REVIEW - Graham Farish LMS Stanier Class 8F
The latest steam locomotive from Graham Farish makes a big impression.
First announced in January 2017 the Graham Farish 8F finally hit the shelves in November 2020, so we're a little behind the drag curve when it comes to this review! That said, we feel the model deserves some time in the spotlight, so here we take a look at it in detail.
Designed by William Stanier in response to a lack of heavy freight locomotives on the London Midland & Scottish Railway, the 8F was derived from the successful 'Black 5' mixed traffic locomotive and incorporated many of the same components such as boiler and 2 cylinder layout, but was placed on on lengthened frames to accommodate the 2-8-0 wheel arrangement.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, the 8F was chosen to be the standard freight design for use in Europe by the British Expeditionary Forces and 208 'WD' 8Fs were constructed by Beyer Peacock and the North British Locomotive Company for the War Department. An additional 245 8Fs were ordered by the Railway Executive Committee, the Government body controlling the railways during the War. 51 existing 8Fs were requisitioned into the war effort.
Before any 8Fs could be deployed in support of the BEF, the British Army had evacuated at Dunkirk and they remained in the UK, being spread around various companies including the LMS, GWR and LNER. Some did eventually make it overseas, with the type seeing use in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Egypt.
The demands of the war effort on available materials resulted in a simplified 8F design eventually being produced which emerged as the WD 2-8-0 1943.
Construction of the 8F began in 1935 and by the time it ended in 1946, 852 had been produced by 11 different factories. Once initial teething problems with brakes and poor steam raising were overcome, the type went on to become one of the most numerous and successful classes of British steam locomotive.
Despite the large number built, only fourteen class members survive today including several of those which ended up in Turkey, two of which have since been repatriated. Only one of the type is currently operational, 48305, at the Great Central Railway in Leicestershire.
The Graham Farish range has featured the 8F since the original Poole manufactured version was released in 1986. Whilst acceptable for its time, it was certainly not comparable in detail or running quality to models produced to today's standards and has been absent from the range for a considerable period of time.
A brand new 8F was announced in 2017 and eventually hit the shelves in November 2020. From the moment the new model is removed from the Standard Graham Farish Packaging, it is clear this model is superior in every imaginable way, and was well worth the wait from announcement to release.
The 8F features a die cast chassis, lower boiler section and running boards to give much needed weight for a locomotive expected to haul lengthy freight trains. The running board is nice and level and displays no warping, a problem sometimes associated with metal castings. The boiler, smoke and fire boxes are plastic mouldings with a cast metal weight taking up any space not occupied by the motor and gear tower.
The cab is a separately fitted plastic moulding with glazed front and forward side windows and features an impressively detailed backhead with neatly painted detail such as copper pipework and gauges. The cab interior is painted in the typical cream colour and even the floor has been picked out in brown to represent the wooden boards found on the prototype.
The body and cab mouldings are awash with fine rivet details which is commendably to scale, and separately fitted reversing level, handrails, steam pipes and finely turned metal safety valves & whistle are nice touches. There is a slight step in the alignment of the plastic upper half and metal lower section of the boiler, however give its position it does not detract from the model in normal use.
The tender is as impressive as the loco, featuring a finely detailed under frame complete with brakes & water scoop, and depending on the number depicted, either riveted or flush sided tender body.
The valve gear is in the usual Farish style, and is perhaps the one area where the robustness required of a ready to run model results in some compromise on finesse. The kink in the coupling rod and the hex bolts used to affix the connecting rods do stand out somewhat when viewed up close, as does the rather large rivet used to hold the union link and combination level together.
In order to allow the model to negotiate 2nd radius curves, the valve gear is slightly over width when measured against published drawings. A section of the cylinder block is also missing to allow the front pony truck room to swing, however for those with the luxury of wider radius curves, Farish provide plug in sections to fill these gaps.
Cylinder drain cocks and vacuum brake pipes are pre fitted to the model.
