can you still do it the old way?

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by nachoman, Apr 23, 2008.

  1. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    I picked up a 2005 copy of Model Railroader free a few weeks ago, and have been thumbing through it hen I have time to kill. To be honest, this may be the first issue that I have read through in about 7-8 years. As I have mentioned before, I was kinda out of the hobby for the most part between about 1998 and 2004. While I still had an interest in model trains and tinkered with a few models I already had, I didn't keep up with the new products that became available during that time. This issue had a column about recent changes in the hobby, and got me thinking.

    The most noticeable changes were: DCC, using foam for layouts, ready to run cars replacing simple kits, more detail, and more options on locomotive types and locomotive types that were detail-specific to the prototype.

    Prior to all this, if one wanted (for example) a Southern Pacific gp38-2, that person would likely pick up an Athearn GP38-2, add some detail parts to match the prototype, maybe upgrade the drivetrain, paint, decal, and weather. I can remember in the 80s and 90s almost every issue of model railroader had an article or paint shop column about detailing a diesel locomotive. Or, if one wanted a low-nose GP9, one would take an Athearn model, chop the hood, and ignore that the body was too wide.

    All this new ready-to run stuff is fantastic for opening up the hobby to a lot more people. While plopping a brand new locomotive with all the details, lights and sounds on the track doesn't interest me as much as detailing my own, I would not quit the hobby if that is all that was available. After all, building scenery and track hasn't changed as much, and I get equal satisfaction in doing that.

    My question is, can you still do things the old way? I would argue that one still can, but it is becoming increasingly difficult. There are some oldschoolers on this board; Wayne, Ralph, and Jeffrey come to mind. The limiting factor as I see it is if detail parts, decals, and scratchbuilding supplies become no-longer available.

    I will always be able to pick up an athearn blue box locomotive at a swap meet or from ebay. And while the MDC Roundhouse steamer kits are no longer being made, I can still find them. But lately, the LHS seems to stock less and less detail parts, the decal file hasn't been restocked in years, and the stripwood bin has been half-empty for as long as I have been looking for HO scale 4x10s.

    I am learning that some of the detail parts lines have been discontinued. And I hear the owner of NWSL is retiring, and the business will close if nobody buys it. And as I recall, a major decal manufacturer closed up a few years back.

    So can we still do things the old way? And if so, for how much longer? Will there ever be a point when if one wants a non-DCC locomotive, he/she will have to retrofit by removing the decoder? Or suppose I want to change the cross-compound air compressor on a 2-8-0 to a pait of single compressors. Will the detail parts still be available?

  2. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I've had some of the same thoughts, Kevin. If the detail manufacturers don't get enough business to stay profitable, they will close up shop. The same is true of decal manufacturers.

    I was surprised to find out at my last visit to my local hobby shop that Athearn still offers the old blue box kit locomotives. I think they now have the new style plastic handrails included instead of the old steel stanchions and handrails because Irv designed the machine that bends the steel stanchions and the machine broke and no one at Athearn has any idea how to repair it.

    If the detail manufacturers go out of business, we will have to go back to the really old way of doing things. That is scratch building everything! In fact when you see anyone listed by the NMRA as a "Master Model Railroader" or MMR, part of the requirement to get certification as a mmr is to build a locomotive and a piece of rolling stock from scratch. To qualify for the locomotive certificate, the locomotive must be scratch built, the modeler is allowed to use commercial wheels, motors, and gear boxes. Everything else is to be scratch built by the modeler if I remember correctly! With the rolling stock certificate, the modeler is allowed to use commercial wheels.
  3. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    And if the diesel fans get their way, will there come a day when steam locos are no longer available?

    Personally, I'm going to work on my scratchbuilding.

    BTW: my wife says: Yes, I can...:thumb:
  4. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Kevin,If we can't do things the old way I would be in deep kimchi for sure.You see I still do things the old way even if what I buy is RTR.I am just as comfortable running simple DC or running with DCC..I have no preference since either one has the same end results-running trains.

    As far as DCC..You don't need to remove the decoder..It knows if its running DC or DCC.
    There is still tons of freight car kits.
    As far as scale lumber check around.It still available by the boxcar loads. -- search page

    Contrary to the rumor mills and urban legends the hobby hasn't changed all that much if one knows where to look for the things they seek,the sky isn't falling and the hobby isn't dying..
  5. iis612

    iis612 Member

    The owner of my favorite LHS told me the other day that he does not stock hand laying supplies, detail parts (for the most part), loco kits, and very few scratch building supplies. He said that over the years the folks that looked for those items have aged to the point that they are not able to be avid users, and the younger modelers are the "microwave users," meaning they want it now.
    He did say that he has sources for anything that I could want, I just have to pay a bit more for the ordering process.

  6. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    I figure that as long as there are model railroad flea markets, blank decal paper, and spray paint I'll be fine. :)
  7. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    This is what I am noticing. I know of some shops that used to carry more, but have not restocked in a very long time. I suspect that these are slow-moving items that don't breing in much revenue for the store, so I understand why stores no longer carry many of these items. That's bad for me, because if I need a couple of handrail sanctions to finish a project, I have to oreder and wait a week or more.

