Mike Pigott looks at the 1/120 scale diecast railway models made by the German company Siku.
In 2010, the long-established German company Siku added a number of railway items to its popular ‘Super Series’. The Siku Super Series dates back to 1975, and is mostly a Hot Wheels sized range, but with cars to a constant scale of 1/55. Siku models are made to a much higher quality than Matchbox or Hot Wheels cars, with realistic wheels, detailed interiors and opening parts. However, Siku vehicles are usually two or three times the price of other makes.
The train models were not made to the regular 1/55 scale, which would have been too large; they were instead produced to a size that fit the standard blister packs. Fortunately, that size was 1/120 scale, or TT gauge. While TT gauge was something of a fad in Britain and the USA during the 1960s, it was extremely popular in Eastern Europe and has recently enjoyed a huge revival in Germany. Other manufacturers, such as Corgi and Lionel, have also produced diecast locomotives in 1/120 scale. The Siku trains were not intended to be compatible with TT model railway layouts, they were much simpler than the more detailed electric trains, and were aimed at children rather than collectors. However, they were reasonably good replicas, and – unlike the ranges by Lionel and Corgi – there were carriages produced to accompany the locomotives. All the models had rolling wheels and working ball-and-socket couplings.
STEAM LOCOMOTIVEThis model was quite a good representation of a German Class 80 tank loco. These small 0-6-0 locomotives were built in the late 1920s and were mostly used for shunting duties, although some were used to pull passenger trains on branch lines. The Siku model captures the look of the real loco well, although in a slightly simplified fashion. The model is painted matt black with red wheels, which was typical of German steam engines, although the real ones had much more red trim. The boiler is diecast, and has a detailed network of pipes cast in. However, the cab and other parts are made of plastic, but are a good match and not immediately noticeable. Unfortunately, there is no connecting rod attached to the wheels, and some of the cab windows are filled in. The loco has the fleet number ’80 013’ which is that of a preserved Class 80 in a German railway museum.
This model was not available separately. It was only sold in a twin pack with the passenger coach or a four-piece gift set.
DIESEL LOCOMOTIVEThe second locomotive produced was a fairly recognisable model of a German V60 class diesel shunter. This type of loco was manufactured in the early 1950s for shunting and light freight duties. It was an extremely successful engine, with over 600 entering service in West Germany, and many more sold to other countries including Norway, Greece and Turkey. Some of the V60 locos remained in service for over 50 years.
The Siku model accurately captures the shape of the V60, with its asymmetrical hoods and raised cab. The hoods are diecast and painted a light red, while the cab is in red plastic, but does not really match the body colour. However, the cab is glazed and has a grey plastic roof. The chassis is black plastic, and the wheels are the same spoked, flanged type used on the steam loco, but in black. Overall, it is quite a good model but missing connecting rods on the wheels and hand rails around the footplates. The Diesel Locomotive was not sold separately; it was only available in a twin-pack with the open wagon or a gift set with three passenger coaches.
GOODS WAGONThis is quite a realistic model of a metal open wagon. Compared to the locomotives, it looks a little oversized, but it is quite accurate as Continental open wagons tend to be very large. Only the chassis is diecast, with the wagon body in red plastic, which is a bit too light in colour and slightly translucent. The sides and underside are quite well detailed and it has four flanged disc wheels. The goods wagon was sold separately, presumably to allow kids to put together a long train. It was also available in a gift set, in the more realistic colours of brown and olive green.
PASSENGER COACHA delightful model of a four-wheeled passenger coach used on rural branch lines in Germany, this carriage uses the same diecast chassis as the open wagon. The body is made of plastic, but is painted dark green and has a separate silver-grey roof. Despite its small size, the coach is fully glazed and has a detailed interior. It was available individually or in the twin pack in dark green, or in various colours in the gift sets.
ELECTRIC LOCOMOTIVEIn contrast to the two small vintage locos, Siku also introduced a large, modern, electric loco. It was based on the Bombardier Traxx, an off-the-shelf locomotive intended for long-distance and international freight transport. The Traxx was bought in large numbers by the German National Railways, DBAG, and classified as Class 185.
The Siku model is quite a heavy item with an all-diecast body and plastic base. It is painted in the correct DBAG colours of red with a grey roof and skirting but, rather strangely, it has no DB logos or fleet numbers. The base is detailed and has the correct Bo-Bo wheel arrangement, but the bogies do not turn. The pantographs are black plastic and are both set in a semi-raised position.
Because of its large size, the Electric Locomotive was packaged in a double-width blister pack, as used for the twin packs. There is scope for other liveries to be issued, as the Bombardier Traxx is also used in Switzerland, Belgium and Spain.
COVERED GOODS WAGONA larger, more modern carriage was introduced to accompany the Electric Locomotive. It was based on a flatcar with a telescoping cover, which are mostly used for transporting steel coils. The Siku model looks to be something of an oversimplification, as it only has two covered sections, when the real wagons tend to have three. The model has a diecast base and plastic bodywork, which includes a section that slides open. The model is finished in brown, with some painted details. This wagon was something of an awkward size; it was too big for a standard single blister card, but not really long enough for a double-width card. However, it was packaged on a double card with an oversized 1/50 scale engineer figure included.
LOCAL TRAINLooking more like a tram than a train, this is based on an Alstom Coradia LINT railcar, which is used on non-electrified branch lines in Germany. They are available as single units, or two-part articulated units, and can be linked together to form longer trains. The Siku model is based on the smaller LINT 27 car, as used in North-West Germany. It has a metal base, with a plastic roof and body. The body is actually moulded in smoked-grey transparent plastic, with the bodywork painted over in red and the doors and window frames in black. The roof is in dark grey plastic and the very detailed interior is light grey. Like the other rail models, it has working ball-and-socket coupling so that multiple units can be made up, although the bogies do not turn.Instead of being painted in a realistic railway livery, the standard model is marked ‘Park & Ride’ (in English), possibly representing a shuttle train connecting a parking area with a city centre or airport. The Local Train was also produced in different liveries for export markets: it was available in a light purple colour in Ireland, and in white with turquoise trim in France.
GIFT SETSIn addition to the twin-packs previously mentioned, Siku also produced a pair of four-piece gift sets with a railway theme. The first set included the Diesel Shunter in the standard red, plus three passenger coaches in exclusive colours. It was a nice set, although the carriages in yellow, light green and blue were a bit too candy coloured. The second set included the Steam Locomotive, a passenger coach in red, and a pair of open wagons in olive green and brown. These two wagons looked much more realistic than the standard release in red. Both sets were packaged in vertical window boxes.
Obviously, these are intended as toys rather than being fine-scale models, but they are quite realistic, reasonably priced, and are the only diecast 1/120 models of European prototypes. Unfortunately, Siku seems to have ended production of this range, and no further castings or liveries have been released.This article originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of Diecast Collector magazine.
Text and photos (c) Mike Pigott 2020.