The 2mm Scale Association Buffer range

David Long

General notes

The new range of buffers available from Shop 2 is designed to cover the majority of wagon types produced between 1923 and the late 1980s. Prior to 1923 the pre-grouping companies tended to have their own individual designs and it was only with the issue of the RCH standard in 1923 and the grouping into four companies that standardisation was introduced into this area of wagon production. The situation began to change in the late-1950s with increasing use of self-contained, hydraulic and pneumatic types with the Oleo pneumatic eventually becoming the new standard. This situation remained for production by both B.R. and private U.K. builders until the late-1980s. In the last twenty years the import of vehicles from European builders has, once again, led to more diversity in buffer types.

All the buffer types in the range have been used on vehicles built between 1948 and the present day but for the period between 1923 and 1948 more consideration should be given to each company's preferences in regard to these fittings. Basically it comes down to their adoption or otherwise of the 1923 RCH standard of which the four-rib spindle buffer was a principal component.

LNER - adopted the RCH standard on all new standard designs of the most common vehicles.

LMS - also a great user of the four rib style in new designs but it is noticeable that the two rib version is also relatively common, especially for covered vans. This company, one of the pioneers of shock wagons, began use of the Duplex buffer when such vehicles were introduced prior to the Second World War.

SR - some contradictions here. The recent volume on Southern standard wagons states that the four rib RCH buffer was indeed the standard. The book then proceeds to show this in the drawings of the vehicles but the accompanying photographs show the majority to have two rib buffers !

GWR - as with many other aspects of its rolling stock production this company took the longest to adopt the 1923 RCH standard and the four rib buffer does not really become common currency until the period of World War Two and relatively close to the end of the company's existence.

As usual I would suggest that photographs are used as a more definitive guide as exceptions abound. I haven't included a bibliography as listings of wagon related volumes have appeared in this and other publications previously. However, for those who do not have access to many of the appropriate volumes or who only want a small library of such books then I would recommend the series from Cheona Publications which was begun by the late Geoff Gamble; they are a real bargain and are an excellent survey of wagon types in the years from 1948 to the present. Equally useful and reasonably priced are the series "Working Wagons" and "Wagons of the British Railways era" by David Larkin and published by Book Law. There are also established standard works for all four of the pre-nationalisation companies.

For those with access to the Internet I would recommend the following sites which could be helpful: A mixture of wagons from the 1950s to the 1980s Mostly modern rather than traditional wagons
It is also worth looking at the site of the Barrowmore model railway group:
This contains copies of B.R. diagram books which can be downloaded and show the official details for any particular design of wagon which usually includes details of the buffing arrangements applied to a particular diagram and, indeed, between different lots. These diagrams are a valuable resource as they will tell you the length, type and head size applicable to the particular wagon type. However, you may notice some differences between the official diagrams and subsequent production.

Survey of individual types

It may be appropriate to briefly define what is meant by the length of a buffer. All of the lengths that are used in this article refer to the distance between the front face of a vehicle's headstock and the front face of the buffer head. Most unfitted stock has buffers of 18" total length whilst for fitted stock the measurements would be 1' 8½" or 2' 0½". This is, of course, a generalisation and doesn't account for the fact that, in the early 1950s, British Railways built many hundreds of vacuum fitted vans with 1' 6" buffers!

Note: All types shown below have a scale 13" head except where indicated.

RCH 4 rib 1' 6" low top rib (2-070)

This type can be regarded as almost the standard for unfitted wagons for thirty five years from 1923 onwards. You name the type - vans, opens, minerals, steel carriers, departmentals - and huge numbers were fitted with them. The "Indian Summer" of this type was undoubtedly the quarter of a million 16T steel minerals built for BR in the 1950s, the vast majority of which featured the type known as the spindle buffer.

RCH 4 rib 1' 6" high top rib (2-074)

Product 2-074.

Only three uses known to me for these. The first is at the end-door end of wooden mineral wagons with a wooden underframe (built to the 1923 RCH standard) where they were used to help keep the body stable. For any set of four that you purchase you have enough for two wagons. The end of the wagon with a fixed end used the ordinary low top rib buffer. The second use is on LNER/BR steel high goods wagons where they were also used as an aid to body stability; in this case the high top rib type was used at both ends of the wagon. Finally there were some post-war LNER single bolsters, a design perpetuated in the early years of BR, with steel underframes and steel bodies that were also fitted with them.

RCH 4 rib 1' 8½" low top rib (2-075)

A standard buffer type for vacuum fitted wagons from the 1920s until eclipsed by the pneumatic varieties in the late 1950s. Like its 18" counterpart it can be found on all types of stock and, if you have a fitted vehicle that was built between 1923 and 1958, you can probably use this buffer.

RCH 2 rib 1' 8½" (2-076)

Product 2-076.

I have come across this type on vacuum fitted vehicles of the four pre-nationalisation companies but it was fairly common on this type of stock and can be used as an alternative to the four rib type.

