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Real Steam Engines and the HO Model Railroad market.

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Real Steam Engines and the HO Model Railroad market.
Posted by don7 on Thursday, June 28, 2012 5:41 PM

I was in Calgary last year and happened to see the CPR 2816 Hudson 1-a 4-6-4 steam excursion train returning to Calgary after its look through the Kootenay's and then through Golden to Yoho Park to Banff Park and then home to Calgary.

What an impressive steam engine. I also stopped at the Kettle Valley railroad and there saw the CPR 3716 2-8-0 that used to be the back up engine to the Royal Hudson when it was still running the excursion run between North Vancouver and Squamish.

Both of these steamers appear as though they just came out of the shop, their paint in the grey and maroon and black CPR passenger livery. They look simply fantastic. I was told by staff at both locations that one of the most common questions is where could a model of this engine be purchased?

I have spoken to a number of Hobby shop owners who have been asked the same thing from customers who have seen these engines.

It seems that there is nothing current in the works for either of these steam engines from any of the present brass model railroad manufacturers/importers.

I keep wondering why one of the current brass importers has not brought these two engines into the marketplace. I would think that with the association of those real steam engines plus the regular model railroad market there would be a ready made market for these engines

There are a few of the Royal Hudson models that are still very popular and these turn up on consignment occasionally at some of the hobby shops as well as on e-bay. The other two are quite rare and are only on occassion seen to be available.

 

 

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Posted by tomikawaTT on Thursday, June 28, 2012 6:01 PM

There is one basic reason why current model railroad suppliers are VERY reluctant to produce models of locomotives presently in service:

Every self-appointed arbiter of prototypical accuracy (AKA rivet counter) would be all over the model with a microscope and vernier caliper, and the most minute deviation from absolute accuracy (real or imagined) would be trumpeted to the world.

OTOH, if the model is of something that was cut up for scrap during the transition era, all those critics have to go on is some grainy old photos.

Step into the manufacturer/importer's mocassins.  Which route would you walk?

Chuck (Modeling Central Japan in September, 1964 - from contemporary photos)

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Posted by CNCharlie on Thursday, June 28, 2012 6:51 PM

Don,

As noted in an earlier post Central  Hobbies in Vancouver has a brass H1a/b in stock now.

CN Charlie

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Posted by wjstix on Thursday, June 28, 2012 7:57 PM

About 25 years ago, Bachmann's then new Spectrum line introduced their Pennsy K-4 Pacific, which was a great leap forward compared to other inexpensive RTR steam engines then available. I thought that was a great idea - by using an engine then in use in excursion service, you could sell it people modeling the steam era and to people modeling "today" who wanted to run steam once in a while. However, except for N&W 611, SP 4449, and of course the 2-3 dozen different versions of the UP 3985 Challenger, very few models of excursion era steam engines are on the market.

Stix
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Posted by challenger3980 on Thursday, June 28, 2012 8:19 PM

My guess would be that even more than the rivet counters, the manufacturers fear that not enough would be sold to be profitable. Profit is what the manufacturers are in business for, if they thought that there was enough potential for PROFIT, they would likely produce the models and ignore the rivet counters. As evidence of that I have seen models from IHC/AHM of Bigboys with PENNSYLVANIA on the tender, and of GG1's in NEW YORK CENTRAL livery. Tyco also had sold a "GG1" built on a typical CC trucked diesel frame, which is not even a close resemblance to  the proper wheel configuration of the real GG1.

 There are plenty enough models out  there painted for roads that never owned them, but the manufatucturers predicted enough sales anyway to justify producing them. Most likely they just don't feel that there is ENOUGH interest to warrant producing them, sure SOME would sell, but would ENOUGH sell? The MFG's must not think so.

 

Doug

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Thursday, June 28, 2012 9:52 PM

Don,

I would respectfully submit an additional theory as to lack of such models.

And there are a great many other locos that at first thought one wnders why no one has manufactured them - Great Western #90, still in regular scheduled, nearly daily service, nearly all year long at Strasburg? Why is there not a model of that?

Respectfully, I would suggest that most manufacturers of HO models know that collectors are not their biggest market - modelers are.

True there has been a significant growth in "HO collecting" in the last decade or two, but I suspect that trend has already slowed with the economy just like several O guage dealers have reported to me about their sales of Lionel and MTH in that scale.

A collector with a big bank roll wll by the "famous" locos - Big Boys, GG1's, K4's, etc. - but usually only one of each.

A serious modeler with big bankroll will by fleets of locos to populate a working layout in a realistic manner.

