Monday, 3 October 2016

Review: Casula Hobbies NPCF Hoppers

For someone modelling a cement plant as their major source of traffic on a small bookshelf layout, it appears that I am spoiled for choice when it comes to the number of high quality ready-to-run HO scale Australian cement hoppers available on the market. Although both Southern Rail Models and SDS Models have released the PRX/NPRX/NPRY/NPRF cement wagons, Casula Hobbies of Sydney have also made available a ready-to-run HO scale version of a NPCF cement hopper, of which only 10 were built by Tulloch Ltd in 1973. With a drastically different body shape to the NPRF/NPRY cement hoppers, buying a set of the Casula Hobbies NPCF hoppers has added a bit of variety to the Philden cement train.

This nicely presented box of 4 NPCF FreightCorp cement hoppers retails for $299.00 through Casula Hobbies.

A box of 4 NPCF/PCC/PCX cement hoppers will set you back $299 Australian. While the FreightCorp set I purchased above has now sold out, various sets of grime, as delivered aluminium and plain white hoppers are still available, with some hoppers even carrying the stenciling on the side from the time they were used privately as bulk flour hoppers for Goodman Fielder when first delivered in 1973. Fast forward to the 1990's, and the fleet of NPCF hoppers were repainted white with FreightCorp lettering. By the mid 2000's they had reverted to plain white, and as of today only 9 survive under Pacific National ownership. Unfortunately, all now appear to be kept in storage.

The Casula Hobbies NPCF is finished off nicely underneath with some gorgeous pipe detail.

Out of the box, the detail on the model looks amazing. Underneath there is a complex amount of discharge piping that extends to one side of the hopper. It leaves me wondering if these hoppers were designed to only be discharged from one side of the rails? The weight of the model appears to be good, and it rolls freely through a double pair of Peco medium radius points without any cause for concern. The blackened metal wheels and scale Kadee type couplers finish the model off nicely.

That's a Southern Rail Models NPRY to the left of the Casula Hobbies NPCF hopper.

Being an independent blogger with no particular affiliation to any model railway manufacturer, gives me the freedom to turn one of my Southern Rail Models NPRY's upside down and compare it with the Casula Hobbies NPCF. It is interesting to note how two different manufacturers have gone about finishing the under-frame details on their respective models. The slightly longer Casula Hobbies NPCF hopper on the right uses moulded plastic details while the Southern Rail Models NPRY hopper on the left is finished with a mixture of plastic and unpainted wire rods. Side by side the underneath of the Casula Hobbies model looks more 'finished' in my opinion and clearly scores the points. However, once placed on the track and viewed from rail height, the underneath detail really becomes a case of potato-potato as to which model looks better.

The Casula Hobbies NPCF to the left has a drastically different profile to the Southern Rail Models NPRY hopper. 

Placed side-by-side, you really gain an appreciation for the uniqueness of these models, and both have that beautiful-ugly characteristic about them that sets them apart from modelling a string of containers on flatcars. The Casula Hobbies NPCF hopper is nicely finished with etched brass walkways, ladders and handrails, and the crispness of the safety signs that are printed on the model are a real treat! With the NPCF hopper on the left constructed with rolled aluminium smooth sides, and the NPRY hopper on the right having welded aluminium seams, the Southern Rail Models NPRY model carries that little bit more detail in my opinion and takes the points from side on. Most importantly however, the two different manufacturer's models both roll freely and couple on perfectly every time, making them great companions for operating together on my layout.

The side piping appears on one side of the NPCF, while the brass etched walkway detailing is on the other.

While I'm glad to have added some NPCF cement hoppers to my small HO scale NSW layout, when a pack of 4 equates to $75 per hopper, I would much rather have only had to purchase 1 of these unique models, purely to add some variety to the consist of my short block cement trains. I've seen photos of these hoppers mixed in with a string of NPRF/NPRY hoppers on trains headed to Murwillumbah in the late 1990's, (probably carrying flyash at the time for construction work on the Pacific Highway upgrade) and the trains looked absolutely terrific. So it remains to be seen if any more than 1 of these great looking NPCF's will remain on Philden's roster. Especially given that there were only 10 of the NPCF's ever constructed as opposed to 125 NPRY's built between 1977 and 1981, and a further 30 NPRF hoppers constructed between 1987 and 1988. But hats off to Casula Hobbies for giving us a great model of an unusual and rare prototype. I'm sure that with the FreightCorp version of this model now sold out, I will have no problem selling the remaining 3 on eBay.

Review Card: Casula Hobbies NSW NPCF/PCC/PCX Cement Hoppers

My Rating:


Final Thoughts: A very nicely detailed model of what was an unusual and rare prototype. Although a little on the pricey end compared to other Australian models that are available on the market.

See also; Review: Southern Rail Models NPRY/NPRF Cement Hoppers

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Thanks for taking the time to visit Philden. I hope you'll book a return ticket soon. Cheers, Phil