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.
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!
banlieue expresse that was once planned for Quinntopia.