Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Does Bowser manufacturing still make stuff in the USA?

2961 views
38 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    September, 2014
  • 311 posts
Does Bowser manufacturing still make stuff in the USA?
Posted by PRR_in_AZ on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 10:33 PM

Bought some GLA hoppers in their Executive line cause it seems they don't sell kits anymore.  The quality was fine, but was disappointed that it said "made in China" on the side.  I always liked that their products were made in the US and of course I like to build kits, even if it is only gluing a few parts together.  I will probably not buy any more from them and give my business to Accurail.  I think they are still made in the USA?  Unfortunate.Sad.  BTW, Anyone know of a good online hobby shop that has a good selection of Accurail cars that are actually in stock and not preorder?  I am interested in Pennsy steam/transition era.

Chris

  • Member since
    May, 2010
  • 1,663 posts
Posted by mbinsewi on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 10:49 PM

Well Chris, in our hobby, just what is actually USA made.  I bet it's not too much.  Same with alot of stuff we consume.  Some may come from Mexico, China, and Europe, maybe some is even assemble in the USA, but the parts are made world wide.

The construction co. I worked for did a lot of plant remodel, and machinery installations to what was once the J.I. Case company, from Racine, WI.  They get castings and parts from all over the world, now they only do the finish milling, and some assembly in the USA.  I'm sure it's the same with many of the things that we, has hobbyist, buy and use.

It's a world economy.  As frustrating as it can sometimes seem, it's the way it is.

Mike.

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • From: Bradford, Ontario
  • 7,360 posts
Posted by hon30critter on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 11:06 PM

PRR_in_AZ
Anyone know of a good online hobby shop that has a good selection of Accurail cars that are actually in stock and not preorder?

Chris:

This is probably a stupid question, but have you tried ordering direct from Accurail?

http://www.accurail.com/accurail/

Dave

  • Member since
    March, 2013
  • 156 posts
Posted by Colorado Ray on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 11:09 PM

Yep, like it or not, we are part of, and have been for a long time, part of the global economy.  As pricy as quality new models are, I shudder to think what the cost would be if made in the USA.

Many years ago I was designing an industrial wastewater treatment plant for a large textile plant being built in eastern Tennessee.  The client was moaning about how all the textile manufacturing was going to China.  Yet nearly every piece of equipment going into his new plant was being imported from Germany!!   At the time all of the Chinese textile plants were using equipment made in the USA.  I found the whole thing rather ironic.

 Ray

  • Member since
    September, 2014
  • 311 posts
Posted by PRR_in_AZ on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 11:17 PM

Dave,

I haven't yet but may go that route.  Even most of the large online hobby shops don't seem to actually stock very much product.  Lots of preorder "status".

Chris

  • Member since
    May, 2010
  • 1,663 posts
Posted by mbinsewi on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 11:22 PM

To add to my first post, the good news, I watch Railstream web cams, and yesterday, on the Chesterton, IN., cams, I caught an NS train with 52 flat cars, each had two Case combines, with wood crates of parts, and a some cars were just wheel and tire sets, going East.  I'm sure they were headed for export, which is a good thing.

Mike

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • From: Bradford, Ontario
  • 7,360 posts
Posted by hon30critter on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 11:32 PM

PRR_in_AZ
I haven't yet but may go that route.

Don't hold your breath Chris. The last few times I have looked at the Accurail site they didn't have anything that I wanted in stock. Hopefully you will have better luck.

The one nice thing that they do offer which I don't think you will get anywhere else is re-numbering decals. The decals are matched to each specific car. They are printed with the car colour (Canadian spelling eh!) as the background on the decal so you can go right over top of the existing car numbers.

Good luck!

