The sad tale of the Ille de France on Quinntopia

This is a post that I've been thinking about writing for a while, but have hesitating for reasons which will become a bit more clear.  While I have diverse modelling interests, its no surprise that the SNCF and France are one of my favorites.   Its been a good couple of years for modellers of N Gauge and French railways, so Piko's announcement a while back of the BB25600 in the Ille de Fance region livery was exciting news to me as this was another new livery not yet produced would be available.  The Ille de France region is (to the best of my knowledge) a regional division of the French network with the red, white and blue livery.  If you've ever travelled to Paris, this livery is ubiquitous and cannot be missed! 

The biggest challenge with this locomotive choice was the lack of appropriate rolling stock to accompany it.  Sometime around the announcement of the BB25600 from Piko, a small artisan out of Italy announced production of VB2N coaches in various liveries (apparantely this coaching stock not only runs in France, but in Italy as well).  This is obviously the kind of news us modellers like to hear!

So far, so good, right?

Initially Eurotrains SL released only the 'standard coaches' which I purchased through eBay and paid through PayPal.  I received my two coaches (which are on the expensive side at about 80 Euro's each!) last May and eagerly awaited the release of the announced driving trailer coach as well as a 'transition' coach that sits next to the locomotive. More on that in a minute.

A Quick Review of the Coaches:
The coaches from Eurotrains SL came in a nice box, well packaged, with a certificate allegedly identifying which numbered models in the limited run that I recieved.

Detail is not great - particularly considering the cost.  Its probably satisfactory, but as you can tell (particularly in larger photos) the decals and small printing is not up to standards we get from the main manufacturers today.  I can live with this as my expectations were for a model that looked right, not necessarily a model to view in photos at 10x their original size!
More problematic is the couplers.  I haven't worked out how to optimize the installed couplers, but they don't maintain their connection with the Piko lok and don's seem to be the right height and/or aligned correctly.  The coupler housing is welded to the brass/metal chassis, so its not something that is a quick fox, but can be solved.

The Scam:
But here's the bigger problem.  As you can see in the above photo, this train without its driving trailer doesn't look right at all.  In communication with Eurotrains SL last May, I was told that the driving trailers were complete (along with the accompany 'transition' coaches) and happily sent off $300+ via PayPal (235 Euro) in anticipation of getting these two coaches and having something that resembles a complete train.

June passed: Nothing.  Okay, the Italian post office isn't noted for their efficiency and, having experience with ordering from Europe, 4-6 weeks is not uncommon.

July arrived: I received an email informing me that an Earthquake in Italy had apparently disrupted everything - particularly the postal service.  Okay, a bit strange, but hey, its Italy.  Maybe those Mayans were right.

August arrived: I receive a strange email informing me that the proprietor of Eurotrains SL was going to be on holiday for the month. "Be patient" his email explained.  Okay. Weird.  But I can chalk this up to a medieval interpretation of customer service and wait another month to get my items.

By September, believing the promises I've received, I expected to see a package from Italy arrive.  I also haven been monitoring mes amis français over on the French N scale forum who were also increasingly skeptical of the delay and questionable explanations and seemingly empty promises of their Eurotrains SL delivery.

On September 19th, it seemed like the wait was over when I recieved an email with an apparant tracking number from Eurotrains SL indicating that the package was on its way.

The problem is this tracking number didn't seem to work on the Italian postal site.  And it wasn't just me as it turns out, as the so-called 'tracking numbers' were not working for any of the other customers who received one on the French forum (similar issues reported by other modellers on Italian forums).

At this point, communication ceased.  And with each passing day, hope declines that I'll ever see my money or a complete Ille de France rake of coaches behind my little electric locomotive.

The only comfort in all of this is that misery loves company and my frustration and anger at this rip-off is something I share with my fellow modellers in Europe and elsewhere.   Writing up this experience is essentially my acknowledgement that its over.  I was also inspired and encouraged by a post by Marco on Scala eNne on this very same topic, which has apparently been removed.

There's a mystery here too...Eurotrains SL had been producing and delivery products for some time.  But then this summer, after the 'earthquake' and the the 'holiday' this artisan who apparently has spent a lot of time and effort in creating his models all of sudden decides to deceive his customers and run off with the cash.  Very strange.  It makes me wonder what the real story is.

So, what I have left is a two-coach IDF (Ille de France) train.  Not very impressive, but until some real manufacturer (hopefully) sees the market and produces appropriate coaches, I'm a bit frustrated with my options (recent price drops on this particular model also indicate that the law of supply and demand is in place).  The reason I delayed writing about this experience is that I am perhaps too nice and wanted to give Eurotrains a chance to fulfill their responsibilities before saying anything 'publicly' that could harm their business. Well, the time limit is up on that, so here's my story!
Thus ends the sad story of the Ille de France banlieue expresse that was once planned for Quinntopia.
Is there a moral to this story? Maybe.  Sadly, this will probably be the last time I deal with an artisan directly (through a reputable dealer is possible).  But I won't give up, and hope one day to find meaningful employment for my little electric and its, unfortunately, shortened train.


  1. Jerry,
    I'm really sorry for you. It is true that it does not encourage them to buy directly from an artisan.
    It's a shame for the whole profession and especially for you financially.

    This train would look great on your layout.
    With sympathy


  2. That sucks!! The coaches aren't too bad though.

  3. Thanks Pascal! Yeah, its a bummer, but I've accepted it now! Sympathy is always appreciated! The good thing is that many artisans produce materials that can be purchased through legitimate dealers, so that is always a very safe option!

    Baron - thank you! Again, thanks for your sympathetic comments! The biggest issue is the incomplete train! :-(

  4. I know the feeling. I never received my parcel from USA at all but I know it was not the dealer's fault. We have a horrible postal service in Malaysia. Not many US stores want to ship to Malaysia.

    Thank God I am now in Germany :))

    Well, all is not lost. You can run short excursion trains with that 2 wagons and other wagons in tow. I have seen DB runs Regional Express with 2 double deck coaches and 2 single deck coaches. It is still prototypical. You never know, somehow someone will produce a photo of such coach combinations.


  5. @ Jimmy! Thanks! I think that's what I will have to run! I'll keep my eyes on photos of the prototype to see whatever unusual combinations do show up as well.

    *By the way...excellent blog!!! I'm really liking it! Thanks for commenting here (sometimes its the only way for me to discover other bloggers work!).

  6. Hans Wilthof5/12/16, 5:04 AM

    Hi Jerry, first of all, thanks for your wonderful blog. Very inspiring! I myself am also an avid collector of SNCF and NS material. Recently I have picked up the Piko BB25600 for only 99 euros (the digital one!). In my search for the IDF coaches (N gauge) I have only found some look-a-likes. Fleischmann does a set of double deck coaches from Luxembourg railways (white with red) and Hobbytrain has announced a full set of the SBB double deck coaches (white with red doors). These coaches could be converted with a little work to the IDF coaches. At http://www.modellbahndecals.de/ you can get the decals of the SNCF from several periods.

    For now keep up the good work with your new layout!

    Greetings from the Netherlands.
    Hans Wilthof