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Dear Rapido Customer,
We had hoped to be showing you a production sample of the APT-E around now. Simply put, we're not there yet. We will only start production once both we and Locomotion Models have tested and accepted the final pre-production sample. Production will begin immediately afterwards and I will be going to China to personally oversee final production and fill up on my annual intake of barbecue pigeon. We will update you when that happens (the production, not the pigeon intake).
We know that a lot of newsletter readers are eagerly anticipating owning their first Rapido-made model. The delay isn't down to Chinese production issues or any other excuses that you commonly hear thrown about by model railway manufacturers and we wholeheartedly apologise for the schedule slippage. If you're looking for a reason, it's called second radius curves, or "tram tracks" as we like to call them, or "%#£$@&*!" as our factory has taken to describing them.
The sample that has been doing the rounds in the UK, at York, Shildon, and the DEMU event did work and provided a very convincing tilt effect. However, it was a pain to take apart and the couplers failed our robustness test. There was also no provision for simple connection of the multiple wires that would be running between the cars for all the lighting functions and speakers.
Coming up with a solution to these three issues has been complicated by our commitment that the APT-E would convincingly tilt around second radius curves. We looked at numerous other models of tilting trains in the hopes of finding another example of an articulated tilting train with electrical connections between coaches. We found, er, almost one.
After many brain storming sessions and late nights here in North America and in China we've finally come up with a solution, which is shown above as a drawing and shown below both in prototype form and out of our new moulds. We're now testing this to destruction and the factory will be incorporating it into the final sample which is due to arrive in a few weeks' time.
Finally, we just received these photos this morning, taken by one of our engineers in China. It's the first APT-E sample we've seen with LIGHTS! In the top photo, you can see the cab interior light, headlights and tail lights all on at once. The fact that the front bogie is off the track shows that the inter-carriage wiring connections are indeed working. However, it appears the driver's control stand is not seated correctly, which explains the massive blancmange that is filling the bottom of the windscreen.
And in the photo below, taken from a video they sent us, you can see some of the FLASHING LIGHTS on the computer banks in TC2. I opposed the inclusion of FLASHING LIGHTS because the real things only flashed when something went seriously wrong. But Jason says that in all the Doctor Who episodes produced in the 1970s, the computers of the future had FLASHING LIGHTS. As the APT-E is a futuristic train from the 1970s, its computers need FLASHING LIGHTS too. Can somebody please take him away?
Single Takes Shape
The Stirling Single, our second commission for Locomotion Models in the NRM "National Collection in Miniature" range, is progressing well and we're pleased to show the next stage in its development. This update will be focused on the creation of accurate drawings using 3D scan data.
Having lived with the 3D scans provided by Craig Crane at Motion Associates Ltd for some time now, it really does amaze me how useful this cutting edge technology is. It's no replacement for the traditional methods of creating working drawings from which to make models, such as field measurements, official drawings and hundreds of photographs. But used responsibly, 3D scanning can speed up the design process and improve accuracy.
The grey images show the results of the scans. Considering the glossiness of the paint finish on GNR No.1, which played havoc with the lasers, the scan has proved remarkably successful at rendering the classic curves and subtle detailing on the real thing.
The next step was for me to trace the scan data and use extensive drawings from the NRM to do a detailed 2D design drawing of the locomotive and tenders. I then gave the scan and the drawings to our engineers in China and from those they are designing the actual model. The designs are still in the early stages (note the driver spokes poking through the walkway!), but you can clearly see that our engineers have already captured the look and feel of the Stirling Single beautifully.
We plan to have the model design completed by the end of October. We'll be showing the latest developments at Warley and we may even have a surprise or two with us that will make Single fans very happy. I've tried discussing the Single with Jason but every time I bring it up he starts singing, "They're two, they're four, they're six, they're eight." As far as he is concerned, the Single has been done already and it has a cheery face on the smokebox, to boot. I don't get paid enough to put up with him.
Revolution Trains Design Progress
Created and developed by Ben Ando and Mike Hale, the fledgling Revolution Trains brand promises big things for the future and Rapido is proud to be associated with them. The company, born out of the Ngaugependolino.com Kickstarter project, is principally committed to N gauge. However, Ben and Mike haven't ruled out moving into 4mm scale/OO gauge if time and resources permit.
Revolution's first two products, the Virgin Trains Class 390 Pendolino and the VTG 102.6-tonne TEA bogie tanker, are now nearing design completion and it's great to be able to illustrate the state of play as of early August. Here are a bunch of pretty pictures.
The standard of ready-to-run British releases in N gauge in recent years has been high. With this in mind, both Revolution and Rapido have made a real effort to go one step further with the widespread adoption of etched metal parts for grilles and walkways, cutting edge lighting/sound and a thorough attention to detail. This includes batch-specific parts on the TEA tanker!
There is still some work to be done on the Pendolino and the TEA so it's likely that certain elements will have to be changed on these CAD images. We're now going through the designs and adjusting them to ensure reliable plastic injection and assembly. Hence the disclaimers in the images above!
