90-tonne slurry tank 'Zanfs' (Modellbahn Union)
New models for British H0 are few and far between, and we have never had a RTR tank wagon for the scale, so it seems doubly good to be able to write about the new china clay wagons from Modellbahn Union.
The models depict examples from a batch of 90-tonne slurry tanks, built by Arbel Fauvet in 1989 to Diagram E.934 (possibly, E.719) and coded ‘Zafns’. The uses for these wagons in Great Britain included domestic workings for the former English China Clays company. There are some useful photographs in David Ratcliffe’s book, ‘International Train-Ferry Wagons in Colour’ published by Ian Allan in 2009.
The wagons ran in block workings but Ratcliffe’s book shows them separated out into twos and threes and marshalled into sidings for unloading. Unloading typically used a road tanker, so the wagon seems an excellent source of traffic for a short siding on the layout with a minimal infrastructure to model – a short length of roadway and a model road tanker is enough.
Looking at the web site of Modelbahn Union, the first release of the models gives us three liveries, with each livery available in pristine or a factory-weathered finish:
MU-HO-G32001 ECC pristine, SNCF running number 3387-7898001-5
MU-HO-G32002 ECC weathered, SNCF running number 3387-7898036-1
MU-HO-G32003 Nacco ECC pristine, SNCF running number 3387-7898045-2
MU-HO-G32004 Nacco ECC weathered, SNCF running number 3387-7898071-8
Three models with additional running numbers:
MU-HO-G32005 ECC pristine, SNCF running number 3387-7898034-6
MU-HO-G32006 Nacco ECC weathered, SNCF running number 3387-7898068-4
MU-HO-G32007 ECC weathered, SNCF running number 3387-7898038-7
Possibly MU-HO-G32008 (currently bad link on web site)
MU-HO-G32009 Ermewa pristine, SNCF running number 3387-7898004-9
MU-HO-G32010 Ermewa weathered, SNCF running number 3387-7898024-7
I bought model number G32005, and this is the subject of my write-up here. The box is labelled as number 184 of a limited edition of 200. I don’t know whether the other models are also limited editions.
The model is supplied fully-assembled and finished, and there are no additional detail parts to be fitted by the modeller except a pair of non-working scale couplings for use if you are keeping the model for static display. This arrangement is a useful improvement over the usual practices of companies like Roco, who give you a sprue of handrails and ferry tie-down hooks which tend to fall off on the layout however well you think you have glued them in.
From a simple inspection without a vernier, the model looks like a good representation of its prototype. The physical details seem to compare exactly with the specimens in the five photographs in Ratcliffe’s book, and the only dimensional error I can see is the slightly over scale thickness of the mouldings used for the ladders on the sides of the tanks. Unless you are really fastidious, this could be hidden with a little dark grey paint.
The hand rails at the ends are of plastic and of wire, and the different thicknesses here represent those of the prototype.
The pristine finish of my model seems to be perfect, without further qualification. The polished tank does pick up the natural grease from your fingers during normal handling, and this shows as a rainbow effect but it will wipe away with a soft cotton cloth. Ratcliffe’s book shows yellow paint on the ends of the axleboxes, this colouring is missing on the model so there is an easy detail you might choose to add to personalise your own model.
The length of my model measures 166 mm over buffers. At 1:87 scale this represents 14.44 m, while the prototype is 14.46 m long. The missing 20 mm might be the compression of the buffers as represented on the model or more likely me misreading my rule – I think this is “scale length”. If anyone has a copy of the correct diagram and could send it to me, I’ll add it to this write-up and compare the dimensions of the model with those on the diagram. At the moment, the LTSV Wagons site states E.934 while Ratcliffe states E.719.
This plate is barely 9 mm high, and almost completely illegible to my eyesight, but everything is clear enough for the camera lens.
Looking underneath, the bogies are held by screws and so removal for servicing or detailing work should be easy, though I haven't tried any dismantling. The coupler pockets are the usual NEM 362 ones, and set on close-coupling mechanisms.
To my eye, Kato Unitrack is the best reproduction of British FB track for H0 scale. It is dimensionally correct apart from the overscale rail mountings, and here is a final photo with the model in position on a length of Unitrack.
Do remember this is not P4 or EM - it is British H0 as it is in 2017, out of the box and sitting on a length of sectional track. A modern mainline layout running a block working of these wagons will take a little less space than an 00 one (or will look significantly more spacious) and there are at least three different class 66 models out there to haul the train. For a less ambitious layout, the model could form the mainstay of a branch line for china clay, with plenty of possibilities for weathering. Really, an ideal introduction to the 1:87 modelling of a British railway.
I bought my model "blind" - it is only available from Modellbahn Union, so you need to use mail order unless you can visit their shop in Germany. I've since taken the trouble to buy a second model (and paid a second postal charge) before posting this write-up, because quite honestly, with major customer bases in Germany, France and Belgium, I have a feeling they will sell out.