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Kernow/Bachmann 2H

Kernow 2H 31-236Z DMBSO window side three quarter view

If I recall correctly, if this series of models was not Kernow Model Railway Centre's first Southern themed commission (as opposed to exclusive versions of an existing model) it was certainly an early one. However, it has been so long in gestation that other Southern commissions have been released ahead of it. Kernow MRC originally commissioned Dapol to produce this model, a full size "Thumper" was laser scanned and CAD drawings derived. Progress thereafter was slow and Kernow negotiated a move of the project to Bachmann, gaining the additional benefit of Bachmann's considerable experience in designing and producing other very highly regarded Southern Electric stock (4Cep, 2EPB and MLV). The design and tooling was done flexibly to allow for variations in detail that occurred over the lifetime of these units, and for a Berkshire version. R&D and production lead-times at Bachmann have always been long, not to mention the restricted production capacity in China, so a further wait ensued, with the first model not being released until February 2013. Advance orders were being taken by Kernow from 2009!

So has the wait been worth it? Absolutely, unhesitatingly, yes!

Kernow's initial plans were for seven versions:

  • K2001 205025 Network SouthEast
  • K2002 205012 Connex
  • K2003 1108 BR(S) green
  • K2004 1121 BR(S) green with small yellow warning panel
  • K2005 1120 BR blue
  • K2006 1119 BR(S) green small yellow warning panel
  • K2007 1115 BR(S) green with orange "V" on one cab end
  • (versions with digital control and sound being suffixed DS)

With limited production capacity in China it has not proved possible to secure production for all seven versions within a reasonable time span, so with rising production and raw material costs Kernow ceased taking advance orders for all but K2002, K2003 and K2007, the other four now being planned for release in 2014.

The first to emerge in February 2013 was K2007, by now numbered in a Bachmann sequence as 31-235Z, unit 1115 with an orange V denoting **no brake compartment at the other end** (a device trialled prior to the inverted black triangle on a yellow warning panel). This can best be described as a "mid" green incarnation - no yellow warning panel, yellow first class cantrail stripes, mesh grille to the cooler group and airhorns (below).

Kernow 31-235, 2 cars engine compartment window side

Second to emerge in early March 2013 was K2003/31-236Z, unit 1108 in "early" green condition - whistle and louvre ventilation to the cooler group (below).

31-236 2 car view, engine room grille side

Third to emerge in mid March was K2002/31-237Z, unit 205012 in de-branded Connex livery.

Kernow 31-237Z 205012 in Connex livery

These are extremely well designed and constructed models, emulating the qualities of Bachmann's 4Ceps, 2EPBs and MLVs. The detail on them, both moulded on and separately applied, is exquisite. Of particular note is the see-through fan grille on the roof and its (non working) fan below. Kernow wanted the conduits on the roofs to be separately applied but on trial these proved to be too delicate, so were moulded on instead. But this has been so well done it is of no consequence. Please be careful when handling these models, including when getting them in and out of their boxes, as there is still plenty of delicate vulnerable detail - in particular the lavatory compartments' water tank breather vents and the engine hatch lifting rings (which are spectacular items) on the roof of the DTC and DMBSO respectively.

These models compare exceptionally well to photographs and dimensions and it is very difficult to find errors or omissions. It seems almost churlish to mention that after lengthy inspection comparing against detail photographs I took in the early 2000s I noticed a drain cock missing from the underframe of the DMBSO and the DTC lacks the soil pipe from under its lavatory compartments (at least as applied to a Connex version), however it is glowing testament to the level of detail on these models that one has to look into such intimate detail to find fault. I am not complaining!

The quality of painting and graphics is also to a very high standard, but the shade of green used is questionable. In recent years Bachmann have been variable about their interpretation of BR(S) stock green. The shade of green used on their 4Ceps, 2EPBs and MLVs is by common agreement right but the darker shade of green on their most recent Mk1 and Bulleid coaches is just too dark and in no way accurate. Perversely these DEMU models are a third shade of green, slightly darker than on Bachmann EMUs - which they should really match - and mercifully significantly lighter than on Bachmann's most recent Mk1 and Bulleid coaches. Common agreement is that the shade of green on these models is just credible, any darker and it would not be. By the way, Bachmann's Mk1 and Bulleid coaches should match their EMUs too!

