50030 Exeter 140882 07.30 Paddington - St Austell
This review is of the Darstead BR Mark 1 Carflat in BR Blue as produced by Ellis Clarke Trains. Thanks to Ellis for loaning a vehicle briefly for running session at an outdoor railway of one of the group. The model is currently available as the FVV in BR Blue and BR wagon Bauxite. The Motorail Flat (FVX) has sold out.
The railway has always transported motor vehicles, usually for the wealthy and the nobility. The rise in the popularity of personal motor vehicle and ownership increasing during the late 1950’s lead to a boom car development across the country.
As factories started to mass produce low cost vehicles after world war 2, for both the domestic and export markets, the railways stepped up transport them around the network from the many dispersed car factories across the UK. To move them from the factories to the distribution centres, a number of many pre-nationalisation coach frames were converted into flat wagons for the transportation. These varied based on the vehicle that was chosen were for conversion. Many were from the former LMS 57ft stock, but there were examples converted from Gresley and Hawksworth coaches. As demand for moving road vehicles increased so the bigger the need for wagons, and the need to convert more. The rationalisation of the Network thanks to the ‘Beeching Plan’. With the introduction of the Mark 2 coaching stock from 1964 and subsequent cascade of later built Mark 1’s, lead to a surplus of early Mark 1 stock. Sadly, the early Mark 1 design faults, mainly the recessed windows and the excess body decay around these areas, meant that they made good candidates for conversion bases for road vehicle transportation traffic. They had heavy girder frames and the concrete and corrugated steel floors, with the addition of a timber deck to give them strength to be able to carry the weight of cars, vans and light lorries.
From the mid-sixties until the widespread introduction of double deck car carriers. It was possible to see whole trains of carflats carrying Mini’s from the Midlands and Trains coming from Linwood in Scotland loaded with Hillman Imps. In later years the load could be Transit Vans or Ford Escorts. Given their use in mixed freight rakes some carflats were fitted with through airpipes (FVW) and some experimentally equipped with cages built to C1 restrictions to decrease damage to vehicles in transit.
The ‘Swinging 60’s saw the arrival of Intercity Motorail services, and for the first time opened up easy access to distant places that were not particular fast journeys by road, as the motorways were in their infancy and dual carriageways were almost not existent. The masses could book their car onto a train from a number of centres, and then travel to a variety of destinations in the comfort of the train, and then use their cars for the short distances around their chosen destinations. A number of wagons were converted specifically for these services and were fitted with Dual Brakes and through ETH cables. They retained the Central buffing gear and drop head buckeye couplings. These were coded FVX
Eventually all the FVX wagons were replaced with the standard BR GUV vans. These offered better protection to the vehicles inside. Once the GUVs had taken over the duties from the Motorail flats moved over to the freight traffic. There were a number of FVV FVW and FVX wagons ended their lives as part of the departmental fleets, often as part of electrification trains.
Its worth noting that the Eastern Region commissioned special enclosed vehicles that could carry 6 vehicles internally using an elevated lift section between the bogies for use on its Kings Cross to Scotland services.
What’s in the box
The model is supplied in the standard Mark 1 Darstead box, with large foam inserts to secure the model. There is a set of removal instructions for unboxing the vehicle. Besides the carflat there is a selection of clearly printed transfers for the FVV wagon. A small bag containing a pair of vacuum pipes, there is also instructions that give the positioning of these. It shows the positioning of an air pipe too. This was not supplied with the model I saw for review, but these appear to be supplied with the FVX Motorail wagon, as in the real world the majority were fitted with dual brakes. A number were also fitted with through ETH cables.
The model is looks like it’s based on the underframe of the Darstead Mark 1, and is fitted with BR1 bogies, but without the electrical pick- ups. The underframe is the same from the Mark 1 carriage without the battery boxes. Oddly the FVV I had for review has a moulded air cylinder on the chassis and would need removing. It was fitted with an instanter coupling without the central buffer plate as per FVV/FVW. The Motorail version appears to be fitted with a screw link coupling and has the central buffing plate moulded on the beam.
The floor of the wagon has a nicely moulded and wood grain appearance, but maybe a little too light in colour. Definitely a candidate for some weathering. The side rails look accurately printed/stamped for some of the fleet. The type of rails appears to be dependent on which works built the vehicles. Some are round, others made from angled steel and some thicker straight bar. However, the attachment of these rails to the bodyside looked untidy in places. The end loading ramps come in two types, the metal version or a planked version. The latter is an additional to the original release of the models and not seen a model of this version yet.
The real things lasted until at least the mid 1980’s in service as car carriers. Lasting into the 1990’s in Departmental use. Ellis Clarke has made a good representation of the FVV/FVX models, and as a basic car carrier could find its way into a mixed goods train, just as equally as a lengthy rake there’s possibly a place on most layouts based prior to the 1990’s.
Personally, I think the model as supplied is a good representation of the real thing. If I was modelling the FVX, I would be tempted to add the extras, such as buffer saddles, ETH Jumpers and fake drop head buckeye couplings. Whichever model would you chose they look better with a dose of weathering, especially on the decking planks.
One thing I didn’t notice was if there were any moulded yellow chocks to stop the cars rolling about on the decks. When empty that were regularly stashed at one corner of the wagon.
Retailing at around £150 each they are not cheap for a ready to run flat wagon, but comparable with the Easybuild version which you would have to construct yourself.