RIP The James River Branch

David K. Smith May 21, 2012

  1. ztrack

    ztrack TrainBoard Supporter Advertiser

    I can vouch for David. I saw his packing crates at the convention. I was very impressed with them. They were made to protect the pieces and clearly marked fragile and handle with care. I think it says more that layouts arrived safely withe Fedex. It shows the packaging did it's job and protected them. But no matter how good the packaging is, extremely rough handling will undo all the care put into protecting the piece. It is obvious that UPS did not take care of layout.

    I have heard tales of UPS employees purposely looking for items marked fragile, then going out of their way to give them a rough trip. I actually had been advised not to mark items as fragile. I always chalked this up to hearsay, but I now wonder how much truth there really is in these statements. Regardless, my mind is made up and I won't use UPS. I have accounts with USPS and Fedex and I will stay with these shippers.

    But it is just sad that some an amazing piece was damaged by someone's carelessness. What make this worse is one has to question was it an accident. Accidents happen, but the layout appears to have sustained constant rough handling which makes one wonder.

  2. HOexplorer

    HOexplorer TrainBoard Supporter

    This is a grave occurance for sure. David I feel for you. On the other hand I have had UPS ship layouts to Germany, Florida, Oregon, Mexico City, Virginia, Iowa, and Singapore each arriving in the condition I delivered them to my local UPS store. I suppose one must trust these companies to do there job and that this might be an isolated occurrance. I have also sent one layout to Virgina via FedEx with no problems. In all these cases I let the shipping store make the containers that the layout was shipped in. I, of course, did my part by building a frame around the layout, but the shipping folks did the rest. Go get 'em David. Jim
  3. shamoo737

    shamoo737 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Yup yup, my diorama arrive in excellent condition. I guess when it comes to shipping, you have to have lucky.
  4. Don A

    Don A TrainBoard Supporter

    I think Stony took photos of the crate(s) clearly marked FRAGILE in BIG RED LETTERS. I know I saw them, so they most likely are at Z Central.

  5. up mike

    up mike E-Mail Bounces

    Wow that sucks Sorry for your loss David...........
    With all that packing let's hope that UPS will make it right!
  6. Avel

    Avel TrainBoard Member

    I would blame the system. If you don't sort the packages fast enough, you get written up, and then fired. Blame all the shipping companies, OR pay a lot more to ship packages. And no, we don't purposely look for Fragile boxes, really don't have time for that.

    I'm glad it was insured, and I hope you get the maximum amount of compensation that you insured it for. Which probably isn't enough, but hey! JRB 2. Or maybe something else entirely new. Although I know you are super busy with your business. I know myself and others will be watching and waiting for you to create something else amazing.
  7. OntarioTodd

    OntarioTodd TrainBoard Member

    Sorry to hear about this David. Even if you are compensated, it can't make up for all the time you had invested in building that layout...

  8. kornellred

    kornellred TrainBoard Member

    David - I was not suggesting that you might set a precedent. I am suggesting that you WILL set a precedent if you happen to be successful in obtaining a large settlement for your loss. You will be tasked with proving that you did not over-insure your layout. There is no equitable way of establishing the value of a small model railroad, and stacks of documentation might help you in a civil lawsuit, but the uneducated cadre in the UPS claims department will do nothing but scratch their chins and start daydreaming about the end of their shift. You've got a fight on your hands - I hope you win!
  9. pmx

    pmx TrainBoard Member

    David, this sorry news indeed. I know there where many of us that looked to the JRB as inspiration and as standard of excellent quality craftsmanship. I count my self fortunate that I was able to see it in person in Denver and I hope that you are able to reclaim the full insured value.

    With regards to shipping each have their failures, UPS isn't alone in this. Case in point would be when my work used FedEx, which we quite extensively without issue, to deliver $250K USD in specialized computer processors only to have FedEx loose it. Then when it became apparent to FedEx that they wouldn't be able to locate the shipment in about 24 hours they simply offer to pay the maximum value for the shipment, which was ~$100 USD because it hadn't been insured for the full value, rather than continue to try and locate the package and absolved themselves of the issue.

    But back to focus of this thread, which is the terrible loss of a exceptional piece of artwork. RIP JRB.

