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Woodhead in Blue - A Class 506 Introduction

Written by: Edward Fisk

Edward Fisk, of Partner Programme developer MeshTools, delves into the all-new and Pro Range-suited Class 506, which is to be included with the upcoming Woodhead Electric Railway in Blue route!

You can also check out the Class 08 introduction by clicking here.

For this second look at the Woodhead locos we are looking at the brand spanking new Class 506. The model was built totally from scratch by Master Key Simulations. Out of all the locos in the new Woodhead route, the 506 probably caused the most headaches when It came to the model building, for the simple reason that there isn’t an intact 506 remaining in existence. Indeed, the only part of a 506 which still exists is the cab and brake van of a motor coach. It must be said, Master Key have done a stellar job on the cab, exterior and passenger view models.

While the outside of the 506s may be well photographed which certainly helps when building the external model, the same couldn’t be said for the cab, indeed to date I believe we have only actually be able to find around 3 photos of the cab in working condition. Luckily, the modellers were able to locate some pictures of the preserved cab which certainly helped in producing the new cab model. In addition, I was lucky enough to find and purchase a Class 506 drivers manual from Ebay which helped with finding out the exact function of all components of the cab (and some).

In terms of the simulation of the 506, that also posed something a problem as I was unable to locate any solid performance data for the unit. The only detail I really knew was the average acceleration rate was 1.24 mph per second but not to what speed this carried on up to. Interestingly, this was the same as the 306 and I did possess some further performance data of the Class 306, but which initially I didn’t think would be lot of help as it turned out the 306 was fitted with 4x210hp motors, while the 506 was fitted with 4x133hp motors.

So as a starting point I assumed the performance would be a margin worse than the 306, however when this was tried in practice running the 506 against the working timetable, it was found to lose time quite considerably. With the Class 306 performance data implemented (or close enough) the timekeeping was greatly improved. What appears to have happened is the LNER specified the motors to give roughly the same performance between the two classes, however the cooling on the 506 motors were probably inferior hence the lower continuous rating. This also probably explains why the trial run over the Pennines with the 506 was such a disaster, but it goes to show how fickle the rating of traction motors is!

In terms of driving the Class 506, it drives very similarly to the Class 419 MLV. If you have driven that you will be right at home on the 506. The controls on the 506 are however, even more basic, you don’t even have a speedometer! The controller has 5 positions as one might expect; Off, Inch (not called shunt on this unit), Series, Parallel and Weak field. As normal you can’t notch down without returning the handle to off. While in either Series, Parallel or Weak field acceleration is controlled automatically by a current limiting relay which automatically takes out or reinserts resistances as appropriate giving a simple and controlled acceleration.

The other main control is the brake valve which again operates fairly typically for most older EMUs, in the first part of the handles action the self-lapping electro pneumatic (EP) brake is operating, while in the later half the single pipe automatic air brake (with triple valves) is operated.

Other than that, there aren’t too many features one wouldn’t normally expect. All buttons and switches in the cab are useable and functional, the cab windows open and close and the destination blind can be changed on the fly. One new feature which has been added is that on some stations which have been setup, if you pull up too short the guard will ring for you to draw forward, and if you overshoot he will ring for you to set the train back.

Of the 3 Woodhead engines, the 506 is probably the simplest to drive having rapid acceleration and very powerful brakes, although it is not without its challenges, especially in the rain during leaf fall season. There isn’t too much to learn with this unit and very little can go wrong being so simple, making it ideal for beginners and also learning the Manchester area of the route.

I hope you have enjoyed this overview of the Class 506 and its development, it certainly has been an interesting, if a little challenging unit to work on.

Next time, onto the Woodhead Workhorse, the Class 76 ■

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