Rapido Telegraph 20
Rapido Telegraph 20 / September 3, 2009
The Irregular and Irreverent Bulletin from Rapido Trains Inc. • Volume 20
Dear Rapido Customer,
We’re running a bit behind schedule this month (give us a break; the summer just ended!), so Bill’s Timetable will be out next week.
In this issue of the Telegraph:
New “Oh, So Steamy!” Steam Generator Cars
The first delivery of Steam Generator Cars arrived earlier this month and they are now in the hands of modellers. I would like to thank all of you who have called and emailed with your kind words – it seems that we have a winner with this product! Most of the remaining Steam Gennies are now on the water and will be here in two shipments – one in two weeks and one in five weeks.
Because the Steam Gennies are finally here, we’re announcing new paint schemes for delivery in the spring. This is a sneak preview for Telegraph subscribers; your dealers will get the information about these in a couple of weeks. Steam Generator Cars (also known as Heater Cars) came in all shapes and sizes. Our Steam Genny is based on the GM prototype. In addition to incredible end and underbody detail (every pipe is a separate part), these things actually steam. You can watch videos of the Steam Genny (and some of our other models) by clicking here.
With this release, we’re trying something new. Rather than announce a dozen paint schemes and a couple of hundred product numbers at one time, we’re announcing seven paint schemes and just 25 product numbers. With the economy (hopefully!) just starting to turn around, we’re spreading out our product releases to ease the hit on your wallet.
The order deadline for this new run of “Oh, So Steamy!” Steam Generator Cars is December 1st.If you’re still waiting for first run Steam Gennies to arrive before committing to buy more, no problem! The first run cars will all arrive well before the order deadline and you can check them out at your local hobby shop. Product and car numbers will be up on our web site soon.
Remember, you can also order replacement Rapido Steam Fluid, product #102007 (MSRP $4.95)for when the steam fluid provided with your Steam Generator runs out. We haven’t tried any other brands of steam fluid with our car, but you are welcome to try them. I should advise you that if you use someone else’s steam fluid and your Rapido steam generator melts or explodes, Tough Tooties. That’s official model railroad industry terminology.
Recording the LRC
August was a very busy month for the team at Rapido. We spent a hugely productive day atExporail, the Canadian railway museum in Montreal, Quebec, recording the LRC Locomotive and taking measurements and photographs of other prototypes. The staff at Exporail went well beyond the call of duty in helping us out.
Engineers Francois Gaudette, Normand Poissant and Bernard Archambault spent three weeks working on the LRC locomotive to get it running properly, and they are to be commended. It started on the first try. See photos below.
The 30 (a GE 70 Tonner) was our jack of all trades, providing air to FP9A 6309 so we could record the horn and bell, and providing battery power so LRC 6921 could start. Did I mention it was boiling hot that day? I now appreciate the difficulties faced by full-size railroaders. It’s much cooler in my basement!
I did research for some missing Park Car underbody details on our forthcoming Canadian while at the museum. It was cool underneath the Park Car, but I am getting too old to crawl on my back underneath passenger cars. And unlike all of the cars I have crawled under before, some of this Budd underbody equipment was LOW. At one point I was lying with my back on a rail and my backside on a big piece of ballast, with the sharp metal edge of a junction box an inch from my face. Times like that I wish I worked in a bank.
Once the 30 was on the track adjacent to the LRC, it was time to hook up.
A special thanks goes to Canadian Railroad Historical Association president Stephen Cheasley, who co-ordinated the whole shebang with us, and Exporail General Manager Marie-Claude Reid, who made it all possible. This is a wonderful example of the railway heritage community working closely with a manufacturer to ensure that the end result is the most accurate model possible. Next time you are in the northeastern USA or eastern Canada, take a day to visit Exporail. You won’t be disappointed. Full information can be found here.
Following our exhausting day at Exporail, we headed to Quebec City to show Bill the sights of La Belle Province and meet some local modellers. Have a look at the beautiful model railroad of Léandre De Celles: truly a work of art, especially when you turn down the lights!
Foamer Contest WinnersIt only took us a year to get around to it, but we’ve finally chosen three winners for our Foamer Contest, announced in issue 11 last September. This was a contest to see who is the ultimate “train nut” by integrating their love of trains into their daily lives. Thank you to everyone who sent in a submission. Choosing the winners was very difficult indeed.
