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Dear Rapido Customer,
After a couple of years of very slow deliveries, we've been busy making up for lost time. Someone recently complained to me that we're now delivering too much! He said it was better when we brought out only one or two models a year. I patiently explained to him that if that had continued for much longer there wouldn't be any more Rapido models as I'd be driving a streetcar for a living.
Here's a delivery update.
Arrived last month (in stores now):
I pity anyone who relies on shipments from China between April and June. At Chinese New Year (January/February), the factories in Guangdong province shut down for three weeks while all of the workers go home to visit their families. When the factories open again, half the workers are gone. They've found new jobs elsewhere and simply don't come back.
So the next six weeks are spent finding and hiring new workers and training them. We basically lose over two months, and that explains why so many great models arrive in the summer when you are out playing golf. So enjoy all of these Rapido shipments while you can!
FL9 Project Update
I'll hand the floor over to Bill for this bit. The FL9 is his baby.
BILL: Thanks, Jason. The HO scale and N scale FL9 locomotives are moving along quite well, and amazing progress has been made by our design team on the preliminary design work. We're producing the FL9 in several variations - the first thirty units as delivered (EDER-5), the second thirty units as delivered (EDER-5A), the first thirty as modified in later New Haven service, and also Penn Central and Conrail versions.
The Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDot) rebuilds will follow later. Full details of all the HO models can be found here and the N scale models can be found here. For detailed information on the differences between the groups visit our FL9 Master Class here.
So why the FL9? Well, beyond the obvious fact that it is the one F-unit that still has not been done in plastic, the FL9 holds the distinction of being the very last F-unit model built (New Haven #2069 was THE last F-unit of any type constructed) and the last in regular revenue service. FL9s continued in commuter service until 2009 on trains between New York City and Connecticut and operated through one of the most densely populated areas of the US. Several units are still in regular operation on tourist lines in both the US and Canada.
Beyond all of those perfectly valid reasons, it is a personal favorite of mine! (He means "favourite" -Jason) No I don't. Why on Earth would any sane person put a U in favorite?
Anyway, I saw the FL9s in Metro North service regularly in both original steam heat and later ConnDot HEP versions on the Danbury Branch in Connecticut and I've wanted to do this model for some time now, pretty much ever since I joined Rapido. I'm glad to see that Jason has finally seen the light... err... I mean... thrown his support behind this project.
At this point the design work for the HO scale FL9 is nearly complete, with just a few final nits to pick. Just rivet counter type stuff... literally. One of our experts noted that we had one extra rivet on the middle batten on each side and that the spacing needed to be adjusted slightly between the last four rivets. I'm serious. Another discovered that our front handrails were one scale inch too close together. We moved them.
Once the HO designs are complete we will start cutting tooling for them (should be in the next two weeks) while at the same time modifying the design for use on the N scale model. Tooling on the N scale versions will then start immediately. Watch for updates on our web site and in future issues of Rapido News.
For more CAD images and updates click here. Here are those links again:
Real LRC Locomotive #6917 - Your Help Needed
For the last few weeks, Bob Merriam and a team of volunteers have been busy prepping 6917 for painting. In case you haven't yet heard, 6917 is an LRC locomotive owned by the Toronto Railway Historical Association.
Mechanic Chris Fox, electrician John Carey, and several other helpful volunteers resurrected 6917 from the dead line and got it fully operational, including providing Head End Power to LRC coaches while doing a test run in July.
At some point in the next few weeks, 6917 will move from its current location to a local shortline railroad. Its paintwork was very faded and the body was corroded in numerous locations. Bob and his team have been sanding, filling and patching extensively to prepare 6917 for its new coat of paint.
The cost of the paint job is $10,000. Since my call for donations a couple of months ago, the TRHA has only raised $3000. It's not that impressive when you consider that Rapido donated two thirds of that!
When I sent out a call for help to save 6917 back in 2010, the TRHA was flooded with donations and we were able to save this important piece of North American railroad history. I am now asking again for your help so that we can get 6917 painted back into the beautiful grey, blue and yellow it wore for its entire service life.
