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!

Will brass prices return to 1997 levels? Opinions? Locked

3046 views
69 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    July 2006
  • 648 posts
Posted by Howard Zane on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 11:34 AM

 Kevin

My experience with the Chicago brass show was excactly the opposite. Upon arriving as a dealer, staff met me at doors and helped with my set up...then two days later...take down. I found all of the staff to be quite friendly and courteous. Most of the vendors and importers were quite well behaved...otherwise no one talked down to me. I've been out of the loop for a long time so many did not know that I was the previous owner of the show and dealer. I'm probably one of the worst dressers on the planet....always jeans, shirt never tucked in, and soiled ball cap. The only negatives were that I tried to convince Dan, that moving the show was a bad idea, and table prices were a bit too high.....making the show affordable to only large dealers and importers. When I ran the show, i did not want importers only but the guy with some brass in the closet looking to sell and trade. You may have been somewhat intimidated by the oppulence and pricing of new brass....and understandably so. I was and I'm not known for being poor. It could not have been your appearance as no one can beat me on that subject.

HZ

Howard Zane
  • Member since
    June 2007
  • From: Grew up in Calif, left in 84, now in Virginia
  • 7,605 posts
Posted by riogrande5761 on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 1:23 PM

There always was a certain element to buying brass that went beyond "I just need a locomotive to pull my trains."  I won't say that brass was bought as an investment but much of it was bought because it was, in one meaning of the word or another, "art."   Collected for its beauty and fascination.

Sort of like owning a real piece of "art"; which often is a kind of a status symbol of those weathy enough to afford such things.  Very often Art is considered a luxury and among hobbyists, similar could be said of higher cost brass engines (not the cheap deals found on eBay btw).

I could be wrong but it seems that those with a disposable income sufficient to afford costly brass engines sometimes talk of the subject as if it's sort of common place or "routine" for them. But to many hobbyists, buying expensive brass engines is financially out of reach, just like owning a luxury car may be out of reach.   By world standards, definitely in the luxury category.

Plus there was a feeling that buying that first brass locomotive was like pledging a fraternity or smoking and drinking -- your passage from boy to man.

Or passage from lower disposable income to higher disposable income - for some when they can start buying expensive brass engines - they have "arrived".  Much of my life I've viewed brass locomotives as being out-of-reach to me financially.  Even in more recent years as my disposable income has increased, I'd have to sell off a lot of equipment to afford a small number of brass engines.  But I've never felt it necessary to sacrifice my goals to have a piece of "art" for arts sake.

Even that said, when I have looked at brass engines of my time period and genre, I"ve been disappointed that more often than not signature details which were "wrong", mainly the plow, and I figured if I were going to pay "that price" by-golly it would be to get an engine with the correct details.  After all, that is why I have bought some brass cabooses, because cabooses usually have a signature look to a railroad and for some, that is important for a train to look right. Fortunately, newer plastic engines have actually bettered brass in the "right details" department for D&RGW.

Like Larry, the brass I have bought is to run, and in my case, to get trains that look like the real D&RGW trains did.  I don't have enough extra money floating around to buy an expensive piece of art to put on a shelf or join some theoretical fraternity.  Heck, when I was in college, most fraternities made pledges put up with stupid or annoying exercises or jump through hoops.  No thank you.  To me, joining a fraternaty is something I'd rather not do.  Maybe that's just one more reason so many in the hobby are "lone wolves"; no annoying social stuff or head trips.

It reminds me of something my wifes father said "if I have to give someone money for them to like me, I'd rather not know that person".  If I have to buy brass engines to be accepted by guys in the model RR community ...

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

  • Member since
    March 2016
  • 1,001 posts
Posted by PRR8259 on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 1:24 PM

I agree with Howard that these models are an art form just in themselves, but even art has varying price levels, and I don't think one has to spend a lot of money to get something good and usable.

Yet now there is a fantastic group of brass modelers over on Facebook devoted to not just collecting but remotoring, regearing, and modifying these models, and upgrading to today's standards.  There are how to do it photos and videos over there, and helpful enough people such that somebody who really wanted to dive in could go on Facebook and learn from some real pros (whom I never yet have had the opportunity to meet in person).  Some of these people are taking the models to a level frankly beyond what I ever expected, with dcc, sound, working classification lights, working cab interior lights, red firebox glow, sometimes even working power reverse (a few models were also made with that feature).  They go into great detail regarding what doesn't work right and how to fix it.  There are some notable areas where the Korean models have issues that should be repaired.  The delayed motion articulated gearboxes, that allow one set of articulated drivers to slip and begin moving before the others were a great idea, but they do not last because a couple gears are way too small to hold up.

There are even a few twenty-somethings who are passionate about these brass trains (Adam Pomeranz).

Many of the same people lurk in more than one group.  I highly recommend the following groups:

Brass Model Paint and Repair

Brass Locomotive Collectors

The Brass Locomotive Collectors and Operators

Brass Model Train Buy Swap and Sell

PFM Sound (which is moderated by Hal Maynard)

John

 

  • Member since
    February 2008
  • From: Potomac Yard
  • 2,151 posts
Posted by NittanyLion on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 2:49 PM

riogrande5761

Fortunately, newer plastic engines have actually bettered brass in the "right details" department for D&RGW.

