Bachmann FFA/FGA Freightliner flats
◆ GAUGE ‘00’ ◆ MODEL Bachmann 38-625 FGA Freightliner wagons (twin-pack); 38-626 FFA (single pack) ◆ PRICE £99.95 (twin-pack); £49.95 (single pack) ◆ AVAILABILITY Bachmann stockists, www.bachmann.co.uk
ne positive and lasting legacy of Beeching’s modernisation plan for British Rail was the Freightliner concept. Employing a fleet of air-braked flat wagons, standardised domestic and maritime containers could be moved between ports and inland terminals with ease. Manual handling and transhipment of loose goods would be a thing of the past, as intermodal containers could be lifted from train to ship or lorry, with the minimum of fuss. ‘OO’ modellers have been well served in terms of post-privatisation intermodal wagons from Hornby, Dapol and Bachmann, a few of which just about overlap with the final days of BR. And yet, the classic FFA/FGA wagons, launched in the mid-1960s, have been overlooked thus far, save for Hornby’s ancient version that lingers in the budget Railroad range. More discerning modellers have, therefore, been faced with super-detailing those old Hornby wagons or building etched metal kits, such as Colin Craig’s impressive offering. Happily, the situation has now changed, with Bachmann’s much-anticipated release of the FFA/FGA Freightliner flats, complete with an attractive array of containers. Offered in twin-packs (FGA) and single wagons (FFA), it’s possible to assemble authentic five or four-car sets using ‘outer’ and ‘inner’ wagons (see Factfile).
TICKING THE BOXES
Straight from the box, Bachmann’s wagons are impressive, the open skeletal nature of the superstructure being faithfully rendered. Air brake equipment and a modicum of plumbing is provided, along with cross-shafts for the handbrake gear, all being visible from above when running free of containers. In fact, it’s almost a shame to hide the excellent detail by loading the wagons! The character of the bogies has been faithfully captured, with plenty of relief to the side frames. The disc wheels are also impressive, featuring brake discs and calipers within the frames. All vital dimensions appear to have been scaled down correctly, with the ‘outer’ FGA wagons being prototypically longer than the ‘inner’ FFAS and sporting a lovely set of sprung buffers (of the correct diameter) at one end of each vehicle. The low-profile wagon body is rendered predominantly from die-cast metal, with the lower trussing and bogies moulded in tough plastic. Therefore, the vehicles possess adequate mass for reliable running, with an individual car fully loaded with Bachmann’s containers weighing in at 114g (47g unladen). Indeed, this three-wagon set ran impeccably on plain track, across
This three-wagon set ran impeccably on plain track, across points, and successfully negotiated second-radius curves when loaded and empty
points, and successfully negotiated second-radius curves when loaded and empty. Pivoting auto-close-coupling units are provided across all vehicles, with NEM coupling pockets accepting tension locks or other compatible couplers at the ‘outer’ ends of the FGAS. For the ‘inner’ facing ends, Bachmann has provided short, fixed coupling bars, along with a convincing rendition of sagging air pipes. Each wagon is supplied with a bag of extra details, including a sprue of plastic ‘twist lock’ fasteners, which are pushed into holes in the wagon frames from below, to fix the containers in position. However, the fit of the containers is not wholly secure, so beware of picking up a loaded wagon solely by the boxes. Two lengths of fasteners are provided, catering for raised or lowered positions, depending on the sizes and number of containers that you choose to run on each vehicle. Also provided is a set of etched metal splasher covers, designed to fix within the open framing above the bogies. On the real thing, these plates were designed to prevent dirt splashing up from the wheels, although these were often removed in service to ease maintenance. Dummy screw couplings and brake hoses (with attendant brackets) are also provided for installation, as required. The simple BR livery of Rail blue (sides and ends) and black (everything else) has been applied to a high standard, with an array of legible printed legends. The containers have also been rendered to a very high standard. The striking grey and red Freightliner livery is suitable for layouts set from 1966 through to the late 1970s, and the plastic containers feature plenty of detail relief on the sides and ends, including separate door latching poles and handles. Alternatively, Bachmann is offering a similar trio of wagons loaded with a set of corrugated containers, more suited to the 1980-1990s era, branded with a variety of shipping company logos. Furthermore, extra variety – and a broadening of eras – can be obtained by adding containers from the C-rail Intermodal range.
Bachmann’s FFA/FGA wagons successfully fill a gaping hole in RTR air-braked freight stock for BR and early privatisation-era modellers. With these earlystyle containers, modellers can recreate the 1966-1980 period, perhaps with Class 47, ‘Western’ or AC electric traction for longer rakes, while Type 2 or Type 3 diesel locomotives would be suitable for shorter, ‘feeder’ services. Even by today’s standards, these wagons seem a little pricey at first glance: you’re looking at almost £250 just to assemble a prototypical five-car set. That said, with the attention to detail and high-quality finish – plus the importance of the prototype – they make for a worthy investment.