Upgrade your board gaming experience with beautiful miniature train sets!
Latest Updates from Our Project:
Samples have arrived!
1 day ago
– Wed, Jul 28, 2021 at 07:50:44 PM
Aloha train people!
(Yeah, we're running out of original salutations for these updates.)
Our fully printed samples arrived last night. We're very happy with the way they look and couldn't wait to show them off--this time in decent lighting.
Check 'em out! (With reference quarter for scale.)
It's hard to appreciate how fine the details on these trains are just from photographs.
For example, the circular windows on the Hornet are smaller than a typical pin head. The spokes on the wheels of the Midnight Express--and especially the spokes on the General's wheels--are even smaller! It's really pretty insane.
But presumably you're not going to be sitting and staring at these trains. You're going to be playing with them. So how do they look on a game board?
Spoiler: they look awesome.
All these photos were taken on a regular iPhone camera with no filters or photoshopping applied.
So there you have it. Without further ado, we shall answer some...
Frequently asked questions
1) Are there issues with the Hornet's circular windows? Are you going to make them smaller?
No and no. What we thought might be bleeding from the windows was just blurry factory photos. All the samples we've received are picture perfect. We don't think that the windows look too large either. So we're going to keep everything as it is!
2) How about that coupler on the front of the Hornet? Is it centered?
Yep. What looked like an off-center front coupler was again a photo artifact. The couplers on all the samples we received are perfectly centered.
3) Why don't the trains look glossy like the computer renders on the Kickstarter page?
When we began this project, we thought it would be feasible to produce the trains with a glossy finish. However, major price increases in the cost of plastic, tin, factory labor, and (subsequently) international freight have made adding a glossy finish economically impossible at the price point at which we've offered these sets. We didn't want to charge any of our backers more money or delay the project, so we've decided to forge ahead with the "matte" finish you see here.
Besides much higher costs, when we dug into this subject more, we realized that high-gloss plastic finishes are a poor choice for objects, like miniature trains, that are going to be touched a lot. High gloss plastic = lots of visible fingerprints and body oil. If you've got glossy plastic surfaces in your car or on your cell phone case, you know what we're talking about; they get ugly and dirty fast. It's one thing to wipe down a cell phone or center console, but it's another thing to wipe down 240 trains. The great thing about a non-glossy surface is that fingerprints and oil don't show!
4) The front headlight, chimney, and cowcatcher on the Midnight Express look like they could break off easily. Can they?
Nope. ABS plastic is tough and the Midnight Express trains are really sturdy. The only way they'll break off is if you're intentionally trying to break them off--and you'll very likely hurt your fingers in the process. They're certainly not going to break off jiggling around in the tins or being placed on a game board.
5) Speaking of tins, what'sup with the tins?
Tins are the last step in the process since they're relatively easy to manufacture. Right now, we're awaiting the results of safety testing for the trains themselves. Once we've got the thumbs up from the lab that they've passed, we'll have the factory print out sample tins and send them to us. We'll show them off to you and, if they meet with our approval, we'll give the green light for mass production!
6) Are you going to be making any changes?
To the trains, no. We're extremely happy with these samples and see no need for any modifications. However, we have asked the factory to lighten the color of the Sunset score marker so that it more closely matches its shade of red.
7) How are we on the timeline?
Still on schedule. We fully expect to start mass production in the middle of next month and to get your sets to you sets before the end of the year.
8) You gonna eat a grosssandwich for us?
Yes, yes. We've been busy! Soon. Probably next week.
Thanks everyone! Until our next update, we leave you with some wise words from Rick Sanchez. (You'll need to click on the link and turn on the sound.)
15 days ago
– Thu, Jul 15, 2021 at 12:43:22 AM
'Sup, my train fans?
Our factory has given us a nice surprise.
They were not only able to complete the molds this week but have also made our first colored and pad-printed samples!
We don't have any samples in hand just yet (mail travels slower than photons), but we wanted to send you these photos and videos. The Sunset, General, and Midnight Express aren't yet pad printed; the Mercury and Hornet are.
We're quite happy with how these samples look.
In the next couple of weeks, the factory is going to be working on:
1) Adjusting the General and Sunset color mix to more closely match the red and green Pantone references we provided them. (They also know it's not quite spot on yet but wanted to send us these photos first.)
2) Adjusting the Mercury pad printing machine measurements to avoid line overlap at the front of the train. (They also recognized this issue and assure us they'll fix it--we're adjusting tens of a millimeter at this point. Again, they just wanted to send something out to us. We know they can do it because our original Mercury samples had no line overlap.)
3) Probably making the Hornet's circular windows a bit smaller to avoid any potential bleeding into the top and bottom black lines and to give it a cleaner look. (But wanted to get y'all's feedback on that first before we ask for adjustments.)
