Is 42 really the answer to everything? …


Hornby in shock horror steam engine fiasco…. Hornby today released pictures of the ‘new’ 42xx which they claimed was all their own design. We can prove this is a lie and we the ‘foamati’ demand to know why at £119 million each… We took secret sneak pictures of the GWR 52xx which was designed in 1836 by Mr Ian Wright (ex-Arsenal), which has exactly the same number of wheels, cylinders AND a boiler!

You could be forgiven for thinking this way if you’ve scanned the interweb regarding Hornby’s 42xx. It seems to herald the impending death of:
A/ The hobby,
B/ Hornby PLC,
C/ Simon Kohler, (who appears to have his own personal frothwah, thats a bit like fatwah, only foamier)
D/ Life on earth

But it isn’t really the 42xx price that’s preoccupying me, or a belief of aliens in Suffolk. It’s price does work for me. Shock horror again, yes it does!, you did read that right. PDK’s 4mm kit alone costs £110, makes up into a good model, but you have to have the skill to make it, the time to make it and the budget to make it. Don’t forget the wheels and motor too. Comparing the two together that Hornby model actually has a significant edge on detail on the PDK kit, so putting it simply, for a finished model, Hornby is better value for money. You may save money finding a K’s 42xx kit but it’ll be cruder than a short changed Ipswich tart, and you’ll still have the problem of finding a good one that’s not been opened and spread across the kitchen table or made a fist of.

I bought a Hornby model and yes it had some issues. The major one was unique I think, as its not been mentioned on any current foamathon, and it would be noticeable to anyone with eyes. I sent Mr Kohler pictures of it and he immediately offered a replacement, which I declined as I can fix it and am happy overall with it as a starting point.


I’ve stripped the chassis down and degreased it, I felt there was a bit too much grease out of the box, a not uncommon problem in my experience. Between the motor and the flywheel there is a plastic housing for the worm gear. Once warm there was a small amount of seepage from this housing. I reduced this by making a simple gasket from a film of canopy glue, before replacing the cover which means there has been no subsequent leaks with cold or warm running. One of the interesting design elements is the square axle holes, like others I feel this is not the best way forward, however having recently made over a Railroad Class 40, I noted that too has square axle holes, so the technique clearly works even though it seems odd to say the least. I doubt my loco and the majority of others will see enough use to find these axle mounts an issue in terms of wear, my primary concern is that dirt and dust has an easier access point to the drive train.


The running of my chassis is good, though like the Heljan Class 14 there was significant lateral movement of each of the driving wheel sets. An easy fix for this is the Peco 1/8 inch fibre washers. By fixing these to the driving axles the sideplay can be minimised with little effect on the radii of the curves that can be used.
I’ve used the following axle washer combination
Leading axle six washers
Second axle four washers
Third axle Nil washers
Fourth axle six washers
The application of these washers has reduced the sideplay and gives better running as a result, the chassis can still negotiate Peco medium radii points with no adverse effect. A very simple, easy improvement and well worth doing.

The next improvement made was fixing the rear guard irons, or rather making some and fixing them. An unusual omission from Hornby, and making/fixing then makes a big visual impact to the model, more on that soon. The front bogie is next on the ‘to do’ list, and a quick makeover of the cab area is another feature that will bring this engine into sharp focus. Looking at the body there are some excellent design elements that in my opinion are very clever. ‘Design Clever’ may partly be PR speak as part of a branding exercise but I was really impressed with the body chassis fit and body assembly, where it will pay dividends versus a kit alternative.

So, what is it about the 42? Well, as a number, it is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything. As a toy train, the 42xx from Hornby is a good starting point for something very good indeed. Out of the box if you want a large GWR 42xx tank for a sensible price, its the only game in town, so this ’42’ is the answer..
By the time I’ve completed this makeover within a week or two I’ll have a cheap high quality model of a 42xx,

On the other hand, the foamers will have, well, more foam.

Not Everyone
Works For Peanuts …

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15 Responses to Is 42 really the answer to everything? …

  1. Phil says:

    The foaming anoyed the heck out of me and pretty much proved that all the stereotypes people have of railway modellers are true for those who spend all their time on the web. My feeling is that no one is forcing you to buy the thing. If you don’t like it, keep your money in your pocket. A GWR model loco is not like rice/bread/water you CAN live without it.

    This model can be improved. It’s not bad although if I’m honest, at full RRP, possibly a bit pricey, but as you say, a kit version will cost just as much and still require time and skill to make it as good as the RTR version.

    • Jim S-W says:

      Good article. Like Phil says ultimately you buy something or not depending on if you think it’s good value or how much you need/want it. I do sometimes wonder if some people ever went through the saving your pocket money stage of life where you couldn’t just have everything you want whenever you wanted it. It seems to be a feature of society itself rather than model railways specifically.

