Tag Archives: clasp brakes

Vanfare for the common man

No, not Vanwides again (one for those with long memories, that, though using the same heading twice in 19 years shouldn’t be stretching a point too much)!  Rather, a few random-ish thoughts on the Vanwide’s more ordinary common cousin, the BR standard van.

At this point it’s almost obligatory in modelling circles to mention that whatever ‘standard’ thing it is that’s under discussion is anything but standard, and this is true enough of the BR van when you consider there are two materials used for the body sheeting and that the corrugated ends could be formed of two  or three  parts, each with further minor variations, all underpinned by the usual progression of brakegears and an extensive array of other running gear options.  But I have an alternative take – from the less focused perspective of the operators, the people who’d roster them and load them, they were standardised.  They were a basic covered box that was a given size and shape, and what the thing was made of and what type the buffers weren’t a concern to them, as long as they did their job.

Anyway, to the models.  Like so many of the things characteristic of the post-war railway, we have a choice of representations of these vans, but made in such a way that not all can necessarily be run together, at least not without modification or a bit of thought.  Hopefully what follows won’t shatter too many illusions!

As with so many wagon types, anyone starting from nothing can do little better than to assemble a selection of the current Parkside kits, PC07A/08A.  Now I’m not going to just blog about that, I think most readers here will know of Parkside kits and that they virtually build themselves.  But the current kit replaces a much older one, one that was one of the firm’s earliest offerings and was in essence an Ian Kirk design from the 1970s.

Although it was a welcome breath of fresh air at a time when little truly BR period was available, the van is like most of the Kirk production, quite basic and a little dimensionally dodgy.  Most seriously, it’s a good 2mm or more too tall in the body, which alters the proportions quite significantly, and whereas considered on its own, this may not be an issue  to some, it does stand out as soon as you sit it next to a more correct rendition and look at it at eye  level.  I  first twigged this back in the mid-’80s when comparing the first one I’d built to that old favourite, the Airfix meat van.   Whilst variation in all aspects  is of course an intrinsic feature of a 1950s or ’60s van train, which would be composed of vans of all sorts of origins, after 1972 or so the BR vans were pretty much all there were, and the consequent uniformity in roof line when looking along a train is a very recognisable feature, just as it would be with a uniform rake of Mk1 or Mk2 coaching stock.


This comparison shot above is between a current Parkside end moulding and an old Kirk one (actually from an insulated van).  I’ve positioned these so that the tops of the headstocks are aligned level, and from that, it can be seen that that’s actually where most of the excess  is.   This may be because the original Kirk solebars were quite crude and chunky by modern standards.  I reckon there’s about a mill and a half in there, and although it’s not so obvious from the pic, there’ll be another 0.75 – 1mm in the corrugated end itself.

There are ways of dealing with this though if you have some of these kits and want to use them.  The rake that inhabits Ken Gibbons’ various blue era layouts were produced from this basis by, simply enough, cutting them down as necessary; as seen here:


My own approach is one I’ve used before with superseded Parkside kits, by incorporating parts from the later and better kits.  In this case, using spare ends of the current design, taken either from the Vanfit or Vanwide kits automatically produce the right height to set the sides at (in the same way as with the Parkside/Ratio hybrid shown in an earlier post, The LMS Van).  Again these particular sides are (fairly obviously) from the insulated van, but the mouldings are identical (whereas Parkside’s current PC09 has a faithful portrayal of the differing door fastenings):


Although only obliquely visible, the chassis parts here are also later standard Parkside – a pair of PA16 solebars with plate axleboxes will acquire the 4-shoe brakegear from the current kit.  The mismatched join in the corrugations needs some thought, and I also should come up with something just a tad more delicate for the brackets that the doors fasten back onto…

Before leaving the subject of these kits, one common misconception concerns the vans that had doors mismatched with the body sheeting.  This variation is provided for in the retooled Parkside kits but unfortunately, the assumption is often that because the alternative parts are provided, they can be combined at will.   Not so, unfortunately; whilst several thousand planked ones were built with plywood doors, the opposite combination is not thought to have happened (although some early standard Shocvans do have this arrangement, due to 1950s materials shortages, there’s no evidence of it on standard vans).

