DI/Dave Ferrari

Jim Reising May 14, 2014

  1. bill pearce

    bill pearce TrainBoard Member

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    I have been told by people with industry experience that the cost differential between NA and China in injection molding and such is small, but the difference in cost of assembly is gargantuan. If we all would buy kits, then NA production is cost effective, but ask Frank Angstadt how likely that is.
     
  2. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    When Intermountain did their kits, I bought many, many dozens of them. Had a great time building them. An assembly line developed, across my modeling bench. Today, with my ongoing health issues, doing this work is barely even possible. What once required less than an hour can easily be a month (and more) of huge frustrations.
     
  3. Kevin M

    Kevin M TrainBoard Member

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    I bought many kit cars when inter mountain did them. I liked them but understand there not for everyone.
     
  4. Calzephyr

    Calzephyr TrainBoard Supporter

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    I know we are sort-of 'off-topic', but, the Intermountain example is indicative of the problem we have with bringing production back to the States. When Intermountain began selling their very detailed models in the early 1990's... the were mostly selling kits by the dozen at about $10.00 MSRP. The kits were acceptable to experienced kit builders... but... took close to an hour to put them together carefully. Their other Achilles Heel was the couplers were not reliable and most would have to buy Micro-trains 1015's to make the model reliable. When Intermountain decided to produce the ready-to-roll models at only a couple bucks more per car... the bottom fell out of the kit models... which was already weak. I have a few dozen un-built IMRC boxcars, tank cars and reefers. I began buying the RTR models too once IMRC began using Accumates and later Micro-trains couplers. The cost versus time equation was tipped to the ready-to-roll product. The problem now is that the costs of manufacturing overseas has increased and those RTR models that used to be $15.00-17.00 MSRP... are now in the mid $20.00 MSRP range. While I would like to have a chance to buy kits again, at a reasonable discount to RTR, I'm not sure how many others are willing to build such small items and whether the cost differential versus time to build would discourage or encourage the purchase of kits.

    I feel bad about the problems that Deluxe has had. I have several of their RTR boxcar models from the 1990's into the early 2000's (before Dave acquired). Their decision to send the mold overseas was probably a good idea at the time... other model train companies were doing it successfully. Unfortunately the decision back-fired on Deluxe due to the timing of manufacturing issues encountered abroad. The issues have affected all other importers as well... but... the size of Deluxe and other issues they had probably has set them back far. Just think about how long it took Atlas to get their track products to the market... and they are still behind AFAIK.
     
  5. Boilerman

    Boilerman TrainBoard Supporter

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    Not trying to hijack your Thread, but;

    Intermountain was not the only company to offer car kits, MT and Roundhouse also use to offer kits as well.

    I still have about a dozen of the Roundhouse and about 30 of the old MT kits still waiting to be assembled.

    I for one would welcome more car kits as I like to assemble them, the MT kits were far more simple to assemble and of the 3, in my opinion Intermountain had the better detail.

    As long as I am able I will assemble kits as I like to as well as installing decoders in my locos, I find it both challenging and rewarding.
     
  6. Jim Reising

    Jim Reising TrainBoard Member

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    Got a reply to my email this morning - Dave took a week's vacation. He is not being updated by the factory, which is why he is not updating us. As we suspected, he is every bit as frustrated as we are. Must be a real pain for him, wish there were some way I could help.
     
  7. Backshop

    Backshop TrainBoard Member

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    Even Atlas sold kits way back in the beginning, they came in cardboard boxes and were the basic Trainman stuff, just in pieces.
     
  8. umtrr-author

    umtrr-author TrainBoard Member

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    Yes, and our friend Ross Fink has documented the Atlas kits on his page:

    http://a1gkits.rossfink.com/index.htm
     
  9. Boilerman

    Boilerman TrainBoard Supporter

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    I totally forgot about the Atlas Car kits as I only had a couple of them and was not that impressed with them!
     
  10. umtrr-author

    umtrr-author TrainBoard Member

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    They were state of the art for 1969... well, probably not. The trucks were sometimes interesting to assemble. Some of the wheels I got weren't exactly round, and/or had plastic "string" extending from them. I think I still have an unbuilt example around here someplace.
     
