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Hornby's Brighton Belle

5Bel driving motor brake Pullman second car in 1934 umber and cream
5Bel driving motor brake Pullman second car in 1969 blue & grey

Hornby's locomotive hauled Pullman coaches set new incredibly high standards in ready to run coaching stock, and were justifiably highly acclaimed, so their first multiple unit Pullman train has been keenly awaited. The first version of their Brighton Belle model, of the 1969 refurbished (BR blue & grey) units, specifically unit 3053, became available at the end of February. The second version, unit 2051, representing the condition in 1934 when the service was renamed from the Southern Belle to the Brighton Belle, was released in mid March. Given my disappointment with Hornby's 4Vep, having spent £259 for each version sight-unseen it was with a degree of anxiety that I opened the boxes. The good news is that I did not have the same sinking feeling and with a small number of regrettable exceptions this model immediately looks the part.

All major dimensions appear to be correct according to scale plans and all five cars compare well (save for those the exceptions) against photographs of their real counterparts. Correctly the upper body sides of these cars are slightly angled inwards and correctly there are no doors to the corridor connections. The injection moulding, paint finish and graphics printing are to a high standard. In plan and elevation there is a lot of very fine detail moulded on and separately applied. When running steadily with its table lamps gently illuminated this is one smart and attractive model.

(above) driving motor brake Pullman second cars in both liveries.
(below left) the umber and cream version has a quasi headcode stencil panel, illustrated here with the self adhesive sticker in place, and (below right) the blue & grey cab front prior to application of the headcode sticker.

Cab front - looking head on
Cab front - looking head on

One of the driving motor brake Pullman seconds is the "locomotive" with Hornby's familiar 5 pole pancake motor hidden within the brake compartment. This car has a heavy diecast metal chassis and the motor is also hidden within a metal box. The finished car weighing in at 395 grams, biased towards the motor bogie end, provides adequate traction for the 5 car set without resort to traction tyres. As a result the drive is smooth, but not quite as good as with a flywheel drive arrangement. Electrical pickup is on the "locomotive" car only with power for the table lamps and headcode panels being distributed by couplings containing handed electrical connections.

Thus the trailer cars are very free running. The inner car couplings are of the body mounted close coupling type. These are very fiddly to couple and uncouple. I do not know if they have been tested to determine the number of coupling and uncouplings that can be performed whilst remaining reliable, but I suspect this is a model that will benefit from being coupled and remaining so as long as possible. The handedness of the couplings assist with correct assembly of the unit, printed instructions also providing advice, however Hornby would do well to emulate what Bachmann have done with their Desiro models and print an identifying letter on the undersides to make it definitive without resort to a diagram. Unfortunately both versions have been erroneously assembled leading to incorrect formation that may not be easy to correct. On the umber and cream version the handedness of the couplings result in the power cars fitting on the wrong ends (e.g. Motor Pullman Brake Third Car 58 should couple to Trailer Pullman First "Hazel" and not Trailer Pullman second car 86) and on the blue and grey version one trailer Pullman first kitchen body is on its underframe the wrong way around. The two trailer Pullman first kitchens should be coupled coupé to coupé (or to put it another way kitchens to the adjacent second class cars) and not both oriented the same way. I have not yet investigated how easy it is to remove the bodies (and in the case of the trailer Pullman first kitchen also the interior moulding) to fix the bodies (and the TPFK interior) the right way around.

As with the Vep, headcodes are supplied as stickers to apply to the headcode panels, however since these units predominantly carried headcode 4 these models really ought to have been assembled with headcode blinds inside the panels, and would therefore look much better. The umber and cream version, by way of both the moulding and stickers, has a representation of a stencil panel. The blue & grey model has directionally controlled headcode panel lighting, yellow in the front facing direction, red in the rear facing direction, using LEDs. However, since the headcodes cannot be non destructively changed this unit will only look right in one direction because in the other it will display numeral 4 illuminated red and double red blanks illuminated by yellow. Perversely on the umber and cream model the stencil panel is not, as it should be, illuminated.

On test running, admittedly with trainset sharp curves, I found the five car set marginally more stable with the "locomotive" power car leading so maybe this is an indication about the optimum unidirectionality.The bogies appear to be made to true 4mm scale width, not narrowed for OO, so the shoebeams are outside of a conductor rail placed on 16.5mm gauge track sleeper ends. See the pictures above. If placing the bogies onto the track by holding the shoebeams please be careful as they are only lightly attached. The late version model correctly has the larger shoebeams, the early version model has lighter shoebeams on its unpowered bogies but the larger shoebeam on its power bogies, for which I cannot find any photographic evidence whilst numbered in the 205n series. The unpowered bogies on blue & grey version are correctly of the modified type with leaf springs and the umber and cream version has the earlier (equalising?) beam type. Whilst the wheel flanges are not of the finest profile, those fitted to this model just escape the pizza cutter criticism!

Lighter shoebeam on umber and cream version Heavier shoebeam on blue & grey version
(above and below) illustrating the different shoebeams and unpowered bogies between versions
Equalising beam unpowered bogie on umber and cream version Leaf spring unpowrede bogie on blue & grey version

(right) a richly detailed inner car end



Photographic evidence indicates that these units were introduced without curtains, but they were certainly present by the time Hornby's umber and cream version represents, and curtains were retained until withdrawal. Despite a wealth of documentation and photographic evidence, for reasons best known to themselves Hornby have modelled both versions without curtains. This is really strange because their highly detailed locomotive hauled Pullman cars have curtains. It is not rocket science to make some out of coloured paper and fit them, however having just spent £259 I would rather the model be accurate out of the box.