    What worries me, is that if the store no longer carries them, that means the general interest in these items is low, and once the onwers of the companies that produce these items pass on or retire, we lose this resource.

  8. i myself tend to turn to mother nature for some things logs, stone, earth and the list goes on. im sure other people here do the same as along with scratch building things from pipes to buildings. you have to addmit that its cheaper and fun to do it your self insted of forking out 10$ for some thing that can be made or found around the house. for that reason it may seem things are slowing on there behalf and not as ready to snatch up when needed.
  9. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    Unfortunately, things like scale lumber are not commonly found around the house. :cry:
  10. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Things like scale lumber as well as detail parts for structures will be available as long as archetects or archetectual students are required to build archetectural models
  11. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    While it's true that a lot of the old-time hobby suppliers are disappearing, many are being taken over by other companies - Bowser is one of the best examples of this, with Cary, Cal-Scale, Arbor, Selley, Stewart, and others coming under the Bowser umbrella. (I'd love to see them pick up NorthWest Short Line and Champion Decals, plus the former MDC line of detail parts, too.) ;)
    There are also newer companies springing up, and with the advantages of the internet, these new suppliers have access to a much wider market than former "basement" suppliers could have ever dreamt.
    Many hobby stores don't carry the inventory that they did at one time, not because the products are not there, but because no one is buying them. And part of the reason that no one is buying is simply that many consumers are unaware that the products are still available.
    Thanks to knowledgeable employees, my LHS is well-stocked with detail parts and scratchbuilding supplies, but, of course, they have the clientele to support carrying such an inventory. If I need parts or supplies, I ask for what I don't see. The store can tell me if they can get it, or if not, why. They'll know if the manufacturer is still in business, or if the material is currently in production, etc., etc. And when I buy their last 6 packages of Cal-Scale air pumps, I let them know that they need to order more - usually they already know, but not always, so it helps to keep supplies current.
    Another facet of this particular store is that they buy model railroaders' estates, so there's always an influx of old (and new) material coming up for sale. Some stuff may have been out of production for years, (they recently had a set of Ulrich all-metal, open platform passenger cars - unbuilt and still in the boxes - arrive with a new lot) :eek: so you never know what unexpected treasures may show up.
    From what I've been reading here and other places, old-fashioned hobby shops like this are becoming a rarity - due in part to internet sales and a modelling public that settles for r-t-r rather than d-i-y. :p:-D Of course, not everyone has the time for anything other than r-t-r, a sad commentary on our lifestyle when we don't have time to "take time".
    I can't imagine being a model railroader if everything was done for me (although I don't think that I'd care to go back to the time when you had to do everything yourself, either): for me, the satisfaction of model railroading is more in the "doing" than in the "having", so I'll continue to support my LHS and those parts suppliers in my own, modest way.

  12. DeckRoid

    DeckRoid Member

    A group within our club here have decided to learn scratchbuilding. We count ourselves lucky to have a really good group of builders to learn from. Even though I am not 1/4 of the way finished with my 1st scratch built project, I am already more proud of it than any other building for my RR.

    As for supplies, there are enough doll house builders and scale fans here in SW Idaho that our LHSs all carry scale wood. It may be difficult to find 2x4s, but if you ask, they will order it. I could order it off the internet, but one of our members owns a hobby shop. It may take a week longer to get, but he doesn't charge shipping, so it's worth the wait.
  13. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    All of the architectural models I have seen for at least the past 15 years or so have been made of cardstock. I cannot recall ever seeing one made using scale lumber. Since I build mainly turn-of-the-last-century wooden structures, I would miss the stuff, although the model airplane industry would continue to be a useful source.
  14. iis612

    iis612 Member

    What is the saying... Necessity is the Mother of invention? Being a former R/C aviation junky, I can easily see how many of the items from the aircraft section of the LHS could be VERY useful in the MRR world. Heck, I am thinking of using control rods (which attach the servos to the ailerons, rudder, elevator, throttle, etc) to fashion hand operated switch throws. I remember the first scale scratch built structure I made I used balsa wood and tissue paper. Despite the inherent weaknesses of balsa and tissue, when properly used in concert they make for a sturdy structure. With the increase in popularity of the "Park Flyer/Micro Flyer" there will be finer control wires to be had for detail parts. Some of the decals could be used for an airfield scene.
    There is something that I have learned above everything else with this hobby, and that is, there is a way around most everything. By that I mean for every item available over someone's counter, there is another item from another place that could be used. Think about how many posts we see about people making trees out of stuff from a craft store, or people using natural products for scenery, etc. If you need it bad enough and can think around corners, you can have what you need.
    Think of the late, great Robin. He made things with cardboard. No, let me re-state that, he made GREAT things with cardboard. CARDBOARD! We need to adapt to the LHS' shortfalls, think "outside the box" and find solutions. That is what was done when this great hobby first took hold.

