Review of the Hornby Blue/Grey BR 4 VEP Class 423 EMU [R3143]


The prototype class 423 (4 VEP) electric multiple units were built by British Rail (BR) at York between 1967 and 1974 although some of the early motor coaches (MBSO) and trailer second open (TSO) were built at Derby. They were used on the outer suburban services of the Southern Region in Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and Dorset.
4 VEP's were built with the same body style as most of the other outer BR(S) suburban MK 1-based EMUs of the era but were different in that they had 'slam doors' adjacent to every seating row. They were the last coaching stock built to this pattern.

Model History

Hornby first released their 4 VEP model in 2012 in the original all blue livery of the early 1970's and in Network Southeast livery of the late 80's and early 90's.
Following on from these, Hornby have now released a blue and grey version of the model which is the subject of this review.

This version is an upgrade of earlier versions of this model.


The model is supplied as a pack of 4 coaches, laid one above the other in a single polystyrene tray, each coach individually wrapped in tissue paper. The models are well protected, but easy to remove from the packaging.

Initial Observations

The model has a superb paint finish, although when placed next to Bachmann MKI coaches, the 'grey' colour of the VEP appears 'whiter', more akin to a unit freshly out of the paint shop, but not unrealistic.
The cabs capture the image of a 4 VEP, but the roof-mounted horns appear to be too small, as do the roof vents.

The gangway connection is modelled in its extended form which is used when units are coupled together. This has led others to believe that the gangway is modelled incorrectly and the door inside to be inset too far. Since the gangway is actually a separate clip-in fitting, it should be possible to provide gangways modelled in retracted form for the user to swap themselves.
This is actually a hard one to resolve. Hornby supplied retracted gangways on their LMS coaches and there were complaints. This time, they supply them extended and there are complaints! We are of the view that Hornby have made the correct choice on this model.

There is a little 'bleed' of the yellow paint on the corners. It looks worse in these close-up pictures than it does at normal viewing distance where it isn't noticable.

The axles do not have pin-point bearings. Instead, inside bearings are used and these are not very free running, however, the application of some Vascelene as a lubricant, improves the situation significantly. Sideways 'slop' movement is virtually non-existent on the trailer cars, but there is approximately 2.5mm of sideways motion on the power car axles. We are of the view that sideways motion of axles on coach bogies is completely unnecessary, regardless of curve radius used.

The Cab Window Problem

The original release this model had its end windows modelled too far in-board (denoted with red lines). This issue has not been fixed in this release.

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The end on view reveals that the windows are too far in-board. This has not been fixed from the earlier versions.
Strangely, we feel that the quality of the paint finish helps to distract from this problem to a certain extent, but it still isn't correct. It probably wouldn't be noticable by the average modeller.

There are no guard irons, which were a fairly prominent feature of the prototype. It appears that the earlier version of this model had guard irons which have now been removed. These could easily be fabricated with plastic strip.


One of our DTCL coaches appeared not to be assembled incorrectly, with a significant gap between the solebars and the body. The same problem existed on the other end of the coach. Try as we might, clipping one end back in caused the other to pop out. This led us to further investigation...

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We understand that the bogies on the original version of this model were the wrong way round. This could be observed as the main suspension bracket attached to the bogies (with a horizontal bar leading towards a shock absorber) being located towards the coach outer ends on both ends of a coach when they should be closer to the centre of the coach. Our DTCL's had this correct, although one of the bogies on the TSO was the wrong way around. Since they are a clip-in arrangement, the same as Lima used to use, it was a simple case of pulling bogie off and rotating it 1800 degrees. There are no pickups or wheel insulation issues involved.

Upon removing the body, it was very apparent that there was significant warping in the chassis.

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No, it's not an optical illusion - the ruler is straight - honest!
We also see here that one of the problems of the original release has also been fixed: holes have been created to represent the internal compartment windows, although there is a fair amount of 'flash' here - nothing a file couldn't fix.