Duplex 1' 8½" (2-077)

Product 2-077.

Only used on early "shock" wagons and vans of the late-1940s and early-1950s. Batches of these vehicles built in the late-1950s and early-1960s used ordinary self-contained, Dowty and Oleo buffer types.

Oleo Pneumatic 1' 8½" (2-078 2-079 2-080)

Product 2-079.

The principal type of modern buffer, in use from the late 1950s to the present day. This is the only type where it has been thought to be worthwhile to produce three head sizes - 13", 16" and 18". It may be useful to give a general summary of uses:
13" - fixed wheelbases up to 12' but with exceptions.
16" - B.R. built fixed wheelbase types such as sand, pipe, tube, coke and covhop wagons, twin bolster sets and bogie vehicles Bolster C and Bolster E. All these have been produced as N or 2mm kits.
Private builder/owner wagons with a fixed wheelbase in the region of 15'-16'. This encompasses a huge range of wagons built from the mid-1960s onwards with either vacuum or air brakes. These can include:
Hoppers for grain, china clay, sand and aggregates.
Pressure discharge tanks for cement and soda ash.
Box body types for scrap and aggregates.
In addition, all fixed wheelbase tank wagons built from 1958 onwards used this type.
18" - all the B.R. produced air-braked opens, vans and bogie steel carriers (BAA/BBA). Not the 32T MGR hopper which had the 13" head.

Oleo 2' 0½" (2-081)

Product 2-081.

I'm afraid that I haven't been able determine the reason for using this longer length in preference to the shorter type. On photographs the difference is easy to spot as the thinner, outer end of the guide is noticeably longer on the 2' 0½" version. In fact from about 1969-70 onwards, coincident with the first B.R. air-braked vehicles, I can't find any evidence of use of the 2' 0½" version. Use was relatively indiscriminate on 9' and 10' wheelbase vacuum-fitted vehicles from the late-1950s to late-1960s.

1' 6" Self-contained (2-082)

Product 2-082.

Used on vehicles such as china clay wagons, 13T coal hoppers, 25T sand/ore hoppers, 24½T Mineral wagons and LMS 20T Brake vans. The china clay wagons are a bit of an oddity in that even the vacuum fitted wagons had 1' 6" buffers and some of the earlier lots had the GWR version of the self-contained buffer (Association 2-090).

1' 8½"/2' 0½" Self-contained (2-083 2-084)

Product 2-084.

These buffers had some fairly obvious uses on vehicles such as Hymacs and Lowmacs where conventional drawgear couldn't be used. Nevertheless, they also appear on a variety of 16T fitted mineral wagons and also both B.R. and pre-nationalisation vans and opens. In the latter case this was when they were converted to vacuum braking in a programme at the end of the 1950s to eliminate unfitted merchandise stock. Note that as part of this programme other types of buffers such as Oleos and Dowtys were also used in the conversion of previously unfitted vehicles. It also appears from photographs that when previously unfitted LMS/BR 20T brake vans were through piped or fully fitted, they did not receive new 1' 8½" buffers. The original 1' 6" self-contained buffers were re-attached with a 2½" packing piece between the base and the headstock.

Dowty Hydraulic 1' 8½"/2' 0½" (2-085 2-086)

Product 2-086.

The Dowty buffer had relatively brief usage on B.R. as, ultimately, the organisation standardised on the Oleo type. Some of the scattered uses that I have found are on BR fish vans, 25T sand/ore hoppers, shock highs and BR standard brake vans. The most consistent use seems to have been on BR standard 12T vans and especially, in the 2' 0½" version, on the last development of the short wheelbase van, the Vanwide.


Whilst producing this survey I have been trying to decide which type of vehicle uses the widest range of buffer types and I have come to the conclusion that it is the BR 12T standard van. If one includes the shock varieties and vanwides then almost 30,000 vehicles were produced between 1951 and 1962 and thus spanned the period from the simple spindle buffer to the more sophisticated pneumatic and hydraulic types. The earliest examples were fitted with the RCH 4 rib 1' 6" or 1' 8½" type but by the late fifties any of the Oleos, Dowtys and self-contained types in various lengths were utilised, with the Duplex type on early shock vans. This is a total of nine different buffers for one type of vehicle which contrasts with the situation from the early 1970s to the present when an enormous range of air braked vehicles have been produced, the vast majority of which are fitted with Oleos.
Even a comparatively specialised type such as the Presflo, for which the Association has a kit, could demonstrate quite a diversity of buffer types. Amongst the 2000 vehicles built by B.R. the various lots used self-contained, Oleo and Dowty types in all available lengths shown above.


The Association buffer range has been an awful long time in gestation and is, in some ways, one of the final pieces in the jigsaw of producing accurate underframes for freight vehicles from the 1920s to the late twentieth century.

NOTE: Due to some production problems 2-075 RCH 4 rib 1' 8½" low top rib and 2-085 Dowty Hydraulic 1' 8½" are not yet available. It is, however, still hoped to add these to the range in the future.