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Dear Rapido Customer,
Save the Date - Rapido Product Launch Party
I'm not one for hyperbole (yeah, right). But I can honestly tell you that this October, Rapido will be making the largest new product announcement in Canadian model railroad history. It will be bigger than the Turbo. Bigger than the RDC. Even bigger than The Canadian. It makes all of those look like small-to-medium fry.
Because this is such a big deal, we're hosting a special event to make the announcement, and we'd like you to come and join us. Please mark your calendar! The date is
Canadian Thanksgiving: Monday 12 October 2015
We've done this before with our UK product launches, but never before with a product launch in North America. At our British APT-E launch last year, over 100 railway modellers, enthusiasts and media people enjoyed a special visit to Locomotion, The National Railway Museum at Shildon in northeast England. There was good conversation, good food and exclusive access to historic pieces of equipment.
Rapido's launch will be at Exporail, the Canadian railway museum, just outside Montreal. Exporail is planning to open a number of rare pieces of equipment for our guests to tour. All going well, we will be hosting a special train journey on Sunday 11 October in conjunction with the launch. We're negotiating the details of that now, and full information - including the exact time of the event - will be in our next newsletter.
So please mark your calendar, and start the discussion with SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed) to see if she wouldn't mind spending Thanksgiving steeped in Canadian railway history with the Rapido team in Montreal. Don't book any hotels or travel yet, as we're looking into arranging a special rate at a railfan-friendly hotel. If you live in the States and you'd like to join us, Amtrak's Adirondack between New York and Montreal usually runs an ex-GN dome car at that time of year.
Keep an eye out for the next newsletter, in which all the party details will be revealed. We look forward to seeing you at our big launch in October. The party will also celebrate Rapido's 11th anniversary - we sort of forgot about our 10th last year, so you can consider this our "10 and a Bit"-th anniversary. Hopefully you can join us - the more the merrier!
Live Long and Prosper: Rapido's Customers Donate Over $20,000
The next time you feel you need to grumble about the loudmouth you met the other day at the train show or the hobby shop, take a moment to think about how awesome most model railroaders actually are. Let's face it - model railroaders as a whole are an intelligent and talented group of individuals. And now you can add generous to that list.
I want to thank everyone who bid in our silent auction for the LRC Shuttlecraft. Rapido and our customers together raised...
Latest & Upcoming Deliveries
Our crazy season of deliveries is finally coming to an end. After quick successive shipments of HO scale FPA-4 and FPB-4 locomotives, LRC locomotives and passenger cars, and N scale Panorama Line passenger cars, we're finally taking a breather. Well, after this next shipment.
Leaving our warehouse right now are the following HO scale FPA-4 and FPB-4 locomotives:
We've made a handful of extra models from some of our recent product releases: HO scale LRC coaches, N scale Panorama Line passenger cars, HO scale FPA-4 and FPB-4 locomotives. If you missed the boat on any of these, please let us know and we'll see what we can find for you.
Next week our first shipment of HO scale FL9 Locomotives will leave the Rapido/MLW factory. We're very impressed with the efficiency of the new factory, as we didn't expect the locomotives to be ready until next month. (If you are a manufacturer looking for a new model train supplier in China, our factory is looking for more clients. Give me a shout.)
Arriving in this first FL9 shipment are the various New Haven versions. But those of you who have ordered other schemes, have no fear! Your locomotives are well under way and will be leaving the factory next month, as evidenced by a photo taken a few days ago:
Full information on our HO scale FL9 can be found here. We are completely sold out of HO FL9 locomotives, but your dealer can still order them from HobbyTyme Distributors and Portman Hobby Distributing (tel. 914-737-6633).
Information on the N scale version can be found here. The order deadline for the N scale FL9 has been extended until we have finished pre-production samples and we can ensure they pass the Rapido Mike N Scale Test.
New Product Developments
For the last two months I've been mired in R&D (research and development). This is what Bill does most of the time - he spent the last two weeks drawing HO scale freight car rivets - and I have to admire him. It's driving me nuts! But we've got several new announcements coming between now and the end of the year, and I had to re-join the R&D team in order to get them done.
