REVIEW - Rapido Trains UK Class 28 'Metrovick'
Rapido Trains are no strangers to the UK outline N Gauge market, having produced the award winning Revolution Trains Class 390 Pendolino and Class 92, but the Class 28 Metrovick is their first own branded UK outline locomotive. N Gauge News takes a close-up look!
The 1955 modernisation plan, or to give it it's full title 'Modernisation and Re-Equipment of the British Railways' aimed to increase speed, reliability, safety and line capacity on British Railways through a series of measures that would attempt to make services more attractive to passengers and freight operators. Large scale dieselisation was one of the measures, and BR elected to order 174 locomotives of 14 different types from 6 different manufacturers in what has become known as the pilot scheme. The aim was to asses the reliability and performance of these 174 locomotives in service before placing larger orders.
Metropolitan-Vickers received an order for 20 Type 2 locomotives, which were to be powered by a two-stroke engine to allow for a comparison with the more common four-stroke types. With the favoured General Electric power unit out of financial reach, Metro-Vick turned to Crossley in Manchester and their 8 cylinder V8 two stroke-power unit.
A unique wheel arrangement was chosen for the class, with the CO-BO layout not seeing use on any other type in the UK before or after the Class 28. This was likely selected to keep the axle loading below the limit of 20 tons due to the internal layout of the equipment, but the 5 driven axles also resulted in a maximum tractive effort of 50,000lbf, unusually high for a Type 2 locomotive.
Almost immediately, reliability issues with the engines became apparent with failures a regular occurrence. The curved cab windows originally fitted were also prone to failure or falling out at random. Eventually in the entire class was returned to the manufacturer for rectification work in an attempt to improve availability. This work included replacing the original curved cab windows with flat panes. Whilst mechanically & electrically sound, problems persisted with the power units, and plans were drawn up to replace the Crossley engines with English Electric 8SVTs as used in the Class 20. That plan never came to fruition as the 28s, along with other small, non-standard classes from the pilot scheme, were withdrawn from use during 1967-1968.
On introduction, the Class 28s were based at Derby and initially employed on the 'Condor' overnight express freight service running from London to Glasgow. The reliability issues caused BR to run the service with pairs of Class 28s double heading. After rectification work, the entire class was transferred to Barrow-in-Furness where it spent the remainder of it's service life hauling local passenger trains around Cumbria before ending up at Carlisle Upperby shed.
Whilst most of the class spent it's life in BR green before eventually gaining a small yellow panel, D5707 also received full yellow ends and D5701 even made it in to full BR Blue with double arrows.
All but one of the class had been scrapped by 1969, with D5705 surviving in use with the BR research division as part of its tribology (The science and engineering of interacting surfaces in relative motion) test train and renumbered as S15705. Eventually it was replaced by a Class 24 and was relegated to carriage heating duties in Bristol as TDB968006 before ending her service days in Cardiff where it was damaged by a fire. The locomotive was put up for disposal in 1985 and fortunately was purchased for preservation. After spells in Swindon and Derbyshire, it was moved to the East Lancashire Railway where it is now undergoing restoration to operational condition.
In perhaps the strangest twist to the history of this small and inglorious class of pilot scheme locomotives, it found some fame as the character BoCo (see what they did there!) in the Thomas the Tank Engine book and TV series, possibly helping to cement its endearing popularity amongst enthusiasts.
As a type to make your entry in to the UK N Gauge market with, the Class 28 was possibly not the obvious choice, however Rapido Trains are not known for following convention and in December 2020 they announced their first Rapido branded N Gauge locomotive would be the Type 2 Metro-Vick.
The model is supplied well packaged in dense foam in a transparent jewel case all wrapped in an attractively designed sleeve. When removing a model the first thing that usually draws attention is weight and the 28 feels weighty for a locomotive this size. Weighing in at 75g, it's a fraction lighter than the Farish Class 31 at 81g.
In terms of shape, Rapido have done an excellent job of capturing the unique appearance of the type. The distinctive curved cab windows which give the prototype a slightly dopey appearance are present and representing the later rebuilt flat type rather than the earlier wrap around versions.
The outer edges of the windows perhaps extend a little too far toward the corners, with the moulded seal line falling slightly on to the corner pillar radius where it should stop on the flat, front surface, but only by a fraction.
The front glazing is crystal clear and nicely flush, and Rapido have done well to capture some of the more nuanced recesses and features in this area, including the different radius of the frames and glazing in the top inner corners of the two outer windows. The side large side windows are correctly recessed as per the prototype, however the two smaller windows should be flush.
Detailing on the cab front includes separate wire handrails and fine etched windscreen wipers. On the sample reviewed here, there was some excess glue around the handrails in a couple of areas. The distinctive diamond shaped headcode disc mountings are present, as are the multiple working jumper cable mountings, and buffer housings, the buffers themselves are separately fitted items. The slight undercut of the buffer beam shroud under the cab sides has been accurately reproduced.
The centre cab doors, behind which was the extendable covered walkway for multiple working, are neatly engraved and avoid the trench-like appearance sometimes found on N Gauge models. The prototype is fairly spartan when it comes to roof details, but Rapido have captured the all of the major elements. The roof fan is represented by a fine, separately applied etch whilst the rest of the detail is moulded with the body. The 12 roof vents across two of the panels are a little on the simplified side, and would perhaps have benefited from being separately fitted parts to allow the gap between roof and vent cover to be represented.
