Bachmann ‘Bubble Car'
Rail Express|May 2020
Pressed Steel Class 121 single car DMUs are the latest brand-new ‘OO’ gauge models to arrive from Bachmann. Employing its new low profile drive mechanism to clear the passenger compartment for seats and fittings, the Class 121 builds on the success of Bachmann’s new approach to multiple unit modelling first introduced in the Class 158 and Class 159.

REPUTED to be the longest surviving first-generation DMUs, the Class 121 has something of a following among enthusiasts which will make the brand-new ‘OO’ gauge model by Bachmann a popular choice for collectors and compact layout owners.

When unboxing the model, the first impression was that Bachmann has achieved the correct shape and character of the Class 121 ‘Bubble Car’. The roof is smooth, free of unsightly grooves that plagued earlier models of the Class 121 and the ‘Derby’ design cabs are as they should be with their three large windows. No motor intrudes into the passenger cabin or guards van area.

It’s an exciting representation of the 16 DMBS vehicles making up Class 121 (there appears to be no plans to produce the 10 matching unpowered DTS vehicles at this time) intended for strengthening Thames Valley services and Western Region branch train operation in Berkshire, Avon, Devon and Cornwall to mention a few. Built by the Pressed Steel Company in 1960 and 1961, they lasted both in revenue service and as departmental vehicles well into the Privatisation era including use of three relatively unmodified units (121027/029/031) by Silverlink on Marston Vale line services between Bletchley and Bedford until replaced by Class 150/1s in 2002.

As single car units, the Class 121s are equipped with a driving cab of the ‘Derby’ design at each end together with a guard’s van area and Standard Class seating for 65 passengers in two high-density saloons separated with a screen. Seating is in three-plus-two format accessed through slam-doors leading to each seating bay.

A four-character headcode box of the same type as Class 117s was fitted to the cab roofs, distinguishing them from the similar Class 122 Gloucester ‘Singles’ which bore destination boxes instead. The exhaust pipes fitted to the cab at the guard’s van end were excessively curved to clear them giving the Class 121 their unique character. Class 121s refitted for modern operations with Arriva Trains Wales and Chiltern Trains had the exhausts relocated alongside other modifications to bring them up to modern standards.

Two 150hp AEC or Leyland engines linked to a mechanical transmission, one for each bogie, provided power for the 38t units. They were rated for a maximum operating speed of 70mph, although acceleration was not particularly good, particularly when paired up with a DTS. The units could be operated in multiple with other DMUs with the same blue square multiple working equipment including Class 117s. Side buffers are fitted together with screw link couplings and vacuum brakes.

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