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How to come to terms with modern prices, or putting the "getting too expensive" myth to rest

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How to come to terms with modern prices, or putting the "getting too expensive" myth to rest
Posted by Darth Santa Fe on Monday, November 6, 2023 7:41 PM

Just like the rest of you, I sometimes feel like the prices of model trains have gotten very high.  I found a way to come to terms with that though!

https://www.usinflationcalculator.com

Now with that open, search your old magazines, receipts or a catalog from HO Seeker, take the price of any item, and plug that into the calculator along with the year the price was printed.  Let's try Athearn in 1962:

F7A super-weighted: $12.95
Adjusted price: $131.98
New MSRP: $124.99 - $139.99 (depending on RR)

So the soon to be released new ones are about the same price, but with that comes improvements such as flywheels, DCC-ready electronics, knuckle couplers, full window glass, better paint and a more accurate shell to name a few.  Of course, that's only one example, so let's try going back a few more years with some 1951 Varney metal steam:

Economy 2-8-2 kit + 32' tender: $46.70
Adjusted: $552.84
Super 2-8-2 kit + Vanderbilt tender: $67.50
Adjusted: $799.07
BLI Brass Hybrid K-2 Mikado: $799.99 (Stealth), $899.99 (sound)

That $46.70 sounds cheap today, but put it in perspective of value in its day and that was quite the dent to the wallet!  And for the same adjusted price as the premium kit, you can get a BLI Brass Hybrid 2-8-2 ready to run with more details than you can count, a smooth and quiet chassis and some really sharp paint, then add $100 and you get full electronic control with some of the latest in sound! Maybe we should try moving forward to 1972 when ready to run plastic mostly took over.

Rivarossi Big Boy: $59.98
Adjusted: $441.66
New MSRP: $439.99

Right where it was 50 years ago, but now with diecast frames, a can motor with flywheel, full cab interior instead of a big cab motor, RP-25 flanges and once again improved paint quality.  Looks like the new customers are getting the better deal on this one!  What about the cheap toy grade stuff from, let's say, 1977?

Tyco GP20: $16.00
Adjusted: $81.26
Walthers GP9M current MSRP: $79.98

I'd say Walthers won that one.  Honestly, I think the only actual failure with current pricing is Bachmann's MSRP on their products, but we fortunately have discount retailers to keep them in check.  Beyond that, real value is almost exactly where it's been for about 70 years, but now with all the features and improvements of modern materials tooling.  I'm not saying I like current prices, but when taken into perspective, I think I can say that we've actually never had it better (unless you're a kit builder like me).

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Monday, November 6, 2023 8:58 PM

Paul Cutler III (username Paul3) and I have been pointing this out for several decades now. 

In fact, in the late 90's prices were well below their inflation adjusted historical prices for similar items.

As for Bachmann, yes they have inflated retails, but they offer much larger wholesale discounts to their dealers. That is why street prices for Bachmann are 30% to 40% below retail. Those are the "real" prices.

Sheldon 

 

    

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Posted by Doughless on Tuesday, November 7, 2023 8:33 AM

When we retire, our monthy incomes tend to go down, so some things might feel more pinchy than just 5 or ten years ago.

When we bought something in the past, we remember how much it cost, but we don't normally retrace how little we were making back then too.  And we also forget the impact of tha item had on our budget then, because our incomes rise as you age from young to old.  That $20 dollar item is a fixed cost, but 10 years later as you still have the item, you're making 3 times more money (example) so it seems cheap even just a few years after you bought it.

Its perception, for the most part. 

Advancememt usually lands on goods improving over time, but at the same infation adjusted cost as its more basic predecessor...which was advanced at the time.

All is well.

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Posted by dknelson on Tuesday, November 7, 2023 9:54 AM

Still and all - I am happy to be my age and with collection of stuff (trains, tools, books and magazines.  Today's prices do not bother me because I do not buy much stuff, and fortunately I have the money if there is something I really -- air quotes coming -- "need."  My annual income at the time I retired, although hardly enough to inspire envy, would have floored my old man if he could have known.  

