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  • Writer's pictureTom Everitt

REVIEW - Revolution Trains N Gauge Mk.5A coaches


revolution trains n gauge mk5a review

Revolution Trains first announced the CAF Mk.5 coaching stock back in 2019, with both the Caledonian Sleeper Mk.5 and TransPennine Express Mk.5A coaches being produced. The Sleepers arrived a few months ago, and now the striking TPE sets have landed with those who pre-ordered and in this review NGN takes a close-up look at these very impressive models.


The Prototype



It perhaps says something about modern rail system, that in the time since these models were announced the prototypes have both entered and retire from regular passenger service with TransPennine. Orders for new locomotive hauled stock is a rarity, and so it came as a surprise when TPE announced they were to take delivery of 66 new coaches from Spanish manufacturer CAF, however First Group, the operator of TPE at the time, had also ordered new coaching stock for their Caledonian Sleeper service from CAF, and so the TPE order was tacked onto this. Motive power was to be provided by Class 68 locomotives provided by Direct Rail Services and the sets were branded as Nova 3, with Nova 1 being Class 802 units and Nova 2 CAF 'Civity' Class 397 EMUs.


Uncertainty around electrification schemes over the routes the new stock was expected to operate on also drove the decision to order loco hauled stock, with the Class 68 replaced by electric traction should the wires have gone up in the future.



Although both the sleeper and TPE coaches appear to be of an identical basic design, the TPE stock is in fact fractionally narrower due to gauging requirements and earned them the designation Mk.5A.


The 13 sets of five Mark 5A coaches that make up the Nova fleet comprise one DT Driving Standard Class with 64 seats. One T1 which is the First Class catering/wheelchair coach with 36 seats, two wheelchair spaces and PRM toilet facility. Two T2 Standard coaches with 59 seats, plus an area that offers six tip-up seats or bike storage and one T3 standard coach with 69 seats.


One of the main differences between the Mark 5 and Mark 5A sets is that, instead of Dellner couplers, Mark 5A coaches have inter-coach bar couplers, with buckeye couplers and buffers provided at each end of the five-coach set. The TPE sets also required a Driving Trailer to allow for push/pull operation.


The first set ran in revenue service on 24th August 2019 from Liverpool to Scarborough, but staff shortages and high training demand resulted in slow roll out and high under utilisation. Despite having 13 sets, TPE could only reliably field 3-4 per day, and in early 2023 cracks were also discovered where the yaw dampers and anti-roll bars are attached to the vehicle body which added to their woes. Despite a quick resolution by CAF, the decision was made to withdraw the Mk.5a fleet from service in December 2023, and to place them into storage until TPE's lease expires in May 2024.


Currently their future is unknown however it's likely they will find further use somewhere on the network in some form, with Chiltern and Scotrail being the two most likely candidates as future operators.



The Model


We first saw EP samples for the Mk.5As back in 2021 and it was immediately clear that these would be impressive models, and they certainly don't disappoint!


Arriving in the usual high quality Revolution Trains bookset style packaging, first impressions are that this is some of the best looking N Gauge rolling stock produced yet. It must certainly be a contender for N Gauge rolling stock of the year in the polls! Contained within the bookset are the five coaches which make up a TPE Mk.5A set, the Driving Trailer (DT), Standard trailer with Guard's compartment, two standard trailers and the first class trailer. This represents four different body toolings in a five car train!

revolution trains n gauge mk5a review

Starting with the Driving Trailer (DT), Revolution have captured the distinctive look of the nose perfectly. It's not what you would describe as pretty, but the model looks just as striking as the real thing. There is a lot going on at the front of this coach and the buffer beam area is awash with separately fitted details, including the buffers, couplings, anti-climbing plates, debris deflector and jumper cables. A fine, etched windscreen wiper is also fitted.

revolution trains n gauge mk5a review

The separately fitted headlight covers fit well with no light leakage, and the destination screen cover is also a separately fitted part. This has the destinations printed to the reverse side, however due to the curvature of this part it doesn't quite capture the look of the flat screen behind the glass cover of the real thing as the destination also has a curve to it as a result. The roof mounted cab air-conditioning unit is a neat separately fitted item, as are the drivers door handrails.

revolution trains n gauge mk5a review

Passenger door handles, bodyside destination screens, grills, door interlocking lights and coach identifying screens are all represented by moulded details and are all finely done, with nothing looking out of place or over scale. Roof detail is prototypically sparse, but what is there is neatly moulded.


Coach B represents the T3 Standard Class coach which includes the cycle storage area at one end. This is another unique body tooling as a result of the unique window layout and shares the same high levels of detail and finesse as the DT. The wide gangway bellows are a fine and accurate representation of the those fitted to the prototype.


revolution trains n gauge mk5a review

Coaches C and D represent the two T2 Standard Class coaches, and are the only coaches in the set to share the same body tooling.


revolution trains n gauge mk5a review

The T1 First Class coach features the non-corridor end usually found behind the locomotive. As modelled it represents the stock in service, there being some changes to the positioning of cables and modifications to the anti-climb plates. Handrails initially fitted were also removed and Revolution have made the logical decision to represent the coaches in this condition. Both the T1 and DT correctly feature finley moulded body mounted steps.

revolution trains n gauge mk5a review

The underframe detail is excellent throughout with full depth relief and all of the equipment found on the real coaches faithfully reproduced on the models. They even featuring some delightful etched grills through which relief detail can be clearly seen. The DT also features separately fitted wire sand pipes on the inner bogies.


revolution trains n gauge mk5a review

The bogies are lovely representations of the inside framed type fitted to the real coaches, and include electrical pick up on all axles for the lighting. The prominent dampers are a nice separate moulding fixed to the chassis, however this does not impinge on the ability of the coaches to negotiate tighter curves down to 2nd Radius.