I'm pretty forgiving when it comes to "right details" because I can't pick them out in the real world in the first place.  "Looks pretty much like what an SD70ACe looks like" is good enough for me.

Even if I was, though, brass has nothing for me.  I'm a contemporary (I'm reluctant to say "modern" because that's almost a 65 year swath now) guy and the railroads I have an interest in and plan to have represented in some manner on my layout have a very limited fleet.  Some SD40-3s and GP40-3s pretty much does it for me.  Aside from the sort of work I'm going to have to do myself, like making sure the ditch lights are above or below the deck on a specific locomotive, I can largely find what I need to find.  But the NS/CSX runthrough power...plastic does a pretty good job nowadays with the Evos and SD70s.

I do have the "well...this doesn't fit, but is pretty nice..." stuff for the modular club.  The I-12 wagontop caboose from Spring Mills Depot is very, very nice.  Why would I pay 4 or 5 times the price for one a brass one that with cruder details?

  • Member since
    March 2016
  • 1,001 posts
Posted by PRR8259 on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 4:05 PM

riogrande5761
 
There always was a certain element to buying brass that went beyond "I just need a locomotive to pull my trains."  I won't say that brass was bought as an investment but much of it was bought because it was, in one meaning of the word or another, "art."   Collected for its beauty and fascination.

 

Sort of like owning a real piece of "art"; which often is a kind of a status symbol of those weathy enough to afford such things.  Very often Art is considered a luxury and among hobbyists, similar could be said of higher cost brass engines (not the cheap deals found on eBay btw).

I could be wrong but it seems that those with a disposable income sufficient to afford costly brass engines sometimes talk of the subject as if it's sort of common place or "routine" for them. But to many hobbyists, buying expensive brass engines is financially out of reach, just like owning a luxury car may be out of reach.   By world standards, definitely in the luxury category.

 
Plus there was a feeling that buying that first brass locomotive was like pledging a fraternity or smoking and drinking -- your passage from boy to man.

 

Or passage from lower disposable income to higher disposable income - for some when they can start buying expensive brass engines - they have "arrived".  Much of my life I've viewed brass locomotives as being out-of-reach to me financially.  Even in more recent years as my disposable income has increased, I'd have to sell off a lot of equipment to afford a small number of brass engines.  But I've never felt it necessary to sacrifice my goals to have a piece of "art" for arts sake.

Even that said, when I have looked at brass engines of my time period and genre, I"ve been disappointed that more often than not signature details which were "wrong", mainly the plow, and I figured if I were going to pay "that price" by-golly it would be to get an engine with the correct details.  After all, that is why I have bought some brass cabooses, because cabooses usually have a signature look to a railroad and for some, that is important for a train to look right. Fortunately, newer plastic engines have actually bettered brass in the "right details" department for D&RGW.

Like Larry, the brass I have bought is to run, and in my case, to get trains that look like the real D&RGW trains did.  I don't have enough extra money floating around to buy an expensive piece of art to put on a shelf or join some theoretical fraternity.  Heck, when I was in college, most fraternities made pledges put up with stupid or annoying exercises or jump through hoops.  No thank you.  To me, joining a fraternaty is something I'd rather not do.  Maybe that's just one more reason so many in the hobby are "lone wolves"; no annoying social stuff or head trips.

It reminds me of something my wifes father said "if I have to give someone money for them to like me, I'd rather not know that person".  If I have to buy brass engines to be accepted by guys in the model RR community ...

 

 

I have to respond to this because I think somehow, unfortunately, perhaps some items may have been misunderstood.

I most certainly do not view HO brass as some great "fraternity" to which I "need" to belong.  I love the models themselves, and am definitely not some kind of elitist though people have at times made that accusation.  My friends who have been into brass are regular guys who had regular jobs, or were perhaps retired.  Regular jobs included but were not limited to: automotive garage technician, automotive car salesman, over the road truck driver, farm equipment sales person, college instructor (not professor)...not one single guy of our "lodge" (brass operators) circle was rich or even "well-off".  J.P. Barger of Reboxx, who attended a few of our operating sessions, was a bit of an exception, but he was a guest and not a regular member.

To me the models themselves offer a whole lot that is just not available in plastic, at any price.  While I'm at it, two of my recent brass purchases have been at or even below the price point of current brass hybrids or BLI diecast articulated prices.  Everything must run for me, or it gets traded away in favor of something that will run instead.  I have no time for shelf queens.  I just rebuilt part of my layout to improve horizontal curvature to better accommodate brass steam power (though I cannot fix all the curves).

The older I get, I've read more about steam power, its design and operational history.  I just like steam power, and with qualifications, most of the plastic steam power just would not fill the bill for me, even with upgrades, because they just aren't as well done.

We all have to make budget choices.  There are people that buy every single road number of a Tangent or ExactRail hopper car, expending literally several thousand dollars to do so, because they want to have long trains of them, I guess.  I have less of everything than some folks do, and for the price of all my brass engines combined, well, I'd still be under just the rolling stock investment of many people in this hobby.  Please don't imply that I'm some kind of elitist because I like nice steam power that looks more real when painted because it is real metal.

