The Covid-19 virus has now been declared a world-wide pandemic and it is now affecting all countries in the world including South Korea, Europe (including the UK) and America where the outbreak is very serious. Flights are being banned and governments are in the process of applying population lockdowns to try to slow down or eliminate the spread of the virus to protect as much of their populations as possible. In the UK isolation measures are in force from Sunday 22 March that last 12 weeks and we at Masterpiece Models are in this category of the vulnerable. So effectively I am gated (isolated) at home until the middle of June. Events are moving quickly and we cannot be certain as what path the virus will take, so planning what we need to do in these conditions is difficult and our approach therefore needs to be flexible and practical and subject to change taking into account unpredictable events.
How is it all affecting Masterpiece Models?
Production in Korea
South Korea has been badly affected by the Covid-19 virus. This has caused some dislocation in the industrial sector, but so far has not caused a major impact on our activities. In South Korea work is proceeding on the Western Diesel which has transferred production from the burned-out factory to a new factory. Production is currently concentrated on replacing the items that were destroyed or badly damaged in the fire. Staff working on the project are limited as major concerns remain on catching the virus.
In the second factory where work is being undertaken on the Halls, Modified Halls and the 28XX/38XX freight engines work is being confined to a small workforce in-house to reduce the risk of getting infected with the virus.
The virus pandemic means that there are no flights from UK to Korea. As the country is on the Foreign Office danger list, health care insurance is no longer valid, so there is no immediate possibility of a visit by me to Incheon to oversee production. We are trying to put in place electronic communication to take the place of the visiting that would otherwise occur.
The consequences of the virus means that although work is progressing reasonably well, it will take more time to complete the models.
Supply of Existing New Models
45XX/4575 Prairie Tank Locomotives
We still have about 10 models available for sale. Many of these are in O gauge type 3 packed rear buffer beam engines in Great Western Green with the GREAT WESTERN emblem. We also have very limited supply of Type 4 and Type 5 4575 some in GWR and others in BR. The engines are a mixed assortment of Scale7 and O gauge. At this stage it is not practical to change the gauge of the locomotives.
57XX and 8750 Pannier Tank Locomotives
We have a good choice of GWR green engines with early (57XX) and late (8750) cabs. We also have some BR black engines including some BR lined black 8750 locomotives with the BR Lion over wheel emblem which are very attractive. There are 4 London Transport red 57XX panniers out of the new batch of 11 that we had made in Korea. There is a £100 premium for these models which we are supplying at below the additional production cost. Scale 7 engines are only available on two models: one 8750 and one 57XX. We could switch chassis for your choice except the LT Panniers which are now only in O gauge.
We have a good range of engines left mainly in GWR Green and BR lined Green. We also have one BR plain black engine left. All tenders except one GWR GREAT WESTERN Churchward tender are Collett 4000 gallon tenders. Most engines are O gauge, but we do have a few engines also in Scale 7.
There is a good choice of BR lined green engines with a choice of Churchward 3500 gallon and Collett 3500 gallon or Collett 4000 gallon tenders. We also have a few BR plain black and one BR Lined black engines.
We have a few double chimney engines and still a good selection of single chimney engines in both earlier and later configuration. Collett and Hawks worth 4000 gallon tenders are both available. There is also a good range of names that are available.
If you would like to know about the availability of engines in any or all of the above categories please email or call us by phone.
Delivery of Models
Our approach has been to supply hand delivered models wherever possible as our models are very delicate and do not respond well to couriers dropping packages. With the current UK population lock-down hand delivery is no longer possible so we are back to using couriers.
I have been in contact with our courier DHL who have now agreed that we can use wooden boxes to transport the trains. Previously it had refused to accept this form of packaging. We believe to wooden box approach is much more robust than conventional out cardboard sleeves placed over the existing train packing boxes.
We still have a number of models that have been ordered and have not yet been delivered. Some of these models are to be delivered to areas badly affected by the virus and so these are now off limits to the couriers. Others can still be delivered, but payments are still due on these models. If you have ordered a model and have not yet paid for it and would like your model to be delivered by DHL, assuming that this option is available in your area, please contact us by email of telephone so that we can make the necessary arrangements.
GNR/LNER and Brighton Atlantics
We can now confirm that other than the Umber H1 prototype, all the Atlantic models were completely destroyed in the factory fire.
If we are to consider starting the project again from the beginning we need a reasonable level of interest in the project. So far we have received expressions of interest for between 30 and 40 locomotives. Interest is roughly 2:1 split between Southern and GNR/LNER engines. While this is encouraging, it is not nearly enough to put the project back into production. If we do decide to proceed we would make some considerable upgrades to the specification of the models in a number of important areas. This would include split axles, our insulated horn-block pickups, Masterpieces Models’ proprietary gear box, the Masterpiece Models’ patented coupling between locomotive and tender, switchable DCC/DC and a Scale 7 option. We would also like to make a model of Hartland Point as the Bulleid H1 Leader experimental engine. So if you are interested in an Atlantic and have not contacted us, I urge you to do so now as otherwise this project will not proceed in the near future.
Exhibitions and Shows in the UK
We attended the Kettering show on March 7th, where the number of people who came to the stand was heavily down on the attendance in previous years. Although no announcements have yet been officially made, it is our expectation that the model shows coming up in April, May and June will be cancelled. We were also planning to go the Scale 7 Show at Albury on April 23 but this has now been postponed to a later date yet to be fixed. The cancellation of all shows in the next 3 months means that we may not be able to display our models in public for some time. We hope that the Swindon Show in September will remain in place, but it is much too early to predict how things will work out.
To make up for the lack of exhibitions we will see if it is possible to feature some of our existing stock as special article features on the website. This will allow you to at least have some electronic images of what we have to offer.
In conclusion we will have to go through some difficult times, I am confident that we will get through it and come out the other side still being able to offer a good choice of the best British outline 7mm scale (O Gauge and Scale seven locomotives) that money can buy.
Please look after yourselves and take care of your health at this time of great concern.
John Borkowski 19 March 2020