Revealed as new tooling for the Graham Farish range in the Winter 2023 Bachmann announcements, the N Gauge HRA bogie hopper wagons have now arrived with stockists and NGN has taken a look at these repurposed 'shorty' hoppers.
The HRA can trace it's genesis all the way back to the early days of rail privatisation, when EWS began to replace the HAA MGR wagon with the significantly larger 102 ton GLW HTA bogie coal wagons. With the collapse in coal traffic being moved on the rail network toward the end of the 2010s, these wagons found themselves out of service and without an obvious future, being unsuited to other, heavier loads in their original form.
Whilst coal was declining, aggregates traffic was on the increase and at a faster rate than new wagons could be produced to meet the demand. This resulted in DB Cargo, now the owners of the HTA fleet, looking at the potential of their existing assets for potential reuse on alternative types of traffic.
With the HTA being built to carry coal, when used for a more dense aggregate, less payload could be carried over the same number of wagons. The solution was to reduce the HTA in length by 20% from its original size by removing one bay from the hopper. This would still allow the shorter wagon to carry the same 101.6 ton load, but more wagons could be hauled in one train, thus allowing greater payload to be moved. A 27 wagon train of HRAs is capable of hauling close to 450 tonnes more than a 22 wagon train of HTAs, but in the same length.
After the successful trial of a prototype, DB contracted WH Davis and Axiom Rail to convert an initial 110 HTAs into the shorter HRA, with the work starting in 2017 and being completed in 2018. Since then, the wagons have been in use on aggregates trains across large areas of the rail network.
Like the recent MXA Lobster wagons, the HRA first appeared in the Bachmann Branchline OO range, before being announced for N Gauge in the Winter 2023 Graham Farish range. The models arrive in the standard Farish box, and are securely held in place within a clear vac-formed insert. What is immediately noticeable is the weight, with the relatively small wagons coming in at approximately 26 grammes
The body is made up from several separate components, comprising the main hopper, lower hopper portion & underframe and interior hopper divider. The join between the two main parts is more or less in the same location as a weld line on the prototype which helps to disguise it. Hopper hatch covers and the actuating mechanism are also separately fitted items. The bodyside correctly features the extra strapping applied over the joint where the wagon is welded back together after removal of the surplus hopper and the ends are complete with the corrugated access panels.
The distinctive bodyside pipework and hopper controls are all present and correct, and even though they are moulded as part of the main body moulding rather than separately fitted items, they are nicely executed. The large brake wheel, at first glance, appears to be a separately part, but on closer inspection is also part of the main moulding. It's cleverly done and is the same method used on the Graham Farish HTA, one of many similarities between the two models.
The NACO swing action bogies are nicely reproduced with good depth of detail and nice definition, and feature a standard NEM coupling pocket, however there is no close coupling mechanism fitted. On a wagon such as this with no buffers that shouldn't be an issue in most cases. The wagon reviewed here exhibited no wobble and was free rolling when under haulage.
A small accessory bag contains a 4 sets of buffers to allow modellers to replicate those wagons found at the ends of each rake. Separate shanks and buffer heads are provided which fit into pre-drilled holes on the headstock. They are a fairly loose fit so will need a dab of glue to hold them in place if being fitted. It's a compromise solution to not producing seperate models with buffers pre-fitted, the only downside being it does leave two holes in the headstock that are not present on the prototype non buffer 'inner' wagons. These instead feature 4 smaller holes where the buffers would be bolted on.
Of note is that wagon 41 70 6723 101-5 is the only one replicated by Farish (373-865C) that has buffers fitted to one end, and they are unfortunately of a different type to those provided.
Another small detail included is a moulded representation of the lamp irons fitted at either end on the headstocks.
The finish of the model is excellent, with the vibrant BD red appearing a good match for the prototype colour and being applied smoothly and free of blemishes. The interior of the hopper is finished in a very dark grey and the bogies and underframe in black, again all very neatly applied.
The white DB logos and other information labelling and panels are all excellently reproduced, with very good density in the white meaning all but the very smallest of text is legible. Overhead Electrification warning flashes and hopper door warning signs complete the fine printed detailing.
Overall these are excellent models of a striking prototype wagon which can be seen over large parts of the modern rail network. The fine detailing may not be quite up there with the likes of the Revolution Trains JNA/MMA box wagons, but it's a solid model and a full rake of around 22 wagons will certainly make an impressive sight on any layout!
Four versions of the HTA are now available from Graham Farish stockists:
373-865 HRA Bogie Hopper 41 70 6723 062-9 DB Cargo Red
373-865A HRA Bogie Hopper 41 70 6723 073-6 DB Cargo Red
373-865B HRA Bogie Hopper 41 70 6723 036-3 DB Cargo Red
373-865C HRA Bogie Hopper 41 70 6723 101-5 DB Cargo Red
The RRP is £46.95 for all versions. The model in this review was purchased from Rails of Sheffield for £39.90