John

No shelf queens!

  • Member since
    January 2009
  • From: Maryland
  • 9,268 posts
Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 6:54 PM

John,

You just don't get it. 

Riogrande and I disagree on a lot of stuff, but on this I am right with him.

When I was young I could not afford brass. OR, I would not choose to afford brass at the expense of other things.

I refuse to live like you, selling off personal possessions when money gets tight.

I have NEVER done that in my life, and I have not always had the kind of money I have now. I raised three kids in a row house on one income with just two or three paychecks between me and broke.

But I never had to sell my trains to pay the electric bill, or even to send the girls to dance class. I still have virtually every model train I have ever bought, and many that were part of what my father gave me as a child.

Today, and for the last 25 or more years, I have done well, I live well. 

I could "choose" to afford at least some brass, but it simply is not important to my modeling goals.

Actually, if I had what I have spent on 140 "plastic" locos in the last 25 years, I could buy a dozen, or two, maybe even 3 dozen, of the "finest brass". But that would not satisfy my modeling goals at all.

I don't have any "real" art hanging on my walls either.........

I drive moderately expensive late model cars that are paid for. I live in a nice single home in a rural area on two acres that is paid for. 

If I had more money I would not buy more expensive cars, and I would not buy a more expensive house.

And I'm not paying $1,000 or more for a model train locomotive. In fact I would have to think long and hard to spend much more than $300 or $400 which is about the most I have ever spent on a single loco.

And amazingly, all my $100, and $200, and a few $300 locomotives run great, and look great for their intended purposes on my model layout.

I'm a big student of deminishing return theory and will often settle for 85% performance when it only costs 50% or less of cost of 100% performance.

Especially when the the additional 15% of performance is largely esoteric in nature.

Sheldon

    

  • Member since
    March 2016
  • 1,001 posts
Posted by PRR8259 on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 8:43 PM

Sheldon--

You absolutely don't have a clue about me, and NO I don't just sell stuff off when money is tight.  I on a few occasions sold trains to help with things we wanted, like the travel baseball expenses that actually got my kid to college AND earned him college scholarships.  For what he wants to do, it was money well spent.

Other times I sell trains to buy trains.  I sell them when they can't take my curves without completely dismantling and rebuilding my layout, which would cost $1000's to do, and would be foolish when we are moving in a few years.  You can't always know before you buy what will work or not.  I even consult the PFM catalogs for minimum radius, but that doesn't hold for Balboa or other competitors' models of that time period. It is NOT possible to test run everything. Sometimes I make a purchase mistake, so sue me.  Maybe you are just so perfect that you never made a purchase mistake.  I get rid of mine and replace them.

I thought this hobby was about continual learning, not belittling others.  I've been blessed to get to know a couple guys 30 years older than me who have taught me an awful lot; even during this "lockdown", I've had the opportunity to learn stuff.

Also, my last 8 brass purchases have been WELL under $1000, as I stated CLEARLY above, actually as low as $450, which is very competitive with ANYTHING you can buy in steam now, plastic, diecast, hybrid, MTH, what have you.  Athearn Genesis challengers are in the $400 street price range, and oh btw, my younger son has one of those too.

You have made your sentiments CLEAR that you don't like brass.  So, that being the case, why are you still reading this thread?????

Others of us clearly believe that brass offers a certain realism you just can't get with molded/painted plastic.  The paint finish just looks different on metal, and properly done, more realistic, at least to some of us, perhaps those few who care for that particular thing.

I never said you were wrong to have a fleet of custom modified but readily available engines.  I never said what you do on your layout is "wrong".  If you want to have 15 Atlantic Central LifeLike Berkshires, then great for you, I really don't care.

But don't dare to MOCK me because I might want to have a brass one that is perhaps more representative of a certain real engine or road number that ran.

(Insert Chef Gordon Ramsay's favorite phrase here).

John Mock

P.S. I love Rio Grande and their steam power, but excepting the ever present plastic and diecast versions of Class L-97 Challengers and L-107 USRA copy 2-8-8-2's, right now I can't think of any even remotely close standard gauge steam engine that would fit the bill, that is available in anything OTHER than brass.

In fact I've got posts over on Facebook offering to buy one of the Rio Grande steamers in brass, and nobody wants to sell theirs presently.  Even if they did, it's only a $600 model if it's mint.  Again, comparable to any new diecast, plastic, or hybrid steamer in price.

  • Member since
    January 2009
  • From: Maryland
  • 9,268 posts
Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 9:08 PM

John,

I don't "dislike" brass, I just don't need it for my purposes. I do have two older brass USRA Pacifics.........they run nice and look nice, even with their Bachmann long haul tenders and their plastic Athearn Delta trailing trucks. 

And the Scalecoat paint on the tender does not look any different than the Scalecoat paint on the locomotive - I painted both......

You are right, I will never get the buying stuff and then selling it off.

In 50 years I have made three or four purchase mistakes, or changed my mind. So that's about how many locos I have sold off in that time. 

Info on what curves equipment will handle is pretty common these days, why would you buy something that won't run on your layout? Or, with older stuff like you mention, simple rules about engine wheelbase usually work.

