Trains.com

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!

Model trains cost an arm and a leg

12189 views
282 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 23,177 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Friday, May 20, 2022 5:01 PM

BEAUSABRE

Rich, I know, but I wanted to keep it simple and not crawl through the USGA weeds  

Actually, it would make more sense if the handicap calculation were as simple as you stated it. But as John implied, if you shoot 80 at your home course, you are likely to shoot somewhere around 90 at Augusta National or Pebble Beach. Also, most golfers can only wish that they could shoot to their handicap. The calculated handicap is usually lower than your average score even if all of your rounds are played on the same course.

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    May 2002
  • From: Massachusetts
  • 2,867 posts
Posted by Paul3 on Friday, May 20, 2022 5:22 PM

Folks, there are approx. eleventy billion cheap trains on eBay every second of every day.  If the kids want cheap trains, there's plenty of them available: Rivarossi, Con-Cor, IHC, Athearn, etc.  If you can't afford a new Ferrarri, buy a used Ford instead.

When I was a young model railroader in the 1980s (I was 14 or younger), I had to wait until a local train show was scheduled, or beg a ride to a hobby shop from my parents.  And then I had to buy from the very limited stock that was available at the show or shop.  The hobby shop could special order out of the Walthers catalog (if the item was available) but it took 6 to 8 weeks for delivery.  I could also send in a mail order using a magazine ad, but (believe it or not), the road name was picked by the dealer!  And it took 6 to 8 weeks to get it.  Back then, the hobby was one of patience.

Today, a kid with a cell phone and a credit card can get to choose from a vast assortment of trains and have it in just a couple days.  There's so much available compared to pre-1990, it's positively amazing that anyone complains about it.

IMHO, the deal here is that people want today's stuff at yesterday's prices.  That's unrealistic.  If you can't afford the latest and greatest, buy some older cheap stuff.  It won't be as good, but that's the compromise you make, and this hobby is all about compromises and the choices we make.  I bought my first brass steam engine when I was still in high school (I had a job and saved up for it).  I didn't buy any other hobby items for months before.  I made the decision that I wanted a single, high-quality brass steam engine vs. the 10 Atlas diesels I could have bought with the same money.  I still have that steamer 30+ years later, BTW.

  • Member since
    November 2012
  • From: Kokomo, Indiana
  • 1,463 posts
Posted by emdmike on Friday, May 20, 2022 5:41 PM

I guess, just as it has Always been, the hobby can be as expensive or inexpensive as you make it.  Which is largely controlled by what you want to buy.  Is it brand new stuff, the latest and greatest with all the bells and whistles.  Or is it vintage or older second hand models and kits?   Case in point, a booth at a local antique mall has been selling off lots of NKP road name HO and N scale trains, with some brass mixed in lately.  I have gotten a pair of Overland Models brass S2 Berkshires for under $320 for the pair($177 & $125 paid on each).  These would be $500 each going by prices of sold models at a brass retailer's website.  Now they are not painted, both needed fully serviced as neither ran out of the box.  But they have been "sleeping" since 1982 as neither looked to have been run.   I also got a brass NKP Dynometer car that is painted for under $30 in its original box.  Deals are out there and for me the "hunt" is all part of the fun.  I have seen great deals on older HO, both plastic and brass, at shows this past winter here locally.  There is soooo much coming on the market from estates that if your willing to hunt, the deals are out there.  No hobby is cheap, go price smoking or drinking at a bar lately.  Race cars, motorcycles and other adult past times have all gotten very expensive in more ways than one.  Model trains have always been an expensive items.  Go price the typical Lionel train set in the pre and post WWII years.  Most sets, even the cheapest, were a weeks wages at that time if not much more.  While those early brass ad prices might look cheap by today's prices, one has to look at the typical wages at that time.  They were expensive back then to.   

Silly NT's, I have Asperger's Syndrome

  • Member since
    March 2017
  • 7,103 posts
Posted by Track fiddler on Friday, May 20, 2022 6:10 PM

Evening

I'd have to say I have another case of auction remorse.  Another hard to find locamotive I've had an eye open for passed me by yesterday.  Rare to find in N scale, $220.00 and 15.00 shipping was one of the more affordable ones I've seen in a while.

Only one bidder and he got it.  It was an Intermountain which actually has finer detail but I'm after Kato.  Hard to find at train shows as well and unfortunately I just missed one of the better shows this spring due to certain circumstances.

The next pair of those F units I find, I may just have to pay the piper if I want a set bad enough.  That's just the way it is when your tastes crave a specific flavor at times.

 

 

TF

  • Member since
    January 2009
  • From: Bakersfield, CA 93308
  • 6,526 posts
Posted by RR_Mel on Friday, May 20, 2022 6:22 PM

I’m very proud to say I have my first HO locomotive and it still runs great.


                      Fresh out of the shops for new paint

                                           2013


That cost $6.85 back in 1951 which was a fortune for me at the time.

I like it so much I bought a second one in 2013, new in the box kit, a bit more $$$ . . . $47.50 Plus S&H.

It came out great too.





I even found a Vandy tender to go with it.



Both run great on DC or DCC including fabulous sound.
 
Mel


 
My Model Railroad   
http://melvineperry.blogspot.com/
 
Bakersfield, California
 
Turned 84 last July, aging is definitely not for wimps.

  • Member since
    March 2017
  • 7,103 posts
Posted by Track fiddler on Friday, May 20, 2022 7:09 PM

I remember that one of yours from before Mel.  She's a Gem.  I may have it confused with another story but I think I remember you bought it with your lawn mower route money or something like that.

 

TF

  • Member since
    January 2009
  • From: Bakersfield, CA 93308
  • 6,526 posts
Posted by RR_Mel on Friday, May 20, 2022 7:35 PM

TF

In 1950 a buddy a few doors up the street from me contracted Shingles and died, his Mother ask me to take over his paper route for him.

I did as she ask and it became my source for model railroading.  I wouldn’t have ever looked into a paper route if she hadn’t ask.

Her asking me really helped me, at 13 having a job was a good start to life.  Even pennies that were mine to do with what I wanted was great.

I ended up working 50 years in electronics, never unemployed for 50 years with her help getting me started as a teen.
 
Mel


 
My Model Railroad   
http://melvineperry.blogspot.com/
 
Bakersfield, California
 
Turned 84 last July, aging is definitely not for wimps.

  • Member since
    March 2017
  • 7,103 posts
Posted by Track fiddler on Friday, May 20, 2022 8:28 PM

Thanks for sharing one of your life experiences mel.  Many years ago but still goes without saying that was rather sad and unfortunate about your friend.

On the positive side of things, sounds like you got a nice head start on some good structure at an early age working hard towards a good foundation for your futureYes

 

 

TF

  • Member since
    January 2013
  • 885 posts
Posted by PM Railfan on Friday, May 20, 2022 8:39 PM

WOW, this thread is still open? Tom and Steve on vacation er something? Bet i could get it locked with one simple statement on the topic - and no salty words added either. Mischief

 

PMR

  • Member since
    February 2003
  • From: Guelph, Ontario
  • 4,528 posts
Posted by Ulrich on Friday, May 20, 2022 8:39 PM

One doesn't have to spend alot to enjoy the hobby. I'm at around $900.00..two plain jane Athearn engines, 15 cars, and some track. It is certainly no basement empire, but it is turning into quite a nice 4x8 module with a loop. Stay focussed.. don't buy stuff you don't need, and keep it small. 

  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 23,177 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Friday, May 20, 2022 9:17 PM

PM Railfan

Bet i could get it locked with one simple statement on the topic  

Betcha can't!

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    January 2013
  • 885 posts
Posted by PM Railfan on Friday, May 20, 2022 9:25 PM

Duth I be hearing thee sound of a perverbial gauntlet smashing uponst the floor? Laugh Laugh

 

Whistling

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: west coast
  • 7,208 posts
Posted by rrebell on Saturday, May 21, 2022 9:02 AM

Ulrich

One doesn't have to spend alot to enjoy the hobby. I'm at around $900.00..two plain jane Athearn engines, 15 cars, and some track. It is certainly no basement empire, but it is turning into quite a nice 4x8 module with a loop. Stay focussed.. don't buy stuff you don't need, and keep it small. 

 

I have about broken even on my railroad and I have a nice but not large layout with about a dozen sound engines and DCC control and even a RTR Walthers turntable and quality track and turnouts fully sceniced. Took many years to get to this spot but it can be done, bargins are out there.

  • Member since
    January 2011
  • 859 posts
Posted by PennCentral99 on Saturday, May 21, 2022 9:18 AM

richhotrain
PM Railfan

Bet i could get it locked with one simple statement on the topic

Betcha can't!

In before the lock, credit 1 post! Big Smile

Terry

Inspired by Addiction

See more on my YouTube Channel

  • Member since
    January 2009
  • From: Maryland
  • 11,986 posts
Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Saturday, May 21, 2022 9:37 AM

rrebell

 

 
Ulrich

One doesn't have to spend alot to enjoy the hobby. I'm at around $900.00..two plain jane Athearn engines, 15 cars, and some track. It is certainly no basement empire, but it is turning into quite a nice 4x8 module with a loop. Stay focussed.. don't buy stuff you don't need, and keep it small. 

 

 

 

I have about broken even on my railroad and I have a nice but not large layout with about a dozen sound engines and DCC control and even a RTR Walthers turntable and quality track and turnouts fully sceniced. Took many years to get to this spot but it can be done, bargins are out there.

 

 

Not me, I have NO interest in turning my modeling hobby into some sort of side business or or buying/selling trading game.

Adjusted for inflation this hobby costs the same as it always has, and past a certain level, it has never been a hobby for the poor. In fact, prices are up some now in this hobby, but a decade or two ago, this hobby was less expensive and more "value added" than it had ever been. On a budget? Shop used stuff from the last 20 years.

I will now return to lawn mowing and layout room construction, from the guy not complaining about the price of model trains, or the lumber needed to get the layout room ready and build the bench work, or the price of gas for the F250 to bring those supplies home.

BUT, I will say one more thing - it is about life style choices - my life style does not include expensive travel vacations, expensive clothes, even the previous big house was not as expensive as many nice homes are. I don't have a boat, jet ski, golf club membership, I sold the house with the swimming pool, I don't buy booze or smokes, my cars are nice but not exotic, I stopped building hot rods decades ago, my cars and house are paid for, my monthly living expenses are less than many peoples mortgages - I can afford model trains.......

Sheldon 

    

  • Member since
    June 2003
  • From: Culpeper, Va
  • 8,169 posts
Posted by IRONROOSTER on Saturday, May 21, 2022 10:06 AM

Lower priced passenger cars and other items are still available.

What's changed is that there a lot of highly detailed, expensive rolling stock items available also.  Many of these are very road speciific, even to the point of being detailed for a specific class - which drives up the cost.

When I started in the hobby in 1971, there was less available and less road specific rolling stock.  A manufacturer might follow one particular model on one road and then paint it for 20 or so different railroads.  Or it might a generic car not specific to any road - again painted for many different railroads.  You could use them as they came, or add detail, or repaint, etc.  Notice that Accurail still does that and keeps the cost down.

One reason freelancing was popular was that you could use whatever was available.  You can still do that today buying whatever is available in your price range.

You can also scratchbuild for a relatively low cost by not getting hung up on buying expensive detail parts.  Leave them off or make your own.  I can remember making boxcar door handles by bending a piece of wire - sure it wasn't fine detail, but once the car was painted and put on the layout, it looked fine at 3 feet.  And unless you run your cars upside down, most underbody detail can be omitted.

I think another thing that has really changed, is that model railroad close up phototgraphy has really improved and has made people believe that everything has to be highly detailed - museum quality.  And that's what hobby magazines feature.

But I think the hobby is like art.  You can have it be like an impressionest painting that looks good when viewed at 3 or 4 feet.  Or it can be like a photograph that you can look at with a magnifying glass.  Or somewhere in between.

Paul

If you're having fun, you're doing it the right way.
  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 2,088 posts
Posted by John-NYBW on Saturday, May 21, 2022 10:30 AM

I always liked Rivarossi's line of generic, non-prototypical passenger cars. For those who didn't insist on perfect fidelity to prototypes, they were a good starting point. They were terribly underweighted, had plastic wheels and trucks, truck mounted hornhook couplers, and no interiors or diaphragms. All of these short comings could be remedied with after market modifications at a nominal cost in time and money. I always looked at them as just a car body in need of some TLC. To this day I still occasionally buy these Rivarossi cars with the intention of upgrading them. I can buy them on ebay for between $20-30 and by the time I'm done, I never have more than $40 invested in them. doctorwayne has done some awesome upgrades which he has been kind enough to share with us from time to time.

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 2,088 posts
Posted by John-NYBW on Saturday, May 21, 2022 10:41 AM

BEAUSABRE

Rich, I know, but I wanted to keep it simple and not crawl through the USGA weeds (obviously I put my shot into the rough). Speaking of which, I live pretty close to USGA Golf Museum and Library aka Golf House, if you are a serious golfer, or even a fan, it's worth a visit. 

Visit the Museum (usga.org)

 

I visited Golf House about 20 years ago and it was awesome. My favorite exhibit was the 6 iron Alan Shepard used to hit two shots on the moon. 

About 30 years ago, I was handicap chairman for our small club that played at a public course. Naturally the complaints about handicap were numerous because few understood how it worked. The complaints usually started off "How could my handicap go down when...?". I would patiently try to explain the nuances of the USGA system and also that handicaps can come down a lot faster than they go up. It usually takes an extended streak of bad play for your handicap to go up.

Over the years I've participated in a number of leagues or groups that invent their own handicap system rather than use the time tested USGA system. They think they can come up with a better system by reinventing the wheel. They never do. The USGA system is by far the best whether used in match play or stroke play. It allows any golfer to compete against any other golfer and have a fair match. However, as Sam Snead once said, there is no such thing as a perfectly even match. Somebody is always going to have an edge and he always figure it might as well be Old Sam.  

  • Member since
    February 2008
  • 8,088 posts
Posted by maxman on Saturday, May 21, 2022 10:58 AM

John-NYBW
My favorite exhibit was the 6 iron Alan Shepard used to hit two shots on the moon. 

I forgot about that.  But I was wondering.  Did those two balls escape the moon's gravity and keep going?

  • Member since
    January 2017
  • From: Southern Florida Gulf Coast
  • 16,515 posts
Posted by SeeYou190 on Saturday, May 21, 2022 11:03 AM

maxman
Did those two balls escape the moon's gravity and keep going?

No, that would be impossible for a human being to do even on the moon. The estimated distance the balls travelled is between 2 and 2.5 miles.

Living the dream and happily modeling my STRATTON AND GILLETTE Railroad in HO scale. The SGRR is a freelanced Class A railroad as it would have appeared on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954, in my personal fantasy world of plausible nonsense.

  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 502 posts
Posted by drgwcs on Saturday, May 21, 2022 11:18 AM

OK this seems like a time for a more humorous thought that the timing seems great on. I also belong to a group called budget model railroading. This week the question was asked what are your other hobbies. Lots of car restorations, muscle cars, boats and other $$$$ hobbies came up. Of course myself being the instigator that my wife says I am piped up with: Now I understand why it is budget model railroading, you all have spent it all on cars and boats........WhistlingBig Smile

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 2,088 posts
Posted by John-NYBW on Saturday, May 21, 2022 11:49 AM

richhotrain

 

 
BEAUSABRE

Rich, I know, but I wanted to keep it simple and not crawl through the USGA weeds  

 

 

Actually, it would make more sense if the handicap calculation were as simple as you stated it.

 

I respectfully disagree. If handicaps were based solely on averages, it would reward the inconsistent player, the guy who can shoot 75 one day and might shoot 90 the next. Basing it on your best scores and throwing out the crooked numbers flattens out the handicaps for everybody and rewards the more consistent player. The guy who is consistently in the high 70s or low 80s will have an advantage over the guy who goes low one day and blows up the next. Using averages works in bowling because everybody's scores fluctuate wildly, even the best tour pros. Not so in golf. There are the steady Eddies and the guys who run hot and cold. 

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 2,088 posts
Posted by John-NYBW on Saturday, May 21, 2022 11:57 AM

maxman

 

 
John-NYBW
My favorite exhibit was the 6 iron Alan Shepard used to hit two shots on the moon. 

 

I forgot about that.  But I was wondering.  Did those two balls escape the moon's gravity and keep going?

 

I doubt Jack Nicklaus could have knocked it out of the moon's gravity.  Alan Shepard swung the club with one hand and naturally with the space suit on, his mobility was severly limted. According to Shepard, he shanked the first one but nailed the second one. He said on earth it would have only gone about 30 yards but went close to 200 in the moon's gravity. Those golf balls are probably still lying on the surface of the moon since there is no atmosphere and no wind to blow lunar soil over the top of them. 

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 2,088 posts
Posted by John-NYBW on Saturday, May 21, 2022 12:03 PM

drgwcs

OK this seems like a time for a more humorous thought that the timing seems great on. I also belong to a group called budget model railroading. This week the question was asked what are your other hobbies. Lots of car restorations, muscle cars, boats and other $$$$ hobbies came up. Of course myself being the instigator that my wife says I am piped up with: Now I understand why it is budget model railroading, you all have spent it all on cars and boats........WhistlingBig Smile

 

As anyone who has been following the recent posts would guess, my other hobby is golf. For me there is golf season and train season and there isn't much overlap. Every year I vow to make time for trains during golf season but rarely do. Weather of course prevents golf from infringing on train season. I used to bowl twice a week during train season but Covid reduced our bowling alley to limited hours that didn't include the mornings when our group bowled. Our bowling alley was recently sold and has now been leveled. We've found a new place but it's much more expensive and we are only going to bowl twice a month. 

 

  • Member since
    October 2020
  • 2,801 posts
Posted by NorthBrit on Saturday, May 21, 2022 12:14 PM

I see another thread gone way off target.  This time to the moon.

To the world you are someone.    To someone you are the world

I cannot afford the luxury of a negative thought

  • Member since
    January 2004
  • From: Canada, eh?
  • 13,001 posts
Posted by doctorwayne on Saturday, May 21, 2022 12:22 PM

Depending on what you want, yeah, model railroading can be expensive.  I started out with Varney, Tyco, John English and Globe, and later Athearn and Model Die Casting.
I worked a paper route as a kid, and worked weekends for an uncle who owned a lumberyard and a small fruit and vegetable farm. 
I wasn't making a lot of money, but always had some for a visit to nearby hobbyshops.
While I admired a lot of the stuff that I couldn't afford, I stayed with what I could afford, and began to make it better:  sometimes with better paint and lettering and sometimes with better details.  That wasn't free, of course, but it was affordable.
When I finally settled on an era to model, I sold a lot of bargain cars which I had upgraded, and made some very good money, which allowed me to buy more of what I needed, some of which, of course, also needed upgrading.

Train shows and estate sales can offer some pretty-good deals, if you're aware of what items should cost.
I have never been interested in DCC, nor in lighted pasenger cars, huge locomotives or craftsmanship structure kits, all of which are beyond my budget.
I seldom buy ready-to-run stuff, either, and prefer undecorated cars and locos.  Yeah, the paint and lettering isn't free either, but it did allow me to learn how to do my own painting and lettering (and eventually, paint and lettering for others).  I never made a lot of money painting for others, mainly because I thought custom painters to be overly greedy (perhaps they weren't, but they were certainly beyond my budget).
I also learned how to scratchbuild structures and freight and passenger cars, also not "free", but at least affordable.

Nowadays, I can buy pretty-well anything I want, but there's very little on that list, and none of it expensive.

Wayne

  • Member since
    November 2006
  • From: NW Pa Snow-belt.
  • 2,156 posts
Posted by ricktrains4824 on Saturday, May 21, 2022 12:35 PM

Model trains are not any more expensive than any other hobby.

Golf - Clubs cost hundreds of dollars for a set, plus tee fees, clubhouse fees, etc... Few hundred dollars just to hit around a ball...

Video Games - $2000+ for a gaming computer, $800+ for a gaming console, $80+ per title. For video games.

Trains - $200 locomotives with DCC/Sound are out there, $100 DC are available many places. Are they the $40-$80 I paid as a kid in the late 90's? No, but for the value, they are much better than those units.

Photography (My other hobby) - $500-$5000 for a DSLR, lenses anyhere from $250-$8000. Just to take pictures, you could be at $13000, have one camera, one lens, and still take lousy pictures.

 

Ricky W.

HO scale Proto-freelancer.

My Railroad rules:

1: It's my railroad, my rules.

2: It's for having fun and enjoyment.

3: Any objections, consult above rules.

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 2,088 posts
Posted by John-NYBW on Saturday, May 21, 2022 12:42 PM

I remember as a young adult in the late 1970s and early 1980s getting carried away with charging my train purchases on credit cards and getting in over my head. At the time, I could justify it by the fact that inflation was running double digits which meant the money I would be paying back would be worth much less what I was borrowing. Credit card interest was 18% and at the time, you could also deduct credit card interest which made running up credit card debt relatively cheap. In the early 1980s, inflation was brought under control, credit card interest could no longer be deducted, and credit card interest rates went into north of 20%. Suddenly carrying credit card debt became very expensive. I took out a debt consolidation loan, paid it off, and ever since have paid off my credit cards in full at the end of every month. I also budget for model railroading rather than spending freely. 

 

  • Member since
    July 2021
  • 155 posts
Posted by NorthsideChi on Saturday, May 21, 2022 12:53 PM

Reading that these type of threads get locked is just one of many reasons entry into the hobby is intimidating to some.  Someone should be able to say, "this hobby costs a ton. Can someone post links to _____ type of setup I want to do?"   But I believe posting links to items for sale is also not allowed.  So we're just stuck making vague or sometimes overly complicated recommendations at risk of deterring or confusing a potential new hobbiest.  

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 2,088 posts
Posted by John-NYBW on Saturday, May 21, 2022 1:05 PM

I don't think recommending ebay or estate sales as sources for inexpensive models is vague. With ebay you can enter a search argument for what you are looking for. True, you'll get a lot of hits that aren't what you wanted, but you'll get plenty that are. I haven't done a lot of estate sales but they can be gold mines, especially if you buy the whole lot or a large portion of it. The person selling is mainly interested in unloading it for whatever they can get for it and will often let it go for a really cheap price. I remember buying an entire lot, keeping what I wanted and selling what I didn't. I ended up getting back pretty much what I paid for it and essentially got the items I wanted to keep for free. 

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!