Model Rail (UK) - - Reviews -

Metropoli­tan Cam­mell, the Birm­ing­ham-based rolling stock builder, drafted an un­con­ven­tional de­sign for a side­tip­ping bal­last wagon in 1930. A small batch was sub­se­quently pur­chased by the GWR (Nos. 100001-100060) and, later, by Bri­tish Rail­ways. Over 600 wag­ons were built for BR be­tween 1952-61, and gained the ‘Mer­maid’ moniker. The ini­tial batch (BR di­a­gram 1/573), was vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal to the GWR wag­ons and num­bered DB989000-989088. The more nu­mer­ous di­a­gram 1/574 ver­sion (DB989089-989638) was up­graded to in­cor­po­rate vac­uum brakes and heavy duty hy­draulic buf­fers. With a gross weight of 14 tons, the bal­last load was car­ried within a steel body that piv­oted to ei­ther side of the chas­sis. The shal­low side doors were hinged in such a way that the flow of bal­last could be reg­u­lated. Chain clamps were pro­vided to se­cure the wagon frames to the rails dur­ing tip­ping and, ac­cord­ingly, bal­last could only be dis­charged when sta­tion­ary. The GW and early BR un­fit­ted wag­ons were largely con­fined to the West­ern Re­gion, while the vac­uum-fit­ted fleet was dis­persed across all BR re­gions. Last­ing un­til the early 1990s, they even­tu­ally gained a TOPS code of ZJV. With plenty of liv­ery choices (GW/ BR black, In­dian Red, olive green and ‘Dutch’ grey/yel­low) and long ca­reers, it’s a sur­prise that we’ve not en­joyed mass-mar­ket RTR mod­els of the ‘Mer­maid’ in the pop­u­lar scales. In ‘OO’, Flange­way has pro­duced a lim­ited run model, while this new of­fer­ing from Dj­mod­els is the first ver­sion to ap­pear in ‘N’ gauge. Both BR and GWR ver­sions are avail­able and it’s a pair of the lat­ter that we have re­ceived for re­view, num­bered DW100048/50), al­beit fin­ished in early BR liv­ery. The sim­ple mark­ings have been ap­plied to a high stan­dard, with over­head line warn­ing icons at each end.


The qual­ity of mould­ing is uni­ver­sally high, with the dis­tinc­tive open-framed chas­sis cor­rectly re­pro­duced. A full ar­ray of brake gear is pro­vided, in­clud­ing cross shafts, yokes and safety loops, along with a vac­uum cylin­der. How­ever, given that the GWR’S ‘Mer­maid’ fleet was not vac­uum brake-fit­ted, this ex­cel­lent de­tail is only rel­e­vant to later BR batches. Pre­sum­ably, this sin­gle chas­sis op­tion across the range helps to keep the price at a rea­son­able level. The chas­sis sports a lovely set of hy­draulic buf­fers (also er­ro­neous for GWR wag­ons) but, on our sam­ples, a few of these were loose and re­quired re-fix­ing with a drop of glue. Door tip­ping equip­ment has been faith­fully cap­tured, with chains and door brack­ets formed of sep­a­rate mould­ings at each end. A ren­di­tion of the track clamps has also been in­cluded, while lamp brack­ets and cou­pling hooks adorn the buffer­beams. Vir­tu­ally all key di­men­sions ap­pear to be scaled cor­rectly, although the wheel­base ap­pears to be a cou­ple of mil­lime­tres too long, work­ing out as a scale 13ft in­stead of 12ft. Re­mov­able, re­al­is­tic bal­last loads are sup­plied and these fea­ture a small metal weight hid­den be­neath, bring­ing the wagon’s weight to a re­spectable 8g. Of note is the abil­ity to re­move the bal­last load with a mag­net. Rapido-style cou­plings are mounted into NEM pock­ets, with a set of lower pro­file al­ter­na­tive cou­plers sup­plied. The cou­plings fea­ture piv­ot­ing mounts that per­mit plenty of side­ways, as well as fore and aft, move­ment. When cou­pled to­gether, the gap be­tween each ‘Mer­maid’ is ex­ces­sive (8-11mm), although it does al­low the wag­ons to cope with tight radii curves. Un­der test, the wag­ons ran freely and re­li­ably. The cou­pling mounts can eas­ily be knocked out of the frames un­less han­dled care­fully. This will lead to de­rail­ments, so a quick vis­ual check is rec­om­mended be­fore plac­ing the wag­ons onto the tracks. Aside from the de­tail is­sues, es­pe­cially where the GWR ver­sions are con­cerned, Dj­mod­els has done a great job in cap­tur­ing the char­ac­ter of these un­usual wag­ons. The BR ‘Mer­maids’ in par­tic­u­lar should prove pop­u­lar with mod­ellers across a wide range of eras and re­gions.


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