Over recent years Hornby have come in for a fair amount of flak for their wagon models and indeed, it’s not so long since I was passing judgement here on their unfortunate Blue Spot fish van. Now whilst they arguably still have a fair way to go in restoring confidence (not least with retailers in my view, though this isn’t the place to open that particular can of worms), I do believe in giving credit where it’s due by saying that the various models now emerging from the pipeline seem to have shaken off the silliest aspects of the much maligned ‘design clever’ phase.
Broadside of the new model. This is the side that correctly doesn’t have any brakegear apart from the hand lever; I haven’t seen any forumites complaining theirs has bits missing, yet…
Announced just before Christmas and now, unexpectedly soon, in the shops, their LNER 21 ton coal hopper is an example which may just be passing under the radar with such high profile loco introductions as the K1, D16 and Black Motor attracting interest. But I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this little model is an example of Margate at its modern best.
For some years of course, Hornby have been churning out the old 1970s Airfix model of much the same wagon. Whilst not bad for its time, the main shortcoming with this was its combination of the riveted body with the push braked chassis that also saw use on their 20/21T PO mineral wagon and 20t tanker. The all-new model really is in a class apart from that; the body retains the commendable fineness but the chassis is spot on, replicating the distinctive single sided clap brakegear complete with catch bars, tall handbrake lever and hopper operating handles.
Probably the first thing I picked up on visually was evidence of the usual Hornby ‘prettifying’ – the form of shiny buffer heads and gleaming white footstep – but it’s all good raw material and a suitably weathered example should look the DBs. One other concern was that of weight, the lack of which could be a problem with the old Airfix model as the design of the wagon means there aren’t a lot of places to hide it. The new one isn’t super heavy, but it’s not a featherweight either, and there looks to be room for more weight in the hopper chutes if it were desired.
End detail of the new model. It appears to be based on the earliest builds, as later ones had an additional horizontal end handrail, bracketed out from the angled portion. When you’re used to seeing those later wagons with their cat’s cradle of handrails, the end here looks quite bare. Adding the extra bits would be a simple job, I think.
And of course, the price is an inevitable discussion topic. 15 quid at RRP, and findable for up to a quid less than that. One of the most criticised aspects of Hornby is their pricing policy, and a couple of years ago they were charging more than that for that old Airfix one; inherited tooling with its investment costs more than written off…
But anyway. For those who are keen to point out how shockingly expensive RTR is getting these days and we should all get back to kitbuilding, I don’t necessarily disagree, but I suggest you find a better example with which to promote your argument. The equivalent kit is £9.00; so if you place a value on your time, paying yourself at minimum wage means that to break even, you have to build and paint it in an hour. Good luck with that 😉
Not that I’m saying the RTR one is the answer to everything of course. A properly representative BR period hopper train would have many other variants in it – not least the welded body ones – and for which the range provided by Parkside provides pretty well. As to Hornby moving on to other variants, the only mention I’ve seen of the possibility was a passing one in Rail Express Modeller, based apparently on a conversation with Hornby. And for completeness here I should say that the Hornby Dublo and Wrenn ranges included a rendition of the BR welded wagon. It wasn’t without charm, but was quite overscale in width.
As to the prototype, it’s probably fairly well known that the 21 tonner originated as a steel version of the wooden vehicles favoured by the North Eastern Railway. The LNER bought in many thousands from the trade and the design was adopted for large scale construction by BR, together coming to represent a large part of the national fleet. I’ve never carried out any really in-depth research on them but I would make a guesstimate of there eventually being at least 35, 000 by the time construction of the BR derivatives ceased in the late ’50s. I know of no particular restriction on the LNER designs portrayed by this model, so contrary to what you may see written elsewhere, they could turn up in a hopper train anywhere that such things worked and indeed, there’s ample photographic evidence of such.
Closeup of the axleguard and brake lever detail on the new model; this is clickable for larger sizes and I suggest you do so. The axleboxes are also very slightly angled (top sloping inward), which is correct. That repair data panel is spurious on this livery, belonging to a later period, but is easily removed or painted over.
Should anyone wish to delve deeper into the type, please be aware that despite their relatively lesser numbers, they’re even more involved than the 16T mineral. An article in the much missed Model Railway Constructor by Nick Campling, Jim Johnson and Alan Cook mentions no less than 38 variations – of just the LNER wagons – having been identified. And study of the BR builds is not exactly assisted by the incorrect allocation of diagram numbers to a significant number of batches. To simplify things though and for ease of recognition, there are the following broad types of construction:
1. LNER builds with riveted bodies, single side clasp brakes and tall hand brake lever
2. LNER builds with welded bodies, single side clasp brakes and tall hand brake lever
3. LNER builds on underframes similar to above but with Continental-spec fittings
4. BR builds of type 1
5. BR builds of type 2
6. A ‘pure’ BR welded design (theoretically diagram 1/146) with more conventional 4-shoe push brakegear. This later developed into vac piped and vac braked builds, and exhibited variation in end stanchions
7. BR riveted design (diagram 1/145), the body of which was effectively a version of 1/146 but capable of being turned out by wagon builders that weren’t set up for welding. Again these had push brakes
From around 1970 BR embarked on a programme of rebodying coal-class wagons. Any of the above variants could form the donor wagon, leading to the survival of some quite old underframes into the 1980s.
A note as to batches 2 and 5: whilst it’s sometimes said these were early rebodies, I believe they were welded from new (even the E-prefixed ones, which were built by the trade anyway). As evidence, I’d cite the consistent numbering of the ones on, for instance, Paul Bartlett’s website, together with many being built by Cravens, and also that there seem to be just too many of them for any other explanation.