      • bawdsey says:

        That’s a bit philosophical Jim, but you’re on the money. I’m fortunate that I could purchase this model, though if I couldn’t afford it outright I’d have done without, sold something, or saved up and hoped one would still be available. With Hornby once the shop shelves are empty there’s often the chance to buy direct as well as time of release. If you really really must have a model they can be obtained, but in some cases people need to realise you’ll have to pay a buyers premium or do without. Such is life.

    • bawdsey says:

      Thanks Phil. One thing that has struck me as I look closer at the model and have stripped it down, there’s more ‘design clever’ that comes apparent. I think the PDK kit, as good as it is, will need a huge amount of additional effort to reach the subtle details standard that is included with the Hornby Model. That is really noticeable when you start to consider, ‘If I were building from a kit, how would I incorporate that?’. Which is why I’m more of the opinion it is worth the money, especially if you start to put any monetary value on modelling time. I do tend to do that, and think if I buy or build that component what is the real cost? I’ve bought this one because I really like the prototype and model, though it was very much a discretionary purchase, in the modelling I do, it currently hasn’t got a ‘place’.

      • Phil says:

        Putting money on modelling time is an interesting game. Try to quote for building a loco kit and it pretty quickly becomes apparent that there are those who “get it” and will spend a lot of money with the eleite builders and the rest. I once was asked “Do you know lots of millionaires then?” when asked how much to build a fiddly LMS dock tank. It would be best part of 40 hours work to do the job but apprently I should charge less than a days McDonalds wages for this…
        That’s why I don’t do it any more.

      • bawdsey says:

        I had the same thing when some asked me if I’d weather items for them. One thing money can’t buy yourself is ‘time’. You can buy other peoples time, but why anyone thinks that ‘time’ should be discounted to a price less than a MaccyD’s employee gets has always bemused me. I too don’t do it, but often do the mates rates thing where in effect your getting a skill set swap. Pricing that would be just as fraught, but at least both parties should know what they’re getting out of the deal.

  2. Phil says:

    I thought you were going to highlight the Warship……..

    • bawdsey says:

      Phil, that’s one type I’ve not had a model of since I EM’d a Mainline model in the mid 80’s. Looked nice, but ran like a two legged dog.

  3. James Wells says:

    The really odd thing with complaints over new models not being quite as good as expected is that those who tend to complain were, fifteen years ago, probably quite happy with whatever Margate produced! And when you look back, I’m pretty sure the RRPs from the nineties were actually relatively high for what you actually got…

    ‘Design Clever’ got off to a bad start; it’s not a new concept. Far from it, designing in such a way to save money/time/components is very common. However, the initial publicity (mostly on RMweb) didn’t do the whole thing any favours which is a shame as from what you’ve reported here there seems to be some intelligent design going on.

    At the more ‘finescale’ end I think the new models are seen for the potential they have – only the very best (and most time consuming) kits can really better many RTR products now. The one area where things at this end could be improved would be replacement motion – much like Brassmaster’s replacement rods for the 08/9. Surely an area for someone enterprsing enough?! Once things like this are replaced, a model finished carefully will not stand out from decent kitbuilds to the vast majority of people.

    • bawdsey says:

      There is clever design, perhaps we’ve got too used to the general contemporary RTR quality we sometimes miss it. I think that’s easily done on a loco, and even more pronounced on an item like Dapols signals where because there was a gap in the market, the short cuts taken in accuracy are accepted by the market. I’m not sure there is a market for off the shelf replacement rods for example, I’ve done the replacement kit thing myself at cheap cost and a huge visual benefit. If using the 42xx as an example, there seems to be plenty that won’t buy, (due to actual or perceived shortcoming), as well as those who will buy and not modify. It’d be a brave person to tool for such replacements, my money would be on constructive dialogue at shows or correspondence with manufacturers, in my experience, they do listen.

  4. Dave Smith says:

    “… I see only the basic materials I may use…”

    ‘Red Guitar’; David Sylvian, 1984.

  5. Kevin says:

    I bet some of the people who complained the loudest probably bought one when no one was looking and are enjoying the models in secret.

  6. Jon says:

    Hi bawdsey

    Thanks for the review. Most interesting and helpful, especially with regard to the lateral play on the drivers, which I’ve noticed is characteristic of a number of Hornby kettles. Please forgive my ignorance, but may I ask how you determine the correct number of washers to apply and also, how do you apply them to the axles without removing the wheels, please?

    Hope you don’t mind my asking.

    Many thanks,


    • bawdsey says:

      Not at all Jon, it is quite simple and straightforward if you have the ‘background’, what some of us forget is that not everyone has the same knowledge. It’ll make a good ‘fifteen minute hero’ so I’ll do a specific piece on it.
      Thanks for the question!

      • Jon says:

        Most kind, bawdsey; thank you.

        As a ‘lower end’ average modeller – on a good day – I shall look forward to it.


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