REVIEW - EFE Rail N Gauge NACCO JIA China Clay wagon
The EFE Rail N Gauge NACCO JIA China Clay wagons are now arriving in stores and we take a close up look at two of the available versions.
The JIA China Clay Wagons, built in 2011 by Arbel Fauvet of France, were ordered to replace the PBA 'Clay Tiger' wagons employed on long distance china clay traffic from the West Country to the Midlands. A relatively small fleet, only 25 wagons, they currently operate on a weekly service between Cornwall and Bescot.
Originally delivered in the distinctive blue and white Imerys livery, this has gradually disappeared under multiple layers of dirt and grime, giving these wagons a distinctive weathered appearance.
The wagons carry Kaolin, or ‘china clay’ as it is commonly called, which is a hydrated aluminium silicate crystalline mineral formed over many millions of years by the hydrothermal decomposition of granite rocks. Highly valued for it's whiteness, it is used in the production of porcelain and other fine china.
Whilst the JIA is marketed under the EFE brand, the model originates with Kernow Model Rail Centre and follows on from their 4mm version of the same type. These were released to much acclaim in 2011 and the N Gauge version incorporates the same high levels of detail as found on its bigger brother. This makes for an impressive looking model which captures distinctive appearance of the prototypes extremely well.
A highlight of the models is the plethora of fine detail, particularly the etched steps, walkways and hand rails at the cover operating end of the wagon. These are commendably fine for N Gauge and being etched gives them extra strength and rigidity.
Moulded brake reservoirs and feed lines are present at both ends, along with representation of the cover operating mechanism. Structural details are also represented with separately fitted components, all of which combined make for a very highly detailed model, comparable to models like the Graham Farish Autoballaster and Revolution Trains KUA.
Whilst the end detail is the stand out feature of these models, finely moulded external piping, unloading chutes and associated operating details can be found along the sides of the wagons. Fine etched handbrake wheels complete the long list of separately fitted details.
The wagons sit atop nice renditions of the Y25 bogie fitted to the prototypes, although here is perhaps our only minor gripe with these models, and that is the brake shoes not being inline with the wheel sets. Whilst not immediately obvious from a side on view, it does slightly spoil the appearance of an otherwise good bogie representation when viewed from an angle. NEM coupling pockets are moulded as part of the bogie, so there is no close coupling mechanism, although even without this the gap between wagons is no
Running was free and smooth on both of the examples reveiwed here, the models showing no signs of wobble or derailing.
In what we believe to be a first for British outline N Gauge, 3 different levels of finish are available for the JIA.
The first is a pristine finish representing the wagons in as built condition. The standard here is very high indeed with excellent paint application and very sharp printing for the logos and finer text, most of which is legible until you get to the smallest sizes.
A solid attempt at the Imerys 'button' logo has been made, complete with it's complex fading effect which is never an easy thing to replicate in any scale, not just N Gauge. Unfortunately, the type face used for the IMERYS text doesn't match the more rounded style used on prototypes, and whilst this could be easily rectified on the pristine examples with 3rd party decals, it may prove trickier on the weathered version. A rare misstep on an otherwise excellently finished model.
The prototype wagons very quickly became very heavily weathered, to the point where in some cases you wouldn't know the base colour was actually blue!
Factory weathered models have started to come a long way since the days of a simple pass with a brown spray, and the "lightly weathered" example seen here is one of the better attempts at factory weathering we've seen in N Gauge, although weathering is one of those subjective areas which some people like and others are not as keen!
A yellow/brown colour has been used on the underframe, bogies and ends which is quite effective in creating the impression of a wagon which has been stored outside for some time whilst not having the appearance of being over done. It's an interesting effect, and whilst it's difficult to find photos of these wagons in anything other than clean or totally filthy condition for comparison, it looks convincing enough.
Complementing this, is a layer of white weathering representing the dust created by the clay loading process, and which becomes streaky as the wagons are subjected to wet conditions. The bogies also appear to have received a light wash of this colour, adding to the effectiveness of the finish.
A third, more heavily weathered version is also available which is a representation of the wagons in their current state. The weathering here is perhaps a little on the dark side, with a lighter brown perhaps better representing the very heavily weathering the prototypes now exhibit, but nonetheless it still makes for an interesting variation.
China Clay traffic has always been a popular modelling subject and the EFE Rail JIA wagons now allow the most up to date flows to be replicated with highly detailed and excellently finished models.
These wagons run in rakes varying from around nine to low twenties, so even layouts not able to accommodate the longer length trains can still run a shorter rake and maintain realism whilst the three different levels of weathering available give modellers a wider choice in the condition they wish represent than any other currently available N Gauge wagons.
These are certainly impressive models, and we can only hope the Kernow / EFE Rail relationship produces further N Gauge stock to this standard.
Availability and Price
All versions of the JIA are now available from EFE Rail stockists:
Pristine finish. RRP £44.95:
E87500 JIA NACCO WAGON 33-70-0894-007-0 IMERYS BLUE
E87501 JIA NACCO WAGON 33-70-0894-008-8 IMERYS BLUE
E87502 JIA NACCO WAGON 33-70-0894-020-3 IMERYS BLUE
E87503 JIA NACCO WAGON 33-70-0894-000-5 IMERYS BLUE
Lightly weathered finish. RRP £47.95
E87504 JIA NACCO WAGON 33-70-0894-001-3 IMERYS BLUE
E87505 JIA NACCO WAGON 33-70-0894-002-3 IMERYS BLUE
E87506 JIA NACCO WAGON 33-70-0894-009-6 IMERYS BLUE
E87507 JIA NACCO WAGON 33-70-0894-010-4 IMERYS BLUE
Heavily weathered finish. RRP £49.95
E87508 JIA NACCO WAGON 33-70-0894-011-2 IMERYS BLUE
E87509 JIA NACCO WAGON 33-70-0894-012-0 IMERYS BLUE
E87510 JIA NACCO WAGON 33-70-0894-003-9 IMERYS BLUE
E87511 JIA NACCO WAGON 33-70-0894-004-7 IMERYS BLUE
The models reviewed were purchases by the reviewer from Rails of Sheffield for £38.20 (pristine) and £40.75 (lightly weathered)