Mark 5 Project Update
Our Mark 5 project has been been an interesting departure for us in many ways, and one giant learning curve! We've learned several things along the way during this project and tackled several issues which were completely new to us. Did we make some mistakes along the way? Absolutely!
We've had to deal with several issues along the way, but overcoming them has made us wiser going forward into future projects!
Firstly, we announced them way too early in development! Although the agreement to produce these coaches was agreed a couple of months prior, we have always desired to announce a project much later into development so we can show visible progress, at least at CAD completion and most desirably with a sample. We announced the Mark 5s with only a few weeks work done, so this added to the longer waiting times than desired.
This also added to our second issue; modification before service! We announced the Mark 5s before they were being accepted into service. They were still being delivered and tested when we announced our intentions to do them. With delays to acceptance into traffic of the real coaches, we had to wait to see if modifications were made.
Many of us will remember a manufacturer (We dont name names, sorry!) bringing a locomotive to market in the 1980s before the real locos were accepted into traffic. While the model captured the look ofthe prototypes, it was missing several key modifications that was made to the locomotives before settling down into their careers on the mainline. We wanted to learn from this valuable lesson and indeed modifications were made to the real coaches.
It's important that our models captured this too so they would be the most accurate renditions. It's imperative that this is built into the initial tooling, so several survey trips and checks were made before CAD was modified to reflect these new changes. This sadly means waiting around and one change did happen after tooling was begun, meaning tooling had to be halted, CAD modified and tooling adjusted. Expensive and time consuming, but essential!
Lighting and features were another learning curve for us, but thankfully our factory and friends at ESU have assisted in this area and will really set our coaches off a treat when they arrive. The different body types on the Mark 5 is also vast, which means there is a lot of tooling and a lot of CAD work went into the design (there are only two coaches that have the same body side in the TPE rake for instance, and even then there are differences elsewhere on the coaches!)
Of course, us being us, we have to pack in the detail too!
A new item to us too were the bogies with their inside frame design. We researched previous models which featured this kind of bogie design and to our horror found that some manufacturers in America suffered running issues with the design. As you can compare in the image above and below, we had to go back to the drawing board and redesign our bogies to ensure such issues did not occur on the Mark 5s. The separate bearing design will aid in excellent performance.
So, many design challenges, waiting games and variations cleared, and we are well on our way.
Then COVID19 occured...
As we all know, the world stopped turning in many ways earlier this year for us all. This included the factories in China of course, who had to close for a number of months and tooling as well as production was halted. Once it recommenced it resulted in a backlog in all areas, meaning further delays for us all.
Our factory working on these coaches have done their best to pull out all the stops for us on these coaches, did not complain when we halted tooling to make changes which had been introduced on the real things (very expensive to do, and as we know, most manufacturer do not make such changes, but we have to get it right!) and our high spec of lighting and other separate detail features.
However, with the world in its current state and the knock on delays that have resulted globally delays are inevitable. We have just received our revised timeline for the Mark 5. We will receive our first tooling samples in late December. Decorated samples are due in early February 2021, and production will commence directly after Chinese New Year and delivery will be in Q2 2021. We sincerely apologise for this delay, and some of it is of our own making with our desires to get it right rather than "It will do", but we have also been conspired against to a certain degree too.
If you would like to pre-order these coaches, you can do so with a £30 deposit by clicking here. We are aiming for these to be rather tasty, and are sure that they will look fantastic on your current scene layouts on TPE and Caledonian Sleeper services!