Friday, 12 August 2016

"Oxford Rail LNER Cattle Wagon review"

I've been looking forward to the release of Oxford Rail's cattle wagon for some time, and had intended to write a review of it: however this blog also looks a little at why the Oxford Rail cattle wagon has taken a bit of a beating in the model railway press recently, and particularly on forums, and whether it is fair.

To caveat this I have to say that this is probably the first time in a long time that I have to switch allegiances in a debate and head over to the side of "are we modellers or not?" from my long standing consumer orientated part of the debate.

Normally if a model wasn't quite there in terms of accuracy I'd lament this - and there are indeed a couple of lamentable design choices on this model - but that does not in any way, shape or form, detract from what is in the main an excellent model of a very specific diagram wagon.

Oxford Rail's LNER liveried cattle wagon (1927 built version)

It's so specific, you can find a photograph of it on page 291 of An Illustrated History of LNER Wagons. It's a diagram 39, 10 ton cattle wagon, built at Doncaster in 1927. It's the 9ft wheelbase version and there is an elevation drawing on page 293 of the same volume. For anyone so interested, on the same page is a a photograph of an unfitted version of the same diagram wagon.

Minor modifications to Oxford Rail's model, including removing the vacuum pipes will produce the unfitted wagon.

Oxford Rail's British Railways liveried cattle wagon (1949 applied livery)

In fact, one could argue quite reasonably that Oxford Rail have made a model which is somewhere between its fitted and unfitted variants! The main point of contention is the missing vacuum cylinder, which should be located where the Oxford Rail branding is on the underside of the chassis. A white metal replacement or some plastic tubing will effectively finish the model off if you want the fitted version, removing the brake pipes will make the unfitted version.

Looking closely at the photographs in this volume and elsewhere, I think on the balance of probability that Oxford Rail were actually intending to reproduce a very similar wagon to that seen on page 292 of this volume, particularly if you look at the sole bar and note that the "9ft wheelbase" is missing on the right hand side as you look at each side of the wagon.

It has one glaring error. It's effectively used the same CAD for both sides of the wagon. These wagons had adjustable partitions and as such the partition notches (noticeable in the planks on the left hand side of both sides of the wagon) should be mirrored left to right sides, not mirrored across the diagonal of the wagon, effectively!

I am in two minds about this inaccuracy. You can't see both sides of the wagon at the same time so this error is only obvious if you turn the wagon around in your hand. Secondly - no partitions have actually been fitted, so this would only cause a problem if you were going to put cattle in your cattle wagon and also fit additional detailing such as said partition. For weathering and putting to run on your layout, is this really as big a deal as people have made out?

And who says you can't fix it by adding the gap between the planks, and the notches, using a small dremel cutting tool and a scalpel, and then using plasticard and filler to fill in the offending end the other side?

So cards on the table time: this is a tooling with two big errors/omissions (vacuum cylinder, partition notches) which is otherwise very accurate for the 1927 built, diagram 39 fitted 9ft wheelbase LNER cattle wagon. Phew, what a mouthful! It's missing the vacuum cylinder and it has some issues with the sides, but other than that it is highly accurate in all major dimensions, details and overall livery application and is available for a whisker over £10.

Hornby's cattle wagon for comparison 
(their newly tooled Southern Region one is out later in the year)

Now I'm not being funny, but given I've deliberately included samples of two of the main competitors (Hornby's older cattle wagon isn't currently available, but an all new Southern diagram cattle wagon is due to join their range later in the year) to Oxford Rail's new cattle wagon in this review, and noted their prices, the clamour to condemn, berate and bemoan the Oxford Rail model in a number of locations on the internet is in my view a total disgrace.

Bachmann's Cattle Wagon for comparison

It's the cheapest of the three main cattle wagon models available, and it's the only one which is close to reproducing the diagram it purports to represent. Bachmann's model is derived from the short Mainline LMS cattle wagon, Dapol's GWR inspired one is over lumpy, with very coarse detailing and to be brutally honest, given the number of times both samples derailed on straight sections of track (never mind the curves or points!) possibly the worst running ready to run wagons I've ever come across. £10 for the Oxford Rail model is an absolute bargain.

