According to Chris…
Fresh from his trip to Canada, Chris gives us an insight into Rapido Trains.
This summer’s Canadian holiday was even more of a railway indulgence than in the past, if only because I had just over two weeks and a lot to cram in. Here’s a brief trip report. No stay in Toronto would be complete these days without paying a call on Rapido Trains. It’s a half-hour trip from downtown to Markham, curiously operated by train in the morning and bus in the afternoon. Company President Jason Shron was away on holiday, so I had lunch with the rest of the team – takeaway fish and chips in the ‘board room’. Since my previous visit, three more staff have joined Rapido and two of them have specific responsibility for warranty repairs. We talked a lot about the current situation with Chinese-produced ready-to-run models, quality control and deliveries, particularly in light of the closure of one factory and the wild rumours and alarmist nonsense which had promptly circulated on the forums. The closure resulted from the owner’s retirement and has affected several US customers but not Rapido or any of the UK model companies. One of the pressures which is affecting deliveries of models from China is the delay in moving containers from Vancouver. Most of these come over the Canadian National route, many simply using Canada as a land bridge and being reloaded onto ships in east coast ports such as Halifax for the Atlantic crossing to Europe. CN is short of capacity and containers can now take several weeks to cross from Vancouver. Among the items I was able to examine was the ‘J70gti’, the first sample of our ‘J70’, which was too high geared. I also saw samples of the Canadian Pacific ‘Royal Hudson’ 4-6-4. This mighty beast is Rapido’s first large steam locomotive. It boasts a weighty die-cast body and geared drive to all six coupled wheels, which should make it immensely powerful. Later in the week I took the bus out to Mississauga, to visit the Credit Valley Railway Company, which is a model railway store in which I can easily lose myself for hours. My credit card took a beating! I bought a DCC sound-equipped ‘FP9’ locomotive which they not only tested for me (returns can be expensive when you’re this far away) but also changed the decoder address. We then agreed that neither of us liked the horn sound, so that got changed too, a job which I still consider to be beyond my DCC skills. After Toronto, I flew to Sudbury, where the line to White River begins, as featured in Chris Tarrant’s Extreme Rail Journeys on TV. While in Sudbury, I took the bus to Capreol and the Northern Ontario Rail Museum. Among the exhibits here is ‘Bullet-nose Betty’, CNR 4-8-2 No. 6077. Apart from the Chinese 4-8-4 No. KF7 at the National Railway Museum, this must rank as the largest locomotive I have ever seen. On a very hot afternoon I took the advice of the museum staff and went across to their Heritage Centre, where I was shown a splendid vintage fire truck and asked, “Would you like to see our model railway?” I was taken down into a basement where a local group has built a splendid permanent ‘HO’ layout. This display had taken a mere 18 months to build, using mainly commercially available models and kits. It is amazingly detailed and ‘busy’ and yet operated by conventional analogue control.
Above: Capreol’s railway museum in miniature is part of an extensive ‘HO’ scale layout in the basement of the former fire station.
Left: With an empty permanent way train in tow, CN No. 2628 overtakes a long double-stack container train, right outside Rapido’s back door.Below: ‘Bullet-nose Betty’ CNR 4-8-2 No. 6077 at the Northern Ontario Railway Museum and Heritage Centre in Capreol.