This week my pre-ordered XGAY's arrived. I've been eagerly awaiting these modern Aussie wheat hoppers ever since placing my order back at the 2017 Brisbane Model Train Show. Of course when I say Aussie, I mean Australian outline HO scale, because everything these days seems to be made in China. Including strangely enough, the prototype C-35 hoppers that these models are based on.
Unlike their real life counterparts, which from driver's accounts were a little cantankerous with sticking brake issues, the C-35 hoppers are an exquisite model. Southern Rail Models have produced these in ATN Access XGAY grey, Australian Wheat Board WGBY and WGSY both in as-delivered dark blue and faded light blue, plus the SSR BGSY as built for Southern Shorthaul Railroad. But it was the post 2002 XGAY hoppers with the AWB Turning Wheat into Gold billboard that first grabbed my attention when I saw the pre-production samples. They fit the mid 2000's era that I am modelling, and provide a modern contrast to the dinosaur fleet of older refurbished locos that I like to run on my layout. Straight out of the box the XGAY's rolled freely through a set of medium code 100 switches and coupled on perfectly. The wheel sets are chemically blackened and the model comes with genuine Kadee metal couplers. But its the detail on the model that sets these wagons apart.
|The end frame detail and walkway is a stand-out on this model.|
The roof hatches, etched metal walkways and end ladders make this one of the finest detailed models I've yet to see. In fact, there is more detail on this model that you'll find on most commercially produced diesel locomotives. More importantly, after a run of bad luck in recent times with models arriving with missing detail parts, everything on this model seems perfectly proportioned, and perfectly in place.
The pack I purchased was XGA 07, the post 2002 Pacific National era hoppers with the added pneumatic loading hatches fitted. In fact, it was Pacific National who bought out the ATN Access contract, bringing to an end the Wisconsin Central inspired livery of the maroon and yellow ATN Access L Class locos. But don't just take my word for it, there is a wonderful background on the history of the modern hoppers on Southern Rail's website, (link below). When assembling a model railway fleet from scratch, I really must applaud the time and effort Southern Rail take to give potential purchasers some background info and era specific time frames as to when these models ran in real life. Sadly it is something that I'm noticing is disappearing from other suppliers' websites.
|The etched metal walkways and ladders is perhaps what made these an expensive project to produce.|
While I haven't the budget to have purchased anymore than the simple 3 pack of wagons I plan to shunt about on my bookshelf layout, the price of these at $269 for a pack of 3 wheat hoppers makes assembling a convincingly sized train seem daunting at first. Considering these ran in block trains of 42 wagons, a set of 12 wagons is going to set any modeller back over a thousand bucks. But considering the amount of detail in these models, for the money spent on acquiring a string of these wagons they will easily become the star attraction of any layout they run on. From that point of view, I'm sure there are going to be a lot of Victorian and New South Wales modellers seriously considering adding some of these hoppers to their fleet. All I can say, is that for the money I spent pre-ordering just 1 pack of 3 hoppers, I definitely wasn't disappointed.
Underneath, the model is sound and sturdy. The detail piping that runs under the side skirt of the wagon is something to be aware of and avoid handling. But the hatches seem to be securely fixed and add a tremendous amount of detail when viewed from side-on at rail height.
Perhaps what I like most of all about these models, is the way that the end access walkways seem to form a chain when more than one wagon is coupled together. It gives the wagons a real sense of purpose, even when sitting stationary in a siding. We're truly spoiled for choice these days with the amount of high quality Australian models, but this one perhaps sums up more than most what model railroading is all about, replicating that sense of moving things from one place to another. This model just looks like its ready to work.
|Southern Rail Models ATN train, an L Class complete with XGAY hoppers at Philden.|
So there you have it. Southern Rail Models' latest release is now an instant favourite. All that remains is for me to attack my layout after the Christmas break and add that wheat silo along the clear blue skyline visible behind the train for these beauties to pull up alongside. Those plans are already proving to be a source of frustration, but the XGAY's are here and I should have the project completed in time for Philden's next exhibition in May 2018.
Sure I would've loved to have added more than just a few of these wagons to my collection, but when the siding I have in mind will only hold 3 wagons anyway before disappearing into an escape hole, I'm very glad I added some Southern Rail Models XGAY's to Philden's roster. What follows next will be a huge overhaul of the layout and a lot of tinkering with my rollingstock fleet as Philden becomes Philden MkII for next year's show circuit, but as usual, I'll let that be a story for another day. It's an exciting time to be into model trains!
Review Card: Southern Rail Models C-35 XGAY Wheat Hoppers
Final Thoughts: Easily the best detailed Australian HO scale freight wagon I've come across to date. Five stars in every sense!
See also: Southern Rail's L Class locomotive