A new equation for HO

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by pdt, Jun 15, 2004.

  1. pdt

    pdt Member

  2. RioGrande

    RioGrande Member

    Here is an old equation:

    MDC + old owner = nothing but warmed over trains

    My reaction to this Horizon buying MDC out is a big *yawn* I have about all the MDC stuff I'll ever need, so this announcement doesn't rattle my cage. MDC hasn't produced anything new in many years. I could use some Thrall Hi-side gons in PSCX with red ends, but not much else... yeah, the occasional flat car, bulk head flat or FMC hopper. I can probably find a few of those kits at train shows still.
  3. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    I buy all my stuff used so things like this have little effect on me. As big as Horizon is, maybe we'll start seeing a better train selection at large retailers like the giant crafts stores Micheal's and Hobby Lobby. Because Athearn and MDC are essentially entry level products anyway (I still love 'em), that scenario would be a pretty good one for the hobby.
  4. NYC-BKO

    NYC-BKO Member

    All that this is doing is making is harder for me to get these products, no Horizon dealers around me, their strict rules and policies might make it impossible for me, I'm not driving hours to get their products.:cry::cry::p
  5. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    Oooo OOoooo, I know, I know! 'Member the old Fotomat drive-up huts in the 70s. How 'bout Horizon Huts, " Scuse me kid, kin Ah have a SD70MAC in CP colors en a order o' PlastiStruct H columns, en a small Floquil Engine Black." :rolleyes: :p
  6. Fred_M

    Fred_M Guest

    I'm afraid it's the old "buy up the competition and raise the price" game. Look for less products in the future as the megla company starts cutting products it deems duplication of products. So we only need make 1 40 foot gon, not I by Athearn, 1 by MDC, 1 by... Nope, just 1 by Horizon. Fred
  7. RioGrande

    RioGrande Member

    I don't imagine things will change much Dash. MDC wasn't exactly producing much of their full product line anyway, so the fact that there will be less production to avoid duplication probably won't affect what we see on the store shelves much.

    As far as buying up the competition and raising the price... MDC had already gone to an extreme price raise when they were selling some of their old kits as RTR cars for around $18. They weren't any better than the Athearn RTR cars and they were higher price. You think Horizon/Athearn will sell those same kits for even more? I don't see how they would sell. There is only so much you can charge for box cars made from tooling 30 to 40 years old. There are much better alternatives for the price.
  8. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Regarding the RTR cars, I've bought a couple Athearn tank cars, the paint jobs and lettering were very nice and the price, as I recall, was about $10. Reasonable, to me anyway. The same day I bought one of those, I saw MDC RTR cars, boxcars I think, looks were nothing special, price was higher than RTR by Lifelike, which are far superior! I just laughed and made a comment to store owner, who shrugged and smiled.

    I don't think it's accurate to portray Horizon as a "borg" intent on gobbling up all the competition. Pete made a telling post on the other thread about the owner getting old and wanting out, with no family members interested in carrying on. When they bought Athearn (another company which was struggling after the passing of its owner) it ought to be obvious they were intent on entering a hobby they hadn't been involved with before. The MDC purchase makes perfect sense. Both these companies were major players for decades, and all of us in the hobby for more than say 10 years probably regard them as institutions. Frankly it's amazing they were able to continue making product here in the US and still charge as little as they did. It shouldn't come as a surprise that it couldn't go on forever. I agree from a sentimental point that it is a shame, but the demise of these companies was not brought about by Horizon.
  9. Will_annand

    Will_annand Active Member

    Well, on my shopping list are several 36' truss-rod boxcars, reefers and stockcars. It seems that MDC are the only ones making those in N Scale.

    Also I like their little 2-6-0, but would like to compare it to the Atlas model.
  10. RioGrande

    RioGrande Member


    I agree with you totally about MDC. I am not at all surprised give the status of the company and owner etc. Hopefully this will be a positive thing. I see the same situation with Accurail - running on "low power" and a prime candidate for buyout since those in charge or ownership aren't really doing much anymore.

    Regarding Athearn, I don't see them as "struggling after the passing of the owner". They have been actively putting out new and fantastic products and from the "outside" seem to be doing well. I don't know the "inside" story or if they are operating in the black or not - but just by watching the products produced, Athearn seemed to be in a very different situation than MDC or Accurail etc.
  11. pdt

    pdt Member

    Athearn wasn't struggling with much of anything by the time Horizon came around. It might have been true when Mr. Athearn died in 1991, but that was a long time ago. The investors that bought Athearn back then managed to point the company in a new direction. The Genesis Line, RTR, the RPP shell/DW boxcar acquisition and Athearn's N scale line are all the creation of this team. Horizon has kept things together so far (though it may be too soon to tell) and new products continue to come at the prices previously announced. I mean Athearn is no less consistent post-Horizon than they were pre-Horizon (which isn't saying much).

