Model review: Top model choices from 2019

Making a choice from the diverse range of models released during 2019, all of which were produced to a high standard, is not an easy task, but Nigel Burkin rises to the challenge to make his own top picks for 2019.

Traditional norms in the hobby are being challenged by the rise of small and emerging manufacturers which are also raising standards in accuracy and technical innovation. During 2019 they grew alongside more traditional manufacturers, with some interesting releases arriving in the shops.

Accurascale and Irish Railway Models successfully introduced the concept of runner packs for OO-gauge wagon models with packs of two, three and five models being made the norm, all with individual running numbers and bespoke markings in some cases.


O gauge continues to grow in popularity, and manufacturer support is keeping pace, with Dapol and Heljan producing some exemplary models at attractive prices. From exquisite steam locomotives to rolling stock, both companies have models in the 2019 top picks.

Technological developments are also being advanced, with ever-more-sophisticated electronics being built into models for lighting effects, digital sound and control. The Bachmann OO-gauge Class 90 stands out, with its dedicated decoder for the operation of the pantograph and advanced locomotive lighting. Dapol’s N-gauge Class 50 has electronics for advanced lighting effects when fitted with the appropriate NEXT18 decoder. 

Its Version 2 OO-gauge Class 73 also featured more advanced lighting circuitry for the cab and running lights, exploring what can be done with multiple-pole plug and play decoders and circuit board switching.


Hornby has been one of the most prolific manufacturers in 2019, with a host of new coaches for GWR and BR modellers including the Collett GWR main line stock reviewed in this issue alongside the Maunsell suburban coaches and BR Mk.2f stock.

There is no doubt that wallets and payment cards took a little beating this year. The following is the final cut of models that have done much to enrich the hobby and inspire layouts and dioramas. 

Some of the models represent the progress made in the hobby, while others are included for the simple pleasure they have given. Here are some top steam locomotive choices for the year.


Heljan O-gauge 43XX

In O gauge, the Heljan GWR/BR 43xx class 2-6-0 finished in lined BR green livery romps in with its amazing likeness to the full-sized locomotives. 

A masterpiece in injection-moulded plastic, it is detailed to a very high standard including cab backhead and a wealth of detail on the engine itself and photographing it was a real pleasure. When its £779 price tag is considered for the level of detail and fine running, it is good value for money and difficult to have one built for that price.

• Finely tooled body shell assembly with subtle detail for rivets and boiler bands.


• Tender fitted with brake rodding and water chute detail.

• Sprung plastic buffers.

• Separately applied wire handrails and handrail knobs.

• Five-pole motor with brass flywheel.

• Designed to accept an ESU Loksound L4.0 digital sound decoder.

• Illuminated firebox with fire glow.

• Detailed cab with separately fitted pipes and controls to the backhead.

• Cab interior details painted with appropriate colours.

• Adjustable sprung screw link couplings and coupling guards.

• Separate footplate to tender fall plate.

• Separate whistle and safety valve detail.

• Brake details fitted in line with the driving wheels.

• Length: 410mm over the buffers.

• Weight fully assembled including tender: 1540g.

Hornby ‘Princess Coronation’ Pacifics

Hornby is particularly good at large main line steam locomotives, and its ‘defrocked’ LMS ‘Duchesses’ made a good impression on the team at RMM. The two review models are a great representation of what the company is capable of.

Both models, blue-liveried BR No. 46225 Duchess of Gloucester (R3682) and LMS lined black No. 6241 City of Edinburgh (R3681), were featured this year and are reissued models following the successful introduction of the model in 2017, which included a new mechanism which performed well.

Model finishing included a great deal of detail painting alongside a host of separate detailing parts which enhances the well-proportioned body and tender of both models.

• ‘Defrocked’ condition locomotive with the correct taper in the top of the smokebox.

• Removable coal load in tender.

• Detailed coal chute with coal pusher.

• Sprung metal buffers.

• Five-pole motor fitted to the locomotive.

• Numerous stand-alone fittings including safety valves, whistle and handrails.

• Brake shoes on both locomotive and tender are lined up with the wheel tyres.

• Flanged trailing bogie wheel supplied in the box.

• NEM coupling pocket fitted to the tender.

• Wire handrails fitted to separate handrail knobs.

• Detailed and painted cab backhead.

• Eight-pin DCC socket.

Oxford Rail LNER Class N7 0-6-2T tank locomotive

The diversity of manufacturers in British outline model railways has added greatly to the richness of the hobby, and Oxford Rail’s contribution is no exception, topped by its new LNER N7 0-6-2T tank locomotive.

The review model was finished in plain unlined black and is delightfully detailed, with a lot of fittings applied to a relatively small model. It represents a Stratford-built locomotive with condensing equipment and air brakes for use on suburban trains – workaday traffics that made up an important part of railway operations.

It has been tooled to incorporate the differences in various Class N7 sub-classes, including Belpaire and round top fireboxes to cover different time periods, liveries and traffics. Die-cast metal was a dominant material in its construction, providing much weight where it is needed in a small locomotive.

• Sprung metal buffers.

• Motor located in the boiler.

• Eight-pin DCC interface located in the bunker.

• Current collection through all six driving wheels.

• NEM coupling pockets.

• Separate wire handrails.

• Representation of detail between the frames at the front of the model.

• Separate whistle and safety valve detail.

• Lamp irons and water tank filler hatch covers fitted separately.

• Flush glazing applied to the cab windows.

• Brake details fitted in line with the driving wheels.

• Length: 140mm over the buffers.

• Weight: 295g.

Hornby Peckett B2 0-6-0ST locomotive

The beauty of industrial shunting engines is that most modellers can find an excuse to own at least one. Hornby has been clever with its choice of liveries, too, with the green Westminster perfect for some refinishing and customisation for freelanced industrial railways.

So far, two models have been issued for review, including a model of the locomotive that worked at Ryhope Colliery. Superbly detailed, including some lovely cab fittings and a smooth-running mechanism, the Pecketts are well on their way to selling out in many shops at the time of writing.

• Die-cast running plate.

• Numerous fine details including whistle and safety valves.

• Unsprung metal-headed buffers.

• Detailed cab backhead and controls.

• Separate brake standard fitted to the cab.

• NEM coupling pockets fitted to the chassis.

• Six-pin DCC interface.

• Flush glazing applied to the cab.

• Wire handrails fitted to metal handrail knobs.

• All-wheel electrical pick-up.

• Accurately modelled motion.

• Three-pole skew-wound motor.

• Weight: An impressive 180g through the use of a die-cast metal saddle tank.

• Length over buffers: 98mm.

The Newcomer’s Guide to Model Railways

In this comprehensive guide to railway modelling, long-time modeller Brian Lambert provides newcomers — as well as established modellers who may want to enhance their skills — with a single-volume source of information on all aspects of the hobby, from the basics of baseboards to the intricacies of modern Digital Command Control.  Get your copy today and start modelling.

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