16 December 2019
Howard Smith sings praise about these new hopper wagons from Dapol...
Built in Poland at Wagony Swidnica by Greenbrier Europe, the 90T HIA hoppers with a 23.56T tare have been in operation in the UK since their introduction in 2005. Used to haul aggregates around the country on flows such as sinter lime from Shap Beck Quarry to Redcar Steelworks, or stone traffic from Peak Forest, the wagons have even seen use as barrier vehicles when moving new Mk. 5 Caledonian sleeper coaches. Built in two batches, the first of which were painted white, Dapol first produced models of these wagons in OO gauge, three years ago. Arriving with retailers this month is its smaller N gauge variant, in a choice of two liveries, with six running number options.
These detailed wagons require magnification to appreciate the level of accuracy and time invested in the production of the model. Representing the 20th wagon from the first batch constructed, running number 369020 (2F-026-006) is our sample provided by Dapol for analysis. Carrying overall green with Freightliner Heavy Haul branding, it’s useful that the manufacturer is offering variety because these wagons most often run in block trains. The complex shape of the wagons has been expertly captured – even the weld lines of the steel sides are discernible. Scaling sheet metal would be an impossible ask, so the thickness of the plastic at the wagon ends can be forgiven. The buffer beams and end doors are a separate component to the wagon sides, though clever design has helped minimise the gap on the join.
Underside view highlights detail on the unloading doors and their locking levers with red-painted handles.
The wagon is sprayed a satin green, with underframe and pipe details accentuated in black. Handles for the door control gear are picked out in red, with handbrake wheels and door controls decorated white.
Its Y25 bogies are effective and provide smooth running, the brake shoes on these falling precisely in-line with the wheelsets. Sandwiched between these, the three hopper discharge doors with levers represented in their locked position are very convincing, detail continuing to the underside of these. However, despite weathering quickly in service to a dark colour, these should be painted green, not black.
The number of tampo-printed information signs down the sides of this model is remarkable, each applied straight, to scale, in the correct location and easily legible under magnification. The yellow of the Freightliner logo is razor-sharp and has a good depth, preventing the green beneath from showing through – just excellent! Even the yellow of the minute jacking points is easily distinguished against the dark green hue of the wagon.
In the detail
I couldn’t resist opening the accessory bag and installing the air pipes and tail lamp, each with a spot of superglue. These are quick to install and fit into each of the slots provided with a little persuasion. Peer closely at the buffer beams and you’ll notice the draw hooks, which can be made more obvious by removing the NEM-mounted Rapido couplings, particularly if fitting the tail lamp and running it as the final vehicle in a formation.
The lens of the camera is cruel and reveals the injection-moulded end hopper door grab handles to be a little over-scale, though interestingly, the buffer heads appear marginally under-scale. From normal viewing distances, neither offend and unless you feel your modelling is up to the high standards of this RTR model, I’d be inclined to leave both as they are.
Decoration is exemplary. The tampo-printed labels are numerous and legible under magnification.
Inside the rust-painted hopper interiors, you’ll find internal supports for strength, though I’d recommend filling this area with a fine grade of sand or limestone dust as a scale load.
With Christmas fast approaching, why not treat yourself to a rake of all six? They are an ideal match for a Dapol or Graham Farish Class 66. You could add weathering to your list of tasks too, such is the regular work-stained and graffitied appearance of these wagons, more-so today after 14 years of service. Some of the images I consulted of the prototype wagons reveal the extent of their current patina, the white end doors quickly gaining a rust-stained appearance. For graffiti, you could look at model transfers, available from a growing number of detail specialists, or attempt to create your own with a set of gel pens. For ‘Era’ 9 N gauge modellers, this wagon release should be welcomed with open arms. An excellent product by the Chirk manufacturer!
Air hoses and decorative tail lamp enhance the appearance of wagon ends, though the buffer heads are marginally under-scale.