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Yes we Al-can in N!

Following a successful Expressions of Interest campaign Revolution trains is offering the Alcan PCA alumina tanks in N gauge 1:148 scale.

CAD has already been completed and once sufficicent pre-orders are received we will put the model straight into tooling.

At this time we have not finalised exactly which liveries will be available.

We expect to open the order book very shortly, and having already produced them in OO development and production is expected to be without too many hold ups.

The Prototype

The Alcan tanks are used to transport imported alumina between Blyth, on the north east coast, and the UK’s only remaining aluminium smelter at Fort William.

With Ben More dominating the background 66739 The Bluebell Railway eases the Alcan empties across the Finnan Viaduct at Crianlarich.

Built in 1988, the Alcan PCA tanks have been in frontline service for more than three decades and despite their relatively limited route they pass through some of the most spectacular scenery in the UK.

Class 55 55022 on the Alcans at Upper Tyndrum. The Deltic was hired in by GBRf to cover locomotive shortages in 2011.
Photo: Alistair Blackwood.

43 wagons numbered BAHS55531-55573 were built in 1988 by Powell Duffryn to design code PC020A for British Alcan Aluminium. Unusually the wagons have twin-link suspension with parabolic leaf springs, due to restrictions on the West Highland line.

BAHS55555 at North Blyth. Photo: Henry Pattison.

The wagons have always been pale grey with black underframes and discharge gear.

Originally introduced with the familiary Alcan logo, this was removed during the early noughties and following a takeover the wagons received Rio Tinto Alcan branding.

Subsequent changes of ownership led to revised Liberty/Lochaber labels being applied and then, from 2019, Alvance branding.

Like their OO predecessors, these models are likely to be packaged in sets of four, however the exact combinations of liveries and numbers has not been finalised.

We expect to open the order book shortly and hope to have the models ready to ship by Q1 2025, but this is dependent on expressions of interest converting into sales.

Thanks to all who expressed their interest and enabled us to move forward.

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Alcans arrival!

Revolution has received EP1 samples of its forthcoming 00 gauge, 1:76.2 scale Alcan PCA alumina tanks. These models represent the fleet of wagons diagram PC020A which have been in use since the late 1980s transporting alumina, which is used to make aluminium, from Blyth in Northumberland to the UK’s only remaining aluminium smelter at Lochaber at the base of Ben Nevis in the Scottish Highlands.

Alumina PCA sample in as-built form with ladders.
Alumina PCA without ladders as currently operated.

When built the wagons had ladders, however these were removed in the early 2000s. They entered service with Alcan, were subsequently taken on by Rio Tinto and are now operated by Alvance.

Revolution research trip to Lochaber Smelter.

The models feature a wealth of separately fitted details to the underside and fine, photo-etched catwalks.

Close up showing photo-etched catwalk and array of underframe detailing.

The wagons operate through some of the most beautiful scenery in the British Isles. In BR days they were usually hauled by Class 37 locomotives; then after privatisation EWS brought in Class 66s.

37413 “Loch Eil Outward Bound” leads the North Blyth – Fort William Alcan tanks over the River Fillan at Crianlarich. Photo courtesy Alan Mitchell.

Nowadays GBRf operates the trains. Standard traction remains the Class 66, though in 2011 GBRf hired in Class 55 Deltic 55022 due to traction shortages.

Photo courtesy: Arran Aird.

Revolution is offering the models in packs of four differently numbered wagons in all the liveries they’ve carried during their long lives.

If you want to find out more about the fascinating operations at Lochaber smelter, in the stunning highlands of Scotland, or are interested in the operations of these iconic wagons, see our video here:

These samples will be on show at the Rails Open Day on Saturday August 27th. The next step is to generate the livery drawings so decorated samples can be prepared for approval, and then the models will go into production with delivery expected next year.

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Aluminating tanks from Revolution!

Revolution Trains is offering the distinctive Alcan PCA alumina tanks, used between Blyth and Lochaber Aluminium Smelter near Fort William, in the Scottish Highlands, as its next OO wagon model and we’ve prepared a short video to launch the model which is currently in tooling.

With Ben More dominating the background 66739 The Bluebell Railway eases the Alcan empties across the Fillan Viaduct at Crianlarich. Photo: Terry Callaghan.