The reasoning behind this combination is something I discovered some years ago in some 1950s BR committee notes at the NRM.  Apparently the original design of door had been causing damage to a particular user’s traffic, due to an internal gap into which loads could shift.  To avoid this, a new design of door that eliminated the gap was put in hand.  This new pattern of door was only designed in plywood, whereas the previous pattern of alternative body sheeting continued, producing some 4,000 or so vans with the mismatch.

A bit of more obvious variety doesn’t go amiss in an otherwise homogenous fleet, and one little known variant is the roof ribbing that appears in the first row of wagons here, behind the slave cab of D4500.   I don’t know the reasoning behind this, but a small number of vans have it.  The majority I’ve noted have been ply vans with 8-shoe brakes from a late batch that were signwritten for particular users but one other, an earlier 4-shoe ply, was written for Crosse & Blackwell traffic, so there may be some connection in the type of traffic carried.  One of the three Lots of fruit vans based on the BR standard van also had this type of roof.  Oh and whilst you’re perusing that Tinsley pic and taking in the wealth of wagonry scattered about, have a look at the van in the middle of the third row, between the 21T hopper and the Covhop … thoughts on a postcard perleeeze 🙂

Another model that entered the mix back in 1985 was the David Boyle-era Dapol production.  Again, it’s another one I like because despite its general chunkiness, it catches the proportions very well in my opinion.   On the downside, the end vent is too small and the flat part of the diagonal bracing too deep;  the broadside below shows how this has been carved off and replaced with thinner microstrip:


This van runs on the Red Panda underframe for the BR 8-shoe brakegear, with MJT self-contained buffers. It’s one that was done a while ago and ran in the initial Culreoch fleet, and is here awaiting slight relettering to suit the earlier ’70s.

Moving on to a possibly less expected contender, I mentioned in the banana van piece that I had a soft spot for the old Dublo rendition of the BR standard.  This might well be partly due to the number of the Wrenn derivatives that I worked on again back in the ’80s, and I still have a few of them together with one or two unpainted bodies.   Despite its assorted shortcomings, I’ve always thought it caught the look of the type pretty well.  The planking and diagonal bracing take a liberty or two but the main issue is with the roof curvature, which is a tad too sharp and more akin to a GW design van, together with the seriously undernourished bonnet ventilator.

Another comparison then, but not between the Wrenn and a more correct model, but between unmodified (left) and modified (right):


Rebuilding the roof on  a one piece moulding would obviously be a foolish thing to do, but my minimal mod here (which I also apply to the Dapol vans), is to use spare Parkside vents tweaked so that they overlay onto the existing vent.  Whether the significantly greater width of the correct vent creates an optical illusion that ‘flattens’ the roof curve, or whether it’s simply the disguising one error that draws attention away from another, I’m not sure, but as a way of bulking up a rake without too much effort, I’m happy enough with it.

Incidentally the vents I use were obtained very cheaply some years ago, but it’s not the hardest job to knock them up yourself in plastic card.  You’ll note that I haven’t restored the lost bolthead detail, which again is in line with the ‘quick and dirty’ ethos as the ends will be the part least visible. In which case, you might ask, why alter anything at all…


A side on shot of the modified van again brings in the theme of making the best of old models that have a decent finish.  The current Bachmann 4-shoe chassis fits well enough and a selection of transfers and Hollar posters complete the impression.  I still won’t run these vans next to a ‘correct’ BR standard, but as a short cut in a long mixed freight, possibly mixed with vans of pre-BR design, they should pass muster.

A model that might by now be conspicuous by its absence is the Bachmann RTR model, which to be honest I was a bit disappointed with when it appeared.  Some of the contemporary criticism focused on the thickness of the ironwork, which is something I tend not to fret about.  More of a concern to me was that I could see from side by side comparisons with other stock (both vans  and other types) that the proportions just weren’t right somehow.  I’ve never fully analysed it but I think it’s a combination of a slightly tall chassis (not uncommon in RTR) with maybe up to a millimetre shortness at the eaves.  It’s a shame, it was  a model I really wanted to like because like all Bachmann stock, the liveries and lettering are well observed and nicely applied.   Not a major issue though in the bigger scheme of things, it won’t matter at all to many users  and it has to be said that it’s a rare blip in a range of freight stock that overall just goes from strength to strength.

