Of the 160 GWR small prairies in the Masterpiece Models build, only 31 now remain available. There are no Type 1 engines, only one Type 2 and two Type 4s. CLICK HERE to see the current availability and livery selection.
John Borkowski and Adrian Knowles inspecting the 70XX 'Castles' at the Incheon factory
For the last 10 days Adrian and I have spent our time out in South Korea with the builders, inspecting and checking over 250 locomotives and discussing our current and future build programmes. And have we got some exciting things to tell you about and show you!
The main thing to say is that all our customers who have remained remarkably loyal and patient during the unexpectedly long build cycles for the 70XX ‘Castles’ and the 45XX/4575 Prairie tanks are about to be rewarded with models that are second to none.
In total we inspected 160 GWR/BR Prairie tanks and 108 70XX ‘Castles’, involving an overall visual inspection, checking of measurements, squareness and gauge, followed by running trials for each engine to verify electrical continuity, smoothness of operation at low and high speeds and sound (where fitted). We were highly impressed with the detail and also the running performance of the locomotives, as well as the very realistic sound package cleverly compiled by Bryan Robertson who deserves to be congratulated on what he has achieved.
Seeing and hearing all those ‘Castles’ was a bit like being at Old Oak Common in the 1950s and early 1960s, or Laira in the case of the Prairies. I can still hear the sound of whistles, the fireman stoking the fire and steam escaping from the cylinder cocks before the engines move off in slow motion!
With a few small corrections and refinements having been made here and there, it is expected that the bulk consignment of Prairie tanks will be shipped by British Airways in the coming week, with the ‘Castles’ following about 10-14 days later depending on flight availability. We were able to bring a few finished models in our hand luggage for display at the Kettering Gauge 0 Guild show on Saturday 4 March, as well as the first Prairie tanks for customers who had said they would be at Kettering. Everyone was able to see the fine work that the builders have put into the models.
We also had on display the first sample model of the later cab GWR Pannier which seems to be amazing everyone who sees it. It is a superb execution of the prototype with an extraordinary amount of detail in every area of the model and the builders are now working on the second sample with the earlier style of cab, which we hope to receive in April. Both will be on show at the ALSRM Reading show on 6 May and the Gauge 0 Guild Summer Show at Doncaster on 3 June.
Inevitably there will be some changes picked up by our expert panel and these will be incorporated in our final production design. Our objective is to shorten the review and testing process so that we can bring the models to market faster than we achieved for the Prairies and ‘Castles’, both of which became more complex and difficult for the builders than we originally anticipated. It just shows that one always has to learn new ways of improving performance as a result of experience, especially where things do not go quite to plan.
Other exciting arrivals are the first pilot models for the forthcoming programme of Great Western tender engines. These painted models cover the eagerly-awaited 47XX, the 49XX ‘Hall’ and 68XX ‘Grange’. To accompany the ‘Grange’ in particular is a brand new tender – the Collett 3,500 gallon design which looks superb and will be offered alongside the Collett and Hawksworth 4,000 gallon tenders and the Churchward tenders already in our catalogue.
While these models have yet to be assessed and refined, we think they are a very good demonstration of the superb workmanship and skills of our Korean colleagues. The plan is to put these locomotives into production as soon as have had the samples evaluated by our technical team. However, as we have to make a minimum of 240 locomotives we will probably split it into two programmes, most likely starting with the 47XX and either the ‘Grange’ or ‘Hall’, followed shortly thereafter by the 28XX and either the ‘Hall’ or the ‘Grange’. Following advice from our expert technical team we have been rethinking the programme. Trying to build four different classes (not to mention subclasses) of locomotives simultaneously is not probably the best way forward either for us or for the builders. We are now drawing up a detailed work schedule to try to ensure that the gap between the first build and the second build is not too long, so that we keep the gap down to 6 months if possible.
Another project now well under way is the Class 52 ‘Western’ Diesel Hydraulic. The first test etches have been made and work has already started on assembling the first prototype. We also took the opportunity to go through the scans that we made of Western Champion at Kidderminster late last year. Once again we would like to thank the Diesel Traction Group for all their help and advice without which we would never be able to make the ‘Western’ model that everyone wants to see. We remain very excited about this project, which we hope will be the first of several future ventures by us in the non-steam locomotive domain.
During our visit we came under intense pressure to increase the payments to our builders. Unfortunately, due to the fall in the value of the Pound following the result of the EU referendum, the builders are facing a reduction of around 20% in the income they were expecting to receive when we started our contracts. Since the middle of last year we have been monitoring the situation closely in the hope that there would be a more significant recovery in the exchange rate. Sadly this has not happened and as a consequence we now have no alternative but to raise our prices to alleviate the hardship that the builders are facing.
By absorbing half the increase in cost ourselves, we can contain the price rise to 10% which will apply to all new orders placed on and from from Saturday 8 April 2017. Existing orders where deposits and staged payments have been made, and orders placed before 8 April will be held at the original prices, which gives everyone a month to be able to secure models at the old prices. We are very sorry to have to apply this increase and if there is a significant recovery of the value of the Pound we will see what can be done to reduce our prices again.
6 March 2017
I have just returned from a trip to the builders in Korea which had been arranged to enable final checking of the production of the 70XX ‘Castles’ and the 45XX/4575 Prairie tanks.
