Updated: Feb 16
Ten years ago, we were eagerly awaiting the shipment of our first product - the Die Cast MBTA Green Line Trolley Toy. A year of preparation had already gone into the product by that time. It started with attaining permission from the MBTA to replicate a miniature version of their iconic Kinkisharyo Type 7 Light Rail Vehicle and resell the item to the public. Once an agreement was worked out, we set out to find a manufacturer who would be willing to produce this concept for an off-the-street dad with an idea.
After several conversations with die cast manufacturers who didn't take us seriously, we finally found one who did. Crown Premiums had a long history of sourcing die cast vehicles for clients such as Snap-On Tools and Napa Auto Parts. Their Sales Manager, David, was helpful in educating us on the entire process and there was never any judgement for our lack of knowledge or experience in the industry.
The first step required attaining photos of the real trolley. We received permission from the T to take photos at Riverside Station in Newton. We ventured to the Newton Center Station to capture the top view of the trolley.
Crown Premiums took those photos and created a CAD image. As you can see the initial drawing had a rounded back end, no pantograph and no couplers. The pantograph was later added and the back end was squared off with simulated articulation so that two trolleys could be coupled together. We also changed the wheels to "Matchbox car" wheels.
Next came the 3D renderings and the engineering model.
Once all changes were finalized, the mold was created. These are the first "test shots" from the Green Line Trolley Toy mold:
The couplers were made more robust than they were in the initial engineering sample. We wanted the Trolley Toy to be safe for toddlers and this was the compromise. The couplers can be attached to the front or back of each trolley.
In order to present the Trolley Toy in the best way possible we sought out friends in the professional photography business. We were rewarded with some timeless images. We will forever be indebted to Jeff and Ellie Coolidge for their time, work and artistry.
We made our first sale on June 29, 2012 to WardMaps in Cambridge. We soon garnered support from other local retailers such as Newbury Comics, The Harvard Coop, Accents Gift Shop at Copley, Eastern National and Life is a Highway in Faneuil Hall, Brookline Booksmith, Just Next Door in Newton, Catch a Falling Star in Winchester, Teddy Ballgame's in South Station and more stores as time went on. When we received some welcome publicity from Jill Radsken at The Boston Herald, it felt as if we were put on the map (BH article can be found in the News section of our website).
Ten years and hundreds of new products later, the MBTA Green Line Trolley Toy continues to be our best seller. It appeals to local kids who day trip to Boston via the Green Line and it is a lasting souvenir for tourists who experience the T during their Boston visit. It has allowed Sidetrack Products - a small local business born from one product idea - to grow into one of Boston's top-of-mind names when it comes to Boston gifts.