And finally, purely for the sake of completeness, I should mention the Lima model of the standard van.  About which I’ll say no more than that there was one.



Filed under Vans, Wagon kits


Last one for this year then, and one that ties in two themes: unfinished projects (not in short supply around these parts…), and the Hornby Dublo ‘Super Detail’ range of freight and NPCC- stock from the 1960s and later passing to Wrenn.

Though often talked of in hallowed tones, the range was to be honest a bit patchy in terms of authenticity (although it was in a rather different class to what Triang were producing at the time)!  The High Goods opens (a generic 5-planker and its more recognisable steel equivalent) were very much out of proportion, the cattle van was also too tall and the 20T grain hopper was cut short to fit the same chassis.  I have a soft spot for the BR 12T van though, which manages to catch the general look quite well despite having a roof profile much more akin to the GW Minks.   The Fruit D, Presflo and Prestwin are decent body mouldings but suffer from poor chassis, although things did get much better with the plastic underframes on the SR CCT and the Blue Spot fish van featured in a recent post.

This one here though, the BR banana van,  is in my opinion the best item in the range as regards its ‘finescale’ potential (although that observation only applies to the body).  The detail is relatively restrained and it’s dimensionally spot on apart from about 1mm overwidth, and it matches up well with the Dapol and Parkside renditions of vans based on the BR standard 12T design.


Detail wise, it’s rather marred by the raised ‘pad’ on which HD printed the code and running number – that’s been shaved down on this one, but it’s not yet had the smaller details restored, which will be done with microstrip and 10 thou ‘cube rivets’.  Hacking something about to this degree may seem daunting, but as long as you have some skill with the knife and file and take it a bit at a time, constantly checking levels, it repays the effort.  It’s also an idea to cut in the edge of the corner plate before you start, following the line set by the higher part of the moulding, as it will help to prevent the knife wandering too far.  This particular model is another that was originally weathered contemporaneously with that Blue Spot and again, is a good enough basis for a bit more work.

Most of all the model is let down by the standard crude diecast chassis, but an easy upgrade is possible with the Red Panda mouldings for the BR standard 8-shoe clasp gear.  As these vans didn’t appear until quite late on, it was what they were all built with (other than a solo prototype converted from a plywood Vanfit, B769635, which may or may not have kept its 4-shoe gear).


This was done back in my methodical period, having the patience to think ahead and planning the chassis build so it could make use of the way the Wrenn van was constructed. The steel weight was retrieved from a RTR wagon and is one of those with a hole in the middle, chosen so it accommodates the screw post that is actually part of the separate roof moulding.  The weight itself is just glued at each end to the lips on the body moulding, and the main chassis members similarly just sit on the partial floor.

For those new to kitbashing or teetering on the edge, this sort of procedure is actually very little different to building up the chassis in a bespoke, prepackaged kit; you still have to dress the top edges and make sure things sit straight, you just don’t have anything pre-set to determine the distance between the solebars.  I tend to fit the headstocks first, which naturally gives some idea where the solebars should sit, and then just fiddle about with a light tack joint of solvent and eying things up until I’m happy the wheelsets aren’t going to drop out.  It also still needs catch bars from brass wire adding to the representational yokes, which I expect I’ll have to bend in such a way as to be secured inside that body lip.  All that will happen once I’ve made progress on one or two others to run with it.

So there you have an interesting project, one that could be relatively quick (unlike mine…) and that provides something as yet untouched by the wishlists.  The Wrenn vans can be picked up relatively cheaply around the swapmeets and I think it’s also one of the unpainted bodies that Dapol are knocking out for a quid, and the Red Panda chassis is still in the Parkside Dundas catalogue.  Prototype wise, these vans were in service from the late 1950s until sometime in the mid-’70s; I think one or two survived to wear the TOPS code VNV although by then, most survivors were in use as barriers.  For earlier years (steam and early diesel), they could be regularly seen in combination with the LMS-inspired design represented by Ratio kit 541 .

