Announced as a new tool item in the Summer 2023 Bachmann announcements, the distinctive bright red MXA Lobster wagons are now arriving with Graham Farish stockists, so lets take a close up look in the NGN review!
At first glance you'd be forgiven for thinking that the MXA is a modern piece of rolling stock of a similar style to the JNA or MOA, but closer inspection reveals much earlier origins to these 'new' wagons.
With a requirement for additional stock to be used on infrastructure trains from Network Rail, but in a timeframe that would not allow for the construction of a brand new design, DB looked to it's existing pool of rolling stock. Identifying they had large numbers of bogie bolster wagons in storage awaiting disposal following a reduction in steel traffic, a plan was formed to recondition the underframes and pair them with brand new bodies produced by WH Davies at their Shirebrook facility
Donor underframes have mainly been former BDA Bogie Bolsters, many of which had previously been converted to BEA or BMA types. During the the conversion process, some of the selected wagons were found to be in too poor a condition to be reused so some former BPA Boplate wagons, latterly known as BMAs and BNAs, were also added to the donor wagon list. With the use of multiple different donor types, the MXA features two different brake types, one with brake wheel mounted on the bogies and the second with brake lever mounted on the frame.
The prototype, former BDA 950321, was rolled out in February 2015 with the underframe trussing also painted DB red along with the frames and body, a feature not repeated on subsequent builds. With the selection of the MXA over two other converted former steel wagon types using BBA underframes, a total of 210 wagons were produced, with the final one leaving Stoke in August 2016. in keeping with the 'fishy' naming of engineering wagons, they were named Lobster, possibly due to a combination of the bright red DB livery and Lobster being an anagram of Bolster!
Initially being formed in rakes made up solely of MXAs, the wagons are now finding their way into mixed formations with various other types of infrastructure rolling stock such as JNAs and being hauled by motive power including DRS Class 37 & Class 57, Colas Class 70 & Class 56 and of course the ubiquitous Class 66. They've even been seen behind Class 90's.
Bachmann first produced the Lobster in their OO gauge range, and revealed the N Gauge version for the Graham Farish range in the Summer announcements this year. Arriving in the standard Graham Farish black and yellow box, they certainly make a good first impression in the striking DB red.
With the BDA already part of the Farish range, the first question that naturally enters the mind is have Farish followed the prototype and used their existing moulding in the production of the MXA. With the exception of the bogies, and possibly the brake lever assembly, the answer appears to be no, this is almost entirely new tooling.
The body moulding replicates the shape of the real thing exceptionally well, with the distinctive thirteen vertical ribs, two horizontal end ribs and chunky upper edge all nicely reproduced. Interior detailing is limited to the 3 vertical panel lines on each side and across the floor as per the prototype. The body is attached to the frame with two screws just behind the bogie mounting points.
Sitting on top of the former bolster frame, daylight is visible between this and the body as per the real wagon, with some nice rivet detailing to be found along the top edges of the frame where the bracing plates are located.
The bolster frame itself is made up of several components, with the plastic outer frame featuring some very fine rivet and bracing details. The inner frame is a metal casting which adds much needed weight and rigidity to the model but is still commendably fine, whilst the bracing is a separate plastic moulding. Buffer shanks are moulded as part of the frame, with fine buffer heads fitted separately.
For a wagon with such an open frame construction, Bachmann have done an excellent job of making sure everything is straight and true, with no sign of any distortion or bending of the frames.
The wagons are quite light, weighing in at just 16g. Separately fitted brake cylinders and associated pipework along with brake levers on the version fitted with these make up the rest of the detail.
The one obvious re-use of parts on this model from the earlier bolster wagons are the bogies. These are a neat representation of the Y25Cs found under the prototypes, with the lever fitted versions featuring brake blocks, whilst these are correctly absent from the disc brake fitted wagon. The brake block fitted bogies are perhaps the weakest feature of the model, with these not being in line with the wheels. NEM coupling pockets are fitted, but understandably there is no close coupling mechanism and it's difficult to see how this could have been included without spoiling the open nature of the frame.
Despite the relatively light weight, both wagons ran freely and smoothly.
The finish is up to the usual exceptionally high standard associated with Farish models, with the vibrant DB red being smoothly applied with no blemishes an excellent match for the prototype. The white DB logos and plethora of white labelling are sharp and dense over the red, and the two different versions correctly feature differing text with all but the smallest of which being legible.
Modellers of the modern scene are not short of bogie box wagons and these are excellent additions to the growing number of types available. Anyone reproducing the modern scene from 2015 onward should be able to find home for a few, particularly as they start to find their way in to mixed rakes. We certainly have no hesitation in recommending them.
MXA ‘Lobster’ Bogie Open Wagon DB Cargo No. 965066
MXA ‘Lobster’ Bogie Open Wagon DB Cargo No. 950212
Both versions have an RRP of £44.95 each
The Models reviewed were purchases from Alton Model Centre for £38.20 each