    The one true money-maker that has come out of the Geddes team is Ready To Roll. Think about the impact of this product line. I think the success of Ready To Roll is related to these events:
    • A Genesis-level locomotive (SD50) is introduced under the name Ready To Roll instead of Genesis leaving some doubting the future of the Genesis Line
    • Athearn acquires tooling for four boxcars in the Details West product line and the entire product line of Rail Power Products for the express purpose of expanding its Ready To Roll line
    • Athearn is purchased by Horizon Hobby
    • Athearn relocates across town and unloads excess product in a "moving sale" weeks before Horizon announces acquisition of MDC
    • Current Athearn management (Geddes) to take over MDC
    MDC is simply more fuel for the RTR money-maker, just as the DW boxcars and the RPP shells were. Think of the potential right now for unit coal train modelers alone - Athearn can theoretically offer RTR models of a Thrall coal gon, a Bathtub coal gon and its own RTR Bethgon with the acquisiton of MDC, and all can be realistically pulled by Athearn SD70MACs and AC4400s. MDC's product line is focused heavily both on the early steam era and the 1970s era with virtually no duplication of Athearn's product line. In other words, nearly every piece of tooling purchased is usable for this purpose.

    I understand everyone's doubts about this purchase and nostalgic attitude toward MDC. I cut my teeth on MDC's shake-the-box kits, too. Trouble is, things haven't been looking too good for MDC lately. Product development seems limited to new paint schemes applied to old kits. Even MDC's own fledgling RTR line is a new use for old tooling. On top of it all, MDC seems to have let quality control go by the wayside in recent years. Perhaps the owner has lost enthusiasm, maybe there's simply no real money left to put back into the company - I don't know. But, I can tell you that the product I've purchased from MDC in the last ten years has been of poorer and poorer quality with each passing year. I have often thought this is a sad way for a legendary company to write it's own epitaph - to just dwindle away - and I had been hoping for some kind of change in direction. I think this sale is the best thing for the hobby, for the legacy of MDC and ultimately the best thing for newcomers and old hats alike.

    I'm thinking positively for the future of Athearn and MDC. Let's hope Horizon honors the legacies of two of the most important figures in the history of HO trains and continues to build quality, affordable trains for many years to come.
  12. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    RioGrande, I am indeed guilty of glossing over reality with my statement about Athearn struggling. Yes, they are putting out some high quality equipment, made overseas. I guess what I meant was the standard line we're all so familiar with wasn't going to be able to last much longer on its own. I have no knowledge of their financial condition at the time of sale, or now for that matter. To the credit of those who ran it after Irv's passing, they identified that something had to be done. Don't have any of their F units so can't comment on them. Bought two of the 2-8-2's, they run beautifully but their traction stinks. I wrote to them looking to buy spare driver sets so I could experiment adding traction tires, was told since the units were made overseas there were not, and would not be, spare parts for the mech available, would I like to buy the entire mech? I tried NWSL to see if they would offer aftermarket drivers with tires, but no. The fact that the traction is awful doesn't mean Athearn s---s, like some irate posters elsewhere state. It means they made a mistake. Adding power pickup to the tender and adding a traction tire to the rear driver would improve things a lot. The problem with its traction is caused by it being way off balance, something every manufacturer ought to be aware of. It was the lack of concern on their part that turned me off. That kind of thing doesn't help a company trying to retrench and establish a new image with their longtime customers. How difficult would it be to bring in some spare drivers?

    Anyway, that's not what this thread is about. I don't know much about Accurail, I like the cars I've bought, don't know how long they've been around or what their structure is. Out of the 3 companies, theirs is the one I figured I'd be buying more cars from. But honestly I need more cars like I need a hole in my head. I'm sure not going to rush out to buy them "before they're gone" I would think that Walthers may try to get in on the act before they lose to much market share. Hopefully as the dust clears all these lines will still be available, at least those which sell and can be sold at a profit. some stores may not be dealers for both Horizon and Walthers, that's just something we'll have to get used to. It stands to reason that both distributors will do what is needed to reach all potential customers. Somewhere on the Atlas forum I had read that Horizon would only sell to brick and mortor stores, that angered a lot of folk. There are several brick and mortor stores that sell mail order so I'm sure Horizon's products will be available to all customers.

    Well, enough of this!
  13. RioGrande

    RioGrande Member

    Accurail has been around for more than 15 years, but it's most active period was prior to the year 2000. Before that, they were actively buying tooling from other makers like Wind Mill Hobbies Custom Rail flat cars and autoracks, as well as Front Range / McKean box cars and others. Accurail did an admirable job of improving the tooling/kits for many models, and probably the last item manufactured were the autoracks, inconjunction with Walthers Auto series. Since then (~2000) there has been nothing new come from Accurail, but only some new paint jobs of existingm models. They still are producing new paint jobs of existing models at a fairly low rate. But having seen them switch from actively producing new models to only making a few existing ones, makes me believe they are in the same boat as MDC - just running on low energy mode until the owner can work out a buyout. Then a new owner with more energy can actively produce and promote the Accural line of freight cars.
  14. pdt

    pdt Member

    They've had an open hopper announced for some time, but nothing ever became of it. I heard they were up for sale, I don't know, maybe a year ago? Their product line seems to be a bit more crisply molded and detailed than say, Athearn or MDC, but not much more complicated. I'm not sure their molds will have the longevity of Athearn's though. It seems they're being outdone by the current offerings from Branchline, Atlas, Genesis, Intermountain, etc. I have loads of their ACF grain hoppers, though! The same is true of the MDC model of the FMC grain hopper. In fact, I could probably stand to buy a few more.
  15. CNWGP38

    CNWGP38 New Member

    Is horizon a distributor like walthers? I'm new to the hobby so if this question seems stupid I apologize
  16. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Yes,Horizon is a distributor of many products lines including trains,R/C boats.cars and etc.

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