Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Hornby's Works Unit Van

Last week, I managed to get the new Hornby Thomas lime wagons and the works unit van.  So, for those who are thinking about buying it, I decided to give the model a once over to see if what you get is worth the money you pay for it.

First Thoughts
I first heard about the release of the Works Unit Van on Christmas Day last year.  Then again, you couldn't exactly miss it with so many people uploading the pictures to YouTube...  Anyway, I was quite excited by it, as it would've been the perfect accompanyment to the breakdown crane which, as it turns out, was being re-released for this year (so for those hoping for a new and improved Spencer can look at the crane and think "if they re-tooled that, they could also be re-tooling Spencer).  But the pictures told a different story.  It looked quite plain on the picture that Hornby released, but I had hope that, during the 12 months between the announcement and the release that something would've been changed to make it look better.

What You Get

Picture from eHattons

The model is boxed in Thomas and Friends packaging, which has been re-designed since 2008.  There is a CGI promo picture of Thomas on the right, the Thomas and Friends logo in the top left corner, and Hornby's logo next to it in the centre of the packaging.  Underneath is the strange addition of the term "Rolling Stock".  I say this because the Hornby Thomas train sets have had this sort of layout (minus the CGI Thomas promo until 2010) since Thomas and the Great Discovery in 2008.  Inside the yellow plaque is the name of the set rather than just "Train Set".  Which got me thinking: why didn't they put the name of the rolling stock on this plaque as well as on the yellow bar code label on the side?

That aside, the box opens with flaps at either end to reveal a plastic tray and many plastic inserts to keep the product safe.  It is very robust, and it will keep the model safe very well.

The Model

Photo from eHattons

This model really is very disappointing.  For a company that bought us great rolling stock like S. C. Ruffey, the circus vans and the green and red express coaches, they really have failed as far as this is concerned.  It's basically a re-paint of the old Sodor Mail and Cream Utility vans.  The colouring isn't right either, although it is crisply painted.  But the biggest problem with it, apart from the price which I'll get to later, is that it doesn't know what it is.  I think it would've been better if they'd have included the words "WORKS UNIT" on the sides like the television series alternative.

However, it does have some good qualities.  Unlike the two vans before it, the brown livery of the works unit van is applied on all four sides.  The Sodor Mail and Cream Utility vans have a black livery on the front and back.  Also, the detailing on the undercarriage and the bodywork is brilliant.

The recommended retail price (R.R.P. ) of this model is a staggering £15.25 (18.04, $23.79).  This left me absolutely flabbergasted.  When the Sodor Mail was released, I paid £7 for it - but I bought 2 so it was £14 for both), while I bought the cream utility van a week before I got the works unit van for £11.75 (from what I can remember).  But since it's rare I was expecting it to be more than it was when it was first released.  But to pay £15.25 for a brand new piece of rolling stock, which is also quite flawed in design, is absolutely farcical.  Luckily I shopped around and found it here for £12.25 - with free UK postage and packaging.  But even this is quite expensive for what it is.

Should you buy one?
In my opinion, not in a million years.  If I'd have known then what I know now I wouldn't have even thought about getting it.  It is a flawed model in design and colour, and is never worth the massive price tag that it's been given.  To be honest, there are three things I can suggest:
  1. If you REALLY want this model, wait until the new year and hope the price goes down
  2. Write to Bachmann US and request that they make a Works Unit van
  3. If all else fails, make your own.
MODEL: 4/10
PRICE: 1/10


  1. $23.79 for a coach? That is too expensive for me. I know that the price range in the U.S. and the U.K. are different and all, but $23 for just a poorly detailed coach like this, it's just not worth it. Maybe in the future, Bachmann might make the Breakdown Crane, but I think that won't be made for a long while. To be fair, the Unit Van doesn't look as bad as Hornby Emily or Edward, but it's very close to be Hornby's worst.

  2. £15.25 ($23.79) for a van like this is definately too much, but I'd gladly pay that for Hornby's express coaches as they are a lot better than Bachmann's and a lot better than this van.

    I'm not saying this is Hornby's worst model, since they've made Edward and Emily. But I do think it's their worst piece of rolling stock.

  3. It's a bit of a let down- good concept for a model, but does need the lettering and a cheaper price tag.....
    The lime wagons are much the same.....