Please Wake Up !!!!

Discussion in 'G / O / S Scale Model Trains' started by Don Gilham, Apr 19, 2007.

  1. Don Gilham

    Don Gilham New Member

    Over here in the UK, the main on-line modelling Forum.... always read avidly by our main manufacturers, namely Hornby, Bachmann and PECO. And they do act on the opinions, suggestions and needs of the UK modelling community. That is to say, their customers.

    I am hoping that this forum is read by the main US manufacturers, those that continue to roll out 3 rail and ignore - or give short shrift - to 2 rail modellers, namely Lionel, MTH and Weaver.

    Here is an example, copied from "Paul's Model Trains Auth LGB Retail" on Ebay, of just what I mean :-

    # G1722 NPR L1a Hudson Steam Loco #173 w/sound in 3 rail. Brooks Built. Post WWII Era w/Smoke Deflectors. $1,095.00.
    # G1723 NKP L1b Hudson Steam Loco #175, 3 rail sound, Lima Built. Post WWII Era w/Smoke Deflectors. $1,095.00.
    # G1724 NPR L1a Hudson Steam Loco #170 w/o sound in 2 rail. Brooks Built. Pre WWII Era w/o/Smoke Deflectors. Sold Out.
    # G1725 NKP L1b Hudson Steam Loco #177 w/o sound in 2 rail. Lima Built. Pre WWII Era w/o/Smoke Deflectors. Sold Out.

    If you would care to look, oh high and mighty maunfacturers, the same can be found throughout - namely 3 rail easily available, 2 rail constantly sold out !

    So here is my plea - please make your products (and I know they are of good quality) available in numbers to 2 railers as well as 3 railers.

    Then perhaps there might just be more willing to model in 2 rail - build it, they will come !
  2. Renovo PPR

    Renovo PPR Just a Farmer

    Wow I would have to have another job in addition to the two I have to have any fun in 2 rail.
  3. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    You're seeing more and more of the 3-rail stuff selling out too. Or, if the number of pre-orders isn't as high as the manufacturer would like, the item gets cancelled. Lionel and MTH in particular are in bad shape financially, so they're making what their research says will sell, and in the numbers that their research suggests will sell. It's a constant embarrassment to Lionel that they underestimate the demand for Polar Express train sets every year, but they'd rather make too few of them and sell all of them than be stuck with inventory that they have to sell at closeout.

    I know the companies do read forums, but when MTH's market research indicates that the overwhelming majority of its customers have layouts that are 8x8 ft or smaller, they're going to serve that market when push comes to shove. It's a common complaint on forums that manufacturers don't listen to vocal segments there, but when the magazines have circulations of 80,000-160,000, while the largest O gauge forum has maybe 2,000 people registered, so the various forums don't represent the majority of the hobby, at least not in the States.
  4. Renovo PPR

    Renovo PPR Just a Farmer

    [FONT=&quot]Well Dave your partly correct however some of the best MTH dealers never run out of their best selling locomotives or diesels. Without putting out the names my favorite very small LHS cannot get anything from MTH. The much larger 100% MTH LHS can get anything even when it is listed as sold out. Except for MTH track which was really in short supply over Christmas.[/FONT]
  5. Greg Elems

    Greg Elems Member

    Weaver sells everything they make in 2 and 3 rail. 3 rail out sells 2 rail by a 4 to 1 margin IIRC. That goes for Atlas also. MTH has just re-entered the 2 rail market with its 3-2 system on some of their premier line. Lionel has stated on numerous occasions that they won't consider 2 rail. Their early 2 rail offerings weren't the best items to offer IMHO but none the less they didn't go over well with the 2 rail modelers. At that time the idea of plastic diesels and steam engines was look down upon for the most part. Even die cast steamers were snubbed. Lionel tried brass but the profit margin wasn't to their liking. In today’s market, plastic has finally found its niche. Die cast steamers are much improved over the old brass cast steamers from the 40's and 50's. Even brass engines today are light years ahead of brass offerings from the 60's.

    Now in answer to Renovo PPR, small LHS's, if they want to, can get stock from MTH. They can use the MTH web page and find warehouses with it plus hobby shops with said items. My son works for small LHS and he helps with these types of searches often. He also keeps the MTH inventory up to date for that very same reason. The owner of this shop often tells me about how many warehouses he checks on a daily basis for engines his customers ask for. It is a matter of taking "time" to do the searching.

    Also besides MTH under estimating the demand for track, there was a shortage of NS for a while. The price of NS material went up so the price of track has and will go up.

  6. Don Gilham

    Don Gilham New Member

    Dave you mentioned, in the other thread, that there has been a real upsurge in On30 modelling in the recent past. I agree, even "over here" the interest in it has grown phenomenally.

    The main reason, as far as I can tell, is Bachmann bringing that scale of modelling in at a reasonable price, and in excellent quality. All you have to do is look at one of their Consos - simply superb.

