Pilot studies – at last, the original 26/0 from Heljan

After a period of speculation, informed opinion and occasional hints, Heljan have finally made a formal announcement at the Warley NEC show  that they are to manufacture the Pilot Scheme version (later designated 26/0) of the BRCW type 2  in its original condition.  (As an aside, it makes me smile wryly when I think of a forum post some time ago where someone had asked Heljan about this, to be met with the response of ‘we have no plans to do so’, and had taken that as an indication it would never happen.  Well, all that that meant was that at that time, they weren’t planning to do the model; it’s not the same as planning not to do it.  I have no plans for what I’m wearing a week next Wednesday, but that doesn’t mean I’m going out naked…).

A 26/0 is already in the range, along with the later build 26/1s that have been around some years, but only as the refurbished variant suitable only for the 1980s onwards.   There are quite a few noticeable differences between the subclasses, the Pilot Scheme locos having a greater number of cantrail grilles, lack of tablet catcher recess,  conventional droplight cab window, oval buffers rather than round, a slight difference in the shape of the footstep on the bogie and the provision of transverse leaf springs between the struts of the bogie sideframe.  The latter point is not reflected in the ‘refurb’ model, but is not necessarily incorrect as many 26/0s acquired bogies from later machines (and also round buffers) during the refurb work.  As an aside, I think the class (26) as a whole, for a relatively small number of 46 locos, exhibits an amazing amount of variation in both physical details and livery permutations.

The popular image of these locos is of course as Scottish stalwarts, but this first batch were not intended for that use (the lack of tablet catcher recess is a giveaway for this, as until the 1967 batch of D83xx class 20s, all type 1 or 2 locos intended for Scottish service had the recess as part of the specification).   Their first use was out of Kings Cross, on outer-suburban passenger services, but even when transferred north in order to rationalise operating requirements, they tended to remain mostly as Lowland engines.   That said, 5318/19 spent some time at Inverness in the ’60s and became the oddballs in the subclass.  5319 at some point early in its career underwent a small rebuild to incorporate a tablet catcher and associated sliding window, and 5318 was the only 26/0 to carry snowplough brackets.

In 1966, the first seven machines of the subclass were fitted with  dual brakes and slow speed control for use on the Cockenzie MGR circuit, losing their train heating boilers in the process.  The remainder continued in use on the usual cross-section of mixed traffic duties, with Fife and the Waverley route (whilst open) being amongst their regular haunts.  In 1976, the non-SSC locos were exchanged with Inverness’s 24s, with the latter locos then eking out their last few months of service from Haymarket.

Also announced by the Danes are an LNER Gresley O2 2-8-0, a bit of a curve ball, and a Hunslet class 05 diesel shunter; I’ve still to get my head around which variant they’re doing and how it fits into the scheme of things, but it’s a welcome development that may well indicate that in the ‘niche’ mindset that seems to work for them, they’ll continue with some of the other small shunters.   There was at one time some talk of Bachmann doing this class, on the running gear of their recently retooled 03, but then again, they also still have the possibility of the Drewry 04 to revisit.


Filed under Heritage diesels, Scottish railways

4 responses to “Pilot studies – at last, the original 26/0 from Heljan

  1. David Long


    I know that not all Heljan’s offerings have been met with universal acclaim but they have provided the ‘niche’ products which the other two big 4mm manufacturers may not have found attractive and, in this, they have performed a useful service. Unfortunately they don’t seem inclined to perform the same service in N so that Class 15 will probably remain as an unfulfilled dream!
    Interesting observations from you, as ever.
    Good to have a chat at Hull.


    • Hi Dave, likewise nice to see you. Without getting into well trodden ‘forum territory’ on this, I do think Heljan drop the ball more often than the other manufacturers, but overall I think we’re better off with them than without. For what it’s worth I think their BTH (15) is a cracker, very nearly on a par with the Hymek.

  2. For all it’s reported weaknesses and all too prototypical failure rate in the first batch, I also have to take my hat off to Heljan for providing the Claytons, something a modeller of the latter day Waverley Route cannot possibly avoid!
    Heljan do have a habit of dropping clangers although to be frank I’m only really aware of these issues because of the keen eyes of others. It has to be said though that when they are on top of their game they are absolutely that. I’m not aware of any issues with the MetroVick for example and this does to my eyes appear to represent Heljan at their best. Perhaps they are beginning to learn good habits as a result of collaboration with Hattons for example as the Garratt also appears to be shaping up rather well.

    • Yeah, I think, as I said on one of the forums recently, that it’s that contrast between the best and worst that jars. The Hymek, BTH class 15 and the railbuses (so far) are so good they make me weep 😉

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