Posted by: aj427 | January 13, 2016

Hornby J50s for Bowling Street Goods – A Review

Hornby J50

I finally received my first Hornby J50s – a brace of J50/3s – last week and had the chance to have a good look at them last night. In due course they will be renumbered to Bradford Bowling shed locomotives for use on Bowling Street Goods (and beyond). I wouldn’t have minded a J50/4 but there’s no evidence these were used in Bradford or on the Queensbury Lines. There are plenty of reviews regarding the general build, robustness and slow speed running of these models so instead I’ll concentrate on the accuracy and faithfulness to the prototype.

Hornby J50

The overall shape is well captured and manages to convey the slightly brutal and heavy look of these tank locos. In terms of detail Hornby’s ‘design clever’ ethos of a few years ago seems to be well and truly a thing of the past (more on this later). All details are present and well represented including the blower rod, cocks on the smokebox front, reverser rod (hidden in the tank recess), raised tank filler caps, sand boxes with angled steps and undercab injectors (these are very fine, a long way from the old J94 for example). Just the rear lamp irons are moulded onto the body. Parts such as the coal rails and front steps are by necessity slightly chunkier for robustness but still look pretty fine. The guard irons are part of the cast chassis and as such are slightly on the chunky side. A rather nice feature is the wheel boss which is set further out than the wheel rim as on the prototype with the spokes curving outwards towards the centre.

Hornby J50 cabThe inside of the cab is also very well detailed with individually coloured parts. It’s well hidden but one of the best I’ve seen and includes the cupboard at the back above the bunker. As is usual a detail pack includes the brake rigging. Unusually it also includes tension lock couplings as these are not fitted to the model by default. This suits me just fine as I’m not using them but I would imagine there will be some who bemoan this ‘feature’!

Hornby J50 topI do have a few small criticisms and most of these would be applied to the top of the model. In fairness to Hornby there are not many photographs that actually show this detail but the picture of Bradford Bowling shed in the LNER engine sheds book illustrates this area very well (the picture shows mainly J50/1 and J50/2 but there are a couple of J50/3s). The curved plates that form the joint between the boiler and the tanks are a little undersized to my eyes and lack any edge detail or rivets in contrast to this and other photographs. Some locos also seem to have the blower rod recessed into the plate immediately before the cab rather than completely exposed as on the Hornby model (note that I’ve never seen this on a picture of a J50/4). Also there should be a distinct band front to back under the raised safety valve cover to the first boiler band. Finally the exposed fronts of the frames above the front buffers should have holes in for lifting. I imagine this would be an easy modification.

I’ve seen some criticisms of the number of lamp irons (modelled as built to GNR practice) but I personally think this is a case of Hornby being damned if they did or didn’t and trying to cover all eventualities. There’s plenty of photographic evidence to suggest that a number of the class kept the full compliment into the BR-era. If you do need to remove them for your chosen prototype/time period, the front ones are easy to remove, the bunker ones less so.

Hornby J50 R3324

No.635 (R3324) depicts one of the first batch of J50/3s and as such features GNR buffers. These are well done and hopefully Hornby will release them as spares as they’re better than the Alan Gibson ones in my opinion. The loco is depicted as built in 1926 with the safety valves straight on the firebox top and open coal rails. Likewise the livery matches this mid-late 1920s time period with the fine red lining and LNER letters and numbers particularly well applied and looks smart. The full compliment of lamp irons is correct for this particular loco (on the front at least) until at least 1950.

Hornby J50 R3324

Hornby J50 R3326

No. 68971 (R3326) depicts one of the second batch of J50/3s in the post 1956 BR-era towards the end of its life. This batch featured group standard LNER buffers. I’ve not checked to see if these are the same as ones used on any other Hornby models such as the B17. The safety valves correctly sit on the raised cover and the coal rails are plated. The small rear cab windows are also correct for this time period. However, the full set of lamp irons is incorrect for this particular loco at this time.


Although there is little evidence of the ‘design clever’ ethos in the detail, there certainly is in the construction of the model. Essentially what we have here is a clip together kit of interchangeable parts. Whilst this causes some slight issues – the joint between the body and the cab sides is quite noticeable and would benefit from some filler – it means that Hornby (or indeed the end user, using multiple models) can easily swap, change or add parts do many of the variations associated with this class. One of the announced 2016 models is J50/3 68959 (R3407). This Bradford based loco featured quadrant rear spectacle plates in the BR-era so I will be interested to see if Hornby model this feature with an alternate cab back.

All in all I think Hornby have come up with a cracking model of the J50 capturing its quirky looks and details very well. It’s also a useful loco with a wide geographical range that should make it a good seller and whilst the early LNER liveried model may not be that useful to many modellers the smart livery will certainly attract casual purchasers and collectors.

Hornby J50


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