My last layout, and my next one, has 36" minimum mainline curves. And guess what, I don't buy steam locomotive models, brass or plastic, with rigid driver wheelbases above 21 scale feet. Because I want them all to run good and look good while doing so.

I hope for your sake, one day you figure out what you really like.........and keep it for more than a year.........

And when I find a good deal on a Western Maryland Pacific, or a couple of B&O B-18's, I might just snatch them up.

That's the only brass I really have any need for on my layout.

Do you weather any of those beautiful brass models? 

Sheldon

    

  • Member since
    March 2016
  • 1,001 posts
Posted by PRR8259 on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 9:16 PM

The one painter, now in his 70's and "semi-retired" insists on weathering everything just a little bit.  He is very subtle with that, and his work looks amazing (all air brushed, no chalks). However, I put a gorgeous diesel he did for me next to a new steam engine, and that did it. I was hooked on steam again.  It wasn't his fault at all.  The diesel engine sold immediately when I consigned it. 

The other painter, now retired from pro painting, 28 years older than me and thinning his personal collection before his expiration date comes up, knows his son doesn't like brass and will only get pennies on the dollar for it.  I am buying what I can from him, that I want or can use.  He is regearing, remotoring, and painting engines acquired over a lifetime, and selling them while he can get what they are actually worth, and he even gives some of the money to charity.  He specifically has done some models just for me, but pity I couldn't run all of them.  That painter will not weather anything, on the grounds that after all the work he has done to make the model look nice, he will not reduce it's value with weathering. He also insists on prototypically correct painting and lettering--he follows actual railroad practice for the railroads in question, refusing to deviate from their painting practices.

I have learned much from some of these people, even about what not to do, and how to safely remove finger oil from models so that it doesn't harm the paint and decals (use naptha--it won't hurt Scalecoat 1 paint on brass). 

So I have a lot of respect for them.

Bob Hunter was an amazing painter, a member of the Southern Railway steam program, who actually crewed those trips.  He knew how to weather steam...but my one friend died and the Bob Hunter models he had were gone...who knows where, or I would have bought them, if I could.

  • Member since
    January 2009
  • From: Maryland
  • 9,268 posts
Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 9:18 PM

One other thought John, 

Just like Kevin, I may find my self interested in vintage brass at some point since I have no plans to pay $600 or more for locos with sound decoders and "smoke" that I would remove.

In which case, I too will be very happy if the price of vintage brass stays depressed.........

But other than the pieces I mentioned above, my roster is not really in need of any more locos.

Sheldon

    

  • Member since
    January 2017
  • From: Southern Florida Gulf Coast
  • 7,989 posts
Posted by SeeYou190 on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 9:23 PM

Howard Zane
My experience with the Chicago brass show was excactly the opposite. Upon arriving as a dealer, staff met me at doors and helped with myset up...then two days later...take down. I found all of the staff to be quite friendly and courteous. Most of the vendors and importers were quite well behaved...otherwise no one talked down to me.

It sounds like you were there as a dealer, I was a participant.

I do not want to digress this thread any further, so please read what I write below just for what it is...

Most conventions I attend are Wargaming, Cosplay, or "Comiconish" in nature. These are always a blast, people are having a ton of fun, and any poor outsider that mistakenly wanders in will quickly be recruited to become one of the group. He will get a Mario Hat on his head, dice in one hand, a beer in the other, and the next thing he knows is he is commanding the Republican Guard in the Battle of Waterloo.

When I attended Brass Expo, I was an attendee, but I was treated very much like an outsider. I would have thought I should have been the Belle Of The Ball.

I had just started buying brass, I had always wanted brass, and I was enthusiastic about being there. My career was on a rocket-trajectory, and I had plenty of diposable income to spend on my new treasures.

When people found out I only had three brass locomotives, five cabooses, and a couple of covered hopper cars I was treated like a tenth grade dropout at a Mensa gathering.

The way non-convention people at the hotel were shunned away when they showed curiosity was a shame in itself.

The dealers did not want to talk to me, and other attendees dismissed me entirely.

I do not think I met you there. You have always been a bit of an heroic character to me, so I believe I would have been excited if I saw you.

Anyway... it was a wasted trip and a bad experience for me.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

  • Member since
    January 2009
  • From: Maryland
  • 9,268 posts
Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 9:30 PM

PRR8259

The one painter, now in his 70's and "semi-retired" insists on weathering everything just a little bit.  He is very subtle with that, and his work looks amazing (all air brushed, no chalks). However, I put a gorgeous diesel he did for me next to a new steam engine, and that did it. I was hooked on steam again.  It wasn't his fault at all.  

The other painter, who is now 28 years older than me and thinning his personal collection before his expiration date comes up, knows his son doesn't like brass and will only get pennies on the dollar for it.  I am buying what I can from him, that I want.  He is regearing, remotoring, and painting engines acquired over a lifetime, and selling them while he can get what they are worth, and actually he gives some of the money to charity.

 

I too am very much a "light weathering" kind of guy. I am very much into the theory that our models are small and therefor always viewed from "afar". So things like weathering should be done to reflect how things would look from 200 or 300 feet away in real life.

