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Saturday, 2 July 2011

Van B or not Van B That is the Question

First built in 1937 and still in use up until 1986 these Bogie Van Bs conveyed luggage, newspapers and mail on the 'Southern'. Despite its longevity and common appearance on the network (130 were built) it has yet to appear as a ready-to-run model in 4mm scale (not to be confused with the Hornby Van C). The only source I am aware of is the Ratio kit, now marketed by Peco.


Hornby introduced its r-t-r Van B in 2012. So popular it quickly sold out and is now as rare as hens teeth!

The best photo of the prototype I found on the web is this one and since my model is to be a 1960s newspaper van on the west of England route then I could not hope for a better picture to use as a reference as it shows crisp, close up details and roof destination boards for this route, (though quite why the van is at Canterbury West is a mystery to me).

On opening the kit of parts we find a plethora of finely detailed parts to assembly. One look at the brass fret reveals parts so small (The door T handles are about a millimetre long) that it will fill many with horror at the thought of handling them without loss. It is for this reason I believe that many people pack it away to assemble another day and years later retrieve it from the bottom drawer or attic to sell on, since they come up on Ebay now and then.

You may be impressed by the extent of thought gone into the kit design. However, minute parts such as door handles and hinges should have been designed into the plastic door mould tool and the doors themselves integrated with the van sides. This would make it a simpler and more enjoyable assembly, and possibly cheaper (Currently retails for about £20). Did I mention the tiny dynamo is assembled from 4 individual parts and the tiny periscope from five! Perhaps there are ardent kit builders who derive pleasure from such challenges/frustrations. Not me I have to say. I just want a Van B.

Despite a multitude of details supplied there are some notable exceptions. The brass wire, which is required for the periscope window wiper and battery box tie bars, is too short - supplement this by using the staple fasteners from the packaging. There are no window bars, which are an obvious feature of the prototype - created mine in graphic editing software and printed on transparent film; and the water slide transfers are not expansive enough to represent later period vans.

I'm sorry this is not a happier account. On the plus side if you do manage to build it without loosing tiny parts to the carpet abyss then you will feel a sense of achievement and have a finely detailed model to admire. Just watch you don't knock the grab handles off (again).

One van is not enough for a newspaper train. Would I buy more of this kit? Only if I get a good deal. But, if a r-t-r model from the major manufacturers appears then that would be first choice.

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