Tied for Second Place:
Brad and Brian each get their choice of two Rapido passenger cars from stock or four sets of“Totally Wired!” Telephone Poles.
Our First Place Foamer:
And the most furthest flung award goes to…
Immanuel, of London, England, sent us this photo of his car.
Immanuel tells us that the VIA logos (front and back) are to ensure that he doesn’t get fraudulently charged with London’s congestion charge. Somebody might steal his licence plates, but they won’t get his VIA logos. Immanuel wins absolutely nothing because his VIA logos came from my basement.
It seems that Rapido Trains Inc. is not immune to the economic downturn. We announced a second run of N scale passenger cars, including our new Dayniter leg-rest coach, and sufficient orders just didn’t come in. Unfortunately, we can’t produce a given paint scheme unless we have enough advance orders to cover our costs.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, but the following paint schemes are at risk of being cancelled. Illinois Central seems to be the hardest hit. The orders for cars in IC colors are less than half the quantity of our next lowest paint scheme. You can see all of the second run N scale product numbers in one glance by clicking here.
We’ll delay production for about six weeks and see what kind of orders come in. I will let you know which paint schemes will have to be cancelled in issue 22 of the Telegraph. Hopefully the orders pick up before then and all of the paint schemes can be produced.
Rapido Gallery ImagesAs part of our big web site update in June, we added a gallery where you can submit images of Rapido products in action on your layout. Please feel free to send us your photos! We’re particularly interested in seeing what modifications and weathering you’ve done, if any. You are also welcome to send us photos of your kitbashes in progress, Rapido models on display, on a modular layout, you name it.
You can visit our gallery by clicking here.
The Necessary Evil of Pre-OrderingI discussed this in issue 10 of the Telegraph, but I think it’s worth revisiting. Many people, myself included, have bemoaned the “pre-order” culture that has taken over the model railroad industry. Unfortunately, it is a necessary evil that we have to live with. Here’s why.
The capital investment involved in a model railroad business is huge. A friend of mine started up a software company about four months ago. His expenses are salary, rent, desks and computers. That’s it. In a few months he is already doing a roaring business, growing by leaps and bounds, and – most importantly – he’s bringing home the bacon. His advertising costs are nil (he relies on word of mouth for his business), and his capital investment (that means the money he spends on physical stuff) is peanuts in comparison to what he brings in.
In contrast, in order to bring a model train product to market, we must first design and build the plastic and metal molds – collectivey called the tooling. A diesel locomotive can cost up to $175,000 to tool. A passenger car with our level of detail can cost up to $100,000. Then there is the product cost itself which has to be paid, as well as rent, salaries, overhead costs, and a huge advertising budget. (Remember, my software programmer friend spends nothing on advertising whereas it is our biggest expense after product and payroll.) All of that money is spent before a single product ships and a single payment is received from our dealers.
The thing that will make or break a model train business is cash flow. I could have a great product and sell a million of them, but if I don’t have the cash to pay for the product then I will be out of business. It’s as simple as that.
So the manufacturer has already spent thousands of dollars on the tooling, and now he has to spend money to make the models. If orders are low for a given product, the manufacturer can do one of three things: delay the product, cancel the product, or make lots of inventory hoping that the products will sell eventually. We can’t just make, say, 12 Illinois Central coaches of a given number because we need to spread the cost of the painting masks and printing pads over a larger number of cars to make production economical.
The problem with making inventory is that the manufacturer has spent the money for that product, tying up vital cash that can be used for overhead, advertising, new product, etc. And in today’s economy, what almost all manufacturers are finding is that sales from inventory have come to a virtual standstill. Yes, people want the new stuff – and they order it in advance. But whatever is not sold by the time the goods arrive tends to sit on the shelf.
So if a model train manufacturer wants to stay in business he needs to take pre-orders and make the products to those pre-orders. If the pre-orders are too low, it is better to delay or cancel than to spend a lot of cash on inventory and hope it sells. Pre-ordering is a necessary evil in our industry, but without pre-orders we would have a much smaller selection of products.
The good news for those of you in the kitbashing, construction or scenery stages of your layout is that building supplies and parts (such as our “Totally Wired” Telephone Poles) are usually stock items and do not need to be pre-ordered. But for that snazzy locomotive or high end passenger car you’ve had your eye on, chances are that pre-orders are the only way.
That’s it for me. As always, please give us a shout if you ever have any questions, comments or concerns about our products.
All the best,
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