Dave

  • Member since
    September, 2002
  • 130 posts
Posted by KemacPrr on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 11:40 PM

If you want PRR equipment then Bowser is your only real source. Most of their cars and loco's parts are made here in the U.S. then shipped to China to be assembled. The die work is all done here. Thats more than most of the other model railroad manufacturers. ---   Ken 

  • Member since
    June, 2005
  • 3,883 posts
Posted by Darth Santa Fe on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 11:46 PM

I think their full line of detail parts is made in the USA.

_________________________________________________________________

Darth Santa Fe, doing weird and challenging projects for the fun of it!

  • Member since
    June, 2003
  • From: Culpeper, Va
  • 7,457 posts
Posted by IRONROOSTER on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 5:56 AM

PRR_in_AZ
Anyone know of a good online hobby shop that has a good selection of Accurail cars that are actually in stock and not preorder?

MB Klein carries it.  They also have a real time online inventory, so you know what's in stock.

Good luck

Paul

If you're having fun, you're doing it the right way.
  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • From: Nordonia Hills, OH
  • 1,364 posts
Posted by dti406 on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 8:02 AM

Darth Santa Fe

I think their full line of detail parts is made in the USA.

 

Most of the latest Calscale Parts I got were made in China for double the old price, probably due to EPA regulations on brass casting ventilation etc.

By the way Intermountain also makes all their parts in the US and just ships them to China for painting and assembly, so the undecorated kits are all US.

Kadee cars are all made in the US entirely.

Rick Jesionowski

Rule 1: This is my railroad.

Rule 2: I make the rules.

Rule 3: Illuminating discussion of prototype history, equipment and operating practices is always welcome, but in the event of visitor-perceived anacronisms, detail descrepancies or operating errors, consult RULE 1!

  • Member since
    January, 2009
  • From: Maryland
  • 6,276 posts
Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 8:14 AM

Chris, a number of others have covered the China made issue pretty well, I will address the "in stock" issue.

I feel your pain, I once ran a train department in a hobby shop and back in the day inventory was king - you cannot sell what you don't have - or so it would seem.

A lot of factors have come together making it very hard for retailers or even manufacturers to keep big inventories.

Retailers once enjoyed larger markups, which allowed them to keep money tied up in inventory. Today, everybody wants a discount.......

Manufacturers have provided us with increased detail, accuracy, and variety. This in combination with the simple fact about markups, makes it even harder for retailers, online or otherwise, to have big inventories.

So the manufacturers have cut the size of each production batch, and large percentages of each run are spoken for before they are even produced.

It is my understanding that Bowser and Intermountain still do their injecton molding here, and package kits here, but RTR items are assembled overseas.

EPA regulations on painting and indirect labor costs (taxes, health insurance, unemployment coverage) are the primary reasons RTR model trains are not made in the USA.

When Athearn first got back into RTR, they too did the injection molding here and shipped parts to China for assembly. They have since discontinued all USA manufacturing. There is a long standing rumor that Athearn kept much of their original tooling here in case things go south in China, allowing the Chinnese to duplicate the tooling to produce the exact same items. Not sure how true that is, but given how easy it is today to make some of this tooling, it is quite possible.

Fact is, the US economy will simply not allow workers to work at pay levels that would be market effective for these products. Now if we had a different type of tax structure, and did not demand 1/4 of the productivity of even low paid workers in tax payments, maybe more things could be made here, and workers could still take home a reasonable wage?

But the unwillingness or inablity of current model consumers to pay reasonable markups prevents manufacturers and retailers form keeping large inventories in any case.

And one more thing about the choices the maufacturers make. In 1968, when I became an active model railroader, we only had about 100 years of railroad history to choose our modeling from.

Today, we have now have about 150 years of railroad history to choose from. So it is very likely that the demand for any one product, like a GLa hopper car, is actually much smaller than the demand for a similar product when Athearn introduced their 34' twin hoppers in the 70's.

Railroad history has grown faster than the population, and faster than the total number of modelers for sure, and a much wider selection of product has been made in the last 20-25 years. Making the demand for any one product MUCH smaller.