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Filed under Perishables, Vans, Wagon kits, Wagon weathering

Ashes to ashes

The latest variations on Bachmann’s LNER clasp-braked chassis are also recently in the shops.   These were pretty obviously on the same boat as the SR brakes, but missed the boat when it came to getting my finger out with this post…

One of these variations is the LNER corrugated end van, albeit in its initial form without ventilator hoods; I’ve not bothered taking a pic of this as it’s so similar to the existing vans, which will now be familiar to most.  The other introductions comprise three variations on the beastie below:

Although cannily being marketed as ‘Highbars’ (which they undoubtedly are), the box label doesn’t quite tell the whole story.  Strictly speaking, they are an adaptation of the steel High Goods intended for soda ash traffic, and it’s not quite such a stretching of a point as Dapol coming up with their own use for the codename ‘Rectank’ a few years ago.

This designation can be seen from the exquisite lettering seen above, which I have every intention of keeping most of and will need some careful work whilst weathering.  Physical differences are essentially the provision of a sheet rail or bar, and the doubling of the crossmember across the side door.

The wagon itself, like the unvented van, shares all the virtues and vices of the initial models.  The   distinctive brakegear is well represented and detailed, the wagon body is good on the outside but has no interior detail.  Obviously a Parkside kit will provide some of the latter, but still needs work if it is to accurately portray the chequer-plated surface of the inside of the doors; and the chassis will take up a fair bit of time to finish to the standard of detail of the RTR example.

Quite a few batches of these soda ash carriers seem to have existed, some built thus from new and some (I think) by conversion, some in the regular number series and others in the B74xxxx series for bulk carriers.  Whilst it’s very likely that some found their way into ‘ordinary’ traffic, I do wonder what good they would actually have been, as soda ash is known to be a very corrosive substance.  Steel Highs in general tended to find their way into assorted mineral traffics in later life, and the modified door arrangements of the soda ash wagons might well have marked them out as particularly suited to such use.  There is some circumstantial photographic evidence to support the possibility of their use on the seasonal flows of rock salt (for winter road use) to Inverness.

Below is a closeup of the sheet bar arrangement, which has probably been adapted from that already in use on the firm’s Shock Highs.  It does pop out quite easily, should you wish to run a wagon that has lost the bar (and/or use it on something else).  Those moulding feeds are also more evident at this level of enlargement than on viewing the model.  The 180 degree quadrant that the bar pivots on is moulded onto the wagon, but looks effective, and could be carved off if required (often, but not always, this part was left on when wagons lost the bars in later life).


Filed under Mineral wagons

Pillbox precision

Latest wagon-shaped retail therapy to hit the shops comes in the form of Bachmann’s range of SR ‘Pillbox’ brakevans.  These come in a commendable range of variations, reflecting not only changes in livery as you’d expect, but also the three distinct patterns of bodywork prevalent through the build runs.  This van is the 25T version – there was also a lighter but less numerous 15 tonner, easily recognisable by its much shallower solebar.  Another recognition point, for BR days at least, is that the 25T vans generally lost the distinctive sandboxes at the ends, whereas the 15 tonners kept them.

Without thinking too deeply about it, I went for the BR bauxite version, which is an even-planked van with right-hand duckets; I do fancy an uneven-planked one, which is for the moment only being issued in SR and olive green liveries, but I’m in no rush and will see what comes along in the next batch.

There’s not a lot to say about basic aspects of the model other than that it’s well up to the standard you’d expect, crisply moulded and capturing the shape and general appearance very well.  Distinctive features like the deep solebars and self-contained buffers are very well rendered.  The stepboards seem a tad more sturdy than those on Bachmann’s BR brake vans, and the handrails are now in metal rather than plastic, which should enable them to retain their shape much more easily.

