FW: Spring Mills Depot Update 190717
NW Modeling List
nw-modeling-list at nwhs.org
Mon Nov 4 18:29:54 EST 2019
An update. I have some DODX flat cars I'm waiting for. They had indicated a
while back they were trying these first with the new manufacturer, since
they're a simpler design, then on to other projects in the queue if these
came out well.
From: info - Spring Mills Depot
Sent: Sunday, November 03, 2019 8:33 PM
Subject: RE: Spring Mills Depot Update 190717
We are expecting text shots early next month. We will post photos and send
an email to all preorder customers for them to start salivating. If all
goes well through the holidays, we should have product in February-March.
We will QC each car and ship as fast as our lives will allow.
Thanks for your inquiry!
Spring Mills Depot
From: Phil Miller
To: 'info - Spring Mills Depot'
Subject: RE: Spring Mills Depot Update 190717
Sent: 28 Oct '19 18:16
Just checking to see how things are going for you on the model front. Any
updates you can offer? I'm looking forward to seeing the DODX cars and
hoping maybe you've had some success with the new factory for these.
From: info - Spring Mills Depot
Sent: Wednesday, July 17, 2019 1:03 AM
Subject: Spring Mills Depot Update 190717
To our valued SMD customers,
This email (newsletter?) is long overdue and has been two months in the
making. I have become OBE (Overcome By Events - a term we use in the Army).
We do apologize for not keeping everyone up to date sooner than this. Some
of you have heard parts of this update if you visited us at a recent show or
talked to us on the phone. Please bear with the length but there is new
information for everyone. So grab a cold one (soda or beer), sit back and
enjoy the read.
Just for a refresher, many of our customers don't realize that Spring Mills
Depot is just two model railroaders, who have day jobs, that are having fun
getting models made. At the shows, you often see the two of us holding down
the fort and sometimes we have a helper. In between the shows however, it
is often only one of us trying to take care of running the business and
getting models to market. And when life gets in the way e.g., kids, kids
extracurricular activities, family, church, emergencies at our day jobs,
etc., there is no one handling things. However, we are managing to get
things done, albeit slowly. We simply are not built like every other model
There had been a couple of updates to our website but I screwed up the
formatting and had to restore the site back to January and I haven't had the
chance to go back and make all of the updates again. The only updates that
I have been able to keep up with are the ordering pages when an item is sold
out. I expect to get back to the website in the next few weeks as we are
transitioning to the next phase of our current project and there will be a
few weeks that we will be waiting for the next step.
There are two things every project needs to avoid - scope creep and gold
plating. The B&O I-5/1/2/3 project was a victim of both. Scope creep set
in when we changed the project initially from just the I-5 caboose to then
include the I-1, I-2, I-3 caboose classes as well. We did this because we
believe the I-1/2/3 would never pay for its own tooling. Gold plating set
in when we kept adding more and more details to the cars. Interestingly,
the N&W experts showed us a detail on the N&W cabooses that we had never
seen before. Then reticular activation kicked in and then we saw the same
detail on the B&O cabooses.so naturally we had to include it as well.
Eventually Ken and I got to the point where good enough was finally good
enough and we would be happy with the B&O I-5/1/2/3 caboose project. My
crystal ball is in the shop waiting for parts but had we known the B&O
I-5/1/2/3 project would have suffered the scope creep and the gold plating
that it did, we would have NEVER announced the DODX flat car or the N&W
style cabooses. Honestly, we would have held off on announcing the I-5/1/2/3
As we mentioned in our Black Friday email to our customers (Nov 2018), we
were able to rescue our tooling from our old factory and it has since been
relocated to our new factory. This took a lot of effort in finding new
factory to deal with, opening up communication with them and with the closed
factory and arranging for the tooling to be transferred. This was not as
simple as it sounds and took over 3 months to accomplish. This was a great
relief to us as well as many of our customers. A lot of you are anxious for
us to rerun some of our previous cars but first we have three announced cars
we haveto get here first. Some manufacturers, who were affected by the
factory closing last year, are just rerunning cars with new numbers. They
have to in order to keep the revenue stream flowing and to keep their
stockholders and investors happy. We feel that it is more important to get
our three announced cars here before any reruns.
