Dear Rapido Customer,
Well here it is - our first UK-outline newsletter.
If this is the first time you're reading one of our newsletters, you might want to clear your schedule for the next few days or print it out and head to the toilet. Our newsletters do tend to go on...
If you like anything you read here, please use the link at the bottom to forward this email to your friends and ask them to sign up to receive future mailings. Currently our North American newsletter subscribers outnumber our UK newsletter subscribers 10 to one, and I would very much like to fix that!
In this issue of Rapido News UK:
APT-E Mould Progress
We have two great tooling workshops in China and one of them is currently working on NOTHING ELSE apart from the moulds for our forthcoming OO gauge APT-E model. This is being produced in partnership with Locomotionmodels.com.
If you couldn't care less about how model trains are made or anything else we do and you just want to order your APT-E, stop reading and click here.
Most people have no idea as to what is involved in tooling up a new model train, especially one as complex as the APT-E. Before we get to tooling, we need to actually design it. As you've probably read, we did a 3D scan of the real APT-E at Locomotion in Shildon (click here if you haven't read about it and would like to.)
The 3D scan was vital, but it only took place after we had already done 98% of the research and development. Bill started with what blueprints we could obtain from the NRM and from members of the original APT-E design team, along with hundreds of photos and field measurements that Dan and I took on our first visit to Shildon in 2013. Bill made gorgeous and accurate 2D drawings of the train, and those were sent to our engineering team in China, who started work on the 3D model.
We decided the scan was necessary when we realized that the nose blueprints from BR and the actual nose weren't exactly the same - we think there may have been some creative carpentry done in Derby when building the Power Cars... If you couldn't join us, our 3D Scan Railway Party last June was a hoot! It was wonderful meeting so many of you in person and discussing all things APT-E.
You can click here to watch our official APT-E video, Carry On APT-E, which has the distinction of hardly featuring the APT-E at all.
The 3D scan gave us 100% accurate contours for the nose and body in general, and we sent that file to our engineering team, who then adjusted the design of the model to match. An interesting discussion ensued:
"The scan is too big."
"What do you mean?"
"When we shrink to 1:76.2 like you asked, it is much bigger than APT model."
"What scale is your APT-E design?"
"1:87.1. Is this not OK?"
Thankfully that slight error in scale was caught early enough. Our APT-E model is in fact 4mm scale, and Bill's drawings were in 4mm scale, but the factory almost made it in HO scale by mistake! Had we not done the 3D scan, that conversation would have happened much later and after close to $100,000 had been spent!
A model train is produced using several plastic injection moulds as well as etched metal, stamped metal and turned metal parts. Each injection mould can do one large part, such as a body shell, or several small parts, such as window glazing, bogie details, etc.
We make our moulds out of steel. This is far more resilient than aluminium moulds and will withstand the dreaded screwdriver attack: when a part is stuck in the mould during injection tests, a worker at the injection factory will often use a screwdriver to pry it free. If the mould is made from aluminium, it doesn't take long for a steel screwdriver to turn all of the finely-crafted details into something resembling a curry.
Each mould weighs hundreds of pounds and contains numerous moving parts. The steel is cut and then the fine detail is eroded into the moulds using EDM (electrical discharge machining). EDM is brilliant and simple - targeted electrical sparks are made between copper electrodes and the steel to etch the detail into the moulds. Those details are an exact mirror of the details on the electrodes. In the photo below you can see a bunch of EDM electrodes (themselves cut by CNC, or computer numerical control) ready to be used to cut the moulds. For the APT-E, we needed to make approximately 4000 electrodes.
Oil is used as an insulator to control the EDM process. You wonder why mould workshops are so messy... In the photo below you can see the EDM process at work, with oil directed at the part through flexible tubes.
Once the basic details are cut and the moulds receive an initial polishing, we inject some samples. Those samples are what we will be showing at the Warley National show on the weekend of the 22nd. Here's the first sample of the APT-E Power Car body, fresh out of the moulds and sprayed silver:
Between now and Friday all of the first injection tests will be complete and our engineers will assemble the first sample to show our customers at Warley - this was really down to the wire. We normally don't have such a tight deadline to get first injection tests done and we had to outsource some of the EDM work to two neighbouring tooling workshops to help get them completed in time.