Errors are few, and all pretty minor.  They appear to be tied in with the change from the left hand ducket of the first vans to the right hand arrangement, and the consequent positioning of the chimney and of the brake pull rod under the van, both of which changed as a consequence of repositioning the ducket.  Unfortunately, all of the models have a chimney which is correct for RH ducket vans with a brake pull that’s correct for LH ducket ones, meaning that they all have a minor error as they come.  One forum poster did seem to use this to promote the notion that Bachmann should only have marketed one body type, which I found strangely backward-looking; I’d much rather we were offered maximum choice as to the bodywork, even if it does mean that some minor details have to be corrected by what is really minor surgery.  One other thing, which I’ve not seen mentioned elsewhere but only affects (I think) this particular van, is that the exterior vacuum pipe (installed when the vans were vacuum through-piped by BR) should only appear on one side – this I’ll rectify when I get around to relettering and weathering.

As ever, the add-on ‘bag of bits’ has caused some consternation – these comprise the brake pull yoke assemblies together with the catch bars that on the real wagon, prevent any loose brake rigging from descending to the ballast and thereby causing great mischief.  The shot below shows these fitted into place – you’ll also note that I’ve removed the NEM coupling pockets, which if it’s something you need to do, is obviously easier now than later.  The yoke assemblies are plastic, and fit (with some persuasion) into pilot holes in the back of the brakeshoes, then the catch bars (which are metal) go over these.  The spigots which locate the yokes have an offset, which should be  arranged so the yokes sit lower than the spigot (otherwise they’ll foul the axle), and the catch bars are best fitted by first inserting the end with the small cross shape into the hole in the floor, then locating the other (longer) end into the gap in the framing behind the headstock.

In each case, an appropriate adhesive was used to keep things in place – once fixed, the whole assembly seems quite sturdy.  You might also see that I sorted the brake pull whilst I was at it (the original position shown by the white tell-tale mark); if you’re canny as to how and where you cut it, this literally takes less than five minutes. The image is clickable (to two levels of enlargement) if you want to get in really close:

Usage of the vans in the BR period was more widespread than might be imagined.  Whilst they were obviously never as widespread as the much more numerous LMS, LNER and BR 20 tonners, I’ve seen so many pictures now showing the Southern vans off-Region that I’ve long since stopped counting, and really there’s no reason why they wouldn’t have wandered just as the LMS and LNER brakes did – they wouldn’t have been restricted by lack of duckets or being single-ended like the GW Toads, and there’s some apocryphal evidence that the greater oomph of their 25T rating could have endeared them to staff in some instances.

Edit 2.12.12 – this shot on  Jodel Aviator’s Flickr stream depicts a van just like the one above in trip freight use at Northampton in 1966.

You can find a further review of the models, including more in the way of history and build details, on Graham Muz’s SR-themed blog. 


Filed under Brakevans

The LMS Van

The LMS, as the largest of the four companies, was the one which contributed most to the ‘pool’ of wagons controlled by the RCH and which of course eventually came into BR ownership.  Vast quantities were built to various designs, no doubt causing some degree of confusion at first glance.  As is often the case though, with a little analysis it is evident that a very large percentage of them had a distinct familial resemblance, with the corrugated ends that had first been used back in the 1920s and being essentially to one standard body shape, which also accommodated a post-war change to plywood body sheeting instead of planking.  The last batches to LMS orders actually appeared with BR numbers, and many lasted in significant numbers into the mid-1960s and hence the diesel era.

The vans of the  SR and LNER have recently been quite well catered for out of the box, together with Parkside’s retooling of its post-war LNER plywood van.  The old Mainline moulding for the GW Mink is now middle aged but still acceptable, and this leaves a gap that is surely ripe for RTR exploitation.  For now though, there are three principal LMS-pattern van models available which can round out the picture for a BR van fleet.   These are the venerable Ratio 591/5091 kit, a very similar one-piece moulding in the Airfix RTR range and Parkside’s PC42 kit, which although intended as a BR fruit van to a plywood LMS-inspired design, can be used to represent ordinary vans built by both the LMS and BR.  Contemporary with the Airfix model, an equivalent model appeared in Mainline’s range, easily recognisable by its crude working sliding door;  at some point this was retooled to lose the gimmick, but retained its squat appearance.  To be honest it’s best avoided, as the ex-Airfix moulding is way superior, still available from Dapol and secondhand examples are not rare.