Even the rusty crap that CSX runs near my house these days looks pretty clean and good from 300 feet away.

Sheldon

 

    

  • Member since
    March 2016
  • 1,001 posts
Posted by PRR8259 on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 9:31 PM

Sheldon--

There are actually quite a number of fine older brass models that are only worth $195 to $250 now.  Some have good gearboxes, though little noisy, and may or may not have open frame motors.  The dealers think nobody wants them, and are sitting on some of them.  Knowing what I know now, I would buy some of them and get them painted.

When I worked for a certain diecast train company, they ran the engines with open frame motors for 50 hours on the store layout to break them in before returning them to a customer (assuming the customer made any good faith attempt to assemble the kit, the company would finish the model for them, and return it running very well).

I have seen older brass engines with open frame motors that the model ran great and even quietly.  I would have no problem buying one of them again if I saw one. There's models I want that are now dirt cheap, but either they were used up and thrown away in the last 50 years, or they are lingering in inventory somewhere not being listed for sale (as some are privately telling me).

 

  • Member since
    March 2016
  • 1,001 posts
Posted by PRR8259 on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 9:38 PM

I have a photographer friend who is always trying to photograph the old equipment before it's scrapped, venturing in past years to the Altoona deadlines and dragging me along to some of those places.

Even trashed out engines still sometimes retain a shine to the paint finish, at least in the non-rusty areas.

Most modelers way overdo the weathering especially to dead flat, which you seldom see in real life.  

I agree it should always be subtle.

Bob Hunter was amazing at it.

Howard Zane uses a powdered graphite weathering technique that is also pretty subtle and captures the look of steam power from the era when they washed and rubbed down engines with oily cotton waste (ie well before the end of steam when nothing was clean).

John

  • Member since
    January 2009
  • From: Maryland
  • 9,268 posts
Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 9:45 PM

PRR8259

I have a photographer friend who is always trying to photograph the old equipment before it's scrapped, venturing in past years to the Altoona deadlines and dragging me along to some of those places.

Even trashed out engines still sometimes retain a shine to the paint finish, at least in the non rusty areas.

Most modelers way overdo the weathering especially to dead flat, which you seldom see in real life.  

John

 

As a Scalecoat user, I clearcoat my already glossy models with a mix of their clear flat and clear gloss to get a satin or semigloss finish, then just add some "dirt" lightly with the airbrush.

Yes real trains are painted with gloss paint, models should reflect that to some degree in most cases.

Sheldon

    

  • Member since
    March 2016
  • 1,001 posts
Posted by PRR8259 on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 9:46 PM

Kevin--

I'm very sorry to read of your experience at that particular Expo.

For the record I currently only have two brass steam engines on hand (others out for sale).  My 13 year old son also has two big non-brass challengers.  I understand the need or desire of some to be in both worlds.  In my case, I'm trying to encourage one boy to still love trains.  Whatever that takes.  With freight cars, he calls the shots, and if he doesn't like it, it's gone.

It's not about how many you have.  My interest would be more what it is that you have?  And do you love it?

One of my engines is specially customized to represent GN F-8 2-8-0 #1215 late in its career. It is one of only 2 models.  The painter guy has the other one, which also still has PFM sound in it.  They have the tender from a GN L-1 articulated, which is neat, and footboard pilot.  Oh, and he might have changed a pipe run on the engine from standard Tenshodo as built.  It also has a can motor and 48:1 gearbox, because it was built to run really slow.  It can do my curves, and it is staying.

I would never look down on somebody for having one model.  There are some people who only have a couple models but they might be amazing DM&IR yellowstones or Northern Pacific Z-5 yellowstones or what have you.

It's your railroad.  Some people have switching module layouts with many turnouts and all kinds of switching possibilities and only need a couple engines. My next (downsized) layout, after kids are gone, will likely be a point-to-point in the next house.  I won't need the big continuous run anymore.  I will still want to play with choo choos, but also desire to leave the wife something that can be easily removed and liquidated when that time comes and I am gone.

Then there's a big time collector in Germany who just did this amazing rebuild of a Precision Scale N&W Z1b 2-6-6-2 all himself, fixing all the problems and illuminating everything.  He has a whole fleet of articulateds, but no layout at all. It appears he runs them across some cabinet tops on a single long straight test track.  It's neatly done and it works for him.  I actually admire how nice and simple his long test track is and doesn't detract from the room in his home.  I would never dare to criticize him for not having a layout, because he can do rebuild work at a high level I've rarely ever seen.  He posts photos and videos over on facebook, and the rest of us drool over the beautiful workmanship and the models themselves.

John

  • Member since
    January 2009
  • From: Maryland
  • 9,268 posts
Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 10:19 PM

PRR8259

Kevin--

I'm very sorry to read of your experience at that particular Expo.

For the record I currently only have two brass steam engines on hand (others out for sale).  My 13 year old son also has two big non-brass challengers.  I understand the need or desire of some to be in both worlds.  In my case, I'm trying to encourage one boy to still love trains.  Whatever that takes.  With freight cars, he calls the shots, and if he doesn't like it, it's gone.

It's not about how many you have.  My interest would be more what it is that you have?  And do you love it?

