Oh come on, it is at least seasonal …!
Anyhoo, a review seems appropriate, following the season of box opening on a much larger scale, and Bachmann’s 12T Pipe wagon is fairly fresh in the shops. Thing is though, this is highly likely to come out as one of those Jeremy Clarkson style reviews, where there’s a handful of words about the subject and rather more about various semi-connected subjects on which I wish to give you the benefit of my views…
There’s not a lot I can say about the prototype wagon that isn’t already fairly well known or easily obtainable from published sources. One point I will make though is that it’s not absolutely identical to the Parkside – whereas the kit is a diagram 1/460, built unfitted and later converted to vac, this new RTR vehicle is to diagram 1/462, which were VB from new. The consequent differences are acceptedly minor – a Morton clutch to the brakegear on one side, rather than the earlier drop link, and spindle buffers rather than the hydraulic jobs usual on the conversions – but still, it’s different. There were two other diagrams – 1/461 of LNER origin (of which more shortly) and 1/463, the final evolution with 8-shoe clasp brakes (this was the donor batch for what became the air braked ODAs).
Which brings in my first point. Much as I’ve loved, and still love, Parkside kits, and have a lot of time for the guys behind the outfit, I’m a little bemused by comments to the effect that the RTR firms are ‘working their way through the Parkside catalogue and should show more imagination’. But the point, surely, is that these vehicles, these chosen diagrams, are the most numerous or useful, and that both the kit manufacturer and the RTR firm are simply choosing the best commercial prospect?
In this respect, the forthcoming Tube is probably a better illustration. There are many designs of tube wagon, of GW, LMS, LNER and BR design; many look superficially similar but the LMS – BR design lineage in particular masks a continuous evolution made up of subtle differences. So when Bachmann arrived at the conclusion that they’d be best served doing the BR 1/448, the last built and longest lived, it’s really a moot point in my view whether they aped Parkside or whether they got the wagon books out and researched it themselves. In fact they probably did both, using as many sources of info as they could. I know I would.
Secondly then, the price. It’s twenty quid (or thereabouts). Yes, I know, twenty quid for a four wheel wagon (and I won’t insult your intelligence by pointing out that it’s a slightly longer than average four wheel wagon). And yes, I know the Parkside one is about eight quid, and I can do the sums to work out the difference.
But the Pipe is a more complex wagon than most probably realise, especially those who’ve contented themselves with simply building the thing out of the packet. And there’s a spinoff topic, worthy of further study – there’s almost always a difference between building an XYZ kit of a class A123, and building a model of a class A123 from the said kit. I won’t develop that theme too far here, except as an illustration of my belief that at twenty quid, the new RTR model is actually not bad value. In each and every case of comparison like this, one has to factor in one’s time; I’m not going to include the cost of paint and transfers etc in the calculation as they’re just a stock-in, as much a part of one’s hobby as tools or books. But time is the important one, and even now I can hear people saying that a Parkside kit falls together almost in minutes rather than hours.
But consider this (or if you’re fed up of reading already, consider the photo above). The Pipe is not a simple open wagon. Anyone who has an appreciation of how wagons are built for the jobs they do will realise that those long drop doors make a difference. Just under the bodyside, there are ‘door controllers’ (a fancy sort of hinge), the usual triangular gusset plates to support the part of the floor that overhangs the frame, and some door bangers that are at a more precarious angle than average and are hard to secure to a kit solebar. In the middle, there’s also a box section that no doubt gives some strength to the whole structure, otherwise weakened by the full length doors.
The hand brake lever catches the look pretty well, something that’s not easy to do with a kit unless you substitute etched bits (and assuming there’s one available for the distinctive shape on this wagon). There’s also a further issue with the kit that usually escapes people: that for understandable production economy, the kit utilises the chassis parts from the 21T and 24.5T mineral kits, which means it has heavy duty axleguards (the Pipe, being a mere 12 tonner, has standard axleguards).
You don’t have to add any of this extra detail to the kit, of course – but the point is that the RTR model is sorted in all of those respects, so a simple comparison with the kit is not a fair comparison. I did two kitbuilds many years ago (part of a projected build of half a dozen, which went the way of most good intentions), and incorporating the modifications listed; even pricing my time at minimum wage, I could not build the kit to this standard for twenty quid. The pic above shows the more interesting of the pair; intended to portray the LNER derivative, it combines Parkside ends with Nu Cast sides and Parkside solebars with etched axleguards and modified ABS brakegear.
So there you are. A sort of review, another past glory, and a hell of a lot of punditry. Come at me, guys 😉