Rapido Telegraph 19
Rapido Telegraph #19 / July 25, 2009
The Irregular and Irreverent Bulletin from Rapido Trains Inc.
Dear Rapido Customer,
We’re finally recovered from a whirlwind couple of weeks in Hartford for the National Train Show. What a great time! Connecticut is BEAUTIFUL (I used to live in New Haven). This month I was reminded why there are so many people modelling the shady branch lines of Constitution State.
In this issue of the Telegraph:
- National Train Show Report and Movies
- It’s the Osgood Bradley Lightweights!
- HO Scale FP9A Update
- N Scale Panorama Line Coupler Issues
- The Canadian Update
- New LRC and Steam Generator Movie
- New Order Deadlines and Deliveries
- The Dangers of the Internet
National Train Show Report
Many of you have exhibited at train shows, so the experience is nothing new to you. For the rest of you, exhibiting at a train show is a unique and rewarding experience and it is worth joining a local modular group or helping out at the local hobby shop just to take part. The problem is, you need to sleep for a week afterward to recover from it.
On the Wednesday before the show, we hosted an open house at Bill’s New York, Ontario and Western layout (shown above). Almost 100 people turned up, and it was a blast. At the show itself, our Rapido Lounge proved to be very popular with weary wives and kids.
Important new developments at the show
Our 2nd LRC locomotive test model was rolling up and down the layout at less than 1/3 scale MPH. See last month’s movie of the first sample chassis in action here. I was amazed at how many of you are looking forward to the Amtrak-painted version, as it only ran for two years! The model still needs some work. The engine has a slight wobble due to extra play above the trucks and the sideframes need to be redone from scratch as they are missing some key elements. We’re still chugging along with this project…
Our “Oh, So Steamy!” Steam Generators were puffing up a storm for much of the show. The first of these have finally arrived!
The first TurboTrain sample with new gears and motors was travelling back and forth along the upper track on the layout. We’ve reached a smooth slow speed of 3.9 MPH. It’s faster than our LRC and FP9A which have been designed for slow speed from the get-go, but I think you’ll agree it’s a definite improvement. The only way to go slower is to design it for slow speed from the start, and we’re considering doing that for a second run in the future. As soon as we have an ETA on the new gears and motors I will let you know how to order new motors and gears at cost to upgrade your Turbo.
Click on the image below to see the Steam Genny and TurboTrain in action at the show.
We showed off our first FP9A test shots. The feedback from people at the show was universally positive. Nobody could believe the amount of detail we shoved underneath that model.
You can see a video interview taken at our booth at the Model Railroad Hobbyist web site. Click on the image below to go there. I was born in Montreal, Quebec – and I was being interviewed by Les Halmos, who is from Quebec City. Les takes me back to my roots… By the end of the interview I sounded like I just got off the train from Rivière-Du-Loup. Allons-y!
Most importantly, we had samples of every Osgood Bradley 10-Window coach paint scheme on display. New England’s New Haven, B&M and BAR fans couldn’t have been happier…
It’s the Osgood Bradley Lightweights!
Here they are: preproduction samples of every paint scheme. Click here to visit our HO Scale Osgood Bradley Lightweights web page. The photos below were taken on Bill’s layout. Enjoy!
With the help of Rick Abramson, Ted Culotta, John Pryke, John Sheridan, Tom Thompson, Asa Worcester and many others, we have strived to make these Osgood Bradley lightweight coaches the most accurate models possible. Right now it seems that the painting is pretty good, but that Pullman Green New Haven cars should have painted window frames and B&M green may be a little on the light side. Wow. And I thought CN modellers were particular!
We’re on track to deliver these in the winter. When these arrive, they won’t arrive all at once! They will start to arrive in the winter, and will arrive about a paint scheme a month. Product numbers and paint scheme details are available here. The new order deadline for these cars is August 15th. In the meantime, we’re starting work on car style #2.
HO Scale FP9A Update
As you can see above, the detail packed into our new FP9A is totally unprecedented. We were delighted by the first test samples when they arrived, until we looked closely at the nose.
When we compared our nose to the hundreds of prototype photos of the FP9A in our collection, we found some serious problems. The shape of the nose, windows, headlight and number boards looked great as CAD drawings (they’ve been used in our ads and on our web site for months to much acclaim) but just looked wrong when we had the model in our hands. Have a look below and see for yourself.
