Eleventh of Rosebud Kitmaster's
releases was their sleek “Biggin Hill”, Battle of Britain Class, engineered to the United Kingdom’s standard OO (4 mm, or 1/76) scale. Released in 1959, this model of a modern British Southern Railway
4-6-2 passenger locomotive was a sensation. Short-lived, but critically acclaimed, Rosebud Kitmaster kits of predominately British and European prototypes were, and still are, esteemed by countless model railroaders. The Kitmaster Biggin Hill was, in its day, an outstanding model, as were all the Kitmasters.
Southern Railway Battle of Britain Class
The Southern Railway introduced this new type of “Pacific” (4-6-2) locomotive in 1947 for use on the main train lines throughout the system. The locomotives were officially designated “Battle of Britain” Class and named for RAF squadrons, airfields, commanders and aircraft that participated in the Battle of Britain over Kent. They were designed to be as light as possible and yet to develop high power to enable them to haul heavy passenger and freight trains over any of the main lines. Forty-two of these 3-cylinder, simple expansion, high-pressure locomotives were built, these forming the “Battle of Britain” Class. Welding has played an important part in the building of the engines and their tenders, and has contributed significantly to the reduction in weight. Successful innovations such as streamlining, Bulleid patent valve gear, Bulleid-Firth-Brown cast type driving wheels (a later variation of the American Boxpok), clasp brakes, thermic siphons in the boiler and automatic lubrication of the valve gear were incorporated in the class.
Every comfort had been arranged for the engine crews, special provision being made with screens behind the drivers seat to prevent draught and to give a better view when the engine was running tender first. The controls in the cab had been arranged for the convenience of the driver and fireman, the arrangement being such that the whole of the operations carried out by the driver could be performed from his side of the cab. The firebox grates were arranged so that the bars could be shaken by a lever in the cab to break up any clinker that formed and dump any accumulation of ash.
The “Battle of Britain” Class engines have a length of 67ft and 4 ¾ in and a weight in working order of 133 tons 5cwts. The maximum boiler pressure is 2801bs per square inch and the tractive effort at 85% boiler pressure is 31000lbs.
Kitmaster engineered the Battle of Britain with 80 black plastic parts. The molding is sharp, with no flash nor ejection or mold marks visible. A few pieces have seam lines along edges that can be easily removed.
The model is designed to roll and the rods and valve gear works. Aftermarket motorizing kits, and perhaps still are, available for this model.
Happily there are no molded-on railings on the cab, boiler or tender. The streamlining sheathing precluded any railings. Sadly, no clear parts are provided for the windows, classification lights nor headlamps.
Test fitting promises a tight model.
Livery and decals
The Southern Railway’s livery was highly distinctive: locomotives and carriages were painted in a bright Malachite green above plain black frames, with bold, bright yellow lettering. The Southern Railway was nationalized in 1948, becoming the Southern Region of British Railways. This is the only decal and livery option, though with orange lining (striping). This is disappointing as there were forty-two of these machines named for RAF squadrons, airfields, commanders and aircraft that participated in the Battle of Britain over Kent. The Battle of Britain Class nameplates incorporated the name of the locomotive, with the class name below, in a design that resembled the wings of an aircraft. This was painted air force blue, though other colors were sometimes substituted for the same reasons as above. A crest of the aircraft, personality or squadron was placed below the nameplate.*
The assembled model is a pleasing 10.6 inches long. With the bright livery and busy running gear, it makes an awesome static model.
Happily, this is one of the kits Airfix improved and reissued. Even better, it was further improved and is still available from Dapol!
This model would make a great centerpiece in any post-war English diorama.