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The designated "This hobby is so expensive" thread Locked

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Posted by ACY Tom on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 4:45 PM

I don't like to pay high prices either.  I'd rather get the stuff for free.  However, Paul's comments put things in perspective if his calculations are correct.  He says 36" sections of Atlas flex cost $6.59 (inflation adjusted) in 1953.  The product was brass code 100 rail on fiber ties, held together with good ol' reliable staples.  Anybody here remember working with that stuff?  Today's equivalent Walthers product is code 83 nickel silver on well-formed plastic ties with molded-in spike heads, and the price today is $6.95.  I'm willing to spring for the extra $.36 for the improved quality.  Using modern adhesives probably saves money over the cost and trouble of using track nails, as we did back then.

The hobby was never cheap.  My first brass engine listed for a whopping $54.95, but I got a terrific deal so I only paid $50.  It took me a long time to save up for that one.  Nowadays, most employed people make that much money in two hours or less.  Yes, we have other responsibilities that take a toll on our disposable income, but that's always been the case.

I'm selective.  I don't buy everything I see.  I don't buy everything I want.  And I don't buy everything I can afford.  I've built a nice collection over the years, but it has taken a long tme to do it.  I've learned that it's worthwhile to spend money on quality and save money by doing things myself.

For a start, I would stay away from psychiatrists who are model railroaders.  They have to pass their higher expenses on to you.

Tom

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Posted by JAMES MOON on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 5:17 PM

Steve O certainly stirred the pot with his direction to a new fixed posting on high prices for the hobby.  When I first started modeling in 1967 I could not afford ready track and manufactured switches.  Not much has changed other than I am many years older and still can't afford ready made flex track and manufactured switches.  One choice I easily made was to go for all hand laid track when I finally decided to build a layout.  I am now retired and don't really have a time excuse.  Hand laying track is challenging and I am enjoying the challenge.  Besides layout is my call and not dictated by availability of premade parts.  

I used to build lots of kits.  Scratch building now has an appeal partly because of cost and also because of flexibility.  

After all, its a "hobby" and as such will always use decreationary funds thus being more expensive than necessities.

Jim

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Posted by wabash2800 on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 5:50 PM

OK, so based on those numbers it's about 400%... from 1983 to 2015.

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Posted by peahrens on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 6:39 PM

My reactions, for what it's worth:

- I don't mind "repetitive" (been covered extensively before) threads as long as the subject line is clear enough.  An example, I still have ballasting to do, so still read new ballast related threads.  Others, if I'm not interested (as in hobby cost) I can ignore.

- Second, I was a bit taken aback, as IMHO the editors / moderators should intervene when "needed"; e.g., when debate gets out of hand.  But it's MR's free forum, I get alot out of it, and I can ignore this new thread when I feel like it, so fine and dandy.

- Third, an alternative solution could be to place this thread in a new Forum category (ala general, layout, electrical, prototype) called "Complaint Dept, aka Whining Center".  Please don't take offense, just struck me as a humorous tangent.

- More on target with the subject, be very thoughtful before buying a boat! 

Paul

Modeling HO with a transition era UP bent

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Posted by NittanyLion on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 7:02 PM

peahrens

- More on target with the subject, be very thoughtful before buying a boat! 

 

My dad used to be a consultant before he burned out on it and spent a while working in a boatyard in Maryland.  They repaired and maintained boats for true old money high rollers.  One of the boats that went through that yard was Walter Cronkite's, after he passed away.  So you can imagine the money they were talking on THOSE boats.

Even at that level, they'd warn prospective buyers that a boat isn't a purchase, it's an ongoing expense.

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Posted by ACY Tom on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 7:18 PM

Boat, definition:  "A hole in the water, lined with wood or metal or fiberglass, into which you pour money". 

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Posted by selector on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 7:31 PM

trwroute

I agree with the OP.  This hobby has gotten ridiculously expensive.  Two weeks ago I purchased 10 sticks of N scale flex and 4 turnouts.  Even with a 20% discount, it was still over a hundred dollars.

...

I feel it has become obscene what some companies charge for their items.  Almost a hundred bucks for a freight car at MSRP?  Crazy!

 

Today, in 2015, I happen to think it's very reasonable.  If I want to model, and build a layout, and don't wish to create hand-crafted track, I must look for a best price and then pay...plus shipping.  That's MY choice, and when I hit 'enter', the deal is done and I'm in business.  I have made my decision.

However, relatively, you feel it is ridiculous.  That SHOULD mean you're out of the hobby and can only afford the internet costs to carp about it here.

I don't intend my bluntness (I'm pretty sure I come across as unsympathetic and blunt), but I am unsympathetic.  It's just like any other branch of human interest; the more we want it, the more trouble we'll go to, even if it means paying interest for borrowing.

There is, to me, nothing ridiculous about this hobby except spending money we can't really afford.  And affording anything in life is relative.

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Posted by csxns on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 7:44 PM

When i go to the fish camp every saturday and order Fried Flounder it is expensive and going to the LHS or ordering from MB Clines its expensive and they are the two things i can't do without.

Russell

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Posted by ACY Tom on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 7:52 PM

I guess you have to match the advances in cost with the advances in availability, detail level, operating quality, and other factors.  Yes, there were fine models being built back then, but they were in the minority.  Most motors and gearboxes were noisy.  Electrical contact was poor.  Track was harder to keep clean.  Wiring was more complicated.  Switch machines were noisy.  In comparison with today, detail fidelity was poor, reflecting more recent advances made in historical research into the prototypes, and the good work done by the specialized RR Historical Societies that didn't exist back then.  Go to ebay or a swap meet and buy one of the models from those days.  You'll probably want to replace the wheels --- maybe the trucks --- to have finer flanges.  You'll want to replace the couplers with Kadees or the equivalent. You'll want to replace the open frame motor, or at least replace the magnets.  You may be happy with the detail level, but you have to admit that today's details are finer and more accurate.  It's always been an expensive hobby, but it can be argued that we get more for our money today.  But as I said above, I'd just love to get it all for free.

Tom

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Posted by hon30critter on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 8:04 PM

NittanyLion
NittanyLion wrote the following post 4 hours ago: The only cheap hobby is staring out the window.

 

Have you priced replacement windows recently?MischiefSmile, Wink & GrinLaughLaugh

Dave

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by hon30critter on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 8:19 PM

I think I have a very legitimate reason for complaining about high prices, and so does every other Canadian. With the current exchange rate at somewhere around $0.75 per US dollar, shopping for anything coming from south of the border has become prohibitively expensive, at least for me. In 2013 the Cdn dollar was at par, so we have suffered an increase of about 33% including shipping fees in just two years. That BB freight car kit on eBay is now pushing $25 Cdn. Ouch!Bang HeadSoapBox

There, I feel much better!

Dave

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by NP2626 on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 8:53 PM
In 1989 I was able to buy dozens of Athearn Blue Box transition era freight cars for $3.00 each. This translates to $5.37 each in today’s dollars.  $5.37 would be just fine with me, if Blue Box kits were available, they're not.  What has replaced Athearn's Blue Box kits are their RTR freight cars priced from $14.99 to $35.99 (M.B. Klein prices). This price increase is not due to inflation; but due to the fact that the majority of model railroaders today desire highly detailed and fragile cars; but, are unwilling to build them from kits!  I’m not picking on Athearn, only using them as an example.  This demand for highly detailed, fragile and high priced RTR freight cars is pretty much across the board for the manufacturers of these products.
 
Assembling an Athearn Blue Box kit was very simple to do.  Adding details too or even super detailing them was pretty easy to do, also!

I see that the reality is; we have demanded these products from our model railroad equipment suppliers!  So, we are responsible for the high cost of the hobby and have no one to blame, but ourselves.  So, when you complain about high prices, the person to blame is the guy in the mirror!     

NP 2626 "Northern Pacific, really terrific"

Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association:  http://www.nprha.org/

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Posted by dknelson on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 9:44 PM

At the model train show in Davenport Iowa this weekend (a very nice show by the way) I saw plenty of cheap trains, if one is willing to accept something less than the standards and technology of today.  Certainly for nearly no money at all one could bring home bags full of interesting and worthy "projects."  

Pumping old prices through inflation calculators does not tell the whole story either.  There was a lot of bad stuff for sale back then, such as the Athearn knock-offs from Crown (imported by Mantua, but they were careful to keep their name off th stuff) that sold for 99 cents each -- and then always needed new trucks, new couplers, and more weight.  When all the smoke had cleared you paid more than you would have for the genuine Athearn article. 

And back when I was a Pennsy modeler, while it is true that there was a ton of Pennsy lettered stuff available about 90% of it was not Pennsy whatever.

Dave Nelson

   

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 9:52 PM

richhotrain
 
wabash2800

We were discussing this on another site. Nickel Silver, Atlas Flex was about $.79 a section in 1983. It is now about $6.39 (retail). That's a 809% increase! Folks, that's not all inflation. We speculated that the price might have to do with the increased cost of materials like the Nickel Silver used in electronic gadgetry and the petroleoum in the plastic. Anyone know for sure? Laying track for a multi-level, double-track helix is a major cost even if you can get the track discounted.

With locos and cars we received more for our buck with improvements and add-ons since 1983. But if Chinese labor has held the cost down on the track, I wonder what it would be without it???

Victor Baird

Fort Wayne, Indiana

 

 

 

This was the original post in the now deleted thread, which I thought was a bit unfair because the OP made some valid points.

 

One, if you are laying a lot of track for a large layout, be prepared for sticker shock.  100 pieces of Atlas Code 83 flex track will set you back $400.  If I rebuilt my current layout from scratch, flex track alone would approach $1,000.

Two, if the price reflects Chinese labor costs, imagine what the cost would be if manufactured here in the good ole USA.

Over the weekend, I needed 6 pieces of Atlas Code 83 flex track, so I made a 60 minute round trip to the closest LHS.  It cost $5.50 per stick before tax.

Sure, this notion has been repeated many times before, but every time someone buys something like flex track and hasn't had to do it in quite a while, it is sticker shock revisited.  I thought Victor's thread deserved better treatment than it got.

Rich

 

Rich, Wabash 2800 needs a better memory. With an orignal copy of the 1983 Walthers catalog right in from of me, the MSRP of nickle silver code 100 Atlas flex was $1.50

That was actually just a year after I left the hobby business for other pursuits, so I remember the costs quite well.

$.79 would have been LESS than our wholesale cost in the shop! Which at that time was 60% of the retail, or $.90

The mail order places were not even selling it for $.79 in 1983! Because that would have only been about a 25% margin, not even enough for them to cover their overhead.

And, that was before code 83 was even introduced by Atlas.

Just like golf, boating, fast cars, and model airplanes, this has never been a hobby for the poor - people should just get over it or make more money.

The very same people who complain about prices, would be the first ones to complain about a wage cut - a discount price is a wage cut for someone in the supply chain.....what would the complainers say in response to those who think they make too much money for whatever they do or sell? - Lawyers? Doctors? Plumbers?

The doctor called the plumber to fix a leaking pipe and install a new faucet. When handed the invoice, the doctor complained - "$75 per hour! I'm a doctor and I don't make that kind of money". The plumber replied - "neither did I when I was a doctor".

In a past life, I sold MATCO TOOLS. One shop I called on had a big sign over the counter that read "We take no issue with those who sell for less - they know what their work is worth".

This model train hobby has become very competitive, and it has helped bring us to imported products that are never on store shelves....

But what do I know.

Sheldon

 

    

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Posted by ACY Tom on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 10:16 PM

HOn3 critter:

I can sympathize with your predicament re. the rate of exchange, but that has to be blamed on factors that have nothing to do with the model railroad hobby.

Tom

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Posted by hon30critter on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 10:51 PM

Hi Tom

I was being a little bit tongue in cheek. I agree that the change in prices north of the border has nothing to do with corporate decisions in the hobby.

Still, regardless of the cause, my costs have gone up so, for the most part, I have stopped buying.

The up side is that if I want to sell anything I have the option of offering fairly low prices to our friends to the south.

Dave

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 11:50 PM

I love this thread.Laugh

Yes, the hobby is expensive.

Yes, it costs more than it used to.

Yes, some of the products are better than they used to be.

Yes, the middle class has seen their income decline.

Yes, the Chinese workers want a decent wage so prices go up.

BUT

You can still go to train shows and get Athearn and Roundhouse/MDC kits for $5.

You can buy economy line cars and structures from Accurail, Model Power, etc.

You can still scratchbuild for cheap - go read some E.L. Moore articles for ideas.

You can still buy one locomotive, a few cars, a couple of turnouts, and a few pieces of flextrack and be in business - search Inglenook layouts on the 'net.

AND

This is still the greatest hobby going.

Just go slow if you have to - I had years where a sub to MR was all I could afford.

Have fun - this is a hobby, it doesn't have to be a contest.

Enjoy

Paul

 

If you're having fun, you're doing it the right way.
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Posted by PM Railfan on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 12:24 AM

I think the idea of this thread is a good one. I think Steve Otte's idea of bringing all the fragmented threads on this one topic, to one place is a great answer to this re-occuring problem. Putting the sticky on it is the cherry on top.

I think this thread is a good idea because it will be a help to some to blow off steam (yes, pun intended), discuss, or learn from it. 

It is definately a 'hot' topic, and as far as im concerned, a very important one facing the hobby now. And as such, it needs to be discussed. This (MR - the leading magazine for our industry) is exactly, thee place to do that.

Again, props to MR for recognizing this and relaxing a few constraints to make this happen.

 

PM Railfan

 

 

 

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Posted by DSchmitt on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 3:41 AM

In 2045 Model Railroaders will complain that the prices are too high and look back with nostalgia to 2015 when prices were reasonable.

I tried to sell my two cents worth, but no one would give me a plug nickel for it.

I don't have a leg to stand on.

Moderator
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Posted by blownout cylinder on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 5:16 AM

Let's face it....hobbies are as expensive as you want them to be. If all you see are problems then you will find problems everywhere....

Like I said before...try getting a complete Buchla Modular Synth...the 200e...I love mine....

Any argument carried far enough will end up in Semantics--Hartz's law of rhetoric Emerald. Leemer and Southern The route of the Sceptre Express Barry

I just started my blog site...more stuff to come...

http://modeltrainswithmusic.blogspot.ca/

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Posted by NP2626 on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 6:01 AM
I think using train shows and swap meets as a way to find less expensive equipment is true and a good way to save some money for some.  However, they don't work for everyone!  Those people who live where train shows and swap meets occur, talk like saving money at them is a simple matter of just going to them and it is, if you live in the larger population centers where a train show; or, swap takes place, I don’t!
 
I go to the ones I know about, when I hear they are scheduled.    The closest one is about 130 miles away.  So, now I need to figure in the cost of driving round trip to the swap and maybe overnight accommodations as a part of the cost of attending these shows.  This certainly does offset any money I save at the show.  That means before I even go to the show, I would be better off buying five to six Accurail kits and calling it a day, from a cost stand point!
 
Over time all the cheap kits sold at train shows and swaps will simply stop showing up!  They will eventually all have been built.  Because inexpensive kits are only built by a handful of manufacturers anymore, the kits will eventually cease to exist.

I look at this all from a model builder’s standpoint.  This hobby, is for me, about building models, not buying RTR!  As a builder of models, I am a dinosaur and what dinosaurs need, no longer matters!

NP 2626 "Northern Pacific, really terrific"

Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association:  http://www.nprha.org/

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Posted by BRAKIE on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 6:30 AM

selector
There is, to me, nothing ridiculous about this hobby except spending money we can't really afford. And affording anything in life is relative.

Bingo! Far to many modelers have champaign taste with a beer pocket book.

IMHO they would be much  happier if they realized they can't  really afford that Godzilla size basement filling layout and build a layout they can afford..Bigger is not always better.

One of the cheapest layouts to build is a shelf ISL since you need a handful of switches and some flex track.1-3 locomotives and around 48 cars. 48 cars is a minimum number needed for a well balance rotation of cars---that rotation is needed so you don't switch the same set of cars.. 

Don't like to switch? Then build a loop layout that fits your budget and not one that you can't afford to build.

Instead of complaining about the prices find ways to cut costs by buying use,shop the Internet hobby shops,use e-Bay and attend train shows and look for the better prices by taking your time instead of rushing through things.

 

 

Larry

Conductor.

Summerset Ry.


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Posted by trwroute on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 8:05 AM

Why are there so many on this thread that bad-mouth the ones that don't like the pricing?  Start your own thread and leave us alone!  A lot of us can afford pretty much whatever in the hobby, but we choose to not be sucked in to spending what I think are astronomical prices for a hobby. 

I'll keep modeling in my frugal ways and no one is going to tell me otherwise.  Or how wrong I am.

Chuck - Modeling in HO scale and anything narrow gauge

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Posted by cedarwoodron on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 8:18 AM

My solution to high retail prices for hobby purchases is to attend swap meets at regular intervals with a prepared shopping list. If I don't see something on my list available at a bargain price, then I turn to EBAY and shop there. I tailor my purchase interests to my available budget, and not the inverse.

