This has got to be the most obvious of ex Lima models for Hornby to release. The Metro-Cammell class 101 was once seen across the length and breadth of the country from introduction in 1956, up until the last withdrawals in 2003, a span of almost 50 years and therefore is a must for almost any modeller.
Until the mid 1990s when Lima released their popular model, the only ready to run version of the 101 was a rather crude one from Triang / Hornby, who ceased production of this model in the late 70s. Lima spotted an obvious gap in the market.
In 2004 Lima ceased trading in the UK and the class 101 was once again only available second hand, fetching ridiculous amounts of money on sites such as Ebay. Prices as high as £130 for a three car blue and grey model were not uncommon. So well done Hornby for listening to us, and providing us with a much needed reasonably priced model.
Straight from the box the Hornby model has a very convincing look, however, this credit is due mainly to Lima. The livery application is excellent, as is the case with most current Hornby models. Only some minor queries here being; the shade of the warning panel on the blue and grey model. In my opinion it is too dark and looks more like a custard yellow than a warning panel yellow. (It is a slight improvement over the very plastic looking yellow of the Lima model though) Also, with the 3 car blue and grey model, on the two first class areas, only one should have 'no smoking' signs in the windows. The windscreen wipers and exhaust outlets come fitted on the Hornby model (as opposed to separately fitting on Lima models), and are painted accordingly. A good touch.
Curiously on the blue and grey model, Hornby have chosen to use the tooling of an example with four headlights, as opposed to the tidied up front end version of the "refurbished" units that had just two head lights, with the centre and roof level lights removed. This model is not necessarily incorrect, but as the vast majority of units were in a refurbished state come the blue and grey livery, it perhaps would have made more sense to release a "refurbished" version rather than the, by then less common unrefurbished unit.
On the track, the Hornby model performs very well and is very smooth running in both directions. The newer Hornby 5 pole skew wound motor is a vast improvement over the noisy Lima motor. Unlike some modern DMU models, this does not have the motor centrally mounted, powering both bogies. Instead the motor is mounted in one bogie and hidden inside the guards van, as with the Lima model. The fact that only one bogie is powered is not an issue here, as the length of the train in question is very short in comparison to that which a locomotive could be hauling around a layout.
As with most other ex Lima offerings from Hornby, the effort that has been put into bringing these up to acceptable modern standards is clear. They are however completely let down by the functional, but oversized Lima couplings. The appearance of this model would be improved dramatically with sensibly sized couplings similar to Bachmann's, or indeed Hornby's own coupling that is applied to their new models. Working lights and decent couplings would definitely bring this model up to modern standards.
To date, we have BR green, BR all over blue, blue and grey, and Scotrail (Strathclyde PTE) liveries available. No doubt, Network Southeast will follow soon. It would also be nice to see the short lived white with blue stripe livery, bizarrely overlooked by Lima in the model's earlier days.
Overall, this is a reasonable model that represents good value for money. It can be found for as little as £65.00, but expect to pay around £75.00 including postage. On a rating out of 10, we give Hornby Class 101 DMU 7 / 10.
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(Prices current at 2009)