A train made of corrugation board: An engine for creativity – The Noel D’Cunha Sunday Column

Amit Shah of Spectrum Scan showcased the 50+ feet Spectrum Express steam engine created with corrugation board at the In-Store Asia show hosted in Mumbai.

It’s a robust piece of work, eco-friendly, and the centre of attraction during the three-day show. Shah says, “The thought process for the creation of the corrugated train was inspired by the traditional way of living in India which is in harmony with nature.”

In this Sunday Column, Amit Shah recounts the making of the Spectrum Express

29 Mar 2019 | By Noel D'Cunha

Brief description of the Spectrum Express in terms of length / weight and tech specs. Plus the number of pieces that built the whole.
The thought process for creating corrugated train: We wanted to showcase something eco-friendly / sustainable / reusable material which can be used in POP/POSM items. We have gone back to our traditional way of living in India which is living in Harmony with Nature. The Train gives nostalgic positive emotions which have emotional connect with most of us.  Since many years its connecting Indian people and culture, and I think we are successful in this creation.

Whose concept? 
I happened to see a movie, Murder on the Orient Express. The train became a positive memory. We had been mulling over the orientation of our business – of hopping on to the corrugation segment. The concept of doing something different, using corrugation came to my mind. That it will have to be at a level higher than anything that has been done so far in India, was a criterion. The idea of Spectrum Express was born. With the sheer scale of Spectrum Express’s design, we became our own challenger.

You created a mini model, first? 
Yes, we have created a model, which was of 2x0.5ft size. It gave us the confidence that we can do corrugation train, but there was a huge challenge in front of us, that of creating the engine and a bogey with dimension 50x10x14ft.

Design to Train, you achieved 90% (more or less) of the vision?
We first created a 2x0.5ft prototype, which looked brilliant. Once the prototype was approved, the requirements of creating the Spectrum Express multiplied in that ratio. So we had had to make space, arrange for the corrugated sheets, and rest of the supplies and logistics. After looking at the way the Spectrum Express has turned out, we have achieved 90% from concept visualisation to prototype to final production.

Any example?
Right from the beginning, we were clear that we would make a coal-pit-fired engine. We needed a steam whistle that sounded like the original. After a three-week trial, which involved creating a whistle, the pulling mechanism so that the air can be released, to create the whistle-sound. I think we achieved a near 100% result.

How many staff members worked on it? 
The production of the Express was divided into different parts. We did not have the space to install it in one place. While the bogey was produced on the terrace of our building, the engine was being produced on the third floor.

There were teams – design, CAD, Esko software, carpentry, electrician, pasting and fabricator.

The development team was also part of the project because we wanted to also showcase some of our new offerings during In-Store Asia. So it is difficult to point out which staff or team, but I would say it was one team, comprising of smaller ones, who worked with complete purpose and clarity.

When did the work begin? 
The work on the project of the Spectrum Express had started three months back, where apart from the corrugation board, metal and wooden materials were used to set up the base. It took about three days to re-assemble the Spectrum Express for the In-Store Asia show.

Which are the materials deployed? 
Mainly paper corrugation is used but we have used metal and wooden platform for the base as we have created a conference room in the area of a coal pit.

Why corrugation board? 
Spectrum specialises in mid- and long-term solutions. India is growing, and the aspirations of its people are changing. The POPs in the developed countries are made out of corrugation. It was not an option in India because of the durability factor and more importantly the weather. The quality of the corrugation was not great, nor was the life-cycle of the material. There are advancements in material and process involved now. And then, there’s the sustainability factor.

Considering all this, we are entering into corrugated displays and we wanted to showcase something unique and challenging.

How many visits to Chor Bazar - and why? 
Five to six visits to buy British era lantern and Number Plate for Steam Engine. It was part of the detailing required to create the Spectrum Express. Fortunately, we were lucky to find them.  

When the team from railways came to the Spectrum stand, they were amazed at the size and detail that went into the making. They were surprised to find an old number plate 795/5 adorn the Express. They revealed the story behind the number plate. There was a class of steam engine which was 795, and 5 denoted that it was the fifth in the series.

We looked for the old clock and the wooden indicators, but couldn’t find it.

You remember Day One of work? 
Not really but I do remember to discuss with the team to make the corrugated engine for the show.

My favourite thing in the Spectrum Express is the fire chamber. What is yours?
The whistle ...

What’s the USP of this creation according to you? 
The size and complexity, which was achieved by a paper medium.

Your company’s motto while they created the Spectrum Express? 
Be Innovative ...

Is this your proudest achievement in the past few years? 
Yes. And we are honoured to display this train in CST (V.T Station) Heritage Museum.

What’s your team’s favourite train song to be sung on the Spectrum Express? 
“Gaadi Bula Rahi Hai, Ciiti Baja Rahi Hain”.