One of my engines is specially customized to represent GN F-8 2-8-0 #1215 late in its career. It is one of only 2 models.  The painter guy has the other one, which also still has PFM sound in it.  They have the tender from a GN L-1 articulated, which is neat, and footboard pilot.  Oh, and he might have changed a pipe run on the engine from standard Tenshodo as built.  It also has a can motor and 48:1 gearbox, because it was built to run really slow.  It can do my curves, and it is staying.

I would never look down on somebody for having one model.  There are some people who only have a couple models but they might be amazing DM&IR yellowstones or Northern Pacific Z-5 yellowstones or what have you.

It's your railroad.  Some people have switching module layouts with many turnouts and all kinds of switching possibilities and only need a couple engines. My next (downsized) layout, after kids are gone, will likely be a point-to-point in the next house.  I won't need the big continuous run anymore.  I will still want to play with choo choos, but also desire to leave the wife something that can be easily removed and liquidated when that time comes and I am gone.

Then there's a big time collector in Germany who just did this amazing rebuild of a Precision Scale N&W Z1b 2-6-6-2 all himself, fixing all the problems and illuminating everything.  He has a whole fleet of articulateds, but no layout at all. It appears he runs them across some cabinet tops on a single long straight test track.  It's neatly done and it works for him.  I actually admire how nice and simple his long test track is and doesn't detract from the room in his home.  I would never dare to criticize him for not having a layout, because he can do rebuild work at a high level I've rarely ever seen.

John

 

Wow, If I was worried about what happens to the layout when I'm gone, I would just sell it all now. She can just let it sit there in the basement and let the kids deal with it.

The will is going to say "being of sound mind and body we spent it all" so at least they can sell off the trains.

But you comments say a lot otherwise as well.

Clearly for you it is just about the trains, especially the locos.

For people like me it is not really about any one "piece" of equipment, it is about the miniature world, the scenery, the operation, the layout, taken as a whole.

Sure, I want the pieces to be good representations of their prototypes, but the most important thing is the big view, the overall effect, for modelers and non modelers alike.

So that's why well executed Bachmann steamers and Athearn passenger cars are close enough.........And that is why it takes so many, to capture the immensity of the prototype.

Sheldon

    

  • Member since
    March 2016
  • 1,001 posts
Posted by PRR8259 on Wednesday, June 3, 2020 12:14 PM

Yes, I built a modest layout that is designed to show off the trains.  Passing sidings are along the wall to not block the view of trains from the front.  All track is Kato, now, with the factory superelevated curved track and superelevated transition sections used where I could get them and fit them.  All turnouts are Kato #6.  I just ripped out the Peco turnouts (along with Walthers/Shinohara and Atlas track) because Peco cheated on the frog angle to 12-degrees, which is sharper than #5 and derails some steam power.  Yes for me it is all about the trains themselves, and even the individual models.

The scenery is just there to give a flavor of open spaces, mostly desert.

I'm minimalist on scenery--I'm trying to capture the immensity of railroading with a long mainline run through rural western America.

Yes, again, it's all about the trains themselves (and not taking more of the basement than my wife wanted to allow at the time).

My son wants to run one big train with a Challenger (or future Big Boy) and let it roll.  He wants 70 car trains (we are at 50+ now and way beyond siding capacity).  I run the little brass engines when he's not around.

John

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: west coast
  • 5,169 posts
Posted by rrebell on Wednesday, June 3, 2020 12:58 PM

The real reason I bought brass in the past was the detail, now I can get it in plastic for much cheaper. Wanted some hoppers and was able to buy MTH ones for around $15, the brass ones were $70 plus and not painted.

  • Member since
    March 2016
  • 1,001 posts
Posted by PRR8259 on Wednesday, June 3, 2020 2:51 PM

Understood, and that is great when you can do that.

I'm actually going the other way and considering buying some brass freight cars, partly because I'm not happy with the relative fragility of some of the plastic ones.

Also many people will buy a brass caboose to get the one that is correct for their particular railroad, and yet some of those people would not buy a brass loco.

John

  • Member since
    January 2006
  • From: Pittsburgh, PA.
  • 715 posts
Posted by dirtyd79 on Wednesday, June 3, 2020 6:16 PM

SeeYou190
Most conventions I attend are Wargaming, Cosplay, or "Comiconish" in nature. These are always a blast, people are having a ton of fun, and any poor outsider that mistakenly wanders in will quickly be recruited to become one of the group. He will get a Mario Hat on his head, dice in one hand, a beer in the other, and the next thing he knows is he is commanding the Republican Guard in the Battle of Waterloo.

-Kevin

 
That's the kind of atmosphere model train shows and clubs should be trying to create to get people into the hobby rather than grumpy old men who act like you're actually inconveniencing them by coming to buy stuff they're selling and snobs who shun people or talk down to them for asking questions. If that's what a brass model convention is like I'm glad I've avoided them all these years.
"The problem is that there are too many stupid people in the world and no one to eat them."- Carlos Mencia
  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: west coast
  • 5,169 posts
Posted by rrebell on Wednesday, June 3, 2020 7:40 PM

dirtyd79

 

 
SeeYou190
Most conventions I attend are Wargaming, Cosplay, or "Comiconish" in nature. These are always a blast, people are having a ton of fun, and any poor outsider that mistakenly wanders in will quickly be recruited to become one of the group. He will get a Mario Hat on his head, dice in one hand, a beer in the other, and the next thing he knows is he is commanding the Republican Guard in the Battle of Waterloo.

