Announced in May'21 when already at the tooling stage, Rapido Trains UK have released an array of open goods wagons based on a variety of South Eastern and Chatham Railway (SECR) designs.
The first represents one of the most numerous types with over 2,000 seven plank timber bodied wagons constructed between 1915 and 1923 under the SECR and until 1927 as Diagram 1355 under the Southern Railway (SR). Built with a standardised steel underframe with corner reinforcements and supports, the SR added a sheet rail to some examples, referred to as 'hybars', which allowed the fitting of a tarpaulin to protect the contents.
The five plank wagons depict those rebuilt to Diagrams 1347 and 1349 using the same underframe with differing buffer types.
Simple in design, their versatility meant they could be seen across the network, lasting well into the British Railways (BR) era.
The models themselves boast impressive moulded detail throughout with spring and axleboxes cleanly rendered and interiors clearly defined. The vertical supports on each wagon are wonderfully thin and comparable to the steel roof seen on the GWR Diagram Z4-'Cone' Gunpowder Van. However, to echo a point made elsewhere, it's a shame that the safety loops are rendered as part of the brake gear moulding instead of a separate item.
Diagram 1347 shares the buffers of 1355 (spindle) with self-contained fitted to 1349. Both are modelled correctly however the majority of the latter have been installed crooked. Glued fast, rectifying runs the risk of damaging both the chassis and buffers themselves.
Sheet rail parts (consisting of a wire rail and moulded brackets) are provided separately for Diagram 1355, though there are no aids on the bodyshell for installation. It is worth noting that the hybar can only be positioned upright, and not sideways, as would have been the case without a tarpaulin.
Comprehensive underframe detail is evident (such as moulded drawbars, though entirely hidden when upright) with axles mounted into metal pinpoint bearings ensuring free-running.
The quality of paintwork is high across all iterations (a host of liveries were available upon release) including the printed detail on solebar builder's plates. Of note is the choice to use the same SR brown that Kernow Model Rail Centre (KMRC) used on their London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) Diagram 1541 'Road Van'.
Once again some may baulk at an RRP of £32.95 however that would be unfair given ever increasing costs. That being said, to have the overwhelming majority of self-contained buffers poorly applied is disheartening, especially when not an isolated incident.
Undoubtedly a shrewd choice by Rapido Trains UK given the current popularity of pre-Grouping locomotives and rolling stock, as well as the multiple opportunities that a shared underframe provides.