The development of a new model can range from simple to complex to mind-boggling. We recently designed a new N scale model (photo below) and I wish all new product designs were this straightforward.
I sent 2D drawings to the factory. They sent 3D drawings back. We went back and forth for about three weeks as I pointed out areas to be corrected or improved, or the factory informed me that our truck design suffered from a rather significant flaw: it couldn't turn. We solved all of these issues rather quickly and then the model design went to the tooling workshop.
We should have our first sample next month. The announcement will be made at the National Train Show in August. More on that below.
On the other hand, this Absolute RDC has been one massive headache. The hidden motors and full interior? No problem. The extreme lighting effects including optional Mars light, classification lights, and lit number boards? No problem. Three different blister designs? Got it.
But all of the #$@#*!! variations that certain railroads did to their RDCs which we really can't leave out? OH. MY. What a nightmare!!! The B&M, CN and VIA - especially - wanted diaphragms on their Phase 1 RDCs, so they decided to add a new headlight assembly on the roof and build a diaphragm support on the nose. And the diaphragms? COULDN'T ANYONE DECIDE ON ONE DIAPHRAGM DESIGN?
Let's put it this way. Currently under construction in the tooling workshop are 14 RDC ends, 12 RDC sides, 6 RDC roofs, and a host of detail parts, mould inserts, alternative pilots, horns, headlights, Mars lights, bent exhaust stacks, and other sundry items. I now know why no other manufacturer has ever attempted a museum-quality RDC model: they don't want to lose their shirts!
We adore RDCs here at Rapido, and we are sure that you will love our RDC model, even if you are a freight modeller who thinks passenger trains just "get in the way." If you only own one passenger train, this should be it. But of course, in order for us to be able to pay for all those expensive moulds, we'd prefer you to buy a fleet of 24 RDCs.
Click here for more RDC info.
While the last few months have been full of Rapido product deliveries, the next few months will be full of Rapido product announcements. In addition to the new HO scale freight car and N scale passenger car mentioned above, we have six new model designs we are working on. Two have already been tooled, one is in tooling, and three are in the 3D design stage. You can expect those to be announced in the coming months as well.
See Us At Portland
For the first time in four years, Rapido will be at the National Train Show. This year's show is in Portland, Oregon on August 28-30, at the Portland Expo Center. It is tied into the 2015 NMRA national convention, the NMRA Portland Daylight Express.
Please come visit Bill and me at the show, booth number 211. The official instructions explaining how all visitors must navigate through the building can be found below.
This will be only our third-ever appearance at a west coast train show (and my first). Most people out west think we are a European company that makes traction tires in N scale, so we're looking forward to correcting that misconception. We hope to have our first RDC-1 samples at the show and of course there are those two all-new N and HO products. Click here for more information about the show.
Modelling in 1:1 Scale
In Rapido News 67, I briefly mentioned that we had taken the rather unorthodox step for a model railroad manufacturer by purchasing a real passenger car. I've put together a Rapido Blog entry with more information about our crazy purchase. Please click here to read all about it.
News of our efforts to save some real historical railroad equipment has been met with a lot of support, but it has also resulted in some rather nasty things being said online and via email. We've been told that we should stop wasting our time with full-size trains. We've been told that any quality control issues found on our models must be because we're putting our resources into a full-size car instead of our models. It's even been implied that we are charging you more money for your models so we can afford to play with big trains.
Hopefully most of you recognize these complaints as nonsense, but I am going to address them. We have not shipped our factory workers - or even Dan - out to work on our passenger car. Our excellent passenger car mechanic, Mark Magers, is doing a fine job getting Edmundston fit to travel on his own and doesn't need us milling around and asking him questions about how to reconnect the steam heating.
Our retail prices are determined by one thing: gross margin. That's the difference between our cost and the average selling price. We need to make a certain margin in order to pay for all of the tooling costs as well as all of our overhead costs (salaries, rent, travel, marketing, power, heat, etc.). We also need to have enough left over to invest in new projects, as those projects don't bring in a profit until all the costs have already been paid.