-Kevin

 

 

 
That's the kind of atmosphere model train shows and clubs should be trying to create to get people into the hobby rather than grumpy old men who act like you're actually inconveniencing them by coming to buy stuff they're selling and snobs who shun people or talk down to them for asking questions. If that's what a brass model convention is like I'm glad I've avoided them all these years.
 

That has been my experience at hobby shops, I see no need to suport them.

 

  • Member since
    January 2009
  • From: Maryland
  • 9,268 posts
Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Wednesday, June 3, 2020 7:56 PM

PRR8259

Understood, and that is great when you can do that.

I'm actually going the other way and considering buying some brass freight cars, partly because I'm not happy with the relative fragility of some of the plastic ones.

Also many people will buy a brass caboose to get the one that is correct for their particular railroad, and yet some of those people would not buy a brass loco.

John

 

It may be my personality, or how I was raised, or my borderline OCD, or my introvertedness,  but I have never had a problem with fragile models, they are after all, 1/87th scale models.

I will take the fragile details of a Bachmann Spectrum or Proto 2000 model any day over the clunky oversized cast metal details on some MTH models........

But that's just me.

Sheldon

    

  • Member since
    March 2016
  • 1,001 posts
Posted by PRR8259 on Thursday, June 4, 2020 6:51 PM

I was at the November, 2019, Brass Expo held near Lancaster, PA, as was Howard, and Adam Pomeranz, and I can assure you the people that were actually there were friendly to the guests attending the show.  I heard and saw no evidence of anybody "talking down" to anybody else.  However, it was snowing and attendance could have been better than it was.  That can always happen.

My friend Sean and I, and my son Johnny, had a good time, and were only limited by our available funds at the time.  There were things I wanted to buy, and there were models changing hands.

I would not let a past negative experience dissuade me from attending.  In the past I learned a lot at those shows.  I was able to meet some of the people who actually assemble the research packages needed to build these wonderful models (Jim Walsh) and hear some of their stories.

John

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: west coast
  • 5,169 posts
Posted by rrebell on Friday, June 5, 2020 12:21 AM

ATLANTIC CENTRAL

 

 
PRR8259

Understood, and that is great when you can do that.

I'm actually going the other way and considering buying some brass freight cars, partly because I'm not happy with the relative fragility of some of the plastic ones.

Also many people will buy a brass caboose to get the one that is correct for their particular railroad, and yet some of those people would not buy a brass loco.

John

 

 

 

It may be my personality, or how I was raised, or my borderline OCD, or my introvertedness,  but I have never had a problem with fragile models, they are after all, 1/87th scale models.

I will take the fragile details of a Bachmann Spectrum or Proto 2000 model any day over the clunky oversized cast metal details on some MTH models........

But that's just me.

Sheldon

 

Some of the MTH stuff has close to scale rabs ect. now. I have hoppers and one diesel from them, fine details, don't know about their early stuff.

  • Member since
    January 2009
  • From: Maryland
  • 9,268 posts
Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Friday, June 5, 2020 6:01 AM

rrebell

 

 
ATLANTIC CENTRAL

 

 
PRR8259

Understood, and that is great when you can do that.

I'm actually going the other way and considering buying some brass freight cars, partly because I'm not happy with the relative fragility of some of the plastic ones.

Also many people will buy a brass caboose to get the one that is correct for their particular railroad, and yet some of those people would not buy a brass loco.

John

 

 

 

It may be my personality, or how I was raised, or my borderline OCD, or my introvertedness,  but I have never had a problem with fragile models, they are after all, 1/87th scale models.

I will take the fragile details of a Bachmann Spectrum or Proto 2000 model any day over the clunky oversized cast metal details on some MTH models........

But that's just me.

Sheldon

 

 

 

Some of the MTH stuff has close to scale rabs ect. now. I have hoppers and one diesel from them, fine details, don't know about their early stuff.

 

 

I'm talking about stuff like steam loco running boards cast onto a metal boiler that are a scale foot thick.

From what I have seen their rolling stock looks fine.

Their diesels seem just OK, MTH and Broadway seem to go for handling durability over exact scale fineness in many cases on locomotives.

For that kind of money I want a better scale model, not a tinny speaker playing station announcements.

Sheldon

    

  • Member since
    March 2016
  • 1,001 posts
Posted by PRR8259 on Sunday, June 7, 2020 1:07 PM

Sheldon--

If diecasting a boiler, and not using lead (which flows easier and better fills the molds than zinc does), since model companies tried to go for safety, by removing the lead, the running boards have to be thicker than scale.  On the few Bowser locos that had "thinner looking" running boards, they were separately applied brass parts.  Where the running boards are cast on, they are usually thicker.

It's true with BLI as well as MTH, as well as others.  Maybe MTH errs on the side of slightly thicker--but some of their engines also came from Lionel, and as such the boilers were designed by Lionel (4-6-6-4) and those fat running boards are NOT MTH's design at all.

