Revitalizing Model Train Shows

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Will_annand, Jan 8, 2006.

  1. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    In Cali the bargains will be found at swap meets. The train shows will require a Ca State Board of Equalization License before they will rent table space, so all of the vendors will be pros. Most own hobby shops and use the shows to increase sales. Frequently, state inspectors will come to the shows to make sure that sales vendors have resale licenses so that the state will get their sales tax. Fortunately some of the vendors will have junk boxes with pieces that are for sale cheap. Unfortunately for me, or it may be fortunately for my check book, most vendors will be dealing in G scale or Lionel. I guess that is understandable since I suspect the mark up is better on those sizes.
  2. Brian

    Brian Member

    Gary, I got that feeling as well. There was one booth that I visited on several occasions that had a bunch of N scale stuff and I was told that a small stack of NIB pre built Bachmann structure kits were 50% I picked up a few as well as some unbuilt Plasticville structure kits. When I got to the register to pay.....only the unbuilt kits were 50% off....not the prebuilts...even though an employee told me they were not 2 minutes previously. I didn't buy the pre built kits for that reason :( I did later visit that booth again looking thru another batch of structure kits that they had...and I was excited when I found a sealed Life Like N scale Pizza Hut was priced at what I felt was a ridiculous price $35 ......maybe it was worth that.....but I didn't think so. This one person at the booth knew that I'd bought several things from she asked the owner if they could do any better on the price for me.....the owner just barked out loudly "It's a collectors I can't go lower"......when the employee tried to explain again the owner got louder :rolleyes: I told my wife that I wasn't buying it because of thier attitude.......but after walking around for another hour I caved in and bought it:(

    I was a bit sad at the lack of used N scale train items........ I was hoping to buy a couple of nice used N scale engines.....but there wasn't many to be had that were worth buying really. I did totally clean out one dealer there of his built N scale buildings.....he had 24 total.....alot were old pola kits and such.....for a mere $60!!!!!:) I was so excited......with a bit of weathering and minor details they will be great for my layout. I also did buy a BNSF coffee mug,a BNSF T shirt, and my wife got one of those T shirts that said "My husband loves model trains and me":D

    As for that Thomas the tank engine crap......God, there was enough of that BS there wasn't there? I was sick of getting run over by kids and parents with strollers diving for Thomas crapannounce1

    As for the questions at hand....

    "I wish that they had/ did ___________________" (more N scale items)


    "It was great to see that they did/had ________________" (a large crowd)
  3. Will_annand

    Will_annand Active Member

    Jim, what happened to leave such a negative after taste?
  4. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Yeah, that one was a real bust, unless you were into Lionel. That one in Mesa was not typical, even for the Phoenix area, but the better ones here still are limited in what they offer. Now days, G seems to dominate, with O and HO not far behind. N seems to have a token showing, and Z, well, they forget about that scale altogether.:rolleyes:

    So to answer the original intent of this thread, What is missing?announce1 diversity, something for everyone, enough to keep all scalers happy they went and can't wait to come back for the next one. If you advertise as a swap meet, be sure there's enough stuff at all scales. There's nothing more frustrating than spending time and gas and paying to get into a "show" that has nothing you're interested in. Just see what Jim's reaction is and you'll know what happens when you don't. I seldom even pay attention to the "door prize" drawings since they are usually scale specific, and usually O or HO.:cry: :cry:, not my scale...:D
  5. Harpo

    Harpo Member

    Living in the Alexandria, Virginia area, I guess in some ways I'm lucky. The big shows are just outside of Baltimore about once every month or two - Greenbergs and Great Scale. But... I heartily concur with what's been said already. I wish there were more N gauge stuff showing... specifically, more N scale building kits. I find that neither the shows nor the LHS's seem to stock much in this area. Prices seem to be all over the place, which is sort of expected. Structure kits, when they can be found, are sometimes discounted a little bit, but ready builts much less, except for the Bachmann plastic ready builts. Some of those are OK, but after a few they all begin to look rather alike. Some dealers are obviously enthusiasts and others, well, they're in the business of selling, and really couldn't care less whether they sell GP9's or AK47's. Like everywhere, there are bargains, and then there are not. I recently picked up a new Bachmann Spectrum consolidation for 84.00 (GREAT runner!) which I thought was not a bad price, considering it is now 140.00 in the Walthers catalog. I also saw it at another table for 100.00 and at another for 125.00. So, I guess its look, listen, learn, and have a MSRP source handy if possible. (I also won a lifetime pass door prize several shows back. YeeHah! ...which I intend to wear out.) I've also been to some smaller shows, and the variety seems much less, both in price and selection. The first such show I went to featured GI Joe and even Barbie doll trash (really! I'm not kidding!) at the entry hall. I almost turned and ran screaming into the rain before getting to the main event inside...which actually was pretty decent. But the promoter of that one should have been hung high upon the nearest semaphore. Go figure.


