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Kernow Model Rail Centre L&SWR Diagram 1541 'Road Van' Review

Introduced in 1884 by the former London and South Western Railway (L&SWR), the ‘Road Van’ (as it latterly became known) was of the single-veranda variety of brake van with a set of double doors to allow the loading of parcels and other such lightweight goods. Characterised by their timber body with external framework, almost five-hundred examples were constructed over two decades at Eastleigh Works.

Predominantly used on local goods trains, they were able to accommodate smaller consignments at platform level that could easily be stowed with the guard.

Classified as Diagram 1541 by the Southern Railway (SR) at the time of Grouping, the ‘Road Van’ could be seen throughout the network, including the Isle of Wight, with fourteen transferred from the mainland between 1925 and 1938.

Many examples lasted well into the 1960s – latterly plying their trade in Departmental use – with four surviving into preservation. Of note is S54663 which was withdrawn in 1961 and became the Bluebell Railway’s first item of rolling stock, arriving in May 1962.

Kernow Model Rail Centre (KMRC) first announced the ‘Road Van’ in September 2014 however delays by two previous suppliers (including the since dissolved DJModels) resulted in the decision to work directly with the factory of manufacture, resulting in an unavoidable delay accounting for the backlog of other projects.

Computer aided designs were formed from a laser scan of the preserved example at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway (56046) and were eventually approved for tooling in 2020 with the engineering prototype following in August the same year. After a small number of minor modifications, livery samples were released in January 2021.

With the involvement of Mr Graham Muspratt, following his appointment as KMRC Development Manager in October 2020, it is of no surprise that the ‘Road Van’ is one of the most faithfully produced models available in the ready-to-run market.

A total of ten examples ranging from the L&SWR, SR and British Railways (BR) have been produced with tooling allowing for mainland and Isle of Wight variations with plain or ribbed buffer shanks and inward-angled step-board brackets which were fitted to the majority of those transferred.

It has been noted in the wider modelling press that the key dimensions have been captured perfectly with planking widths correctly replicated (those on the veranda are slightly narrower when compared to the main body). The framing itself is distinct and fine throughout.

Detailing is similarly to a very high standard with separately applied lamp irons executed impeccably. The fitted handrails are fine and durable with special mention reserved for the veranda window bars positioned over flushed glazing.

The underframe is intricate and includes the brake actuating gear which is a welcome inclusion. In addition to the step boards mentioned above, it should be noted that toe guards are also detailed on each veranda end.

Decoration of SB003C is excellent – an evenly applied grey finish throughout with perfectly executed white handrails. Printing is crisp with legible (and accurate) cast solebar-mounted number plates – indeed the L&SWR and pre-1936 SR examples also carry company and Eastleigh Works lettering.

Decoration of the six L&SWR and SR examples appear similarly well finished with brown body sides and venetian red ends sharply separated. It should be noted that the shade of brown on these examples is entirely correct, especially when considering the poorly executed first release of Diagram 1543 by Hornby Hobbies in 2019 – undoubtedly a further benefit of Mr Muspratt’s input.

Turned metal eight-spoke wheels ensure a smooth and quiet running performance, as to be expected. Slim tension lock couplings in self-centring NEM pockets finish what is a fantastic model.

The following variants are currently available, priced at £34.99: -

- SB003A 10T Diagram 1541-‘Road Van’ (SR Brown) No 56046 (Isle of Wight)

*As preserved on the Isle of Wight Steam Railway

- SB003B 10T ‘Road Van’ (L&SWR Brown) No 10131 (Mainland)

- SB003C 10T Diagram 1541-‘Road Van’ (BR Grey/Outdoor Machinery Section) No DS 54538 (Mainland)

- SB003D 10T Diagram 1541-‘Road Van’ (BR Grey) No S56055 (Isle of Wight)

- SB003E 10T Diagram 1541-‘Road Van’ (BR Grey) No S56050 (Isle of Wight)

- SB003F 10T Diagram 1541-‘Road Van’ (BR Grey) No S54663 (Mainland)

- SB003G 10T Diagram 1541-‘Road Van’ (BR Brown) No S54466 (Mainland)

- SB003H 10T Diagram 1541-‘Road Van’ (SR Brown) No 54611 (Mainland)

- SB003J 10T Diagram 1541-‘Road Van’ (SR Brown) No 54551 (Mainland)

- SB003K 10T Diagram 1541-‘Road Van’ (SR Brown) No 56045 (Isle of Wight)

An important prototype for modellers of the southern region, KMRC should be commended for preserving with a project that has received criticism for delays and lack of updates. The finished model is a fantastic achievement and begs the question what project KMRC will next turn their attention to.


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