  11. sandro schaer

    sandro schaer TrainBoard Member

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    i'm not in a hurry so i will wait for deluxe cars. in my opinion still the best containter cars out there.
    recently acquired a few kato maxi sets. they look nice. but the way they couple together is just crap.
    i just can't keep them together. on short trains it might work but not on long ones.
     
  12. ns737

    ns737 TrainBoard Supporter

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    it may you need to rework the couplers. I run a 65 car train of the kato maxi's with no problems.
     
  13. mavrick0

    mavrick0 TrainBoard Member

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    I had to rework all my kato cars since the couplers weren't working. What I found was that the piece on top of the coupler box that holds the coupler in place wasn't always seated properly and would catch the under frame and cause derailments as well as let the couplers not function properly. The way I fixed it was removed the couplers and the retaining piece and replace it with Kato's close coupling coupler, same ones used on the bethgons. Since I don't do switching with my intermodal it works perfectly, no worries of uncoupling and actually looks a lot better as it brings the cars closer.

    As for the DI the best way to keep Dave going is to keep supporting him. Keep buying the stuff he can produce and when he can get the molds back or up and running again support him by buying those products. I do share everyone's pain though. I've had 12 packages of the pwrs/DI Canadian tire containers on order for 5 1/2 years. Even though con-cor has done them and I've bought a lot of them, I will still keep my order as DI's stuff is just a step up in my opinion.
     
  14. Dave Ferrari

    Dave Ferrari TrainBoard Member

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    Where do I start? First of all, I was on vacation which is why I didn't notice this post sooner. Sometimes I need a complete break from work. Then there was a lot of catching up on work that had to get done before I could focus on the forum. Thanks to Matt, George, Randy, Lou, Mike and others for chiming in. I'll address some of your concerns now.

    There is nothing new to tell you about the Maxi-IV. The last update was in late January when the factory told me that the first production run should be completed by the end of March. Despite regular queries, they have not given us another update since then. It is obvious the Maxi-IVs are not ready yet but beyond that it is a mystery, even to me. This is one aspect of dealing with China that drives me crazy, they don't seem to understand that our customers want regular updates. I agree that five months is too long between updates but when I don't get updates there's nothing to pass along. I do not want to make things up just to fill pages...that's why we don't have a Facebook page yet, I need to get into a position where the product flow is more stable and we are able to keep the page fresh.

    Walthers is behind in ordering both new items and restocking so their inventory is not a good reflection of what's available. I encourage customers to contact them and request items that we show as in-stock on this page but they don't have:

    http://deluxetrains.com/downloads/WebIn-StockOrderForm.pdf

    As far as train shows go, we have been at the usual ones: Trainfest in Milwaukee last November, Amherst in January, the N Scale Enthusiast is coming in June and the NMRA in July. We have been fortunate to have space in the InterMountain booth at most of the major show over the past three years. That is a big savings for us and our thanks go out to Frank, Doug and the rest of the InterMountain team.

    Pete, you answered your own question about China versus the U.S. for container production. But you didn't mention packaging which is quite a bit cheaper in China. Unfortunately, our slightly more expensive "Made in the U.S.A." containers sold poorly so most customers appear to be price sensitive. There is no inexpensive way to find out about consumer behavior in our industry - it's too small - so doing a couple runs of containers was about our only option to test the waters. We are always looking at the alternatives for production. About half of our tooling is here is the U.S. and we ship plastic to a factory to be decorated, assembled and packaged. We can send them anywhere.

    The whole problem with the Maxi-IV is our desire to bring nothing less than a great product to market. We could have delivered them two years ago after the first samples arrived but they wouldn't have rolled well without a lot of tinkering - not ready to run IMHO - and that was unacceptable. Other updates with delivery horizons mentioned were based on feedback from the factory or past experience, which obviously didn't work out. In one case I was told the problem was fixed, but the sample was not acceptable so that timeframe was out the window. I've learned since then but it's hard not to share any news that seems reasonable.

    As for a "man on the ground" in China, that would be very expensive, as Matt said, many (most?) manufacturers don't have a rep there. We rely on the factory and their rep. Even with a man on the ground, the R&D/production staff would have to make a trip to the factory as the situation warranted.

    The hurricane definitely hurt us too. But it was more than just the physical damage, precipitating a move. It was a psychological body blow that I have had trouble recovering from even to this day. Several friends that helped with the clean-up told me that if it had been them, they would have walked away and never come back when they first saw the extent of the devastation inside the building. But it all goes back to my belief that failure is not an option. Walking away would have been failure. I will turn this around!

