REVIEW - Graham Farish Class 319 EMU
First announced in 2016, Bachmann's decision to produce the Class 319 took many by surprise, coming hot on the heals of the Revolution Trains announcement of the similar Class 320/321. The model was slated to feature several firsts for the Graham Farish range, including conductive couplings and interior lighting, so has the 6 year wait for the first Mk.3 based EMU from Farish been worth it? Read on.....
Originally designed for use on the new Thameslink line between Brighton and Bedford, the Class 319 dual voltage EMUs were built in two batches between 1987 - 1990 by British Rail Engineering Limited (BREL) at their Holgate Road factory in York.
The first batch of 60 units, built in 1987 and 1988 were classified as Class 319/0 and had a maximum speed of 100 mph. Each unit consisted of four carriages, two outer driving trailers, an intermediate motor with a roof-mounted Stone Faiveley pantograph and four DCGEC G315BZ traction motors and an intermediate trailer. Seating was standard-class only, in 2+3 layout.
The second batch, built in 1990, was of 26 units numbered in the range 319161–186. The formation of the second batch of sets was similar to that of the earlier units, with the addition of first-class seating at one end of the train for use on longer-distance Bedford to Brighton services. As per the first batch, standard-class seating was of a 2+3 layout. First-class seating was in 2+2 layout. All units of this subclass were converted to 319/3 during the late 1990s.
In 1997, seven of the Class 319/0 sets were converted to 319/2s especially for use on Connex South Central express services between London Victoria and Brighton. The modifications included new, lower-density seating, a disabled toilet, and a special 'lounge' seating area in the saloon space below the pantograph in the MSO, where stowage for a refreshment trolley and a small serving counter was also provided. The units converted were renumbered from 319014–020 to 319214–220. Following their return to use on Thameslink services, the lounge area was replaced by standard seating, but still in a low density layout.
In the period 1997-99, Thameslink converted all of its 319/1 units at Eastleigh Works for use on the shorter-distance Luton to Sutton/Wimbledon services, then known as 'Thameslink CityMetro'. These units lost their first-class seating and were renumbered into the 319/3 series whilst new blue and yellow scheme replaced the NSE livery.
Units 319021-060 were refurbished for Thameslink at Railcare Wolverton between 1997-98. The installation of a first-class compartment at one end and the removal of some seating in the centre of each vehicle to give 2+2 layout were among the modifications. New carpets and seat coverings, as well as application of the navy-blue Thameslink livery, completed the overhaul. The units were renumbered as 319421-460 and employed on the Bedford to Brighton service under the 'Thameslink Cityflier' branding.
To operate on newly electrified routes in the North West of England, Northern Rail received twenty Class 319/3 units after withdrawal and replacement from the Thameslink services. Northern's units underwent light refurbishment at Wolverton and emerged in a dedicated Northern Electrics livery, although all of these units have now been repainted into standard Northern Livery. In 2016 it was announced that Northern's allocation of 319/4s were to be converted to Class 769 Flex bi-mode units.
Seven units were transferred to London Midland in 2015 to operate the Watford Junction to St Albans service and some peak West Coast Main Line services out of London Euston. These replaced the seven Class 321 units transferred to Abellio ScotRail. In December 2017, West Midlands Trains took over the operation of the West Midlands rail franchise, with the seven Class 319 units initially leased by London Midland transferring to the new operator under the London Northwestern Railway brand.
When Graham Farish first announced the Class 319, the choice of class raised a few eyebrows, but any RTR EMU model is a welcome development, and perhaps a more logical choice in N Gauge where a 4 coach EMU can be run in multiple in much less space than the lager scales.
Supplied in the usual Graham Farish jewel cases and enclosed in the usual black and yellow sleeve, first impressions on taking the model out are that Bachmann have produced a very high quality product. The usual Farish style of instructions are supplied which detail topics such as running in, lubrication and most importantly the order in which the unit should be assembled.
Starting with the cab of the DTSO end coaches, Bachmann have done an excellent job of capturing the distinctive face of these units. The production models have addressed the concerns raised by some about the overall shape of the yellow panel area with the first EP samples having this area much too square in appearance. The models as released now have the correct tapering in of the edges toward to the bottom of cab and the shape & size of the windows also look correct whilst the seperataly fitted etched wipers are commendably fine.
The distinctive panelling and cab door of the prototype are present and whilst they can look slightly over sized in the photos, when viewing the model 'in hand' they look about right. The only area that could stand some improvement are the handrails, which are moulded rather than separately fitted items. The cutouts and detailing at the lower edge of the cab are all present and correct.
Destination & number blinds are printed on to the rear of the cab glazing, along with the cab front electrification warning flash.
The distinctive shape of the cab roof has been replicated well although the lip along the top edge is perhaps a little on the thick side when compared to the prototype. Overall though the model captures the look of the Class 319 cab front well.
Functional couplings representing the tightlock type of the real units are fitted at both ends. These allow easy connection of units for those wishing to run two or more models in multiple. Whilst a useful feature they are somewhat long, with a fairly large gap between units resulting and there doesn't appear to be any particular reason why the coupling shank is as long as it is. Two or three mm shorter and they would give a much smaller gap with no restriction on the units ability to negotiate tighter radius corners.
Moving to the sides, the unusually shaped cab doors (later modifications replaced these with rectangular doors which Farish have also tooled) are represented by a slightly raised outline picked out in black to represent there rubber seal. The cab side door window does appear to be on the narrow side and not quite deep enough. This may be a result of the moulded raised lip around it resulting in the glazed section being too small. It's not a major attention grabber but once you notice it does stand out.
The one piece body mouldings are generally excellent, the well known Mk.3 profile appearing to be spot on and capturing the look of these units perfectly. The roof ribs are neatly done as are the various panels and vents. Bodyside details are relatively sparse on the prototype but what is present has been replicated on the model, including manual door controls and interlock lights.
