REVIEW - Graham Farish Sound Fitted SECR N Class
The latest sound fitted steam locomotive from Graham Farish has now arrived with stockists and here we take a closer look at the new release of the N Gauge Maunsell SECR N Class 2-6-0 Mogul.
Designed by Richard Maunsell in 1914 for mixed traffic duties on the South Eastern and Chatham Railway, the N Class followed the design principles set out by GWR Chief Mechanicial Engineer George Jackson Churchward and was based on the GWR 4300 but with some Midland Railway concepts thrown in for good measure.
On taking over from Harry Wainwright as CME for the SECR, Maunsell set about introducing several new classes of locomotive to replace the obsolete collection of 0-6-0 and 4-4-0 engines in use at the time. Double heading was a frequent occurrence on the SECR however this was neither an efficient or cheap solution in the long run. The low standard of infrastructure across large parts of the SECR played a large part in the design of the N Class, with poor track quality and weak bridges being some of the influencing factors in the 2-6-0 design.
Initial production was delayed by the outbreak of World War One with the first locomotive, No. 810, emerging from Ashford works in July 1917. Following a 3 year trials period 15 more locos were ordered in 1919 and were constructed between 1920 and 1923. Several improvements were incorporated over the initial engine, including a greater boiler superheating surface area.
The success of the initial batch led to the Ministry of Supply ordering a second batch for the Government's nationalisation proposal. When this was abandoned in favour of the 1923 grouping, production of the second batch went ahead in part to help preserve labour and skill at the woolwich plant. By 1924, 100 prefabricated N Class 'kits' had been produced and stored pending a buyer.
After the formation of Southern Railway, the N Class was chosen as the company's standard mixed traffic type thanks to it's solid all round performance and fifty of the 'woolwhich kits' were purchased and assembled at Ashford Works during 1924/1925. A final batch of 15 locomotives was ordered in 1932 but with several changes including left hand drive, a lower profile chimney and 4000 gallon tender.
The class continued under Southern Railway following nationalisation of the railways in 1948 and remained in service with British Railways until June 1966. Only one example was preserved, 31874, and was restored to operational condition for the opening of the Mid Hants Railway in 1977. In 2014 874 moved to the Swanage Railway and is currently under overhaul to running condition once again.
The Graham Farish N Class was originally released in July 2015 and arrived somewhat under the radar, being overshadowed by the arrival of the Farish Merchant Navy at the same time. However, it earned praise for its excellent running qualities and high levels of detail.
Farish announced in 2018 that they would re-tool aspects of the model to allow for the inclusion of a NEXT18 DCC socket and pre-fitted speaker whilst releasing a factory sound fitted version, and that model has now arrived with stockists and is the subject of this review.
Outwardly there is little difference between the original 2015 release and the latest models. Both featuring highly detailed plastic mouldings for locomotive body and tender with a die cast chassis for weight and the now standard coreless motor which delivers smooth and quiet running aided by pickup from the driving and tender wheels. The rear set of driving wheels are fitted with traction tyres to aid haulage.
The cab backhead detail is particularly worthy of note, with pipework and valves picked out in various shades of brass and even the sight glasses clearly visible. Unlike the first release, the cab interior is now painted in a light cream colour. This is one model which would definitely benefit from a Modelu crew!
There are a wealth of separately fitted details to be found across the model, including handrails, reversing lever, injectors and associated pipework. Commendably fine smoke deflectors are fitted, for the first time on a Maunsell Green version of the model. Rivet detail around the cab and smoke box is commendably fine, as are the boiler washout plugs along each side of the firebox.
Finely turned brass safety valves and a nicely moulded whistle are fitted atop the firebox and brake shoes are correct and present on both locomotive and tender.
The blackend walschaerts valve gear is excellently represented and is finer than some more recent releases. It's only really let down by the large hex bolts holding it in place and the oversized return crank. The keeper plate which holds the main wheel bearings in place features a representation of the bottom of the ash pan. A nice touch often overlooked.
The 3500 gallon tender features finely detailed frames with good representations of the springs and axle boxes that have nice depth to them. Equipment storage lockers and the coal opening are neatly represented on the cab end of the tender, with a simple but neat water filler cap at the other end.
The coal load is represented by a metal casting, however as with the original release this is a very loose fit and prone to falling out very easily when the model is handled. The fireman's tools brackets are attached to the weight so there is the potential to damage these if the load takes a tumble to the floor.
The finish is up to the very high standards now the norm from Farish with a good, even, Satin finish for the Maunsell green. The fine white lining is excellently applied, and to Farish's credit it is extremely subtle and not at all overpowering at all as can sometimes be the case when lighter lining is representing in N Gauge. The incredibly fine white/black/white boiler bands are particularly worth of mention.
Lettering and numbers are crisply printed with the yellow having excellent density to it and the cab side/tender rear number plates are beautifully printed.
Inside the small accessory bag there are several user added detail parts, head code discs, dummy coupling hooks, piston extensions, cylinder drain cocks, cab doors and front steps.
With the exception of the headcode discs and coupling hooks, the detail parts are for display purposes only, however if you have no curves on your layout you'll be ok fitting them all.
Inside the tender is where most of the changes have taken place since the initial release. A speaker enclosure is now moulded into the floor at the rear of the tender with the speaker itself being attached to a small circuit board and fitted on top. Another new circuit board features a NEXT18 socket. These changes do mean that the representation of the coal space found on the original tender when the coal load was removed is no longer present, which is a shame but necessary to accommodate the speaker and chip.
The sound fitted model comes equipped with a Zimo MX659N18 chip which delivers excellent slow speed running straight from the box.
We couldn't really review a sound fitted model without demonstrating the sound, so turn up the speakers an enjoy this little run through some of the main sound functions as supplied out of the box.
In addition to those functions shown in the video, Farish have included several additional functions including:
F2 - Brake
F9 - Flange Squeal (Speed Related)
F15 - Fade all Sounds
F17 - Auto Wagon Buffering
F18 - Unfitted Freight Mode
F19 - Pinned Brakes
F27 - Volume Down
F28 - Volume Up
There are also 3 versions of the Gaurd to Driver Instructions Function (F26) which can be set by changing CV691
CV691 = 67 - Unfitted Freight
CV691 = 68 - Fully Fitted Freight
CV691 = 69 - Passenger Train
The sounds are very good, although perhaps with not quite as much depth to them as the recent sound fitted 8F release which may be a result of a slightly smaller speaker enclosure on the N Class.
The 'chuffs' on the example reviewed here were also not quite synced correctly, being closer to 5 chuffs per revolution rather than the 4 chuffs it should be for a 2 cylinder locomotive. This can be amended by adjusting CV267 on a Zimo chip, however this should only be attempted if you are confident in playing with CVs.
As the only preserved N Class hasn't steamed for a number of years, we can only assume Farish have recorded the sounds from the similar U Class 31806 which is currently operational on the Swanage Railway.
The Farish N Class really is a delightful little model. Excellently detailed with solid performance and the addition of a NEXT18 socket and speaker brings it up to the latest standards expected from a RTR N Gauge model.
If you're looking for a mixed traffic Southern engine, you really can't go wrong with the N Class.
The RRP for the sound fitted N Class is £259.95
The review model was purchased by the reviewer for £220.95 from Alton Model Centre
Two more non-DCC fitted versions of the N Class are also available: