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Dapol Class 73 Electro Diesels

Review and all photographs by the Southern Electric Group's Modelling Officer, Colin Duff.
Broadside view of Dapol 4D-006-004 E6003 in BR(S) Green

(above) Dapol 4D-006-004, the only JA produced so far, in BR(S) Green.

I am extremely fond of type JA and type JB Electro-Diesels (and BRCW type 3 diesel locomotives) as they were being introduced around the time I was transitioning from being a boy interested in railways and playing with my trainset into a railway enthusiast and railway modeller.  In my opinion the Class 73 deserves its place in history to be among the best non-steam British locomotives of all time.  In their early days I recall seeing the Electro-Diesels working at places such as West Wimbledon yard, Surbiton and Woking, plus in the mid 1960s the wonderful lash-ups in the run up to the electrification to Bournemouth, which I regularly viewed by dragging my heels whilst running cross-country across Weston Green during school’s games lessons (I loathed games, I loved watching trains).  Thereafter I have seen Class 73s, as regularly as living off the Southern Region allows, for five decades.  I have travelled behind EDLs on numerous railtours.

I am therefore interested in any model of a JA and JB and when Lima introduced their 4mm scale model in 1986 I slowly started accumulating examples.  It was a good model for its time with finely moulded bodywork and well applied liveries, let down by its 3 pole motor, pizza cutter wheels, poor representation of underfloor equipment and moulded on handrails.  Hornby subsequently slightly improved the model with a 5 pole motor, slightly better wheels and a DCC socket.  I am shocked to find I currently have nineteen Lima and Hornby Electro Diesels, three of which are duplicates, but even this quantity does not cover all liveries.  One model has been super-detailed with etched brass see-through grilles, engine room pipes, replacement buffers and wire handrails and many more (but not all) have been upgraded with Ultrascale replacement wheels, which make a big improvement.  Good though they were for their time, these models are now looking dated.

When in 2012 Dapol announced a new ranger of 4mm scale JAs and JBs fit for the 21st Century I naturally quickly placed advance orders for most, but not all, variations they were going to produce.  As is common with today’s railway modelling delivery dates have come and gone and start of deliveries is years later than originally projected, but a flood of EDL models arrived shortly before Christmas 2015, and with a trickle of slightly later issues thereafter.  Costing in excess of £100 each, the only reason my credit card did not become maxed out with so many deliveries is because it had already done so earlier in December due to an avalanche of other advance orders, including Kernow’s O2s, arriving in a very short time, requiring the balance to be cleared mid-month to unlock the card!

(above) next in the prototype's livery progression, FAV002, from the Model Shop Faversham, in "Electric" blue without BR double arrow logos. But is it a light enough shade of blue?

So has the wait been worth it?  Without hesitation, yes.  These are truly models fit for the 21st century and only a single major criticism, which I will come to later, makes this model very good rather than excellent.

The bodies, bogies and underfloor equipment match drawings and photographs well indeed.  If you want to be pernickety and compare underfloor equipment and bogies with a magnifying glass then you will find a few things missing or not quite right, some of which admittedly have had to be omitted to allow the bogies to swing, but there is one omission that does not fall into this category.  In terms of dimensional accuracy my measurements indicate that with major dimensions such as length between bogie centres, length over extended buffers, and height from railhead to peak of roof the model is about 1mm under, and whilst the body sides correctly slightly taper inwards from bottom to top the model is also slightly under width.  Dimensionally the Dapol model is more accurate than the Lima/Hornby model.  None of this slight dimensional discrepancy concerns me in the slightest.

There is a lot of fine detail on these models. The see-through grilles are exquisite (though if I were to quibble with the two side grilles on the roof one should be able to see through into body) and whilst one can see the model’s heavy metal chassis through the side windows what you see has been disguised with paintwork to look like engine room pipes.  The finely modelled recessed roof fan looks as if it ought to rotate, but it does not. 
Roof detail on Dapol 4D-006-001
Bogie and underflor detail on a Lima 73
The underfloor and bogie detail, compared to that on a Lima/Hornby model, is superb. Above is a Lima Large Logo blue EDL, below the modern Dapol equivalent. 
Bogie and underfloor detail on a Dapol 73

The mouldings are finely done and with separately applied small details extreme care is required on handling, especially when removing from the tight packaging.  On one of my models a few parts had become detached during transit.  I managed to get all of my models out of the packaging without incident but another one of them then proceeded to discard a few parts – including an entire buffer assembly - trackside whilst being test run.  Whilst most of these parts fitted back well into their mounting holes, a small number will require a small touch of solvent to secure them better.  A small packet of parts is supplied for the modeller to fit.  These are slim tension link couplings to fit into the NEM pockets on the bogies, and buffer beam details.  Some buffer beam details cannot be fitted with working couplings as they will foul the coupler.  Many modellers will chose to have a working coupling on one end and a fully detailed buffer beam the other.  Pleasingly, for the only JA produced so far, which correctly has a red buffer beam, certain buffer beams parts are supplied painted red.

Three quarter view of Dapol 4D-006-005 early blue

(above) Dapol's regular production model of an "early" blue EDL (4D-006-005) also has a small yellow warning panel and, not seen here, BR arrows, but correctly for this loco number no lower grey panel. Again, is the shade of blue light enough?

On all liveries separation between colours is sharp, as is the printing of numbers and lettering, which are sufficiently opaque.  Nameplates, where applicable, are printed on.  I look forward to sourcing etched brass replacements as they will look better.  However, despite Dapol having delayed deliveries to get the liveries right, several of them are still incorrect.  To my eyes in different lighting levels and different colour temperatures I think the “electric” and “early” blue (this is not the place to discuss whether the light blue used on production EDLs was “electric” blue as carried by the early LMR electric locos) applied by Dapol on FAV002 “electric” and 4D-006-005 “early” is not sufficiently lighter than BR Blue versions.  The rendition of Executive/Mainline livery on 4D-006-000 is well out in that the Executive dark grey is virtually black and the light grey is of the later Intercity “Swallow” era shade, not the original creamier shade.  Some subtle light weathering of grey from above and track colour from below will render this livery more realistic.  Ironically the dark and light grey colours used on the late Gatwick Express version (OLIV001) are the same but look just about credible for a freshly painted locomotive, but then frustratingly the original Executive red has been used for the stripe rather than the darker Claret shade that should be used. Repainting the stripe ought not to be too difficult.