There are a great many locos that I have more than 6 copies of - to give that big railroad feel to my roster and a sense of continuity to the layout.

Who is a more profitable customer for a manufacturer? Someone like me who buys:

9 - USRA 4-8-2's

8 - Baldwin 2-8-0's

4 - USRA 2-6-6-2's

2 - USRA 2-8-8-2's

6 - EMD GP7's

8 - ALCO FA1's

6 - ALCO FA2's

14 - EMD F7's

3 - EMD FP7's

 

OR the guy who buys the same total number of locos but every one is different?

The manufacturer made way more money on me because they sold more locos with way less tooling cost. Extrapolate that out over tens of thousands of customers - which customers do you really want - the guy who buys one or the guy who buys 9 of each item you release?

Sure, in recent history manufacturers have worked hard to hit BOTH markets at the same time with each new offering.

But a product that is seen as only having collector interest and only having a small modeling following would be a very big risk - even for brass manufacturer.

Some guys "model" and "collect", and if they have money the manufactuers love them.

But many like myself only/mostly buy what fits the theme of the layout - I would not buy any of the locos you mentioned - not even at Bachmann prices let alone brass.

I do not own one - Big Boy, NYC Hudson, GG1, PRR K4, UP Challenger, UP FEF, PRR Centipeed, Triplex, N&W Class J,  CPR anything, etc, etc.

I don't buy models just because they are "famous" or still in operation, and niether do most of the modelers I know.

I don't think that market is really as big as you think.

Sheldon

    

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Posted by aloco on Friday, June 29, 2012 3:15 AM

Did you check to see if Van Hobbies imported brass models of either loco in the past?  I've seen brass Royal Hudsons, and I wouldn't doubt if a 2-8-0 was made too.  As for new ones, the only importers that I can think of that might tackle such a project would be Overland or Division Point.

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Posted by BRAKIE on Friday, June 29, 2012 4:46 AM

I don't think that market is really as big as you think.

Sheldon

--------------------------------

Agreed..The only way I would buy a 611 or 1218 is if I was modeling the N&W/Southern/NS from the 80 through the mid 90s.

Larry

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Posted by wjstix on Friday, June 29, 2012 8:21 AM

I'm not sure what the connection is to "collecting" models with this topic?? I just think that it's not uncommon for someone - particularly the "younger folk" - to dismiss steam and model the recent era...at least until they get a chance to see a restored steam engine in operation. Maybe they don't want to change eras to the 1940's, but I'm sure for example that there are modelers in my area (Mpls-St.Paul) modelling some point in the last 20 years who would like to buy a model of Milwaukee 261 as used in excursion service (with some Milwaukee passenger cars). These would be in addition to folks modeling the Milwaukee in the steam era / transition era who would like a Milwaukee 261 (and might buy several engines with different road numbers). Plus the Milwaukee 4-8-4s were virtual duplicates of engines built in the WW2 era for the Rock Island and I believe one other railroad, so the model would appeal to others as well.

Stix
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Posted by Train Modeler on Friday, June 29, 2012 9:05 AM

My son likes to model what he sees, particularly with locos.  So, just like seeing UP3985 makes him want to have a model of that, so would the others.    After all, that's what most of us are doing,  modeling what we have seen or experienced.     If the model makers don't work to expand to the younger generation the market will shrink even more.

Richard

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Posted by NP2626 on Friday, June 29, 2012 2:46 PM

Some interesting speculations on why specific locomotives are not brought to market.  However the reasons for building in brass is the diversity of products that can be made. Given the myriad of selections of steam locomotives shown in the Brown Book, sorta puts marketability as less of a  priority than one might think.

Don7, have you looked at the various places that sell brass to see if what your seeking might not be available?  Someone suggested Caboose Hobbies as a place to look and there are many other brass retailers that might have what your looking for.

If were talking about the big manufacturers in steam locomotives: BLI, Athearm, Bachman, etc. then marketability would appear to be paramount.   

There is also bashing a specific locomotive from what is available, as another option.  Being a Northern Pacific modeler I've bashed a couple with what I feel was pretty good results!

NP 2626 "Northern Pacific, really terrific"

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Posted by DavidBriel on Friday, June 29, 2012 8:04 PM
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Posted by challenger3980 on Friday, June 29, 2012 8:15 PM

 

I'm sure for example that there are modelers in my area (Mpls-St.Paul) modelling some point in the last 20 years who would like to buy a model of Milwaukee 261 as used in excursion service (with some Milwaukee passenger cars). These would be in addition to folks modeling the Milwaukee in the steam era / transition era who would like a Milwaukee 261 (and might buy several engines with different road numbers).

