I’ve always been a fan of those step changes that occurred on Britain’s railway and in British industry during the 60’s and 70’s – take the introduction of MGR coal traffic, or Freightliner; both kick started methods of operation completely unrecognisable from what had gone before, revolutionising freight handling in their fields.
The same can be said for the subject of Accurascale’s latest 4mm release, the PTA wagon. With one notable exception (more on that in a bit) BR still relied on a motley collection of short wheelbase wagons not much different to those inherited at Nationalisation for the the transportation of ore at the turn of the decade – Long, heavy trains slowly rumbling along at 25mph or so. Hardly compatible with the accelerated expresses they had to share the main lines with between Britain’s ore reserves and the steelworks….
Imported ore fared better – comparatively efficient trains had been running between Bidston and Dee Marsh since the early 50’s, formed of bogie hoppers almost identical to the famous ICI examples, while British Steel and BR had completely changed operating practice in the north east with the considerably better known Tyne Dock to Consett workings (although I think people were more interested in the 9F front and rear than the wagons!) – these clearly paved the way for things to come, the increased reliance in imported ore making it easier to roll similar practices out on a wider scale.
So we find ourselves in the early 1970’s, and British Steel investing heavily to remain competitive. With BR promoting customers investing in their own wagon fleets, 4 wheel wagons with roughly 25 tons capacity are clearly no longer going to cut the mustard in this brave new world, enter stage left the PTA.
Taking advantage of the then reasonably recently established improved route capability permitting an axle loading of 25 tons per axle (what we now know as RA10) the PTA tipped the scales at 100 tons when loaded, and didn’t really resemble anything that had gone before. Investment at the docks allowed rapid loading from overhead bunkers, while the rotary couplings fitted allowed the wagons to be unloaded without uncoupling. This latter feature also influenced the wagons distinctive livery – the end fitted with the rotary coupler being painted bright orange, contrasting with the dark grey of the rest of the bodyside.
BR undertook the construction of the first batch of PTA’s, fitted with their FBT6 bogies. These were destined for Humberside, where they can still be found running between Immingham and Santon FOT, fulfilling the Scunthorpe blast furnaces appetite for ore, some 48 years after introduction in 1972. Given the conditions these wagons work in that is some achievement!
British Steel took construction in house for the later batches, these being constructed to serve Llanwern, Ravenscraig and Consett Steelworks. Although they followed the same basic philosophy, the body design was significantly different to the BR built batch, with axle motion bogies giving further variety. It is these later examples that are the subject of Accurascale’s new model.
Available as an ‘outer’ pack (including 2 end wagons with buffers and 3 inner wagons with knuckle couplers) and an ‘inner’ pack (5 wagons with knuckle couplers) I treated myself to both packs, to make a rake of 10 in the 70’s/80’s grey livery. They come packaged in a very nice bookshelf style presentation box, with a magnetic lid, so you know you’re onto something special before inspecting the models!
I got a bit carried away and weathered these before I took any photos – suffice to say printing and painting on the bodies is top draw from the box, the only detractor being that they are too clean! One of the end wagons also features a working flashing tail lamp – one of those things that appears a bit gimmicky at first but rapidly becomes something grown men get far too excited about!
The bogies are beautifully moulded, with visible AXLE MOTION wording on the side. It’s a little bit of a shame the wheelsets do not have brake disk detail included as other more recent releases do – I will invest in some Gibson wheels with this on them to rectify the issue at some point. Weathering With an airbrush really highlights the detail in the moulding and the depth of the various springs and other components – this is the best I’ve seen in this field.
I’d intended to backdate this set to their as introduced condition, but the quality of the printing was so good I couldn’t bring myself to remove this from both sides! Therefore I’ve kept the factory livery representing a Ravenscraig set in the 80’s on one side, and once I’ve sourced transfers the other side will become a Consett set. This did mean I could crack on and weather the side being left as is sooner!
A mix of airbrushing and brush painting has been used to make these grubby – using a range of Tamiya acrylics mixed to a mucky grey/brown colour, then over sprayed with flat brown which looks about right for ore dust in my eyes (remembering this falls from above so spray down!)
Given we are all missing shows and the opportunity to chat to people to explain techniques, I thought I’d chat to myself and collate the end result into a video, so in OTCM’s second attempt at directing motion video, here is how I did it:
Overall, these wagons are top quality and have been justifiably popular (Accurascale’s most popular model for Pre-release sales to date I understand) and they represent good value for money when compared to other models of a similar detail level on the market.
If you’re still reading at this point, hopefully I’ve not bored you too much, and fingers crossed my interpretation of the history of ore movements is reasonably accurate! My next job is to go and amend history to come up with a reason why a rake of wagons introduced in the North East in 1974 is operating in South Yorkshire in 1973…. they must be out on test or something!