Rapido UK Newsletter No. 6
©2021 Rapido Trains Ltd
Dear Rapido Customer,

How can it be mid-July already? The nights are drawing in and, before you know it, it’ll soon be Christm…

ANDY: Don’t say it!

RICHARD: OK, I won't. Moving swiftly along…

This newsletter might not be crammed full of new tooling announcements but we've been far from idle here at Rapido Trains UK. In fact, we've got lots of exciting stuff to tell you about.

Here’s what's in this month’s newsletter:

  • First look at the Gunpowder Van
  • Product development news
  • Jason explains how model companies manage money

But before we get to that, we're pleased to announce that Rapido Trains UK has a new home!

That’s right, Andy has the keys to a 3,000sq/ft warehouse. He’s only had access for a couple of weeks and there’s not much to see yet. But it's coming together nicely. Contractors have been hard at work turning what was an empty space into a home that's fit for a blossoming model railway business.

This place offers so much potential. It's got bags of space. We can just imagine it in a year or so, with designers working on new products, a bustling warehouse, a test track and all those important but less glamorous departments such as the warranty repair area.
It's official! We have a new and permanent home.
We’re not quite there yet and Andy still has much work to do…

ANDY: I know, and if you didn’t live so far away, you’d be able to help…

RICHARD: It’s true! When it's up and running and Andy's properly moved in, we'll be able to share the address and phone number. At the moment, all we can say is that that the new warehouse is in Kent and close to a railway. Hopefully, at some point in the future, we'll be able to invite you all to see it.
Andy has been grafting away, building several tonnes worth of racking. We can't wait to fill it all with new models!
16XX No. 1638
New PCBs are on their way to the UK which should fix the '16XX's' problems once and for all.
‘16XX’: the end is in sight

One of the problems with not having a warehouse is that we’ve not yet been able to fix the Model Rail ‘16XX’ DCC issue.

A new design of circuit board is winging its way to us. It looks good in theory but it will need thoroughly testing to ensure that we finally rid the ‘16XX’ of this gremlin.

Once we're happy with the new board, we will set up a repair facility in our new warehouse. We know that it's taken a lot of time to get this far and that it will take a bit more before we're ready and so we thank you once again for your continued understanding and patience. We will get this sorted!
This is the BR Dia. 1/260 Gunpowder Van, which is pretty much identical to the RCH diagram. We have tooled different buffers and different wheels to suit the different versions.
Gunpowder Vans: the full preview

Drum roll please...

Here are the first samples of our 'OO' gauge Gunpowder Van!

What you’ve seen previously are crude 3D prints that simply proves that the CAD works. What you see here are fully injection-moulded Engineering Prototypes from the actual tooling.

Needless to say, we're delighted with them.

Having overseen the final stages of the design process, I thought I knew what these wagons would look like. But nothing can truly prepare you for seeing what has only existed as coloured pixels on a screen in three-dimensional plastic reality.
This is the GWR Diagram Z4 version of the GPV. We have a few tweaks to make, most notably changing the roof rivets. The factory has incorrectly fitted BR buffers to this one.
Quite how the mould-makers have been able to create some of the fine detail on these vans is beyond me. Yet they have. Highlights include the beautiful little chain links on the doors.

It's the amount of metal involved that makes these models really stand out for me. I knew what materials were planned but nothing could prepare me for actually seeing the brass buffer heads and the tiny brass lamp irons. Even the ‘W’ irons and the tiebars are die-cast and they just shout ‘quality and reliability’.
You can tell the BR/RCH version by the drop-down roof over the main door. The eagle-eyed will also be able to spot that the headstock ends are different to the GWR ones. These differences only become obvious when you see these models in the flesh.
We’ve produced enough parts (wheels, buffers and doors) in order to model the Railway Clearing House GPV and the largely similar BR Diagram 1/260 as well as the GWR Diagram Z4. Key differences between them are the roof arrangements over the doors and the different headstock ends.
This is the GWR van, which has different door catches and warning plate position. The roof is longer, too.
Out of interest, I decided to compare these EPs with a competitor's 12t vent van. This tooling is few years old now but it's still a highly regarded model. It wasn't until I started looking that I realised just how much more detail the GPVs have. The vent van has a flat plastic area underneath but we've included the chassis members, the drawhook springs and the brake linkages.
Here's the competition...
Now compare that with our GPV. Just look at all that underframe detail. Tempted? We don't blame you!
How many times, when suggesting a subject for a ready-to-run model, do you hear the phrase, “No problem, they’re all the same"? Very rarely is that assumption correct.

They might look outwardly the same but the various types of GPV are all different. I’ve mentioned some of the key variations above but you only have to study a few photographs to realise that there are some differences that we've not been able to include.

We have BR, GWR, LNER/LMS and Royal Ordnance Factory liveries in our first batch of models and all the prototypes had different roofs. We’ve had to compromise by tooling just two types.
Our model just oozes quality. You can see the crispness of the rivet and door detail. The 'W' irons and tiebars are metal so that when you pick the model up, you grip sturdy metal rather than fragile plastic.
Different wagon builders added extra small bracing plates to some of the stanchions. Again, because these parts are so small, we’ve not replicated them.

Yes, we could have tooled all these tiny variations but we would have ended up with such an expensive model that no one would want to buy it.

So why sour the first look of the GPVs by bringing this up?

All model manufacturers have to make compromises such as these. The difficulty is choosing which compromises will be acceptable and which ones won’t. If you can spot something on the real thing that we've not included by all means let us know. But there will likely be a practical reason why we've not tooled it.
We couldn't leave the subject of the GPVs without giving you one last look. We're really proud of these stunning little models. They’re incredibly free running, look great and, we think, competitively priced for what they offer. Order now: you know you want to!
So, what happens next? We’ve made a couple of tweaks to the tooling and the artwork is underway. I, for one, can’t wait to see painted samples.

Now that your appetite has been whetted, you can order your GPVs either from an official Rapido UK stockist or direct from us here. Don't forget that the September 1 order deadline is rapidly approaching!
Is it real? This is a 3D laser scan from Advanced Laser Imaging that will enable our designers to produce the definitive 1:76 scale Bedford OB coach.
Another month…

…and another Titfield product makes progress. Andy had a fun day out in sunny Hampshire with Mark DeGiovanni, Technical Director of Advanced Laser Imaging, to scan Bedford OB CCF648.

This beautiful coach is owned by John Woodhams and is currently in the care of Mervyn’s Coaches at Micheldever. As you can see above, the scan is complete. It’s now gone to the factory for tracing and, hopefully, it won’t be too long before we can show you how it will look in 1:76 scale form.

We wish to thank both John and Merv for giving us unfettered access to the coach, particularly to Merv for being so welcoming on the day.
Beauty, ain't she? John Woodhams' immaculate OB CCF648 in the yard at Mervyn's Coaches near Winchester.
The laser scanners are in place and ready to run their beady red eyes over the swooping Duple Vista bodywork. Note the gaffer's tape in the windows so the scan can measure their contours as well.
We haven't forgotten our other Titfield items either. Here's a sneak peek at what's happening with them:
The Loriot Y design is nearly complete. It's looking very smart.
One of the challenges of designing a wagon like the Loriot Y is working out how to produce all the brake gear that is tucked under the ends. Looks as though our designers have cracked it.
The Dia. AA20 'Toad' brakevan is coming together really nicely. The body has that classic GWR 'Toad' look. This is another Rapido Trains UK product that's being designed in Britain.
The bodywork is nearly complete. Now our designers are turning to the under frame.
A close up of the guard's verandah. You can almost see Mr Chesterford playing with his flags amidst the hanging baskets...
This somewhat strange looking piece of metal is proof that tooling is well underway with the Hunslet 16in 0-6-0ST. We’re expecting to have samples to show you before long. These are the cab end slides on the mould.
Progress report: July 2021

You can see that we’re making great strides with some projects. But what about the others?

Well, the good news is that both the BCT ‘New Look’ Guys and WMPTE Fleetlines are making excellent progress. We expect that both buses will ship within weeks with delivery expected mid-September 2021.
Our Fleetline project is nearing completion. Here's No. 6965 in West Midlands Travel grey and blue and No. 6466 in WMT blue and cream. There are plenty more to choose from!
A completed WMPTE Fleetline that's ready to join its brethren awaiting the smart new packaging we have lined up for these models. We're hoping that these buses should ship in the next few weeks, arriving in the UK in mid-September.
We'll leave you with one final image of a WMT grey/blue Fleetline. This one is just waiting for its bonnet. But doesn't it look stunning?
More exciting news: by the time you read this, the MetroVick Type 2 Co-Bo should be approved for tooling. We expect to start cutting metal shortly and we hope to have samples to view at Warley.
Class 28 3D render
A 3D render of our 'N' gauge Class 28. We still have plenty of changes to make to the design.
We actually owe a great debt to one of Rapido's American employees, Paul Cutler, who has proven very adept at catching design errors that nobody else can see, including the folks restoring D5705! We expected to start tooling last month but Paul's discoveries have required some tweaking of the design.

Hopefully, there’ll be more to show you next month.
Rapido APT-E
There's still time to order your APT-E but you'll have to be quick!
APT-E: what happens now?

Well, the APT-E order book has closed and the order has gone to the factory. If you've ordered one, it should land in the UK in January 2022 (but it might, with a fair wind, get here a little quicker than that).

We have made a few extra APT-E sets (both sound and non-sound) plus some extra Trailer Cars so if you haven't placed an order yet, you can. However, there is only a limited stock of these extra models and once they're gone, they're gone.

Everyone who has already placed an order is guaranteed their model. But all future APTs are on a 'first come first served' basis and we have no idea how long the stock levels will last.

Our advice is simple: get your order in now before it's too late!
CAD render of '15XX'
Want to know what's happening with the '15XX'? Read on...
Thought of the Month (previously called ‘The Essay’)

You may have noticed that the ‘15XX’ is not included in the progress report above. We have to hold up our hands at this point and be completely honest: we haven't, actually, made any more progress with this model.

Before the keyboard warriors start devising conspiracy theories that could put an X-Files writing session to shame, there’s nothing sinister going on here. The design is finished… but we cannot yet allocate the funds to get it tooled.

Remember a couple of newsletters ago when we joked that Jason really loves the ‘15XX’? That comment was dripping with sarcasm for one reason: Jason was surprised that such a small locomotive could cost so much to make.

The reason for this is simple. Outside cylinders and valvegear was rare on British four- and six-coupled tank locomotives. While they give the ‘15XX’ its distinctive character, in model terms, they make what is outwardly a small locomotive as complex to make as, say, a ‘4MT’ 2-6-4T or even a ‘Black Five’.
You wouldn't believe how much it costs to make all this...
Contrary to popular belief, model manufacturers do not have pots of cash lying around to throw at new products. Tooling a new project requires careful budgeting. When you have multiple projects that all require tooling, that budgeting has to be even more careful. So when a model comes in more expensive than expected, it throws a real spanner in the works.

Jason made the decision to tool the Hunslet, the Class 28 and some more wagons first as this will bring more product to market more quickly. That's because the tooling cost of all of those combined is not far off the tooling cost of the '15XX'.

To give you an idea of just how finely balanced a model manufacturer's finances are, Jason is going to take over to give a thorough and eloquent account (no pun intended) of how model manufacturers balance their books.

Jason, over to you:

JASON: Thanks, Richard! This is based on a column that I wrote for the July 2021 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman.

Speak to any model railway manufacturer about their biggest headache and you will almost always hear the same response: cash flow.

Cash flow is, simply, how much cash a company has on hand to pay its bills. Sometimes a company can show a profit but still shut down due to cash flow problems. This is a bigger risk in our industry than in many others because our capital costs are so high and the product development time is so long.
How do you make a small fortune in model railway manufacturing? Start with a large fortune!
For model trains, those capital costs are the tooling, the actual steel or aluminium moulds that are used for injecting the plastic and die-cast parts for our models. A new ‘OO’ gauge wagon can cost over £30000 to tool, while a new diesel locomotive can easily cost two or three times that. Steam locomotives are often more.

It depends on how complex the model is and what level of detail the manufacturer wants. Those tooling costs are just for the physical moulds. They don’t include the hundreds or even thousands of hours of research, development and designing time that are spent on a model.
This seemingly innocuous piece of metal is a mould that costs several thousand pounds to make. The '15XX' requires so many moulds that it's a very expensive model to make. It has so many moulds that it requires careful budgeting to get it into tooling.
On average, it takes about a year to get a wagon from the research stage onto model shop shelves. A locomotive can take much longer.

How long the design process takes often depends on how much information the manufacturer has to start with. If we have to go and measure a wagon and draw it from scratch, it will add several months to the development time. If we discover that we were missing some key information and we discover this after we’ve tooled the model, that could add a further six months or more to the development time as we modify the moulds or even create new ones.

During that time, the manufacturer still has to pay the bills. It has to pay salaries, marketing costs, travel costs, rent, utilities and taxes on its premises. We simply can’t wait and pay our employees only when a model comes in.

To illustrated this, how the cash flow process works, I’m going to make up a model train manufacturer, Acme Trains.
Acme Trains - a subsidiary of the Acme Corporation...
Acme Trains has £500,000 in the bank and £2,000,000 worth of confirmed pre-orders for upcoming products. The cost of those products, including tooling, amounts to £1.2m. On paper, therefore, Acme is doing very well. It looks like it will have a 40% gross profit and £500,000 in the bank. Great!

However, every month, it costs Acme £50,000 in overhead to keep the lights on, pay salaries and advertise those upcoming products. It also has to pay for tooling. That’s £300,000 in three payments spread over six months. Acme also needs to pay the factory 50% to start production (that’s £450,000) after tooling has finished and another 50% when models are shipped. Production will take five months and the models will spend another month sat in a container.

That means that Acme will be out of money at the end of Month 5 and £600,000 in the hole by the end of Month 6. By the time Acme actually delivers the trains in Month 12, the company will be £1.5m in debt.

Once all those pre-orders have been fulfilled and the money taken, it will leave Acme with £500,000 in the bank, which is what it started with in the first place.
Fleetlines in the factory
WMPTE Fleetlines in our factory. Moulding, painting and assembling components such as these is a hugely labour-intensive and expensive process.
Now, I have grossly simplified this situation. In reality, model manufacturers will have a variety of models in production at one time, to help spread out the ‘peaks and troughs’. If you compare the capital costs of model railway manufacturing to something like software development, you are talking apples and raisins. Actually, raisins are too big. It’s more like comparing apples and fruit flies.
Maybe I'm Amazed at how you cost so much to make...
Right now, there are huge supply chain disruptions around the world which are affecting our industry. There is a global shortage of circuit board components, meaning that, at the time of writing, we have a room in one of our factories filled with completed locomotives waiting for circuit boards.
Compared to the speed at which our shipments are moving these days, the service in the photo above - water-logged track and all - is positively "speedy."
Photograph: Greg McDonnell
There is a shipping container shortage, meaning that our shipments that used to take four weeks are now taking six or seven... or even eleven, as in the case of the poor SW1200 locomotives for North America! There is a steel shortage, so all our tooling costs have gone up by 10% to 15%.

Companies sitting on a lot of cash can weather storms like these. But, in our industry, we tend not to sit on cash. If we have spare cash, we use it to tool new models. Which is what will happen when we get some – we’ll use it to pay to tool the ‘15XX’.
Setting up Rapido Trains UK's warehouse costs money; paying staff costs money; developing new trains costs money; proof that making model trains isn't a gravy train.
The model train industry will weather through these storms as we have weathered through harder challenges in the past. I do foresee some price increases in the future and, hopefully, this column has helped to explain why you’ll see those increases.

There is a misconception that model railway manufacturing is some kind of cash cow and that model manufacturers sit there counting money from their private yachts in the Caribbean. This is not true. We’re just a bunch of regular people trying to make a living doing what we love.

And the Caribbean is so overrated, anyway.
Well, that's it for another month.

Join us next time as we might have a new tooling announcement to make. Don't miss it!

And tell your friends and fellow modellers that they can sign up to our newsletter here. They won't be disappointed. Probably.

Richard Foster
Sales & Marketing Manager
Rapido Trains UK
You can write to us at Rapido Trains UK, PO Box 1408, Maidstone, Kent, ME149YR. Alternatively, you can call us on 01622 801204 or you can
e-mail us at customerservice@rapidotrains.co.uk