    ~Paul E.
  10. BurlingtonRoute

    BurlingtonRoute TrainBoard Member

    David, I am sorry to hear about the loss of your layout. I would be safe to say it was one of if not the best in the Z world.
    Everyone is talking about value of the layout. Of course it would be impossible to put a price on the workmanship involved. However, I noticed in years past in different magazines, that there were advertisements for model layout insurance and appraisals.
    I know it is hindsight, in the Army we have "Lessons Learned" when something goes wrong, to try and fix it so it cannot happen again.
    So brainstorming with the folks here, the first question is, could a layout be appraised, by either a company that specifically deals with model railroads, or, a company that deals in works of art?
    If one were to have it appraised, could the work be insured?
    Once insured would it is able to be moved?
    If it was appraised and insured first, and then is damaged by movers, then would you have more leverage filing claims?
    Again I am not trying to be critical.
  11. ddechamp71

    ddechamp71 TrainBoard Member

    David, I'm so sad for you about what happened.:angry: Your James River Branch is undoubtly one of the finest, if not THE finest layout of any scale I've seen pics of. And as I have pictures of it permanently set in my laptop, I oftenly show them to people who have condescending views about Z scale.... So I definitly hope that you'll get maximum compensation from these suckers (who are pulling a bullet in their own foot....). And why not, maybe time for a JRB 2? Best wishes, I'm just sharing your pain, dear Dave...

  12. John Bartolotto

    John Bartolotto TrainBoard Supporter


    I just viewed the photos on your blog site. Holy crud!! It's like they reached into the crate and smashed things. Unbelievable that is sustained such damage secured in a crate. Was the plexiglas cover damaged also?

  13. David K. Smith

    David K. Smith TrainBoard Supporter

    Yes, it's a loss as well. No amount of plastic polish will correct the ton of scratches it sustained.

    I swear, they must have put the crate into a giant paint mixing machine...
  14. Don A

    Don A TrainBoard Supporter

    Is it possible that someone in Denver opened the crate and did a bunch of damage before UPS picked it up?? Then additional damage could have been done during shipping.

  15. David K. Smith

    David K. Smith TrainBoard Supporter

    Unlikely, especially considering I used screws that required an unusual bit to remove. Plus, they would have to have replaced the packing materials and other items exactly the same way as I packed them.

    In other news, I have tallied the value of the layout. Using actual material costs and a modest estimate of labor time, it's worth $42,866 to replace ($10,366 materials, 1,300 hours). Repair I estimated at $1,000 materials and ~450 hours of labor for a total of $12,250. The claim form is winging its way to UPS now, along with complete documentation. We'll see what happens next; I predict it will be a call from UPS to make a personal inspection.
  16. Loren

    Loren TrainBoard Supporter

    Yes, and the unenlightened person who is likely to show up will take a quick peek at it and say...."well, just glue it back together again, it doesn't look so bad to me"

    What would the world do without experts?....... :eek:)
  17. rray

    rray Staff Member


    ...At which time I would immediately say "Have at it Mister, after all you represent those that smashed it, thus those that purchased it for $42,866, and in order for you to recoup your costs, you need to be pretty exacting with the glue and touchup paints!"

    In 1997 someone purchaed a Faberge' Egg for $5.5M that was appraised at that value. But if someone dropped and broke it, it's value would be $5K worth of components, as the value was in the artwork, not the materials!
  18. SJ Z-man

    SJ Z-man TrainBoard Member

    At least in this pix, it was 1:1:
    DKS at TBS display.jpg

    One good thing: the Z Convention Grand Poobah prize made it home OK, after some double taped extended boxes and hand carrying:
    SAM_3645.jpg . SAM_3646.jpg . SAM_3647.jpg

    This has been shown to fellow Z's and our local Niles Depot HO and N guys (jaw drops). Next weekend, I will take to the local Pac Coast NMRA to make sure it gets the final stamp of approval. Then, I am shipping it back to its rightful owner ! I've seen it, touched it and have it etched into my memory.
  19. Loren

    Loren TrainBoard Supporter

    That is a wonderful gesture on your part. Not sure how I feel about you letting go of it, but the fact that you won it was special to all of us West coast boys and you showing it off to the 'other' scale guys will certainly raise some questions in their minds about just how real Z can be.

    Go show them up a tad.......
  20. David K. Smith

    David K. Smith TrainBoard Supporter

    As I told Jeff in an email, I was deeply touched by his offer to return the diorama, but that he should keep it. I built it for the express purpose of giving it away. For me, the enjoyment is in the building much more than the having (it's the journey, not the destination). Besides, Jeff is a far better ambassador for Z than I am; he interacts with many more people, so the diorama will serve its purpose much better if it remained in his care.

    One curious observation I have about the images of it being packed for the ride home with Jeff, it would appear the streetlights are on while it was inside the box. More proof of Jeff's thoughtfulness: he kept the lights on for the residents of TBS Town.

    Once again, I'm moved tremendously by the offer, but it's better that it remain in Jeff's hands.

    Anyway, the shelf that once held the JRB is not empty; it's now home to the Geordie & Daphne. And I'm also planning a new Z layout, so I've already begun a new journey.

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