I was rather harsh in my criticism of the roof panel detail in the first version of this review.  The roof of any small scale model is the most visible aspect and roof panel detail on these models is rather heavy.  Such over prominence leads in this instance to it looking incorrect, however having compared the models against a wide selection of photographs, but without actually counting rivets, I have come to the conclusion that the roof panel detail is essentially accurate.  This is a case of first impressions being wrong and longer exposure leading to greater appreciation.

inner end  detail
roof detail on trailer Pullman second

(above) the roof on the trailer Pullman second, demonstrating the over-prominent roof panel detail

Roof and underfloor details are identical on both versions of this model.  The roof ventilator arrangement over the compartment and lavatory on the trailer first and brake compartment and cab of the driving motor brake Pullman second, plus specifics of the underfloor equipment on the battery box sides of the trailer firsts and trailer second, are different to Mike King's drawings. These drawings are of an early incarnation and it is known there were modifications during the service life of these units. It has to be stated the underfloor equipment and ventilators on these models is correct compared to photographs of the corresponding preserved vehicles, so I strongly suspect that such detail on the umber and cream version is not totally accurate. Continuing to look much closer and scaling against plans and broadside photographs I would say that some of the dimensions of the windows and spacing between windows are not exactly right, but they are correct to within 1mm, and the dimensions of the distinctive lavatory and pantry oval windows are definitely wrong as the ovals should be "fatter". To finish with the pickiness, there is also a noticeable absence of interior handrails in the vestibules alongside the kitchens/pantries and across the oval windows in the inner car ends.

By the way, be careful when removing these cars from the plastic casings that hold them within their cardboard boxes. There is a lot of fine detail on these models to break and in particular the roof ventilators are only interference fitted onto spigots on the roof. You do not want to be scrabbling around the floor looking for a roof ventilator or roof board that has gone ballistic when removing a car from its box - believe me it took half an hour to find a roofboard as somehow it had managed to lodge itself deep into my wife's handbag! The roof boards are fiddly (at least to my middle aged fingers) to fix into position and will require a very small amount of glue to secure them into position.

Pullman kitchen first Doris

(above) trailer Pullman kitchen first, (below) trailer Pullman second

Why, for their first releases, Hornby have chosen two versions which combined only represent these units for six years of their life, when, whilst acknowledging changes to bogies, shape of Pullman crests and addition of yellow warning panels, they could have chosen a version with longer currency, is an interesting commercial decision. Note, with the umber and cream version it will not be accurate merely to renumber from 2051 to 3051 because the car side lettering on the thirds also changed. However, this is not a model specifically aimed at us Southern enthusiasts as it will appeal to a much larger customer base, particularly those who collect named glamorous trains, Pullmans , and those who merely like the look of it, etc, so the longevity of incarnations may not be such an important factor to the majority of purchasers.

The five car unit is sold in four separate packs - a twin pack of driving motor brake Pullman seconds, two separate packs of trailer Pullman kitchen firsts and one pack of a trailer Pullman second. As long as stocks remain available this does allow purchases to be spread over time, or to model a less than a realistic five car unit. Prices quoted in this review are typical discounted prices from reputable dealers. Note that due to the coupling and pickup arrangements the trailers cannot be used without significant modification in a locomotive hauled VSOE formation - besides the first umber and cream editions will not have the correct car side lettering.

This is a model that will appeal far and wide so it is more than a welcome addition for just us Southern Electric enthusiasts. It is designed and constructed to a generally high standard, it is just a shame that there are some obvious errors that would have cost little or nothing to get right, especially given how well documented and photographed these units are, plus, of course, all but one vehicle still exist to be inspected. Unfortunately Hornby still have not quite matched the accuracy and high standards of Bachmann for multiple units.


trailer Pullman second
Launched as part of Hornby's 2013 programme of new models but not appearing until August 2014 was an early 1960s version. This was produced as R3184 Driving Motor Coaches pack and (differently to the first versions when the three trailers were available separately) a R4582 Centre Trailers 3 pack. This being of unit 3052 carrying the elongated Pullman crest on the cab fronts, a grey roofs and revised lettering on the second class cars. Hornby early 1960s version cab front
Hornby early 1960s version driving motor brake Pullman saloon second
Still no curtains on this version! To complete the set, will Hornby now produce an original Southern Belle unit, a mid 1950s version reflecting third class being re-designated second class and a mid 1960s version with small yellow warning panel? Six models for a class of only three units...
Three quarter view of Hornby's 1967 version Brighton Belle
One answer to the above questions had to wait until August 2018, when Hornby’s latest version (R3606 power cars pack and R4871 trailers pack) in umber and cream with small yellow warning panels, unit 3053 in 1967 condition, went on sale. There are some differences to previous production runs, at last there are curtains at the windows, roof boards now come ready fitted and the unit is no longer coupled with electrically conducting handed couplings. One bogie on each car now has electrical pick-ups for the table lamps, which illuminate whenever track power is on with both DC and DCC. This creates additional drag, though the power car can cope with this.  The models, which now have NEM coupler pockets, come factory fitted with continental type interference couplings, which I have found as fiddly and prone not to couple correctly as the previous electrically conducting couplers. Slim tension link couplers are provided as an alternative but they do not couple the cars so closely.
cab frint, with small yelow warning panel, of 3053