Thanks to Ellis Clark for sending the samples for review. I have received a Brake Second and a Second Open. There are four other vehicles within the range to choose from giving a varied train. Brake Second (BS) - These, the most common suburban coach type due to them being the sole brake end coach designed and built, were used throughout the UK on the Eastern, Midland, Scottish, and Western regions. Composite (C) - This compartment coach, built without a corridor, was used on Western, Midland and Scottish routes. The Eastern region has none, instead opting for coaches fitted with lavatories. Composite Lavatory (CL) - As stated above, the CL coaches were used solely on Eastern region branch lines. As these compartment coaches required corridors to access to the toilets (two of) and, as squeezing the maximum amount of passengers into a coach was usually the priority, the other regions opted against their use. Second Class Compartment (S) - These coaches were used by all but the Southern region, who as mentioned above, opted for a few of the longer framed 63' 6" chassis suburbans. Second Open with Lavatory (SLO) - Much like the CL coaches, these were only built for use on the Eastern region and were built as 'open' coaches with no corridor and two lavatories built in the centre. Second Open (SO) - These open coaches were brought in as an attempt to reduce station waiting times, as passengers could board the train and then search for a seat, as opposed to searching for one from the platform. Regardless, they were only used on Midland and Western region services.
A Brief History
The suburban Mark 1’s started production in 1954. Around the time that mainstream DMU’s were about to be unleashed onto the network in any quantity, and were designed to replace the numerous pre-nationalised coaches that existed on services both within the suburbs and the remote lines. The model is based on the more common, 57ft vehicle, rather than the 63ft 5in version which could be found in a variety of EMU’s and as loco hauled sets on the Southern. However the southern did inherit some of the shorter framed vehicles with regional boundary changes in the 1960’s. In post steam times it is a type of vehicle that is long associated with workings out of Kings Cross and the Widened Lines to Moorgate, all with a variety of early diesels. There are reports of Deltic to the seaside on a rake of Surburban coaches. Generally they were kept in fixed formations of at least 3 or 4 vehicles combined to give 6, 7 or 8 coach formations. They were finally being displaced at the of September 1977 by EMU’s. I certainly have memories as a small boy being hastily bundled into one of the compartments at Moorgate by my parents for the short blast to Kings Cross behind a Class 31. A few have found their way into preservation, a rake of 4 vehicles can be found restored on the North Norfolk Railway for example. For more details there is a section on the Ellis Clark Website dedicated to the Suburban stock at: https://www.ellisclarktrains.co.uk/blogs/projects/mk1-surburbans.
What’s in the Box
Besides the coach there are a number of packs within the comprehensive packaging: There is a instruction booklet and transfer set in one pack, and 3 packs of super detail door hinges that can be added by the owner. At the time of the review these have not been fitted but I do wonder whether it would add much in the way of costs to have these fitted from the factory. I do seem to recall that Ellis Clark offers a service to get these fitted if you are not confident adding them yourself though I have since been unable to find this option on the website.
Based on the 57ft Mark 1 chassis and comes fitted with compensated BR 1 bogies. It is the first time I’ve come across this particular type, and I particularly like the fact that the primary springs are actually coiled springs rather than moulded plastic. One bogie contains the electrical pickups for the internal lighting and working tail lamp on the Brake model. There is also a small switch so that you can turn off these features.
Whilst looking at the lower part of the model, there is a well detailed underframe including brake rodding. I can’t help thinking the dynamo looks a bit crude due to its robust moulded brackets. As a modeller, I would consider bending a piece of brass/plasticard strip to create a belt that reaches into the bogie frame and also some wires from the dynamo to add some more detail. Above the frames is where we tend to pay attention more as this is where the eye naturally falls to a model first. The model captures the prototype very well with the Mark 1 curvature profile and well detailed grab handles and door latches. Etched into the brass are lines to represent the door openings and slightly raised sections along the captive edge where the supplied hinges should be located. To make the model look better, I would recommend that these should be added.
This brings us on nicely to the interiors. These are lit by bright white lights when running on my DCC test track which runs at 18v AC, but put 9v across them and they are more pleasing and realistic tungsten tone. The lighting is fabulous for showing off the detailed interiors, especially the fine meshed luggage racks. I must commend the manufacturer on the effort that has gone into the interiors as they really do stir memories of the compartments on the real things. I feel the interior lights on the higher voltage DCC test track need to be toned down to represent the old tungsten lighting that these were fitted, rather than harsh fluorescent lighting which the higher voltage produces. The instruction manual tells you how to remove the roof so that you can add passenger figures for that added extra amount of realism. If you vehicle has the bright lights when running these on DCC, I’d consider adding some yellow paint to the LED lights in order to tone them down, or adding a resistor in the system if you have the roof off.
The manufacturer has made a good job of the ends of the coaches, with the full width lighting control rod on one end of the non-brake vehicles, but I do think the coaches would benefit from dummy brake and steam heat pipes. Perhaps these could be obtained as an optional extra as I’m aware that some people use the large Kadee couplings between inner vehicles in rakes and may not wish for these to be fitted. However to be prototypical these vehicles were never fitted with anything but shackle couplings, as per the actual model. The Brake vehicle is fitted with a working tail lamp, a very nice touch, if a little large. But perhaps similar to the interior lights the brightness it needs to be turned down a bit, as it represents the older dim oil lamps rather than the newer Flashing or LED systems in use currently.
The roof has finely moulded ribs to represent the galvanised sheets of metal used in the roof construction. This adds character to the models, however the lighter grey colour of the roof seems a far cry from the images of these vehicles in service. It is more common for them to be painted in micaceous iron oxide paint giving the roof a much darker colour. The Brake vehicle is also fitted with Guards Periscopes openings. Whilst fitted to the early production models these would have been removed from the stock at early in their career, much like so many of the other types of stock so fitted and probably not accurate for this incarnation of the model. The moulded air vents are correctly patterned, and if you remove the roof ensure that you put on them back on correctly as the vents will need to line up correctly with the compartments.
In conclusion the Darstaed Suburban models would be an excellent addition to any railway based post 1955 to late 1977 Britain, as there are various types of carriage and liveries available. They are a suitable alternative to a DMU, and give the modeller an opportunity to realistically run smaller formations of trains with a variety of traction types. As an Eastern Region modeller they are a welcome addition to the market. With Heljan re-releasing the Brush Type 2 I can see an opportunity for someone to develop a city based layout on the former routes that these are associated with.
The coaches are available in the following colours : Crimson. Maroon, Lined Maroon and plain BR Blue and be selected from following configurations: Second Open (SO), Brake Second (BS), SLO (Second Lavatory Open), Composite Lavatory (CL), Composite (C) and Second (S). The two latter models are compartment only with the typical bench seats across the width of the carriage,
The collection of models fills a ready to run gap, and being sold at £169.00 each, they certainly offer excellent value for money! On the website packs can be purchased at £665 for a set of four coaches in unlined and lined maroon liveries, I’m hoping that Ellis also considers selling the other colours in bundle packs too.
On a personal note I think these are excellent well-built, highly detailed models and the interiors are first class. Yes there are some niggles, but these don’t detract from the quality of the overall vehicles. Further information on the prototype vehicles can be found on the following internet pages https://www.mandgn.org/page.php?pid=20
Reviewing these on behalf of the MIOG Team and Ellis Clarke, has bought back many memories of rattling through the tunnels of the widened lines under London with the stench of diesel fumes flooding into the carriages. Happy Memories indeed.