 

 Well, you just might be in the wrong scale, don't laugh, LIONEL has done just what you have asked for in the 3 Rail Scale O. They have the MILW 261, with detailing that rivals any HO brass, plus I believe it was also offered in 2 additional road#s.

 They have also released the NKP 765, the Pere Marquet 1225 In scale as well, for those that want to lighten up a bit, there is also a seperate sale tender for the 1225 lettered for the Polar express, with scale size cars to round that out, these are highly detailed with Legacy electronics.

They have also produced the UP FEF3's in both Black and two tone Grey(Both #ed 844)  there were I believe 4 road#s in the Legacy Bigboys, and predateing Legacy, with TMCC electronics are Very detailed models of The C&O H7 in UP also, The Gorgeous SP AC-9 , And Cab-Forwards and GS-4, B&O EM-1, Norfolk and Western Y-3, Class-A and Class-J, plus many more.

 

They are NOT your Grand Pa's Lionel any more,

 

Doug

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Posted by M_Robinson on Saturday, June 30, 2012 12:02 PM

Sheldon

I recently contacted Division Point regarding the availability of factory DCC and sound on their locos and received an email that included this statement,

 "...the majority of our end buyers are "collectors", rather than "runners"."

Regards
 

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Posted by G Paine on Saturday, June 30, 2012 4:10 PM

The bottom line on most prototype locomotives, is you try to find the close match of a good running mass produced locomotive, then add detail parts and make modifications to get as close to the prototype as possible. It may mean buying a perfectly good RTR locomotive, stripping the paint, and repainting it.

That is how I got my MEC 524 2-8-0 (Bachman Spectrum undecorated, CalScale boiler tube pilot, brass handrails on loco & tender, cab modifications, other stuff)

GP-38s MEC 251 and 263 (Atlas - one was originally Western MD, side mount bell, horn, brass handrails, & other stuff)

GP-7 MEC 572 (Atlas undecorated, nose mounted bell, horn & steam generator on short hood; winterization hatch and exhaust stacks on long hood)

I am sure a "true" rivet counter could find fault with these, but they are much closer to the real thing than the mass produced model I bought.

George In Midcoast Maine, 'bout halfway up the Rockland branch

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Posted by CP guy in TX on Tuesday, July 03, 2012 11:17 PM

I dunno. I have a lot of friends in the MKE area, and most all of them, while being Milwaukee Road modellers, would love to find a decent 261 and 2816 for some modern double heading action.

I'd love to find a decent brass 261 myself for the same reason....

I think I'm gonna throw up if we get another FEF, Challenger, or Big Boy soon. It's getting real old, it is!!!

Van Hobbies H1b, K1a, T1c, D10g, F1a, F2a, G5a. Division Point: H24-66 Hammerhead, Alco covered wagons A-B-B-A, C-Liner A-B-B-A, EMD FP7A A-B-B.

H1b modified to replicate modern day 2816. All with Tsunamis.

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Posted by twhite on Wednesday, July 04, 2012 1:11 AM

CP guy in TX

I think I'm gonna throw up if we get another FEF, Challenger, or Big Boy soon. It's getting real old, it is!!!

Amen to that.  And thank you, Athearn, for putting out an SP steamer (MT-4 4-8-2) that is NOT a Cab-forward or a GS-4.   Now if we can get some smaller Espee steam (2-8-0, 4-6-0, 2-8-2 , 4-6-2 or one of those 'Valley Malley' 2-6-0's), I would be a VERY Happy Camper.   

Tom Big Smile

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Posted by fmilhaupt on Wednesday, July 04, 2012 7:56 AM

M_Robinson

Sheldon

I recently contacted Division Point regarding the availability of factory DCC and sound on their locos and received an email that included this statement,

 "...the majority of our end buyers are "collectors", rather than "runners"."

Regards

That mirrors something that another importer from the Midwest (now retired, but his business continues on) once said with a touch of sadness. "Most of my customers just collect boxes to put on their shelves. I could put bricks in those boxes, and most of my customers couldn't tell the difference." Fortunately, that didn't affect the effort he put into having models built correctly.

The key thing holding back brass right now is that new production ends up costing considerably more than the market will bear right now-- especially with cheaper plastic and die cast models coming out from MTH, Broadway and Athearn.

