While the later air-conditioned Mk2 stock have been available for many years, the earlier non-aircon coaches have long been one of the most significant gaps in the N-gauge coaching stock roster. The long-awaited Graham Farish models go a long way towards filling that gap.
Graham Farish have chosen to model the Mk2a variant, introduced in 1967 for use on principle express routes. Unlike the first Mk2s, they were air-braked only, and could not run behind some of the older diesel classes that were only ever fitted with vacuum brakes. The prototypes had long service lives. Though ousted from front-line services by later Mk2 builds relatively early on, they continued on secondary services all over the UK for many years. The last ones survived until the early 2000s, outliving some of the later Mk2 builds by the best part of a decade.
The three models represent the TSO (Tourist open second), FK (First Corridor) and BSO (Brake Second Open) with Eastern Region running numbers. There is no BFK (Brake First Corridor), perhaps slightly disappointingly since BR built more than twice as many BFKs as BSOs. They’re initially available only in BR blue/grey, the livery they carried for the first two decades in service. Hopefully Network Southeast and Regional Railways liveries carried in later years will follow in due course.
They certainly are very impressive models, with an excellent semi-matt finish, close-coupling mechanisms with NEM sockets, and fully-detailed interiors including seats and tables in the correct colours. They certainly capture the distinctive look of the Mk2 extremely well.
One quibble is the height doesn’t quite match that of Graham Farish’s Mk1s. It’s not a huge difference, but it is noticeable from certain angles if you mix Mk1 and Mk2 stock in the same train. Without a micrometer screw gauge I have no idea whether it’s the Mk2 or the Mk1 that’s slightly under or overscale. Saying that, the difference isn’t enough to be jarringly obvious and probably acceptable to all but the most fastidious.
A few years back, British-outline N-gauge models were the poor relation to continental and American models, with a lot of crudely-detailed models that were years if not decades behind the best models released by Kato, Fleischmann or Roco. But since Bachmann took over Graham Farish and a competitor entered the market in the shape of Dapol, things have improved out of all recognition. These Mk2s are possibly the best British-outline coaches released to date, and I think they are on a par with state-of-the-art continental models.