16 Jul Jason & Gareth’s Brilliant British Adventure: 1
Rapido UK Blog / July 16, 2017
Jason & Gareth’s Brilliant British Adventure: 1
Launching the first British Rapido bus
By Gareth Bayer
Follow Jason & Gareth’s Brilliant British Adventure from start to finish:
1 – Launching the first British Rapido bus
2 – Driving the Sandtoft Trollies
3 – Exploring Rails of Sheffield
4 – A hard day’s work with Revolution Trains
5 – A day at the seaside with Railway Modeller
We weren’t sure what to expect for our first British Bus Scan Party at the Transport Museum, Wythall. Past events at Locomotion Shildon to kick off the APT-E and Stirling Single had been very successful and there was always a little worry at the back of our mind that no-one would turn up.
Jason was the first to arrive…. on the Friday! Insisting it was for an initial survey of the site, it was actually because he now prefers the company of buses to people. Spending the day surrounded by Wythall’s eclectic collection is Jason’s idea of bliss and the excellent Transport Museum, Wythall, has become a regular stop on past trips to the UK.
I made my way over on the Sunday morning after the long trek from Toronto, loaded down with samples of our models, via a quick visit to my parents in East Anglia.
Other than the British bus launch we had two big aims for our day at Wythall: 1/ to complete a 3D scan of the bus and 2/ to introduce Rapido to a new segment of the market and show people what we do. As well as being our first British bus, this would also be our first British model under our own name which upped the stakes considerably.
Our chosen bus, the Gardner-6LW powered Birmingham City Transport (BCT) Guy Arab IV with a Metro Cammell Weymann (MCW)-built body, is considered a classic by bus fans but for most of us (including me) it needs a little introduction.
Some 200 examples of this particular Birmingham bus were delivered between 1952-4. The design was considered quite innovative when the first iteration was launched in 1950 and many hundreds of similar buses were built by other chassis and coach builder combinations. The concealed radiators were widely adopted by other bus operators all over the UK and their modern appearance led to the nickname “New Look” after Christian Dior’s famed dress designs of the 1940s. This is not to be confused with our HO scale model of the equally classic GM “New Look” bus.
Two examples of the BCT “New Look” were on display, JOJ 976 and MOF 9.
Now, normally, when a manufacturer picks a new model they are looking for the perfect project that meets a number of different criteria. I’ve just decided to call these the five “L”s, for longevity, lots of liveries, lots of locations (geographical spread), a lack of other models (or the quality of existing models) and the prototype’s appearance on lots of (wish)lists.
Our first North American model bus, the aforementioned GM “New Look”, fits all of these criteria perfectly. They were ubiquitous in the US and Canada, they lasted for ever, existing models are terrible, and so on. The Birmingham “New Look” on the other hand doesn’t hit many of these targets. Erm, ok, the closest it gets is that it isn’t exactly popular in model form. However, we do have a cunning plan…
The British bus market is amazingly well served by various manufacturers …as long as you like die-cast. Die-cast buses make wonderful collectors items but to our eyes, smaller scale die-cast often looks out of place on most model railways where they can now expect to be surrounded by modern high quality plastic injected-moulded model railway products. This is especially the case for older vehicles as it is extremely difficult to represent rivets using die-cast.
Rather than launch in the UK with something obvious like a Routemaster which potential customers would likely tune out amongst all the other Routemaster models, Jason’s big idea was to reveal something unexpected, that might actually be rise above the normal internet noise level. A subject that might provoke discussion. That Jason used to live in Birmingham and had fallen in love with the Brummie “New Look” was, of course, secondary.
That somehow over 75% of past North American Rapido products have prototypically run on the Kingston Subdivision in Southern Ontario circa 1980, the exact same route that Jason just happens to be modelling, is also, of course, entirely secondary.
Back to the launch. Some effort had gone on behind the scenes at Rapido HQ in the months leading up to the event to try and and reach out to a wider audience than just railway modellers. As well as cultivating links with publications like Buses magazine we also managed to have some limited success with local media. For once we felt we had done all we could in advance.
The third member of the Rapido team at Wythall was Terry Wynne. Terry has been a good friend to the company from the start and if you’re based in the UK and purchased a North American model direct from us then Terry probably posted it to you. He’s been a regular presence on our exhibition stands, which was his main job today. So while Terry was ably looking after the displays inside, Jason talked buses with visitors while I took photos and measurements.
Despite Rapido’s Canadian roots we had quite the varied collection of new and recent models to show off. North America was well represented, but we were especially please that British prototypes now took up around 50% of the table space, with production models of the APT-E, ScotRail Saltire Class 156, and Revolution N TEAs. We also had new samples of the Class 92, OO TEA and N gauge KFA, all of which have arrived in the last two-five weeks. Also new was a production sample of our Pennsylvania Railroad Alco FA-2 locomotive. The latter is so hot off the press that this is its first appearance outside the Rapido office.
We hadn’t even had a chance to get all of these models out of their packaging when the first enthusiasts turned up eager to chat buses and find out more about our chosen BCT bus. This was still one hour before doors open. We considered this an encouraging sign.
By the time the 3D scan of JOJ 976 started at 12 noon, Wythall was buzzing with over 50 people through the door. Not bad we thought. By the time we had the bus up on jacks ready to scan the underside of the bus we reckoned between 120-150 people had passed through the gate. Kevin Hill’s sister “New Look” MOF 9 was busy all afternoon offering bus rides around the local area.
3D scanning technology is becoming more common in the hobby in the UK, especially for older vehicles that pre-date computer aided design. Finding complete drawings of older equipment can often be impossible. Our chosen scanning company, the very nice chaps at Central Scanning of Birmingham, had already made one site visit last week to make a preliminary scan of the body. Their main task on the Sunday was to complete the job with a full scan of the underside (we’re not happy unless our models look just as good flipped on their roof in a ditch).
Scanning the underside involved lifting the bus six feet up in the air courtesy of Wythall’s recently acquired Somers column-style vehicle jacks. Unlike a railway vehicle or a car these actually lift the bus up from under the wheels – a little worrying at first but very safe. As well as the scan we took lots of pictures and video for the designer back at Rapido HQ.
As well as JOJ 976 and MOF 9, Daimler CVD6-chassied Met-Camm “New Look” JOJ 707 was also on display. The similarities were obvious – as you’d expect from two contemporary buses with bodywork from the same coachbuilder – although the differences were equally striking.
Feedback from visitors was overwhelmingly positive, and we even took a decent number of pre-orders on the day. It seems that quite a few bus fans have been looking enviously at the high standard of model railway products now available and wondered why bus models had not seen a similar leap in quality. We were bombarded with ideas for new buses and we really appreciate the good wishes that people passed to us.
We’d even been anxious beforehand about aggressive prodding from passionate Midland Red followers, but all the BMMO fans were super nice people who couldn’t wait for us to get on and make a D7 (a contemporary of the BCT “New Look” – also with a Met-Camm body – and apparently BMMO’s first “lightweight” double-decker).
The last visitors left shortly after 4pm, giving us the chance to take a breather and reflect on a fun day. The weather even took a turn for the better in the afternoon following a showery start to the event. Our initial concerns were unfounded and Jason, Terry and me all reported great enthusiasm and excitement for Rapido’s latest venture into the unknown!
One final word for the incredibly friendly staff at the Transport Museum, Wythall. They made us feel very welcome considering we took over their site for the day and they have been super helpful in assisting us in the development of our new British bus. We can’t thank them enough. Thanks guys!