Thursday, 26 July 2012

Hornby's Murdoch

I have had Murdoch for a couple of weeks, and for those wondering why I took so long in writing this review, I have a life, get over it :).  Anyway, here it is!

First Thoughts
Christmas 2010.  I was given a Thomas Passenger and Goods set and I went to the pub with the family for Christmas lunch.  Other than that, though, Hornby announced the models they would be producing for the Thomas & Friends range.  Among them was a new Breakdown Crane, a Works Unit Van (which I reviewed here), Dart and Murdoch.

Picture from
Here is the original picture that was shown by Hornby.  As you can see, it's superbly detailed.  The model looked pretty much spot on to its TV series counterpart, with a few little extra bits of detail, to make it look like a real engine.  The only minor quibble being the black ladder at the rear of the tender.

It was on my 2011 Christmas list, but sadly it was released too late for my father to buy it.  I then put it on my 22nd birthday list, but he couldn't afford it (he got me Dart, though, which I may review later).  I thought I'd have to wait uuntil Christmas to get it.  That was until two weeks ago, when Model Railways Direct sold him for the stunning price of £54.95 (plus £3.99 P&P), and I found it hard to refuse, so I got him myself.

What You Get
Photo by eHattons

The model comes in the usual blue Thomas and Friends packaging with a yellow border.  A CG Thomas image is in the bottom corner, while the franchise's logo is in the oppisite corner at the top.  Next to it is Hornby's logo and, underneath, a yellow "sign" with the word "Locomotive" on it.  As I said in my review of the Works Unit Van, it would make a lot more sense to put the name of the loco in that sign rather than simply what it is.  Although, since Murdoch's name is seen through the plastic window, it's not disastrous.  Also on the box is a black "DCC Ready" sticker, the first Thomas & Friends model to have that honour.

The box opens with little flaps at each end of the box.  Once out, the model comes in a robust polystyrene tray and plastic inserts.  It also comes with two sets of instructions; one tells the modeller how to oil the engine's motor, and the other tells of how to fit the DCC component.  The DCC component also comes with the model, so there's no reason to worry about extra cost.

The Model

As soon as the model is released from the box, you can tell it has a quality feel.  From top tp bottom, the detail on the model is impeccable.  It hasn't really changed much from the promotional image by Hornby, although it seems a little less glossy (not that that's a bad thing, his TV portrayal isn't that glossy either).  The face is brilliant, a perfect representation of the character, and it's not a CGI style face (for those who prefer the model faces).  The only qualm is that his nameplate looks... odd.  Gone is the gold border and writing, and in its place, a yellow border and, the most disappointing, black writing that seems to camouflage into the smoke deflector.

However, one positive is that his center driving wheel is flangeless, which will allow it to corner easier.  Another little extra is that the model has metallic, sprung buffers!  It is also  one of the few Thomas and Friends tender engines that are loco driven, a trait that Spencer shares I believe.

Photo by eHattons

The rear of the model is a thing of beauty too.  The tender is fantastically detailed.  The coal looks real and the detailing around the tender's wheels is excellent.  The model features a ladder (which is orange rather than black), which is strange as I don't recall the TV portrayal having one.  Missing, though, is the green and red lining at the rear of the tender.  However, I don't feel that this detracts from the model's overall quality that much.  The rear buffers, like the front ones, are metal and sprung  The cab, like other Thomas and Friends tender engines, is very detailed, with little seats at each side.

Overall, this feels like a quality model, and I think it's the best model of the lot aesthetically.  I know Bachmann fanboys are gonna go ape, so I shall explain:
Bachmann have always been known for perfect representations of television series characters.  They do a fantastic job rendering each one, and over 10 years they have become better and better.  But it's... boring, to be frank.  They're far too predictable.  If you want to see a Bachmann model, all you have to do is imagine a TV series character's model scaled down to HO size.  Hornby, though, is very different.  They basically use existing models that look like a TV/Railway Series counterpart.  They are absolutely unpredictable.  They could be terrible (Edward, Emily), average (Dart, James) or absolutely fantastic (Henry, Spencer and Murdoch).  They are unpredictable, and that's what makes them great.

Sadly, since I have no layout set out, I can't test the model's speed or strength.  You may have to wait for someone like Simierski to do theirs.

The recommended retail price of this model is £98.75 (126.14, $154.90)*.  That may seem like a lot (probably because it is), but consider this.  Edward, a considerably poor render by Hornby of the character, is £99.99 (127.73, $156.83)*.  James, a rather average looking model, is £101.99 (130.26, $159.98)*.  And Gordon?  He has an R.R.P of, wait for it, £117.99 (150.70, $185.08)*.  All three of these models are inferior in quality than Murdoch, yet cost more (a lot more in Gordon's case)!

Should You Buy One?
It's personal preference, really.  I would, but I'd shop around and see the best deal you can get him for.  Sadly, the Model Railways Direct offer is no longer available as they have sold out of the model.  To be honest though, even if you get him straight from Hornby for the full RRP, it'll be a lot better value than Gordon, James and Edward.  BUT, and this is a big but, if you want a BR 9F "Evening Star" (Murdoch's basis), you may be better off getting the RailRoad version.  It's the same quality as Murdoch, and is a lot cheaper (£74.99, 95.77, $117.64 RRP)*.  Which begs the question, when you buy Murdoch, what are you paying for?

The answer?  Simple: The brand.  The Thomas & Friends brand is one of the most well known brands ever produced, and that £14 (17.88, $21.96)* extra is simply because big brands cost big money.

MODEL: 9.5/10
PRICE: 5/10 (good value for money compared to other Thomas and Friends tender engines, not very good when compared to the RailRoad version of the BR 9F "Evening Star")

* = Prices correct as of writing of the blog post