Saturday, 11 March 2017

Review: Auscision Models JLX/NLJX Vans

I treated myself to a new model this week, as a small reward for having finally completed editing a manuscript for a fellow Author over the past year. With my scheduled now cleared for the remainder of the year, and a calendar that now includes two model train shows in 2017, I thought that Philden could really do with another box car to swap in and out at the goods shed. Auscision Models JLX/NLJX louvered van looked like it would tick all the boxes. So what did I think of this 56' foot New South Wales HO scale offering?

As always with Auscision, there is some rather nice underframe detail on the model.

Auscision's JLX/NLJX vans retail for $260 for a pack of four individually numbered vans. Not being sure what I would do with four identical models on such a small bookshelf layout, I chose instead to buy a brand-new State Rail liveried NLJX model being sold individually at the time by Alco-World in Sydney. It made adding another Australian prototype model a lot more affordable. Underneath, there is the usual high quality that I've come to expect from Auscision's models. Best of all, the center-beam underbelly frame on the JLX/NLJX vans makes it possible to view all this detail from side-on. Measuring 20.5 cm over the couplers, this is going to be the longest wagon or van that I will be able to operate on my 9' foot long bookshelf switching layout, based on using an 82 class locomotive (25.5 cm over the couplers) as my longest locomotive. So far it appeared that I was on to a winner.

Can you spot what's wrong with this model however?

The model rolled beautifully on my level track, and joining my small fleet of other Auscision models had no problem coupling on with even the lightest of touches. The bogies, (that's trucks for my U.S. readers), are the standout feature of this model. The detail extends to the point of the manufacturers cast iron raised lettering on the bogie side frames, something that gives this model a wow factor! The louvered panels, although not see-through, still look great when viewed through a camera lens. Unfortunately my camera also picked up one small problem. Can you see it in the photo above? Yes that's right, underneath the Kadee style coupler you can see that the white handled uncoupler arm had come loose from its hole and was dangling in mid-air.

Another loose part on a new model that needed to be fixed.

It's one of those things that you can sometimes miss with the naked eye, and after removing the van from the track and turning it upside down, it was clear that the small metal pin link that holds it in place in the hole immediately behind the coupler, had just come free. Getting the bastard back in with a pair of tweezers was trying at the best of times, and the thing would just pop straight back out with the slightest hint of movement. Eventually I was able to fix what was most likely a small issue missed at the factory, and applied a speck of plastic cement to hold the pin in place.

Fix it right, fix it once!

While doing this, I also noticed that the black air brake piping that hangs down beside the coupler box and connects to the brake piping that extends the length of the van, was also loose. The small bracket that is a part of the moulded piping wasn't attached to the coupler box frame at either end, and only further continued my run of bad luck with missing or broken pieces on new Australian models. With another speck of plastic cement applied to the area in question, the model now appears sturdy and not likely to cause any problem in the future.

How it should have looked.

Back on track again, you can see the difference that the air hose and uncoupling arm being attached in their correct positions has made. The waffle end panels on this louvered van also lend some uniqueness to what could otherwise be described as a boorish prototype. At one time there were a lot of vans running on the NSWGR with these near-identical louvered side panels, and although the background to the history of these vans is a bit hard to come by, many of these former NSW vans were eventually cut down and had their underframes recycled to become container flat wagons, (RKQX/RKQF conversions for these vans around the late 1990's early 2000's is the best information I've been able to come across so far).

One thing noticeably missing from the model is the shunters steps, that should be located one per side on opposite ends on the NLJX vans. The earlier coded JLX vans pre-1979 didn't have these, but the re-coded NLJX vans from 1979 on did. Justin Moy posted some excellent photos on weathering these NLJX vans and adding shunters steps on his Killawarra blog, so adding the shunters steps is now well and truly on my to-do list somewhere down the track.

This model is just begging for a Rustall treatment. Stay tuned.

The detail on the model is otherwise quite nice, with much of the fine print around the brake wheels and carriage side frames only readable under magnification. The wheels are metal RP25-110 36" inch scale wheels and the model is suitable for code 70, 83 and 100 rail on a radius as tight as 18" inches, which I think covers most HO scale modelers. The underframe detail is different on either side of the centerbeam as shown in the photos above and below, with the below photo showing the real metal chain used for the hand brake rigging. The all-over SRA Indian Red livery applied to these vans didn't stand up too well over time in the blistering Australian elements, and many vans simply ended up wearing a much faded blue or red coat of rust and peeling paint. Something I just know I'm going to have to emulate with my Rustall kit in the very near future!

I can only imagine how nice this model would be with opening doors. Oh, well.

Although the NLJX van is a worthy addition to my layout, I've kind of shrugged my shoulders with the doors on this model. It seems such a missed opportunity given that the doors are so big and wide, to not have made them able to open, when by comparison, there are many N scale box cars on the market that feature sliding doors. I love peeking inside models, and a pair of opened doorways makes a great model photography vantage point. Maybe its the inner-hobo in me, but parking a covered van beside my goods shed with the doors open stirs the imagination more than a box car that is, well.... essentially a box on wheels. Still, with some slight modifications, heavy weathering and perhaps even a graffitti attack or two, this model is going to come up a treat!

Review Card: Auscision Models JLX/NLJX 56' Louvered Vans

My Rating:


Final Thoughts: A nice take on what could be considered a boorish prototype. Aside from a few niggles, the model really could have benefited from opening doors, just to satisfy the hobo in us all.

See also; Auscision Models NCTY/NODY open wagon

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