    Greg has also raised a good point, in that the plastic/diecast bodied models of yesteryear were looked down upon, but that isn't the case nowadays. So perhaps Mr Bachmann could help out here, and enter the O Scale/2 rail market with an offering that will allow quality models at reasonable prices ?
  7. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    Atlas tried plastic 2 rail O in the '70s, and it flopped. They have cautiously restarted a new 2 rail line, and it seems to be doing OK. Not sure if there is enough market for it to ever go big time like On30. So far, there seems to be enough interest for many of the new locomotives to be produced in both 2 and 3 rail. That the 2 rail version sells out faster consistently suggests to me that the manufacturers are getting the 2 rail production numbers where they want them to be, but are over-estimating 3 rail sales.

    In today's guess wrong and lose your shirt world, model railroading manufacturers want a new production to sell out in about 6 months. If it goes faster, then there's probably enough demand for a second run. Slower sales mean having to blow the things out below cost at places like Train World and Klien's, which in turn takes away from future sales.

    On30 took off, not just because of good quality at reasonable price (although that sure helped), but because of the ability to use HO track in a not much bigger space than HO. A 4x8 On30 layout is possible. A 3 rail O 4x8 is possible. An O scale 4x8 layout is not. Finally, the mess of gauges and scales that make up O fracture the market. Does a new manufacturer attempting to sell to scale folks use the erroneous 1/48 scale and 1.25" gauge? Does he keep the gauge and adjust the scale? Or go the other way around? There are O scale modelers in each camp, and you can really only please one.

    Compared to O, S hasn't nearly the fracturing despite having the American Flyer toy component. Even American Flyer used a pretty "true" 1/64 scale throughout their line, unlike Lionel. And American Flyer was insulated and usable on 2 rail track from the beginning. In fact, the only issue with American Flyer being used as scale equipment were the wheel and flanges. So it is/was relatively easy for other manufacturers to make scale offerings in S that could appeal to an American Flyer owner crossing over to the scale world.

    IMHO, given the number of locos being offered in both 2 and 3 rail, now is a new "Golden Age" for O scale.

    my thoughts
  8. Don Gilham

    Don Gilham New Member

    Nice post Fred :)
  9. Renovo PPR

    Renovo PPR Just a Farmer

    Greg the point is that MTH and every other mfg treat the higher sales dealers better. As a matter of fact most mfg’s or even other suppliers segment their dealers. What this does tend to do is limit the product and in addition leads to a higher price because if the small LHS has to go to a middle guy there are the same issues in supply and of course the price goes up.

    Another problem with the MTH supply line is that if the small LHS does goes through a supplier there can be additional problems. For example if the middle supplier has some billing issues and MTH cuts them off then all the small LHS dealers in return has no product to offer.

    Problems often happen when transactions are done between LHS dealers. While this can get a person the product they need it is NOT this best route to turn to. For example dealer 1 contacts dealer 2 for a product and the product is shipped to dealer 1. Now when dealer 1 opens product the product is damaged or has another issue. Dealer 2 claims it was in perfect condition when shipped. I guess you can see my point now you have added to the problem because the customer will not take the product and Dealer 2 will not accept any responsibility he sent a damaged product.

    There are great dealers like Jim’s Train Shop in Homer City, he will in fact take the time to search for MTH dealers that have your product and provide you with the phone number. This is not an efficient way for MTH to market trains. Of course any person with a computer can do the same search, but few do.

    Lionel has their own problems and yes the same back order problems plague them. That is another very long story. This is just a very strange way to market the only style of trains that has the largest profit margin, O gauge. Note: this excludes starter sets.

    [FONT=&quot]While in general finding O gauge engines are easy, finding the road name that you want is not. I have no clue what is out there for 2 rail though and to be honest I’m not going to try and find out because we have enough problems with the 3 rail unless you pre order.[/FONT]
  10. Greg Elems

    Greg Elems Member

    I know the local shop that sells O gauge uses several warehouses through out the country to locate the engines and road names his customers ask for. I also know that MTH has issues with their web sight and it requires the LHS to keep their stock up to date to make the search engine work. (pun intended :D )

    As for 2 rail equipment, mail order is almost the only way to go for many items. The local shop here in Reno will order for me which is nice. Problem is, not enough 2 railers are in this area to make it worth his while stocking it. Interesting thing is, he does a good mail order business in all aspects of his stock for sale.

    The consensus is 3 rail scale has given 2 rail a much needed boost in the arm for sales.

    While S scale doesn't look fractured, it is. I also model in S scale and again I'm in the minority there with S gauge (AF compatible) being around 80% of sales. The AF couplers don't work with Kadee couplers. The wheels don't work on scale track or visa versa. S also seems have a cut off date of 1965 for interest in general. :rolleyes:

  11. Torpedo

    Torpedo Member

    Greg, could you clarify what you mean by that.
  12. Greg Elems

    Greg Elems Member

    Sure Torpedo, while there is a few items offered of prototypes made after 1965 most everything else is pre 1965. Yes we have brass SD40's, SD50's and a plastic SD60 but those are exceptions. I've had more than one manufacturer tell me that modern won't sell, with modern being considered 1970 and on. The freight cars do a little better for cut off date but not by much. Passenger car offerings really aren't much better even though we have Amtrak coaches. Heavy weights and early stream line light weights do better.

  13. Torpedo

    Torpedo Member

    OK, that makes perfect sense. The way I originally read it, it seemed to indicate that you were saying that modellers generally hadn't been taking up S since 1965. I was pretty sure that wasn't what you meant, so I asked for a clarification. :oops::oops::oops:
  14. Greg Elems

    Greg Elems Member

    LOL :D I know what I'm saying but after rereading what I wrote I can see the confusion. Good thing you called me to task to explain. :) I guess a new thread for S scale and its quirks would be the place to discuss it. :)

  15. riverotter

    riverotter Midwest Alliance Rail Sys

    Very interesting thread. I have an HO railroad model (aka "layout"), but I secretly like the "Big Stuff" lots better. I have three quick comments:
    1. One of the reasons I've stayed out of O scale is because of the 2-rail / 3-rail & scale / tinplate morass.
    2. If there was "enough" equipment (including variety -- eras, road names, etc.) in either 2-rail O or S, I'd switch to them from HO in a heartbeat. (Liquidating all my rolling stock would take somewhat longer, however.)
    3. Is the reason there's so much more N stuff than either O or S because folks just don't have the space, or is it more the money (although good N stuff ain't cheap!) ?
    P.S. I own an S scale SP "Black Widow" Trainmaster and a caboose -- they sit in a display case right on my desk.
  16. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    Ultimately the reason is market share. In its bankruptcy reorganization plan, Lionel estimated the size of the O scale/gauge market at about $100 million a year. Interestingly enough, it estimates O scale is a larger market than N, but that may be in terms of dollars spent rather than number of units moved--N is a lot cheaper than O, but it sure seems to be a lot more popular to me.

    But keep in mind that $100 million figure includes the people buying Polar Express sets to put around Christmas trees.

    I don't know if space or cost is the bigger consideration. I might be able to coax my wife into letting me build an 8x24 layout, but that's a big maybe. That's a lot of space to give up in a house the size we have. I wouldn't be comfortable asking for that much space. Honestly, she thinks my 8x8 layout is HUGE. I think it's small.

    I do think money is a big thing though too. I can't afford to buy $1400 locomotives or even $600 locos, and when $40 is the price of a budget scale car (I'm thinking Atlas Trainman). A decent-sized single train could easily end up running 2 grand. That's almost two mortgage payments. Interestingly, when the NYT did a what-class-are-you interactive web site as part of a story last week, it rated me upper-middle class. I'm upper middle class and can't afford O scale? Well, I guess I could, but I can't afford both to be in O scale and to keep my wife happy.

    Of course I wouldn't spend like that. If I had scale tastes, I'd scratchbuild. But I don't know how many people would take that route. Maybe a lot, maybe not so many.

    So I think the money and the space is a double-whammy. In N scale, 8x8 is a good bit of space and you can do a fair bit even in the space of a coffee table, and you can start out with a $90 set from Hobby Lobby and if you're shrewd, use a 40% off coupon to get started for a lot less. So it's a lot easier to be in N scale and keep your wife and family happy on all fronts.

    If Lionel O27 hadn't been what I grew up with, I'd be into N scale. Since my hobby is about nostalgia as much as it is about trains (my quest is to build the layout Dad and I wanted but didn't have the resources to build when I was young), I'm into O27.
  17. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    I would like to see Bachmann, or equivalent quality, standard gauge O scale, two rail equipment of the same type that they build in On30. That is, small heisler, Shay, Porter loco's.
  18. Greg Elems

    Greg Elems Member

    I like that idea. Atlas already has the track. Remember when a lot of the HO starter sets had Atlas HO sectional track in them? Bachmann doesn't need a proprietary track, just cut a deal with Atlas. They can do the small stuff that Atlas isn't likely to touch so both can increase the sales of the track and both won't be stepping on each others toes equipment wise. A win win deal IMO.

  19. Greg Elems

    Greg Elems Member


    The variety in 2-Rail O is pretty good now. Atlas sells everything they produce in both versions. I will say that their new Industrial Models line is 3-Rail only but it isn't full scale either. Weaver sells both versions. MTH is selling trucks to convert their Premium line cars to 2 rail as well as their engines in the 3-2 set up.

    Now S is struggling but really it has a nice variety now. Take a look at SHS Showcase Line and American Models. Not much duplication between the two and 5 scale steam engines and a dozen diesels or better. Compared to what was available when I converted to S in the early 80's we have it good now. :D


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