Built in 1988, the Alcan PCA tanks have been in frontline service for more than three decades and despite their relatively limited route they pass through some of the most spectacular scenery in the UK.

66740 with the Alcan tanks at Whifflet. Photo: Tom Smith.

In addition they have been hauled by a wide variety of traction including Classes 26, 37, 47, 56, 60, 66 and perhaps most remarkably, Class 55 Deltic 55022 in 2011.

26036 with Alcan tanks bringing up the rear at Beattock in 1990. Photo: Dave McAlone.

To assist with research Revolution recently visited the Lochaber smelter.

Prototype History

43 wagons numbered BAHS55531-55573 were built in 1988 by Powell Duffryn to design code PC020A for British Alcan Aluminium. Unusually the wagons have twin-link suspension with parabolic leaf springs, due to restrictions on the West Highland line.

BAHS55555 at Blyth. Photo: Henry Pattinson.

Introduced in a plain grey livery with blue ‘Alcan’ branding, by the mid 2000s the Alcan logos had faded and resembled dusty grey triangles, and the end ladders were removed.

37413 “Loch Eil Outward Bound” with Alcan tanks at Crianlarich in 1991. Photo: Alan Mitchell.

In 2008 Alcan was amalgamated into Rio Tinto Alcan, and while the basic livery remained the same new red branding was introduced.

BAHS55559 at Stirling’s Yard in Rio Tinto Alcan livery. Photo: Tom Smith

Following the purchase of the Lochaber aluminium smelter in 2016 by GFG Alliance the wagons were progressively relabelled in Lochaber Power/Liberty and more recently with Alvance branding.

BAHS55568 in Alvance branding, BAHS 55566 wih Lochaber/Liberty branding. Photo: Tom Smith.

The Model

The Alcan PCA tanks feature four top loading hatches, a full length catwalk and access ladders on each side.  The ladders were removed around 2005-2007 and versions with and without ladders, with appropriate liveries, will be offered.

PCA original version with ladders
PCA revised with ladders removed

In addition some wagons have had the plate on the discharge chute removed, and this will be supplied as a customer fit part to allow both options.

The models feature NEM pockets and are designed for straightforward conversion to EM or P4. Tooling is almost complete and first samples are expected next month.

Revolution is proposing versions in a wide selection of the liveries carried by these tanks to allow every era of these interesting wagons to be depicted.

Operations

Lochaber smelter is just outside Fort William in the West Highlands of Scotland and was opened in 1929. The enormous power requirements of alumium smelting require that plants are located close to suitable power supply. It would take the average family 20 years to use the electricity needed to produce just one tonne of aluminium!

Lochaber smelter generates the power it need using hydro-electric turbines spun by vast quantities of water piped from Loch Treig via a tunnel through the base of Ben Nevis and down five huge pipes into the plant.

Five enormous pipes feed water to power Lochaber’s hydro-electric turbines. Photo: James Dean Shepherd.

Aluminium is produced in a two-stage process. Aluminium ore (Bauxite) is first converted into alumina, then smelted into aluminium ingots.

Molten aluminium being poured into casting moulds at Lochaber. Photo: GFG Alliance.

The alumina used at Lochaber is processed at Aughinish in County Limerick, Ireland – the largest such plant in Europe – then shipped to the Port of Blyth, where it is unloaded into three large silos before being sent by rail to Fort William.

Bulk carrier Arklow Willow is unloaded at Blyth, prior to the alumina being railed to Lochaber. Photo: Chris Phillips, used under Creative Commons.

When introduced the wagons were also used, on occasion, to supply alumina to the Lynemouth smelter, around 7 miles north of Blyth, however these trains ceased when it was mothballed in 2012.

At the present time the trains, running under the headcodes 6S45 (loaded) and 6E45 (empties) run north on the East Coast main line via Dunbar and Millerhill to Mossend, then across via Helensburgh Upper onto the West Highland line to Fort William.

66737 with diverted Alcan tanks at Denton Mill. Photo: Dave McAlone.

Diversionary routes can include north of Mossend via Gartcosh or avoiding the ECML using the Tyne Valley line via Hexham to Carlisle and then the northern West Coast main line.

Sample consists

The models are in tooling now with samples expected very soon, and the order book is open now – just click on Shop in the website menu.