Closely following up behind the iron ore tippler, Hornby’s new BR standard brakevan is also now in the shops, in BR bauxite and olive green varieties. For a long time, the venerable Airfix kit was the accepted route to a decent model of this van, but the obvious comparison is now with Bachmann’s existing RTR model. Having said which, Hornby’s previous BR brake dates from the early 1980s if I recall correctly, and is a surprisingly accurate model; although the underframe is on the clumsy side, its shape and dimensions are pretty much spot on and the body is only let down by its comedy representation of woodgrain.
As with the tippler, there are comparisons to be made with Bachmann on the grounds of both appearance and cost (though it’s not a comparison that I see any of the mags rushing to make)! Again, we have an apparent backpedal by Hornby with the RRP having been significantly reduced, to £13.99; obviously not too many will get sold at that, but even at a typical discount price it’s still going to be roundly a fiver more than the Bachy one. The latter is in that less-than-a-tenner, ‘pocket money’ zone, the Hornby is at a figure that you probably think a bit more about.
At a glance, looking at an example of each in a similar livery, you’d be hard put to tell the two apart, and I suspect the same will hold true at the yardstick three-foot viewing distance. Look closer though and it’s evident that this new model does have a certain overall finesse to it, particularly evident in such things as the planking gaps and the roof edges. I’d say though that it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the Shark PW brake of a few years back:
By comparison, it does have to be said that after eight years or so, the Bachmann moulds are beginning to show their age, with the handrails becoming slightly flashed and less straight:
Having said that, I’d had high hopes that Hornby’s handrails would be a great improvement, but I’m not sure that they are – the first batch I saw might have been untypical, but I had a job to find one on which they were acceptably straight. (They are still plastic by the way, not metal as might be assumed from the fittings on the Shark).
Roof detail was the first thing that my local vendor drew my attention to; the roof vents on the Bachmann have a bit more bulk compared with the flatter Hornby rendition:
The differing chimney height and heavier rainstrips are also noticeable, but those are just detail differences that, without getting too anal, can easily be put down to batch changes or different works repairs. Particularly evident here are the finer handrails of the Hornby van; that wasn’t intention though, and photography does seem to accentuate white handrails. Adding the pattern of the roof detail to the presence of other details, such as the over-prominent washer plates on the bodyside, it wouldn’t surprise me if Hornby have used the same drawings as they did back in the ’70s.
If you enlarge the already larger-than-life end shot below (clicky), you should be able to make out the concrete texture of the end platforms. Asking to be weathered, and a tad more subtle than the woodgrain on Hornby’s previous BR brake! Also present inside the verandah is floor planking detail, though it possibly runs at 90 degrees to what’s correct… One thing I do like is that plank gap in the top arc, something that’s omitted from other models – and that lamp bracket on the verandah screen is a separate moulding:
It would seem that Hornby intended the bauxite van to be typical of early production (based on B951410 pictured in Eric Gent’s work for the HMRS) and the olive van to be a late build (DB954032 as seen on Paul Bartlett’s website) with roller bearings and Oleo buffers. An unfortunate error during production however has resulted in some batches of models having mismatched running gear – i.e. the bauxite van coming with roller bearings and the olive one the oil boxes. In reality, the combination of roller bearings with spindle buffers did occur on one transitional Lot, so a simple renumbering will enable me to take advantage of Hornby’s error and reproduce a variation that I probably wouldn’t otherwise have bothered with. I’ve done one Bachmann-based conversion into a later van and whilst changing a set of buffers is no hardship, removing the axleboxes from behind those delicate footboards isn’t the best of fun.
The distinctive double-shoed clasp brakes are present, and commendably close to the wheel treads. The aforementioned roller boxes are nicely done but unfortunately they draw attention to the axleguards, which look distinctly undernourished (they actually look a bit better in this closeup shot than they do to the naked eye):
The third van is a dual piped example in the Railfreight red/grey livery with yellow band – although not relevant to the van illustrated here, the Railfreight and olive vans do have very nice renditions of external brake pipes on the cabin sides. One significant variation that hasn’t been incorporated in Hornby’s initial plans is the short footboard LNER version (which as is well known, was the origin of the BR design). Bachmann’s equivalent model remains (so far) the only RTR model to offer anything more accurate than an ersatz rebranding of the BR van.
Despite the comments above and some early scepticism, I do like this model but all things considered, I’m in a position where if only one or the other were available, I’d be happy enough with either. The Hornby van is pretty much the new benchmark in terms of accuracy and quality, but at a price; I’m not rushing to dispose of all my stashed or already-detailed Bachmann ones, nor the various hybrids that I’ve concocted over the years. Whether the wider market will take a similar view (and how that affects sales) remains to be seen, and I suppose that’s ultimately the factor that will shape Hornby’s apparent new approach to wagon models.