Peco Quality Line N Gauge Wagons Review

New into the man cave are a batch of N gauge wagons from Peco as part of a collection of new tooling. For many many years N gauge modellers have had a staple diet of Peco Wonderful Wagons, with tooling that was first cut as I recall in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. Those wagons formed the bedrock of countless layouts and collections and at the time were excellent. More recently the tooling has shown its age, not so much in the wear and tear, but due to other manufacturers bringing a better looking and performing product to market.

The wagons come in small plastic clear boxes with a card insert and a moulded base to which the wagon is tightly held by a plastic clear strap. For retailers there’s a peg board tag attached which folds out of the way if not required. The base has placements for three different wagon wheelbases, so this possibly indicates other new tooling for the future. All of the packaging is recyclable, the boxes will be brilliant in the workshop for keeping bits and pieces for projects, or for carefully cutting for glazing for other models. Way back in time, playing Mr Benn the shopkeeper, we occasionally used to get asked to take products out of the packaging to let customers see them. With this strap fixing, which is also used on some of the 009 range, that isn’t possible. Not likely to be a big problem but worth bearing in mind if you get one out of the box, once the strap is cut, that’s it, it’s not going back on.

In the eight wagons sent there are three body varieties, two seven plank types and one five plank, these sit on one type of chassis, all new tooling. All three types represent RCH 1923 bodies and wooden chassis.The RCH standards were an agreed set of minimum standards, which allowed a high degree of commonality with the main railway companies as well as from independent builders such as the Gloucester Wagon and Carriage Works and Charles Roberts.

So underpinning these models is a new 9ft wooden chassis, which is a significant improvement over the previous Peco model. The earlier version of the under frame Peco used was in fact a 10ft wheelbase and as mentioned was introduced approximately fifty years ago. As such it is a product of its time, though the detail on it is pretty good. With a quick comparison the most obvious change is the revised and correct 9ft wheelbase on the new (2019) tooling. The wheels are metal tyred on pinpoint axles, and the axles are held in place by two lugs on the wagon centreline.

This is an interesting design point as the original design relied on the ends of the axles, as do contemporary Bachmann Farish wagons. This approach allows the axle and wheels to have a small amount of vertical movement, so whilst not suspension, it will undoubtedly assist with the ‘roadholding’ of this stock. All chassis’ of the review items were square sitting on a flat glass surface. The appearance of the wagons isn’t significantly compromised by this design feature. The early design brake gear was moulded in one piece so brake lever and V hanger were moulded in one piece and not quite in line with the wheel sets. The new chassis is far better in this respect with a separate brake lever allowing the brake shoes and push rods to be in line with the wheels, these are to the correct orientation reflecting wagons with bottom fitted doors. There is also a representation of the side door spring on the new chassis, missing from previous versions. The brake lever is separate however the lever guard where the ratchet sits, is not quite as refined as the Farish equivalent. W irons and springs are much better defined than on the original chassis with the correct type of oil axle box fitted. Also of note is the metal tyred eight spoke wheels of these new wagons. An immediate improvement over the plastic wheels of the past with their ability to collect dirt on wheel treads in particular. These new wheel sets should reduce that effect massively.

NR-7006P 9ft 7 Plank Open Wagon Colman’s Mustard (End Door)
NR-7008P 9ft 7 Plank Open Wagon Lunt (End Door)

Side detail on the chassis is very good, with the iron work well represented. Where the chassis is painted on the prototype this is also coloured on the models, the Colman’s Mustard and ‘Lunt’ livery wagons being outstanding in this regard. Works plates where appropriate are printed and reflect the relevant shape and representative writing, Gloucester and Chas Roberts plates being notable on these samples. Buffers are well detailed having the correct proportions and ribbing to reflect RCH standard types. Couplings are the the traditional N gauge ELC type and they are fitted into an NEM335 coupling pocket, all sample examples worked well and reliably on test.