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Clearly, the weight was severely bent and causing the chassis to bow. Here we have it removed and against a steel rule, showing the extent of the bowing.
The weight is glued to the plastic chassis. We used a screwdriver to lever it off. What was particularly noticable was that whoever had assembled this model, they had obviously had problems getting it together because there was extra glue in the areas where the chassis obviously wasn't attaching to the weight. This extra glue was harder to detach.
There appears to be a significant quality control problem with the weight which was allowed to filter through and deliver a faulty product.
The coin is an Australian 20 cent coin fitting the gap! (An Austalian 20 cent coin is very similar to an old English 10 pence coin)

Here we put the weight into a vice and bend it back to where it should be. It is quite easy to bend. This is not the sort of thing one should have to do on a brand new model.

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Catch this - no, it's not an extra ventilator. It's a screw which has come through from underneath! It was at this point we came to the conclusion that this DTCL is a 'lemon'. The other one is fine.

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The offending screw is the upper one in this picture. Possibly an incorrect screw which is too long and definitely screwed in too far when compared to the lower screw.

The re-assembled DTCL, having glued the straightened weight back in place. All fixed:

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Notice that we can see the wiring for the lighting system in the window of the door on the coach back end. We really cannot understand why basic design errors like this are made. The other side of the coach has a toilet compartment, compete with a moulded toilet, yet it all sits behind a whitened window which you can't see through! Why not put the wiring in the toilet compartment where it can't be seen ?

The Motor Coach

This model is of the original arrangement with the extra large luggage area, yet as can be seen, Hornby have used the seating mould from the refurbished version and we have seats in our luggage area! Surely someone in the production process must have noticed this ? It is easy enough for the modeller to fix by cutting it out, but the divide doesn't line up and is visible in the windows. This would require further cutting to fix.
The under-chassis detail is nicely moulded and very characteristic.

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Below, we see the motor bogie. This is another one of the errors from the original model which has not been fixed. Why on earth have Hornby put the motor in the seating area when they have a huge luggage area on the other end of the coach to hide it in ? This is another basic design error which is completely unnecessary. The 4 VEP is provided as three models, two in the early form (all blue and blue/grey) and one in the later refurbish form where part of the luggage area was converted to seating (Network Southeast). By placing the motor in the seating area, all three models are compromised. If it was placed in the luggage area, only one version (refurbished) would need to be compromised.
Having said that, the motor bogie is not that visible, but it is an unnecessary error.

Notice how there is significant weighting above the motor. We believe this has been done to revise a traction and lack of weight problem of the earlier release. As a result, the coach is quite heavy...on one end.

The motor bogie has traction tyres on diagonally opposite wheels. This basically ensures that only one wheel picks up on this bogie at any one time (even though all four wheels have pickups), meaning that the motor coach really only has pickups on all wheels of the non-powered bogie. We found this not to be very reliable and the unit is definitely in need of extra pickups on other bogies.

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The wiring system consists of PCB's located in the roofs of each coach with 'dropper' cables to connection points for inter-coach connections.
The DCC decoder socket is located on the roof PCB. Note that if you fit a 'teathered' (one with wire) decoder, the wiring will be seen through the windows.

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While this revised version of the model clearly still has problems, it certainly looks like a VEP and certainly portrays the image of a VEP. The paint finish is superb and it certainly looks like a very nice model.
Certain areas like the motor coach seating seem to be going back to the 1960/70's when standard parts were seen as acceptable. Today, they are not.

One of our DTCL's appears to have escaped quality control. We assume that this is a one-off, given that the other DTCL has no problems.

Would we recommend this model ?
Given the quality control issues we have shown, we would suggest a pre-purchase inspection.
For the average modeller, we would suggest that this model is fine. It looks like a VEP and is very nicely finished and it runs smoothly and quietly. It is also quite well detailed and doesn't have a 'bag 'o bits' to fit.
For the more serious modeller, we would still recommend the model, but we would point out that there are a few things which the modeller may want to fix, most of which, with the exception of the cab end windows, should not be beyond the skills of the more serious modeller.

Reallistically, if you want a VEP, this is the best you are going to get for the foreseable future, given that it has taken 'how many ?' years to get this far.

Graham Plowman (Created 18/01/2015, Updated 7/08/2021 11:35:38 AM +10:00)

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