But there is a LOT more work to do. The next step is to finish the fine details on the moulds and polish all of the tooling marks out. Then we perform advanced function tests and make sure the tilting and close-coupling mechanisms work as designed. If not, we make whatever changes are necessary.
The final step is to erode the rivets and other fine details to the moulds using EDM. It is hard to make changes after that so we generally erode the rivets last.
We should have final (or almost final) samples at the York Show next April.
You can come see the first test samples at Warley in just over a week from now - more info on that below.
Click here to visit Rapido's APT-E web page and to read all of the specifications and see photos of the design and tooling.
Click here to reserve your APT-E from Locomotion. Remember - these will be produced strictly by advance reservation.
Unlike so many other models these days, you won't be able to buy the APT-E at the shops for 30% off of the price a couple of months after release. In fact, you won't be able to buy it at the shops at all! The APT-E is an exclusive model for Locomotion as part of their National Collection in Miniature series. Please order today to ensure you don't miss out.
N Gauge Pendolino!
Many people have asked us if the APT-E will be available in N gauge. While it isn't planned yet, I am pleased to let you know that one of its descendants is!
The Virgin Pendolino is a direct successor to the APT project and, along with the Super Voyager, is the first time that tilting technology has successfully been applied on a large scale in the UK. N gauge modellers have long wished for a high-quality model of the Pendolino and now it has the chance to become a reality.
N gauge Pendolino project organizers Ben Ando and Mike Hale approached me to see if Rapido was interested in producing the model for NGaugePendolino.com. I was living in Birmingham when the Pendolino was introduced, so it has a special place in my heart. I was on board with the project immediately. Click here to visit Rapido's N gauge Pendolino page.
The N gauge Pendolino project is unique in that it is being funded through the internet crowd-funding company, Kickstarter. This is the way that the project will work:
UK and European modellers and enthusiasts can reserve the Pendolino at no risk by making a pledge using Kickstarter. You can order a full 9-car train, a two-car add-on set to make a current 11-car train, or a shortened 5-car train. Standard DC versions and factory-fitted DCC/sound versions will both be available. Prices range from £195 for a five-car set to £255 for a 9-car set to £380 for a full 11-car set fitted with DCC and sound.
You want to impress just about everyone at the next exhibition? Run an 11-car sound-fitted Pendolino on your 1930 GWR branchline layout. Well, "impressed" is one word for it...
The Kickstarter campaign is all or nothing. Ben and Mike need reservations of 800 trains during the 60-day campaign to make this happen. If they don't get enough reservations, the project will be cancelled by Kickstarter. So please reserve yours in advance. The campaign will start next week. Keep checking in to NGaugePendolino.com to ensure you don't miss the campaign.
If you are outside the UK and Europe and you want to order a Pendolino, please click here to visit our web site and order directly from us.
What happens if the Kickstarter target isn't reached?
If the target sales of 800 trains is not reached during the 60-day campaign, Kickstarter cancels the campaign. However, if Ben and Mike come pretty close to the target and we have a healthy number of reservations from collectors and modellers outside of the UK and Europe, Rapido will consider bringing out the N gauge Pendolino as a general product release.
But please bear in mind that to bring it out as a general release the retail price will be a LOT higher. That's because in a general release, the shops need to make a profit. In the Kickstarter campaign, Ben and Mike are doing this for the love of the train and are not looking to make a profit. So please make sure you order yours through Kickstarter, or if you are outside the UK and Europe, please make sure you reserve the train from us.
Click here to visit NGaugePendolino.com. Click here for Rapido's Pendolino page. Have I provided those links enough times? Here they are again and again.
Our next UK adventure. It's...
...a 12th-century monk.
Bill and I are flying to the UK next week (the direct train from Canada is still awaiting government funding) and every time we visit we try to contribute as much as possible to the UK economy. The country is so small that we can travel just about anywhere by rail in a day. Try that in Canada...