Again, combine all that with my first point, smaller markups, make it harder for retailers to invest in large standing inventories.........

Sheldon 

 

 

    

  • Member since
    August, 2015
  • 365 posts
Posted by fieryturbo on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 9:00 AM

mbinsewi

Well Chris, in our hobby, just what is actually USA made.  I bet it's not too much.  Same with alot of stuff we consume.  Some may come from Mexico, China, and Europe, maybe some is even assemble in the USA, but the parts are made world wide.

The construction co. I worked for did a lot of plant remodel, and machinery installations to what was once the J.I. Case company, from Racine, WI.  They get castings and parts from all over the world, now they only do the finish milling, and some assembly in the USA.  I'm sure it's the same with many of the things that we, has hobbyist, buy and use.

It's a world economy.  As frustrating as it can sometimes seem, it's the way it is.

Mike.

Hey, Chinese/Mexican/European people gotta eat too :)

Rix'(s?) Pikestuff line is all made in the US.  It's an injection molding shop that also does model railroad molds.

Does anyone know if Accurail's kits are done here?

Julian

Modeling Pre-WP merger UP (1974-81)

Moderator
  • Member since
    June, 2003
  • From: Western PA
  • 13,435 posts
Posted by tstage on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 9:12 AM

Yes, Accurail is made here in the US and I'm grateful that they still offer kits.  One of the very few left, as far as rolling stock.

Tom

http://www.newyorkcentralmodeling.com

Time...It marches on...without ever turning around to see if anyone is even keeping in step.

  • Member since
    January, 2009
  • From: Maryland
  • 6,276 posts
Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 9:12 AM

fieryturbo

 

 
mbinsewi

Well Chris, in our hobby, just what is actually USA made.  I bet it's not too much.  Same with alot of stuff we consume.  Some may come from Mexico, China, and Europe, maybe some is even assemble in the USA, but the parts are made world wide.

The construction co. I worked for did a lot of plant remodel, and machinery installations to what was once the J.I. Case company, from Racine, WI.  They get castings and parts from all over the world, now they only do the finish milling, and some assembly in the USA.  I'm sure it's the same with many of the things that we, has hobbyist, buy and use.

It's a world economy.  As frustrating as it can sometimes seem, it's the way it is.

Mike.

 

 

Hey, Chinese/Mexican/European people gotta eat too :)

Rix'(s?) Pikestuff line is all made in the US.  It's an injection molding shop that also does model railroad molds.

Does anyone know if Accurail's kits are done here?

 

Yes, as noted above in this thread, Accurail is still USA made.

    

  • Member since
    June, 2007
  • From: Northern Virginia
  • 4,716 posts
Posted by riogrande5761 on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 10:08 AM

KemacPrr

If you want PRR equipment then Bowser is your only real source. 

  Ken

No.  Tangent Scale Models offers PRR rolling stock as well; some very nice freight cars not to be ignored, even by a western modeler like me:

PRR G43 corrugated side gondola:

https://www.tangentscalemodels.com/prr-pc-shops-g43-class-corrugated-side-gondola/

Iconic PRR X58 box car:

https://www.tangentscalemodels.com/prr-x58-box-car/

Don't forget Tangent also does the ACF 70 ton welded drop end gondola in several PRR schemes:

https://www.tangentscalemodels.com/acf-70-ton-welded-drop-end-gondola/

Not to mention the General American Dri-Flo covered hopper in PRR (expected to re-run this year.

 

Rio Grande.  The Action Road

  • Member since
    March, 2016
  • 593 posts
Posted by PRR8259 on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 11:30 AM

Yes, Tangent makes a few PRR/PC/CR cars, as has Exactrail.

But most people have to use Bowser to get the vast majority of the PRR freight fleet.

Look, I once worked in that Bowser American factory.  In order to remain even reasonably competitive with the others, they were forced to outsource the actual assembly of rtr freight cars.  They may still do some painting here, too--I cannot say with absolute certainty.

