How to Get yourself in Trouble with Model Railroad Pre-Orders

Pre-ordering, it’s the bane of the hobby and a necessary evil all at the same time.  As the quality of models have gone up, and the market has changed, manufacturers and retailers doing commissioned special products want to make sure they don’t get left with thousands of models that they can’t sell or have to discount.   It’s great for the manufacturers as they know exactly how many models to make, and if it will be profitable, but it has tougher impacts on retailers and customers.  The burden of bearing costs of stock have moved from the manufacturers (theoretically with the deepest pockets financially), to the Retailers (middle-sized pockets), and no doubt they are trying to find ways to move the customers (smallest pockets).  I understand this, and in theory I don’t have a problem with everyone bearing some of the risk, but it also means you have to make purchase decisions sometimes years in advance and then have to budget hundreds of dollars not knowing when you will actually have to pay it, or what the final price will be (assuming your retailer doesn’t honour the originally announced price). It also means, if you think you really need a model for a layout, and you don’t order it, you either will never get it, or have to pay a premium on the secondary market later, as no where will have stock sitting around. It’s a disincentive to people getting into the hobby as well in my opinion as people see models, and can never buy them if something would draw them in.  I’m not so smart as to think I have any idea how to fix this, but that’s my mini-rant for now.

The point of this post, was to tackle my own pre-order issues in the face of yet another announcement of a new product.

Early on after I started this blog in May 2016, I wrote a post on my over-abundance of projects.  In that post, under a category of maybe, I spoke of my love for the preserved locomotives of the Caledonian Railway in Scotland”

Caledonian Railway Locomotives.

  • I’d like to build a model of the first steam locomotive I remember, Caledonian 419 from Bo’Ness, but only tricky white metal kits are out there.  I’d also like a model of Caley Jumbo 0-6-0 812, then I’d have models of all three preserved Caledonian Railway locomotives with the Hornby No.123 I have.  Why I need these, well, I don’t, but I want them, which is dangerous.

I haven’t managed to fix my over abundance of projects, not entirely at least.  I’ve been working on it, and trying to stick to finishing things on my workbench rather than finding more, with varying degrees of success.  I have a lot of kits in the pipeline, but they are theoretically freight cars for the planned layout, not new projects that generate a need for more storage or display space

Well, this morning at Model Rail Scotland in Glasgow, the UK retail store Rails of Sheffield announced that they have commissioned Bachmann to produce an exclusive model of the Caley Jumbo 812 class locomotive, one of the two wants on my list quoted above.  As of this morning, they are taking Pre-Orders with a £30.00 deposit (see that comment above about moving the risk and costs to the smallest pockets).  And now I’m sitting here at work, working and blogging and trying to figure out how to convince myself not to place the deposit.

6210944064_f4f61c9d98_oLook at those lines, Victorian Railroading at its Finest (built in 1899 and still running today), and now announced in a Ready to Run exclusive model for the Rails of Sheffield store in England.  Seen here on the Severn Valley Railway in September 2011.

This is where getting into trouble comes into things.  I have a number of models on Pre-Order, some for projects which are “real”, some which are really just display/collection pieces, and I don’t have any room to display them in our current apartment (which poses a problem, and part of the reason I have a table to try to sell off some models in April at the Lakeshore Model Railroaders Flea Market, but I digress, more on that in the future).

My pre-order list maybe isn’t as long as some peoples, but its long enough:

