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Bachmann 4 Cep
all photographs by Colin Duff unless otherwise credited
So the $64,000 dollar question has to be "has the wait been worth it?"
Well, the answer unequivocally is "yes!"
The first of three versions (plus a limited edition also due from Modelzone) product code 31-425 was released in small numbers the week before the Warley exhibition. 31-425 represents unit 7105, the lowest numbered "production" Cep (phase 1/1957 equipment) in early form - BR(S) green livery (incidentally unlike recent Bachmann Mk1 coaches this a credible shade), no yellow warning panel, whistle above the driver's window, large numeral headcode, double white blank rear blind and the notoriously rough riding Mk3/Mk4 bogies. 7105 is the unit owned by the EPB Preservation Group and is a neat choice because it avoids modelling the differences of the prototype units. The detail on the body is very finely executed - of particular note are the jumper cables on the cab fronts, separately applied wire grab rails picked out where appropriate in orange or black, representations of cable runs along the solebar and superb representations of the underframes - including brake rigging - and electrical equipment mounted onto the underframe. Inner car ends correctly have no buffers and have the correct electrical connection cabinets. The cab end corridor connection doors and headcode boxes are correctly slightly offset, the handbrake wheel can be seen through the offside cab window, and the interiors are painted to represent the laminates used on the production units. Window edges and ventilators are silvered - there is no sign of the white glue problem noticed on Bachmann coaches in the past - and there are representations of orange curtains in the windows. Headcode boxes are illuminated, as are the car interiors, by LEDs. Another headcode is provided by way of an alternative corridor connection door assembly. 7105 is provided with headcodes 50 and 46, plus the double white blank for the rear - correct for the early period. Ventilators on the roof seem to be in the correct positions - i.e. not the same as on a Mk1 coach.
The model is powered by a large can motor plus flywheel driving, via a short drive shaft, the cab end bogie in one DMBSO. Perforce this assembly takes up the guard's compartment, transverse vestibule and the first seating bay in this car. The motored car has a heavy metal chassis providing good traction.
Cars are coupled together by electrically conducting drawbars which push into sockets on the end of close coupling units. The drawbars are conducting to permit control of the lighting throughout the whole unit to be done by a single DCC decoder (if so fitted). Even though each car is fitted with pickups to power its own lights, for the lighting to work the cars must be connected in the correct order with the right orientation. The instruction leaflet clearly details this. Prior to this model going on sale Bachmann issued a pre-release note to dealers alerting them to this and also warning that any damage resulting from coupling the unit incorrectly would invalidate the guarantee. Several days after this model went on sale DCC users were reporting that the switching of the interior lighting and headcode boxes did not work correctly. This was traced by these modellers to a reversal of polarity of wiring in the TSK. Two immediate solutions are to reverse the orientation of the TSK (in which case the unit is not formed correctly) or to resolder to reverse the polarity of one set of light switching connections to the PCB in the TSK. No doubt the latter will invalidate the guarantee, so it will be interesting to learn what Bachmann propose to rectify the problem. Note this problem does not affect those using DC, where the lights are on permanently.
Coupling and uncoupling of the cars is very fiddly, none the least because of having to insert or withdraw the drawbars firmly into boxes which are lightly sprung by way of the close coupling mechanism. The instruction leaflet provides advice but I would advise this model is best left permanently coupled if possible. The model come with eight drawbars of two different lengths. Those with railway layouts with curves of a greater radius than 3ft have reported that the short drawbar does not maintain close coupling on their curves. Unit ends are provided with a tension lock coupling inserted into a bogie mounted NEM pocket. A Kadee will look better. Obviously with this coupling arrangement detail on the outer bogie ends is missing.
There is an issue with 4mm scale bogies concerning whether they are modelled to a true 4mm scale width or narrowed for OO/HO gauge track. With Southern Electric models the width of the bogies will govern the position of the pickups - do the pickups align with a conductor rail affixed to the end of true to scale sleepers or with a conductor rail fitted to the end of OO/HO gauge track? In the case of this model the pickups are aligned for OO/HO gauge track, so some work will be required by those converting this model to EM or Scalefour standards.
Given the many good-to-excellent aspects of this model it seems churlish to point out the brilliant white illumination of the headcode boxes could be toned-down to reflect the original's tungsten bulbs, that the interior illumination in the MBSOs is dimmer (due to having fewer LEDs) than that in the centre trailer cars, that the lower end of the water tank filler pipes on the car ends turn back into the body without a representation of the spigot a hose pipe should fit over, that the shoebox fuse may be hanging a tad low and that the handbrake wheel assembly is set too far back from the offside cab window. I suppose one could also mention that this model has not got double glazed windows but representing this in 4mm scale might be pushing the envelope more than a bit! However, all these are pointed out light-heartedly and none of these get above the very minor niggle status. A Southern Region railwayman friend who has a good knowledge of Ceps has yet to find anything more significant than mentioned thus far. So that is quite some recommendation.
Following on in December 2009 were:
31-426 unit 7126 in BR(S) green with small yellow warning panel, 1st class yellow cantrail stripe, roof mounted two tone horns, small numeral headcode, headcodes 4 and 18 supplied,double red blank rear blind, and Mk3/Mk4 bogies
31-427 unit 7113 in BR blue and grey, all other details being the same as 31-426 except headcodes 8 and 50 supplied.
Both of these are also phase 1/1957 equipment units.
photographs of plain blue Cep by Robert Armstrong, showing the fine detail Bachmann have achieved on this model, (above) around the cab and (left) on one TCK end
In February 2010 the Modelzone special limited edition version became available. This portrays unit 7119 in plain/overall BR blue. As students of the Southern Electric system 1960s period will know, the Southern Region interpreted the new BR Corporate Image guidelines strictly. As the Southern had no routes then branded as "Intercity" they decided that the new blue & grey "Intercity" livery was inappropriate and started to apply the plain/overall blue scheme specified for suburban/commuter services to their multiple unit stock regardless of whether being mainline, outer or inner suburban types. Twenty one 4 Ceps were turned out in this rather drab, thankfully short-lived (on mainline stock) scheme; seven of which had small yellow warning panels, the remainder gaining full yellow ends. 7119 was one of the latter.
Bachmann's 31-427Z model for Modelzone comes supplied with headcodes 05 and 15 and rear double-red-blank blinds. It is correctly detailed for a unit of this era.
A highly detailed RTR Southern Region EMU has been long-awaited and modellers are very well served by its arrival, even at full "list prices" this model is excellent value for money (price-wise think of it as a loco + 3 coaches) , so congratulations and grateful thanks to Bachmann.
Bachmann have set a very high standard to emulate and we hope their forthcoming 2EPBs and Kernow's 2Hs at the very least match it. Given Bachmann did a 3D scan of the EPB Preservation Group's unit at Shepherdswell, given there is a significant amount of commonality with original Ceps plus Bachmann already manufacture 4mm scale Commonwealth bogies, maybe there is even hope in the future for refurbished Ceps?