At one point they were either making their own can motors here in the U.S., or were considering making their own, but they were able to import an identical motor from China (in minimum lots of 10,000 motors), delivered to the Bowser doorstep, for approximately 1/5 the cost of making the SAME motor here with American labor.  In order to keep prices in line with the other "manufacturers", they had no choice but to outsource what they could.

I thought they still were offering some freight car kits, I'll have to ask the next Saturday that I will be up there?  (We go regularly for pro baseball lessons for my son and might get there this Saturday).

Several years ago most (but not all) of the factory employees were let go, and some product lines that were not making any money were ended.  This included the all metal kits, whose yearly sales had fallen to virtually zero.  Also, some lines of detail parts were determined, upon financial audit by Lew English, Jr., to be costing them money and not making any money at all, with no hope of ever making money again.  Partly this is because it costs way too much time and money for American employees to find, pick, and fill parts orders, and there is just no money to be made in old detail parts.  Those detail parts have been discontinued.

They have tried to retain as much work, including design, etc. in the U.S. as is absolutely possible.  If they mold their own plastic, then they don't have to worry about issues with some other factory doing the injection molding and parts not being dimensionally compatible.  It helps them assure the highest quality possible.  That has been their goal.  The vast majority of design, research and development is done here.  Lee English has a small, relatively young, and talented staff of actual model railroaders who take very seriously the paint color matching, artwork, etc.   A few selected projects (C-430) were physically tooled elsewhere as an "experiment" and because the price they were offered to do the work made it possible with fewer sales (of only a niche engine).  Without the offer they received, there would never have been an HO C-430 in plastic.  That is a simple fact that they have clearly, freely shared.

John

Moderator
  • Member since
    June, 2003
  • From: Western PA
  • 13,435 posts
Posted by tstage on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 12:25 PM

Thanks for that bit of inside scoop on Bowser, John.

AFAIK, Bowser is no longer making kits and has gravitated to RTR.  The only places I see Bowser kits anymore are at train shows.  Even my favorite LHS no longer carries any Bowser kits; only RTR.  Otherwise, they would carry them.

Tom

http://www.newyorkcentralmodeling.com

Time...It marches on...without ever turning around to see if anyone is even keeping in step.

  • Member since
    January, 2009
  • From: Maryland
  • 6,276 posts
Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 12:53 PM

tstage

Thanks for that bit of inside scoop on Bowser, John.

AFAIK, Bowser is no longer making kits and has gravitated to RTR.  The only places I see Bowser kits anymore are at train shows.  Even my favorite LHS no longer carries any Bowser kits; only RTR.  Otherwise, they would carry them.

Tom

 

The Bowser web site suggests that kits are still "on the product list".

Not much in the way of kits or RTR seems to be in stock a Bowser.

Given the limited batch production of all of this stuff these days, I would not write off Bowser kit production completely until they announce that fact.

Since Bowser still does the injection molding here, it would make sense to make a short run of kits as each batch of RTR parts are sent to China for assembly.

Sheldon

    

Moderator
  • Member since
    June, 2003
  • From: Western PA
  • 13,435 posts
Posted by tstage on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 1:12 PM

Thanks, Sheldon.  I'm pleased to hear that Bowser is still providing a few kits for modelers - however long that lasts.

Tom

http://www.newyorkcentralmodeling.com

Time...It marches on...without ever turning around to see if anyone is even keeping in step.

  • Member since
    May, 2002
  • From: Massachusetts
  • 2,387 posts
Posted by Paul3 on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 1:27 PM

PRR_in_AZ,
Bowser does make kits:
http://www.bowser-trains.com/history/gla.html

Note the ones highlighted in red that say "kit".

Sheldon,
Um, you're missing something rather important with regards to "in stock".  Namely, the sheer amount of product being produced today vs. yesterday.

