The venerable and ubiquitous Class 08 shunter, or 'Gronk' as they were nicknamed, has been in the Graham Farish N Gauge range since 1979, with the original model being mounted on a generic chassis and lacking the distinctive outside frames of the prototype. N Gauge modellers had to wait until 2008 before a brand new model was produced following the Bachmann Europe acquisition of the Graham Farish brand.
A paradigm shift for the Farish range, the new Class 08 came with high levels of detail and the all important outside frames, no small achievement for a model this size! DCC hadn't established itself in N Gauge however, so the chassis lacked a socket or solder pads for a chip, the sizes of which at the time made them a tight fit for those brave enough to try!
This all changed in February this year when Bachmann Europe announced a new run of Class 08s, this time with an updated chassis featuring a smaller coreless motor, next18 decoder socket and most surprisingly a pre-fitted speaker making sound fitted 08s possible for the first time.
Outwardly the model appears unchanged over the original 2008 release. The main body remains a metal casting to provide much needed weight, with the cab being a separately fitted plastic moulding. Both exhibit fine levels of detail, including fine rivets, access panels, hinges and grills. Detail on diecast parts can sometimes appear a little soft, but here it is commendably sharp with good definition around smaller details like the bodyside grills.
Smaller grab rails / handles are moulded as part of the body casting, however the longer horizontal handrail along the body side and shorter rail across the twin grills are separately fitted parts, the former being a plastic moulding and the latter metal wire.
The Farish tooling suite allows for several different combinations of bodyside grill layout and equipment box meaning most variations can be produced, however with such longevity across the class, there will be some combinations that cannot be accurately represented. In the case of the model reviewed here however, everything is where it should be! The equipment / battery boxes themselves are separately fitted plastic mouldings and display the same level of detail as the rest of the model whilst contributing to the distinctive look of the class.
The cab moulding can represent either steel or wooden door variants (Steel in this example) and also features fine rivet detailing and separately fitted door handrails. It's here where some of the myriad detail differences across the individual locomotives of the class are not reproduced entirely accurately on the model, with the prototype 08908 no longer sporting the external lighting conduits having lost its upper light fitting. The lower central light fitting and both central lamp irons are also not present on the prototype.
These are all separately fitted components however, so some careful modelling to remove the extraneous features will give a more accurate replica. The model is missing the two vertical strips running on the inside of each cab end window, but again these could be easily added using fine plastic strip if desired.
Clear and flush glazing is fitted to all windows in the cab with windscreen wipers part of the glazing moulding and picked out in black paint.
At the opposite end, the twin radiator grills are a separately fitted plastic parts, as is the bonnet piping running either side. Lights and cabling are also separately fitted, however as with the cab end, the centre lights are not present on the prototype.
The attractive East Midlands Trains livery worn by the prototype 08908 has been excellently reproduced by Farish. The paint is evenly applied with good coverage and density, and the wasp stripes that are such a feature of the Class 08 on both the cab ends and bonnet are impressively sharp and free of blurring.
The colours are a good match to the prototype when new, however 908 has been stored at Neville Hill for some years now and has taken on a distinctly faded appearance!
The fine printing is also extremely commendable, with even the smaller text on the equipment boxes and solebar legible under zoom. body handrails are picked out in white whilst cab rails, front step rails and cab steps are painted yellow as per the prototype The name plate is correctly represented with a silver backing, and the EMT lettering is of the correct font.
As with all recent Farish releases, it really is difficult to find fault with the finishing of the model in any respect!
The most significant changes to the model have taken place under the body, with a totally redesigned mechanism now featuring a compact coreless motor and smaller gear tower. This now gives sufficient room for a PCB fitted with next18 socket, making the 08 DCC ready for the first time. To access fit a user supplied chip, the body is removed by releasing 4 small screws in each corner but note very small Philips screwdriver will be required as space is limited!
At the front of the new mechanism is a slim pre-fitted speaker complete with an additional sound resonator. The DCC sound fitted models are provided with a Zimo MX659N18 chip, however modellers wishing to install sound at a later date may wish to consider one of the new Zimo MS series chips, specifically the MS590N18. These also allow for the relatively easy connection of a stay alive board such as the Zimo SACC16 or You Choos LifeLink. It should be possible to fit one or two small tantalum type capacitors in the available space, and this will help prevent stalling.
Unfortunately the sound fitted version on order by the reviewer is yet to arrive so we can't yet comment on how effective the sound is on these versions. Once that model arrives we may well revisit this review and add some further thoughts! Regardless, the inclusion of these features brings the Class 08 bang up to date with current expectations and in a model this small, pre-fitted sound is a very impressive achievement! which Bachmann should be commended for.
Running straight out of the box on this example was excellent with virtually silent, smooth control and no stuttering evident on DC power.
The improved mechanism and inclusion of DCC compatibility and speaker brings the Class 08 right up to the very latest specifications for N Gauge Locomotives and in line with other more recent Farish models, whilst the body moulding still holds up exceptionally well even though the original model was released some 14 years ago. The icing on the cake would have been pre-fitted stay alive as provided on the N Gauge Society Hunslet shunter, and perhaps this is a feature we can hope to see Bachmann start to incorporate in future Farish N Gauge models.
The huge range of liveries announced by Farish gives modellers more choice than ever before when it comes to the Class 08, and with a large number of liveries still to choose from it's likely we'll see many more 'Gronks' appear in the Farish range over the next few years!
If you are looking for an N Gauge shunter for your layout, the 08 is a no-brainer!
The model featured in this review was purchased by the reviewer from Rails of Sheffield for £123.20 The RRP for DCC ready versions is £144.95 The RRP for DCC sound fitted versions is £244.95
The full list of available liveries can be seen at the Bachmann website