If you model the steam or early diesel eras and run freight, then you are going to need brake vans. Here's a fine example from Hornby
Catalogue ref: R6824
Gauge/scale 16.5mm gauge, 1:76 OO
Era: 4 to 7
GWR enthusiasts have a very specific need – the single-ended van best known by its telegraphic code ‘Toad’ is as iconic as its ‘Pannier’ tanks, you can't have a layout without either.
First introduced by Airfix GMR in 1977, mouldings for this type of van moved to Hornby via Dapol. This newly-tooled version supersedes it in nearly every way.
Separate handrails are made of wire just over a scale inch in diameter, supported by neatly-moulded stanchions. Inside the verandah are well-detailed sandboxes with associated mechanism and brake standard. At the cabin end is a long lever for working the sanding gear. Turning the model upside down reveals a planked roof. Cabin windows are flush glazed.
On the exterior, we find metal lamp irons on the front and back, but moulded versions on the sides which seems an odd economy. Another tweak to ease manufacture is the chimney which is very slightly tapered to get it out of the mould. Substitute it for a piece of tube if it bothers you.
Hornby chose the AA15 design of brake van. Between 1918 and 1926, 378 of these were built across six different lots. Measuring 24ft over headstocks, they were fitted with self-contained buffers and single-pane windows.
Compared to prototype photographs, the model looks accurate with riveted lower side panels and crisp planking. Step boards are supported by flat angled metal hangers. Pedants might spot that the GWR-liveried model is from a build that used round hangers but this is a big leap from the one-piece moulded sideframes of the past.
Although lasting into the 1980s, the single-ended design was unpopular with the unions and BR which restricted their use, hence the RU designation printed on the sides. Those still at work in the later years were part of the civil engineers’ fleet.
The livery is as well applied but the grey would benefit from a little weathering. Only the colour of the floor has come in for criticism on RMweb because it's dark brown and should be a lighter colour. The non-sprung metal buffer heads are a bit shiny too, but neither of these points are major criticisms and are easy to rectify.
There are interesting discussions on RMweb among modellers looking to use this as a base for other variants as well as conversion to EM and P4. Generally, the feeling seems to be that this is a really top-quality model of an essential vehicle. I wonder how long it will be before we see other brake vans brought up to this standard?
To read even more Hornby product reviews, click here.