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Heljan Class 07 Dock Shunter

Heljan 2910 D2990 in BR green with wasp stripes three quarter vew short hood to te frint

(above) Heljan 2901 BR green with wasp stripes "original" version

All but one layout I have built in the past 50 years has featured some form of a dock side and the layout I am currently building will have a more extensive port complex.  Given I model the Southern Region over a wide time period I am therefore in need of dock shunters of various generations.  Adding to existing models of USA Tanks (off topic for the SEG) and classes 03, 04, 08 and 09, early June 2018 has been good for dock shunters.  First Dapol LSWR B4 locomotives (off topic for the SEG) appeared and then four days later Heljan class 07s, which will concern us here.

I know I often comment this in my reviews, but this model has also been long in gestation (around 18 months is the public realm).  So has the wait been worth it?  Without any hesitation, absolutely affirmative.  Please note that this review will only cover BR livery/era versions.

Heljan 2911 air brake fitted 07005 in BR blue three quarter view long hood to the front

(above) Heljan 2911 BR blue with wasp stripes air braked version

Comparing models of both original and later air braked conversions to photographs and published drawings is a rewarding exercise as, excepting a few slight niggles, the models not only come out very well but result in an appreciation and admiration for an extremely well done bit of modelling and manufacture by Heljan.  Differences between original and air braked conversions are accurate. Pipe runs, handle and grab rails windscreen wipers and the motion deserve a special mention. Representation of rubber gaskets around the flush glazed windows, which do not have a prismatic look, is the best I have seen.  The cab interior is very visible and has a reasonable representation of controls, sufficient for normal viewing distances, however the cab is crying out for a driver.

Major dimensions compared to published dimensions and drawings within plus and minus 0.5mm are spot-on, excepting the width over platforms which is no greater than 1mm too narrow.  The wheel diameter is correct.  Clear pictures of the wheels are elusive as they are obscured by the motion, ditto when inspecting the model, but the number and shape of spokes appears to be correct.  Flanges are commendably fine - Bachmann and Hornby please take note - and look to be to NMRA RP-25 profile.  Back to back measurements on my three locos are spot-on.

Heljan 2901 D2990 in BR green head on shot twards long bonnet

(above) The long hood end of an "original" version prior to fitting of tension link couplings or buffer beam aperture plug. Note the extremely fine Ruston and AEI builders' plate

These model locomotives weigh 199 grams when fitted with tension link couplings.  I currently only have a test track circle of trainset radius two curves, which being laid on top of my baseboard where in some places sixteenth inch cork underlay has been laid where tracks will eventually go can be described as gently undulating.  So having comparatively sharp curves (my layout will have wider radius) and not pancake flat the test circle is arguably of dock side standard.  Without taking the body off I cannot comment on the motor, pick-up and ease of fitting a DCC decoder arrangements.  However, all of my three ran smoothly and quietly straight out of the box.  Slow speed, after a very slightly jerky start, was good even with using a pure DC controller.  One of my locos ran with a slight wobble at its highest speed in the small bonnet forward direction only, but at a more realistic dock speed it was fine.  On my test circle I cannot test haulage power thoroughly but these locos comfortably hauled three Mk3 coaches (i.e. what I had readily to hand) without slipping.

Each model comes with a pack of parts loco version/livery specific and colour matched.  These packs include buffer beam blanking plugs (4 of) should you not want to use unrealistic large model couplings, spare vacuum and air hoses as appropriate and a pair on NEM fit slim tension link couplings  The pack also includes four working number discs, 2, 5, 7 and blank.  With my declining manual dexterity I found these fiddly to handle and easy to lose.  The models themselves come ready fitted with screw couplings, not also three links as seen on pictures of some locos, but with the apertures in the bufferbeam for fitting model couplers unplugged.  The screw couplings can easily be pushed aside when fitting the tension links and do not appear to hamper tension link operation.  However, I found fitting the slim tension link couplings into the NEM pockets extremely fiddly.  The NEM pocket pivots slightly and its rear is not accessible.  Short tails on the couplings mean they cannot be compressed by even small pliers for insertion and the pivoting movement of the boxes hinders insertion as they will not stay still.  However, the tension link couplings do not pivot when fitted into their boxes, so why do the boxes pivot?  The tension link couplings do not feel to lock in positively, but I have yet to have them pull out during use.  These couplings also appear to be on the low side, stiff in operation and do not engage with full width tension links at all well.  These couplings are definitely the models’ weakest point.  So these models are crying out to be fitted with NEM fit Kadees.

Heljan 2910 roof of BR green version
Heljan 2911 roof or air brake fitted blue version

(above) Comparing roofs of original and air braked versions

Within the chassis there is a socket for a six pin DCC decoder.  The instructions detail how to remove the body, which warns can be fiddly due to handrails.  These locomotives are fitted with six Bulleid loco type route indicator lamps on both bonnets.  Only the bottom left and right work directionally on these models.  However white (actually lemon yellow) lower left and red lower right illuminate in the direction of travel.  Surely these type of lamps could not display red and displaying red running forward cannot be correct?  I note 07007 at Eastleigh has one lamp per bonnet modified to have two lenses to show white & red, but this is not as modelled by Heljan and is not apparent on period photographs.

Comparing both original and air-braked versions to photographs, large rivets(?) along the bottom of the long hood end buffer beam the model has only two whereas pictures show three.  The two rivets on the model appears to be correct for the short hood end buffer beam, but I have yet to find a really clear picture to establish this definitively.  Unfortunately I found all body mouldings to be not perfect.  The original version moulding appears to have the buffers on the long hood end slightly angled down.  The asymmetric exhaust on the long hood is correct, but being slightly wonky as on all my models is not supported by photographs.  On the original version casting it leans slightly to the right, on air braked versions it is angled slightly to the left.

Head on shot of short hood end of air braked version

(above) The short hood end of an air braked version showing the additional factory applied detail, though spares of hoses are provided. Again this is prior to fitting of tension link couplings or buffer beam aperture plug

Some fine details are very delicate and considerable care is needed during handling, particularly when taking the model out of and into packaging.  Particularly vulnerable are the fine wire sand pipes.  One of my locos was missing two of the four of these after its first outing.  Though these can be readily replaced with fine wire.