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We Go Bananas! SR D1478 and D1479 Diagram Banana Vans in OO/4mm

Can you believe that we have not announced an all-new wagon tooling at all during 2022? With us all caught up on our wagons ranges (just the last of the MGR wagons and MHAs to deliver, and they're now in transit from the factory) we have completely caught up on our outstanding wagon projects.

So, for GETS 2022 we have decided to announce two more all new wagon projects that we have had bubbling away for a while...

First up, the Southern Railway Diagram D1478 and D1479 Banana Vans in OO/4mm scale.

We've been asked time and again for more "Big Four" rolling stock, and well, it's about time we went bananas!

Pre-Order Your Vans By Clicking Here! 


Now a commonplace sight in grocers and supermarkets across the nation, in 2020, the importation of Bananas amounted to trade worth $582M, making the United Kingdom the 7th largest importer of Bananas in the world, with imports coming primarily from Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Belize. Once considered a luxury, by the 1930s the importation of the fruit from the Caribbean had become huge business, necessitating a new approach to transporting this fragile and perishable fruit.

Bananas were first imported in quantity into Britain by Edward Fyffe in 1901, being picked while still green and unripe, before being transported by sea in ships with insulated and refrigerated holds in shipments of around 4000 bunches. A bunch could contain anything between 40 and 100 bananas and the bunches of most varieties had to be straw packed in returnable wooden crates, although the tougher varieties from Jamaica could be carried loose. The infrastructure for handling the import of banana traffic was extensive and the ports at Avonmouth, Hull, Garston, Barry Docks, Preston and Southampton invested heavily in facilities for handling the fruit, including the facilities for onward transport by rail to the ripening sheds inland.

Specialised vans for the transport of bananas were operated by the Great Western Railway, the London & North Eastern Railway and the London, Midland, Scottish Railway, as the fruit required special handling, heating and ventilating conditions during its transport and so the wagons were insulated, fitted with steam heating pipes and, in some cases, equipped with adjustable ventilation to allow the ripening process to continue en-route.

Southampton had handled banana traffic since pre-grouping days, using London & South Western Railway stock, but when Elders & Fyffes moved their handling operations from Hull to Southampton in 1933, the Southern Railway needed to increase their fleet of vans substantially. By 1935 the SR had built its own fleet of 200 vans to Diagram 1478, the first to use the new Rail Clearing House 10’ wheelbase underframe and combined with the hired in LNER vehicles, the new fleet met the demands placed upon it. When fire destroyed a number of the LNER’s fleet and Fyffes moved their operation to the Royal Albert Docks, leading to the LNER having to recall their remaining vehicles, the SR needed to expand the fleet again and this was achieved by amending an existing order for D1458 ordinary covered vans; the bodies being modified and fitted to the same 10’ underframes as the existing stock and in total, 125 vehicles were built in this manner, the SR issuing a new diagram number of 1479 for these new Banana Vans.

Both types entered traffic in the SR’s Stone livery with Venetian red lettering, albeit with a slight difference in that the D1478 vehicles carried large SR lettering until 1936, before the SR switched to small lettered branding, which is how the D1479 vehicles entered traffic. In November 1940 the British banana trade was suspended, the Ministry of Food prioritising the movement and importation of citrus fruits and so many of the SR’s Banana Vans were re-purposed for the transportation of meat and branded accordingly, however there must have been some transportation of bananas, as in March 1941 an amendment of the painting diagram showed a wartime livery of Red Oxide, with Lemon lettering and a 1’ 6" green band added to each corner, specifically to indicate use for banana traffic.

Post-war, and under nationalisation as British Railways, the vans were re-liveried in BR Bauxite and as banana traffic continued into the 1950s, branded gummed labels for Fyffes and Geest became ever more prevalent, fixed to the sides of the vans. It was during this period that imports from the Windward Islands increased, and with the islands of Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Vincent being closer to the UK than Jamaica, the nature of banana imports began to change with conditions necessitating a change in how the fruit was transported. Ripening the fruit became less of an issue, which negated the need for using steam, as increased insulation was all that was needed.

