I’ve received a few emails from worried customers. Sergent Engineering is NOT going out of business any time soon. I think it best to address worried customers in this public forum. So maybe you’re rightly wondering, “What’s really going on here?” Here’s the real skinny...
There was a time when I thought it was best to pretend I was a bigger business than I was and project as professional an image as I could muster. (We are all friends here and I’m kind of beyond that now.) I imagined Sergent Engineering couplers stocked in every train store around the globe and me retiring from from my day job with more money than I could count. I’d be paying other people to make couplers while I built a dream layout or just plain goofed off. Most folks here are well aware of the fact that twenty years later Sergent Engineering and Frank Sergent are still one in the same. By one in the same, I mean that I do it all. That’s not entirely true. I have the die cast parts made in Rhode Island and buy them 50,000 at a time. I’m still the guy that cleans them up and packs them into little envelopes though (including counting seven little balls and seven tiny springs and putting them in a little baggie). All the 3D printed / investment cast specialty couplers, uncoupling wands, assembly fixtures, and everything else are made entirely by me in my basement. I fill orders a couple of times a week and my wife takes them to the post office. (She is still very supportive of me, but has much less direct involvement now days). I am my own accountant, my own IT department, and my own janitor. You might be thinking “Wow! That’s a tiny tiny operation!” but the truth is that I have thousands of customers and ship a LOT of couplers all over the world every week. The operation is very efficient actually as long as things work as they should. I don’t mean to brag here. I do work hard at this, but I did pretty well in life’s lottery and for that, I thank my Creator in whom I believe all things are possible.
I do Sergent Engineering in the evenings. In my real job I help design products that help keep you safe from truly sobering threats that probably only rarely cross your mind, but are much more important to you than model train couplers. Trust me. I don’t do Sergent Engineering for the money even though it produces plenty for the time I dedicate to it. I do Sergent Engineering because I like the satisfaction I get when people express appreciation for something I did. I don’t get much of that in my day job because people never even know that I have helped them. Oh. And I do Sergent Engineering because I like trains – a lot.
So. I’m in my early 50’s and even though I need reading glasses now, I’m not done. I get tired of doing the same old thing. Making things I designed long ago is not much fun compared to designing new things. Designing new couplers doesn’t really excite me any more. “I want O scale.” “I want G scale.” blah, blah, blah. By placing my current designs in the public domain, I am inviting someone else to continue this work, no strings attached. Starting with my Sharon coupler design and creating an O scale version would not be too hard and probably go over very well in the On30 market. Somebody should do this. Not me though. But I’ll provide insight and advice for anybody that wants to try it.
Here’s how I expect this to play out...
Gradually over the next few years, I’ll stop offering the 3D printed (specialty) couplers because those are no longer much fun. 3D printing used to be so cool. Ho hum now. Since the demand for those will still be there, someone will take my designs and figure out how to 3D print them and sell them. I’ll help with that effort any way I can. I’ve been 3D printing and casting these things for 10 years. Its cheaper and easier to do now than its ever been. This is not rocket science, but does require an initial investment in 3D printing and casting equipment (maybe) plus a suitable place to do the work. Or perhaps, there is a better was to make these products that I never tried.
When whoever succeeds at producing the 3D printed couplers and I get tired of selling the die cast couplers, then I’ll sell (at a price they can’t refuse) my diecast tooling to whoever is making the 3D printed couplers. Then I’ll be out of the coupler making business.
In case I go off to a better place prior to implementing this plan, I have left instructions in my last will to select a willing (TBD) customer to receive all Sergent Engineering assets. If you’d like to be on the list for consideration, just let me know.
Please don’t take this information as guidance that you need to buy all the couplers you can before I quit making them. Somebody else will make them when I quit and they will likely do it better than I do. Besides, that sort of thing would only accelerate the process.
Finally, thank you to all my customers. You are the reason Sergent Engineering exists.