Saturday, January 28, 2012

Man, er, Model Railroad Cars Overboard!

Containers headed for Davy Jones' locker.

Most model railroad items are made in China these days, as we all know. They come to North America in containers on huge container ships.

Most of the time, the journey is uneventful. But every now and then a shipper learns that his or her shipment was lost at sea—never again to be seen.

That’s what almost happened to Jason Shron of Rapido Trains. Last week he learned that the Cosco Yokohama, the ship carrying a container of his passenger cars, lost 29 containers in the Pacific Ocean.

Luckily, it seems that his container was not one of the ones washed overboard. But what if it had? His wife, a noted Canadian author, suggested he write the following to those waiting for their orders:

“Dear customer. We have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that your container was unloaded on January 23rd. The bad news is that the vessel docked on January 25th.”

Lost containers at sea is not a rare occurrence. It is reported that over 10,000 containers fall off of container ships every year. Many of them float at the surface for months, posing a serious danger to vessels—especially smaller craft. Some make it to shore, but most eventually sink to the seafloor.

This container made landfall.

Container at the bottom of the ocean.

The most famous container lost at sea was the one that carried rubber ducks. In 1992, almost 29,000 of them fell off a container ship into the Pacific Ocean. They’ve been floating around the world on ocean currents ever since, with some washing up on the shores of Great Britain, 17,000 miles away.

Routes taken by the rubber ducks.

The spill actually turned out to be a boon for ocean researchers; the duck’s progress has aided their efforts to map various ocean currents.

Now if Jason’s trains had gone overboard, I wonder what beachcombers would have thought if HO scale passenger cars started washing up on various shores? Maybe Jason could send out another note:

“Dear customer: We have good news and bad news. The good news is that your order has finally arrived. The bad news is it’s in Australia.”

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