In November 2013, Dan and I traipsed around the northeast, northwest, Midlands, and Cardiff. Click here to read about that. In June 2014, Bill and I embarked on a 'Cornish Recovery Tour,' in which two guys for two days attempted to make up for the £1 billion lost to Cornwall due to the sea wall breach at Dawlish in February. Perhaps we were a bit too ambitious.... but we had a blast on the Cornish coast and then up in the northeast and in Scotland. Click here to read about that trip.
This time we're following the sandaled feet of Brother Cadfael, the crime-solving 12th-century monk in the famous series of novels by Ellis Peters. I am a huge Cadfael fan and a huge fan of Wales, so Bill and I will be wandering around Shrewsbury and Wales for much of the week, with a short stop in Tibet* along the way.
(*Doctor Who and the Abominable Snowmen took place in Tibet but it was filmed in the Nant Ffrancon river valley near Conwy. Anybody have a model Yeti they can lend us?)
We'll be posting regular updates from Facebook on our journey. Please click here to visit our Facebook page - you don't have to be a member to keep up with our shenanigans.
Rapido at the Warley Show
We hope you can make it to Birmingham for the Warley National, 22 and 23 November 2014 - that's in just over a week!
Bill and I will be at the Locomotion booth, number E22. We're right behind the large N Gauge Society display. To find us, walk through the main entrance and keep going straight, ignoring everything you see along the way. Turn right at the last aisle and we're ahead on your right.
One of the engineers responsible for making the APT-E tilting system work, Kit Spackman ('Mr Tilt' of Rapido movie fame), will be on hand to answer questions on both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday he'll be joined by Paul Leadley, one of those responsible for the excellent restoration work being done on the preserved APT-E at Shildon. Come over for a chat, but make sure you don't leave the booth without reserving your model!
It will be great to meet you in person and talk about the APT-E, Rapido and the UK model railway industry as a whole. We'd love to hear your thoughts on potential future Rapido projects and on ways we can connect with more railway modellers. We look forward to seeing you there!
The Rapido Forum on RMWeb
We're pleased to have our own forum at the popular railway discussion site, RMWeb. Click here to visit the Rapido forum and discuss all things related to Rapido's upcoming UK products and complain about our extremely dull, long-winded and/or offensive newsletters.
Our policy at Rapido is that if something can be said in 23 words, we'll use 796.
Getting Over the Fear of DCC
If you are new to Rapido you may find the essays I include in my newsletters mildly (or extremely, or I will never buy a Rapido product as long as I live) offensive. If you do get offended easily, I apologize in advance and it was nice having you as a potential customer for as long as we did. We tend to be very silly at Rapido and if you're new to us you may not get our sense of humour at first. If you haven't seen our UK introductory video and you would like to be offended some more so you can really complain about us properly on RMWeb, please click here to watch it on YouTube.
I've been interested in UK railway modelling for about 15 years, and even though I moved back to Canada over ten years ago I have never lost touch with the UK market.
Reading layout articles in Model Rail, BRM, and Railway Modeller, it's hard to miss the fact that many of the layouts are still DC controlled. Often the layout builder will be either apologetic or at times defensive about his choice to stick with DC rather than upgrade to DCC. My eyes glaze over when I read about the electrics underneath a DC layout. I haven't had to wire for DC block control in over 20 years.
If it is a matter of cost, I fully understand the hesitance to upgrade to DCC. It's not a lack of skill - anyone who has ever wired a layout for DC can chip a locomotive. The only skills you need are the ability to use a soldering iron and the ability to tell different colours apart (or get someone to tell you what the colours are if you are colour blind).
No, I think in a lot of cases it's due to another reason altogether: fear. I've heard the arguments from people who think that DCC is "not proper" railway modelling. I suppose touch-tone phones are "not proper phones" and calculators are "not proper abacuses." There will always be crotchety old geezers out there who resent all change and who won't accept anything that is new and different. But most people who are afraid to switch to DCC are NOT crotchety old geezers. They are normal geezers like the rest of us.