4) Making slight adjustments to the Midnight Express chimney mold to improve fit. (They've told us this though we can't see any issue from the photos and video.)
5) Preparing the pad printing designs for the General, Sunset, and Midnight Express and getting samples to us.
There will be other stuff going on as well, of course, such as safety testing and preparing the tin plates.
The bottom line is that we're on schedule and any tweaks here aren't going to be a big deal!
So, what do y'all think?
Assuming bleeding isn't going to be an issue, should we make those side windows on the Hornet a bit smaller or keep them as is?
Any other suggestions? (Just keep in mind that some things aren't going to be changeable, like the overall shape and size of the trains.)
Get in the comments and let us know.
Thank you for all the supportive comments, by the way. We really appreciate it. We haven't cried in the office bathroom in days!
Bad news and an apology
Actually, we don't have any bad news or anything to apologize for. Everything's going fine!
We added this section because it seems all Kickstarter projects include bad news and apologies in their updates these days.
We don't want to let down our backers.
We know y'all have come to expect bad news and apologies and we don't want to violate our y'all's expectations.
So what bad news would you like?
What do you want us to apologize for?
Get in the comments and tell us!
That's all we've got for now. We'll be sending out more photos and videos as we get more samples.
Thanks again for all your support.
The Little Plastic Train Company
Production Update #2 (new timeline and a word on freight)
22 days ago
– Thu, Jul 08, 2021 at 12:07:52 AM
Just a quick update to let you know that we're still around and production on the train sets is chugging right along.
For boring reasons that we won't go into, it's taken a little longer than expected to make the molds.
(DId you catch that pun? Yeah, we still got it.)
Thankfully, it's only been a minor delay, setting us back about two weeks. The good news is that the molds will be finished by next week.
With that bit of news, we give you our:
WeekofJuly19th - receipt and approval of uncolored sample trains
Weekof August 9th - receipt and approval of production sample colored trains, markers, and tins
Mid-late August - start of mass production
Mid-late October - end of mass production
November/December - freight and fulfillment (fingers crossed)
So how about that COVID shipping crisis? Y'all going to lay some bad news on us?
Nah. We're pretty sure that you're sick of getting those kind of updates from publishers.
But here's the lowdown on the shipping crisis, for those who may not have gotten one of these updates before.
In the Before Times, as the elders have told us, shipping a single pallet of goods from China to the United States would cost, depending on time of year, about $300-$500. A full 40 foot shipping container would cost around $5,000.
We are also told that was when giants lived among men, the birds talked, and the squirrels gave free massages.
Post Covid, in the year 2 A.Z. (After Zoom), freight prices have skyrocketed and continue to skyrocket. The cost to ship one pallet from China to the U.S. is now about $1,750 - $2,000 (about a 400% increase) and 40 foot container prices are now north of $20,000 (also an increase of about 400%).
Take a look at the China to U.S. west coast shipping chart below:
You'll see similar scary graphs for shipping from China to the EU, UK, and other parts of the world.
We suspect that these prices are only going to climb higher into the end of the year as everyone goes into a crazy bidding war to get their goods in-country before Christmas.
This is why you're seeing some Kickstarter publishers freak out.
If you're a publisher whose Kickstarter raised, say, $50,000, spending 5 figures just to freight your goods out of China is a bankruptcy-amount of spending. Even for a six-figure Kickstarter, it's a huge hit.
Publishers are facing very tough choices right now. Do you wait and hope prices go back down? Do you ask backers for more money? Do you run another Kickstarter and hope Kickstarter #2 pays for the fulfillment of Kickstarter #1? (No, Mr. Ponzi, you don't do that.)
It's one thing to budget for a 20 or 50% increase in freight costs. It's nigh impossible to hedge against a 400% increase.
Even paying these high prices isn't a guarantee of timely fulfillment. We've heard horror stories of shipments getting left in port at the last minute because another company swooped in and made a higher offer to get their container on the ship.
Adding to the pain is that every fulfillment company increases their shipping prices at the beginning of the year. So, if you decide to wait to freight and fulfill in January or February, you're likely going to get hit with 10%+ increased in-country mailing costs from your fulfillment company.
For many publishers out there, this is an existential crisis. So please be understanding if you get reports of massive delays or requests for additional money from them to cover shipping. This isn't the result of bad management and planning; it's the result of an enormous economic shift outside of any publisher's control.
If only squirrels still gave free massages. Last we checked, they were charging $40 an hour.
We miss you 2019!
So how do these higher freight prices affect us getting our Deluxe Board Game Train sets?
Financially, they won't affect you at all. We won't be asking any of our backers for extra money.