Connex, both the company and their colours, were not to many's taste however the fading yellow stripes on white livery is produced extremely well and accurately. Window bars and window opening restrictors started to be fixed over, or to, droplights from 1989 in connection with track re-alignment through the Oxted Tunnel when the line was electrified. Pictorial evidence suggests that the treatment of Hampshire and Berkshire units varied by unit. Photographs I took of 205012 in April and May 2002 show only the two inner first class compartments were fitted with bars, restrictors being fitted to other windows (205009 was photographed in November 2004 as having identical arrangements). On the Connex model just these these two sets of window bars are indeed represented, demonstrating the amazing attention paid to detail on these models. Also the stickers on the inside of the droplights warning of restrictors are very well represented - a nice touch!

Unfortunately these models do display the white glue problem around the windows afflicting models manufactured in China regardless of brand.

As with the 4Ceps, 2EPBs and MLVs these models are powered from a can motor, with a flywheel, driving a gear tower in the bogie under the cab of the DMBSO. This has proved to be a reliable, smooth and powerful enough drive mechanism. On all three of my models I was a little disappointed with the smoothness and noise of running straight out of the box but signs of loosening up appeared after ten minutes of running. The motor and flywheel are located appropriately in what is the engine compartment of the real thing, so do not intrude on passenger accommodation. The grey metal mounting for the motor can be seen through the engine room windows (on one side only), and a minor quibble, a printed photo of a real "Thumper" engine to hide this mounting would look better. A product idea for an after-market supplier? If you do not buy a DCC sound version these models are DCC ready. A sound enclosure, which goes into the middle of passenger saloon of the DMBSO, for which some seats are removable, is supplied separately. Instructions are supplied on how to fit a DCC decoder and loudspeaker. Both of these green versions have bogies without vertical secondary dampers but the Connex version correctly has the vertical dampers fitted. Another nice variation in timescale represented.

Cab front of unit 1108, early green version cab front of unit 1115, mid green version
Cab front of 205012

It is said pictures can save many words so I am letting the photos do the talking about the quality of and level of detail on this model!

Note the taller white headcode blanks on the earlier versions compared to the shorter blanks on a late version unit.

inner car end and mu connections inner car end and mu connections

The bar coupling between the two cars is electrically conducting (as on the 4Ceps and 2EPBs) so only one decoder is required. There is internal lighting in both cars and the headcode panels are illuminated according to direction of travel, white (slightly too bright white to my liking) on the leading car, red on the trailing car, i.e. similar to Bachmann's MLV's headcode arrangements. As on the MLV both headcode panels are double white blanks (tall blanks for early versions, shorter for later versions) which works well for white/red directional illumination. However, this is incorrect for an "early" green version which should display double white blanks to the rear but with a red tail lamp on one of the lamp irons. No headcode number blinds are supplied, and I think this is a cop-out. However, it is relatively easy to produce your own transfer headcode blinds, which if varnished will look like they are behind glass. I realise that applying headcode number blinds which cannot be altered will look wrong when running the unit in reverse but I prefer this to running with unrealistic double blanks - normally only used for things like empty stock moves - all the time. The Connex version has bright white directionally controlled high intensity headlights. DC users can switch the internal and headcode/headlamp lighting on and off on each car using two small switches under the floor. I had a problem on the DTC of my Connex model in that initially in the forward direction the headcode panel was displaying pink (I think due to displaying red with bleed in the optics from the high intensity headlight) and did not light at all in the reverse direction. Initial jiggling of the lighting switches on this car served only to stop the internal lights working altogether and to add electrical resistance thus slowing the motor. Firmly switching off both circuits - test - and firmly switching on first the headcode/headlight - test - and then firmly switching on the internal lighting - test - completely cured the problem. I think the moral here is to ensure these switches are firmly thrown.

DMBSO of unit 1115, mesh grille side

Note the different treatments to the cooler group ventilation.

(above) mesh grille on the "mid" green incarnation unit 1115

(left) louvres on the early green version unit 1108

Cab side of the DTC of 205012 showing the droplight bars and Connex fading yellow stripes (left) On the DTC of 205012 the drop light bars on only two 1st compartments are reproduced as on the real unit, and note how effectively the Connex fading yellow stripe livery is represented.


Underfloor detail on the DMBSO, engine compartment window side

DMBSO roof

(above) DMSO roof, the lack of airhorns shows you it is the "early" version! Isn't that fan marvelous?
(below) DTC roof, also on the "early" version. Note the water tank breather vents.

DTC roof

Running this stock as two car units is unrepresentative of the majority of their lifespans. The specific livery/unit number combinations on offer are authentic, but only for a limited time. Unit 1108 is definitely a very early incarnation as it louvres were changed to a grille in 1958, though it was a two car unit throughout this period. Unit 1115 gained its orange V in 1960 and carried it until it was replaced by a yellow warning panel in 1966. The yellow cantrail stripe for 1st class places the unit generally from 1963, but it could have been applied earlier as the Southern Region was ahead of the rest of BR in using this (the first use being on Boat Train coach sets from 1960). However, a centre trailer car was inserted into this unit on 8th August 1959 so running in this specific livery as two cars can only have been for a specific issue. Two 3H units at a time were reduced to their original two cars during the winter of 1960 but it is thought unlikely to have been carrying its yellow cantral stripe this early. It is known that Kernow obtained photographic evidence for their proposed models, so there must have been a time for which this model is authentic representation. Hampshire and Berkshire units were generally reduced to two cars in their later lives so the Connex unit 205012 running as two car is entirely authentic - I have plenty of photographs of it like this.

For those who prefer a 3H to a 2H (which according the specific timeframes of the real things, I do) Kernow say they hope to produce centre cars during later production. Whether this be by new 3 car packs or as separately available centre cars I do not know. I hope for the latter because I do not want to have to buy, possibly will not be able to afford by then, more Thumpers when I only want to augment the ones I have. Note that because there is no photographic evidence of this stock running in BR blue & grey livery as 2 car, Kernow have not yet proposed a blue & grey version.

If, as I am, you are thinking about using Replica 64ft Mk1 suburban coaches to augment to 3 cars, please bear in mind the following. The body side profiles of the Bachmann and Replica coaches are slightly different, with the Replica sides being subtly more curved. The profiles should be the same, so one of them is wrong. However, the difference is slight and having tried it, it does not bother me. The Replica coaches have heavy (Bachmann Mk1 coach style) ribs on their roofs. In reality there should not be ribs, merely welded panel joins. The model roof of the Replica coach can easily be corrected by carefully shaving off the ribs and re-painting. (Note, being of later construction the centre trailers did not have any lighting conduit on their roofs so this does not need adding to the Replica coaches.) The Replica coach has its door apertures reproduced by grooves deeper and wider than on the Bachmann sides, and this (apart from the differing shades of green) is the key visible difference on the car sides. Hopefully repainting without stripping the original paint will lessen the visual impact. Matching the shade of green Bachmann have used is also going to be a challenge. However, this method does not address the wiring between cars. Another option is to use the floor running gear and electric from the trailers of a Bachmann 4Cep with either a Replica 64ft body as above or for better bodyside profile matching cut-and-shut Bachmann 57ft Mk1 suburban coach bodies.

So my only gripes - the view through the engine room window, the headcode lighting and lack of headcode number blinds, plus the shade of green - comparatively minor in the grand scale of things. Given the quality of design and construction, and level of detail, even with rising prices these models are very good value for money indeed. I look forward to further versions being released.

For information about Hampshire Units from the website, please click here.

DMBSO, grille side, of 205012

Kernow have repeated that it is currently uneconomic to produce a centre car for 3H representations and that no pictorial evidence has yet been found of a 2H in BR blue and grey livery.

The second batch appeared in late August/early September 2015. Unfortunately the significant rises in production costs in China have resulted in a steep rise in price for this second batch of 2Hs.  Projected at £149.99 in 2009 they now cost £210, with a £10.01 discount for pre-orders.  The digital sound version will be £100 more. Kernow Model Rail Centre calculated there was insufficient demand for two different BR(S) green with small yellow warning panel versions, so all orders for this livery were combined into a single issue - unit 1121 with a new product code of 31-236X

The second batch is (add DS to the suffix for digital sound versions):

31-236X 1121 in BR(S) green with small yellow warning panel

Kernow/Bachmann 31-236X unit 1121 in BR Green with small yellow warning panel

31-238Z 1122 in BR blue

Kernow/Bachmann 31-238Z unit 1122 in BR Blue

31-239Z 205001 in unbranded Network SouthEast livery

Kernow/Bachmann 31-239Z unit 2015001 in de-branded Ntwork SouthEastlivery