Not that long ago after battling killer loft spiders, Christmas decorations and kitchen appliances the wife promised she would always use, I sold all my unneeded models that were maturing under a layer of dust.
The cash from these models has, you’ll all be pleased to know, been ploughed back into a new collection of unwanted models. What? You thought I was going to do something sensible with it?
So now I own a Hornby class 71. While its purchase is not as say whimsical as a North British class 16 or an LNER J15 it is slightly ‘off project’. Off project in the same sense that Mars is not Earth.
When I got into model trains, I believe around minus 3 months old (you could hear a Lima Pancake growl in the womb) I decided I wanted, no I needed, a class 71.
Why I hear you all ask in unison. Well I come from Dover, situated nearer to France than to any normal decent civilisation, and this meant that Dover had special requirements for locos come Modernisation in the 50s. The class 71 were odd as they were literally constructed to provide services in Kent and importantly to and from Dover. Continental freight and trains like the Night Ferry were hauled by 71s. It was there reason to exist.
As I grew up these trains had folklore spun about their awe inspiring turns of speed. The railwaymen my Dad worked with talked of them in glowing terms and with their odd little DC pantographs for working in yards caught my interest and never ever let go. When we would visit places as kids my Dad would point out an odd lone wooden pole and say ‘that was for the class 71 overhead’ (its no wonder I never had a chance).
They only hung about until 1977, having had an insanely short life span having been introduced in 1958 to 1960. The reason for withdrawal was they just did not have the versatility of the electro diesel class 73s. These weren’t go anywhere do anything trains they were oddly ultra bespoke. BR tried to turn a fair few of them into ‘Super’ electro diesels, the class 74s, and they were such a shambles they too were withdrawn in 1977 after numerous fires, explosions and broken promises.
I told myself for years that when I had the abilities that I would kit build a 71. I once had a Modern Traction Kit 71, but as usual with anything from MTK it looked like it had been moulded by a man who only had access to children’s drawings. It was from the age of modelling when everything looked better if you squinted from 50 feet away.
Chris and I had a DC kits 71 once but never got further than milling a Heljan 33 chassis for it (sounds more pro than it was) when the layout it was planned for dried up the resin kit sat forgotten in a shoe box.
Then Hornby and DJ Models announced a version each. A ready to run 71? Well after I streaked naked down the road at the news I noticed two immediate downers. The DJ one would turn up in the Sun’s final spasms of heat and the Hornby one would have an RRP of 169.99. This is expensive.
So as much as I wanted one I held off as I also like an easy life at home as much as any Kent based electrics locos.
Then I saw a brand new one for £80 with free postage. So I did what we all do and hit “BUY” before then mentally punishing myself for my outrageous spending. I then realised kids can survive two days without food so my guilt ebbed away to be replaced by apprehension and excitement. I sat like a little boy eager to see my short wearing postman appear on my street throwing parcels marked ‘FRAGILE’ over people’s back gates. He got to my house with the 71 still in one piece.
Lets be clear straight away the Hornby 71 is bloody lovely, but its fragile. The pantograph, handrails and wipers all destroy themselves or pop off if you even give the loco a stern look. However I had not been this genuinely excited about a baby train since childhood so I weathered it 4 hours after getting it. Or as Chris said ‘F*ck me. Speed weathering’.
I am very in love with her and until the wife notices it, it currently resides on the living room bookshelf and its giving me deviant ideas… that or she will be for sale next year having been put in the loft with the wife’s new juicer.