Heavy Ore

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.

Accurascale PTA’s fresh out the spray booth and on parade

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!

The model captures the massive proportions of the real wagons very well.

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!

Outer end detail – the tail lamp flashes! Tension lock removed and replaced with screw link and pipes as supplied.
Printing of the 1980’s markings is top drawer.

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.

Bogie detail
Bogie detail at the other end

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!

Fixed coupling end
Rotating coupling end

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.

The grey interior is vastly improved with some attention from the airbrush and powders.

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!


15 Replies to “Heavy Ore”

    1. A complete rake will look mega! I need to build a bigger layout just to support 10, as they stretch from the end of one FY to the end of the other!

  1. Great weathering job on the tipplers captured them well. Having looked after the Ore movements in North Lincs for a too many years. As you say the wagons have stood up to the battering of Iron Ore Pellets and the finer grade product for years!

    Regarding trying to find work for the wagons….. The Consett ones often made it Scunthorpe when that plant was on Shut down the Imported Ore through Tees Port instead of being stockpiled would be loaded into the Consett allocated PTA’s and moved south to Scunny with loco changes being done at York Yard North. The traction for both legs of the journey was pairs of type 3’s. Because of the way that the Ore Plant at Santon is set up the trains had to run via Doncaster, Gainsborough, Brigg and run round at Barnetby. I think the most they could manage during these shut downs was 4 a day from Redcar to Scunthorpe. So I couldn’t see any reason why Bottom Works Sidings could not be supplied the same way!

    1. Thanks James! what a great insight into a really interesting working – if someone presented me with a photo of a rake of these at Beckingham I’d have thought it was photoshopped!

      Sounds like a good excuse to justify them (rather than them being on trial) – my fictitious steelworks falls within Scunthorpe group, so no reason they couldn’t have turned right at Doncaster for a trip up through Mexborough to the Dearne Valley!


      1. Yeah a lot of people would have thought the same to be fair!

        These movements of Ore happened more often than people think. Also when a works shuts down the movement of the surplussed stocks goes crackers! As you are probably aware when Ravescraig shut its ore and flux was moved to Llanwern 1st via WCML using pairs of 37/0s then via ECML after a few few trains suffered poor brakes coming over the northern fells and some of that ore also went to Scunthorpe and Lackenby! When LLanwern closed they had not quite finished making steel but they had reduced the quantity of Ore coming through Port Toilet (That’s not a typo) so Immingham Bulk Terminal using the Llanwern sets of Ore Tipplers supplied 4 daily trains of Ore to keep them stocked and when Lackenby shut that went nuts we was using the PTA’s of the Santon flow to move Ore to to Scunthorpe and MBA’s and MEA’s to move the flux and drafted in 3 extra sets of HTA hoppers to move the coal was a very interesting time at work.

        Anyway it would be really good to see Bottom Works Sidings in the flesh and also be really nice if it was expanded a little. The picture of the 31 with 9T61 in its Headcode box is decent long way for Hull T61 trip to go tho.

      2. Thanks for the info James, you should write a book on the subject, it might not be a bit niche but I for one would buy it!

        As things stood BWS was due a trip to Swansea and Brighton this year (neither of which are particularly handy from the East Riding!) and Derby next year, which have all been cancelled – I’m hoping now an end is in sight (touch wood) we will get invited back to these, and to a few more venues in the north (classing that as anywhere north of Grantham 😉) – that said I wish the layout was larger…. the construction precludes an extension being built though, so I have plans to replace with a larger version based on the same theme, with a lot less compromises.

        Were trip notices allocated in number batches to each yard, if T61 is a Hull job? I’d assumed (I haven’t really managed to find much info on them for the early 70’s) each yard would have its own independent notices, using number ranges intended not to overlap with neighbouring yards, but overlapping with plenty of others on the Eastern region!


  2. Thank You I doubt a book on the subject would sell well at all but thank you for the kind words and yeah it would be great to see BWS up close and personal. I really liked Six Quarters that had a great look and feel to it. For some reason it remained me of the Allerton bywater branch for some reason instead of its Cumbrian setting.