Why are so many people who aren't crotchety old geezers also hesitant to get into DCC?
The early proponents of DCC tended to be boffins. (There is no North American equivalent to the term 'boffins.' North American readers please look it up.) That is typical of just about any technological development when you think about it. The trouble is that while DCC has evolved into a user-friendly control system that is a lot simpler than DC, much of the technobabble has stuck around.
To this day I do not have any idea how to program a decoder by adding values to bits (or bobs) and using hexes (or spells or curses). But I don't need to. Most decoder-equipped locomotives require absolutely no adjustment apart from choosing the engine's address.
Chipping a locomotive or DMU is a lot easier than wiring a layout for DC control. And wiring a layout for DCC is easier still.
Here is a rundown of some of the benefits of switching to DCC:
I've often been called a Luddite. I have rotary phones at home (and I still use them), I have a 25-year-old tube television, and I never stopped buying vinyl records. But even I can see when a new technology is worth upgrading to. Notwithstanding the photo of me above, I don't usually have a rotary phone strapped to my belt and I don't listen to my vinyl records in the car. DCC - which is already 30 years old so it's hardly new - makes our hobby so much more enjoyable that it really is worth the investment.
- The wiring of your layout is phenomenally simple. You run a pair of wires under your layout and all of your track feeder wires are connected to that. That's it. For massive layouts you need to add some more power but for most UK layouts it really is as simple as two wires.
- You can run several engines on one stretch of track. If you are modelling a motive power depot, this is particularly helpful. You just control the engine you want, and you can couple it up to an engine already on the track without that engine running away. Then you press a couple of buttons on your controller and the two engines can trundle off together.
- Decoders have come down in price... a lot. You can get a silent (non-sound) chip starting at around 12 quid. To install it - even in an older engine - should take a couple of hours for your first one, an hour for your second one, and half an hour by your third one. For engines that have a plug inside it takes five minutes. As I said, if you have the skills to wire a DC layout, you have the skills to chip a locomotive.
- Sound works 1000 times better on DCC than on DC. Sound is the future of our hobby and it is already here. How many times have you been running trains on your own and having to shout, "twoot-twonk" when entering a tunnel? I know I have - on North American layouts we have lots of level crossings and I would be hollering bell and horn noises to the frustration of my wife who would be trying to get some work done in the next room.
And of course when other people (wives excepted) are around we all get embarrassed and we operate our trains silently, wishing the people would go away so we could start hissing air and "hwonk-hwonking" again.
With DCC, you can hear all of the accurate sounds without looking like a nincompoop. It adds another dimension to railway modelling and truly brings the models to life. I enjoy working on my layout while a VIA Rail Canada Turbo idles away on the track nearby. It feels like I am working in the Spadina engine terminal in 1980 and not in my suburban basement in 2014.
- In DCC, you control the trains not the track. When driving a real locomotive, the driver is not concerned about ensuring that the next bit of track is switched to his cab. He or she just drives the engine on the track. On DCC it's the same thing.
- The hobby is moving away from DC. I think Betamax was a brilliant system for recording television programmes. It's still great if you have a Betamax video recorder, but isn't it easier to watch that Doctor Who episode you missed on BBC iPlayer instead?
As more and more people choose DCC, the amount of time that we manufacturers spend developing DC products goes down. In North America, our HO scale DCC/sound models outsell our DC models by three to one. Give it another five or ten years and it will be the same in the UK.
Adapting a state-of-the-art, sound-equipped model locomotive for DC is like trying to get iPhone features out of your rotary telephone. As the models get more and more advanced, fewer and fewer of the neat features will be translatable to DC control.
Right - I'm off my soapbox. Go order your DCC system. You can get an NCE Power Cab for under £150 and it has everything you need to run DCC on a small layout. I use NCE Pro Cab on my own layout and my son uses Power Cab on his.
Well that's the first UK newsletter done. If you're still reading, thanks for sticking with me for so long. I do have trouble knowing when to stop talking...
All the best,
Rapido Trains Inc.
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