The Ratio kit dates back some forty years now, an all-time classic wagon kit in my opinion, and is still a hard act to follow.  The assembled kit captures the look and proportions beautifully, particularly the characteristic corrugated end and the shape and size of the vent hoods.  Over 20,000 vans were built to the diagrams that it covers  (LMS D1891/1897/1978/2039), so it’s a model that can easily be justified on any layout from the mid-1930s to around 1970.

The one below is in progress, awaiting the ‘metalwork’ stage where it will acquire buffers and tiebars.  Most of these vans acquired additional diagonal strapping during BR days, and this has been represented with plastic strip.  The sharp eyed will see that I didn’t get this positioned spot-on the first time,  which irks me, but it’ll come right once it’s painted and weathered.  I’m also deliberating over providing boltheads on the additional strapping, it may provide an excursion for my Archers rivet transfers.

Although in shadow in this shot (showery in E Yorks today, indoor photography only), it also sits on a Parkside 10ft wheelbase underframe, which I used in order to give a bit of variety and portray a van with BR-pattern axleguards and plate axleboxes.  You can normally do this sort of thing with different chassis kit parts, although a little thought can be needed to accommodate the disparate brakegear parts.  The Parkside floor though fits as if it was made for the job. A second Ratio kit is in build, this one being altered to an early D1891 van with vertically planked doors, and will join a third van that’s been left as intended, although it will acquire a clasp braked, J-hanger suspended chassis courtesy of Parkside’s PA16 parts.  Not that there’s much wrong with the Ratio underframe as it comes, it can be used to represent  a van as vac fitted by BR or (by omitting one set of pushrods, the ones on the side without the Morton clutch), an  unfitted van as originally built.  Other than the rather thick moulding feeds, as visible here on those end sprues, the crispness of these mouldings could easily be mistaken for a modern Parkside kit:

Below is an example of the Airfix RTR  offering; one important recognition feature it depicts is that whereas pukka LMS vans have channel section vertical uprights, BR builds ( diagram 1/204)  have a different section.  The diagonal stanchions are also doubled at points. All of the BR examples were built in vac fitted form, again this is catered for by the appropriate parts from Parkside’s useful PA16 chassis kit:

A bit of added bolthead detail appears on that top board, and also seen here is a very distressed example of a trader’s label, of which more anon…

The Parkside PC42 van is a very rare thing, a model in their range which doesn’t convincingly capture the prototype.  This is because it mistakenly uses a roof profile more akin to the BR standard van.  It is possible to reprofile the top edge of the ends, but this still leaves the vent hood position looking a bit odd, so the solution I chose was to use the ends and roof from the aforementioned Ratio kit, which sets everything up right from the off and immediately shows how far out the sides are .  If you’re frugal in outlook, by the way, there’s no need to shell out for a brand new kit for this purpose as indifferently-built examples can be picked up for a few quid at swapmeets and can with care be dismantled for spares.

My part-finished model here shows the extra 40 thou or so that was inserted  between the body top and the roof.  Again a PA16 chassis provides the undergear, for what will be a BR built example of diagram 1/200. Well one day it will, although I’d vainly add that this is a ‘library’ photo and since it was taken, it has progressed slightly; label boards have been added, together with the boltheads along that upper join in the corrugated end.  LMS vans didn’t always have these details, and so I might just yet do another one as a relative quickie to pair with it.  It’s probably worth pointing out as well that the LMS ply vans, unlike the planked variants above, did have the pattern of upright shown here (D2108), although a small batch to D2097 didn’t have the diagonals and don’t generally seem to have acquired them later.

Other LMS vans that should be mentioned are an all-plywood wartime van, plus some to LNER and SR designs that were delivered during WW2.  There’s also the odd earlier van that can form part of the ’60s scene, and one or two of these might be along in due course.

Useful references:  An Illustrated History of LMS Wagons vol. 1, R J Essery; article in MRJ 205 by Mick Moore; plus the many photographic references provided by Paul Bartlett’s website, David Larkin’s books for Santona and Kestrel, and the late Geoff Gamble’s Cheona volumes.


Filed under Vans, Wagon kits, Wagon weathering

Ironstone a go-go (say it quick..)

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.


Filed under Iron ore, Mineral wagons, Rust effects, Wagon kits