Division Point has floated the idea of USRA Mikados with road-specific details for the past several years. But at $1,000+, there just aren't as many takers as there are for a $300 die cast and plastic BLI model. And frankly, my experience has been that if it a less-expensive model has the right paint scheme, it'll do fine in the market even if the road-specific details aren't there.

The fact remains that those of us who care about road-specific detailing are in the minority in this hobby.

 

-Fritz Milhaupt, Publications Editor, Pere Marquette Historical Society, Inc.
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Posted by DavidBriel on Thursday, July 05, 2012 2:36 AM
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Posted by wjstix on Thursday, July 05, 2012 8:30 AM

fmilhaupt

The fact remains that those of us who care about road-specific detailing are in the minority in this hobby.

 

It may also be true that many people who care a lot about road-specific details are somewhat more knowledgable and skilled modellers, and don't mind paying less for a "generic" engine and adding details themselves??

Stix
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Posted by doctorwayne on Thursday, July 05, 2012 11:13 AM

wjstix

 

 fmilhaupt:

 

 

The fact remains that those of us who care about road-specific detailing are in the minority in this hobby.

 

 

 

It may also be true that many people who care a lot about road-specific details are somewhat more knowledgable and skilled modellers, and don't mind paying less for a "generic" engine and adding details themselves??


I agree on both counts, and would much rather have a cheaper generic loco  which I can alter and detail as I see fit.  I'm thinking specifically of the USRA locos, as they have many characteristics common to steam locos in their heyday.  The recent crop of Moguls, Ten Wheelers, and Americans, all very common prototypes which can be easily altered to match many prototypes also fit these requirements. 


Wayne

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Posted by DavidBriel on Friday, August 31, 2012 3:43 AM

I feel that these PRESERVED SOUTHEASTERN US STEAM LOCOMOTIVES should be produced in HO scale.

NASHVILLE, CHATTANOOGA & ST. LOUIS 4-8-4 576

SOUTHERN 2-8-0 630

ATLANTA & WEST POINT 4-6-2 290

SAVANNAH & ATLANTA 4-6-2 750

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Posted by dknelson on Friday, August 31, 2012 8:16 AM

I don't model the steam era but I can imagine myself buying and displaying well detailed and accurate models of the preserved and excursion steam locomotives that I have admired over the years.  But man that would be one strange collection of steam: C&NW, NKP, UP, Frisco, CB&Q, CP, Milwaukee Road, Soo Line, Southern, SP.  And since I'd be just looking at them, not running, I could also imagine being more interested in larger than HO scale models.  I did think briefly about getting the Lionel version of Milwaukee Road 261 for just that reason, until I saw the price.  

Dave Nelson

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Posted by wjstix on Friday, August 31, 2012 8:32 AM

challenger3980

 

I'm sure for example that there are modelers in my area (Mpls-St.Paul) modelling some point in the last 20 years who would like to buy a model of Milwaukee 261 as used in excursion service (with some Milwaukee passenger cars). These would be in addition to folks modeling the Milwaukee in the steam era / transition era who would like a Milwaukee 261 (and might buy several engines with different road numbers).

 

 Well, you just might be in the wrong scale, don't laugh, LIONEL has done just what you have asked for in the 3 Rail Scale O. They have the MILW 261, with detailing that rivals any HO brass, plus I believe it was also offered in 2 additional road#s.

No laughing here, I've seen the Lionel 261 at train shows and it's very well done. A lot of people don't realize that many "toy train" guys are really "hi-railers", people who use three-rail track but are otherwise running 1:48 scale products. Plus as you note, a LOT of Lionel products in the last two decades are 1:48 scale models.

Norm Charboneau's layout is a good example, to me this is a great model railroad:

http://norm.beesky.com/

BTW I was a hi-railer in the 70's-80's, switched to HO about a year before a flood of new 1:48 scale products hit the market. O well....

Stix
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Posted by UP 4-12-2 on Friday, August 31, 2012 12:24 PM

fmilhaupt

Division Point has floated the idea of USRA Mikados with road-specific details for the past several years. But at $1,000+, there just aren't as many takers as there are for a $300 die cast and plastic BLI model. And frankly, my experience has been that if it a less-expensive model has the right paint scheme, it'll do fine in the market even if the road-specific details aren't there.

The fact remains that those of us who care about road-specific detailing are in the minority in this hobby.

These are both excellent points, and I think sum up the entire discussion actually quite well.

Having worked for Bowser (20 years ago now), and having also in the past owned and actually played with brass models pulling long trains on a large layout (a half dozen of us had our own "brass train club"), I believe I'm familiar with many sides of this discussion, and have heard much of it before.

The bottom line is it does cost a lot of money to bring a new product to market in HO or any scale, and the various manufacturers want it to be virtually a "sure thing" even in plastic or diecast and plastic--because they literally cannot afford to have a project that is a sales failure or it will wipe out other projects that they could do.  Also, tooling that is bought and paid for and is still capable of producing "good enough" models is going to be used to continue to (ok, only nowadays every couple years) crank out models that sell to pay the bills and to help pay for the "new stuff" the manufacturer or importer wants to make.

Few are willing to produce CP steam or Great Western Decapods or B&O Big Sixes when they can produce and sell a whole lot more Big Boys, Challengers, N&W J Class 4-8-4's, Daylights, Freedom Train engines, etc.  It's simple economics--they are in business to make money.

I have in the past been "that guy" that has to have the biggest, baddest steam power ever produced, and only after 39 years in this hobby have I learned or matured to finally appreciate the simple beauty of an Athearn Roundhouse "Old Time" 2-8-0 pulling a modest freight train (of whatever era cars I care to run) on my modest layout. 

There will always be some purists out there who want to try to model the era they remember as closely as they possibly can--but for many railroads there apparently aren't enough of them...to get the models produced.

John

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Posted by selector on Friday, August 31, 2012 2:19 PM

I agree with John here, and with Sheldon on the previous page.  The savvy importer quickly determines how he/she is going to stay in business.  You do that by selling stuff.  The profits from selling stuff pays for a small admin staff and warranty repair cell, plus the venue to house them.  BLI seems to be doing okay, especially the last four years of multiple issues of the Hudson, Y6b, 6000 diesel, I1, and at long last they signify they are willing to play along with forum demands for a USRA Pacific and another Pennsy 2-8-0.

Bachmann sure seems to know how to stay in business.  Look at their corprorate manoeuvring in the past 18 months.  Who's sitting pretty now?  Whose HO scale offerings seem to be available year after year in multiple re-issues?

Crandell

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Posted by UP 4-12-2 on Friday, August 31, 2012 8:27 PM

There honestly is not a single manufacturer/importer who has not disappointed me with one product or another.

Yet at the same time, the average HO steam engine available on the market today is way better than ever before!  Now we can have sound or no sound, rubber tire driver and non-rubber tired driver available, often for the same engine.  There is so much good stuff to choose from.

I'm not a Belpaire boiler fan--only because my eye prefers the conical boiler shape so typical of USRA steam.  I've owned PRR steam from BLI, but ended up having to sell it simply due to the aesthetics alone--yet many other people simply love the look of PRR steam and BLI keeps pumping them out.  To each his own.

I applaud BLI for listening to the market and doing the PRR 2-8-0, and for doing the USRA Pacific that some folks have clamored for for so many years.  I hope they are both successful projects--then perhaps we'll see a B&O Big Six someday, or that GN 4-8-4....

Perhaps since Bachmann has demonstrated the willingness to do "excursion" versions, maybe someday we will see that Great Western/Strasburg 2-10-0...we can hope.  In the meantime, we have to buy the bread and butter 2-6-0's and other stuff to support the future.

John

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Posted by U-3-b on Friday, August 31, 2012 9:26 PM

DavidBriel

I feel that these PRESERVED SOUTHEASTERN US STEAM LOCOMOTIVES should be produced in HO scale.

NASHVILLE, CHATTANOOGA & ST. LOUIS 4-8-4 576

SOUTHERN 2-8-0 630

ATLANTA & WEST POINT 4-6-2 290

SAVANNAH & ATLANTA 4-6-2 750

A&WP 290 was brought in by Key in 1982 but only 50 were made

NC&StL 4-8-4 was imported by Overland

You just have to know where to find them.  Now if you didn't want brass you are more than likely going to be out of luck.

Steve

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Posted by don7 on Saturday, September 01, 2012 1:53 AM

UP 4-12-2

There honestly is not a single manufacturer/importer who has not disappointed me with one product or another.

.........

Perhaps since Bachmann has demonstrated the willingness to do "excursion" versions, maybe someday we will see that Great Western/Strasburg 2-10-0...we can hope.  In the meantime, we have to buy the bread and butter 2-6-0's and other stuff to support the future.

John

 
Bachmann did not knowingly produce the escursion version of the 2-8-2 SY, they allready were producing it and many other Chinese steam engines in their Chinese line. They simply boxed a bunch for the North American market. same as SJ I believe.

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