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The Safer-Shipper A at Jeff Lemke Trains Inc | by Twin Ports Rail History
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The Safer-Shipper A at Jeff Lemke Trains Inc

No doubt about it—necessity is the Mother of Invention. If you've done business with me during the last year then you know what a stickler I am when it comes to SAFER SHIPPING and storage of brass model train collectibles.


Each week more and more models are being damaged in transit because of naive shippers thinking the old foams will still protect brass models being shipped through UPS, USPS and FedEx, among others. I've made many alterations to still-good old foam to give the brass models contained within it a safer journey and happy landing at my client's home or office. With hundreds of models shipped in the last 12 months alone—with ZERO damage on the receiving end—I know that I'm doing something right that needs to have more wide spread use and acceptance. Here's a link to those images too:


Recently, I had the good fortune to be able to represent the sale of one of the most-valuable HO scale diesel sets ever made—the Overland Models Union Pacific Heritage Set of six (6) specially painted EMD SD70ACe diesel-electric locomotive models. With ever-increasing retail values it's always a good idea to double check the original boxes and foam to determine if it's safe to ship these models in their own boxes. Even many of the newer models that have good foam are packed inside model boxes that are just too darn small with the ends of the model dangerously close to the inside ends of the box. One drop and there's a smashed pilot or dented cab roof.


Please look at my pictures.


I've included a few images of those UP Heritage models and their original boxes. They came in sets of six models packed in two boxes, three models per box. At nearly 6 lbs. of brass model in each box those original boxes are FAR too small to properly protect them in any sort of local, cross-country, or international journey. Today, the high-speed conveyors employed by the shipping carriers have boxes moving 10-20 m.p.h. while a stainless steel baseball bat awaits to take a hard swing at our valuables—just to knock them from one conveyor onto another... and another. Those swings of the bat can impact any box at what becomes the automobile equivalent of a 50 to 75 m.p.h head on collision.


Now take a close look at the image showing the inside of the model box. I purposely added a sheet of white paper under the foam cut-out so that we can plainly see just how little "protective" foam would be available around the perimeter of each 2 lb. brass model. Especially at the pilot ends of each model. That's NO protection for valuable and delicate models moving through today's shipping environment. Times have changed. No manufacturer could have anticipated 10 or 20 years ago just how many things can damage models enroute today including the likes of high-speed conveyors, boxes falling from 30 feet in the air onto concrete floors, train trips with thousands of heavy slack run-ins, train car wheels with flat spots that hammer a load constantly from coast to coast—and finally, semi-truck and delivery vehicle trips made over pot-holed roadways. That's now the norm.


The Original Brass Train Safer-Shipper, a.k.a. "The Jeff Box" is what I'm using now to help protect heavier models that I sell, or that I finish, and return. You never have to worry about a model being damaged in transit that I pack and ship. In fact, my client who purchased the Serial No. 2 UP Heritage Set had this to say about the new Jeff Box after the set traveled from Chicago to Dallas...


"Hi Jeff—The UP Heritage Set arrived. You get the Blue Ribbon Grand Prize for packing. Truly incredible. Not only thorough but what a great idea to use your own boxes. Do you sell those? After seeing them I want to send models to you only in those boxes with the same kind of tissue, plastic and bubble wrap that you use. Very impressive. And the models are beautiful. Thank you !!!"


Next up then, was a group of cabooses from Overland, and a set of six brass steam locomotives that were imported by Westside and PFM. Cabooses, freight cars, and passenger cars are generally fine in their own boxes since they are rather lightweight. The box foam will protect those if the foam is still in good shape. No worries there. But all models are not created equal. The locomotives are very heavy with huge lead weights inside of each box. Their tenders are more akin to a caboose's lightweight mass. More easily protected.


My solution was to pack the cabooses and tenders in their original boxes and to put the locomotives proper into my Safer-Shippers. Everything made the trek from Illinois to California without incident. Look closely and you'll also see that everything has been waterproofed. That's just in case they encounter a leaky container or trailer during the rainy season, or a delivery person who leaves them on your front porch in the pouring rain. I do what it takes to create ZERO defects whenever I ship a brass model. Big or small.