BLI Y-6B 2-8-8-2: nice engine, I've owned two, also fat cast-on running boards.

John

  • Member since
    March 2016
  • 1,001 posts
Posted by PRR8259 on Sunday, June 7, 2020 1:16 PM

To address the OP question posed by Howard Zane:

I've been brass shopping hard and comparing prices of what is actually available to be purchased.

Right now, it appears that one could answer "it depends".

There are a lot of lesser valued or lesser priced brass models available for sale in the marketplace.  However, they may require regearing, remotoring and a paint job, plus many folks would want DCC.  Till all that work is completed nowadays, that would easily add $500 or more to the price of any of them, and I can see that some buyers won't want to buy a $195 or $250 engine to then put $500 more into it.  So that may be why some of them don't sell or rather are lingering in online website inventories.

At the other end of the spectrum there are many $1000 and up models that seem to be actually in very short supply.  Some of them sell literally as soon as they get listed, within hours.  People over on other forums are actually making statements like there is nothing available that they want to buy.  That may reflect the realization that the lesser priced models may require "too much work" or "too much investment" to upgrade to what is expected today.

So if the model falls into the "later" or "better" group and is heavily detailed, well, yes it seems they are increasing in value.  This still seems to include some of the more scarce Crown models.  

Other Crown models that are perceived as "very common" have dropped in value recently.

John

  • Member since
    January 2009
  • From: Maryland
  • 9,268 posts
Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Sunday, June 7, 2020 2:08 PM

PRR8259

Sheldon--

If diecasting a boiler, and not using lead (which flows easier and better fills the molds than zinc does), since model companies tried to go for safety, by removing the lead, the running boards have to be thicker than scale.  On the few Bowser locos that had "thinner looking" running boards, they were separately applied brass parts.  Where the running boards are cast on, they are usually thicker.

It's true with BLI as well as MTH, as well as others.  Maybe MTH errs on the side of slightly thicker--but some of their engines also came from Lionel, and as such the boilers were designed by Lionel (4-6-6-4) and those fat running boards are NOT MTH's design at all.

BLI Y-6B 2-8-8-2: nice engine, I've owned two, also fat cast-on running boards.

John

 

Yes, and so I would rather have closer to scale size plastic applied running boards, like my Bachmann Spectrum 4-8-2's and 2-10-2's which have cast metal boilers.

Or, plastic boilers with finer scale details and a metal drive and weights like many of my other locomotives.

And I renew my opinion that Scalecoat paint looks the same on any surface, and I would submit that many people, be they brass fans or not, have never considered whether or not details are actually to scale or are oversized.

You may not think the factory finishes on many plastic models are realistic, or as good looking as the finishes on many brass models. And you may be right.

That is a separate issue from actual "detail level".

Decades ago there was a widely held view that if fine details were too oversized they might be better left off the model depending on their visual importance.

John, I'm not anti brass, I'm just not pro brass over other construction methods.

Again, I have no problem with fragile models. I don't handle my models unnecessarily, and I don't drag them around town to other layouts on a regular basis.

Sheldon

    

  • Member since
    January 2009
  • From: Maryland
  • 9,268 posts
Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Sunday, June 7, 2020 2:22 PM

PRR8259

To address the OP question posed by Howard Zane:

I've been brass shopping hard and comparing prices of what is actually available to be purchased.

Right now, it appears that one could answer "it depends".

There are a lot of lesser valued or lesser priced brass models available for sale in the marketplace.  However, they may require regearing, remotoring and a paint job, plus many folks would want DCC.  Till all that work is completed nowadays, that would easily add $500 or more to the price of any of them, and I can see that some buyers won't want to buy a $195 or $250 engine to then put $500 more into it.  So that may be why some of them don't sell or rather are lingering in online website inventories.

At the other end of the spectrum there are many $1000 and up models that seem to be actually in very short supply.  Some of them sell literally as soon as they get listed, within hours.  People over on other forums are actually making statements like there is nothing available that they want to buy.  That may reflect the realization that the lesser priced models may require "too much work" or "too much investment" to upgrade to what is expected today.

So if the model falls into the "later" or "better" group and is heavily detailed, well, yes it seems they are increasing in value.  This still seems to include some of the more scarce Crown models.  

Other Crown models that are perceived as "very common" have dropped in value recently.

John

 

And to offer a few thoughts here. 

Everything you just said is likely true and valid. 

But you are talking about a group of modelers/consumers that are a special sub group in this hobby.

I don't "pay" anyone to work on or paint my model trains, I don't know very many modelers who do. I know, I run in different circles than you.

So if I bought that vintage WESTERN MARYAND Pacific or B&O B18 that I want, I would tune it up, remotor it if necessary and paint it myself.

Our "OP" Howard is a unique person in this hobby, he is a craftsman of the highest order and a collector and admirer of brass.

The fact that there is so much unpainted, never/hardly ran, very old (20 to 50 years) brass on the market suggests that a fair percentage is/was bought by collectors, not by active modelers using it on layouts.

I'm not in that hobby........

Sheldon

    

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!

Users Online

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!