One of the new wagon models included in Hornby’s now-traditional New Year announcement was the humble BR standard iron ore tippler. It’s drawn comment on two scores: one in that it seems an odd choice, the other being its price, which was originally going to be no less than £16.50 at RRP. Sanity does seem to have prevailed at Margate however, and the model has just appeared in the shops at a much more reasonable £9.99 (though even that is over a quid more than the RRP of the Bachmann equivalent).
The best explanation I can provide for Hornby’s choice is that this wagon type has been in the range since the late 1970s, and that they do seem to have a penchant for revisiting their back catalogue. The original model was pretty dreadful, even by the standards of the time. Like many ‘old school’ RTR wagons, the body was the most usable component, but even that’s stretching a point really because it was at best an approximation, being too low even for the low body variant, and with the end stanchions at the wrong spacing. In its time it appeared with two chassis, both of which were frankly bizarre.
So what’s this new one like? Well, first impressions are unfortunately a tad more toylike than the average Bachmann vehicle, not helped by the unpainted metal buffer heads. The lettering, although probably based on a photo, looks somehow vaguely unconvincing. Look closely at the top capping, and two things become evident: the top capping is of too thick a section, and the little gussets under it aren’t of the correct triangular section.
At this point and before I go any further, I should probably refer you to my approach to critique of RTR models, outlined in https://windcutter.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/criticism-choices-fact-and-opinion/
So anyway, now to the bit that’ll have the eye-rolling smileys doing overtime… Once I’d had a Vernier on it and compared it with equivalent models, the excess in that top capping proved to be less than half a millimetre – and yet it’s apparent every time I look at it. I’m sure that on a layout, and especially once weathered, it would be much less noticeable. The shape of those gussets is certainly barely perceptible, and it would take a matter of a few minutes to trim them down if you were bothered. Although neither shortcoming is exactly a showstopper, I do find it faintly incredible that Hornby have taken what must be one of the simplest wagon bodies in railway history and introduced two needless errors into it. I’m sorry if there seems a lack of positives to report, but there’s not a lot else to say about it; it is after all just a basic box with very little to actually get right.
Below decks though, things are thankfully much more encouraging. The chassis has the correct 9 foot wheelbase, nicely moulded heavy duty springs, axleguards and ‘boxes and most pleasingly, the distinctive ‘over centre’ hand lever with drop link, fitted to improve leverage for the heavier 27 ton load that these vehicles were designed for. One peculiarity, visible here, is the presence of a vestigial vacuum pipe, which even crosses over under the wagon but is a tad irrelevant to this type of wagon:
For this shot, I also swapped the wheels for Gibsons, which as well as their finer profile, also improve the appearance by being blackened. What’s not so evident here is that the body support brackets protrude slightly more than they should. Overall though, it’s a pleasing rendition of the ‘as built’ underframe of the earliest diagrams, and for my money that justifies the additional price over the Bachmann equivalent, which runs on one of their standard mineral chassis.
Overall, this is a model that leaves me with an impression of adequacy rather than brilliance; Hornby can (and do) do rather better. For the average buyer who wants something different to yet another rake of 16 tonners, it’ll be plenty good enough. Whether that average buyer will think the additional cost worthwhile though is a moot point, particularly when discounting can further raise the differential. Another trick that Hornby have missed is that they could have modelled the low body variant, which was much more common than this high body diagram. Both of the earliest introductions however have numbers from low body wagons, and to be honest, I have to wonder if they even know that there are two heights involved.
As an aside (and the reason why this model is of particular interest to me), one of my medium term aims is to build up a small fleet of tipplers. They’re quite an interesting design in that the total of slightly less than 10,000 was built with two body heights, to two wheelbases and (basically) two forms of brakegear.
The model below was done some years ago as a sort of statement of intent in that direction; it’s basically a Parkside PC63 kit but with the vac brake gear left off in order to represent one of a batch that were rather oddly built with full 8-shoe brakegear, but unfitted. In the early ’70s they were finally upgraded to full VB and passed into Mendip stone traffic, but for the period I’m modelling, I can justify a handful in this original form.
Before the announcement of this new model, the fleet was intended to be composed of bodies from Parkside, Hornby (modified 0riginal) and MTK, with kitbashed underframe parts. Although the variety of running gear to be found under the tipplers means that that will still be necessary, the chassis of the new model is plenty good enough for me to use it under some of them. Hopefully I’ll be able to get hold of some at a price that doesn’t make my eyes water.