If you work for Bombardier or another company involved in the LRC project please speak to your community relations people and see if we can get some help and goodwill.
Please click here to go to the TRHA LRC web site and make a donation. Donations above $25 are tax receiptable to Canadian residents. Thanks a lot!
More Frequent News and Photos
These newsletters take about a week to ten days to put together. I write them and code them myself (except when Bill is guest starring) and then Mike or Bill give me a huge list of corrections. It's a LOT of work, and it means that I can only get a newsletter out roughly once every four to six weeks.
However, we often have new information for our customers that needn't wait until the next newsletter, such as factory photos, new product hints, questions on requested details or products, etc. (I just used the word "needn't" in a sentence. Awesome.) We post news every couple of days on our Facebook page. You do NOT need to be a member of Facebook to view our latest news and photos.
Please click here to visit our Facebook page and see what's happening. If you are on Facebook, "like" us to get our news in your newsfeed. If you aren't on Facebook, please bookmark our Facebook page and check in every few days for the latest updates. You can also view our Facebook updates and images on the index page of rapidotrains.com.
Latest China Report
I spent much of August in China. Travelling overseas is gruelling, but worth it. It's one thing to communicate with your team in China by email and Skype, but it's another to actually spend time in the factory solving problems as they arise. At one time, the chief MLW engineer and I spent two hours at his computer solving clearance issues on the HO scale FL9 that would have taken a week to do via email.
Our Chinese operations are only possible because of Colin Zuo, shown in the photo above. We were in a "taxi," which was basically a motorized trike with some seats bolted to the back! Colin is our Manager of Chinese Operations, and he has been my right-hand-man in China since 2005. Without him there would be no Rapido - Colin found us our factories.
Colin solves logistical problems in China, translates thousands of emails a year, visits the factories regularly to keep an eye on things, and is also one of my closest friends. Most recently, Colin ferried me around southern China for more than two weeks and very patiently put up with me (which is not easy to do - ask Dan, Mike and Bill).
I want to express my appreciation to Colin for his hard work and dedication to Rapido, and I wanted you guys to know how important he is: without Colin, you wouldn't have any of our amazing models.
One of our factories has recently moved to a new building, and the storage room for our moulds had not yet been built. Looking at all of our moulds in one place I suddenly realized: Wow. We've made a lot of stuff.
We finalized the last remaining tweaks to the LRC Locomotive and the new, free-rolling LRC coach trucks. But when we test-ran a sample locomotive, the sound was rubbish. Looking at the wiring, I pointed out to Zhang that the speakers were wired in series instead of parallel. Five minutes later, the sound was amazing. That's the kind of thing that you don't catch unless you are at the factory during the testing stage. I can just imagine Dan's face if I had to tell him: "Hey Dan - can you please open up the 2000 LRCs that just arrived and rewire the speakers? There's a good chap. Ta!"
On the N scale front, I saw real progress (finally!) on our new Osgood Bradley 10-Window Coach tooling. This tooling should have been ready several months ago but the factory move meant that it took longer than planned. Have a look at one of the side slides in progress. We should have first test samples of these next week. I'll be sure to put photos up on our Facebook page.
I also discovered that rivets had been put in the wrong location on our N scale 10-5 Sleeper. "Hey Dennis!" I called. "Remember when we cancelled these rivets?" Dennis shouted "D'oh!" and slapped his forehead in a very comical way. We all started laughing, but it was back to the drawing board... (Don't worry - it's been fixed already.)
At the factory I saw some ingenious CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) drilling on our HO scale GARX Meat Reefers. Because the ladders and grab irons have mounting holes very close to the edge of the car side, it was decided that it would look better if we drilled the mounting holes rather than have them cast in as part of the mould.
Production is well under way on these cars and they will leave China this month.
Before heading to the MLW factory, Colin and I went to visit some factories in Guangxi province, which feels like the Catskills of southern China. The place was overflowing with tourists from all over the country, and the landscape was just beautiful, despite the 400-degree heat. The Li River area, with its surrounding mini-mountains and farmland, comes pretty close to paradise, actually. We explored one of the world's most celebrated cave networks, the Feng Yu caves, and saw a light and sound show in a cavern that was literally the size of Toronto's Union Station.