The former SR Banana Vans did not carry ventilators, unlike the vans from the other regions which, by 1954, were being removed or sealed, but the legend ‘steam’ was removed from the wagon sides and from 1956 the steam controls on individual vehicles began to be removed and the insulation increased, although the steam pipes were retained for the time being. Between 1961 and 1963, the increase in insulation resulted in the addition of a yellow circle to the van sides and by the end of 1963 all steam pipes had been removed permanently from the banana vans, but by now the use of rail for distribution was rapidly declining and many of the vans were taken out of traffic by 1968.

Those vans that remained in service found use in BR Departmental service, mainly being used as Fitted Heads and classified as Tadpole. Most conversions dated from the 1967/68 period, as numbers of the ex-SR and early BR vans became redundant and originated mostly from the very large fleet that served the Geest Import Terminal at Barry Docks. Most were based at Llantrisant and Swansea, their main use occurring on the iron ore workings from British Steel Corporation’s Llanharry Mine and the Limestone workings from Creigiau to East Moors Steelworks in Cardiff, via Pengam. A common sight around the yard at Llantrisant, it was from there that they were added to the trains, while the Swansea vans worked out of Jersey Marine Yard by 1974 and were used on the Limestone workings from Craig-y-Nos to Llanwern and were added at Jersey Marine for the run up the South Wales Main Line.

The vans started off with DS and DB suffixes and from 1974 were noted as TDS and TDB, and then by their TOPS code of RBV. A few examples never gained the D prefix, although most seemed to carry Circuit markings along with a very small branding and the last example of the ex-SR Banana Vans was withdrawn around 1978, leaving no examples preserved.

This range of SR Banana vans, completely new to the RTR 00 market, mark a significant milestone in the development of the Southern’s use of the RCH 10’ chassis and the ongoing use of Lynes’ van body arrangement with its distinctive roof outline.

The Models

Approaching the SR Banana vans, a much missing link in ready-to-run wagons from this period, required doing things ‘The Accurascale Way’. Therefore, both diagrams D1478 and D1479 were selected with differing bodies catered for in the range, with early and late versions of both.

The chassis and running gear are of a common design across both diagrams, however the bodies differ in profile and width. To ensure reliable running, a die-cast metal chassis has been implemented, giving excellent weight and sure-footedness of running.  With a scale wheelbase of 40mm,  operation over a minimum radius of 371mm (1st radius set-track) is easily achieved.


Further differences across the range include no fewer than three different styles of wheel design catered for; split spoke, single spoke and 3-hole disc, chemically blackened and conforming to the RP25-110 standard. Axles are set in blackened brass bearings and conforming to Accurascale’s standards of 14.4mm back-to-backs, using 2mm axles over 26mm pinpoints.


The detail is there too, with plenty of separate eroded metal, plastic and wire detail parts, including (but not limited to) separate handrails, grab handles, door handles, lamp brackets, vacuum and steam pipes, through pipes, steam heating cock and brake gear. Turned metal sprung buffers set off these beautiful little vans with small tension locks, set into small, self-centring NEM housings.

Authentic livery, markings and numbers, accurately researched to the time periods modelled.

With these vans lasting over a long period of SR and BR ownership, we have gone that extra mile once again and catered for authentic livery, detail and marking variants, along with numbers which are as per the wagons modelled!

These wagons will come in triple packs in a variety of liveries across their careers in banana traffic and are priced at £84.95 each, with 10% off when customers order two packs or more via the Accurascale website, along with free UK and Ireland shipping. These wagons will also be available across Accurascale’s network of local stockists. Delivery is slated for Q4 2023, with decorated samples due in Spring of 2023.

 Browse the full range on our website by clicking here.

Once again, we must thank Mike King for his help in providing photographs and insights for this project, which made the task of wading through additional drawings at Search Engine and Butterley a far less daunting task and which highlighted some important details. All prototype images on this page are copyright: Mike King.

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