Dapol's cattle wagon for comparison

Much of the criticism for the Oxford Rail model has come from the recognition that the BR liveried one is unlikely. Except it isn't, because on page 291 of the volume I'm referring to, low and behold there is a 9ft wheelbase LNER cattle wagon in the same livery as Oxford Rail's! Where the criticism is valid (and this is key) is that Oxford have only tooled up one version of the cattle wagon, and that is the one which represents the 1927 as built and probably pristine wagon, without any of the later additions such as the additional bracing and strapping applied to keep the wagons in good order that can be seen in photographs of BR or late LNER era wagons.

So they've only tooled it up for one period and applied different era liveries to it. Big deal! They're not the first to do this, nor I suspect will they be the last to do so. All of the model railway manufacturers who've produced wagons have done this and some extremely spurious liveries exist mostly centring on five or six plank open wagons...

I'm genuinely mystified by the response by normally well respected LNER modellers as well. There's one in particular who berated Hornby for not producing the LNER Q6 in pre-war livery who is now complaining because Oxford have produced their wagon in pre-war form and livery!

This model is the best LNER cattle wagon produced ready to run. It's also the first and only one to a specific and recognisable diagram, in a recognisable livery and with only minor modifications (as far as I am concerned!) to make it an excellent model.

I'd read people's views across a number of forums and I was pretty surprised at what I was reading. This was prior to doing any research. One contributor in particular had picked out "about 30 errors".

It's a pity that, on closer observation, his "30 errors" are limited to the British Railways liveried model - that number gets reduced to around two or three when you look specifically at the LNER liveried model and think of this model has having been designed in the context of the 1927 diagram 39 wagon.

Should Oxford have made the 10ft wheelbase cattle wagon instead? Probably, it would have given them greater coverage for liveries and it was the more numerous wagon. Does it make enough of a difference for an LNER modeller to not buy this model? Probably not either. What about other region modellers?

These cattle wagons, though comparatively rare throughout their years in comparison to either LMS or Southern and later BR variants, will look a good addition to a mixed goods train. Let's face it, the big four's wagons got around. Okay, it's unlikely to have made it to deepest, darkest Wales or Cornwall but up the Midlands and the North of England, to the east of England and Scotland? Possibly. It has potential.

I know I need the 10ft wheelbase as a post war LNER modeller. This 9ft wheelbase model is a great starting point for making that wagon type. There's a very enterprising modeller on one of the forums who, I am told, has converted Oxford Rail's model into one of these already. More power to his elbow. Excellent work.

For the rest of us who want a cattle wagon that looks the part and has the modelling potential, this is it. The release of the century for LNER modellers. A gift horse (or should that be cow?) we shouldn't be looking in the mouth, unless it's to improve its lot.

I'm all for criticism where it is due. I feel this model has had a lot of unnecessary criticism. But at that price point, with the very nicely moulded body, and options available to me to make it better and do some modelling, I'm not going to dismiss it out of hand. Especially not when it's the best model for my needs, and I suspect for the vast majority of LNER modellers up and down the country.

I leave you with a short video. You make up your mind as to which of the six wagons in the train you think looks the part. The emphasis is mainly on the Oxford Rail model of course, but compare the Bachmann and Dapol models and their prices to this one and have a think if ignoring the Oxford Rail model is really sensible consumerism as well as sensible LNER modelling.


Adrian Swain said...

Hi I’m so glad you are one for criticisms being voiced where due as this comment is one criticising your remarks !! Firstly, the idea that by removing the vacuum pipes this wagon can easily be converted to the unfitted variety is total rubbish. In fact to achieve a really accurate unfitted wagon one of the few things on or below the body that you might NOT wish to remove are the vacuum pipes if you wanted to portray the CLC wagons. The only other usable components on the chassis are the brake lever pin guards and the axleguards. The latter are sufficiently inaccurate that they really need replacing in the correct position with new wheelsets. I suggest you take another look at the volume to which you refer and acquaint yourself with what the unfitted wagons actually look like. Even the door bangers and their plates need moving to the centreline of the wagon.

