Model Rail (UK)
Rapido Trains UK BR ‘Conflat P’ wagons
◆ GAUGE ‘N’ ◆ MODEL 921001/921011 BR ‘Conflat P’ wagons with Type A and Type BD containers ◆ PRICE £29.95 each/£87.95 triple-pack ◆ AVAILABILITY Rapido Trains UK stockists Web www.rapidotrains.co.uk Pivoting NEM coupler pockets are a welcome addition for
One of BR’S flagship express freight services was the overnight ‘Condor’, launched in 1959 and which ran between London and Glasgow at speeds of up to 75mph. Existing short-wheelbase freight stock wasn’t suitable for high-speed work, so BR created a fleet of ‘Conflat P’ wagons, rebuilt from existing plate wagons. The 15ft wheelbase and installation of roller bearing axleboxes, improved suspension and vacuum brakes throughout the train made these ‘new’ wagons much more suitable for express speeds.
The flat wagons had their timber decking removed in favour of locating points for BR’S ‘standard’ container types. Each wagon could accommodate a large Type BD plus a smaller Type A container, maximising the loading area and greatly speeding up loading and unloading at each terminal.
The 60-strong ‘Conflat P’ fleet operated on ‘Condor’ services until 1964, being replaced by bogie wagons, but the ‘Conflat P’ was an important precursor to the intermodal trains that revolutionised rail freight traffic over the following decades. After withdrawal, the ‘Conflat P’ enjoyed another life as timber carriers, operating in Scotland throughout the 1970s.
As the famous ‘Condor’ trains were synonymous with the Metropolitan-vickers Type 2 locomotives, it was a logical step for the Rapido team to create the ‘Conflat P’ to complement its rendition of the ‘Co-bo’.
Offered as single models or in triple-packs, the Rapido ‘Conflat Ps’ come pre-loaded with Type A and Type BD containers, with a large range of individually numbered versions available. The wagon itself correctly depicts the skeletal nature of the chassis, with only the steel plate ends retained from the original bodywork.
I’d initially assumed that the chassis would be rendered in die-cast metal, but it’s actually a plastic moulding, boasting a great degree of finesse in the framework and solebar relief.
The buffers are extremely fine yet resilient, and the axleguards, suspension and axleboxes all look authentic. Brake gear consists of a vacuum cylinder, operating rods, plus brake shoes, cross-shafts and safety loops – all very impressive. The wheels feature a fine flange profile, and the axles turn freely in their brass bearings. There’s also a through-vacuum pipe running diagonally along the base of the chassis for completeness, despite it being invisible unless the wagon is upturned!
Pivoting NEM coupler pockets are a welcome addition for longer wheelbase wagons, helping the models negotiate tight curves and junctions safely. While the plastic chassis is fairly lightweight, the wagons gain their presence from the addition of ballast within the containers. A fully loaded wagon tips the scales at a very respectable 24g and the locating spigots provide a very secure footing for the containers.
Images of empty ‘Conflat Ps’ in service are rare, which explains why the containers on our samples showed signs of being lightly glued to the chassis (after I purposely removed them!) and running performance is notably better with the ‘boxes’ in place.
The containers, featuring injection-moulded plastic shells, contain plenty of crisp detail, from planking to door furniture, roof vents and restraining shackles. Both crimson and bauxite liveries feature on our review samples and the quality of the printed detail is tremendous, being fully legible under a magnifying glass. There’s a small amount of grey over-spray on the upper sides of some of the containers, but that’s the only blot on their copybook.
The printing on the wagon solebars is equally good, giving the models an overall sense of quality and panache.
It’s always exciting to see important BR wagon types appearing in RTR ‘N’ gauge for the first time, and it’s a bonus when the models turn out to be very good! (GD)