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Railway Gondola 16.5-18t (35296) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Railways are excellent for transporting large or heavy goods (yes, shocking isn't it?), and there are all sorts of wagons available to facilitate this, with the open wagon being one such option for goods that aren't susceptible to weather damage. This is the subject of this model from MiniArt, which arrives in a standard top-opening kit box, wrapped in shrink-wrap to prevent tampering and parts escaping. It is quite a heavy box, the reason for which becomes evident when you open it, as there are forty four sprues in mid-grey styrene of various sizes, a sheet of decals, small Photo-Etch (PE) sheet in a card envelope and the instruction booklet. As indicated on the box, there is a set of figures included and you also get a short length of track with sleepers to put in your own ballast, plus some barrels and such to liberally stash around the place. As you may already know, MiniArt utilise smaller sprues to compartmentalise their kits, so that parts can easily be reused in different variants or other boxings to add value to their models and the customer. This is a prime example, pairing the figures and fuel drums with the new gondola to create a really nice package. Construction begins with the central cross-member of the chassis which has hollow two-part timbers and the coupling "root" pinned between the H-frame. This is paired up with four more cross-braces that hold the two C-section chassis rails in place, with braced U-mounts hanging from the rails to accept the axles later on. Diagonal bracing rails are added under the bed with the end bars and side brackets, then the bed itself and two side rails are fitted before the assembly is flipped over to add the leaf-spring suspension and finally the axles with a choice of two wheel types, which are a spring fit between the posts in much the same manner as those of a traditional model train. Righting the model allows fitting of the four sides with their stiffening braces, and a pair of sliding doors on the sides with their runners and retaining rails completes the main structure, then the latches and padlocks are added from PE parts. Each wagon has a total of four buffers front and rear and two hitches, the latter being well-detailed due to the part count, and the eyelets on either side of the hitches have hooks hung on short lengths of chain, which you'll need to source yourself. The kit includes enough track to place your gondola on with a few inches either side that will come in useful if you are integrating it into a larger diorama. It is made up from five different types of sleeper with varying grain and ties moulded in and the clamp that holds the rail in place is a separate part for each of the 20 sleepers with two per sleeper. The rails are in two parts each with jointing strips on each side of the rail to turn the joint into a feature, rather than something to hide. You'll need to put the groundwork in yourself, but that gives you a lot of leeway to choose something suitable for your purposes and you can choose larger scale ballast from those available for railway modellers or make your own. Seven barrels are included in the kit for the figures to play with, and if you've seen any of my recent MiniArt reviews they'll be familiar. The drums are made from halves to which the top and bottoms are added, then two stiffening bands are fixed to the grooves in the drums, each made up from two parts. There is a choice of end-caps with different wording in raised lettering, and if you leave off the cap you can make up the hand-pump with nozzle at the other end of a piece of hose/wire that you supply yourself - that's if you feel it's appropriate to the situation of course, but it's there anyway. A separate diagram offers four colour schemes for the drums including light grey, dark yellow, red and white striped, and Panzer Grey. The barrels are shown being rolled up planks into the wagon with two soldiers pushing, one pulling on a rope from within the wagon, another rolling the next barrel into position and of course the officer looking busy with a notebook so he doesn't have to exert himself. The figures are typical MiniArt and are naturally posed with excellent detail thanks to careful sculpting and parts breakdown. Each of them have separate torsos, legs arms and heads with caps separate, plus the occasional separate hand where its position would be better moulded by removing it from the arm. The officer has a pistol holster and his book, with the pencil/pen moulded into his right hand for completeness. Markings Four decal/colour options are shown in the instructions, ranging from green, through grey/brown filthy mottle and two shades of brown, C is Russian in origin, and for the purists you will need to obtain some Russian Railroad Track (35565) for ultimate fidelity. The decals are almost all white stencils with a couple of black ones breaking up the monotone, and they are printed by Decograph with good density and sharpness. Conclusion A highly detailed gondola/wagon for use in dioramas, with your imagination the only limiting factor. Troops loading the wagon, soldiers fighting around it, or it being in the background of a larger scene, it will look great with sympathetic paintwork, and some good ballast. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of