For example, in 1971, Athearn made 275 different locomotive SKU's, and that includes dummy versions.  Hobby shops could and did stock every Athearn loco.  In 2012 (the last data I have), Athearn made 480 different loco SKU's (including sound versions).  Most hobby shops don't even have room for all that.

The other problem is the cost.  In 1971, a hobby shop could stock Athearn's entire loco line with a retail value of $2,790.97 ($16,787.37 in today's money).  To buy one of everything from Athearn in 2012 would have cost a shop $129,390.40 ($137,285.34 in 2017).

Add that to the reduced retail discount, our collective refusal to pay MSRP for anything, and the internet's influence, it's no wonder we are where we are.

One further point: our hobby is and always has been about reproducing the real thing.  Folks who wanted to model real railroads accurately back in the day had to make due with generic locos (unless they modeled the PRR or UP).  A hobby shop could stock generic locos and sell them profitably, not because there was a demand for generic models, but because there was nothing else (in plastic).  The hobbyist had no choice.  Today, with accurate models of just about every Class I being made, the hobbyist doesn't have to buy that USRA heavy Pacific and paint it in NH.  They can just go buy a NH I-4 Pacific.  That means the hobby shop can no longer sell generic locos; they must stock what people want, which are accurate models of the prototypes they want and not generic copies that have to be modified (or have to close their eyes and pretend).

Just look at Tony Koester's column this month.  He always wanted to model the NKP; instead he made up the AM way back when because he couldn't afford a fleet of brass Berks.  Today, with plastic Berks in the marketplace, he can model the NKP accurately and he does.

  • Member since
    January, 2009
  • From: Maryland
  • 6,276 posts
Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 1:41 PM

Paul3

PRR_in_AZ,
Bowser does make kits:
http://www.bowser-trains.com/history/gla.html

Note the ones highlighted in red that say "kit".

Sheldon,
Um, you're missing something rather important with regards to "in stock".  Namely, the sheer amount of product being produced today vs. yesterday.

For example, in 1971, Athearn made 275 different locomotive SKU's, and that includes dummy versions.  Hobby shops could and did stock every Athearn loco.  In 2012 (the last data I have), Athearn made 480 different loco SKU's (including sound versions).  Most hobby shops don't even have room for all that.

The other problem is the cost.  In 1971, a hobby shop could stock Athearn's entire loco line with a retail value of $2,790.97 ($16,787.37 in today's money).  To buy one of everything from Athearn in 2012 would have cost a shop $129,390.40 ($137,285.34 in 2017).

Add that to the reduced retail discount, our collective refusal to pay MSRP for anything, and the internet's influence, it's no wonder we are where we are.

One further point: our hobby is and always has been about reproducing the real thing.  Folks who wanted to model real railroads accurately back in the day had to make due with generic locos (unless they modeled the PRR or UP).  A hobby shop could stock generic locos and sell them profitably, not because there was a demand for generic models, but because there was nothing else (in plastic).  The hobbyist had no choice.  Today, with accurate models of just about every Class I being made, the hobbyist doesn't have to buy that USRA heavy Pacific and paint it in NH.  They can just go buy a NH I-4 Pacific.  That means the hobby shop can no longer sell generic locos; they must stock what people want, which are accurate models of the prototypes they want and not generic copies that have to be modified (or have to close their eyes and pretend).

Just look at Tony Koester's column this month.  He always wanted to model the NKP; instead he made up the AM way back when because he couldn't afford a fleet of brass Berks.  Today, with plastic Berks in the marketplace, he can model the NKP accurately and he does.

 

Paul, I did not miss anything, that is pretty much what I explained several post above.........did you read the whole thread?