    Trip notices……. Each depot had its own amount of trip work that it had to cover. Each administrative area “Doncaster”, “Sheffield”, “Leeds”. was responsible for issuing locomotive and crew diagrams and Trip Notices. So the Sheffield Division issued them for Ickles, Masborough, Wath, Rotherwood, Tinsley and Sheffield these trips started at T33 and ended at T58 for mainline locos and pilot turns ran from T01 to T28 for yard/station Pilot turns. Doncaster’s Mainline loco trips ranged from T01 to T16 (T04/05/07/08 & 09) Trips was dictated by the weekly MGR plan and traction had to be a Air Braked and slow speed fitted 47. The yard and station pilot turns ranged from T21 to T32. Healey Mills was given K20 to K50 for Mainline loco’s and K02 to K12 for yard and station pilot turns. The Leeds area was given K51 to K65 for its mainline locomotives and T27 to T31 for its yard and station pilot turns. Knottingley that was a sub shed of Healey Mills was allocated K69 to K99 for its MGR Trips like at Doncaster these trips where dictated by the weekly MGR plan and had to have AB Class 47s as motive power fitted with Slow Speed Control. Hull was a little different its mainline trip turns ran from T61 to T74 and its yard and station pilot Turns kicked off from T75 through to T90! Goole was given like Hull T91 to T93 for its mainline trips and T94 to T98 for its Dock and Yard pilot turns.
    How did it all work well some of the trips at the depots had regular work so Driver Smith booking at 03:40 for HM K44 Trip would know that he would be getting a loco off shed the minimum traction requirement was shown on the notice and he would get the looc off the shed or holding sidings and run light loco into the yard find his set HTV Hoppers and once the 2nd man and guard have done whats required the trip em British Oak Opencast drop the empty set off then set off for Wath with the loads and once at Wath drop em off, brew up! Then work a set of empties to Glasshougton Coke works and take a waiting raft of wagons back to the Mill. However, Not all turns was like this the divisional controls at Doncaster, Sheffield, Wakefield and Hull would be receiving requests from customers waning empty wagons delivering for loaded and loaded wagons removing for on wards movement to customers premises and so on. So a lot of the each depot had “Control Orders” trips and the content to these would be produced the day or in some cases hours before the crews booked on to work the trains. The advent TOPS was a godsend when the controls could do pipeline enquirers to see what customers and loading points had what wagons so they had some idea of what traffic was going to be ready to collect or needed placing.

    I hope that Kinda explains things a bit better for you guys sorry its a bit long!


    1. Hi James,

      Thanks for taking the time to respond in such detail – that’s really helpful and certainly gives more of an insight that the WTT freight timetable I currently have…. At least in future I can make sure I’m in the right number range for Sheffield division trips! I’ve spotted a copy of the Wath Trip Notices for 1966 on eBay, so may grab a copy at some point as a good chunk of the movements in my fictional world should be on T headcodes.

      David Monk-Steel’s magnum opus on MGR wagons and operation is next on my reading list so I’m sure MGR plans will be next on the agenda for me to delve into detail on… hopefully by the time I get to the end of that the world will be back to normal and I can tie down some of our old coal planners at Ferrybridge to extract their knowledge!

      Thanks again

      1. Hi Chris,

        No problem at all hope it was of use to you guy’s the Wath Notice for 66 is a good starting point but a lot changed in 68 when the Eastern Region merged with the North Eastern Region as I say its a great starting point.

        Regarding coal workings and MGR workings what do you want to know I have just about spent all my working life on the railway looking after and running coal traffic in the Aire and Trent Valley’s and supplying steel works with fuel and moving coke. I have plans from the late 80s and I think some from late 70s early 80s to the current day if Bio Mass traffic floats ya boat. So please ask away!


      2. Thanks James… I’ll get reading and give you a shout – It’s a shame I joined the freight side of the railway just after the demise of coal, it must have been seriously eye opening, particularly in its heyday.

        All the best for the new year.

      3. Hi Drop us your E-Mail address if you want anything answering or have any questions that you might have.


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