  • Realtrack ScotRail Class 156 – This is a shelf model. I’ll probably regret this one, but its in and being billed sometime soon when.  My only justification was one of my earliest models as a kid was a Lima Class 156 model that my grandfather gave me. It’s a pretty rough model by today’s standards, and the new one is manufactured by Rapido Trains for Realtrack and is a real stunner in both looks and the DCC sound.
  • Rapido SW1200RS CNR – This is one that is due to arrive in Canada in March 2018, it’s on the water as I type coming from the factory to Rapido. At least this is a must have for my modelling era and will likely be a core locomotive on the Liberty Village Line layout.
  • Heljan Lynton & Barnstaple OO9 2-6-2 Locomotive. This pre-order also came from an idea for a diorama to use other models I own in that 2016 post, and it did prompt me to build a custom OO9 locomotive and start a narrow gauge shelf layout (that I haven’t worked on in a while…seems to be trend there). The first run that mine was a part of had all kinds of problems, leading to them being effectively recalled to be re-manufactured.  Allegedly due back to the UK in March 2018, that remains to be seen.  UK pre-orders are a real pain between the potential for price increase and currency conversion rates.
  • Bachmann Scotrail DBSO, a companion to a customized Class 47 #47703 locomotive I did to model a 1980’s ScotRail Push-Pull Trainset. They announced them in March 2013, I think I ordered mine in 2015 or 2016, could show up someday, there’s at least been an engineering prototype produced now.  This is probably one I could still cancel the order for without hurting the Canadian importer I use for some of my UK models.
  • Rapido Canadian Pacific Royal Hudson – Another display case model, as I’m ordering the 1939 Royal Train version of locomotive 2850. First samples look amazing, sounds like it may be in production by end of 2018.  This one’s also one I could cancel, but I’ve wanted a model Royal Hudson since I was probably 10 or 12 years old, and I know I’d kick myself until the end of time if I passed on it now.
  • Locomotion Models/National Railway Museum Great Western Railway 4-4-0 City of Truro.  A model that was released probably 8 years ago now that I’ve been kicking myself over missing that whole time. Another not for layout, but a locomotive that I find incredibly attractive and allegedly a record breaker.  This is another one I could maybe back out of, but I’ve already spent the better part of a decade wishing I’d bought one the last time it was made.

So six big items. Definitely not as bad as many people’s lists, but it’s still a lot of money to budget for, especially as if the rule of the land holds true, and they all show up at the same time!

So back to the just announced model. There is only one British locomotive that I have no layout for that I would want more, and every time someone starts a discussion about a new announcement, everyone expects someone to announce it…

01234_n_15amvrns7n1234The only thing that would have been worse than the announcement of 828, a Caledonian 419 at Bo’Ness, the first working steam locomotive I remember as a child.

A Caledonian Railway Class 439 0-4-4 Tank Engine.  One is preserved, by the Scottish Railway Preservation Society at their Bo’Ness and Kinneil Railway outside Edinburgh.  This was the first steam locomotive I can remember seeing in steam and riding behind, and it has a special place in my heart because of that!

If today’s announcement had been a 419, it would have been meme time…

takemymoneyThank you Futurama…the best most underrated cartoon of the 00’s, That Statement is Technically Correct, the Best Kind of Correct…I’ll stop now and show myself out..

As it is, I suspect in the next few weeks I will place a pre-order for an “As Preserved” model of 828, but I’m not rushing onto my keyboard to place the order. I’m typing a lengthy convoluted blog post to stop myself from doing that. See, good things can happen on the internet!!  Rails is apparently saying 18 months to delivery, or mid 2019. That means no need to rush and order today, can think about it, and make sure if I’m going to, that I get it in before orders close.  It would also likely be the furthest out of my current pre-orders, meaning all the other things I’ve committed to buy should arrive before it.

6213612559_a49b1964ff_oPreserved Caledonian Railways “Jumbo” 812 class locomotive 828 at the Severn Valley Railway in 2011. She’s a looker, and the “As-Preserved” model announced today is seriously tempting me.

Tuesday Train #92

IMGP5371RawConvMail Rail! A narrow gauge system extending 6.5 miles beneath the City of London which operated from 1927 to 2003 moving parcels and mail on automated trains between different postal sorting centres.  A portion of the system beneath the Mount Pleasant depot has been opened with new trains offering a ride and multimedia experience explaining the history of the system as part of the redeveloped Postal Museum.

More on Mail Rail:

IMGP5336RawConvRolling through the tunnel on the Mail Rail train.

Getting GOing again on a Project

I haven’t worked much on the first test of the Hawker Siddeley single level GO car since last fall.  The discovery of the CAD error in the first print in October (see here) has kinda set me back, as despite the quick fix in the 3D computer model, I haven’t really felt like spending the money to re-print the first sample body until I was certain any other issues were found out.  For now and for me, for my first sample and the model that will be in my collection, for the moment, I can live with the wrong window radius.  This weekend, I finally got off my rear end and said I’m sick of looking at the half finished bits of this car.  Lets actually paint the fine details, and look at what needs to be done so the car is presentable.  Ordinarily, the upcoming Barrie-Allandale Train Show on the February 17-18th would be cause for motivating me to have had it done, but the Toronto Railway Museum isn’t able to attend the show this year, so my models won’t be out on display.  Their next major outing is likely now Doors Open Toronto at the Roundhouse on May 26-27.  That gives me more time for getting any parts I discover I need, but to figure that out, I actually need to work on it.

IMGP6672RawConvTinting clear styrene window strips with Tamiya Clear Smoke paint. It looks better when done and dry than this mid way though shot makes it look.

