We hope you’ve had a relaxing summer and some great model progress has been made.
It’s been a while since our last newsletter, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t got a lot of news to tell you. It’s been flat out in the Nelly shop: building, delivering and developing the Nelly range and peripheral products.
Autumn’s here, which means the show season is upon us again, but more about that later.
There’s a lot to update you on, so here goes!
N Gauge Progress
N Gauge production and deliveries are in full flow now and we’ve been getting some really nice feedback: we’ve had a few comments that customer’s friends coming to play trains spend more time watching the Nelly go up and down than worshipping their layout!
The medium version is the most popular, closely followed by the long one and trailing away behind is the short version.
We have had two installations with similar problems that we haven’t been able to reproduce in the Nelly lab. We believe it is electrical noise interfering with the electronics which causes the control board to forget what level it’s on. We’re continuing to try and replicate the condition, but it’s difficult to fix something that isn’t broke.
The 6 ft Nellies tended to sag in the centre when fully loaded. We have now resolved this for new deliveries and offer a free kit to retrofit: if you would like one please let us know. The picture on the right shows my 6 ft Nelly at home with the kit fitted. No sag!
We’re trying to deliver in groups of three in geographically similar areas. We’re doing this firstly in numerical order number, but some customers aren’t ready so we move further down the list. Please can you let us know if you’re absolutely desperate to get one up and running, or if you’re not ready yet that’s fine. A number of you have already done this thank you, it’s a great help.
OO Gauge Progress
The OO gauge unit has been a huge challenge.
We did all our initial testing on some old Hornby A4’s that we have and didn’t realise just how heavy modern Bachmann loco’s are. This has resulted in having increasing the counter balance weights by a factor of three and modifying the tooling of the stacker end weights to improve stiffness.
We now have five units installed with customers and are monitoring their performance. We apologise for the delay in starting deliveries of the OO, but want to make sure they’re good and reliable before increasing deliveries.
We will get there, so thank you for your patience.
They do look amazing when installed, they’ve got a real presence of scale compared to the NGauge units.
The picture to the above is of David Nevett’s fantastic “Dorchester South” layout with a 6 ft OO Nelevator.
New Product Developments
Running alongside manufacturing and delivering Nellies, we have been developing some fantastic peripheral products that can be added to your Nelly in the future.
You may have seen the first outing of this development at TINGS earlier this month. The basic Nelevator relies on driver skill to park trains in the correct place, not drive trains onto a moving elevator and not to move the elevator when a train is approaching. The traffic light system has two functions:
- If the Nelevator is moving it isolates the approaching sections of track at both ends. You will need to cut one rail of the approaching tracks and run two wires back to the traffic light control board. The position of this isolator cut is up to you, but bear in mind momentum and stopping distances of your trains and allow for a full train length after the isolation point if you intend pushing trains or have motive power centrally in the train, or at both ends. This feature prevents trains entering a moving Nelly. It works really well and has already saved us at shows when we’ve been distracted by talking too much and trying to drive trains at the same time. An additional benefit of this function is that, should the train controller be left on when the Nelevator is moved, the trains will not nudge forward as each level passes through the electrical contacts. This is really only an issue on analogue controllers, but there again it’s saved us already.
- If a train blocks the entrance or exit portal, the Nelevator will not move. This is achieved by incorporating an infra-red beam at each entry/exit point and will stop the vast majority of potential crashes. There is one scenario that it can’t detect, but we’re pondering that challenge at the moment. If a train is running inside the Nelevator and is clear of both ends and the front of the train is close to exiting the Nelly, if the elevator is moved, the power to the tracks will be cut but the momentum of the train could carry it into the portal.This should be quite rare but could happen. If it does, the system will see an over-current situation when it traps the train and “bounce back”.
We are currently tooling up the portal ends and producing circuit boards. We can’t tell you the cost yet as we haven’t got production PCB’s, but we’ll keep you updated. It will be functioning on the demo model at the upcoming shows and the system is completely retrofitable, with no modifications required to the basic Nelly.
The traffic light system (above) incorporates a control board and portal PCBs (no mouldings yet). The system will be available in both N and OO gauges.
We know this is what many of you have been waiting for. We can now drive the Nelly using digital accessory address codes that will function just like any other DCC accessory.
The way we’re currently planning on implementing the DCC add-on module for the Nelevator is by responding to 20 different consecutive DCC accessory addresses (with the base address configurable from 1 to 2024). So, if you send the base address the Nelevator will go to track 1 of channel 1, if you send an accessory command to base address + 1 the Nelevator will go to track 2 of channel 1 etc.. The Nelevator will only respond to the “thrown” command for a given address and ignore the “closed” command.
You may have seen us using this at the shows, but we can now control the Nelevator using an app on an Android tablet using a Bluetooth link. This replicates the functions of the normal handset and can be used up to 40 ft from the Nelly. If anyone’s interested please let us know. If there is sufficient interest we will produce it.
We’ve made 2 variants of these: Z Gauge to OO and OO to Gauge 1. They have an LED indicator to show continuity and polarity and DCC signal. We’ll be selling them at the shows, or on request via the website, for just £5 for the small one or £7.50 for the larger one.
