The HAA wagon successfully filled the role of delivering coal to power stations. A new design of wagon was also required for other coal traffic, to replace the large fleet of mineral wagons and hoppers. In 1975 the prototype 32.5 ton HBA (360000) was unveiled at Shildon Works. It was fitted with manually operating discharge doors. The hopper body was painted initially in Bauxite.
An order for 2000 wagons to be built at Shildon was placed. Two small changes to the design were made. The ladders fitted at each end were altered from being centrally mounted to being offset to the left. Bruninghaus springs were fitted to later builds, allowing the maximum speed to be increased from 45mph to 60. This modification must have proven successful as a plan was put in place to retrofit the earlier wagons to the same standard. The TOPS code of HEA was introduced to distinguish these, with the last 80 or so completed by mid-1985.
The HBAs and HEAs usage was widespread across the country and could be seen in use in mixed and short block trains, delivering household coal to terminals in urban areas.
By the latter half of the 1980s, the traffic that the HBA/HEAs were designed for was declining. New roles for the fleet of wagons had to be found and an early example was carrying rock salt, while another was scrap metal. Another alternative role that commenced at about the same time was the use of HEAs as barrier wagons for nuclear flask trains.
Initially the Hopper bodies were painted BR Bauxite/Brown. This was changed in 1979 with the livery being updated, the top half of the hopper was Railfreight red and the lower half in grey. The re-livery programme was never completed and a few (rather rusty) bauxite wagons could still be seen in the early 2000s.The privatisation of Railfreight saw new liveries appearing on the HEA fleet, including Transrail grey, Mainline blue, and EWS maroon.
Many HEA wagons were converted for other uses and the conversion process increased in pace and therefore number of HEAs declined steadily throughout the 1990s.
The Dapol model of the HBA/HEA features:
- Extremely detailed and accurate body/shell and chassis
- Many separately added fine details
- Sprung metal buffers
- Metal sprung coupling hook and metal screw coupling
- Finely profiled wheels and axles with brass bearing pockets
- Superbly applied livery