Although all the models have now been built, frustratingly not all not were not ready for final inspection, so this will now be undertaken in February. However, I was able to inspect some of the completed models and I have brought back with me as many as I could carry in my luggage. As a result, we will have three production 70XX ‘Castles’ and two production 45XX Prairie tank locomotives on our stand at the Bristol Show on Sunday 22 January, available for you to see or buy.
The models at the show are all 0 gauge finescale, and will be:
7001 Sir James Milne, Double Chimney, Collett 4,000 gallon tender, BR totem, DCC Sound. £3,120
7005 Sir Edward Elgar, Single Chimney, Collett 4,000 gallon tender, BR totem, DCC Sound. £3,120
7027 Thornbury Castle, Single Chimney, Collett 4,000 gallon tender, BR totem, DCC Sound. £3,120
4523 Type 3, Great Western green lettered GREAT WESTERN, DCC Sound, £1,560
4551 Type 3, BR plain black, Lion-over-Wheel emblem, DC only, £1,380
Pictures of these models appear here and elsewhere on the website, so please do take a good look.
Shipping and delivery of the models already ordered by our customers will finally be achieved in the very near future, as soon as all final inspections are complete.
I look forward to seeing you all at Bristol.
Originally we had hoped to have production models of our 45XX/4575 Prairie tanks and 70XX ‘Castles’ available at Telford in September. When that proved impossible we were aiming for the Reading show in December, but even that was unachievable. The good news is that, at last, we expect to have production models at the Bristol 0 Gauge show on 22 January. The problem is that we are too pernickety. On multiple visits to Korea we have identified issues and revisions that we have insisted that the builder must carry out – nothing major but we are determined that these will be the best RTR models available.
John Borkowski is currently in Korea with the builder giving all the models a final check and he reports:“The models are beautifully executed, the quality of the bodies is superb and the painting is impressive with re-worked decals for all the emblems. Best of all, the brand new motor and gearbox, plus re-engineering of the chassis has made them fabulously smooth and powerful runners.”
Here’s a photograph of one of the small Prairies showing the opening smokebox door and interior detail. As with all Masterpiece Models there’s working inside motion too, typifying the levels of detail which are rare in ready-to-run models. You won’t have to take our word for it much longer. John will be bringing a number of production models back from Korea and hopefully we will have some actually for sale at Bristol. The bulk quantity of models will be air-freighted in mid-January and as soon as they have cleared customs we will commence delivery to customers.
If you have a 45XX or ‘Castle’ reserved and are hoping to collect it at the Bristol show, please check this website again in the days before. Delivery will depend on how many models John can carry with him and how long customs take to clear the rest. If your model doesn’t make it to Bristol we will ensure you get it within a week or two. Once again we apologise for the delay to your trains, but the wait will be worth it!
It’s also possible that we will have a surprise at Bristol…
First, I would like to thank all of you who visited our stand at the Reading show on December 10. It was great to see old friends and to make new acquaintances and to be able to find out what interested you in terms of model locomotives. Thank you all for your time and trouble coming to see us.
Although the website has been relative quiet recently, a great deal has been happening on all the models that we have been involved. This note is to update you on what we are doing or have done on all our various programmes at Masterpiece Models.
Both the programmes for Castle and the 45XX/4575 tank locomotives have been subject to a further delay and our target to get the locomotives into the UK in time for Christmas simply could not be met. The painter that we use has had to move premises to a new site. This meant that we effectively lost 3 weeks of painting time. We have used this time to carry out further refinements and to make corrections and improvement to the locomotives. Key components including the new motors have now been ordered for all the GWR tender locomotives.
On Superwheels we have been very encouraged by the response for their demand to be fitted on the ‘Castles’ and we would like to offer these wheels as an option on all our future models. They will be limited in production and available in Scale7 only as they are absolute replicas of the real things. As they are expensive to produce, we will try to keep the cost down as much as we can as we would like as wide a customer base as possible to select them for their locomotives. They are the simply the best and their fitting really enhances the look and value of our models. If you want the best then opt for a Masterpiece with Superwheels every time!
We have certainly been busy and we have learnt that producing new locomotives designs to our very high specifications within 12 months is not practical unless we make all models within a build identical. By the nature of our offering, which is to provide a range of some diversity, we need more time to complete our programmes. For this reason we are now building-in more time for the completion of future locomotive programmes.
It is great sadness that recently I heard of the death of Paul Hatherley. Paul had worked closely with Michael Brooks on a number of Masterpiece Models locomotives and visited SJ Models in Korea on one occasion to see the manufacturing. We offer condolences to Paul’s family especially his son Christopher.
As we head towards the end of the year I would like to thank everyone who has made contact with me at Masterpiece Models since I took the helm. Thanks go out to our suppliers who have been very helpful to us over 2016. I would also like to pay a special vote of thanks to those closely involved with the management and operations of Masterpiece Models, especially Adrian Knowles, Bob Meanley, Bryan Robertson, Veronica de Vries, Sebastiaan Schippers, Kevin Regan and Ros Borkowski, all of whom have worked so very hard with me to keep Masterpiece Models on course. Without their help and involvement we would not have made the progress that we achieved in 2016.
We also need to thank the Builders who have had to work very hard to accommodate the changes and the improvements in technical specification that we have made throughout the year. I am sure you will all appreciate the fruits of their hard work when the models are completed and delivered to you.
Finally I would like to wish everyone a very Happy and Peaceful Christmas and a prosperous New Year 2017.
20 December 2016
For updates on the models in our current programme, please click these links: