Some Observations on the Industry

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by lars, Jul 16, 2005.

  1. lars

    lars New Member

    Well I have been on a hiatus from model railroading for about 5 years. I have a pile of MR's to be read and I'm just starting to think about building a layout in my semi-perminant living situation. I have been out of the HO loop for quite some time, but my stepfather has been actively involved in O for a while.

    So I was thinking about building up a motive power roster and started to look at some locos. I need to get a couple GP38-2's. So I check out Athearn and see that they are going for about $50. About 5 years ago weren't they about $10-$15 cheaper? What happened to the provider of good, cheap locos. The same thing happened with the Walther's Cornerstone Series. I remember the first few kits at the $25 pricepoint. Then it was $30, then $40, then even higher. Can we blame this on the virtually nonexistant inflation? Doubt it.

    In the O market, prices have stayed the same but the product has gotten better. The original MTH loco's were $350 with sound. They ran well but lacked detail. Then Atlas brought out the SD35 and raised the bar on detail without raising the price.

    So what is going on? Why the jump in prices? I'm really saddened to see that some great stuff is going out of the reach of the modeler on a budget. It used to be that you could do a lot with a little money and a lot of ingeunity. Now it seem like who has the most cash. I'm just noting the relative shock I've seen in the industry. Tell me what you think.
  2. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    i'll second this statement. Right now, I have little interest in a GP-38-2, and havent priced said item in over 5 years. I have noticed an increasing trend for ready-to-run, high detailed DCC sound-equipped locomotives. I guess that is what most people want, and if it gets more people into the hobby, great. One bonus is the new RTR steamers. Sure, they are pricey, but still much cheaper than brass. Remember, there were few good non brass steamers 10 years ago.

    what I am going to miss is the inexpensive but good stuff suitable for kitbashing and creativity - the old athearn blue box, MDC, etc. I love taking that stuff and detailing it for a unique model. I'm much less inclned to take apart a 150$ loco to add a few details, and for me, that takes away the fun.

  3. Matthyro

    Matthyro Will always be re-membered

    Just about everything has gone up in price these days. Look at the price for the Model Railroad mag these days compared to what it used to be. Look what you pay for a car compared to years ago. The same thing with house prices. Inflation is sure rearing its ugly head. It is no wonder that the price of model railroad stuff has gone up in price.
    The only item I have seen go down in price are PCs.
  4. zedob

    zedob Member

    Yeah, now all we need are all of the MRRing manufactures to flood the market with high quality, cheap disposable models.:D

    You used to have to scratchbuild if you wanted anything. Now, you have to scratchbuild to keep the spending within budget.

    Good thing about this hobby is that it's not as expensive as some others. Like flying, or motocross racing...
  5. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    "You used to have to scratchbuild if you wanted anything. Now, you have to scratchbuild to keep the spending within budget."

    That's a good point! I HAVE scratchbuilt many structures instead of spending several hundred dollars on kits. It saves me money and also helps me imporve my skills. Some of my earlier attempts are still on the layout but will eventually be replaced by (hopefully) much improved versions later. There are some very nice looking kits and already completed structures at the hobby shop though!

  6. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Lots of good points made here. Fifty years or so ago, when I got into this hobby, there was a pretty good selection of stuff available and most of it was kits. Unfortunately, being a kid, most of it was out of my financial grasp. When I eventually was able to start buying trains on a regular basis, Athearn and MDC were favourites because they were cheap and looked pretty good. And I eventually learned how much better they could look with some effort on my part. Nowadays, even though I can afford better quality cars, the upgraded oldies are still on the layout, not only because they still look good but because they represent my investment in the hobby, in time and skill. I can think of no locomotive or piece of rolling stock on my layout that has not been modified in some way, from ready-to-run locomotives and garage sale "junk" to brass locomotives and craftsman kits. I've put my stamp on it, so to speak. And yes, scratchbuilding can give you not only a model that no one else has, but, at least for me, a model that I can afford. We (scratchbuilders, kitbashers, reworkers, and tinkerers) are a sub-species of model railroader and if the current trend in ready-to-run, with sound/DCC/weathering/etc. continues, we may be an endangered species. While I appreciate the fact that such a variety of models is available and that it's attracting more people to the hobby, I worry that many of these newcomers will quickly tire of the hobby if their only investment in it is money.
    I hope I'm wrong; I hope that when the gimmicks and the novelty wear off that these newcomers will stay and perhaps begin to explore some of the things that have made this hobby so interesting for us. And then again, perhaps I'm just becoming a grumpy old man.
  7. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

    doc you hit the nail on the head :)
  8. Marxed

    Marxed Member

    prices are just killer now, i've been totally discouraged from buying new lionel stuff, for an actual really nice loco it gets pricey and it's high enough to have discouraged me from buying them... which is why i'm a marx man :)

    the industry just needs another louis marx! he made trains more affordable, he mass produced them and they outnumbered lionel trains by the masses, and they trains were excellently designed, they are all still running strong today, seventy years later
  9. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    I second Jim...waytago, Doc :thumb:

