08 October 2020
The manufacturer shares first images of engineering prototypes for its GBRf IIA biomass hopper wagon, as converted from existing HYA coal wagons.
Accurascale has unveiled its latest OO gauge wagon – the GBRf IIA biomass hopper wagons, converted from HYA coal wagons. The manufacturer has not only completed CAD artwork, but tooling is underway and images of the first engineering prototypes of the wagons have appeared.
Decorated samples of the wagons are expected later this year and if approved by Accurascale, production will commence, with delivery scheduled for Q2, 2021 via the network of Accurascale Approved stockists. Pre-ordering is now open with wagons packaged in pairs. A bundle deal for all four packs is offered at a discount rate, helping modellers build their biomass rake.
The Accurascale IIA biomass hopper features several notable changes over the previously announced HYA/IIA coal hopper. As well as the distinctive roof doors and operating equipment, it also has the WH Davis revised design of end plates with just seven wider vertical stiffeners versus 15 on the Romanian-built examples, plus door master controls and four additional small boxes per side that contain the magnetic switches on the prototype for door/hopper operation.
Both livery variants will be produced in the first run, each with two packs of two hoppers giving eight unique numbers. One pack will also include a hopper with factory-installed illuminated flashing tail lamp, with on-off magnetic switch control. A telescoping magnet wand will be supplied.
Etched roof door detail can be observed from first images shared.
In the run up to the passing of the Energy Act in December 2013, which restricted carbon emissions from fossil fuel power stations, a number of electricity generating companies began modifying some or all of their boilers to burn imported wood pellets (biomass) rather than coal. The first to make the switch was Drax, the UK’s largest power station, but other rail-served locations followed, including Fiddlers Ferry, Ironbridge and Lynemouth, in some cases a last nod to a cleaner future before being switched off.
Initially Drax received biomass pellets in unmodified bogie coal hoppers, but as the fuel could be ruined if it rained – very likely with British weather – a more permanent solution was required. DB Schenker, Freightliner and GB Railfreight all converted various existing wagons with new opening roofs as prototypes, with only GBRf and partner VTG committing to an upgrade programme for their IIA fleet. Drax later went on to order its own purpose-built wagons, while more recently GBRf has also purchased a custom fleet for the Lynemouth flow.
The first GBRf biomass hopper, IIA 37706955273-7, was outshopped from WH Davis, Langwith Junction, in December 2009, and featured two long pneumatically-operated doors that opened and closed automatically for loading, preventing water egress and dust blowoff during transit. Just over one hundred examples were built or recalled to WH Davis from earlier batches for conversion, all from the 37706955222-288/305-352 batches, with the last being modified in mid-2013. Wagons in the 200 series were delivered prior to First Group selling GBRf to Europorte and included First, GBRf and VTG branding, while the remainder (300 series) were constructed afterwards and sport only VTG logos (repositioned on the left of the body) and GBRf branding.
While Drax is by far the largest consumer of biomass still operating, engorging itself on train after train of Drax’s own hoppers and GBRf IIAs, Ironbridge also took regular deliveries in GBRf’s converted hoppers until it closed in late-2015. Meanwhile, the imported pellets arrive at a number of different ports, with Tyne Dock being the most important, with Liverpool Bulk Terminal and Portbury, near Bristol, also contributing significant quantities and bringing these wagons to the South West, Midlands and Trans-Pennine routes. GBRf Class 66/7s are most common up top, although the operator’s small fleet of Class 60s are regulars on the Tyne Dock-Drax circuit.
For more details, including pricing and information, visit the Accurascale website.