Accurascale HOP24 / HUO In model form, the 21t coal hopper has been with us for the best part of 50 years. The example seen here is a former Airfix model adopted by Dapol. Known as HOP 21 and under the TOPS system as HTO. These wagons could be seen n their thousands right up until the early 1980s. Proving the “green” credentials of the railway, the chassis of many of these wagons would be used in the reconstruction of numerous engineers vehicles, so elegantly rendered by Hornby, but I digress! The example seen here is a simple affair made of two sections, Body and under frame giving a good overall appearance if a little sparse in the detail department. Enter Accurascale Accurascale, a London based maker are a new comer to the market. Several months ago CAD images appeared in the model press of a development of the HOP21 / HTO; this being the sturdier HOP24 / HUO. According to the paper work BR introduced these wagons from around 1954 with 12 batches being produced up to 1965, 11 of these batches constructed at Sheldon works and the 11th by Pressed Steel making a total production of 5263 wagons. They are easily recognised from their 21t counterparts by their strengthened uprights and angled supports at the base of the body. These were some of the last un-fitted wagons produced by BR. Hence the letter “o” in the three-letter TOPS code; applied from 1973 onwards. Some of the last workings of these wagons were recorded in 1987. Their main duties related to bulk traffic to power stations and ports around the UK. They are considered to be the forerunner of the air-braked Merry-Go-Round trains. To the models. From the moment you open the elaborate packaging you realise this is a premium product aimed at the more discerning modeller of the BR era. Firstly is a tough transparent outer sleeve protecting the well made cardboard box. It feels like opening an expensive box of aftershave or hand made chocolates! Once the lid is removed a tray containing three wagons is revealed with yet another protective cover. This removed, along with a useful information sheet the wagons can be seen nestling in thing translucent plastic film. Care should be taken here as the model is constructed from numerous parts. This is illustrated in an exploded diagram on the information sheet. I would recommend gently lifting the wagon out by holding the top of the body and gently prising it out so the body is held between thumb and forefinger. The body in very light grey, rests in a cradle formed of the 5 strengthened ribs at each side. There are two at each end. At the base of these is an angled section that support the body allowing for heavier loads. It is these supports that give the wagon it’s more rugged appearance. Handrails are separately fitted at each end. Decoration is something that sets these wagons apart from the competition. Not only is each wagon separately numbered but so is each pack. I have packs “F” and “H” meaning a set of 6 wagons all with their own numbers, something rarely done to such detail. Added to this are the various markings and data panels meaning each wagon is unique. Even the data panels are made to look hand painted with the white numbers and letters applied with a stencil. There are other places on the bodies suggesting something has been painted over. Between the 1st and 3rd rib there is an upward facing yellow triangle and on one wagon the legend “HUO 5457 25t 10650k N33722” is also applied in yellow! Moving to the under frame we are met with a wealth of handles, levers and steps each one separately applied. There is the long brake lever and three smaller levers on each side. These all picked out with white ends with the word “closed” in tiny white letters showing the correct position the handles should be when not in use. Facing outwards at a slight angle care should be taken here as they could easily be caught on a fingernail and pulled off. At the left end on each side there is a tiny step allowing maintenance staff access to the body. Decoration is to the same high standard as above with even the makers’ plates showing individual numbers corresponding with the data panels. Turn the wagon up side down and you will see a fully detailed discharge mechanism. Again I would take care here as these are a friction fit. On one example part of this fell away causing derailment. This was easily remedied with a dab of plastic weld. These wagons are fitted with sprung buffers and the now standard NEM pocket type couplings to allow alternative styles to be attached at will. If three-link is your thing the couplings are easily removed for chains to be attached to tiny coupling hooks. Wheels are of the three hole type. I had to re-gauge each set for smooth running. Value for money/ personal view? A resounding yes. Take a look at a modern wagon from the established makers and you will soon discover £20 plus is the norm for premium products. So an asking price of £60 for three wagons uniquely numbered with so much detail seams more than fair to me. Whilst we all like the glamour of the latest loco or passenger coach it is often the work horses of the railway that are the making of a diverse freight fleet. To the best of my knowledge this is the first RTR offering of this particular wagon. For an independent maker to bring a totally new product to market takes some courage. Research, development, production and marketing don’t come cheap often costing thousands of pounds before the first wagon rolls off the assembly lines. I therefore think it is quite reasonable to thank Accurascale for a superb offering and to wish them every success in any future endeavours.