Bachmann's 4mm scale model of a Wickham Railcar is something I've been looking forward to since it was announced years ago. I once built a Springside whitemetal static version which combined being tiny with being full of nothing much. How anyone was going to produce a motorised version, without resorting to the canvas sides used in poor weather to hide the model's interior, was a mystery to me.
A clue to the solution could be found in an old model railway magazine, Railway Modeller I think. There, someone with more ingenuity than I produced a powered model using the same kit as my static version, but with a addition of a trailer providing a home to a motor filched from something N gauge.
A pair of traction tyres are fitted to the driven axle. Commenters on the web have suggested that these are evil and should be discarded. That's their choice but when they do this, the model will thrash around with wheels spinning uselessly. It seems that Bachmann didn't just make a set of grooved wheels for the fun of it, but because that's how you make this thing work. It reminds me of suggestions on VW aircooled forums that the entire thermostat system could be removed from the engine because some bloke in a garage knew better than a German car maker with some of the best trained engineers in the world.
Anyway, assuming you leave things alone, and if you don't there are a spare pair of tyres in the packing, the model runs very nicely indeed. As mentioned a few days ago, we gave one a good thrash on Ruston Quays and it was perfectly happy running back and forth over the Tillig point. Smoothness improved after about half an hour, and we could turn the speed down a bit too.
I'm really impressed with this. Bearing in mind the model has to be capable of running on anyones OO layout, the design is impressive. Yes, there are people who talk about micro motors driving special gearboxes hidden in the railcar end, but those who have tried this know it to be incredibly difficult and unlikely to be reliable for very long.
For under £70, this is quite a model. Yes, it's tiny and if I'm honest, a bit of a gimmick. These things didn't run very fast so mixing it up with your main line traffic won't be very realistic - which won't stop loads of modellers enjoying them. I look forward to seeing Wickham's being chased along layouts by APT-E's (a equally useless but appealing model for most of us) on layouts.
Currently available in BR maroon and more modern yellow. Repainting would be easy and it really could do with a crew (Apparently there will be some Scencraft figures available). I'll do something about this and add a bit of dirt at some point.
Great fun and much more rhobust than the whitemetal version.