But from a cost perspective I'd hate to be a 12 year old in the hobby now compared to 1964 when I was 12.  You can run all the inflation calculators you want but even then Atlas snap track, Athearn kits, Crown R-T-R freight cars, and Plasticville structures seemed cheap.  A day or two of rounding up soda water bottles and returning them for the deposit money could buy a Revell structure or enough snap track to build a siding.  

Dave Nelson

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Posted by IC_Tom on Tuesday, November 7, 2023 2:03 PM

Ha!  I used to take my Radio Flyer wagon out all over town collecting bottles. Then I'd cash in at the local Big Star and head over to the hobby shop!

I'd be gone all day.  As long as I got home for dinner, it was OK.  Now, no one would even think about letting a kid roam free like that.  There's more than higher model train prices to be sad about.

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Posted by wrench567 on Tuesday, November 7, 2023 5:13 PM

  Was at the grocery store this morning. Saw bacon on sale $10.99 for 12 ounces to boot. Not even a pound!!!!. Grapes were $4 a pound. So model railroading looks cheap. Sound decoders have not really increased in price for the last few years.

    Trains are a bargain considering those things.

       Pete 

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Posted by kasskaboose on Tuesday, November 7, 2023 6:39 PM

While prices for things are expensive, you have to ask yourself: is it really, really needed?  My head hurts thinking of some having more than what they need of freight cars or locos.  The other option is to order less frequently.

 

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Posted by Southgate 2 on Tuesday, November 7, 2023 9:31 PM

I'm a kit builder like you, Darth. I've seen fairly recently, MDC Steam locos on Ebay, and pulled up the inflation calculator. The only thing that kept me from pulling the trigger was the number of kits I already have! (almost embarrassing) but they can be a deal.

With that in mind, 5 years ago, I bought my first Keystone 44 tonner for about $107 including shipping on Ebay.  By the inflation calculator, I got it for $38.73 in nineteen eighty one dollars. MSRP then was 79.98.

I have since scored a number of those, ranging from about $134 to as little as $56 including postage. That last one came in at $14.76  in 1981 dollars!

Now, Rapido is releasing 44 tonners in Rapido's silent series for $189.95. Thats $56.11  in 1981 dollars, and ya dont have to build it or paint it.

Or for DCC with sound at $300 ea, you get the works ($88.60 in 1981) and that's for Rapido's reputed quality.

So, Yep. You can apply this principle to any number of products, some stack up better than others, but if you're patient you can score some real deals out there, especially on kits.

Dan

 

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Tuesday, November 7, 2023 9:40 PM

kasskaboose

While prices for things are expensive, you have to ask yourself: is it really, really needed?  My head hurts thinking of some having more than what they need of freight cars or locos.  The other option is to order less frequently.

 

 

Really? How would you begin to define "need" regarding a model train? I have never given any real thought to what others spend their money on - it's not my business.

Sheldon

 

    

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Posted by AEP528 on Wednesday, November 8, 2023 7:10 AM

ATLANTIC CENTRAL

 

 
kasskaboose

While prices for things are expensive, you have to ask yourself: is it really, really needed?  My head hurts thinking of some having more than what they need of freight cars or locos.  The other option is to order less frequently.

 

 

 

 

Really? How would you begin to define "need" regarding a model train? I have never given any real thought to what others spend their money on - it's not my business.

Sheldon

 

 

Seems pretty simple, really. Plan the locomotive and equipment roster for the level of operation one wants and stick to it. Don't impulse buy the latest shiny new offering. Don't impulse buy "good deals" at train shows if they don't match the plan. Designate a yearly budget for the hobby and figure out how to spend it most effectively.

Basic planning and budgeting. Of course, I suspect you already knew that.

As an aside, it's funny watching some of the former MR forum members having their sacred cows slaughtered on other forums.

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Posted by rrebell on Wednesday, November 8, 2023 7:39 AM

Doughless

When we retire, our monthy incomes tend to go down, so some things might feel more pinchy than just 5 or ten years ago.

When we bought something in the past, we remember how much it cost, but we don't normally retrace how little we were making back then too.  And we also forget the impact of tha item had on our budget then, because our incomes rise as you age from young to old.  That $20 dollar item is a fixed cost, but 10 years later as you still have the item, you're making 3 times more money (example) so it seems cheap even just a few years after you bought it.