    (steps off soap box)

  15. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    I guess I do a little of both. I've kit-bashed or "re-detailed" 2-3 of my older locos as well as some of my rolling stock. I too find this really satisfying because of the pride of doing this myself. Plus, it's an awful lot of fun (I used to build model airplanes when I was in my teens, and this reminds me of that). It's another whole dimension to this hobby. I guess this is my artistic side surfacing -- I really enjoy the artistic aspect of MRR because my "handy-man" or technical side is almost non-existent!!

    My main interest is in British trains, and you can still buy detailing kits for a few brand new locos or even older ones. The new models are loaded with detail but these kits allow you to add even more!

    Yes, the fine detail of brand new RTR models is amazing, but it's still a lot of fun to do some of this yourself. I have a good selection of decals, bits of plastic (polystyrene) & paints, that I've used for my kitbashing. So far, from both my LHS's and from online sources, I've more than adequately found what I need. I've even used the laser printer at work to print some decals that I created in Adobe InDesign.

  16. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    Alexander Models, Dyna-model, Fleischmann, Athearn, Mantua, Ambriod, Silver Streak, Marn O Power, the Evergreen Central 4' X 8' layout, Scratchbuilding an 0-6-0.....on the kitchen table!, Modeling Roads, Scale drawings of steam locos ( prototype plans and long gone in MR), Ulrich, Pittman, Lobaugh, Central Valley, X-acto, English, Varney, Kemtron !

    It's November 1953!, and I'm 10, and I'm getting interested in model railroading!
    The market is overflowing with interesting kits, and there is very little RTR. Model Railroading is a mostly kit, and scratch built hobby. There are more different kinds of couplers, than you can shake a stick at! When the manufacturers of RTR, detail parts, etc. are gone, because there is no market for their product, we will have to "Return with us, now, to those thrilling days of yesteryear", and relearn the art of scratch building.
    Robin, mentioned earlier, did some fantastically beautiful models from cardstock, and cardboard, and I had the privilege of meeting him, and running a train on his layout.
    He was not the first to model in that medium. In my early days, there was Jack Work, who used Strathmore for his buildings. I still have the "Lineside Supply Shed" I built from his Sept. 1958 article in MR.( I cheated, and used Northeastern Scale Lumber {Basswood}, instead of Strathmore )
    Deano took some pictures of my modules, and I believe it can be seen, with some boats, in the center module.
    Jack's "Coal Mine", Oct., Nov.,Dec., 1959 MR, was one of the first major projects I built, using hand cut balsa, card, and Aluminum foil (for the corrugated roof). It later became a plastic kit!
    As detail parts become harder to find, the old scratch building skills, learned in my youth, are again becoming "welcome baggage". Like "falling off a bicycle", I haven't forgotten how to use different materials, to build the details I used to be able to buy.
    When asked, "Where do you find the time....", my answer is, I make time!.
  17. RonP

    RonP Member of the WMRC

    I try to leanr old school ways just so that I can do what the older ones find second nature.
  18. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    It looks like I'm going to do some modeling the old fashioned way. I was at Arnie's train shop yesterday (an advertiser on the Gauge) and they had a Reading Rs1 on the "deal table" for $12.00. It will be in Santa Fe zebra stripe when I'm done, but I hate those wimpy plastic stanchions and hand rails! I checked, but can't find anyone who makes stanchions for Alco locomotives, so I guess I need to scratch build the stanchions and bend up wire handrails!
  19. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    And the choir said, "Amen!" I do all my hobby shopping at flea markets and yard sales, buying new only those things I can't make or barter for. I'm forever stuck in 1976, when Tyco was still advertised in MR...:eek::mrgreen:

    Remember these?


  20. RobL

    RobL New Member

    I am just getting back into the hobby after being away for quite awhile... I am quite amazed at the quality of the R-T-R stuff compared to 15 years ago, and I look at some of the new stuff as opportunity: weathering, etc...

    I think too, like everything else, the hobby will adapt... think along the lines of photography, and the transition from film to digital... film will probably ALWAYS be around in some way shape or form, but digital will be the defacto standard.

    With computers and technology I can envision hobbies such as ours heading in new directions: for instance, the previous mention of blank decal paper and Adobe InDesign... that was probably a pipe dream 15 years ago, and now we can "make our own models" by painting up an existing model and applying our home grown decals.

    I also have to wonder that if a some point down the road, equipment such as a laser cutter may be available in a "consumer" or "prosumer" version that coupled with a computer and design software we might someday be able to make our own kits from design to fabrication the same way a Branchline for instance does it, albeit at a much lower price?

    I really appreciated the statement about taking the time to make time... to me, thats what model railroading is... my escape from the "real world", where I can actually relax and work on a project without a deadline, without the fear of making too many mistakes, etc... EVERYONE should have a hobby that allows them to unwind, and personally I think ours is one of the best for that...


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