Comparison with the Bachmann and Hornby (Triang) models is hardly justified as the latter was in the Ark on Jonah’s layout and the other dates back 40 years to the original Mainline range. A better comparison would be the original Hornby Dublo BR model in the early ‘60s which is much the same quality with different but equally annoying errors. Are we to accept standards today that mirror those of half a century ago? You might but I won’t. To call this the “Release of the century” hardly seems justified in the light of Hornby’s LNER CCT or even Bachmanns LNER 7 plank RCH mineral wagon. Indeed most of Bachmanns LNER vans and opens would be well ahead of this in terms of accuracy and importance. Even the lettering details have many errors such as the wrong Tare weight which reflects that of the unfitted, lighter version, and incorrect running numbers neither of which are in the cattle truck ranges.The BR variant has “Large” and “XP” not seen on any photos I have and the remaining lettering is not in the normal position. Additionally the upper partition locators are missing and one vacuum pipe is the wrong hand along with numerous other detail mistakes

Certain mischief makers have claimed that I said there are 30 errors on this model and that I contacted OR innumerable times about this model, neither of which are true. I did contact OR about some of the 30 errors on the PO wagons but that post appeared a year before the cattle had even been announced. Whilst I have no objection to being called a “Rivet counter” I see no reason why I should be accused of foretelling how many errors would appear on this wagon, even though there may indeed be the best part of 30 on BOTH version. Perhaps it is you who have the ability to forecast ahead with your statement that Hornby are going to produce an LMS cattle wagon soon. Please check page 291 as, even with my glasses on, I cannot see a BR liveried Dia. 39 cattle wagon with 9’wb vacuum braked underframe, indeed to date no such pictures have appeared and only the earlier Diagram 26 vehicles, which are a different design, have so far been seen in photos.

I have been in this business long enough now to accept that the chance of any sort of retraction or apology for what has been said is most unlikely. The era of gutter politics has sadly entered the model railway arena via the internet and the most likely scenario is further mud-slinging in an attempt to make some of it stick. My best wishes for YOUR attempts to correct this model, it’s a lot more work than building a kit but I have not given up yet. Adrian Swain

Copley Hill said...

I've published Adrian Swain's comment above in the interests of freedom of speech within the model railway press.

I however reserve the right to publish his comments further without replies from myself.

Adrian, firstly, thank you for the pointer towards an error in the review. I have modified "LMS" to Southern. In my defence I was also looking at their forthcoming coke wagon and I believe I got my regions muddled when writing the review, despite to all intents and purposes thinking "Southern" but not ultimately writing it. It is a shame you chose to write that with sweeping sarcasm as I have always been happy to be corrected and edit my blogs where errors occur.

The comparison with the other wagons is fair: they are currently the only other RTR cattle wagons on the market. The point I am making is simple: cattle wagons have been massively underserved by the RTR manufacturers for many years and my comparisons should make that clear as to why.

I call it the "release of the century" for LNER modellers because there's nothing comparable for cattle wagons out there. It was tongue in cheek and should be taken as such - it's another pointer that we LNER modellers aren't well catered for in cattle wagons but there again the point remains that no region is well equipped by the RTR manufacturers.

I disagree with several of your points and would ask you to look again at the photographs on the pages I have mentioned and consider the point I have made of the model being a very specific tooling for a 1927 built wagon - which you have completely ignored in favour of claiming errors in my research.

I've no interest in discussing building kits as opposed RTR wagons because the point of the review was to show an RTR wagon and the alternatives currently on sale from other manufacturers, which I feel puts the OR wagon in a better light. The pricing too is key.

I am aware of a number of additional errors but they are so minor and not visible at normal viewing distances (let alone close up) that I felt to introduce them further would muddy the waters of the overall point I was making - it's a well moulded, very specific time period wagon, with a few specific (but correctable) errors and like any manufacturer OR has followed a line of making only one tooling and using that specific tooling in different (sometimes inappropriate historically) liveries.

RE the unfitted wagon - I would suggest you have another look at Tatlow's edition and get back to me. I feel it is entirely possibly to make the OR wagon look representative of that type with minor modifications. I will agree to disagree with you on that point.

