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4mm scale Modelling Review - Bachmann 2Hap

Bachmann 31-392 2Hap unit 4308 in Network SouthEast livery showing the Kent Coast sub-sector branding

Bachmann’s long awaited 2Hap models started appearing in model shops during the last weekend in November 2020.  What has taken so long?  Surely this is just the MBSO of a 2EPB mated with the DTCL of a 2H and Bachmann already have tooling for models of both of these?  Superficially yes, but this simplistic view overlooks the complexities and intricacies of the history and details of Southern Region EMUs and DEMUs.  There are significant differences between similar car types in both units.  Differing electrical equipment between 2EPBs and 2Haps plus provision or absence of lighting conduit on roofs are just two examples.  On a purely model level, some time ago a modelling associate and I were trying to determine how we could make a 4EPB from a 2EPB, and provide a centre trailer for the 2H, using existing various Bachmann Mk1 suburban models, “cut-and-shut” if necessary, and similar vehicles from Replica Railways.  What we discovered was every time Bachmann tools for a Mk1 suburban vehicle the details are subtly different, noticeable when put together.  The most noticeable is the depth of the gutter, and on Bachmann models this varies between the 2EPB, 2H (MLV and Cep).  Of course such details, including door furniture, may have varied in real life and building in batches over a long time there may not have been a Mk1 standard.  Can any SEG member advise?  For modelling a unit where vehicles are built around the same time in batches we do need such details to match.  On top of this 2Haps were built in four distinct versions.  A comprehensive and authoritative history can be viewed online on the informative Blood and Custard website.  Bachmann’s three models are of the 1957 phase 1 type, but this does not mean just one set of tooling because as we shall see, all three versions correctly have different body types and details.  The details on these models are correct for 1957 phase 1 Haps.

The three models are as follows:

31-390. Unit 6061 MBSO S61259 DTCL S75379 BR green with plain cab fronts.  Whistles on cab fronts, periscopes above the guard’s compartment on the MBSO.  Headcodes and rear blanks in the early tall thick but narrow font.  Headcode 18 (in 1961 on the SE Division Charing Cross – Sevenoaks via Lewisham and Orpington or Charing Cross – Margate via Orpington, Dover Priory and Minster) on the MBSO, double white blanks on the DTCL.  This unit was in this incarnation from late March 1959 but unfortunately we do not know when it received its small yellow warning panels (~mid 1960s?).

Bachmann 31-390 2Hap unit 6061 in early BR green livery two car view
31-391. Unit 6063 MBSO S61261 DTCL S75381 BR blue & grey.  Roof horns above the cabs, no periscopes on the MBSO.  Speedometer cable on the inner bogie of the DTCL.  Headcodes and rear blanks of the later shorter thinner font.  Headcode 84 (in 1981 on the SE Division Charing Cross – Gravesend or Maidstone West via Greenwich) on the MBSO, double red blanks on the DTCL.  This unit was in this incarnation from May 1981 until October 1987.
Bachmann 31-390 2Hap unit 6063 in BR blue and grey livery two car view
31-392. Unit 4308 (previously 6077) MBSO 61275 DTCL 73395 Revised Network SouthEast livery with Kent Coast sub-sector branding. Roof horns above the cabs, no periscopes on the MBSO. High intensity headlights on the cab fronts. Speedometer cable on the inner bogie of the DTCL. Headcodes of the later shorter thinner font. Headcode 90 on the MBSO, headcode 37 on the DTCL. This unit was in this incarnation between June 1989 and withdrawal in March 1995. Note this unit was then stored and became part of the NRM’s National Collection. It has been cosmetically restored by our friends the Network SouthEast Railway Society as their “Project Commuter”.
Bachmann 31-390 2Hap unit 4038 in early BR Network SouthEast livery two car view
It is interesting that these three units chosen by Bachmann have at least one thing in common (other than them being 2Haps of the same version), notably that they were involved in accidents requiring extensive repair.  6061 at Wimbledon Depot in October 1984, 6063 at Swale in March 1962 and 6077 (4308) at Gillingham Depot in March 1981.
Bachmann 31-390 2Hap unit 6061 in BR early green livery MBSO cab front
Bachmann 31-390 2Hap unit 6061 in BR early green livery DTCL

These models are produced to a very high standard as were their 4Ceps, 2EPBs, 2Hs and MLVs previously.  They share many features.  Because of this I do not think it necessary to comment on every fine detail.  These 2Haps have the same body mounted motor-flywheel driving one bogie as per Bachmann’s other SR Mk1 EMUs.  This intrudes into the MBSO’s saloon interior by one and a half seating bays so is a visual intrusion.  This has wrought just about the only criticism of this model in reviews in several model railway magazines given that Bachmann now have a below window drive as used in their recent 158/9 and 117/121 DMU models.  As to whether you think this is a negative depends upon your opinion of the new drive.  I was expecting the 2Haps to use the same body mounted drive as earlier SR EMUs so I had no expectation of something different only to be disappointed, and besides I find the new drive noisy (at least when not fully run-in) and lacking its own inertia.  I have test run my six versions and all six ran well straight out of the box.  Admittedly some ran better and were quieter than others, but the stiffer or noisier versions were improving within five minutes of running. I only checked the back-to-back dimensions on all the axles of one model with a gauge but all eight were spot-on.

