06 May 2021
With the arrival of this new brand to model railway manufacturing comes a fresh review by Andy York of its two-axle ballast plough van.
Announced in Bachmann’s quarterly update in November, its EFE Rail 'Shark' brake plough van is reaching stockists now and is the first ready-to-run model of this interesting and useful prototype in N gauge.
The Diagram 1/597 and 1/598 brakes made for British Railways from the end of the 1950s onwards were based on an LMS brake, which in turn traces its lineage back to Caledonian days. The EFE model replicates the 1/598 version with spindle buffers (different from Hornby’s 4mm scale model that is 1/597 with self-contained buffers). With a principal function of operating as a conventional brake van, the 'Shark' ballast plough van includes shaped blades that can be lowered to rail level to move and distribute the ballast dropped from accompanying wagons in an engineering train. Each end of the van has a blade that can be lowered by a wheel on the verandah section of the van, which can be seen inside the open area on the model. Although the vans would conventionally be seen at one or both ends of the make-up of a permanent way train, they would often be marshalled into the centre of a ballast train to enable the stone to be spread from within the train rather than there being too much with the potential for derailment before the brake end reached that spot. Seen widely across the network until more modern wagons came into use, their life in several cases extended beyond normal revenue service into the preservation era as a useful vehicle for maintenance of heritage railways.
The dimensions and proportions of the model capture the look well. Under close magnification, the grooves between planks may be overscale but they would not be discernible if created truly to scale. Turning the van over, there’s a lot of detail with the chassis, footboards, plough blades and brake gear. Within the detail pack, the modeller has the choice of long or short rapido style couplings dependent upon their track curvature, and a buckeye style coupling. Spare plough blades are included but the ones fitted are certainly robust enough and there has been no evidence of the ploughs fouling any pointwork on test.
Each of the side rails and grab rails by the doors are all individual components, picked out in white on our review sample, which is Engineers' olive green livery with TOPS ZUV coding making it suitable for use in 1970s guise through to the ‘Dutch’ engineers’ period. In addition to the olive green livery, EFE is releasing the model in earlier bauxite and black liveries and the later grey/yellow livery of the 1980s onwards.
While the base decoration colour of the model is good, under close scrutiny it’s possible to tell that the finer decoration may not be as fine and distinct as Farish printing, but the finish looks good at normal viewing distances, and the detail would respond well to weathering.
The EFE 'Shark' brake van is an ideal accompaniment to the forthcoming N gauge EFE 'Mermaid' ballast wagons, which were previously manufactured for DJ Models (reviewed in BRM June 2017) and Dapol’s 'Grampus' ballast/spoil wagons.