Few could believe the plight of Hornby’s new model of the Gresley ‘B17’ 4-6-0, including the manufacturer. This model of Gresley’s answer to the Great Eastern Section’s 1920s motive power crisis has been a long time in coming for a multitude of reasons, but now it is here and Hornby Magazine is pleased to be able to take a detailed look at this new Eastern Region steam locomotive.
The history of the ‘B17’ 4-6-0s is recounted in Reality Check on pages 82-85 of this issue relating the story of these express passenger locomotives’ rise and fall through London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) and BR ownership.
The first versions of the ‘B17’ to arrive for review are 2800 Sandringham in LNER lined apple green and 61637 Thorpe Hall in BR green with early crests on the tender. These represent a ‘B17/1’ in the case of 2800 coupled to a short Great Eastern Railway (GER) style tender and a ‘B17/2’ – which had lighter springing on the driving axles and heavier springs on the bogie. However, post 1937 the ‘B17/1’, ‘B17/2’ and ‘B17/3’ class designations were merged into the single ‘B17/1’ class.
This new model is a joy to see in the flesh. Hornby has done an excellent job of recreating the shape, style and appearance of these 4-6-0s and from all angles there is no mistaking what this model is supposed to represent.
The footplate has the curves of the real locomotives in front and behind the driving wheels while the parallel boiler with its round topped firebox looks spot on too. The stumpy chimney of the ‘B17’ looks correct together with the dome, safety valves and whistle. The cab roof has been modelled with the vent open while the rain stripes are also neatly moulded on top.
Turning back to the front of the locomotive and the ‘B17’ has all the hallmarks of the class with a finely produced smokebox ‘face’ topped off by separately fitted handrails, lamp irons, the middle cylinder end cover protruding through the frames, and sprung buffers. Additional bufferbeam details covering a dummy screw link couplings and pipework are also included with the model in the detailing pack which also contains front steps and the impressively long cylinder drain cocks fitted to these 4-6-0s.
Along the boiler barrel you will find separately fitted handrails and a finely finished etched metal reversing rod. Nameplates are printed above the centre driving wheels, as they should be, while the washout plugs in the firebox are also correctly positioned.
Below the frames the valve gear of the ‘B17’ has been reproduced to a high standard with fine coupling rods while the wheels themselves too are exceptionally well made. Add to this a correct arrangement for sandpipes and brake shoes and we couldn’t ask for more.
The cab interior is fully detailed with pipework, gauges and controls while the tender is an excellent replica of the short GER style tender coupled to the ‘B17/1’ class. This includes a removable plastic coal load which reveals a fully detailed coal space plus lamp irons, handrails and brake pipes on the rear. The underside of the tender features a water scoop, and brake rigging for both the locomotive and tender is included in the detailing pack for the ‘B17’.
The two samples received for review offered contrasting liveries with 2800 Sandringham finished in lined LNER apple green and 61637 Thorpe Hall in BR lined green. Both exhibited Hornby’s usual high standard of decoration with fine and complete lining in both cases.
On the track both of our samples proved to be smooth, quiet and consistent performers throughout our tests handling a seven coach train of Hornby coaches with absolute ease. They offer excellent slow speed control too and each model is fitted with an 8-pin DCC decoder socket located in the tender which is straightforward to access.
For those who prefer not to install their own decoders Hornby is producing each of its ‘B17s’ DCC fitted with a factory installed decoder too. These are denoted by an X suffix to the catalogue number.
The ‘B17’ is permanently coupled to its tender by a new drawbar, but this can be separated if necessary as a single screw releases the drawbar and the four-wire connection can also be removed from its socket. The drawbar length is also adjustable.
The arrival of Hornby’s ‘B17’ may have been long awaited, but in our view it has been well worth it. The manufacturer has produced a highly accurate and appealing model of a popular and long lived class. Moreover Hornby is soon to release the ‘B17/6’ too which features a 100A boiler and an LNER group standard 4,200gallon tender for those modelling areas away from the Great Eastern Section. (MW)
Cat No: R2920
Description: Gresley ‘B17/1’ 4-6-0 2800 Sandringham, LNER apple green
Cat No: R2921
Description: Gresley ‘B17/1’ 4-6-0 61637 Thorpe Hall, BR lined green
Price: £127.99 each
Era: 3 and 4 respectively
DCC: DCC ready, 8-pin socket
Couplings: Small tension locks in NEM pockets