This model is prepared for a 21 pin DCC decoder and has a mount for a 11x15mm loudspeaker, should DCC sound be your thing.

Between the cars the coupling is the two pole conducting spear-bar type as used on previous SR EMU models from Bachmann but two lengths are provided, a longer one for curves down to trainset 2nd radius, a shorter one for minimum trainset 3rd radius curves.  I have found this sort of coupler to be tricky to insert and detach and they are prone to damage when doing so.  However the multi-pole coupler as used on the new 158/9 and 117 models is also tricky and prone to damage. I will come out and tell it how it is – an easy to use reliable conducting coupler for mass produced British MU models has yet to be designed and made.  Unfortunately I found the two supplied spear couplings on all six of my models to be more problematical than on my 2EPB, 4Cep and 2H models as they appear to be even tighter to insert and detach.  To explain, the coupling bar inserts into receptacles on each car with sprung arrow points in the horizontal plane for mechanical coupling and two sprung upward facing electrical contacts.  Whilst the bar initially inserts reasonably well mechanically the “angle of attack” of the electrical contacts is almost vertical making it difficult for the contacts to compress to insert the coupling further without damage to the electrical contacts on the cars or coupling bar.  It is even more difficult to force the bar as the receptacles are on a sprung mount, free to float vertically and horizontally, of the close coupling mechanism.  I managed to break one coupling bar, bent the contacts on others and also damaged the contacts on one receptacle.  The best one can hope for is to couple with the bar’s contacts touching the receptacles’ outer contact surfaces rather than being inserted and rely on the mechanical tightness of the coupling thus far to keep the cars together when running.  I found that I could therefore use the shorter 3rd+ radius bar on 2nd radius curves.  There is a sprung single buffer between the cars mounted to the DTCL, but buffers on the outer ends are not sprung.

Bachmann 31-390 2Hap unit 6063 in early BR blue and grey livery DMSO
For me the best details are the filler vents on the roofs of the DTCLs.  These need care when handling, more to prevent cutting yourself as they are quite sharp and being made of hard metal wire are quite strong, and the speedometer cable between the solebar and bogie on the blue & grey and NSE DTCLs.
The speedometer cable between the bogie and solebar on then Network SouthEast version
These models come with an advance over the Cep/EPB/2H and MLV models, namely each car has two miniature switches under the floor to allow the interior lighting (towards the inner end) and headcode illumination (towards the cab end) to be switched on and off when using DC.  Models having fixed headcodes and blanks always have the issue of the running with headcodes and blanks on the wrong ends for the direction of travel unless the unit is always run in the right direction by being turned.  This situation is aggravated by the headcode box always illuminated white on the front in the forward direction and the rear headcode box red.   On the blue and grey version, with printed double red blanks at one end, this results in both headcode boxes being red in one direction.   At least being able to turn off headcode box illumination now prevents them from being lit the incorrect colour, but then you cannot run trains with headcodes and blanks illuminated in the dark (to then be judged a unit failure)!
Bachmann 31-392 2Hap unit 4038  in BR Network SouthEast livery MBSO cab front
Bachmann 31-390 2Hap unit 4308 in early BR Network SouthEast livery DTCL

Decoration-wise, these are up to Bachmann’s usual high standards.  Though I did notice, but only when viewing one of my extreme close up photographs closely, that the colour division between yellow warning panel and roof is ragged on the blue & grey version.  That this extreme pickiness is the worst comment I can come up with shows how well Bachmann have done.  The standard of printing of letters and numbers, particularly some of the smaller details, is wonderful.  Although there is a lot of science behind colour and light, colour perception is always a personal issue, not only of how colours are seen but also remembered.  For me all three liveries are “credible”/“in the ballpark”.

Again I have not yet had time laboriously to compare these models to photographs of the real thing, but on a quick comparison I cannot see anything wrong.

Bachmann are to be commended and congratulated on another very good Southern EMU model.  It is only the coupling arrangement between cars that lets this model down. Whilst accepting that costs of production and distribution are accelerating well ahead of general inflation, the elephant in the room is that price is becoming a bit of an issue for Bachmann products.  At around £221 common discount price (the discount price for a 2EPB eleven years ago was £78) the current price is a deterrent to multiple purchases and in my opinion working units in multiple is what representing the Southern Electric system is what it is all about.  I bought two of each this time, but on my pension this means I will be refraining from buying other models I might otherwise want.  Note there is considerable room for further exploitation of these models.  BR green with small yellow warning panels and BR blue versions are not yet represented.  The later –whilst dull – representing a significant part of their lives.  4Caps are also a possibility, but at a cost.  There were also a few 1957 phase 1 type 2Saps, and this would be a good incarnation for a BR blue model.  Finally, you can always use the DMBSO from these models with MJT etched brass sides, and with modifications to the inner end and inner bogie, to produce a GLV, but this is a spectacularly expensive way of going about it!
Bachmann 31-391 2Hap unit 6063 in BR blue and grey livery cab end showing a double red blind