Its perception, for the most part. 

Advancememt usually lands on goods improving over time, but at the same infation adjusted cost as its more basic predecessor...which was advanced at the time.

All is well.

 

So your income is soposted to go down once you retire, I must be doing something wrong. My expences have gone down but my income has gone up but then I don't touch the pricipal. Certain prices have gone up but others have gone down, electricity is way up but electronics are way down. As far as trains, overall I have not seen a big rise in prices unless you look at retail, rairly do I ever pay retail for something. 

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Posted by Doughless on Wednesday, November 8, 2023 8:23 AM

rrebell

 

 
Doughless

When we retire, our monthy incomes tend to go down, so some things might feel more pinchy than just 5 or ten years ago.

When we bought something in the past, we remember how much it cost, but we don't normally retrace how little we were making back then too.  And we also forget the impact of tha item had on our budget then, because our incomes rise as you age from young to old.  That $20 dollar item is a fixed cost, but 10 years later as you still have the item, you're making 3 times more money (example) so it seems cheap even just a few years after you bought it.

Its perception, for the most part. 

Advancememt usually lands on goods improving over time, but at the same infation adjusted cost as its more basic predecessor...which was advanced at the time.

All is well.

 

 

 

So your income is soposted to go down once you retire, I must be doing something wrong. My expences have gone down but my income has gone up but then I don't touch the pricipal. Certain prices have gone up but others have gone down, electricity is way up but electronics are way down. As far as trains, overall I have not seen a big rise in prices unless you look at retail, rairly do I ever pay retail for something. 

 

 

Supposed to?  Most people's monthly incomes decrease relative to the higher paying jobs they just retired from.  The elderley are typically on a fixed income either through pension, SS, or budgeting their 401K/IRA.  If prices go up in the short term, its usually perceived as bigger stress on the fixed incomes that probably don't go up as spikey.

Athearn's new release announcements this year show no price increase over the previous releases, from what I see.  So the big jump last couple of years felt pinchy but its starting to level off.

BTW, if a person was able to buy trains with money gained by recycling bottles, that speaks to how much money a person could get from the bottles, not how cheap the trains were.  Recycling processes have become much more efficient over the years and not as profitable to spend all day doing it...my guess.  Most folks throw them in a separate bin and are collected in volume...much more efficient than kids walking around randomly. The price per can collected probably has not gone up with inflation because of the efficiencies in the process.  Just a guess.

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Posted by rrebell on Thursday, November 9, 2023 8:29 AM

Doughless

 

 
rrebell

 

 
Doughless

When we retire, our monthy incomes tend to go down, so some things might feel more pinchy than just 5 or ten years ago.

When we bought something in the past, we remember how much it cost, but we don't normally retrace how little we were making back then too.  And we also forget the impact of tha item had on our budget then, because our incomes rise as you age from young to old.  That $20 dollar item is a fixed cost, but 10 years later as you still have the item, you're making 3 times more money (example) so it seems cheap even just a few years after you bought it.

Its perception, for the most part. 

Advancememt usually lands on goods improving over time, but at the same infation adjusted cost as its more basic predecessor...which was advanced at the time.

All is well.

 

 

 

So your income is soposted to go down once you retire, I must be doing something wrong. My expences have gone down but my income has gone up but then I don't touch the pricipal. Certain prices have gone up but others have gone down, electricity is way up but electronics are way down. As far as trains, overall I have not seen a big rise in prices unless you look at retail, rairly do I ever pay retail for something. 

 

 

 

 

Supposed to?  Most people's monthly incomes decrease relative to the higher paying jobs they just retired from.  The elderley are typically on a fixed income either through pension, SS, or budgeting their 401K/IRA.  If prices go up in the short term, its usually perceived as bigger stress on the fixed incomes that probably don't go up as spikey.

Athearn's new release announcements this year show no price increase over the previous releases, from what I see.  So the big jump last couple of years felt pinchy but its starting to level off.

BTW, if a person was able to buy trains with money gained by recycling bottles, that speaks to how much money a person could get from the bottles, not how cheap the trains were.  Recycling processes have become much more efficient over the years and not as profitable to spend all day doing it...my guess.  Most folks throw them in a separate bin and are collected in volume...much more efficient than kids walking around randomly. The price per can collected probably has not gone up with inflation because of the efficiencies in the process.  Just a guess.

