Model Rail (UK)
Dapol HBA/HEA coal hoppers
◆ GAUGE ‘O’ ◆ MODEL • 7F-047-001 HEA Coal Hopper Railfreight grey/red • 7F-047-008 HBA Coal Hopper freight brown ◆ PRICE £59.40 each ◆ AVAILABILITY Dapol stockists Web www.dapol.co.uk These are impressive models, with a wealth of accurate detail fitted t
While the HAA family of merry-go-round hoppers revolutionised the bulk transport of coal on British Railways from the late 1960s, a large number of traditional vacuum-braked mineral wagons were still employed well into the early 1980s. A lack of resources to install specialist handling equipment precluded the use of MGR wagons on all traffics, especially domestic coal.
Therefore, BR created a new fleet of air-braked hoppers, following a fairly conventional design. Just less than 2,000 wagons were built at Shildon Works from 1976-79, with manually operated bottom discharge chutes, lending them to use with existing infrastructure at goods yards, industrial sites and BR’S network of coal concentration depots. Initially coded HBA under the BR TOPS system, later modifications to the suspension saw them re-coded as HEA.
Despite playing an important role in BR coal traffic during the 1980s, the HBA/HEA wagons’ career was short-lived, thanks to the rapid decline in domestic coal traffic towards the end of the decade. Some HEAS were redeployed as barrier wagons on nuclear flask workings, while many donated their chassis to create BR’S MEA box open wagon fleet in the early 1990s.
Dapol’s latest ‘O’ gauge freight wagon depicts both the HBA and HEA, with the tooling allowing for various key detail differences to be observed. Under review, we have freight brown 360626, which depicts an HBA in original condition, albeit with the ladders on the left side of the hopper at each end (earlier builds had the ladders in the centre). The original suspension arrangement has been rendered faithfully, contrasting nicely with Railfreight red/grey 360104, which has the Bruninghaus suspension and appropriate post-1981 HEA TOPS code.
The modified suspension permitted an increase in maximum speed from 60mph to 75mph, allowing the HEAS to be employed in BR’S Speedlink express freight network. Indeed, one or more HEAS could often be seen in Speedlink workings, coupled with a mix of vans,
open wagons and tanks, hauled by all manner of diesel and electric traction.
These are impressive models, with a wealth of accurate detail fitted to the chassis, including brake cylinders, valves and pipework, all crisply moulded in plastic and neatly installed. The brake and suspension gear are excellent too, with callipers in position and etched disc inserts fitted to the inner and outer faces of each wheel.
Brake handles sit within slotted brackets and the brake changeover equipment (for loaded or empty running) shows notable attention to detail. The hopper itself is faithfully rendered, with a full interior profile, complete with inner strengthening bar and four
discharge chutes. As well as the different ladder positions, there are other subtle features that differ between each wagon, including small grab handles on the angled end stanchions of the Railfreight version. Again, attention to detail is impressive. The sprung Oleo buffers look the part and working Instanter couplings are preinstalled into sprung drawhooks. However, like Dapol’s
VEA vans from last year, in which the wagons are coupled together, the buffers are already in contact with each other. This is unlikely to be an issue on layouts with gentle curves but may cause problems on tighter radii track.
The use of a die-cast metal chassis means that the
wagons are nicely weighted, at 219g each, and the pinpoint axles spin freely in metal bearing cups. A simple compensation system is installed, allowing both axles to absorb minor unevenness in trackwork. Both samples arrived with each set of wheels poorly installed, which may have been owing to shocks in transit. Once they were re-fitted, everything was fine. All key dimensions tally with those of the real thing and the paint finish and general presentation is first class. I particularly like the hand-painted style of the BR Railfreight logos, which was common during the 1980s, with no two wagons seemingly being treated in the same way.
The HBA/HEA is an excellent choice of prototype and these models have already been selling well, which is not surprising, given how popular the BR diesel era is among ‘O’ gauge modellers. Providing the perfect companion to Dapol’s existing HAA and VEA wagons, let’s hope for more from Dapol in future, with the MEA being a logical next step. (GD)