Some of you have suggested that we bring our manufacturing back the United
States. As a US Army veteran of 28 years, there would be nothing that I
would love more than to do this. However, the cost of production would be
exorbitant. Some have suggested that we move our production to another
country but that is also easier said than done. We have evaluated a lot of
different solutions and we will keep our production in China for now.
With finding a new factory, it is like starting over from scratch. You
don't just walk up to a factory in China and say, "Hey, I want you to start
making highly detailed model trains for me." It takes time to build a
relationship so that both parties FULLY understand each other to avoid
costly mistakes. Case in point, another manufacturer that was affected by
the factory closing last year, just rushed a new car to market. In doing
so, they unfortunately made a very basic engineering mistake. We read about
it on the forums and couldn't believe it so obtained a model for ourselves.
Sure enough, the defect was noticeable before we took the car out of the
box. Upon close inspection, it would have cost less than five cents to
correct the problem but now that the tooling has been cut, the problem may
never be fixed. We do not want to be in that boat. We work methodically on
our cars to insure such shortcuts don't creep into our projects.
One thing we are finding is that our new factory operates on a longer and
slower production schedule than our last factory. This can be frustrating
at times. I have been trying very hard to have our corrections turned
around back to our factory in 24-48 hours - sometimes having to take leave
from myday job in order to accomplish this. Then it takes them a week or
two to have updates or changes made. Also keep in mind that since our runs
are so small, we are not a priority. But as we stated earlier, this whole
process is like starting over.
So.we selected a new factory "officially" last December. The first question
quickly became - which one of the three cars do we do first? If we look
back at the history of what we have produced, our canstock car had 3 builds,
our I-12 caboose had 8 builds, and our PD3000 covered hopper had 14 builds.
Our B&O I-5/1/2/3 caboose project has 84 builds which is obviously the most
complex model we have worked on. It took the previous cars to slowly build
up our last factory's experience to get to the I-5/1/2/3 caboose. But here
we are on day one with a new factory. We did not think it would be fair to
the new factory nor to our customers to have the new factory work on our
most complicated car to date. So we elected to give them the simplest car
build first of the three we have announced which is the DODX flat car. We
know this will upset some of the B&O I-5/1/2/3 customers but we want to
insure when the cars get here, they are absolutely going to be the same
quality, if not higher, than our previous models.
As stated in our September email, the B&O I-5/1/2/3 project was completely
done on our end and we were waiting for CAD to arrive in the spring of 2018.
It still is done and is just waiting its turn to go into production. With
the DODX car moving from the number 2 spot to the number 1 spot, this made
us shift gears and get the final details worked out on the cars. We had
discussed with our last factory an accessory item for the DODX car but it
never really got anywhere as we were focused on the I-5/1/2/3 cabooses.
Since then that one item has evolved into three distinct items. We believe
railroad modelers and military modelers will enjoy these models. They will
be available to all DODX preorders customers first at a discount. If there
are any left, then we will offer them to the public at regular price.
Here is where we are with the current status of our projects. The DODX flat
is in the final stages of CAD approval ofthe 7 body builds - who knew there
would be so many? If the DODX car is delivered with no issues or hiccups
along the way, we will do the B&O I-5/1/2/3 next. Otherwise, the N&W style
caboose will be 2nd which is an easier caboose build and THEN the B&O
I-5/1/2/3 cabooses. No matter what, we will get these three cars here. As
we make substantive progress on each project, we will notify all preorder
There will undoubtedly be a price increase on all of our cars before they
get here. The DODX flat car because we have to cast two different diecast
sills in order to accurately deal with the different brake piping
configurations. Diecast is expensive. The two cabooses projects because of
the sheer number of variations in their respective builds. However if you
preordered, your pricing is locked in for the preordered cars.
Our proxies are currently working on obtaining color chips for the N&W style
caboose project. Currently there are over 70 colors for the N&W style
cabooses and we are working with all of the appropriate historical and
technical societies to make sure we get the colors right.
We fully realize how long it has been since we announced each of our current
three projects. We understand the apprehension and anxiety this has caused.
