Dear Rapido Customer,
Greetings, once again, from on board a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to Toronto. Welcome to our revamped newsletter!
In this issue of Rapido News:
About the newsletter
We've decide to merge our two newsletters together - the Rapido Timetable and the Rapido Telegraph. Having two newsletters was too confusing for our tiny little minds. So welcome to the imaginatively-titled Rapido News.
As you can see from the image above, the visual style of the newsletter is heavily influenced by CN's graphic image in the halcyon days of its passenger services, the 1960s and early 1970s. I actually photographed those timetables on the plane about five minutes ago. Yes, I just happen to have stuff like this in my briefcase. All the time.
I admire the bold vision that CN had for its passenger and freight systems in the 1960s - one of the golden ages of Canadian railroading - both in terms of graphics and service. While other railways were dumping passenger routes and equipment left, right and centre, CN was expanding its passenger service and putting customer experience to the forefront.
I see that as an inspiration for Rapido. We are a company run by train fans not bean counters, and we take accuracy of detail very seriously. If we find a mistake in a model before production begins we will hold production to fix it. It doesn't always make financial sense. But if we had released the Steam Generator with only one water filler hatch instead of two I wouldn't be able to sleep at night!
So please enjoy this and future issues of Rapido News. We can't promise to be all things to all people but we can promise we will do our best to keep you entertained while informing you about our products, our industry, and our hobby.
The following HO scale products arrived in late August and are in stores now:
The following HO scale products just arrived a week or two ago and are arriving in stores now:
(Sorry - I couldn't resist referring to the black, green and yellow paint scheme as the "Yucky" scheme in the caption above. I personally can't stand CN's short-lived "1954" paint scheme. I explain why in my essay below.)
The following HO scale products are en route from China and will be here near the end of October:
Currently in production are VIA Rail Canada "Club Deluxe" Club Galley Cars, C&EI "Pine" Series Sleepers, CN Wet Noodle sleepers, and the rest of our three new
Super Continental Line cars. I will let you know the exact order of release in a future newsletter. Have a look below at the incredible detail in our Club Deluxe cars. I rode these regularly in my teens between Toronto and Montreal and Toronto and London so I am a wee-bit obsessed.
Once the Super Continental Line cars have all been delivered, our next products to leave the factory will be the Osgood Bradley lightweight coaches in Long Island, Penn Central and BAR (gray). Those will be followed by N scale Dayniters and HO cabooses. FP9A and Canadian production will occur alongside these, but we expect the Osgood Bradleys to arrive first, with the first FP9As and Canadians arriving in February/March. As so eloquently put by one of my engineers the other day - "Osgood Bradley easy - FP9 and Canadian hard." The good news is the factory is confident they can bring out all of the FP9As and Canadians by the fall, rather than by the end of 2012 as originally estimated.
The big question is: why did I go back to China when I was just there for most of the month of May? Basically, with a project as complex as the FP9A and The Canadian, I could not leave anything to chance. There were final tooling corrections to do on the passenger cars and A and B units, and I didn't feel that they were getting done correctly. I was right.
The Cathay Pacific flight from Toronto arrived in Hong Kong at the unGodly hour of 0500 local time. Everyone was pushing and shoving to get off the plane and I almost lost my phone. WHERE WERE THEY GOING? At 0500, there are no taxis. There are no buses. There are no trains. Why the rush? Apparently everyone was rushing to find a nice set of chairs to lie down, because as you can see there was a shortage of available seating in the airport.
After spending two days chasing down tooling corrections, we had to visit another vendor in southern Dongguan. I love driving in China. If you can get something to move on a road, you can drive it. There are home-made trucks, dragon machines, electric bikes, manual trikes, you name it. One of the rules of the road seems to be: If you turn your lights off and keep to the side of the road, nobody will notice that you are on the WRONG SIDE of the road!
But even with eight or nine visits to China under my belt, sometimes the traffic still amazes me. There was an accident at an unsignalled intersection, and gridlock ensued. Then this massive truck decided he wanted to go through, so he pushed us all back. Check out the photos below. Colin and I were laughing hysterically until a policeman came over with a very sour expression on his face. Right! Back in car! Camera away!
I then saw a tractor driving a home-made 80-FOOT LONG flatbed trailer carrying TWO forty-foot containers. That was also a first for me. We had to back up to get out of his turning radius.
We got our first revised samples back from the tooling shop, and they weren't good enough. ARRGGHHH! Some of the outstanding corrections were communicated to the tooling shop in MAY. OK - back to the tooling shop, and this time with a magnifying glass. I then had to spend six hours going over moulds with said magnifying glass to find every outstanding blemish. Never leave home without a magnifying glass - you should keep it in your bag next to your old CN timetables.
Obviously I had a lot of other things to do in China, as the FP9A and The Canadian are very complex projects. We are also including some freebies with The Canadian and those had to be sourced. But it's amazing that in this age of instant communication, video conferencing, and detailed PDF documents, doing this project correctly still required me to go to China, sit down with several tonnes of steel, and check for problems. I discovered just this morning in my last visit to the tooling shop (before driving to the airport) that our dining car from The Canadian has vestibule grab iron bolt details on the car end - despite not having a vestibule. Thank God we caught that in time. It's those little things that you have to be so careful to catch! Nobody noticed it until I was staring at the actual moulds under 3x magnification.
I won't be going back to China for some time, as my very pregnant wife has forbidden it.... But Bill will be there for most of December supervising production of the FP9A and The Canadian to ensure that we don't have any surprises when the first shipment arrives. For those of you who don't know, Bill has been in the model railroad business for almost thirty years, including a 15-year stint as production manager at Branchline Trains. So you can rest assured the trains will be in good hands.
The small corrections to The Canadian moulds will be completed on October 21st, and then we start production. Because of this unexpected delay, if you still wish to order either The Canadian or the CN/VIA/ACR FP9A, you can do so until the 21st.
HO scale TurboTrains are here!
The American TurboTrains are back in stock and they are going fast! As of this past weekend we're down to just 60 New Haven/US DOT Turbos, 58 Early Amtrak Turbos, 80 Penn Central/US DOT Turbos, and 35 Late Amtrak Turbos! We're sold out of New Haven Intermediate Cars and we're quickly selling out of Early Amtrak Intermediate Cars as well.
These Turbos have a completely revamped drive system and run reliably at all speeds. They are wonderful. You can order direct from us, and the new price of $299.95 includes free shipping to anywhere in the world. Click here to order.
I've been having fun with my own VIA Turbo. I weathered it, updated the drive system, added roof grabs and the ever-present VIA nose smudge. It still needs more weathering on the roof - we shouldn't be able to see any yellow up there - but you know how it is. You're always afraid to make that last spray with the airbrush for fear of overdoing it. Maybe I'll have the guts to do it later this year.
I will always love the Turbo! Our train group operated my 9-car Turbo on John Chipperfield's BC-themed layout. It had no problem on the 2.5% plus grade up to Kamloops and it now runs like a dream. It's about time! You too can update your TurboTrain with new gearboxes and power trucks. Click here for more info.
If you have any photos of Rapido products that you have weathered or customized, please send them to us and we'll try and include them in our web site gallery. Click here to visit our gallery.
Four new locomotives...
Now that The Canadian and the FP9A are finally entering production, we have the time and tooling resources to start some new locomotives. In the photo above, VIA was very kind to pose three of our four new locomotive models for the camera in Moncton in 1980.
The tooling is FINISHED for one of them. We have to redo the rivets because they came out too big (can you say "baseballs"?), so we won't make the official announcement on our web site until they are redone. But you can probably figure out which one I'm talking about. The other two are in the R&D stage. 2013 and 2014 will be busy years for Rapido's locomotive releases. Stay tuned for more information as we will be holding an event later this year to celebrate two of our new locomotives, and you will be invited. That's all I can say just now.
The usual caveat applies: any existing plastic models of the three locomotives pictured above are La Grange or Schenectady models painted in Canuck colours. Like the FP9A, our Canadian locomotive models are designed from the ground up as London-built GMD (and, in this case, Montreal-built MLW) locomotives. They are very different beasts from their American cousins.
But I did say there are four new locomotives. Work has already begun on our first ever freight locomotive, and it will be getting the multi-variation all-star treatment like the FP9A. I can't say much else about it just yet, but you can expect a very big announcement around Christmas.
If you really want to try and figure out what the new locomotive is, here are a couple of very revealing prototype photos.
Every time I announce a new project the LRC guys email me and ask "but when is the LRC locomotive coming?" So I will answer you now: it is coming as soon as The Canadians and FP9s have all been released. The LRC locomotive tooling is finished, but The Canadian and the FP9A are much larger projects so they take priority. When we are just about ready to start production on the LRC locomotives we will announce some new locomotive numbers (and unnumbered) so you can build your fleet a little faster.
"Totally Wired" Telephone Poles - new branch line version!
Over the last three years, one of our most popular products has been our "Totally Wired" Telephone Poles. Model railroaders around the world have recognized that stringing up telephone poles can be one of the most frustrating and time-consuming aspects of our hobby. Buying our poles, with 17 wires already strung through the insulators, saves hundreds of hours. You can actually do an entire layout in one evening.
We are currently starting a new production run of poles, and I am pleased to announce that we will also be doing a branch line version, with only two crossarms. But we will still have 17 wires strung on the poles so they will look very full indeed!
We are adding brakes to the rollers that hold the wires, so there will be even less of a chance that the wires will get tangled while you are installing the poles. The improvement does come at a price, I'm afraid. With the new runs the price will be increasing to $39.95 a set. How much is your time worth? Considering the hundreds of hours that even one box will save you, we think this is still very good value.
Click on the image below to watch a video showing the installation of a string of poles on our old display layout in about a minute. Add 5 minutes for prep and 10 minutes to glue/cut the wires at the end of the run and you have a 12-foot run of strung poles installed in 16 minutes. Each subsequent run will probably take less than half an hour.
Full information about our "Totally Wired" Telephone Poles can be found here. The poles are expected back in stock in the first half of 2012. Reserve yours today!
Last chance to see a model railroad legend!
In August I had the esteemed honour of being able to operate The Canadian on one of North America's legendary layouts: the Canada Central of the Montreal Railroad Modelers Association. I was welcomed with open arms by more than 50 club members and friends who came out to see The Canadian and the CN FP9A in action. After I gave my spiel, The Canadian traversed the entire layout, and it took so long that most of the crowd had gone home by the time we got back to our starting point!
Unfortunately, the Canada Central is coming to an end (in its present form) after 38 glorious years. You can visit it at the club's final open house, the weekend of October 29-30 between 10:00 and 16:00. The Canada Central is located at 891 St. Paul Street West in Montreal, a five-minute walk from Central Station. It's actually located under the tracks. You can find out more by visiting their web site here.
While in Montreal I also had the pleasure of visiting another excellent club layout (there are rather a lot of amazing layouts in Montreal): the Vermont & Essex. After presenting The Canadian to the group we let it run on the layout. It was great fun, especially the part where we tried to extract the derailed train from a switch that was in the most inaccessible part of the layout imaginable. Model railroading rule #1: all derailments will occur in the one spot you can't reach.
American Meat Reefer - Order Deadline!
I'm happy to let you know that we've already cut the tooling for our new American freight car, the General American (GARX) Meat Reefer, and it is almost finished! We have had to push the final revisions back to get the Canadian and FP9 tooling revisions done, but there is very little left to do on the car and it shouldn't take too long.
There is still time to order your Meat Reefers, so please let your dealer know that you are interested. They come in singles or four packs. The four packs are individually boxed and can be broken up for individual sale. Full information on the reefer, its history and paint schemes, can be found here.
Mark your calendars:
The order deadline for the reefer is October 28th 2011.
An explanation to our US customers
Those of you who have been following us for the last few years have probably noticed that the content of these newsletters and of our production schedule has shifted considerably towards Canadian prototypes. I feel I owe our American customers an explanation.
First of all, thank you to everyone in the States who has ordered and continues to order our products. We couldn't survive without you. But the economy has had a real impact on our sales south of the border - I would hazard to guess it has affected us more than some of our fellow manufacturers in the States. In this age of austerity, people are being very careful with how they spend their hobby dollars. Because we're quite small, we don't have the advertising budget that some of the larger firms have. And because our products are handled by distributors south of the border, we don't have direct communication with American dealers like we do in Canada.
The result of this is that we've had to focus more on our Canadian products as that is where our sales have been concentrated.
