The third of Hornby’s 2011 traditional wagons, the Trout ballast hopper, is also the most impressive. Its RRP is £16.99 and for once, I’d say it’s actually worth it, in terms of the number of separate parts and general level of detail.
The wagon design originated back in the 1920s with the LNER; a small batch was also built for the LMS and construction continued into early BR days. Unsurprisingly, the design seems to have remained associated with Eastern and North Eastern England, and Scotland, and a relatively small number were built (a total of just over 300). In very simple terms, the Trout is a bit like an inside-out version of the later and better known Dogfish – the hopper shape is basically similar but the stanchionwork is inverted and the solebar has the flat face outwards, making for a very distinctive appearance:
Most decent renditions of riveted wagons make for nice looking models, and Hornby’s model catches the distinctive construction features very well indeed. Being hypercritical, the bottom of the inverted channel forming the stanchions follows the same base line as the sides proper, whereas it should probably ‘push through’ slightly further, and there are no rivets around the inside lip of the hopper body, though both would probably have made it more difficult to mould. I also make no claims as to whether said rivets are correct as to either quantity or size!
Handwheels and chequer plating are very pleasing; some examples exhibit less-than-regular handrailing, but before whipping the pliers out, do note that the ones at each side actually are a peculiar shape on the real wagons! To be fair, these are quite a good attempt for a mass-produced model and most seasoned detailers would have difficulty getting them this neat:
This cruel closeup shows the join between the two main assemblies, obviously on the real wagon the stanchion would hold the hopper body to the underframe. Not evident at Normal Viewing Distances though. Axleguard, spring and axlebox moulding is very neatly done and appears well proportioned:
In service, the wagons’ most likely working companions during much of the BR period would appear to have been the aforementioned Dogfish (with which they shared their 24T capacity), although plenty of shots also exist showing them randomly mixed in with hoppers of other capacities – the modern trend towards long rakes of identical infrastructure wagons is a relatively recent trend. Unlike the Dogfish though, the Trouts were not built vac fitted and although Hornby’s marketing has dubbed them as ZFO/ZFP, evidence has still to emerge as to whether any were ever fitted with vacuum through pipes.
Somebody somewhere has been doing their homework, as both the hopper interior and the side chutes are painted in a rusty shade (although it’s a tad strong and uniform, it provides a good basis for further work and is better than some interiors). The oddest thing (and there had to be something, doesn’t there) is the two chosen liveries. The TOPS period model is liveried in olive green – not incorrect, but I have to wonder how many actually carried it – and the other one is of course the LNER version as seen here. There is some dispute (amongst those more knowledgeable than I on such matters) as to whether this should actually be dark blue, and I have to say that that colour would make an even more impressive backdrop for the lettering. And the least said about the triple pack with consecutive numbers, the better…
Overall then, a very nicely executed model that really shows what Hornby can do with wagons when they want to. Unfortunately the confused messages coming out of recent reports of the company’s change in strategy are not too encouraging in terms of future freight stock to this standard; only time will tell, I suppose.