Puzzling Question for British & North American Modelers

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by RobertInOntario, Oct 29, 2007.

  1. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    I have a question that I've been mulling over for some time now. I mainly model British trains and have a sizable collection of British locos and stock. I also occasionally run my smaller collection of North American locos as well. Ideally, this question is aimed at people like myself who are into both British and North American model trains. (FYI, I'm only referring to the British 00 gauge [similar to HO] and North American HO.)

    The two main British model railway manufacturers seem to be Hornby and Bachmann Euorpe. Both companies continue to improve the quality of their products -- the detail & quality of many new releases during the past few years is amazing. You can buy a Hornby or Bachmann model of (say) a Pacific or 4-6-0 for $150 to $250. On the other hand, I often see very high quality models of North American Hudsons or Niagaras (not brass) for sale at my LHS for anywhere from $800 to $1,200 !! :eek: :eek: :eek:

    So my question is this: Why can you can purchase a highly-detailed and high quality Hornby or Bachmann British loco for $200 while an apparently similar North American loco could cost $1,000 or more? Are British modelers getting more value for their money or are the modeling standards of British locos inferior to the North American ones?

    When I compare a high quality new Hornby releases to one of the $1,000 North American Hudsons (for example), they both appear to be of the same in quality, having a very similar high-detailed appearance.

    I have yet to see a Flying Scotsman or streamlined A4 costing $1,000 or more. I'm not complaining because I would never pay $1,000 on a loco and would much prefer to pay $200 or less! I realize this is a loaded question but I'm honestly curious and don't know the answer! :mrgreen:

    I also realize that I'm more up on what's happening in the British scene than I am with North American products.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. Nomad

    Nomad Active Member

    Rob ,I think your "manufacturing in china" thread answers your question.

  3. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Wow -- good point! I'll double check where those N. American locos are made the next time I visit my LHS!


  4. yellowlynn

    yellowlynn Member


    Robert, I have some thoughts on that European vs American quality. About 12 years ago I found an (HO) train set. After research, the locomotive was exactly like a Welch prototype. I think it was the Prince Of Wales, or something on that order. It has 4 matching passenger cars. The thing is, it is of very good quality, runs beautifully, and was made by Life Like. This was some time before LL made the Proto line. It appeared to me at that time that they made 2 lines of quality, one for Europe, and one for the U.S. It has the European couplers. I don't know where I got them all, but I have 4-5 Euro. trains, with 2-3 definitely British look.
    I'll send pics if you want to see it.

  5. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks, Lynn. Sure, I'd be interested to see a few pics, please.

    You've just reminded me about a couple of British/American differences in model trains. The American HO stuff is much further ahead in terms of sounds effects and possibly DCC. I've heard some folks say that Hornby has practically missed the boat when it comes to sound and that Bachmann Europe has only just recently introduced some diesels with sound.

    I also believe that many British modelers (in Britain) have a perception that North American products are superior, yet that is an over-simplification, IMO. I guess I need to do more research, i.e. check to see if those $1,000 Hudsons & Niagaras are made in North America.

    I'm probably not comparing apples with apples. For example, on p. 96 of the Nov. Model Railroader, I read about an awesome Pennsy 4-8-2 that retails around $270. This probably compares well with the latest Hornby and UK Bachmann offerings whereas the $1,000-$1,200 locos are in a completely different league -- possibly hand-made or made by small North American companies?

    It's a puzzle but it's getting a little clearer!

  6. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    OK, I think I'm figuring out the answer to my question (kind of funny when you respond to your own threads!).

    I just did some googling on the web and I think that the locos that I'm seeing are, in fact, brass (despite what I said earlier :oops:) and are hand-painted. That alone would explain the very high price.

    These locos were so far out of my price range that I've seldom given much thought to them. And I'm guessing that the British manufacturers (Hornby & Bachmann) aren't into brass locos.

    It's still interesting to learn about this though. So brass/hand-painted locos are in a league of their own while high quality, highly detailed North American 'plastic' locos are probably quite comparable with their high quality British counterparts.

  7. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Rob: I started using British models waaay back when Steam lokies went for between 6.95 and 12.95, while American ones went in the 20-30 dollar range. This was significant to someone who might accumulate up to $10 in Christmas money.
    There has been much talk for years comparing the British diesel with a single bogie (truck) drive to the Athearn unit with all axles powered and a nice cast frame.
  8. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks, David! Do you think I'm right in that these high-end American locos are hand-painted, brass models, which is why they cost so much? Also, have you heard of any companies making similar brass British models? (as I don't think I ever have). Cheers, Rob
  9. chooch.42

    chooch.42 Member

    Rob, yes, you're on the right track - the $800+ models are mostly brass (hand assembled and painted). Even with lower wages in the nation of manufacture, (Korea, China, etc.), the small production runs justify (?) prices beyond the means of most. The more affordable die-cast metal/plastic models are as precise in most ways, run as well, and with sound, DCC, etc. included, are much more affordable. I don"t see much on British/Euro models, but always thought them more streamlined - hence easier to produce/detail. Now I'll have to do my Google homework !!! Bob C.
  10. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks, Bob. This is making more & more sense now, thanks to your help and googling. I did find one site where the brass models were made in Korea and a couple other places other than China.

    You're right in that while the metal/plastic models are much more affordable, they are extremely well-detailed and made.

  11. yellowlynn

    yellowlynn Member

    British LifeLike

    Rob, I finally got those pix. The first 3 are European LL, with a Welsh 4-6-0 prototype. The loco has G W, and the cars "Cornish Riviera Limited".
    The other 2 pix are 0-6-0 and 3 carriages.


    Attached Files:

  12. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Wow -- thanks for posting those pics!

    The GW (Great Western Railway, I believe) loco looks like a Castle or Hall Class. And the GWR did travel through most of Wales. I also have one of those "Cornish Riveria Limited" coaches as well, and they're definitely Great Western (or British Railways -- Western Region).

    I also have some of those small, maroon 4-wheel coaches.
    I believe the small green 0-6-0 is a Great North Railway loco.

    All of these look great and thanks for posting them! The GW 4-6-0 looks especially nice.

  13. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Rob: while there have been a few oriental brass locos for Britain, they were never very numerous.
    I think Bachman is making Brass O gauge now.
  14. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks, David. I thought as much -- that there are very few brass locos for Britain -- I don't think I've ever heard of them or read about them in British magazines, etc. At any rate, I'm happy to go with the current Hornby and Bachmann offerings, along with the occasional Hornby Dublo or Triang.

  15. wjstix

    wjstix Member

    Bachmann was in the US many years before they started making and selling UK equipment. Bachmann Spectrum US models run around $150-250 list price but of course much less by mail or internet (Train World is selling Spectrum undec 4-8-2's for $80 in their MR ad.) Sound equipped engines like a BLI Hudson will list around $100 or so higher than the Spectrum, but you can find some for well under $200 if you shop around.
  16. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks -- I suspect this line of Bachmann is comparable to their UK offerings. At any rate, Bachmann and Hornby seem to have the best reputations for high-quality RTR locos and stock for British model trains. Thanks again,Rob
  17. yellowlynn

    yellowlynn Member


    Happy to post the pictures, Robert. It gives me the opportunity to look around and see how much useless stuff I have collected over the years. And boy, do I have a bunch of it.

  18. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Lynn, I know exactly what you mean! :mrgreen: But I wouldn't really call those locos and coaches "useless"!

    Thanks again,


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