    Rick, you can fix stupid, it's called experience. Once things started going bad, it was too late to do anything about the projects already at Sanda Kan. China wasn't so much the problem at first as Sanda Kan in particular. Then when the you-know-what hit the fan, it was a cascading failure. Then "that other big factory" got in trouble with the government which made matters worse. Does anyone realize that there are now eight Chinese factories that are no longer making model trains? At least that's the best information I have. I guessed all along that "industrial production for model trains" may have dropped as much as 25%, maybe more, during this "China Syndrome" as someone called it.

    I'll tell you that we have two alternatives to China staring us in the face: much more expensive U.S. production or another foreign country that might be a completely unknown quantity and quite possibly be a worse situation. While not rocket science, in order to make a working train car there are many things we take for granted. For example, we use other companies' trucks, wheels and couplers. Moving production requires they still be readily accessible, like they are in a factory that already makes them for another company (the current situation) and has "house" boxes we can use too. Testing is crucial, think about how many different things can go wrong to prevent a new car from working with other cars - we can design in anything we want, the factory has to convert that into production. Once a project is started at a factory it pretty much has to stay there until completion. And Lou's right, moving tooling from China might not be possible. Domestic (U.S.A.) production does put that testing right in our facilities. But look at how Exactrail handled the move to domestic production - they eliminated selling to hobby shops and distributors. I will not do that, I firmly believe that retail shops are needed in our hobby as a way of learning and a place to grab an item you need RIGHT NOW, not when the mail arrives on Tuesday.

    There's one simple problem with kits, people have to build them and the trend is toward ready-to-run, away from kits. Sales would plummet and the effective cost per unit would skyrocket.

    For the record, almost half of our tooling is still in the U.S., I only sent two "tool sets" to China. One set made the RoadRailer and highway trailers and the 40' and 45' Hi-Cube corrugated containers, and the other set was for the Ready-To-Place Storefront buildings. There were unique circumstances involved and moving these molds solved some vexing problems. Unfortunately, they are now unavailable for production use. Would I move more tooling overseas? No, but if your hind sight isn't 20-20 they you really might be stupid.

    There's so much more to this story but most of it is better left unsaid at this time. Otherwise what will I put in my memoirs? LOL, so I don't COL (Cry Out Loud!) Please join me in waiting for some great freight cars. Today the factory said they would give me an update tomorrow. I'll start a new thread and post a link here. And if you have any questions, email us.

    Dave
     
  15. ns737

    ns737 TrainBoard Supporter

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    are the 53's now no longer available and not to be made again?
     
  16. Spookshow

    Spookshow TrainBoard Member

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    Hey Dave, thanks for taking the time out for the lengthy (and frank) update. It must be frustrating (beyond all of your other frustrations) to have to deal with a bunch of clueless internet "know it alls"! But hey, I guess part of your thankless job is keeping the rumor mill in check (sad as that may seem).

    If there's anything I can do to help out the cause, don't hesitate to ask! :)

    Cheers,
    -Mark
     
  17. Jim Reising

    Jim Reising TrainBoard Member

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    I think Mark has spoken for all of us; we'd love to be able to help in any way possible. Since we can't, we CAN buy big when the product finally gets here. And I suspect we will. Thank you so much for the detailed explanation.
     
  18. Dave Ferrari

    Dave Ferrari TrainBoard Member

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    The 53' containers were a Sanda Kan/China project. We do not have access to that tooling at the moment. As far as "not to be made again" goes, we we are working an a different 53' container (too soon to say more) and I hope we will get the existing mold back someday. If not we will have to retool that body.

    Dave
     
  19. ns737

    ns737 TrainBoard Supporter

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    sorry i meant the 53' trailers.
     
  20. Dave Ferrari

    Dave Ferrari TrainBoard Member

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    Mark,

    You're welcome! I want to get as much information out to our customers as possible. Some of the comments are frustrating but that's the nature of being in business. By the way, I don't feel it is a thankless job. I get a lot of positive feedback and it is very rewarding to take a project from concept to a rolling model. I just wish we were further along in our 5-year plan at this point (yea, it's been 8 years since I bought deLuxe.)

    Dave
     

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