REVIEW - =C=RAIL= KQA/KTA Pocket Wagon
A distinctive sight amongst container traffic since their introduction in 1997, the KQA/KTA pocket wagon from Scottish manufacturer =C=Rail=Intermodal= is now available for a second production run, and provides an essential wagon for modellers of freightliner traffic.
The KQA/KTA wagons were produced to allow the carriage of 9ft 6in tall 'High Cube' containers within the UK loading gauge. With a distinctive slab-sided design, the method of carrying containers earned them the nickname Pocket wagons. As the name suggests, these wagons carry the container in a 'pocket' formed by mounting a deck low between the bogies. The deck floor is formed of an open lattice framework whilst the sides, which provide must of the structural strength to the wagon, are relatively solid and flat, being raised above the normal floor height between the bogies.
The initial batch of 35 wagons was built by Rautaruukki in Finland in 1997, the first arriving in the UK in September of that year. This first batch used Y25C bogies recovered from Tiphook KPA aggregate hoppers that were being scrapped at the time. The entire batch was leased to Freightliner on entry in to service.
An additional order was placed in 1998 for another 40 identical wagons but this time using new-build bogies. This batch was also hired to Freightliner, and the wagons became a common site in mixed rakes with other types such as the FSA/FTA, FLA and latterly FEA.
Initially owned by Tiphook, and painted in their plain blue livery (more often than not completely obscured by dirt!) the fleet passed to GE Capital Rail Service in 2003, when the TOPS code changed from KQA to KTA and some wagons were partially repainted in a simplified blue livery. The ownership of the wagons has changed once again with the sale of GERS to US/French leasing company Touax in 2015 but the fleet remains in use and on lease to Freightliner.
First announced in 2017 and originally released as KQAs in 2019, the =C=Rail= model is now available in the latest livery variation with Touax branding and the TOPS code KTA.
First impressions on removing the wagon from the jewel case are that these are large wagons, even in N Gauge! With the real thing measuring 67ft over buffers, they certainly make an impression when placed alongside some of the more spindly container flats like the FEA.
The shape of the wagon captures the slab sided appearance of the prototype excellently and features the upper reinforcement strip and brake pipework which is routed along the sides. The small triangular guide vanes along the top edge of the sides are also correctly present.
Due to the low floor design of the wagon, the brake equipment is mounted at each end above the bogies. The air tanks, cylinders & actuating equipment are moulded as part of a separate section, and a combination of separately fitted wire & etched pipework completes what would normally be considered as underframe equipment. The detail may not be quite as finessed as more recent tooling such as the Revolution Trains JNA/MNA, but is perfectly acceptable and captures the busy appearance of the wagon ends well.
Rounding out the detail are separately fitted handrails, brake wheels and rectangular buffer heads. The T shaped lifting points are moulded as part of the body.
One of the most distinctive design features of the pocket wagons is the lattice floor construction, which is fully represented on the model with a separately fitted floor section. It's really a shame to cover this part of the model up with a container! The lattice extends to the ends of the model so all is not lost if you choose to represent a loaded wagon.
A wagon rides on a neat representation of the Y25C bogies which feature good depth of detail for the springs and axle boxes. Standard NEM coupling pockets are fitted and coupling is commendably close. There is no kinematic mechanism but it would be pretty much impossible to fit one without compromising the lattice framework. Running on the two examples shown in the review was free and smooth with no sign of wobble.
The finish on the model is superb, with the overall Tiphook blue smoothly applied without blemishes. The finer printed details are also excellent, with data panels sharp and legible for all but the smallest of text and all of the warning labels and text from the prototype faithfully reproduced.
The Touax liveried versions feature significantly fewer data panels than the original Tiphook version, mostly as a result of the wagons no longer being intended to operate via the channel tunnel. This adds to the slab sided appearance of the models thanks to the vast expanse of blue! A small pop of colour is provided by the yellow lifting points and Touax logo.
=C=Rail= have produced excellent models of a wagon that should find a home with anyone running freightliner container traffic, and provide variation from the more numerous container flats when included in a rake. The high standard of finish, good levels of detail and excellent running make them great value for money and we can highly recommend them.
=C=Rail= also produce a large range of containers, including the 40ft long high cube and refrigerated 'reefer' versions carried by these wagons. These are excellent models in their own right with superb detail and standard of finish.
3 pristine running numbers for the KTA wagons are available direct from =C=Rail= for £30 each plus P&P. Weathered versions are being produced by Rainbow Railways and will be available at a later date.
=C=Rail are also in the process of producing the FSA/FTA container flats in N Gauge, with those models now at EP stage. These will make the perfect companion to the KTA and they can be pre-ordered direct from =C=Rail= now.