On your other points regarding "mud slinging" - no mud has been thrown Adrian, and if you feel my review is aimed at you, I am afraid you are mistaken. You are not the only vocal voice within the hobby. The "30 points" is indeed a reference to your points, however, but I gave the full context of that regarding the tooling and the liveries applied. You have chosen to ignore that point, that is your hang up.

I do not appreciate the term "gutter politics" with regards my review and I do not consider a retraction or apology is necessary as I have not done anything to apologise for.

Your biggest problem Adrian is that you sometimes have some excellent points but the manner in which you present them paints you in a different light. It is not constructive to go on the attack so readily and in my opinion the best way to help the manufacturers is not the same manner you seem to prefer. We will agree to disagree on this.

My final word is that I will always publish posts and responses in the best interests of the hobby and as always, and am happy to be corrected when I am wrong.

Adrian Swain said...

Hi, Perhaps your Tatlow 4b is different because page 291 on mine shows two LNER dia 39 wagons in pre 1937 LNER livery and not in BR livery which you claim is shown on that page. You state-
“Much of the criticism for the Oxford Rail model has come from the recognition that the BR liveried one is unlikely. Except it isn't, because on page 291 of the volume I'm referring to, low and behold there is a 9ft wheelbase LNER cattle wagon in the same livery as Oxford Rail's! “
Various researchers have been looking for just such a picture for quite some time without success.

It is true that really accurate cattle wagons have been missing from the RTR ranges but there are numerous, even more important, models which have never appeared. SR and GWR open and mineral wagons of any design are absent as are some of the commonest wagons of all time such as the LMS 5 plank wood underframe open and various pre 1923 design PO wagons. Had OR employed better design ideas they might already have the makings of numerous accurate wagons without having spent as much on tooling. Incidentally you seem to have completely ignored the Bachmann BR cattle wagon which is probably just as accurate overall as the OR model even when re-liveried as a GWR wagon. The OR model hardly qualifies, as it comes, as any more accurate than this Bachmann model.

I am already part way through making an unfitted 9’wb Cattle to the standards which I set with my kits over 40 years ago. This is not “Perfection modelling” and I don’t consider a complete scratch build of all the underframe detail plus the numerous modifications to permit the fitting of Morton 9’wb 2 shoe brakegear and the additional expense involved a worthwhile exercise. I could have bought a Parkside kit, which would have been a cheaper and quicker option and probably almost as accurate. I am only doing this in order to explain to others what is involved and doubt many will make the effort once they have seen what is required.

I was not referring to you as stooping to “gutter politics” and “mud-slinging” but to those “mischief makers” on RMweb who take great delight in such activities,( unless the cap fits !!) It was there that reference was made to “30 errors” and “deluging OR with complaints” and even when it was pointed out my comments were NOTHING to do with the OR cattle wagon topic and I had only emailed them twice, there was no attempt to apologise. Instead there were further attempts to reinforce these views. Their comments were allowed even though I am not permitted to respond and, although others tried to defend me, they soon realised the moderators insisted these remarks stand. It is gratifying to know that you believe in freedom of speech as many in this hobby do not. However YOU brought up the subject of “30 errors” above and said, referring to me and perhaps others, that complaining about this model was a “total disgrace”. That hardly sounds like “freedom of speech” in my book, especially when you have the facts wrong.

I have spent 5 decades helping other manufacturers get models right and into production, far too many to list in this post. The fact that some of the newcomers to this game are totally unwilling to request or listen to advice, comments and criticism from ANYONE is why so many recent products have failed to make the grade and tens of thousands of pounds worth of tooling has been wasted. Even more scrap tooling is heading for the skip at this very moment although much that should have been scrapped is being used to supply the unobservant modeller. Regards Adrian Swain

PS Sorry to hear you are a Charlton fan, so is my brother in law, it’s a sad affliction which I escaped in the nick of time. I left Charlton Manor LCC Junior School aged 9 without ever once playing football or even being aware, until recently, “The Valley” was within a stone’s throw of school. How lucky can a little boy get ?? Had I been a football fan, abs models might never have existed. What a tragedy that would have been !!?? A.

17pdr said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
17pdr said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Copley Hill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.