Cedarwood Ron

 

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Posted by DigitalGriffin on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 9:34 AM

NittanyLion

The only cheap hobby is staring out the window. 

 

Price of glass cleaner has shot through the roof.

Don - Specializing in layout DC->DCC conversions

Modeling C&O transition era and steel industries There's Nothing Like Big Steam!

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Posted by b60bp on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 10:12 AM

A few comments if you please. First off, I don't understand folks revisiting a thread they've grown tired of. Especially to complain about what other people are complaining about. Just ignore the thread and move on.

Secondly, I think Victor has a good point. Even that track at the price of $3.70 when the rate of inflation would cost $1.86 has increased at a rate twice that of inflation. Atlas track has shot up tremendously in price since production moved to Red China. about three or four times the rate of inflation at just under 10 per cent a year averaged. Micro Engineering by contrast has increased much less in the same time span. I think the mantra of cheap Chinese production is a myth, at least as it regards model railroad goods. Nobody seems to want to recognize the increasing cost of these goods at such a high rate.

Lastly these discussions overlook one important factor. That's the residual value of these goods. Even used high grade models have very considerable value, somethin that can't always be said of other hobbies. Spend $100 on the golf course and it's gone. Buy four RTR cars for $100 and you might get $60-$80 for them on the used market. This does mitigate the cost to some extent.

Oh well, just my opinion.

Benny Peters

 

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Posted by andrechapelon on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 11:19 AM

One of the cheapest layouts to build is a shelf ISL since you need a handful of switches and some flex track.1-3 locomotives and around 48 cars. 48 cars is a minimum number needed for a well balance rotation of cars---that rotation is needed so you don't switch the same set of cars.. 

But Larry, you're not a "real model railroader" if you don't have a layout occupying the floor space equivalent of your local Super Wal-Mart with a locomotive roster rivaling that of the UP and a rolling stock inventory to match. Everybody knows that. Laugh

OTOH, I don't recall the UP ever complaining how much it costs to buy diesels from GE and EMD.

Andre

It's really kind of hard to support your local hobby shop when the nearest hobby shop that's worth the name is a 150 mile roundtrip.
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Posted by BRAKIE on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 11:25 AM

trwroute
Why are there so many on this thread that bad-mouth the ones that don't like the pricing? Start your own thread and leave us alone! A lot of us can afford pretty much whatever in the hobby, but we choose to not be sucked in to spending what I think are astronomical prices for a hobby.

Chuck,The sad part the high prices will not go away.So,why not find ways to cut costs and still get the models you want?

If you notice I gave other cost cutting ideas that can net the better grade of models-a used Atlas Classic locomotive can be found $50-60.00.I've bought used Atlas and Intermountain cars for $12.00 each--the same price as a Accurail kit..

 

Larry

Conductor.

Summerset Ry.


"Stay Alert, Don't get hurt  Safety First!"

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Posted by maxman on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 12:17 PM

andrechapelon
OTOH, I don't recall the UP ever complaining how much it costs to buy diesels from GE and EMD.

That's because you don't belong to the forum sponsored by the Association of American Railroads, where they currently have a thread designated "railroad equipment is too expensive".

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Posted by trwroute on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 12:40 PM

BRAKIE

 Chuck,If you notice I gave other cost cutting ideas that can net the better grade of models-a used Atlas Classic locomotive can be found $50-60.00.I've bought used Atlas and Intermountain cars for $12.00 each--the same price as a Accurail kit..

 

Larry, I understand all of that.  It's just sad that one has to look to the 2nd hand market to purchase affordable things.  Even the Bachmann stuff keeps going up and up. 

Granted, I will never be the kind of modeler that the manufacturers like since I am so "cheap", but I prefer to help out the smaller cottage industry type manufacturers.  They actually appreciate your business and will tell you that.  You're not just dealing with an RTR mfg'r from China.

Give me LaBelle, Grandt Line, Mount Blue Models, PBL, etc anytime!  They all make very affordable kits and parts to go with it.  Now, for locomotives, I do purchase from the used market and repair/rebuild accordingly.  I prefer the older Roco made Walthers and almost anything Kato.  Once, I even bought a number of Stewart/Kato F's at $20 a pop.

I'm just glad that I love to build things.  Otherwise, I would be out of luck.

I have purchased quite a few model car kits.  They make for a nice change-of-pace.

Chuck - Modeling in HO scale and anything narrow gauge

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