Friday, 18 December 2015

Review: Southern Rail Models Xplorer


I'll have to be honest here, the Southern Rail Models HO scale NSW CountryLink Xplorer train is the sole reason I abandoned N scale modelling after more than 30 years in the hobby. That's a pretty big statement for a model railroader to make, so 3 months after my Xplorer train made its inaugural run to and from Philden Station, does Southern Rail Models' model still live up to the hype?

Southern Rail Models 2 car Xplorer set comes nicely packaged and retails for $460.00.

Southern Rail Models first released their 2 and 3 car long distance Xplorer trains and 2 car interurban Endeavour DMU trains in 2013. The Xplorer, (a marketing name to tie the trains in with CountryLink's XPT fleet), was first introduced into NSW in 1993. Just 3 years earlier, passenger train services in the north west of New South Wales had been cut back to Tamworth. My Uncle Frank Overton, at the time the Reservations Manager for CountryLink and one of the board members for the State Rail Authority, later told me he petitioned long and hard behind closed doors for a new train that was capable of being divided in two at Werris Creek, similar to the retired 900 DEB sets. From those meetings, the idea for the Explorer and Endeavour sets was born. So a train being released in HO scale that was in some way inspired by my Uncle, was all the prompting I needed to start down the track to building a small HO scale layout that could run this model. I soon bought a Southern Rail Models 2 car Xplorer set in the current Railcorp CountryLink livery, and began planning a small bookshelf layout around it that was capable of being expanded sometime down the track.

The 8 pin electrical socket must be connected before placing the train on the track.

Taking the model from box proved a little tricky, as the model is packed very tightly within the inner foam core. I have since sliced some of the foam away using a sharp hobby knife from the area surrounding the diaphragms, and the train is now a lot easier to pack away after each use. Placing the train on the track also calls for a bit of care. As stated in the instructions, the 8 pin socket that couples the 2 cars together has to be connected first, before the entire train can be placed carefully on the rails. The instructions inside the box also pointed out a potential wiring fault with the directional operation of this model in DC mode, and sure enough on my ancient DC controller, forward is reverse and reverse is forward. It's a small issue I know, but something that should have been picked up on such an expensive model. When converting to DCC mode this won't call for anything more than reversing the direction program.

Check out that roof detail, is that lovely or what?

With the train finally sitting on the track, the first thing you will notice about the Southern Rail Xplorer is the roof detail. We're not just talking see-through metal cooling fans here. Just like the prototype, the entire exhaust stack and air-conditioner area is housed within a see-through etched metal grille that flows beautifully with the train's roof line. When I first stood back to admire the detail on this model however, I did so with the windshield wipers missing from one end of the train. For some strange reason, I struck out for the third time in a row with missing pieces when purchasing a Southern Rail Models product. Only this time the wipers were nowhere to be found inside the box. Fortunately a quick email saw a replacement set of wipers mailed out. Unfortunately the wipers that arrived were different to the existing ones on my model. Perhaps I was sent the ones used on the City Rail Endeavour version. So my Philden Xplorer was left to run return trips to and from the railway station, albeit with different wiper blades on the windshield of each end.

The long nose on each driving end is a hallmark of the Xplorers and Endeavour railcars.

The detail on the bogies includes coloured suspension coils that hide beneath the body mounted sidesteps. If you were planning on running this model on an 18" curve however, you better think again. The model has a recommended minimum radius of 24". The fluting on the stainless steel body sides is brilliantly executed, and the lettering and body livery appears crisp and clear from end-to-end. The livery on the model I purchased was the second CountryLink livery applied between 2007-2013 under the Railcorp era. As of 2015, the Xplorer and Endeavour trains were still operating in this same livery. Since CountryLink was dissolved by the NSW Government, the countrylink.info web address now takes you to NSWTrainLink.

I photographed the Outback Xplorer bound for Broken Hill when it stopped at Parkes, NSW back in 2011.
I was fortunate to have photographed the Outback Xplorer in the same livery at Parkes in western New South Wales back in 2011. Having also seen the Xplorers and Endeavours close up at Central Station in Sydney, I can assure you that Southern Rail Models Xplorer is an outstanding replica of this uniquely modern train. With the model almost entirely sold out, I only wish I could have also afforded a CityRail version of the Endeavour set to complement my roster.

The LED headlights and marker lights are enclosed inside a tinted glass panel, just like the real thing.

Not only does the Xplorer and Endeavour sets come with a fully detailed interior complete with figures on seats, the carriages are also lighted. As for the LED headlights and marker lights, they do appear a little more yellow than the real life version I have photographed, but they are beautifully enclosed in the same tinted glass panel as the prototype. Beneath the shell, the model is 21 pin DCC and sound ready, something that would finish this model nicely. With all wheel drive and pick-up, twin brass fly wheels and a 5 pole skew wound motor, the model has so far given me every indication that it is going to provide me with faultless running for years to come. I may just need to see to that driver however when I remove the shell. To me, he looks a little grey, and dare I say it.... train sick!

The red marker lights really stand out nice! And the white sunshade that is pulled down above the driver, sweet as!

The red end-of-train marker lights really put a nice touch on this model, as does the sunshade that is slightly drawn down above the driver's head. The black box that is fitted around the couplers on my model is the same that appears on the some of the longer distance Xplorer services such as to Broken Hill and Griffith. They are designed to protect the couplers from damage should the train hit a stray kangaroo or a wandering flock of sheep on the outback railway lines of New South Wales.



And just as reinstating passenger trains to the north west of New South Wales was a huge deal back in 1993, the inaugural Philden Xplorer in 2015 was also a big deal. In as much as I decided it needed a banner to break through to commemorate the occasion. Who can forget the above clip I placed on YouTube? Or should that read, who wishes they could forget the above video on YouTube?



My Rating:

 (4.5/5)

Final Thoughts: Issues aside, those who can't run long trains have found a champion with this model.

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Thanks for taking the time to visit Philden. I hope you'll book a return ticket soon. Cheers, Phil