Our capital costs are enormous. Just last month we sent over $80,000 to our mould workshops for tooling. And because tooling costs are amortized over several years, we can't write off that full amount against our sales in 2015, so from a cash flow perspective it's like we're spending after-tax dollars to make new moulds.
I found it extremely offensive when it was suggested that we are charging our customers more for our models so we can pursue our 1:1 scale fantasies. I decided not to respond to the criticism at the time, but it's been eating away at me so I'm going to respond here. First off, it is not a crime to make a profit. Rapido is not a charity. Rapido is providing livelihoods for me, Bill, Dan, Mike, Janet, Colin, and a whole factory full of workers in China. Our products help the bottom line of hundreds of retailers around the world.
More importantly, I just don't understand why some model railroaders have such an issue with real trains. These guys don't ride trains; they don't support passenger rail; they don't seem to like real trains at all. Why are these guys in the hobby? Without real trains, we wouldn't have anything to model!
Spending Rapido funds to preserve and restore a piece of North American railway history is something I am proud to do. It is something that all model railroaders should be doing, even it's just a few dollars a month to your local railroad preservation organization. Sometimes we need to get out of our basements and recognize that if we don't do more to save our railway history, much of our hobby will bite the dust - nobody will know what 20th-century railroading was like because so much of it will have been turned into scrap metal.
Here's an example of the uphill battle we face, and this is the one most dear to my heart. Canadian National's massive 1952-54 order - the largest in history - was for 359 passenger cars, including 218 coaches, 92 sleepers, 20 diners, and more. That is in addition to 318 baggage cars delivered between 1950 and 1958, as well as 25 coaches and 20 duplex sleepers delivered in 1950. Obviously, given their quantity, these cars defined the experience of passenger railroading in Canada for many people in the second half of the 20th century.
Do you know how many of these 722 cars have been preserved in North American railroad museums for future generations and are 100% safe from the scrapper? Maybe a couple of dozen. Most of them have been scrapped. Many are in use by tourist railroads (often heavily modified in the process) or are being used by museums far from home as storage or crew quarters with no interpretation, no restoration, and no access by the public.
One CN/VIA sleeper is being used as a stand-in by a museum until something better comes along. Like most of its fellow CN/VIA survivors scattered around the continent, it's wearing a fantasy paint scheme that it never wore in service. It's great that a car has been saved from the scrapper, but if it is taken totally out of context and not restored in any condition in which it actually operated, then you have saved the body of the car but lost its soul.
There are very few cars that have been preserved for restoration as a CN or a VIA passenger car for future generations to appreciate. Only a handful of cars have had a full restoration completed (I can think of one only). A car rusting in a field is not a restored car! Even if the rusting car belongs to a museum it still may end up getting scrapped as space and/or funds dry up.
So you're darn right that I am going to spend Rapido resources to save our railway heritage. This is something I believe in strongly, and I am not going to sit by and let our railway history rust to nothing, even if it means that some tongues will wag about our wasteful behaviour.
Well I'm glad that's off my chest. Either you agree with what I've said, respectfully agree to differ, or you've already stopped reading and thrown all of your Rapido models into a giant bonfire.
But I need to end on a positive note. Remember I said that most model railroaders are awesome? Well here's one last thing that illustrates that awesomeness. Dave Minshall is a friend of mine who has helped us with the R&D on some of our projects. He has been essential in making sure we get the details correct on the GMD-1 and the F40PH-2D, especially.
A few months ago he offered to build us a diorama. We needed something that was neutral so it would showcase our models well. What did he want in return? Nothing. He was just happy to help us out and do some model railroading. Have a look at the photo below. This isn't just any old diorama - it's some really fine modelling. Dave's work makes my Turbo look that much better. It's guys like Dave and the generous things that they do that remind me why I am in this business.
Now that's a better way to end this newsletter - much better than my big long kvetch.
Our next newsletter will, all going well, feature the first of our many new product announcements of the coming months. And we very much hope you can join us in Montreal in October. We're planning quite the bash!
Until next time,
Rapido Trains Inc.
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