The wheel sets run in metal bearings and whilst the mk.5a models underwent some modifications to address the stiff running of the sleeper mk.5s, these are not the freest of runners straight out of the box. That said, a Dapol Class 68 easily coped with the 5 coaches, and no doubt they will further improve after a longer period of running. The wheels feature separate inserts representing the axle ends complete with the four prominent fixing bolts. On the real coaches the wheel centres are painted grey all the way to inside edge of the tyres, however they are blacked metal on the model. For those wanting fully painted wheels, it should be easy enough to find a suitable match for the grey and accomplish this with a fine brush.


revolution trains n gauge mk5a review

To access the Next18 decoder socked for the direction lighting, the body of the DT must be removed. A little bit of patience is required as this is not the easiest body to remove being a very tight fit and is held in place by three locating clips on each side. A thin piece of plastic to act as a wedge was necessary to prevent the clips from re-engaging as the chassis was separated from the body, but care must be taken not to snag the light strip on the cab fittings. A full interior can be found inside, with the layout being correct for each coach. Table tops are picked out in white, but modellers will have to paint the grey leather headrests on the seats themselves!

revolution trains n gauge mk5a review

The Next18 socket is located on the underside of the PCB , and it may be necessary to remove the screw holding the PCB to the rear bulkhead so the blanking plate can be removed and a decoder fitted. There isn't a great deal of clearance between the tops of the seats, so decoders much thicker than the blanking plate may cause problems.

revolution trains n gauge mk5a review

The interior lighting itself is some of the best we've seen in N Gauge recently, not too bright and giving off just the right colour temperature for modern rolling stock. The only niggle we had with the lighting was due to the black window frames being printed onto the clear plastic inserts there is some light bleed around the edges of the windows when viewed directly side on. This was most noticeable around the cabside window. Those feeling brave may want to remove the glazing strips and paint the around the edges black to block this out.


revolution trains n gauge mk5a review

The cab and saloon lighting in the DT can be controlled via DCC in addition to the provided magnetic wand, however as there is no through electrical connection in the four other coaches the saloon lighting can only be turned on and off using the wand.


Directional headlights are fitted and again the brightness levels are about spot on with no evidence of light leakage. When fitted with a decoder the head and tail lights can be controlled via DCC. Running around a small test circuit, there was no evidence of flicker of either interior or exterior lighting.


revolution trains n gauge mk5a review


Finish

revolution trains n gauge mk5a review

There is no doubt the Trans Pennine Express livery is striking however it is also extremely complex. Possibly some of the worst features to reproduce in small scale like N Gauge are metallic finishes and fading colours, and the TPE livery has both in abundance! It's fair to say that Revolution have done an outstanding job replicating it, they really have, so it feels slightly churlish to point out any issues. The light blue on the nose is not metallic, and consequently doesn't quite capture the varying tones of the prototype and ultimately looks a little on the light side. It's a problem shared with the Dapol Class 68, although the end result is that happily they don't look out of place together. The grey used on the doors, window bands and chassis also feels a fraction on the dark side however it is vastly improved over the very dark grey seen on the first livery samples, so we're pleased this area was addressed. These are really the only niggles we had with the livery, and it will be interesting to see how the Farish TPE Class 360 compares when that is released.


revolution trains n gauge mk5a review

The multitude of various angled stripes and colours applied to the nose of the DT have been excellently done with crisp printing and a nice smooth finish and the fading effect of the dark to light blue recreated the real thing nicely. The finer printed details are all sharply applied and the multitude of warnings, information panels and logos present on the prototype are are all present and correct.

revolution trains n gauge mk5a review

If the complex main livery wasn't enough, Revolution have also picked out all of the underframe detail in the relevant colour, including jumper cable sockets in orange, and step edges in yellow. The finer printed details are all sharply applied and the multitude of warnings, information panels and logos present on the prototype are are all present and correct.


It really would have been easy to take one look at this livery and say 'nope', but Revolution not only accepted the challenge, they tackled it head on and pulled it off with style....



Summary.


This is definitely a set of models that makes you smile when you open the box! There is no doubting that they are truly excellent models, complete with an excellent representation of a very challenging livery, and we really had to go to nit-picky levels to find any niggles and even then they are few and far between.


Revolution Trains have produced a truly stunning set of N Gauge coaching stock representing a striking prototype should easily be a contender for N Gauge rolling stock of the year in our book!



Availability


The initial production run has now sold out, so if you missed out and would like to see a second run contact Revolution Trains and express your interest!



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