Diesel and Electric Modellers United UPDate Magazine Issue 43
'Bachmann MTA wagon review'
Introduced in 1998, the EWS 'MTA' ballast wagons utilise chassis from various batches of redundant TTA tank wagons, constructed to replace ageing wagon designs such as ZBV 'Grampus and ZCV 'Clam' in the EWS fleet.
Normally operating alongside the MTA wagons are the MFA and MHA 'Coalfish', along with other designs such as ZKA 'Limpet' and 'Doorand'. Given that all these wagons are available ready-to-run (or soon will be in the case of the ZKA), forming prototypical engineers trains has become a lot easier.
Wanting to form a lengthy ballast train for Worthing MRC's 'Loftus Road' layout, I set about scratchbuilding a rake of MTA wagons using Plastikard and styrene strip, the results of which were published in UPDate 39.
In order to complete the project, I spent many hours examining photographs of 'MTA's, getting to know the prototype quite extensively. Therefore it is interesting to compare the results of my research with the new Bachmann model!
Looking at the body initially, it appears to be reasonably well moulded, with all the strengthening ribs in their correct places on the bodyside, and with enough thickness to look in proportion to the rest of the wagon. The triangular top rail and overlapping end detail has all been nicely executed.
Even the lamp bracket is a separate moulding, an improvement from this manufacturer's previous wagon releases, and boosts the overall appearance of the model. The metal hand rail is a nice touch, but could do with being painted white.
Of interest, inside the wagon, Bachmann have modelled internal ribs, but these appear slightly more prominent than on prototype photographs. In fairness to Bachmann the photographs of the insides of MTAs are hard to come by so it could just be the images I have found that appear different to the model.
As would be expected, the wheels are all fitted correctly and are very smooth and free-running, making a long block train not too taxing on the locomotive.
One gripe would be the way in which the wheels don't appear to be blackened very effectively, with the wheelsets being very shiny, but this is essentially nit picking. The wagon is fitted with NEM pockets and standard Bachmann tension lock couplings, but these do tend to droop and on my collection of MTAs, the couplings were all at differing heights to each other.
Several incorrect underframe details appear on the MTA, probably the most widely publicised problems being the old type of suspension represented, left over from Bachmann's TTA tank wagon moulding, which was not updated despite the same basic underframe being used on the MTA, POA and the more modern-liveried TTA wagons.
The underframe detailing does look a little sparse, apart from some of the air tank detail at the edges of the wagon, the underframe is an entirely flat moulding which does not depict any of the strengthening ribs or other pipes and equipment found underneath a real MTA. However, this is no different to any other RTR wagon on the market at the moment.
Some of the detailing that is present does look rather thin, such as the brake handles, but these could be replaced with left over parts from Parkside Dundas kits if so desired.
One easy, but noticeable improvement modellers might like to undertake is to add the two 'girders' that stick out from the side of the wagon just under the solebar, on the side that is devoid of pipework. Also missing from the model are the handbrake levering points that appear just under the brake handles on the right hand ends of the wagon, next to the footsteps.
Photographs reveal that many MTAs have pipes running from the edges of the suspension units across to the other side of the wagon on the outer ends of the chassis, but these have been omitted on the Bachmann model. However, these could easily be added from wire, though one would have to be careful not to foul the NEM pockets.
The metal buffers are very pleasing, a welcome change from previous models such as the MEA, where moulded plastic ones were the norm. Will Bachmann consider sprung buffers on future releases even, as Hornby have done on their MHA 'Coalfish'?
Livery application on my collection of Bachmann 'MTA's is varied, on some examples the paint finish is first class, whereas others purchased from the same model shops exhibit blemishes and rough edges to the paint, particularly where the gold band is applied around the top rail.
The model features an incorrect number - 365154, that of an 'HAA' coal hopper, with the number '6' instead of the usual '395' series being applied to the 'MTA'. This is possibly a thorny issue because many would feel it is churlish to criticise Bachmann over such a small issue, but had a locomotive been released with an incorrect number, then there would be many complaints.
But to me and other wagon enthusiasts it does seem rather disappointing for Bachmann to take the trouble to create an 'MTA' only to then make silly mistakes at the painting stage. However, as these wagons operate in block trains along with the 'MFA' and 'MHA', it is likely one would undertake a lot of renumbering anyway, and the incorrect numbers would no longer be such an issue.
Overall, the MTA is reasonably good model, with an accurate and well-proportioned body, but unfortunately littered with minor underframe detail errors and omissions, mainly due to using their existing TTA wagon chassis moulding.
However, with a few hours spent detailing the wagon, a fine model can be created and Bachmann are to be congratulated on expanding their range of wagons suitable for D&E modellers. Although the MTA is not perfect, Bachmann's latest release goes a long way to making engineers trains that little bit easier to model.
Article reproduced courtesy of Diesel and Electric Modellers United
Text copyright © 2006 James Makin
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