The differences – apart from obvious things like unfinished details – are mostly subtle. The real FP9A nose is a bit flatter and more angular than ours. The headlight outline is not at all distinct – in fact the FP9A headlight itself doesn’t protrude much from the nose (a marked contrast to most other F units). The windows should be taller and pushed a bit further back and closer together. The number boards should not protrude more than an inch from the nose in the center. The list goes on.
Well, you can imagine how my engineers reacted when I told them it needed to be redone. They complained that I had approved the drawings, but in the end their goal is, like mine, the most accurate model possible. The fact is, sometimes you can’t get a true feeling for a model until you hold it in your hands. So we’re retooling the nose and this time the factory is making a CNC-machined sample before the molds are made. CNC (Computer Numerical Control) is a computer-controlled milling process and allows rough samples to be made without spending thousands of dollars on molds. The CNC sample will be sent to Bill, Dan and me and we will make sure it is perfect before we approve the mould changes.
Several people have told us just to copy the Highliners nose. Paul Lubliner did amazing work on his F unit molds and his contribution to our hobby is immense, but copying someone else’s work is not the way we do things at Rapido. It also would be wrong for the FP9A, which has several integral details which differ from other F units. We will just keep plugging away at it until the model is a perfect representation of the prototype, not a perfect copy of another model. How will we know? We’ll know when we can look at comparison photos like the image of the noses above and we can’t find any difference between model and prototype. It worked for the Turbo and the LRC, and it will work for the FP9A.
It will be a few months before we enter production on these models, so the previously-announced order deadline of August 1st has been pushed back. I’ll advise a new order deadline when I have one. Click here for product numbers and paint schemes. The CN FP9A’s cabless cousin is currently on the drawing board. More info on that in a future edition of the Telegraph.
N Scale Panorama Line Coupler Issues
We’ve been getting reports back that on some of our N scale cars already delivered, the Micro-Trains couplers are staying open, causing the cars to uncouple. In the dozens of samples we checked before shipping our first cars, this was never a problem! Oh well, the law according to Mr. Murphy strikes again. We found two cars with this problem in our warehouse and sent them to Micro-Trains for testing. Apparently, there is an ejector pin mark inside the coupler box which is interfering with the coupler movement. Due to the nature of injection molding, the ejector pin is necessary for separating the two halves of the mould. Because the depth of the mark varies from piece to piece, this problem is not affecting every car.
The Solution: We are making new coupler boxes with the ejector pin marks in a different location, and we will provide these, free of charge, to anyone who needs them. All you need to do is send us a stamped, self-addressed envelope with a note telling us how many boxes you need. We’ll have them in stock in about three weeks. If you have already purchased your own Micro-Trains couplers and boxes to replace ours, you can still benefit. Return our own couplers and boxes back to us along with a stamped, self-addressed envelope and we will send you a complimentary pack of 4 replacement batteries for your car’s interior lighting. If you send us one or two pairs, you’ll get one battery pack. If you send us three or more, you’ll get two. The limit is two battery packs per customer. Each battery pack has a $9.95 retail value.
When we first brought out our HO scale cars there were some teething troubles, and we worked through them. I thank our N scale customers for your patience as we work through our N scale teething troubles. Click here for more information on our N scale Panorama Line passenger cars.
The Canadian Update
Here’s a quick update on The Canadian. After several months of work with Bombardier Transportation, we have now managed to locate all of the missing underbody conduit and piping drawings that are essential to produce an accurate model of this great train. They arrived on Friday!
All fans of The Canadian owe Bombardier Transportation a big THANK YOU for the help they have provided on this project. A number of Bombardier employees are fans of The Canadian and they went the extra mile to make sure that we got the drawings we needed. Without their help, the underbodies of our Budd passenger cars would have just been a few blobs like all the other stuff that is out there instead of having the unique Rapido level of detail: every pipe, every conduit, everything.
Due to the delay in getting these drawings, the projected delivery date has been moved back to later in 2010. For more information on The Canadian, please click here.
