This year has been a bit of a quiet one for the blog, two layouts ticking over and a busy domestic and work schedule, hence relatively few updates. However earlier in the year I had the pleasure of speaking to Gareth Helliwell from Trains4U in Peterborough. The shop was opened in 2004 as a response to the last ‘traditional’ type of model shop in the immediate Peterborough area closing. Some eighteen years later Trains4U is still going and supplies railway, slot car and plastic kit hobbyists in the Peterborough area with a well stocked walk in retail unit, and an efficient and competitively priced mail order service. Whilst talking about the hobby in general, and him selling me a Dapol N gauge 33, (how does that happen?), Gareth showed me the first tooling shots of the Cavalex Merry Go Round wagons which look really nice. He also asked if I’d like to look at a couple of their T4U/Cavalex warflats for a review on the blog, the connection being that Cavalex were the production partner for the project. I thought they’d make an interesting change, with these wagons being outside my normal sphere of interest and era, but I am finding that my rail interests are quite flexible in timelines and have moved towards more recent times of late.
The two wagons here are known as warflats and their primary design requirement was to be able to transport military vehicles such as armoured cars and other lightweight vehicles. The choice for the prototype was from the T4U team, wanting to add an unusual but useful and widely utilised wagon into the range of modern RTR rolling stock. The wagons were introduced in the mid 1970’s under the TOPS classification PFB, and were dual braked, featuring both vacuum and air brake systems. The wagons are still in MOD use today but are now solely air braked with the TOPS code of KFA. The model is available in two liveries as the earlier PFB ,and later KFA versions. Each wagon type has three different running numbers to choose from, and the two liveries cross over, so you can run all six in the same train prototypically.
The packaging for them is simple and robust. A stiff outer carton and moulded ‘ice cube’ inner tray with close fitting lid holds the wagons securely including the detail pack of air hoses. all appear to be recyclable. With the first look at the wagons they are well assembled with no loose parts the paint and livery The wagons weigh in at 91grams each, the deck being a plastic moulding and the spinal frame underneath of metal. Looking at the running gear, wheels and axles are metal on 26mm standard axles housed in plastic bogies.
Realistically this is more of an overview than a review, not being familiar with the prototype. Both the wagons are identical in build so its a livery variation that makes the difference. in terms of the detail differences between the liveries there are none and the build and moulding quality is identical over the two models. so in terms of the physical appearance of the wagons these words apply to both liveries.
The KFA then is the model I’ll start with, this is in the later livery with the yellow end stocks. The whole body moulding is very cleanly moulded with no apparent tooling slide lines anywhere. Top deck planks are well defined with cutaways for fixing shackles or tie down straps to wagon tie down locations. The end of each wagon has a subtle grip pattern on the tops of the buffer beams. All edges are sharp and on the side beams the wagon label clip for paperwork is well defined.
The buffer beams are a notable area of detail, the buffers are sprung, with oval heads. These types of buffer are often left with the ability to rotate on RTR products, but these are kept horizontal and have a commendably thin head to them. Outer edges of the beams have individual loops for tie down and chain fixings which I was very impressed with. Screw jacks are fitted to the underneath of the buffer beam and are fitted with the appropriate hand wheel and modelled in the raised position. They are correctly situated so they’d align with scale gauge track rather than OO but the difference isn’t particularly notable. These do show a mould line on the side of them but you do have to be very close to notice it.
Standard tension lock couplings are fixed to a kinematic housing on the underside of the wagon. Despite the screw jacks being in position there is no fouling of the couplings under test. The minimum radius I tried was Peco medium radius points both under tension and propelling.
One thing of note was the side play of the tension lock hooks in the actual coupling, I felt this was a little too loose however I didn’t experience any problems myself but if used on set track its something to keep an eye on. The livery of the buffer beams is the major noticeable difference between the two models. On my sample the yellow wasn’t quite as opaque as I’d have preferred, however with weathering applied that won’t be an issue, and I’d rather it be that way than have the paint too thick and obscuring detail. Individual lamp irons are applied and there’s one hole for the air pipes supplied as additional details. If representing an earlier wagon with dual brake pipework, it will be up to the purchaser to source and fit the additional pipes for the buffer beams. The wagons were ‘through’ piped for vacuum work and would have run with a brake van attached to provide braking power.
The under frame of the wagon is very well detailed with fine pipework and mechanism details. The details represent the air brake only type, I’ve not been able to find any accessible detail information to determine how the vacuum pipe was routed for the dual brake version. They don’t appear to be visible on any of the online resources, so unless you’re regularly turning your wagons upside down, not a huge omission to get foaming about.
The NEM coupling mounts are fitted to a kinematic system fixed at the ends of the wagon floors. If using three links the housing looks like it can be removed, but as these were samples, the screwdrivers stayed in their box! The chassis as mention above is a metal casting giving an overall weight of around 9 grams, or about the same as a typical sized iPhone for ease of comparison.
The bogies are plastic with a crosshead screw fixing to the chassis. The bogie side frames are one area where I feel the model is let down slightly. The side frames around the axle box is particularly thick, which does occasionally show when the wagons are viewed end on or on a sharp radius curve. I should mention that’s possibly more noticeable for me due to the height my layouts are set at, however in comparison with the Cavalex TEA tanker there’s a notable difference in comparative thickness. Individual brake wheels are fitted to the side of each bogie and the unusual diagonal brake disc configuration is captured using plastic inserts into the individual wheel sets. Running qualities of the wagons are excellent, both wagons running without any binding or wobble from poorly adjusted or fitted wheels. There doesn’t appear to be any hinderance for people wishing to put either EM or P4 wheel sets in the bogies there looks to be more than adequate lateral clearances, with no brake gear to foul.
Livery application is excellent for both wagons. Apart from the minor yellow opacity issue on the KFA, all paint is applied neatly with no ‘overspray’ or bleed marks.
The printing of the data panels is excellent across both versions with all but the smallest writing clearly legible, and matching locations from on-line pictorial references. If you wish to model the wagons loaded there are 3D printed vehicle chocks available too designed specifically for these wagons.
In summary then these are very good models of an interesting and long lived prototype. Its the first opportunity I’ve had to look at a product from the Cavalex team, and overall its a very impressive model, well built, well detailed and decorated. Used widely across the UK for moving light weight military vehicles, they can be used in full length military trains or one or two of these wagons and other suitable stock such as VEA or VGA type vans. The longevity of them from the mid 70’s to the current day, and only two significant liveries gives modellers a good excuse to add something a little different to the fleet without spreading the boundaries of plausibility!