Category Archives: Departmental

Too many books…

Despite the sentiment of the title, a situation that I think is true of most modellers, over the festive season I’ve managed to acquire three books that I convinced myself I couldn’t be without.  And yes, I know it’s March already…

First up is an obvious ‘reference purchase’ for someone with my background, the latest in David Larkin’s series for Kestrel Books. As the title suggests, Civil Engineers Wagons Volume 1 – British Railways: 1948-1967  deals (in more depth than anything has previously), with the departmental wagon fleet.  It follows the usual pattern set by previous books and those he did for Santona, in having several illustrations of each type combined with information on number series, and allocations from a time when the fleet was rather more fragmented and parochial.  A particularly nice touch is the headings giving the biological derivations of the ‘Fishkind’ names.  Also included is an insight into some of the ex-traffic wagons transferred into use by the engineers, although given the variety of types involved, this obviously can’t be as comprehensive as the purpose-built types.

Next, Ian Allan’s First Generation Diesel Railbuses.  I was initially sceptical when I saw this announced, partly because I doubted there was actually enough material on 22 vehicles with a ten-year life to fill a book, and partly because the author’s writings in Hornby Magazine are not usually associated with unimpeachable authenticity.  It has to be said though that Evan has brought together some intersting and not commonly known information – it’s a sobering thought that some of the early withdrawals could have been bought for the price of a 4mm scale loco!  I do wonder therefore if the old bogey of working to deadlines is what differentiates the magazine writings from this work.

As well as the expected chapters grouped by manufacturer, there are also separate summations of operation by Region, together with one on decline and withdrawal.  If I have a criticism (apart from the high cover price), it’s that many of the photos are not the clearest, although as is often the case, the interest factor does tend to outweigh this.  Particular faves are the Park Royal having hit a landslide, passengers on the ballast and generally wondering ‘what’s to be done’, and the WR halt which is scarcely bigger than the pram occupying it.

Also now available in the same series is a volume on the early Derby Lightweight DMUs, which I’ve not yet obtained but may well at some future point.  The choice of subject for these two may well have been to tie in with current RTR releases.

Lastly is something that was a bit of a surprise when I saw it lying on the counter of my local model shop, Bellcode’s Steam Age Diesels across Yorkshire.  I was familiar with this publisher, already having their volume on the railways around Selby and Goole, and as is often the case with such outfits, it combines an original approach with production values second to none.

The title sums up what it’s about – those elusive few years where diesels were following much the same working patterns as the steam locos they’d replaced – and the compilers have done exceptionally well in pulling together so many scenes of departed locations, traction and traffics.  Of obvious local interest to me were some unpublished shots of D95xx type 1s and the Beverley – York line, but there are many other gems including Metrovicks in Leeds and various early shunters.  In fact other than in size, I’d actually say that this is a Yorkshire equivalent to George O’Hara’s Scottish volume reviewed in an earlier post, and I really can’t recommend it enough.

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Filed under Departmental, DMUs, Heritage diesels, Scottish railways, Yorkshire railways

Trout pout

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.


Filed under Departmental, Hoppers, Scottish railways