Technical & Performance
The 8F is fitted with the now standard Coreless motor, driving all axles via a fully enclosed mechanism. Removing the baseplate allows access for lubrication, but otherwise the internal workings are well protected from dust and other detritus. The tender is permanently coupled due to the wires for the motor and pickups, however the plastic drawbar between the two is a simple push clip fit.
In a departure from previous Farish steam locomotives, electrical pick up has reverted to phosphor bronze wipers on all wheelsets instead of the previously used pick up axle bushes, but there is no noticeable difference in performance as a result. Tender pickups are also provided to give maximum possible current collection.
Despite weighing in at a respectable 72.5g, traction tyres are fitted to the trailing axle, and whilst not personally a fan of these, they will provide some aid with the haulage capabilities of the model.
Performance on the example reviewed here was excellent straight from the box, with no audible motor noise and smooth and powerful performance. Wheel quartering on steam outline models can result in lumpy running if not set up absolutely perfectly, but there is no evidence of any issues here.
On testing, this example happily hauled 12 Farish Mk.1s on the flat without any sign of struggle.
DCC & DCC Sound
Like all recent Farish releases, the 8F is equipped with a Next18 decoder socket. It also comes pre-fitted with a speaker, making conversion to basic DCC or DCC sound an absolute doddle.
Simply pull the tender top off from the chassis and remove the blanking plate, then fit the decoder of your choice. It's that simple. Nothing to unscrew or wires to solder, just push the decoder home and pop the tender top back on.
The example reviewed here is the factory sound fitted version, which comes with a pre installed Zimo MX658N18 sound decoder. The sound is excellent, having been recorded from 8F 48624 on the Great Central Railway, and Farish have taken great care to sync the 'chuffs' with the revolutions of the wheels. A 2 cylinder locomotive will make 4 chuffs per revolution, and Farish have it absolutely spot on.
There are 28 different sound functions including various tones of whistle and footplate chatter, and it really does add extra 'play value' to the model when using DCC.
DC users can still take advantage of the basic sound effects thanks to ZIMO's DC running capabilities.
A small bag of user add-on details is provided and included cab doors, cylinder block infills, snowplough, front steps, coupling hooks and additional pipework. The DCC fitted version also includes a blanking plate should you wish to remove the chip for any reason.
The phrase 'any colour you want, so long as it's black' is paticulary apt for the 8F! The finish is up to Graham Farish's usual high standard, with the overall black neatly applied and the numbering, lettering, cabside stripe and smaller details all finely applied.
The printing of the BR late crest logo is particularly impressive, with at least 6 different colours replicated here alone.
The motion and tyres are chemically blackened whilst the wheel centres are painted black.
The example here depicts 8F 48773, one of the surviving examples currently on display at The Engine House on the Severn Valley Railway.
The 8F is a superb addition to the Graham Farish lineup, if not their best steam outline model to date. N Gauge models sometimes struggle to convey the stance and power of the prototype due to their diminutive size, but the Farish 8F absolutely conveys the purposeful appearance of 8F extremely well.
It's difficult to sum up the 8F without reverting to superlatives, but this truly is an excellent model all round.
We understand that sales of the 8F have been excellent, with only the LNER O6 version still available from Bachmann at the time of writing.
Standard DC version RRP: £169.95
Sound fitted DCC version RRP: £259.95
The review model was purchased by the reviewer for £220.95 from Alton Model Centre
372-160 LNER O6 '3506' LNER Black
372-161 LMS Stanier 8F '8035' LMS Black
372-162 LMS Stanier 8F '49608' BR Black (Early Emblem)
372-163DS LMS Stanier 8F '48773' BR Black (Late Crest) DCC Sound Fitted
One More Thing.....
We couldn't leave this review with a photo of the stunning Bachmann Collectors Club edition of the 8F in LMS Crimson Lake livery.
Applied to 8F 48624 in 2009 after restoration at Peak Rail in Derbyshire, and to much chagrin amongst enthusiasts, we think it makes a find looking model regardless of the historical inaccuracy!
Sadly the loco has recently been repainted into standard BR black and is awaiting overhaul at the Great Central Railway.
The non DCC Sound fitted version is still available to purchase for BCC members.