We hope to have samples of both models available in time for the International N Gauge Show at Leamington Spa on September 12th. These will be 3D-printed, with the first plastic injection-moulded samples being available by Warley in November. If everything goes well we could even have decorated examples of a full length Class 390 and most of the planned TEA liveries. We'll see...
After that the Pendolino will require a thorough debugging, which we expect will take a couple of months. The plan is for production to begin in March/April next year, while the models will be shipped to the UK in late spring or early summer. Delivery to Revolution's customers is expected by the middle of summer, by which point we hope to be showing you some wonderful images of Revolution's next product!
We have a strict policy here at Rapido regarding quality. We aim to do it right rather than rushed. If taking a few extra months means that the model will work and look better, then we won't hesitate to take the extra time. But we'll keep you informed all along the way.
Rapido's Next British Model
The APT-E, Pendolino and TEA won't be the only Rapido-made samples that we intend to be flashing about at the NEC in late November. We've teased our next British OO gauge model a couple of times and had a lot of fun reading the responses via email and on the forums.
We've had a number of people contact us pleading for more information, so read on! We can tell you that it will be up to the same standard as our North American releases and will utilise some of the clever tricks that we've developed on recent products. It'll also look just as great running at night as it will during the day. OK - I haven't revealed anything, have I?
The tooling is designed to represent these essential vehicles throughout their lives and, of course, we've stuffed more pipework and separate detail on the underbody than most manufacturers have put on their entire catalogue of trains. (It will look amazing when it derails and comes to rest in the ditch, upside-down!) Finally, we are especially happy that there is a notable link between the experimental APT-E and this model.
The unveiling will take place at the Warley show on 28 November at 10.00 am.
Warley and 2015 UK Tour
This newsletter has already referenced the Warley National Model Railway Exhibition at the NEC Birmingham about 36 times so we might as well give the full details here. Illustrating our commitment to the British model railway scene, Rapido Trains Inc. is splashing out on its first proper stand at the event.
Held over the weekend of 28 and 29 November, 2015, this is one of the must-visit exhibitions on the calendar. We had a great time last year piggybacking on the Locomotion Models display but with more than the APT-E and Stirling Single to show off now it might be considered rude to encroach on their hospitality further.
You'll be able to find us at stand C12. Make this your first port of call. Forget all the bargains and cool stuff elsewhere. We'll have samples, we'll be announcing stuff, and we might even be giving out freebies! Jason and I will also be joined by our friends at Realtrack Models and Revolution Trains, so stand C12 will be your one stop shop for news on some of the most exciting projects in the hobby.
Just as we did last year, we will be touring around the UK in the days leading up to Warley. You can read about last year's adventures here, and please visit the Rapido forum on RMWeb to follow our adventures this year as they are happening.
And if you see Jason and me traipsing around the UK, please remember to shout "GO HABS!" at Jason as the Habs (a.k.a. the Montreal Canadiens) are his favourite ice hockey team and he was most distressed on his last visit that nobody in the UK seems to know (or care) who they are.
For this bit of the newsletter, I pass the baton to our Big Cheese, Jason.
Jason: Thanks, Bill. I was going to write something silly here but I think I'll actually be serious for a change. Railway preservation in North America is facing one of its greatest challenges ever. Basically, most museum collections on this continent have not expanded to any great degree in over a generation, and the hard-working and dedicated stewards of our collections can barely maintain what has already been preserved. Every day more vital pieces of our heritage are scrapped as nobody has the resources to save them.
While the UK railway preservation movement (and passenger rail travel in general) is enjoying a golden age at the moment (NEW BUILDS!), the same can't be said of North America. There is little interest in railway preservation at the local, provincial/state or federal governmental levels. We don't have lottery money to help rebuild our heritage stations or maintain our equipment. The railroads occasionally donate a piece of equipment but the vast majority of locomotives and cars get scrapped or rebuilt beyond recognition.
This is why Rapido has decided that it needs to help preserve the trains of our past. We recently purchased our first full-size passenger car. Edmundston is a former VIA Rail Canada/Canadian National Railways sleeper built in 1954 by Pullman-Standard in Chicago. It has four open sections (berths), eight duplex roomettes and four double bedrooms. It was one of a series of 52 cars called "E Sleepers," all named after Canadian cities and towns beginning with the letter E. Edmundston is a town of about 20,000 people in the province of New Brunswick, near the Quebec border.
The significance of the E Sleepers can't be overstated for 20th-century Canadian railway history. If you rode overnight on CN lines between 1954 and 1992 in Canada, chances are you were in an E car. They lasted in service until 1996. I rode Edmundston in 1995 on the "Abitibi" between Montreal and northern Quebec.
We've started the process of putting Edmundston back into service, and I have a new appreciation for railway preservationists around the world. This is a heck of a lot of work! Click here or on the image below to watch a video of us craning the car to do a wheel swap: