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Musings on Rapido

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Hi guys,

 

I sent out the latest North American newsletter on Friday, which includes an essay on my recent China visit as well as Rapido's role/identity. Even if you have no interest in North American trains, you might find the essay interesting.

 

Have a look:

 

http://conta.cc/1rzd1m6

 

Thanks,

 

Jason

 

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Interesting. You've confirmed to me the opinion I've held for a while that for production in China to go smoothly it needs someone there on the ground pretty much all the time to keep an eye on things and make corrections to CAD before committing to tooling (or even to fix things post-tooling, as you did). Your comments seem to go some way to explain some of the model errors that have plagued Hornby and Bachmann.

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I think having several in a team who can quickly respond to the customers without having to bounce it via the boss is more important ;)

It's always going to be a Catch 22, they want more models but they don't want the company to change. Think on 10 years when Jason directs from his super yacht constantly cruising between China & Canada ;)

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I think having several in a team who can quickly respond to the customers without having to bounce it via the boss is more important ;)

It's always going to be a Catch 22, they want more models but they don't want the company to change. Think on 10 years when Jason directs from his super yacht constantly cruising between China & Canada ;)

 

You mean his Turbo Train, tearing up the CN rails...

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Hello all,

 

From indie garage bands to niche foods or artisanal clothing, there will always be a small section of the customer/fan base who don't like it when what was once their "best kept secret" becomes bigger and more mainstream.

 

Rapido must be doing something right.   And it certainly does seem to be the case that a periodic presence in China is likely to save significantly more than it costs in air fares and hotel rooms...

 

cheers

 

Ben A.

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You mean his Turbo Train, tearing up the CN rails...

 

 

The way things are going I'll be managing Rapido from upstairs in my BMMO D9.....

 

I was at the Great British Train Show here in the Toronto area yesterday and my purchases comprised two Routemasters in two different scales, a Travel West Midlands Volvo (outside my era of interest but what the heck) and a London trolleybus. Also picked up the massive history of Leyland for $5 and some bus annuals and other miscellaneous colour Ian Allen bus books for $2 - $5 each. What I wouldn't give for a Rapido-quality BCT Daimler CVG6 with "new look" tin front and proper raised bands between the decks... It would be even better as a 1:24 SunStar model!

 

Apparently Bill and Thomas scoped out the bus books before I got there and tried to hide a bunch of them so as not to feed my addiction. 

 

-Jason

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Well a bus makes sense as a travelling office ;)

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Interesting. You've confirmed to me the opinion I've held for a while that for production in China to go smoothly it needs someone there on the ground pretty much all the time to keep an eye on things and make corrections to CAD before committing to tooling (or even to fix things post-tooling, as you did).

Plus those whips won't crack themselves.

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I think Ban A has hit the nail on the head in that it is very common for enthusiasts of a small supplier, or fans of relatively unknown writers and musicians etc, to get quite negative if they see the wider market or a bigger audience discover these things.

 

On production, it is not even a China thing, it is just supply chain management and supervision wherever you do business if you are reliant on outsourced manufacture or supply of key components etc. My previous employer did a huge amount of business doing the design approval and manufacturing survey and verification of ships and their engines and equipment in China. There were plenty of horror stories in their activities over there but there was nothing that wasn't also found in other countries (including our own and countries like Germany) and provided things were well managed Chinese producers were fully capable of delivering high quality equipment.

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The way things are going I'll be managing Rapido from upstairs in my BMMO D9.....

  

 

-Jason

I have a model of the Midland Red 154 service I used to go to school back in the mid 1960s on my layout. It isn't totally correct for the location but neither is the APT-e running round it either.
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Having now read the newsletter from Jason a couple of times now I can honestly say that if Rapido does expand into the UK market then I for one wonder what will happen with the existing market. The $64K question is will the 'average train set modeller' be willing to pay for the level of quality Rapido produce or will they prefer to stick with the existing manufacturers with the well publicised issues of cost (only good 'value' if in a sale), quality (you might be lucky and get a good one) and prototype accuracy (near enough the right colour or shape).

 

Over the past few years there have been some superb new models from a variety of existing manufacturers but also too many absolute dogs from some of the same manufacturers who are happy to market them despite well known and publicised issues. With manufacturers like DJ Models starting to come on stream with a range of 'quality' models and now perhaps Rapido as well I for one will become even more selective as to where my money goes in future.

 

Looking back at my purchasing habits over the past few years I was surprised to see that I have actually purchased far less items year on year with even the outlay going down despite actual model costs rocketing -  I have already become much more selective despite increased disposable income!?! 

 

For me quality and fidelity to the prototype are now becoming key issues with the internet and sites such as RMweb providing the information and advice for all of us.

 

All power to Jason and his dedicated team....

 

Martin. 

 

 

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BMMO D9, quality choice.  If you fancy diversifying into 1:24 West Midlands buses like a D9, Walsall short Fleetline, or Birmingham Standards, I'll happily sell a kidney on eBay to bankrupt myself.

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Martin,

 

Some interesting and very pertinent points.

 

I will declare that the quality issue is more important than anything else and heartily congratulate Jason and his team on upping the bar, but keeping prices reasonable.

 

This drive to quality has actually been a climb upwards over the past 50+ years. There have been some notable slips and the whole output has been a bit of a game of snakes and ladders all be it all generally in an upward direction.

 

Those manufacturers who dont listen or dont learn, certainly dont get my custom. It is so disapointing that some have produced excellent models and then released a couple of 'dogs'.

 

So what next? Well with Rapido and some others making very accurate prototype models, the need to tighten up wheel and track standards has to be the next direction, otherwise things like out of scale wheels cause problems with brake block alignment and other matters. I loathe looking at 'narrow guage' looking track against a fine scale model.

 

There will be those who say it cannot and should not be done. Well just think back to Triang Hornby System Four and Super Six or whatever the marketing mens terms were for coarse scale and slightly finer scale track was in the 1960/70's.

 

It is high time that 1:76.2 scale was exactly that not just in the models and accessories but also in track guage and wheel standards.

 

And before anyone says that is too big a task, just look at Jim Smith-Wright's seminal Birmingham New Street in P4 and say you are not impressed.

 

With Rapido and others making their models ready to accept higher standards, then it is down to the modellers to up their game too, rather than simply playing trains. These are no longer toys, they are masterpieces and deserve much better layouts to run on.

 

I for one am taking up that challenge and suggest you ask yourself whether your models deserve better standards.

Edited by shreds
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I sent out the latest North American newsletter on Friday, which includes an essay on my recent China visit as well as Rapido's role/identity. Even if you have no interest in North American trains, you might find the essay interesting.

Jason, thank you for posting this here. I saw it on my mobile phone last week, but it was too much to process there.

 

It's nice to see an update from China, if for nothing else as a reminder of how much the 'little things' can adversely affect your business (and ultimately customer satisfaction, one way or the other in terms of quality or delays).

 

With the passion and integrity demonstrated by you and your company*, you've not lost anything.

 

* intentionally a lower case "c", but with you it's the same spelled either way.

 

We see it here everyday that so many model railway enthusiasts want to treat suppliers the same way as they would a vast multinational corporation, rather than small companies staffed with real people, in most cases, people who love what they do.

 

Mike McGrattan remains in my thoughts and trite as it sounds I wish him well.

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Martin,

 

Some interesting and very pertinent points.

 

I will declare that the quality issue is more important than anything else and heartily congratulate Jason and his team on upping the bar, but keeping prices reasonable.

 

This drive to quality has actually been a climb upwards over the past 50+ years. There have been some notable slips and the whole output has been a bit of a game of snakes and ladders all be it all generally in an upward direction.

 

Those manufacturers who dont listen or dont learn, certainly dont get my custom. It is so disapointing that some have produced excellent models and then released a couple of 'dogs'.

 

So what next? Well with Rapido and some others making very accurate prototype models, the need to tighten up wheel and track standards has to be the next direction, otherwise things like out of scale wheels cause problems with brake block alignment and other matters. I loathe looking at 'narrow guage' looking track against a fine scale model.

 

There will be those who say it cannot and should not be done. Well just think back to Triang Hornby System Four and Super Six or whatever the marketing mens terms were for coarse scale and slightly finer scale track was in the 1960/70's.

 

It is high time that 1:76.2 scale was exactly that not just in the models and accessories but also in track guage and wheel standards.

 

And before anyone says that is too big a task, just look at Jim Smith-Wright's seminal Birmingham New Street in P4 and say you are not impressed.

 

With Rapido and others making their models ready to accept higher standards, then it is down to the modellers to up their game too, rather than simply playing trains. These are no longer toys, they are masterpieces and deserve much better layouts to run on.

 

I for one am taking up that challenge and suggest you ask yourself whether your models deserve better standards.

Surely, if British modellers are required to 'up their game' with regard to scale accuracy, logic suggests (particularly when the bulk of Rapido's output is in internationally recognised scale/gauge combinations, that sticking with 1:76 (point 2 and all) is a nonsense and 'HO' 1:87 in line with the rest of the World makes much more sense. Similarly, the UK proportions of 'N' gauge need to be brought in to line, too. In fact, of course, such things are never likely, any more than manufacturers will abandon 16.5mm gauge for 18.83mm. The majority of the market is committed to the 'old' standards and is quite happy with what they've got and are getting. We are where we are. (CJL)

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On production, it is not even a China thing, it is just supply chain management and supervision wherever you do business if you are reliant on outsourced manufacture or supply of key components etc. ..... There were plenty of horror stories in their activities over there but there was nothing that wasn't also found in other countries (including our own and countries like Germany) and provided things were well managed Chinese producers were fully capable of delivering high quality equipment.

 From similar broad experience in several businesses of 'global' sourcing, I'd plunk my money down on a better than average result from Chinese manufacturing outfits, given an equivalent input of management attention. If you really want to see how things can be got wrong, try Birmingham, UK. Sorry folks, but there's some very wilfull shabby 'attitude' in the West Midlands and I'm never looking there again.

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We are where we are. (CJL)

 

^ This ^

 

The brutal truth is that for both 1:87 and 1:76.2, there have to be quite significant compromises to track/wheel standards to allow the kinds of radius curve that most people want to run their trains on.

 

Genuine RTR finescale in any scale requires that the tightest radius curve is much larger than any kind of set track, and so precludes 'train set' running environments. It seems that quite a lot of buyers of RTR model railway items run them on second and even first radius curves, and while that remains the case, don't expect any major output of a correct scale / gauge combination.

 

There might be a case for a high cost low volume production of a 1:87 or P4 range, but it's going to be very expensive, more of a mint condition collectors price where you'd be afraid to touch it, let alone run it.

 

So, as has been the case for decades, we have to adapt around where we are.

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RTR is a sensible compromise that works for new starters, those with a casual interest and the majority of enthusiasts. If you want finescale track then all you need to worry about is the chassis and can enjoy the hard work done on the bodyshell ;)

Model railways are a niche product so bucking the established standards and demanding very fine tolerances on the bits we build is going to limit that even more. There are plenty pursuing finer track and saving a lot of time by using and adapting rtr stock so apart from a vocal few why change? I'm also sure those vocal few would then bemoan the riff raff now being able to call their layout finescale if rtr was available ;)

Jason seems to be doing ok as the company continues to grow so someone must be paying these prices. We've got Railroad ranges, mass ranges and now several uping the stakes to very high levels of detail. That see to be a healthy market to cater to all tastes to me and the calls for a P train to follow up the E suggest there's others prepared to pay for someone else to do the hard work rather than convert a Hornby one ;)

But are there enough and more importantly would a manufacturer consider it a good risk? The Blue Pullman was only attempted after others proved there was an exclusives market but still was a gamble as it was a full train. The E train proves there's an even more exclusive market. Interesting times ;)

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RTR is a sensible compromise that works for new starters, those with a casual interest and the majority of enthusiasts. If you want finescale track then all you need to worry about is the chassis and can enjoy the hard work done on the bodyshell ;)

Model railways are a niche product so bucking the established standards and demanding very fine tolerances on the bits we build is going to limit that even more. There are plenty pursuing finer track and saving a lot of time by using and adapting rtr stock so apart from a vocal few why change? I'm also sure those vocal few would then bemoan the riff raff now being able to call their layout finescale if rtr was available ;)

Jason seems to be doing ok as the company continues to grow so someone must be paying these prices. We've got Railroad ranges, mass ranges and now several uping the stakes to very high levels of detail. That see to be a healthy market to cater to all tastes to me and the calls for a P train to follow up the E suggest there's others prepared to pay for someone else to do the hard work rather than convert a Hornby one ;)

But are there enough and more importantly would a manufacturer consider it a good risk? The Blue Pullman was only attempted after others proved there was an exclusives market but still was a gamble as it was a full train. The E train proves there's an even more exclusive market. Interesting times ;)

One wonders how the second run of Blue Pullmans will sell. How big was the niche?  (CJL)

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One wonders how the second run of Blue Pullmans will sell. How big was the niche? (CJL)

True but I assume they calculated to pay the costs off with one batch after saying it wasn't viable for so long so this in theory would just be a risk on production costs and actually making a good return on that initial investment. I know some will baulk at that as profiteering but in reality it is about having the financial backup to take gambles on future models. If they don't then the parent company will demand higher returns in initial batches and that will hurt even more ;)

If they sold this at a low price people would just scream why the next model jumped up in price so much ;)

They can't win . .

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Interesting thoughts from everyone.

 

When it comes to visible track in layouts, people often aim for broad radius curves and amazing realism. Then as soon as the train leaves the scene, it's #1 radius to get those trains round to the fiddle yard as quickly as possible. And there has been no attempt to fix that from the model press - I still see track plans with graceful curves on scene and what is clearly (if not labelled) #1 radius and short radius crossovers immediately off scene.

 

Modellers have to recognize that their trains are limited by the tightest curves on their layout, even if those curves are hidden. You may not be able to see that massive overhang from your full-length coaches or the deflection on tight crossovers, but it is still there. And engineering for those curves is a nightmare. We have to leave off a lot of details that are essential for the operation of a real two-car DMU when we allow for the crazy tight curves that the models will be subjected to.

 

As for switching from 16.5mm to 18.83mm track, I agree that this is a step too far for most people. We've all invested heavily in our models. We can't toss them all away for a new standard, even the new standard is more accurate. We simply can't afford it.

 

That being said, I really think that the UK needs to embrace DCC with much more gusto. DCC is worth the expense and the time to learn, even if you do have 25 locos that need to be fitted. That there are still new layouts being built today that are DC is like buying a new phone system for your office and then only using rotary/dial phones. They are lovely, they work well, but there are a whole bunch of phone numbers you can't call because the computer receptionists no longer give you the option not to press a button. (I own and use four different rotary phones, incidentally, including one at the office.)

 

Many models today worldwide are designed for DCC first, DC as an afterthought. In North American HO scale, DCC now has about 75% of the market. In the UK, it's more like 25%. But as the model railroad technology moves further and further away from 1930s DC control, it will get harder and harder to make the models backwards-compatible to DC layouts. We've been hearing of people trying to operate a sound-equipped APT-E with a home-built DC controller they bought secondhand 30 years ago. You don't expect to run today's computer software on a BBC Micro, but people expect that today's top-of-the-line models will operate using 1950s-built model railway control.

 

 

Best regards,

 

Jason

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...And engineering for those curves is a nightmare. We have to leave off a lot of details that are essential for the operation of a real two-car DMU when we allow for the crazy tight curves that the models will be subjected to...

 If you care to look at what one of the UK OO players have done - Bachmann - there's some good practise there. For example, make the body to scale, fit scale diameter wheels, then 'jack up' the spacing between bodies and wheelsets so that the excessive swing demanded by set track curves doesn't cause the wheels to machine through the body sides. The model looks flawed.

 

But, within the model there is a simple (and easily reversible) component modification that will reduce the spacing to scale. Now the tops of the wheelsets are inside the bodywork, so a circa 30" minimum radius is required to avoid body work damage. The model looks right.

 

I believe this is the desireable principle: as it enables anyone who cares to have the model look right.

 

The alternatives are more expensive or difficult to modify, respectively:

Well undersize wheelsets which clear under the body side but simply look wrong, which requires replacements purchased and then significant adjustments to the mechanism to install successfully, or;

Distort the body work to accomodate scale diameter wheels, that is visibly inaccurate and so much trouble to correct that you may as well scratch or kit build.

 

 

... I really think that the UK needs to embrace DCC with much more gusto...

 Generally tech adoption is pretty hot in the UK. Tell you what is missing in the UK as far as DCC is concerned, a real home-grown champion system. It should have been ZTC, but they are out of the running. Gaugemaster would be the other candidate existing business who come to mind - rock solid rep over decades for their DC control gear - had they taken the plunge on investment 20 and more years ago, and developed their own class leading system. Too late now.

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A working railway model will always be a compromise, the question is not so much whether we accept compromises (we all do, whether or not we admit that) but what degree of compromise we consider to be acceptable. One of the things that amuses me is to see products marketed as being made without compromise when the whole product is essentially a collection of compromises, cars being a good example. On the whole I think model manufacturers do a pretty good job in getting a decent balance.

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At the end of the day all design is compromise, it's deciding where that point of compromise occurs.

 

Better is the enemy of the good enough, however good enough today can quite quickly mediocre tomorrow.

 

The 1980s Hornby models were far ahead of their 1960s Triang ancestors, yet you will still find some serious compromises. One of the last 80s designs, the 28XX, the most expensive loco in their range with smoke and firebox glow was seriously stretched over an 8F chassis in order to share parts. At the time, most people were glad to have it and considered it fine (those with scale drawing doubtless frowned but this wax hardly the first time something was stretched), these days most people would not touch it.

 

Bachmann,s 159 and 166 of the late 1990s raised the bar in running qualities and fidelity. The one piece under frame detail would be frowned upon now.

 

Bachmann,s latest catalogue shows their recent DMUs have some 500 parts. Technology can make the parts finer than ever before. Modern electronics can give superb control over lights and sound, but still the whole thing is put together by people. A 1980s model with around 50 parts can be assembled in less than 5 minutes but not these things. The more people are involved the higher the cost goes.

 

The APT-E is excellent value for money, though does not have lots of diddly underframe detail. However the Stirling Single is up there with Bachmann prices. It will probably be better than the C1, but the C1, despite some compromises, is a dam good model. Doubtless the single will have some compromises too.

 

However where Rapido seems to be strong, is making sure silly avoidable errors don,t happen in the first place. Other manufacturers have gone to great expense producing these things and missing a serious error (ok DJM is still young and has yet to do an error). This takes talent as any process no matter how defined will always let something slip through. Talent will see beyond that process and a major weakness of multinationals is being too process based, leaving little room for talent to be creative. Rapido succeeds because it has talent...

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Surely, if British modellers are required to 'up their game' with regard to scale accuracy, logic suggests (particularly when the bulk of Rapido's output is in internationally recognised scale/gauge combinations, that sticking with 1:76 (point 2 and all) is a nonsense and 'HO' 1:87 in line with the rest of the World makes much more sense. Similarly, the UK proportions of 'N' gauge need to be brought in to line, too. In fact, of course, such things are never likely, any more than manufacturers will abandon 16.5mm gauge for 18.83mm. The majority of the market is committed to the 'old' standards and is quite happy with what they've got and are getting. We are where we are. (CJL)

Oh Heck Chris well done for dropping in the the scale vs gauge vs accuracy card!

 

If I was 40 or more years younger I would certainly be a P4 modeller and would probably be shouting down everyone who dared to model 'non scale' but I'm afraid age has made me realistic. Those few youngsters who are coming into the hobby are not likely to start out with EM or P4 but are likely to be OO (British outline) or HO (rest of the world) and if those OO modellers that stay with the hobby they will hopefully develop their skills and eventually move to up the scale ladder.

 

Back in the 1970's I tried 'N' gauge because of space considerations but found both track and mechanisms appalling so ventured into scratch building 2mm finescale but then paused because of family/work considerations then with a son interested in 'playing trains' 2mm was paused and off the shelf OO was flavour of the day for many years as a shared hobby. By the time I had time and money to get back to 2mm my abilities were being effected by dexterity and sight issues so I moved to OO and now enjoy modelling to the best of my abilities. Please don't mention moving to 'O' gauge or larger as I now have two enthusiastic young grandsons and the 'Thomas' trains are now number one priority - two new recruits to the hobby!

 

Everyone in our hobby is an individual with differing ideas and abilities so forums such as RMweb are a godsend in helping and developing the hobby for all of us, manufacturers included or rather those manufacturers who care to listen........

 

Martin. 

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