With the window error, and this being the largest 3D printed body I’ve designed, along with a completely 3D printed interior and underbody, there’s lots of learning experiences in this project. Not only fit and clearance to make sure the parts still fit when assembled and things like clear window glazing are added, but making sure you can even do things like finish the car and assemble it and have it run.  It has all fallen down on the have it run, my first attempt at 3D printed trucks are to be kind, garbage, but as they are easily swapped out, the only thing really keeping me from moving forward was myself.  I’ve also discovered some parts of the body and underframe have warped over time, even with the strengthening brass in the frame.  This is something I’ll need to examine more, though the longer I have looked at and worked on the car, I suspect that if I ever manage to bring it to the market, it will be by using the 3D prints as masters for resin castings, not as a fully 3D printed car.  The 3D printed material is just posing too many issues for something of this size thats designed to actually run on your layout.

IMGP6673RawConvMagnets to hold the body and frame together and in alignment. A trick I learned while designing D-1, but taken from an Athearn/Roundhouse coach I was using for parts on that project.

The two biggest tasks were installing magnets to hold the frame and body together, and finishing the windows.  The Magnets are 0.125″ diameter round magnets, that are set into circular openings in the frame and body prints and held in place with CA. I’d use epoxy, but I have concerns with the bit of heat it generates as it cures warping the 3D printed parts, CA doesn’t have this side effect.

For the windows, it was a slow and steady couple of hours lining the window frame gaskets black, then inserting the windows with a smoke tint.  One thing I realized from this is the full interior gets lost with the smoke.  This is good for the future as not having the interior would reduce the cost of the 3D prints substantially.

Progress on GO Cab Car 104 as preserved at the Toronto Railway Museum. Need to sort out the cab stripes, then I can finish the front end details.

At times today, it felt like every two small steps forward I took, I took one big step back.  It took four attempts at figuring out how to get a number board into place in the cab.  I’d designed them thinking I could light them.  Same for the headlights above the cab.  Both of those have been non-starters because of other design decisions in how the pieces went together, that whole learning by doing with the 3D designing of models I mentioned above.  For future prints I’ll be making some changes to the design of the interior to leave more clearance for fitting it in when the windows are glazed, and to make installing the number boards a bit easier.

I also discovered that somewhere along the line, I ruined the screw holes for mounting the couplers.  That resulted in me having to go at the front end of the car with my Dremel to drill through the brass bar that forms the spine of the car to let me create new mounting holes for the coupler screws.  It worked, but only just barely was I able to create new holes and tap the brass bar enough to take the screw.  Again, this kind of error doesn’t hurt as bad on my car that will likely never run on a layout, but I need to sort out what I did wrong in the design to make sure someone else doesn’t have that problem if I sell them a print.

All in all, despite many frustrating setbacks, I managed to advance the model a lot.  I certainly know some spots where I need to go back to the 3D model and make adjustments before any future prints of parts of the car are attempted.

Tuesday Train #91

IMGP5078RawConv.jpgStephenson’s Rocket, winner of the 1829 Rainhill Locomotive Trials, preserved at The Science Museum in London

In the early days of railways, locomotive technology was advancing in leaps and bounds, different concepts of locomotive design were being thought up and tested.  One of the seminal early railway events was the “Rainhill Trials” held in 1829. Originally 10 locomotives were to compete and be tested on a standardized series of tests to see which design worked best.  Only 5 would make it to the starting line, and the winner of the competition was Robert Stephenson’s Rocket.  The contest was put on by the Liverpool and Manchester Railway to help them choose the locomotive manufacturer for when the line opened.  Rocket won the competition, with many design features that would be common for the next century and a half of designing and building steam locomotives.  At the time, its top speed of 30 miles per hour was a world speed record for a rail vehicle.

Rocket was donated to the Patent Office Museum in 1862 (now the Science Museum) in London.  The locomotive was modified from its original 1829 appearance during its operating life, and has been preserved and maintained in the modified form in the 155 years its been a museum piece.

More views of the original Rocket as preserved at the Science Museum in London.

Because of its fame and significance in setting the course of locomotive design, Rocket is widely known, and over the years several replicas have been made.  There are at least two in the United States (one in Illinois and one in Michigan), built in 1929 by the Robert Stephenson company which built the original locomotive, and two in the UK, built in 1935 as a static cut-away and a working replica built in 1979 (both at the National Railway Museum in York).

Rocket Replicas, at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn Michigan, and two at the National Railway Museum in York, England (top Sectioned showing how it worked, and bottom, the operational replica disassembled for restoration).