The larger track testers can cover all gauges from Z to G.
We’ve already been to the international N Gauge show (TINGS) this year and it was great to see so many of you there and talk so much Nelly. It really makes it feel worthwhile to hear from happy users.
Our next shows will be:
- Peterborough on the 14 – 15 October, stand no. 48
- Warley at the NEC on 25 – 26 November, stand no. A11
- Alexandra Palace in London on 24 – 25 March 2018
Please try to come and see what’s going down (and up!).
We’re really proud to announce that we’ll also be on HORNBY’s stand at Warley, stand #A18!
We have been talking to Hornby for some time now about collaboration and they love the product. They have no financial interest in selling it, but are going to use it on their new exhibition layout to showcase new releases. The unit will feature red top valances with the Hornby logo, but it is still a Nelevation product. Nelevation will also feature in their 2018 catalogue and HORNBY collector’s magazine.
This is a great opportunity for us to have an endorsement from such an historic, global brand. Exciting times!
From Hobby to Business
It’s only two years since we first showcased the concept at TINGS in September 2015. At that time the Nelevator was just a prototype model to demonstrate the function and gauge response.
Our goal back then was to see if we could achieve 30 orders. By December 2015 we had 94 confirmed orders. We started to re-design the concept for manufacture in January 2016 and here we are in 2017 with customers using the product.
We were far too ambitious in our timelines to get to market, but we’re there now which is quite incredible! Thank you to everyone who has helped us on that journey and thank for your patience in taking the risk of the ride. We’re really proud of the product and what we have achieved in only two years.
Our original cost structure was based on a “Hobby” model where Nelevation had no overheads or employees. Thanks to your incredible support, we have to reconsider that model to allow Nelevation to sit on its own 4-6-2 wheels and become a “proper” business.
We have had some help from the University of Hertfordshire in building a business plan that will ensure us a solid future to continue and grow. To that end we have had to increase the prices of the products. However, we firmly believe it’s still amazing value for the function it offers. We will, of course, honour the prices that you’ve all bought at.
These are really exciting times and with the products we already have and the new products being developed we’re convinced that we are filling a real need for railway modellers.
As the Nelevator is a new product and we’re learning all the time about the different requirements of customers installations, we are personally delivering all Nellies. Our delivery charges are based on the distance from the Nelly Lab. To reduce delivery costs we will need to get to a situation where we can ship products using traditional couriers (especially for overseas customers) but we need to learn more about installations and durability in transport before that is possible.
Before delivering we will contact you by email or telephone. It would be really useful to understand any complexities in your installation: loft, cellar, limited access and the readiness of your layout to receive the Nelly. If the hole in your baseboard is cut correctly we will position the Nelly in the cutout and show you how to operate it. If you’re layout is not ready we will still be able to show you how it works.
If you require additional help with the installation and connection to your layout we offer an installation service at an additional cost. Let us know your requirements in advance so we can allow sufficient time with you give you a price for the job.
Sorry but we don’t build baseboards!
What next? Well it’s got to be O Gauge!
We’ve already had quite a few enquiries from the big scale boys. Knowing what we know now from the OO experience, we will need to upgrade the electronics, motors and gear train. It will be a very specialised product as the O Gauge market is quite low volume, but as we’ve had it pointed out to us on more than one occasion, the bigger the scale the more space saving opportunities there are.
This development is at least two years away, but we’re already thinking about the challenges ahead.
It’s amazing how many people at shows think that the Nelly goes up and over; a paternoster concept (see right). Indeed, that was one of our first concepts for the Nelevator, but we rejected it for the following reasons:
- Your Up and Down lines become dependent on each other, so trains need to be run in pairs. We wanted completely independent running.
- Calibration and alignment become very difficult as when you adjust one up the other goes down.
- The whole concept was conceived around N Gauge and the idea of swinging a 6 ft, 2 mm scale train around a hinge point was just too scary.
However, the concept does offer a couple of benefits:
- It can sit completely below the baseboard level: ideal for loft installations.
- It can be used as a simple lift between 2 levels (Nelly can also do this).
- It’s good for customers that don’t want to see the Nelly (storage yard).
However, we’re starting to rethink this.
What do you think? Let us know your thoughts please.
Top Nelly Tips
One thing I’ve found really useful on my home layout, as I can’t see the entry/exit portals, is the use of cameras.
The ones I’ve used are cheap, Chinese reversing cameras from eBay for about £40.
They work a treat.
Let us know your top tips!
Please send us pics of your layouts and we’ll add them to our website.
Here’s some to start off!
Adrian Curd’s medium N Gauge:
Robert Symmond’s long N Gauge:
Anthony Pugh’s short OO Gauge:
Rex Mounfield’s medium N Gauge:
Mark Harrison’s short N Gauge:
Mike Keogh’s medium N Gauge:
Thank you once again for your interest in the Nelevator and your continued patience if you’re waiting for a delivery.
We look forward to bringing you further updates soon and perhaps meeting you at one of our forthcoming shows.