific feature are the side radiator grilles. They are represented with a moulded internal body frame with an etched metal grille applied over the top. The grille has a representation of diamond mesh rather than straight mesh of the prototype.
Roof fan grilles are moulded with an impression of the cooling fans. Noteworthy are carefully tooled shoulder grilles and roof detail which is sharp and well defined. The body features revised shoulder grilles at the No.2 end which is a later modification made to the Class 56. It is present on the full size No. 56 018.
The electrical circuitry is also well designed with current collected through split axles and end of axle bearings instead of wiper pick-ups which is technically better and less prone to dirt. A small circuit board holds a 6-pin DCC interface socket for plug and play installation of a decoder (a Digitrax DZ125IN is shown fitted). Plug and sockets are provided for the body lighting wire harnesses so the body can be separated from the chassis for maintenance. Care has been taken, in common with all Dapol locomotives, to prevent light leakage into the cab space or through the body shell.
Performance is in keeping with a large freight locomotive where ‘grunt’ rather than a high top speed is necessary to do the job. The motor, coupled to twin flywheels and low bogie tower gearing results in a relatively low top speed and very smooth, controllable performance. All wheel drive and an overall weight of 120g enabled both models haul 30 bogie wagons on level track with ease.
The use of individual detailing parts is extensive on the model including multiple working jumper cables, buffer beam detail, flush cab glazing, tiny windscreen wipers and wire hand rails. The rails are correctly fitted to the cab sides, with the leading rail longer than the other. Wire hand rails are fitted to the cab front too, picked out in white.
Small detail discrepancies and the cab side windows aside, Dapol has produced a very convincing model of the first Class 56s. The slab-sided, bulky appearance of the full size locomotive has been well represented. A smooth running mechanism with a suitably low top speed means that the model performs well on heavy freight. Such workaday locomotive models are much welcomed at a time when prestige trains seem to be taking centre stage.