  6. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    For "commercial/industry" shows, we have Railfair, the biggest annual show in Ottawa/Eastern Ontario.

    What I like -

    - wide variety (photos to layouts to memorabilia to live steam to specialty vendors to telegraph club sending messages from one end to the other)
    - operating layouts (not just "running in circles")
    - club "bargain table" - always a hit! (although hard to access - needs more space)
    - clinic table - how-to's
    - admission is reasonable ($6, with free for under 5)

    What I do not like
    - too much RTR, not enough kits
    - not enough space for bargain table
    - not enough emphasis on the clinic tables
    - not enough info for people who might be serious about getting into the hobby (no "greeters", for lack of a better term)
    - no real deals (except bargain table)
    - many display layouts are looking ragged

    "Club Show" - also one of the biggest is the OVAR/HOTrak Modular Rally. Run jointly with NTrakkers, and this year we will also have some 3-rail modules, I believe.

    What I like:
    - 14+ miles of mainline run! (great for those operating)
    - wide variety of modules and trains show wide range of possibilities in the hobby
    - club works well to get things organized

    What I would like to see:
    - more info for the "general public" who do show up. Since this is our only real open house of the year (rest of the season is embers and guests only) we need more info (see "greeters" above). The general public in this case is a self-selecting group that is generally interested in becoming involved, if they are not already beginning.

    Some other notes for the club show:

    - clinics - although this is a tough one. There is enough going on without having to find someone to run a clinic too!
    - There was a proposed joint "flea market" that was quashed over concerns that a) members might miss some deals and/or not participate in setting up, and b) the level of "security" required would increase due to higher traffic volumes.

    Hope that helps!

  7. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    I went to the train show in Ancaster, Ont. last November. I hadn't been for a few years and went mainly to get advanced tickets for an upcoming home layout tour. The place was packed, and while there were a couple of vendors/club members there that I would have liked to chat with, it was simply too busy. The part that always used to be the main attraction for me, the used stuff, was disappointing: not much in the way of bargains or anything that I found interesting. I also agree with Gary: a lot of amateur dealers looking to make big bucks from train-struck nimrods. I was also, once again, disappointed by the boorishness and rudeness of many in the crowd and some of the people manning the tables. Way too many people unschooled in the etiquette of model railroading. And Brian, as far as Thomas goes, I agree, sometimes it's too much. However, if you've ever watched Thomas on TV, you'll quickly realize that the Rev. Awdry was a serious modeller who found a clever way to interest small children in trains. I used to watch Thomas even before I had grandkids and some of the scenery is excellent, once you get by the smiling smokeboxes. Let's hope that some of these kids grow up with a lasting interest in model trains, one that keeps the manufacturers churning out new products in the years to come, for all of us to enjoy.

  8. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    well, back in november I went to my first train show in years. I was rather disappointed in the vendors and didn't find what I was looking for (can't even remember what it was now). There was a vendor that had extensive amounts of marx trains (cool) and and someone with a really cool nscale layout of only about 2x4 ft. I like picking through boxes of used stuff, and interesting small layouts. Large modulars are great, but I like the little ones that prove you don't need a ton off space to do something cool.

  9. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    One other point about train shows. I usually buy from my local hobby shop instead of train shows. If I buy a locomotive from my local hobby shop and have a problem with it later, I can take it back and they will help me with it. When the train show leaves town, so has my money and any help if there are later problems. I've been in my local hobby shop when people bring in a locomotive that they bought at a train show because it doesn't run like it should. You would be amazed at how many times the locomotive is a cheap toy in an Atlas box! Buyer beware, many vendors at train shows are just plain crooks! If they don't watch out, there are venders who will even steal from other venders!
  10. Catt

    Catt Guest

    We (my group IronRailZ) used to take our NTRAK layout to a varieity of shows.Now we take our TTRAK layout (heck of a lot easier to haul :D ).