Sheldon

    

  • Member since
    December, 2004
  • From: Bedford, MA, USA
  • 17,257 posts
Posted by MisterBeasley on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 5:59 PM

I'm still a big fan of Accurail.  There is one vendor who shows up at most of the bigger shows here in New England.  I've always thought of him as "The Screw Guy" because he sells bags of small screws and nuts for very reasonable prices, mostly those 2-56 ones we modelers always need.  Every show, he has so many Accurail cars that I've taken to printing up a spreadsheet of my rolling stock so I don't end up with duplicates.

It's nice to see some of my "old friend" vendors, because I know they'll always have something I want.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

  • Member since
    June, 2003
  • From: Culpeper, Va
  • 7,457 posts
Posted by IRONROOSTER on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 6:18 PM

MB Klein shows some Bowser kits in stock.  Don't know where they're made or how recently.  But you can still buy some.

Paul

If you're having fun, you're doing it the right way.
  • Member since
    December, 2008
  • From: In the heart of Georgia
  • 2,137 posts
Posted by Doughless on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 6:37 PM

Just a comment about producing things in China.  Southern Indiana has a pretty big office furniture "manufacturing" industry...the real stuff...not press board with embossed grain, due to the extensive hardwood forests in that part of the State (there's more than corn in Indiana)

About ten years ago, it was actually cheaper to fell the wood in Indiana, mill it into useable stock, then ship the stock to China to have it fabricated and assembled, then ship the assembled desks and bookcases back to the US to sell thoughout America; than it was to build the hardwood products locally and ship them throughout the country.

Tells us something about the differences in the cost of labor...at least about 10 years ago.

Not sure if Accurail or Bowser stay made in America because a big part of their business is kit products that don't need assembly.

Moderator
  • Member since
    June, 2003
  • From: Western PA
  • 13,435 posts
Posted by tstage on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 6:48 PM

Doughless
Not sure if Accurail or Bowser stay made in America because a big part of their business is kit products that don't need assembly.

Accurail only offers kits.  10+ years ago they did dabble in RTR for a short time.  However, they found it wasn't as profitable for them so they went back to manufacturing kits exclusively.

I just purchased three more Accurail kits last week and am always happy to support them as much as I am able.  And I think the newer kits have better detail to them than even a few years ago.

Tom

http://www.newyorkcentralmodeling.com

Time...It marches on...without ever turning around to see if anyone is even keeping in step.

  • Member since
    January, 2008
  • From: Big Blackfoot River
  • 2,718 posts
Posted by Geared Steam on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 8:09 PM

Tichy, although limited in selection and era, made in Merica'

Don's pretty cool too.

"The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination."-Albert Einstein

http://gearedsteam.blogspot.com/

  • Member since
    September, 2014
  • 311 posts
Posted by PRR_in_AZ on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 8:35 PM

Thanks fellas for all the great info.  Mostly, I'm trying to track down Pennsy hoppers.  So another question I have is - How does pre-ordering stuff work.  Do you ever get your product?  If so, how long does it take?

Chris

Moderator
  • Member since
    June, 2003
  • From: Western PA
  • 13,435 posts
Posted by tstage on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 9:33 PM

That can vary.  I've been waiting for nearly 4 years for True Line Train to release their NYC 19000-series wood cabooses.  A couple of BLI steamers took less than a year.

The few pre-orders that I've dealt with did not require a down payment of any kind.  I only had to put my name in with a vendor to say I was interested in one - with no obligation to buy.  More recently I've just waited until the prices came down and ordered what I wanted on websites like eBay or MB Klein.

Tom

http://www.newyorkcentralmodeling.com

Time...It marches on...without ever turning around to see if anyone is even keeping in step.

  • Member since
    September, 2014
  • 311 posts
Posted by PRR_in_AZ on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 9:46 PM

So essentially pre-ordering is telling the manufacturer that you'd be interested in purchasing "X" quantity of a product.  I'm guessing when they get enough interest they produce a run?  So, generally, no real guarantee the product will be available in the near future?

Chris

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!
Popular on ModelRailroader.com
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Search the Community

Users Online

ADVERTISEMENT
Find us on Facebook