REVIEW: Darstaed Mk. 1 'Suburban'


By Howard Smith

16 December 2019

Howard Smith casts a rule over this latest item of rolling stock to arrive from the historic manufacturer.

Making ripples on the O gauge scene once more, Darstaed has delivered another of its promised items of coaching stock. Its 57ft Mk. 1 suburban coaches are part of a series of rolling stock releases from the manufacturer, following its Mk. 1 corridor stock a few years ago. Its Thompson coaches will follow early next year. Plenty of options for O gauge late-steam and early-diesel modellers, then.

Kindly sent for review by the manufacturer is a sample of its Mk. 1 suburban in Second Class form in unlined maroon. The coaches are available in First, Third, Corridor First, Corridor Third, Brake Second, Second Open, Second Lavatory Open and Second guises, in a choice of lined or unlined maroon, crimson or blue.

The simplistic blue packaging with a polystyrene inner is a no-frills solution, but quite adequate. I fit in the category of those who'd rather see more attention to detail on a model than its packaging. Darstaed has a history spanning many decades – a heritage it is keen not to see ignored – of which we are reminded by the gold design embellishment around the window in the box with the words 'Coach builders since 1966'. Modern, with a hint of nostalgia.

Darstaed Mk.1 'Suburban'

Interior detail is difficult to photograph, though luggage racks and promotional travel posters are visible to the naked eye.

Eye for detail

Casting a rule over the model, the all-important 57ft underframe of the coach is to scale and the 28ft radius tumblehome of its sides looks accurate, too, when viewed from the ends. Darstaed has opted to injection-mould the roof of the coach, its ventilators appearing to scale and its roof segments being discernible. The coach ends are injection-moulded in ABS plastic and painted a satin black colour. They are detailed with separately-applied handrails and lamp irons. Brake seconds are fitted with a working tail lamp, too.

What raises the bar for accuracy are the brass sides, where detail is pin-sharp as a consequence. I think it's a requirement on such a model, not because 'it's traditional' or 'it's expected', but because of the strength it provides and the finesse of the flush-glazed windows that results. The windows play a large part in the overall makeup of this model and their appearance is faultless.

The door edges are easily discernible – the bodywork panel lines outlining their presence convincingly, with an impression of the door hinges. The door handles are a little overscale, though would be less obvious with weathering. For modellers seeking more bodyside detail, three packets of unpainted injection-moulded door hinges are supplied for the modeller to fit – three per door – if desired. Though not a necessity – far from it – it's a process that will require a little patience to complete, particularly if you have a rake of coaches, avoiding traces of glue on the excellent pristine finish of the bodysides.
End detail is well-observed, though some might find the couplings a tad overscale – an item easily replaced. At the coach ends, the body is flush with the underframe, rather than proud by a scale few inches, though when in rake, as with the couplings, both are largely disguised. Underframe detail is superb, with dynamo, battery boxes, brake gear and trestle supports represented. Importantly, these visible items are accurate.

Darstaed Mk. 1

A coach that withstands scrutiny under close magnification. Underframe and side detail is spectacular, though door handles and couplings are a little overscale.

Interior observations

Unlike modern rolling stock with tinted windows, this coach of yesteryear has an interior quite visible from the exterior. The model seating inside has been covered with an impression of upholstery – an effective touch – they even look inviting and comfortable! A closer look at the inside of these compartments reveals the trio of travel posters behind the bench seating, beneath wonderfully-etched and silver-painted luggage racks. Bringing all of these to life is an interior LED light bar, collecting current from one of the compensated BR1 bogies, the appearance of which has greatly improved over its previous Mk. 1 coach releases. These small details harmonise to elevate the quality of this model well-above its previous model releases. It's only then that the £169.00 RRP hits home – this is a coach that in the face of competition has value for money written all over it!

New era?

I've always associated the Darstaed name with its reputation for tin-plate models for the great outdoors – designed to be rugged and withstand handling, though acceptable when viewed from a distance. This latest model hasn't blurred these lines, but flipped it entirely on its head. It’s a pleasant surprise that these coaches are so detailed and of such a high-quality and I suspect many will see use on indoor layouts as a result. A recommended model. With its announcement of an LMS/BR 4-6-0 ‘Black Five’ and its Thompson coaches to follow, time will tell if these initial ripples will transform into waves. Recommended.