The two-hour cave hike was followed by a boat ride (I had to duck to avoid smacking my head on the cave roof!) and a very rickety monorail which, I think, was built in the later Silurian period.
Yangshuo is famous for its light, dance and music performance on the Li River, Impression Sanjie Liu (印象·刘三姐), relating the history and mythology of the local people and their life on the river. The show was actually performed on the river, largely in traditional fishing boats.
Amazingly, the fishermen of the Li River have been using the same style of boats and the same traditional harvesting methods for thousands of years, and they still do it today except that most of them have smart phones. Almost everyone in southern China has a smart phone, and if you thought we were addicted to our phones, go spend some time over there.
I asked Colin, "What is everyone doing on their phones morning, noon and night? Do they have so many people to stay in touch with? Colin said, "No - they are playing games, mostly."
So... Not so different from people here after all...
At the MLW factory production was wrapping up on the HO scale GMD-1 locomotives. The Northern Alberta GMD-1 locomotives looked stunning - check out the photo below, which I took in the hotel room on a piece of paper! Note the bell and horn are in the correct location and the cab interior is rotated so that it faces the short hood. NAR ran their GMD-1 locomotives short hood forward.
However, when I pulled a model of locomotive #312 off the production line, I noticed a problem. The big "NORTHERN ALBERTA" lettering on the side should have been a serif typeface rather than the sans-serif typeface. #311 and #312 were later arrivals to the NAR fleet and they consequently have some spotting differences from the other five engines that NAR owned.
Bill, Dan, Mike and I had a number of rather heated discussions as we tried to figure out how to fix this. We probably could have just delivered them as-is, and only five guys would have noticed the mistake. But that's not our style.
If we remade the shells, the delay in production would have a knock-on effect and cause all sorts of delivery delays. It would also be very expensive. Once we had come to a tentative solution of remaking the shells and delaying 311 and 312 until January, the printing master came up to me and told me he could fix it and it would only take one extra week.
Seriously? Seriously. The image below shows the progress from wrong typeface to correct typeface.
The solution was to remove the shells from the walkway, and dribble some thinner through a sponge just onto the yellow stripe. Let it sit for a couple of minutes, and then pull it off with packing tape. After two or three applications the yellow was gone, leaving the blue and grey paint unblemished underneath.
Then new yellow stripes and lettering were printed on the shells, and they shells were reattached to the walkway. Sure enough, in a few days almost 300 locomotive shells were fixed and the shipment left only a week behind schedule.
You have to hand it to the guys in the factory - that was very ingenious thinking and excellent work! It saved us a lot of time, money and headaches.
I always see interesting things when I am in China, whether I am working in industrial centres like Dongguan, travelling through the mountains near Guilin, or just out and about. Apparently it is common for Volkswagens to sport Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on their trunks in China!
I also got to do some shopping for the layout, getting some great deals on tools and supplies, such as 350 sheets of letter-size wet/dry sandpaper in 400, 600, 800 and 1200 grit for about $20 total. I found 180 linear feet of 12V LED strip lighting to light the middle deck on my layout for $0.63 per foot. And steel-cutting flush nippers for $6. You get the idea...
At one tool store, I tried to talk Chinese to the old guy at the back (asking if the flush nippers in my hand would cut steel) and he just stared at me. I asked him in Chinese, jokingly, "Do you speak Chinese?" He told me, "I speak Chinese. You don't."
When I was checking out, the lady at the cash complimented me on my Chinese. I told her that I'm glad she thinks my Chinese is good because her dad thinks my Chinese is awful. She started laughing so hard she fell over. He was her husband!
One more thing before I go - here's a new N scale freight car project in tooling. We should have samples any day now. Stay tuned!
Thanks for sticking with me for another mammoth newsletter. I'll be in touch in about a month with even more new product announcements.
Rapido Trains Inc.
P.S. Happy Anniversary to my parents, Van and Sonia Shron, who celebrated 47 years yesterday!
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