New LRC and Steam Generator Movie
It’s always fun to see models in action, with sound. John Eull provided us with some video footage he shot of the LRC and we made a model movie to go along with it. In about two weeks we’re going to record the real LRC at Exporail, so our model can sound as good as this… LRC locomotives always required Steam Gennies when pulling conventional equipment in colder months. So our first production model of the Steam Generator Car does the honours. Click on the photo below to watch the movie.
New Order Deadlines and Deliveries
Bill will provide more info on this in his upcoming edition of the Rapido Timetable. Look for it in the first week of August.
We are not a large company – there are still only four of us on this side of the pond. That means that when a product line arrives, such as the first run of the N scale passenger cars or the HO scale Steam Gennies (the first of which are now here), it arrives a few paint schemes at a time over several months. We simply don’t have the capacity to deliver thousands of cars at one time, and a lot of our stores would scream at us if we dropped hundreds of cars on their doorstep in one day.
So if your preferred paint scheme is not in the first or second shipment, I ask that you remain patient as it will get here eventually. The positive side of this is for those of you who have ordered several different paint schemes (as many people have for the Osgood Bradley Lightweights), you do not have to pay for them all at once.
The Dangers of the Internet
Over the past couple of weeks I have been reminded of the perils of paying attention to the internet for market research. Theoretically, as the internet is a democracy, it should theoretically be an accurate cross section of age groups, modelling interests, favourite prototypes, etc. But the problem is that theory and reality are often far apart from each other. This is especially acute in our hobby, where most modellers are in their 50s and 60s, but the majority of internet users is much younger.
Consider the internet forums. Chat groups, like CanModelTrains and the Atlas Forumare great places to hang out and talk about model trains with like-minded people who understand your passion. But if you were to peruse the (pretty awesome) modelling that is most often showcased on these forums, you would be forgiven for thinking that the most popular thing to model out there is modern freight. In actual fact, the 1950s are stillmodelled by more than twice as many people as the modern era.
CanModelTrains is a great forum for talking about Canadian topics, but you’d be forgiven for thinking that 93 out of 100 Canadian modellers are in HO scale, six are in N scale, and one is in G (his name is Dave and his modelling is fantastic – click on the photo below to visit his web site). Of course, the actual breakdown according to industry surveys is nothing like that.
This causes a real dilemma to manufacturers as most of us are fairly well integrated into the internet. We read and participate in the forums, we visit web sites, and most importantly, we receive hundreds of emails from current and potential customers with requests for specific models. It is possible for a handful of very dedicated fans of a rare prototype to talk about it so much on the internet and contact so many manufacturers that we end up with more than one model of an oddball prototype from different manufacturers and only a handful of people who actually want one! Believe me, it’s happened.
When we showed our FP9A sample at the National Train Show, photos of it started to float around the internet… without the card that was beside it stating that it was just a test model and we were still making changes. The debate which ensued (on the CanModelTrains list, especially) was massive, even though it was started by comments from just a handful of people… Reading these emails, you would think that everyone and his brother has ordered an FP9A. Oh, if only that were true…
The reality is, the internet has shown not only to be an inaccurate gauge of modelling interests, but internet discussion forums can give a skewed impression on what model railroaders feel to be of genuine importance. The internet, by its democratic nature, will never be a totally reliable snapshot of our hobby. However, the means to improving it is in your hands. There are hundreds (sometimes thousands) of people on the model railroad internet discussion forums who enjoy them as passive bystanders. I have personally met well over two hundred transition-era modellers who have told me they are on various forums but don’t participate. This tells me the transition era is not being represented in the mainstream forums as well as it could.
Sometimes people stay in the sidelines for fear of having their comments proved “inaccurate” or their modelling efforts laughed at. If you actually build model trains, you are light years ahead of the armchair guys. You should share your modelling, even if your buildings are in LEGO and your road vehicles are your old Hot Wheels. If you’ve got a train running, you are model railroading. It’s worth taking part, sharing your work, and discussing your favourite modelling techniques and prototypes. The more people contribute, the more accurate a cross-section of modelling tastes and experiences we will see on the internet.
That’s all for now. If you ever have any questions, comments or concerns about our products please give us a shout. Dan, Bill or I try to respond to emails within a day or two. You can also call 1-877-738-6445. Dan is usually the man who answers the phone, and he loves to talk about trains.
All the best,
Rapido Trains Inc.