NR-7007 9ft 7 Plank Open Wagon Shirebrook (end
NR-7009 9ft 7 Plank Open Wagon Middleton (side door)

The wagon body immediately strikes you as a quality moulding, all edges are crisp and well defined with clearly visible strapping and bolt head details. internally the drop doors are featured as are the inside of the side door. There is no internal strapping depicted, that’s not unusual, (across the scales) and I believe is required to allow the tooling to release the wagon body.

Peco N Gauge 7 Plank End Door Wagon

The end door variety is a type not released in the Peco N gauge range previously, and is a welcome addition to the body style available. End stantions on both end and side door variants are timber with the appropriate top taper. For both the end door and side door variants the wood stantion are correct for these private owner liveries, the T section metal end stantion generally identifies a railway company (big four) built wagon. The headstocks are the correct width, slightly wider than the wagon body, and have cut aways to allow the chassis moulding and buffers to fit the body.

Couplings are fitted to the chassis and there is no cut away or compromise on the headstock to allow vertical movement for them. Planks are well defined without there being a significant mould line with the top two planks reflecting a slightly deeper height than the lower five, this is included across the ends of both end and side door body styles. No top capping strips or clips are on these wagons, so they reflect a pre war, new wagon or one that hasn’t seen significant amount of wear and tear.

NR-7010P 9ft 7 Plank Open Wagon Huntley & Palmers (Side Door)

Side and end external ironwork is exceptional in the finesse for all the elements with bolt heads represented in a subtle fashion. The wagon sides are of particular merit as they are so thin, giving a really prototypical appearance. So often open`N gauge wagons have a very noticeable and unprototypical thickness to sides and ends, these are well ahead of the pack in that respect. None of the samples exhibited any inward bowing of the sides. One part not represented on the end door wagon is the top end door roller bar. I don’t mind that as its an easy part to fabricate with a piece of wire, and I think moulding it in place might have compromised the overall appearance.

NR-7005P 9ft 7 Plank Open Wagon NCB (End Door)

The liveries of these wagons is to the top quality we have become accustomed to from Peco over the years. Base colours of the wagons are opaque with no blocking of any strapping or plank detailing. The lettering and logo’s printing is clear, crisp and opaque too, especially the white over red of these samples. Of particular note is the shading extant on the Lunt, Shirebrook and Colmans Mustard examples.

These obviously require several passes to print and the depth of the print isn’t apparent, leaving underlying details clear of paint build up. On some of the wagons with painted corner plates, there is a sliver of the wagon base colour showing on the very apex of the right angles. Running a paint brush across that edge in a vertical motion would resolve that easily. Internally the wagons are unpainted with the satin black plastic base colour showing.

NR-5004B 9ft 5 Plank Open Wagon BR

The RCH 5 plank open, is like the 7 plank opens above fitted to the new Quality Line chassis, identical to those fitted to all other wagons discussed here, and details are as described above. The body is well proportioned and matches the overall dimensions for an RCH body. The overall tooling matches the standards of the 7 plank wagons earlier, the body correctly representing a standard five plank design with equal depth side planks. Again of note is the commendably thin sides and no inward bowing from mould release cooling. In British Rail unfitted grey livery the tare weight, wagon weight and running numbers are all clearly legible and opaque, on the correct black background. In terms of livery the headstocks should be black as per the chassis.

NR-7019P 9ft 5 Plank Open Wagon Pinxton (End Door)

In summary these wagons are an excellent and welcome release into the N gauge market, which sometimes is seen as the poorer relation in the hobby for new product releases. They’re well engineered finely detailed and exceptionally well finished. In an ideal world the brake lever and door spring could be finer and better defined, however its not beyond the possibility for someone to either 3D print a replacement or do a custom etch if you really want to make these ‘pop’. With each of the private owner wagons having crystal clear individual numbers I wonder if there’s a market for individually numbered three packs as we have seen from Farish in N gauge and other manufacturers in OO. With an N gauge colliery diorama/micro layout in the planning stage, I am really looking forward to using these and seeing what they scrub up like with some weathering, and perhaps a few details such as dropping a centre plank, to make a ‘London’ variety.

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