The panels on which the vents are mounted have hinges moulded along each edge and the two round exhaust openings are represented (The 28 was known for it's clag!) as are the two large rounded rectangular air intakes on the end panel and other smaller panels and openings.
The slab sided appearance of the class is well represented in the model, and the asymmetric grill and window layout of each side correctly reproduced. The larger grills are nicely represented with fine louvre details and look particularly effective. The smaller grills on one side only are correctly reproduced in their differing sizes, but in the only minor niggle we have with the tooling of the model, the louvers on these grills are set too far back, giving them recessed look. They should be the same as the larger grills, with the lower edge of the louver more or less flush with the frame.
Other bodyside detail includes fuel cut off, bodyside steps/grab rails along with slightly recessed cab doors as per the prototype complete with door handles. Fine wire handrails are also fitted completing the details. All round, Rapido have done an excellent job of capturing the limited features of the prototype.
Cab mouldings are fitted to both ends with representations of seats, controls, brake wheels and even the retracted corridor connection for use in multiple working to allow train crew to pass between engines.
Moving to the underframe, there is some very nice detail reproduced here. Battery boxes and tanks are separately fitted mouldings, and the distinctive pipework running below the body side is also reproduced.
Brake system pipework is also present, and really adds an extra dimension to the model. Moulded in a light grey plastic, it is unpainted so would certainly benefit from some weathering if you are looking to replicate an in service condition locomotive! The underside of the chassis block also features detailing relief, making this one of the most impressive aspects of the model.
The bogies capture the heavy cast appearance of the prototype excellently and also feature a good level of detail and relief, including springs, brakes and on the 3 axle bogie, separately fitted sand boxes.
A small bag of parts to be fitted by the user is included, which contains a selection of open and closed headcode discs appropriately coloured white or yellow along with brake piping and screwlink couplings. The instructions provide clear guidance on what goes where!
The base BR green is very smoothly applied with no sign of blemishes on the review model and appears to be a good match for BR green to this reviewer's eyes. The off white used to represent the fibreglass roof panels is also neatly applied, as is the silver grey for the bodyside grills and strip with just a couple of areas on the smaller grills where some overspray is evident. Buffer housings are neatly picked out in red and the MU connector in orange.
The small yellow panel has excellent density, but there was some slight fuzziness evident around the edges in some areas. The cab handrails are painted green, but photos suggest these eventually became
The BR totems, cabside numbers, red dot multiple working indicators and electrification warning flashes are all pin sharp and well applied, although the flashes on the cab fronts are positioned a fraction too high, with the bottom edge level with the top of the yellow panel rather than the bottom half overlapping the yellow.
Whilst we haven't reviewed the BR blue or green with full yellow panel versions here but the yellow ends on those versions unfortunately don't quite extend far enough back. The rear edge should stop at the first cabside window and extend further up on to the roof.
Rapido's North American models have a reputation for excellent performance, and test running on a circuit of KATO unitrack reveals that reputation has been carried over to the Class 28. Running was smooth and almost silent straight out of the box on DC control and on a par with recent releases from Farish & Revolution.
At the centre of the cast chassis block is what appears to be a coreless motor with twin brass flywheels driving the bogies via worm gears. The bogies simply clip in and out of the chassis, making removal for maintenance easy. Drive is via 4 out of the 5 axles, with the centre axle on the 'Co' end not being geared. Pick up is from all 5 axles from pin points running in pickups. These pickups run up to a sprung contact strip attached to the PCB. It's a simple but effective system and seems to work well!
Traction tyres are fitted one wheel on each side of the model, one on each bogie. Whilst not personally a fan of traction tyres for their tendency to spread dirt across trackwork, they will no doubt aid haulage for those who want to run prototypically long trains. Standard NEM coupling pockets are fitted to kinematic mechanisms for close coupling.
Whilst sound fitted models are available, for those who may wish to fit their own chip at a later date a speaker is pre-fitted, meaning you only need a next18 sound decoder, or next18 standard decoder if you want to operate DCC but without sound.
Directional lighting is provided for the four lights on each of the disc mounts, and the two tail lights. The disc lights use yellow LEDs, which gives them a period appearance and neither these or the tail lights are overly bright, which makes a nice change from the inappropriate high intensity lighting often fitted to models of this era. Also included is a 'magic wand' that turns off the red tail lights by waving it over the roof fan when running on DC power. Nifty!
Rapido's first own branded model for the UK market raised eyebrows with the choice of class, but they have produced a solid entry with outstanding performance and some excellent details. There are one or two little niggles in the recessed small side grills and fuzzy yellow panel, but overall the Class 28 is an excellent model which we have no hesitation in recommending, particularly given the very competitive pricing.
Nine versions of the Class 28 are now available either direct from Rapido or via retailers.
Class 28 D5709 BR Green
Class 28 D5711 BR Green With Small Yellow Panel
Class 28 D5713 BR Green With Small Yellow Panel
Class 28 D5707 BR Green With Full Yellow Ends
Class 28 D5705 BR Green With Small Yellow Panel (Preserved)
Class 28 D5701 BR Blue With Full Yellow Ends
Class 28 D5700 BR Green
Class 28 97281 Railway Technical Centre Livery (Fictional livery)
RRP is £119.95 for DCC ready versions, and £219.95 for DCC Sound fitted versions.
Addtionally, Kernow Model Rail Centre have an exclusive model available in both DCC ready and sound fitted versions at the same pricing.
Class 28 D5702 BR Green Small Yellow Panel
The model reviewed here was purchased from Alton Model Centre by the reviewer for £101.50