Longing for the "Good Old Days"?

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Squidbait, Feb 10, 2008.

  1. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    So, I was leafing through my old (1954) copy of Small Railroads You Can Build, and for one of the projects, they listed the estimated cost of materials. I got to wondering how the cost then compared with the cost now.

    I used three different indexes, just to give a range of values. They're based on different formulas, but basically compare the value of comparable goods between time periods.

    It was too big a table to import here, so I've made a webpage out of it.

    I looked at the price of basic building supplies (plywood and lumber), track, locomotives, rolling stock and a power supply.

    What's interesting to me is that the comparative price of lumber and rolling stock isn't really that different, but the cost of track, locomotives and the power pack were considerably higher than what we'd expect to pay today.

    If you keep in mind the comparative quality of the products available today compared with what was out 50 years ago, you'll see that these are the golden days of model railroading.

    ... of course, we couldn't have done it without China... :)
  2. CRed

    CRed Member

    Yeah.With DCC,sound and a lot of quality products from the bottom up I'd have say the hobby is in pretty good shape.

    I bought my son a set for X-Mas from model power and it's actually pretty nice.Dual powered UP F's and 5 cars for $55,nice enough detail and a can motor,no fly wheel though,but it runs nicely.The only thing that I don't like are the truck mounted couplers.

  3. riverotter

    riverotter Midwest Alliance Rail Sys

    Until April of 2005, I had been out of the hobby for about four decades (but who's counting?). One way I've been "catching up" has been by reading every issue of MR & RMC since 1980. After I put away my trains (what ever happened to them, anyway?) when I left for college, I thought many times about getting back into the hobby. At one point I even built a 24" long diorama with a trestle bridge, hand laid track, and a neat little brass 0-4-4-0T locomotive (what ever happened to that stuff, anyway?). After reading all those back issues and seeing how far the hobby has come, especially in the past 5 - 10 years, these truly are "the good old days"!
  4. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    I think what surprised me most was finding that an Atlas turnout cost the equivalent of about $30... no wonder the layouts were more modest in those days!
  5. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Prices I remember:
    1950s: O27 track cost $.25 a section (.35 in Canada)
    by 1960, HO brass flextrack cost $1.00 a yard in Canada. One basement dealer advertised it for .60. (This was with fiber ties, not plastic). And a yard of brass rail was .15.
  6. CNJ999

    CNJ999 Member

    One has to be careful about not taking such figures too literally. First off, the CPI, et al, are figured on the cost of "necessities", which doesn't correspond very well to things purchased as "luxuries" (which model trains are considered). Likewise, having grown up in the 40's and 50's, I can tell you that folks back then really didn't consider say $5 as having the same sort of value of $35-$40 might today and as the inflation figures would suggest.

    It is also worth noting that a lot of stuff got relatively much more expensive over the years. In the 50's you had early brass models selling for $35-$50 but today's examples of much the same locos are in the $1,250+ range! Today's BLI and PCM locos would generally equate to the top of the line Varney or Mantua engines in 1950 but the former are decidedly more expensive relative to the economics. Nor should one assume that simply because today's models are more technically advanced, that we are getting some kind of grand bargin. What was available in 1950 was state-of-the-art at the time, while today's models are simply the current version of the same. Of course, the current models work and look better but that is simply because technology advanced to that degree in 50+ years. In reallity, models are no better now than they were then, relative to the manufacturing process available. Should our hobby last so long, I'm sure modelers 50 years from now will look back upon today's best equipment as decidedly crude, inaccurate and operationally very limited.

  7. CRed

    CRed Member

    I agree with most that with exception to the people 50 years from now will look back as models today as crude.Sure there will be technological advances,but how much more detailed can they get then BLI/PCM and the like now?Or how much better will they run?The differences between then and now is much larger then they will be between now and then I think.They'll be better I'm sure,but how much better?Either way Im looking forward to it even if I probably won't be alive 50 years from now.

  8. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    Which is why I chose 3 different indices of inflation. They each evaluate the power of a dollar, but based on different buying scenarios. I didn't want to post a lecture on economic theory... but admittedly most weighting schemes don't consider luxuries, they look at staples.

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