    We make it a point to tell the dealers with N scale locos for sale to send their prospective buyers to us to test run their loco purchases.This gives the buyer a chance to really test run that new (used) loco and quite often gets us a better deal from the dealer :D

    A few comments on pricing.It seems to me that train show pricing has gotton to the point that it's cheaper to buy at the LHS .I bought 3 LifeLike boxcars saturday for $5. The table across the aisle wanted $4.50 a piece for the same cars.It really is getting easy to spot the hobbiest who is looking to make some train money over the guy that just wants your buck.The first guy (gal) has a reasonable price on their items,the second will be at MSRP (or higher!).

    I think my major gripe with vendors is the way they display.I know of at least 3 vendors who lay their stuff out exactly the same way show after show.

    Train show layouts.There are two HO modular clubs that are displaying at shows in the local area.One club brings enough to have an interesting layout,and are very friendly.The other one will bring their whole layout and set up modules till the show staff tell them they have used to much space and make it smaller,which gets them angry.

    There is one NTRAK club that as long as they are inside the square circle they are just plain anti-social.Since our TRAK layout is set on tables we are on the outside with the show crowd and really have no choice but be friendly,besides we are all a bunch of chatter boxes when it comes to model railroading. :D :D
  11. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

  12. Brian

    Brian Member

    Wayne, you're 100% correct..... I guess I should have better stated what I said. I've never seen a single episode of Thomas the tank engine.....but I fully understand the concept behind it...and how it does in fact draw in a younger group of kids (the next model RR generation) to the hobby. In fact, my wife and I discussed the show over dinner Saturday night and we talked about Thomas the tank engine....and what it will mean to the model RR hobby in the next 10-20 years and beyond.

    I'm hoping like heck that Thomas will bring kids into the modern era of model railroading.....and help the hobby continue to flourish:thumb:

    Sorry for sounding negative about just doesn't appeal to me personally.....but I'm sure it would if my wife and I had kids :D

  13. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

    well it was billed as a train show swap meet the only swapping was you $ for there stuff not to mention that it is a 3 hour drive one way there and i had the fealing that has been posted that the only thing they(the sellers) were interested in was making money.
  14. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    I've helped out the owner of my LHS at a show. It is true that other dealers browse the other dealers tables. What got me was, one dealer bought something from our tables. When I went to check out the other tables later, there was the same item we just sold him, his price tag over ours(I could see the edge of our tag), with a couple of dollars more added. When I went to tell Roger(the guy I was helping out) what I just saw, he told me that it happens all the time, and sometimes he'll do it also.
    Guess you learn something new everyday.
  15. HPRL

    HPRL Member

    Train shows, swap meeting and all others are for one reason and that is to make money. If no money was to be made there would not be any at all. Swap meets usually are conducted by clubs that sell tables and trains shows sell space also for the carpet baggers.

    As for Thomas & Friends, I bought a set of N Scale Thomas & Friends for myself when I display at shows. I run them for the kids to get them excited about the hobby. The more we have in our hobby the better the prices will ultimately be. And that Thomas set is not cheap nor can find in the U. S. Anymore.

    What I think we need to do is split up in small groups and start displaying our trains at computer stores like CompUSA. Show some of those geeks what DCC Computerized trains can do. Then we will really get new blood into our hobby, Heck -- get those computer stores to pay us to set up.

    And that is my splits beans.....
  16. Will_annand

    Will_annand Active Member

    Steve The Toolman, is that N Scale thomas still available?
    My wife is looking for a set for our young great nephew.
  17. babydot94513

    babydot94513 Member in training

    Russ brings up a good point and makes me want to finish my modules. While I operate at the Sacramento Modular Railroaders on a montly basis, the hobby itself is about perpetuation and if it is stagnant...Well, we all know the rest of the story.


  18. HPRL

    HPRL Member

    Will: You cannot find Thomas & Friends in the U. S. at this time unless someone is selling off their set. I had one back ordered at Brooklyn Locomotive ( ) but they confirmed that it will not be anytime soon before the set is back again. I found mine on e-Bay from Japan. It was competitively priced, shipping was reasonable, got it in 5 working days, it was new (Tomix) and runs great. I just looked for you and their is one up for bid now and it is in the U. S. It is currently at an excellent price but it won't stay there.

    I just found out that there is a space in the back of the Thomas Loca just big enought for DZ123 or DZ142 decoder. Good luck shopping. Oh yeah, one more thing, after you get one for the newphew, get one for yourself.

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