I've been constantly fine-tuning the packaging that I use to ship models that I sell, to better protect models that I've finished, or simply needed to return. The great thing about these Safer-Shippers (a.k.a. "The Jeff Box") is that they are perfect for brass, plastic, and hybrid models too. If you have a hard-wired steam locomotive with PFM sound or DCC, then the entire model can be wrapped and placed inside for safer shipping. You can use them to carry models to your favorite train club or show. That saves the original box from scuffing and damage too. There's never any reason to transport your models inside original boxes—if you have a safer and better alternative—that better protects box the model AND the original box.


Most collectors know that old model box foam breaks down, turns to sticky dust, that turns to acid, and that can literally eat through the paint job and etch the brass—making your model valueless. But there's ANOTHER reason to get your models OUT of their original boxes.


Gearbox oil spread.


Most models are put on their side inside original model boxes. Many gearboxes have oil lube that drips out of those gearboxes—brass diesels especially. It's humbling to open the box of an expensive factory or custom painted brass model only to find out that while that model has been sitting inside of its original box (placed on its side) the oil has migrated to the low side of the model, hit the plastic wrap, and spread from one end of the model to the other. One side is dry. One side is soaked in oil and grease. That's bad.


My solution keeps your model upright so that any oil leakage stays low in the box and on the model. And I've included special oil pads to actually absorb stray gearbox oil to help prevent it from spreading any farther.


If you still need one more reason to get you models out of the old boxes and into something more tailored to helping you keep your models nicer longer—then it's the uniform shape of the Safer-Shipper. They stack and shelve much better than 50 different sized model boxes. And it's easy to add your own custom labels to the end or top of each box so that you know what's inside. Just photocopy the original box labels onto self-adhesive Avery or similar brand labels and your entire collection of locomotives can be higher organized AND SAFER for transport and enjoyment, than they might otherwise be right now.


Current clients can expect to see this standardized packaging for larger and heavier model locomotives as I finish up the paint and weathering work. Several standard sizes are available to handle everything from small 0-6-0 switchers to the biggest UP Big Boys, with a couple of steps in between.


Why worry about it?


Because when it comes to preserving these fine models for future generations, several things must be acknowledged.


1) Old foam will eventually ruin your model as it decays more and more from old age, exposure to air, sunlight, heat, cold, and humidity. It's unstoppable. Left unchecked expect it to ruin most any model after 20+ years of direct contact. Shipping a model in old foam will disintegrate that foam leaving the model utterly unprotected inside of the model box.


2) Many model boxes are not large enough to provide enough cushion inside the box to keep models from impacting the interior of their own boxes during shipment these days. The way they handle packages now is completely different that it was 10 years ago, or 20, or 30. Which explains why so many models look great on the web before you buy them. Then when you open the box on arrival the pilot is bent down and the cab roof warped at on or both corner. That's hundreds of dollars to repair properly. Most get set aside forever. That's not a fitting end for an otherwise fine model.


3) Over-oiled gearboxes present a new kind of danger to model trains made of brass, plastic, and hybrids too. The more oil inside the gearbox, the more likely it will spread to other areas of the model including the superstructure and paint job. It's always better to have a model stored upright on its wheel whether it's still inside its box, in a display case, or on the model train layout.


I've done all that I could think of to keep brass models safer when they are being shipped inside of a larger shipping box, or being taken to the train club to be enjoyed over an evening of scale operations. If you're a client, watch for one or more of these to show up when I send your heavier model(s) back to you. Of course I'll include the original box too. I'll use it to send your model back. You can continue to use it for storage or any time you feel the need to transport it again withOUT adding wear and tear to the original box. Perfect for weekly journeys to train club on Friday night, right? Use them, and re-use them. That's what they're designed for, to help keep your brass safe on any journey short or long.


So there it is.


They're labeled as The Original Brass Train Safer-Shipper but I'm going to call them "The Jeff Box" for short.


Problem with heavy steam and diesel locomotive models being damaged in transit: SOLVED


Solved here anyway.



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Taken on June 24, 2018