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If theres one loco i would really love one of the RTR producers to get spot on out of the box its the class 47.  Not because I like them, actually its the opposite, i dont.  I just cant rustle up much enthusiasm for them, give me a 50 or a peak any day.

There have been many attempts, the original hornby effort, although crude got the shape pretty well.  The less said about the underframe and bogies the better.  Then there was lima.  A lot better and when detailed up looked quite good but the bogies were a standard item and thus too short.  Heljan arrived in the UK market with a central motor and a sensible drive arrangement (A1A-A1A). Ok not the same as the real thing but once a bit of springing was applied to the centre axles it could pretty much cope with anything. One slight spanner in the works, the face was all wrong and it was 2mm too wide (gaining the name tubby duffs)

After a big gap Bachmann entered the class 47 market with a model derived from their earlier class 57, which came with a lot of class 57 details on the underframe (since corrected I believe) and odd looking windows. Plus it had all wheel drive which means in P4 they are a bit iffy as they tend to rock on the centre axle. Finally we have ViTrains.  Essentially a stalled lima re-hash of the class with a heljan style drive, the right width and better bogies than the Bachmann effort. The Vitrains model is so nearly there but not quite.  Unlss Dapol decide to have a go its fair to say we may never see the definitive class 47.

It was a conversation with my friend Phil that drew my attention back to the Lima 47.  As all things lima pretty much slagged of on forums due to pancake drive and the lack of extra bits stuck on and value added price points like working lights they were discarded in droves for the newer models but as is Lima’s way the toolmakers had something about them that just ‘got it’!  Its not perfect the windscreens are wrong for a start but it is perhaps the most fixable.

On the left a lima body on the ViTrains chassis, on the right the ViTrains version.  Note the height difference over the body (the photo was arranged so that the roof lined up) and the more raked back look of the vitrains windscreen.

47840 at New Street

The size of the Vitrains windscreens seems to big to me and perhaps the nose is a little flat. While the Lima model features replacement window frames from Shawplan.  The top of the nose is too curved though.  I also think I need to mount the window frames a bit lower on the next one.

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7 years ago

Also the gap between the loco body and bogies is more acceptable to the eye on the Vima combination. I have observed that some people lower the body on the ViTrains model. However this then lowers the cantrail of the Class 47 cabs which then no longer match the cantrail of the coaching stock. If I ever win the Euromillions lottery a decent model of a 4mm Class 47 is top of the priority list for model railways.

Paul Empy
7 years ago

I must admit my current preference 47 wise is the Vitrains model with Shawplan components. I have lowered the Vi body too, and whilst the cantrail is a touch lower for me the improved sit of the locomotive body offsets the height difference. The current Bachy 47’s have been modified with improved cab windows and corrected tanks. However I’m not sure the mods have been carried across the entire current catalogue versions.


Jonathan Hughes
Jonathan Hughes
7 years ago

Hi Jim; ah, the perennial debate continues. I think that there’s much to compare on the 47s: the nose of the Heljan one looks good and seems to sit right despite its girth, the ViTrains one is nicely crisp and has superb bogies… and the Bachmann one is reasonable in dimension but needs refinement. I’ve limited experience with the Lima one, but I agree that when our old one runs on my father’s layout it does really look like a 47.
Having picked up a ViT 47 recently (old one) I can see the need for rework on the front end… it doesn’t look quite right. However, with some rework, the Bachmann one can be improved, as you’ve seen me try to tackle – one day I’ll finish this. The bogies need considerable improvement (a 57 was not a good start point for these)… and as for the tanks, well, less said the better – more work. I did consider using Heljan bogie sideframes but these have their limitations in refinement and I’m convinced that what I’ve achiveved in detailing the bachmann one will work out ok.
Love them or loath them, the 47s were an everyday part of the scene… wherever we went; now they’re quite a catch. I always likened them to the diesel equivalent of a Black 5, and I think this works well. You’ve a nice selection and I’ll need a couple, although I can’t see myself doing what I’m working now more than once.

Jonathan Hughes
Jonathan Hughes
7 years ago

Maybe something to add to the queue… I was working on a nice 55 to start with 😉 but yes a “good” 47 would be nice. Are you going to go for a Western… for a brief retro moment? Surely you could; I’m getting one and they’re way off region for me