We are developing a loyalty reward of sorts for those customers that have
stuck through this. We know exactly what we are going to do for -ALL-DODX
customers. We have a good idea what we are going to do for -ALL-of the B&O
I-5/1/2/3 preorder customers and similarly for -ALL-N&W style caboose
preorder customers. The issue for the latter two is dealing with all of the
variations across the long service of the cars. Now we aren't talking about
some bumper stickers or ball point pens but something substantial. When the
cars arrive, we want every customer to be able to say, "It was worth the
wait." The cat will get out of the bag obviously when the DODX cars arrive
as word will spread fast. However, only prior preorder customers will
benefit as it is the only fair thing to do.
Lastly, let me tell you a little story about one small aspect of developing
the DODX flat car. We know what olive green looks like as there are many
paint manufacturers who make the color and they are all very close.
Similarly, we know what Cascade green looks like. However, the one color
that we were having a hard time nailing down was Urethane green. We
obtained over a dozen different color chips that probably could have passed
for Urethane green but we wanted to be exact. We didn't want a faded
version either (e.g. get a paint chip from an existing car). Eventually we
had one of our proxies reach out to the company that actually supplied the
Urethane green to DOD when the cars were repainted in 1996. Our proxy said
they would sell us a gallon of Urethane green for $110. Our proxy was
willing to help us in most any way but wasn't willing to shell out $110 for
a gallon of paint - which is fully understandable. So he gave me the
information and I called to negotiate. I explained that we only wanted a
sample to color match for our models as their paint would destroy plastic.
I inquired if we could buy a couple of ounces or a quart but the company
said that one gallon was the smallest amount available. So I bit the bullet
and gave my credit card number. The representative told me it would be $200
delivered - $110 for the paint and $90 for shipping. I asked if it was
because it was hazmat and he said yes. I acquiesced and purchased the
gallon of paint. About 4 days later, FedEx called me and said I was to have
a delivery the next day and asked if someone would be home to sign for it.
I asked was it a hazmat package and they said it was. I told FedEx that
someone would be home but to kindly call about an hour ahead of the
delivery. They said that would be no problem. The next day, my wife gets a
call from the FedEx driver and he said he could not find our house. My wife
explained the landmarks from the main road and the driver said he saw them
but he was afraid to bring his truck down our street. She asked the driver
if he was in a standard package car and he replied, "No ma'am, I'm in an 18
wheeler with a 53 foot trailer." She explained that she was glad he didn't
try to come to our house as he would have had nowhere to turn around. So
she agreed to meet him in town at a shopping center in a few minutes. When
she got there, the driver opened up the trailer and there, on a pallet, was
a small box that was shrink wrapped to it. She signed for it and brought it
home. When I got home, I opened the box and it was actually a single gallon
of paint that was only 5/6 full and a small can of hardener that was to be
added to the gallon. We found some scrap aluminum siding and mixed a small
batch of paint. We carefully painted a few squares and now we have exact
samples to send to our factory so that our Urethane green cars will be hyper
accurate. This is just one example where Ken and I go to the Nth degree to
make sure our cars are as accurate as we can make them.
We have heard of several people saying some pretty bad things about us and
our ethics. Of course this is a discouragement to us but at the same time we
understand the frustration our customers feel. We also understand many have
said, we just want communication. We are sorry but there isn't much
information week to week or even month to month. It would be empty for us to
say, month after month, "still working on getting our tooling", "still
working on CAD revisions", "still working on." We are sorry there isn't much
more to tell you other than this is a slow process, slower than we were used
to with our previous factory. We are still learning our new factory and they
are still learning us. We are very close to being able to show a substantive
update, but "very close" is also relative. We are thankful for the many
comments like "we stand behind you", "we believe in you", "your cars are
worth the wait" but we also know there is a time limit on everyone's
patience. We have not gone into hiding. We continue to be available at the
usual shows we attend and we have answered everyone that has approached us.
If anyone has any questions that have not been addressed in this update
please let us know. It is still our desire and goal to produce the highest
quality cars that we can and that we believe the larger manufactures will
never produce because they are in the volume business and our selections
will not support their business model. We have many other cars we are
investigating but we have stopped all research on them until we get these
three, previously announced cars, to our loyal customers.
We want to thank those that continue to stick by us and let you know that we
appreciate you very much. Thank you for hanging in there with us, we
believe it will be worth the wait.
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