Modelzone (prior to it going into administration in June 2013), offered some very interesting one-off vehicles as special edition models in both OO gauge and in N gauge, particularly departmental coaches of the RTC Derby fleet. Laboratory 14, a Mk.1 First Kitchen Pullman car called ‘Wren’ was one such vehicle, being an N gauge model.
Wren or Laboratory 14 was the only Mk.1 Pullman coach to be taken into the RTC fleet at Derby for use as an acoustics test coach. It had a 13 year career with RTC starting in 1975 before being sold for scrap in 1987. The original number of the coach was M323E, constructed by Metro-Cammell as a Kitchen First Pullman coach around 1962. RTC livery of BR blue with a red band along the windows was applied, with white lining and lettering. One end was painted yellow and the roof dark grey. Its departmental number was RDB975427, carried at the right hand of both sides of the coach together with the legend ‘Acoustics Group Research and Development Division’ and ‘Derby’. Wren was TOPS coded QXX indicating its rake equipment.
An interesting point about the coach is that it retained its Pullman name into RTC use where it was applied to the blue and red livery. Also, records indicate that the coach only received minor modifications to windows, including an extractor vent. Some internal fittings were removed for its new role and a warning horn fitted at solebar level at one end, the one painted yellow. Brake wheels are visible, fitted to the solebar of the coach as observed in the few photographs taken of Wren.
The model is based on the relatively new and highly acclaimed Graham Farish N gauge Mk.1 Pullman coach which has as many fine features as the popular OO gauge model. The bodyshell is well proportioned with recessed end doors and nicely shaped windows, which are fitted with flush glazing inserts. Running gear is of the correct Commonwealth bogies fitted with low profile wheels whilst the Mk.1 gangways are lovely mouldings. The underframe has a high level of detail, most of it consisting of standalone parts for truss rods, vacuum brakes, ventilation ducts, battery boxes and air brake actuation cylinders.
Livery application is very accurate as according to reference photographs published in books. All of the lettering is of the correct Rail Alphabet style and is fully legible, being dense and sharp. Lining between the rail blue and red colours is also crisp, as is the application of the same colours around the saloon end of the coach. The kitchen end is painted yellow, which is correct for the livery, the yellow shade also being correct and without any patchiness. The overall finish is an eggshell coating which suits N gauge models particularly well.
Overall, the model is superbly presented with sufficient little printed detail to match the specific modifications made to Wren by the RTC. They include the representation of a ventilator in one window and the modification of a second window in the saloon area of the coach. This does not detract from the overall appearance and makes the production of one-off vehicles such as this possible given the cost of model development. Enthusiasts of research and departmental vehicles found it a welcome addition to their collections and it is now difficult to find, even on Ebay.