When we started this project, we knew that freight was going to be high. So we budgeted for that. We didn't expect 400% increases, but thankfully, we're better positioned to whether this storm for two reasons:
1) Our train sets are really small
2) Our train sets are really light
One Deluxe Board Game Train Set weighs about 3.5 ounces (99 grams) and is the size of about two Altoids tins stacked on top of each other. Because they're small and weigh next to nothing (especially compared to a board game), we can fit thousands of them onto one pallet. So we're not shipping containers anywhere. We're just shipping pallets. And what we're shipping is still light, so our quotes are likely to be better than for heavier products (container ships care about the weight of their cargo, not just size).
So, to use an example, if we were shipping 4 pallets to the U.S. pre-Covid, that would cost us around $2,000. Post-COVID, we can expect to pay around $8,000. That sucks, but it's a cost we can absorb. Even if prices increase further to say, 500-600% above normal, we are positioned to be able to absorb those increases. (At some point, prices could get insanely high enough that we'd need to re-evaluate, but we're not close to that yet.)
Long story short, because of the physical properties of our Deluxe Board Game Train Sets, we'll be taking a financial shower rather than a bath.
Still, watching these daily freight increases has been stressful. We could use a massage.
Fine, Claude. Here's your $40.
Ahhh...thanks for squeezing us in.
So we'll definitely be getting our train sets before the end of the year, right?
You should. We fully expect that all the sets will be made and ready to ship out come October. At that point, we're at the mercy of holiday shipping schedules and bidding wars for ship space. But we're going to do everything in our power to get everything shipped out to you before the end of the year.
That's all we've got for now. We'll update you further when we have samples to show off and after Claude has smoothed out all the knots in our lower back.
The Little Plastic Train Company
P.S. Yes, we're going to eat some spam PB&J. We're waiting for our custom company shirts to arrive before we film this. If we're going to do something dumb like this (oh, what were we thinking?), we want to at least look professional while doing it.
Production update (and reminder on pledge manager surveys)
about 2 months ago
– Sat, Jun 05, 2021 at 02:59:01 AM
Let's get the nagging out of the way first.
As we stated in our last update, the pledge manager closes on June 11th, one week from today. That means that your orders will be locked and your cards charged on that date.
So far, 85% of you have filled out your pledge manager survey and so will be able to receive your rewards.
Unfortunately, 15% of you have not.
This means that you've given us money for something we cannot ship to you--because we literally do not know your address.
We're all for getting free money. But not this way.
So please, fill out your survey. This is the last update we'll post about this.
We'll send out reminder emails 48 hours before the deadline. But that will be our final notice.
If you have not received your pledge manager survey, please email email@example.com
A handful of backers have emailed us saying that they did not receive their survey. In all cases, this has been due to issues with a spam folder, incorrectly typed email address, or issue with the backer's email server. If you have not received your survey, please email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can send you a direct link to your survey.
Production timeline update
We're happy to report that production of our Deluxe Board Game Train sets is imminent! Below is our expected timeline:
June - EarlyJuly - Mold design, creation, and testing
EarlyJuly-MidJuly - Production of sample sets; testing and QA
MidJuly - MidSeptember- Full production
MidSeptember - November - Freight to fulfillment centers around the world
November- Sets shipped from fulfillment centers to backers
Once we receive our first samples, we'll post pictures so you can see what everything looks like.
Because we front-loaded much of the design work before the Kickstarter, we don't anticipate any delays in factory production. If there are any delays, we expect them to occur on the freight side of things given the ongoing craziness around pandemic shipping. If there do end up being any delays, we'll update you accordingly.
That's all for now. If you've got any questions, feel free to email us or post them in the comments.
The Little Plastic Train Company
Pledge manager surveys close June 11th (and other announcements)
2 months ago
– Thu, May 27, 2021 at 05:20:55 PM
Over 70% of you have filled out your surveys already. Thank you!
For everyone else, you've still got time.
But we do have to make several announcements:
Pledge manager surveys and late pledges will close June 11th
What does this mean?
It means that:
1) We won't be accepting new orders after that date,
2) You won't be able to modify your order after that date, and
3) Your credit card will be charged on that date for add ons, taxes, and any applicable shipping.
We have to do this so we can lock down final counts for factory production and shipping.
If you want to buy extra sets or Extra Engine Packs after that date, you'll need to wait and buy them from your friendly local game store or from us directly when our web store goes live later this year.
You'll able to change your shipping address if you move. We won't lock down shipping addresses until all the train sets are about to be put on container ships.
No local pickup option
We floated the idea of local pickup for backers in the Houston, Texas area. That was before we saw how few backers actually turned out to be in the Houston area. The math is now such that it's not cost effective to mail a separate shipment of sets direct to Houston. Accordingly, we will not be offering local pickup as an option.
If you want to change your pledge level, please email email@example.com
Unfortunately, there's no way to change your pledge level in the pledge manager survey. If you'd like to change your pledge level from Passenger to Conductor or vice versa, please email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll make the change on our end.
That's all for now. We'll start again with the dumb animated gifs when things have settled down.