    Even though I'm 45. I've been steady in the hobby since the early 70s---probably the prime years for the hobby as far as affordability and crafting go. Prosperity has made it easy to get a C&O Allegany with sound and DCC detailed to look like it did on a rainy Thursday morning in Sept. 1952. That's all fine and dandy and has certainly created a boon for guys like me who swoon at junkbox finds that most of my peers only snuff at but, it has come at a price, one being the lack of conversation in my circle for say, fitting Kadees to a Bachmann tri-level auto-rack or springing a Varney truck. I fear that model railroading as a hobby of ingenuity and creativity has been giving way to a hobby of aquiring and accumulating---nothing wrong with that, it just leaves guys like me enjoying the hobby on a level fewer and fewer can relate to. :(
  10. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    You mean my wife is right: I really AM a grumpy old man?[​IMG]
  11. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I talked to an Athearn rep at a show about "blue box" kits. He told me then(@ 5 years ago) that there would not be any more locomotive kits of anykind from Athearn. They had so many complaints from modelers about the difficulty of installing the railings that it was easier to market rtr. They made more profit on rtr. Nobody wants to build locomotive kits anymore. One other thing, when Irv was alive, he kept his prices low because everything was long since paid off. The only time prices went up much was when a new model was introduced, the price was set to recover the cost of the new tooling. When he died, the pricing stayed the same for a few years, but no new product was introduced. When the new owners bought the company, they had to raise prices to pay off their capital investment. Even with the higher prices, they were not making enough profit to justify staying in business, so they sold it to Horizon. One other thing, all of the old line model railroad companies were started and operated by one man. Irv Athearn's children did not want the company. The children of the founder of MDC did not want that company. When Varney died, his company ceased to exist. Walthers and English have stayed in business for years because each succeeding generation has had an interest in model railroading.
  12. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    There are a few things at play here - one is a little less obvious but was told to me by a guy at the LHS. I was rejoicing that our Canadian dollar was up and would go further at Walthers, LifeLike etc which are US companies. He told me in return that the US dollar was down, and wasn't going as far in China and Korea where this stuff is (mostly) made. Also, plastic is an oil product and as the price of oil goes up...... well, you can see where that's going! :rolleyes:

    The other thing about scratching/bashing vs RTR, is to do with "growing the hobby". A lot more people nowadays prefer to buy something ready made - they lack either the time, the patience or the skill to build a complicated kit. Naturally the manufacturers will cater to such a large "market share" with more and more RTR stuff. And naturally, the more work they do, and the less the modeller has to do, the more expensive will the product be.

    On one hand, you could say the manufacturers don't care if someone spends several thousand on the hobby and never even builds a layout - as long as they've spent the money.

    On the other, you could say that by making so much RTR, the manufacturers are removing a source of frustration to many casual or beginning modellers, and allowing them to get to actually running trains a lot sooner.

    Either way, one good thing remains. It is still just as possible as it ever was to scratchbuild your own stuff. Perhaps even more so.

  13. yellowlynn

    yellowlynn Member


    From one GOM (grumpy old man) to another, I can't really add much that hasn't been said at one time or another. I have my biggest problem with painting. I "crittered" a Plymouth switcher, shortened boxcars, made single truck cars, etc., but they look horrible without a new paint job. I have a small compressor and Badger gun, but artistic talent are only words I can hardly spell, much less have some. Sixty five years ago I was building model airplanes of balsa and paper, but now I have trouble building a sandwich. AAh well.

    I have made several Galloping Goose, but still haven't perfected the staying on the track. So, playing around is a lot of fun, but this boy isn't about to even take the shell off his new GP-9 W/sound. Some RTR are best left that way. Especially when you're a bumbling AND GOM.

  14. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Jerome K Jerome (3 men in a boat) once wrote that there are two types of bicycle -- bicycles for riding and bicycles for taking apart. Once you've made your bicycle into a "taking apart" machine, you can never ride it again.
    I think the same applies to automobiles and locomotives.
  15. MCL_RDG

    MCL_RDG Member

    Comment on...


    In the October MR there's an Athearn ad that says the products are for "beginners" and affordable. A look at the photo of a boxcar showed IMHO- "thin" details. I was thinking about this post and said to myself- in my head, although my wife asked me what I just muttered, geesh- wasn't someone just saying...ironic? Anyway, the ladder looked like it was just begging to be shaved off, etc.


    (Apparently I haven't had enough or had too much coffee this morning) :D
  16. GeorgeHO

    GeorgeHO Member

    This is the most enjoyable thread I have seen on the Gauge. You have all said everything I have been thinking, and very eloquently at that.
  17. Big_Al73

    Big_Al73 New Member

    I've notice the prices being a little high, but they have to pay someone to but the stuff together. Hobby Store employee told me that people complained about putting these car and locomotives together.I thought they were fun to put together , especially Athearn and MDC, the had good detail and were easy to but together. Also, some of the hobby shops around here are have sales on the kits, which I like to see. But, when I got started, which wasn't very long, I could buy a kit for 5-8 bucks. Now for the samething, but put together for 15 bucks. Its hard on a budget when just get married, bills, more bills, and more bills. But, she like the new layout and picks out cars. I haven't tried accurail yet, so if anyone has let me know how they run and are the easy to assemble. Bowser cars are nice and some what easy to put together and the have great detail. I look on ebay and on-line hobby stores for deals, and flea markets.
  18. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I've built a bunch of Accurail cars. They are as easy to build as Athearn, have cast detail like Athearn, but may be a little better quality.

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