So I would like to apologize to many of you, our American customers who love our products and are hoping that each new announcement will be an American prototype. We have every intention of doing more US prototypes as the economy improves, and we will work with our distributors to get the word out to US dealers about new Rapido announcements. Thanks for your understanding, and our fingers are crossed that our new General American Meat Reefer will do well.
Rapido at the RPM Conference 2011
I am delighted to let you know that this year Rapido will be appearing at the 2011 RPM Conference at Lisle, Illinois. Bill will be showing off samples of the new Reefer and what's left of our Canadian samples - most of them have been butchered and bloodied in testing since I took them on tour back in June. Please make sure you hear his lecture: "Life Cycle of the Australian Newt: a Metaphorical Examination of the Fastener Sizes Used by the Pressed Steel Company on Hopper Car Structural Members Between May and July 1906." Should be a riveting presentation.
Full information about the conference can be found here.
An Enduring Image
Our most popular paint scheme by a factor of 2:1 over its nearest competitor is CN's black, green and yellow. This short-lived scheme was introduced in 1954 to coincide with CN's big orders for new passenger cars and locomotives. It is so etched into the minds of our railfan and model railroader communities (the majority of whom were kids in 1954) that every single piece of restored CN 1950s passenger equipment or motive power in the world is painted in this scheme - I'm not talking "rusting in a field" but properly restored. The fact that most of the equipment wore the 1954 scheme for less than a decade yet still soldiered on for 30 or more years afterward does not seem to sway the 1954 fans. When I pointed out that the entire CN diesel collection of one museum was painted green and therefore did not tell the complete story of CN's visual history, a major donor told me, "I'll paint my engines in whatever colour I want!" So much for a well-considered restoration policy...
I understand why the 1954 scheme has persisted - nostalgia. As I said, most modellers and railfans today were kids when the scheme was current. But aesthetically? CN realized very quickly that, to borrow from Monty Python, the black, green and yellow scheme was "Ugly Boring Old." It was a paint scheme that looked back instead of forward, owing more to Edwardian typography and design principles than modern imagery. I can understand CN's original motivation for the scheme - the Edwardian era was one of tremendous railway expansion, and was the nostalgic era for CN's older customers in the 1950s.
But CN soon realized that if it was going to make railway travel relevant to an increasingly mobile public, it needed to reinvent the iconography of railways. And it did just that. 50 years ago, CN's new image revolutionized graphic design in the transportation industry. This is not an exaggeration. The "wet noodle" imagery - logo and accompanying corporate image, bold primary colours, sans serif typeface - did not just suggest movement or speed. The 1961 image was movement. It was speed. It was fluid. The embellished serif typeface of the 1954 scheme and quaint maple leaf roundels communicated absolutely nothing of the sort.
When you saw a CN train bisecting the landscape, you knew it was a CN train. It did not matter if you were half a mile away. The Alan Fleming-designed CN stripes, bold and clear freight lettering, and simple black, grey and red locomotive and passenger car colour scheme were a brilliant system of graphic design that stretched to CN's interior decoration, marketing material, schedules and publications, and even the language and nomenclature used: Turbo. Tempo. Rapido. Panorama. VIA. These names were modern, fresh and also bilingual.
CN's 1961 image was a game changer. Canadian Pacific, Penn Central, Conrail, British Rail, Burlington Northern, United Airlines, United Artists, and about a thousand other companies updated their corporate identities along the line that CN laid down in 1961. And the 1961 identity lives on, albeit in a diluted form, to this day.
So now you have an idea of why I admire CN's 1961 image, and why - although I am a VIA modeller - I think CN's passenger trains of the 1960s and 1970s were the most innovative and striking of the 20th century. And it is a shame that the boards of our museums have erased this image from our historical artefacts because the black, green and yellow taps in to their collective nostalgia.
Happy birthday, Wet Noodle.
(Royally pissed off CN 1954 scheme fans are invited to purchase little Jason Voodoo dolls direct from Rapido Trains Inc. for only $19.95.)
(For more on CN's 1961 image, read Eric Gagnon's excellent blog on the subject at Trackside Treasure.)
Well that's it for this issue. Thanks for reading!
Rapido Trains Inc.
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