‘Tis the season!

It’s Saturday evening here and I’m sitting in my hotel room on the 13th floor (yes, they have them here – folks with Triskaidekaphobia be warned) of the Nile Hotel. This hotel is an interesting mix of East meets… well… East. As in Middle East. The whole place is decorated with ancient Egyptian themes. Sphinxes guard the drive in and the pharaohs stare down from the walls on the… Christmas decorations?

Coming from a German and English background, the Christmas season has always been an important time of the year for my family and me. Putting up the Christmas decorations together is a yearly tradition, although I tend to take after my father in being very protective of the tree decorating! There is, after all, only one or two correct ways to string the garland – a fact that my wife, Theresa, only realized after the first few years of our marriage. (Some might argue that she just now knows better and has decided to stay clear of the living room during tree decorating time, but why would she do that?) So it was with a hint of sadness that I boarded the plane to come to China, thinking that I would miss a big part of the Christmas season. I need not have worried!

Everywhere I go here is decked out in Christmas decorations. The lobby of the hotel includes a tree, Santa, a Christmas village and some lovely fake snow. The staff in the restaurant all wear Santa hats and the hostess even wears an angel outfit, complete with wings and often a halo. (When I first mentioned to Theresa that I was going down for breakfast and the hostess was a real angel I think she may have taken it the wrong way…). There are even Christmas carols playing in the restaurant and elevators. I admit that at first it was a little jarring to hear Jingle Bells sung with a Chinese accent, and it took me a moment to realize what a “wonhorshoppen slee” was, but there is no lack of spirit here! To be fair, the Chinese carolers do a much better job of singing in English than I do singing in Chinese, although Jason does pretty well. In fact, I believe that I have some video somewhere from my last trip that illustrates this point. (If you want to see this clip on YouTube when I get back please send your requests to “I Want to See Jason Do KTV in Chinese”, C/O Rapido Trains, 445 Edgeley Boulevard, Unit 1, Concord, ON L4K 4G1, Canada).

I’m now ten days into the trip there have been substantial progress made on a number of projects, most importantly The Canadian and the FP9. We’ve been going over numerous details, including final testing and approval of the electronics for the locos and cars as well as reviewing all of the various painting, lettering and detail variations.

 I’ve taken over half of our factory manager’s desk (left) during my visit. I am so glad that my desk at Rapido USA World Headquarters doesn’t look like this! Oh wait, it might… (right).

Those that have been following this project know that there are NUMEROUS different variations on the FP9’s. In fact I noted in my last blog that there were 28 different variations on the Canadian National (CN) and VIA Rail Canada schemes. This of course did not take into account the Canadian Pacific (CP) versions used in The Canadian which all sport a unique body with only (!) eight versions of the A units and a similar number for the F9B boosters. I apologize to CP fans everywhere for this oversight.

Because of all of the possible variations and the limitations of mass-produced moulds it will be necessary to hand drill (or more properly, machine drill) many of the detail part mounting holes using a CNC controlled drill. (For those who, like me, enjoy building resin kits – BOY could we use one of these things…). In order to test the programming for each of the mounting holes we’ve built up a couple of test mules which have all of the optional holes drilled and detail parts mounted to verify both location and fit. As you can imagine this has created some rather unique looking test mules, including a CNVIACP F9A which features all sorts of interesting detail parts and appendages! We’ve also tested and approved all of the lighting boards, including the roof top search light for the earlier CP units. I hope to have better some video footage that I can post sometime after I get back that will show this.

 One of our lighting mules. It might not win many points for decoration detail or assembly, but it sure does light up nicely!

In other Rapido product news, the shop floor is full (well, not just the floor but also the tables, packing areas, printing room… well, you get the idea) of parts for our HO Super Continental Line 6-4-6 sleepers, Grill-Parlor and Club-Galley cars. The factory is working toward shipping all the remaining versions of these before the Chinese New Year holiday in January. Look for them to arrive in late February or March.

Northern Pacific Grill-Parlor cars going through the decorating process. Those readers with pad (tampo)-printing experience will quickly recognize many familiar tools of the trade, including one strategically placed hair drier carefully affixed to the machine with precisely two rolls of only the best clear packing tape!

Reviewing the artwork for the Erie  Grill-Parlors.

Decoration QC and touch up on the NP cars.

Meawnhile, the assembly staff puts together Great Northern cars.

Thanks again for following along, and will have more news as it happens! Look for updates on what may be some of the most impressive packaging for an HO train ever coming soon…

Bill