The shape of the door openings and saloon windows is good (another improvement over the original EP) and the glazing in particular is excellent, with very little sign of prism effect around the edges and with the slightest hint of tinting in the glazing. The silver frames are neatly printed and no smoking signs are present on the inside of the glazing strip.
The underframe detailing of the PMS and TSOL coaches is nicely represented with crisp moulding and good depth to it and the bogies are detailed representations of the BREL types fitted to the prototype. This is however where one of the very few niggles we have about this model comes in, and it appears that the pick up shoe beams are missing from one of the DTSOs. The outer bogies have the mounting holes for the parts, so it seems these have been omitted by the factory in a rare error from Farish. We can only hope these are made available to owners of the model who may wish to fit them.
UPDATE - 26/06/22 We have been contacted by Bachmann to say they are aware of the missing shoe beams and they will be taking steps to rectify this issue. More information on the resolution will be published by Bachmann in due course.
The TSOL on the NSE version correctly features the smaller toilet windows on both sides of the coach, although the seating moulding only has one toilet, however this isn't really visible due to the smaller and blanked out windows.
Curiously, the Thameslink Blue/Yellow livery version features a TSOL with a toilet window on one side only and a full sized window on the other. This was a later modification on some units but we can find no evidence any any TSOLs in this configuration carried that livery.
The PMS coach features a very nice representation of the Stone Faiveley pantograph which is posable in the raised position. The moulding of the upper arm is commendably fine however it does not feel fragile and it is the best representation of this type we have seen in N Gauge to date. Separately fitted representation of inter unit electrical connection can also be found at the pantograph end of this vehicle.
Like the recent Revolution Trains Class 320/321 the Farish Class 319 features conductive couplings on kinematic mountings. These allow the use of a single DCC decoder to provide traction, lighting and sound control rather than requiring three decoders as on the Class 350.
Coupling and uncoupling the unit is a simple affair and they only require gently pushing together until the plastic latch clicks into place. The Farish couplings do feel a little more robust than the Revolution versions but care is still required not to apply too much force. Uncoupling is a case of gently prising the latch out of the securing slot then gently pulling the unit apart.
The gap between the coaches is slightly wider than with a conventional close coupling mechanism but for DCC users this is offset by the need for only one decoder.
The Class 319 is the first Farish model to feature a low profile mechanism which keeps the upper section of the passenger saloon areas clear of obstruction. The overall effect is convincing enough even though there is very little depth below window level.
It's important to note that in order for the model to work, the PMS and TSOL must be connected and in the correct orientation as the motor is located in the PMS but the PCB with DCC socket & speaker is located in the TSOL so the model will not run without either of those coaches.
A coreless motor driving all wheels on both bogies via cardan shafts on the PMS coach provides ample power for the the 4 coach train, and on the model reviewed here was quiet and smooth straight from the box. The one slight disappointment to the reviewer is that the bogie gears are exposed and therefore susceptible to fluff and other detritus entering the mechanism, something of a pet hate! On the other hand it does make lubrication easier when necessary.
To access the NEXT18 socket in the TSOL, its a simple matter of removing the single screw holding the removable underframe section in place. The pre-fitted speaker is fixed to the removable section and makes electrical contact simply by the sprung tabs pressing on the corresponding PCB pads when the underframe section is fitted.
This simple process makes fitting a decoder, standard or sound, to the model an easy task which takes just a few minutes and continues Bachmann's efforts to make fitting DCC to models in the Farish range as easy as possible.
The Class 319 is also supplied with working saloon lighting as standard. This has a very pleasing colour to it, not being too blue in temperature. It certainly captures the fluorescent tube lighting of the period very well to this reviewers eyes! There was zero light leak on the model reviewed here.
Directional lighting is fitted at each end, and this can be switched off using a small switch located just behind the leading bogie if you wish to run units in multiple.
The finish on the model reviewed here is excellent, with accurate colours, good density, sharp application and smooth finish. The smaller details such as text, NSE and Thameslink logos are pin sharp and in most cases legible under magnification.
If there is one area that Bachmann excel at, it's application of livery, and the NSE sample reviewed here is no exception. Representing the earlier version of the scheme with the dark grey lower band and angular upsweep at the cab ends it really is difficult to find fault here, and it certainly makes for an impressive model when the unit is assembled and running.
It seems N Gauge EMUs are like buses, you wait ages for one then two come along in the same year! The Farish Class 319 is an excellent model which captures the look of the prototype excellently and plugs a gap for those modellers looking to replicate the Thameslink route or the Liverpool - Manchester lines.
The excellent standard of finish, running qualities, interior lighting and ease of DCC fitting make this a very high quality package overall. The omission of the shoe beams on one DTSO and the undersized cab door windows are the only significant issues we would take exception with on this model.
Bachmann have already released the Class 769 bi-mode unit developed from the Class 319 in TFW livery, and there are more liveries such as Connex South Central, Southern, First Capital Connect and London Midland available for future releases. We would certainly like to see the colourful pin stripe Thameslink Project livery as worn by 319364 & 319365 produced!
With two Mk.3 based units now on the market, N Gauge modellers who are fans of these EMUs now have two excellent models to choose from, a situation unthinkable in N Gauge just a few years ago!
Three versions of the Class 319 are now available from Farish stockists:
372-875 Class 319 4-Car EMU 319004 BR Network SouthEast
372-876 Class 319 4-Car EMU 319382 Thameslink
372-877 Class 319 4-Car EMU 319362 Northern Rail
All three have an RRP of £349.95
The model in this review was purchased by the reviewer from Alton Model Centre for £297.45
The NGN review of the Revolution Trains Class 321 can be found here.