 

Accually around here the people getting bottles get permision from people to get them out of their recycling or put them separate for them, I know we go though cases of soda each month, if you got to enough houses that can quickly add up. Yes, I know about peoples lives on a fixed income, have a neighbor who is in a pickle because of his decisions when he was younger, accually I know a few people like that.

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Posted by Darth Santa Fe on Thursday, November 9, 2023 11:12 PM

Good to know I'm not the only one taking the rising prices in context with the rest of the economy!  Sometimes it's hard to not think about those kinds of prices from years ago though, which gives me an odd sense of over-paying for some things when I'm actually not.  Those models I saved for and bought 20 years ago for $20 simply aren't $20 anymore.

Southgate 2, sounds like you've gotten some deals on those 44-Tonners!  I've been tempted to get one of the Keystone models before, but my Bachmann is a good enough runner that I always end up deciding against it.  As for other kits, I bought a DJH Netherlands 4-8-4T a while back for around $400 and thought I was paying something crazy, but looking back, some of my Bowsers that I got brand new with the super-detail kits were just as expensive when adjusted for inflation (my Challenger with details, Con-Cor/Revell tender, electrical kit, paint and decals would be well over $500 now).

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Posted by Doughless on Sunday, November 12, 2023 6:49 PM

rrebell

 

 
Doughless

 

 
rrebell

 

 
Doughless

When we retire, our monthy incomes tend to go down, so some things might feel more pinchy than just 5 or ten years ago.

When we bought something in the past, we remember how much it cost, but we don't normally retrace how little we were making back then too.  And we also forget the impact of tha item had on our budget then, because our incomes rise as you age from young to old.  That $20 dollar item is a fixed cost, but 10 years later as you still have the item, you're making 3 times more money (example) so it seems cheap even just a few years after you bought it.

Its perception, for the most part. 

Advancememt usually lands on goods improving over time, but at the same infation adjusted cost as its more basic predecessor...which was advanced at the time.

All is well.

 

 

 

So your income is soposted to go down once you retire, I must be doing something wrong. My expences have gone down but my income has gone up but then I don't touch the pricipal. Certain prices have gone up but others have gone down, electricity is way up but electronics are way down. As far as trains, overall I have not seen a big rise in prices unless you look at retail, rairly do I ever pay retail for something. 

 

 

 

 

Supposed to?  Most people's monthly incomes decrease relative to the higher paying jobs they just retired from.  The elderley are typically on a fixed income either through pension, SS, or budgeting their 401K/IRA.  If prices go up in the short term, its usually perceived as bigger stress on the fixed incomes that probably don't go up as spikey.

Athearn's new release announcements this year show no price increase over the previous releases, from what I see.  So the big jump last couple of years felt pinchy but its starting to level off.

BTW, if a person was able to buy trains with money gained by recycling bottles, that speaks to how much money a person could get from the bottles, not how cheap the trains were.  Recycling processes have become much more efficient over the years and not as profitable to spend all day doing it...my guess.  Most folks throw them in a separate bin and are collected in volume...much more efficient than kids walking around randomly. The price per can collected probably has not gone up with inflation because of the efficiencies in the process.  Just a guess.

 

 

 

Accually around here the people getting bottles get permision from people to get them out of their recycling or put them separate for them, I know we go though cases of soda each month, if you got to enough houses that can quickly add up. Yes, I know about peoples lives on a fixed income, have a neighbor who is in a pickle because of his decisions when he was younger, accually I know a few people like that.

 

 

My only point is that most people's incomes go down once they retire....because retirement means you quit doing something that once generated an income.  So that income is no longer there to combine with the other incomes they had before they retired.  And some people never actually retire, but work for an income in a different way

It wasn't meant to be a comment about life's choices.

- Douglas

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Posted by IC_Tom on Tuesday, November 14, 2023 10:26 AM

What the heck is all this talk about recycling coke bottles?  When I'd pick them up in my wagon back in the day, it was a Deposit Refund.  You paid for the bottles when you bought the cokes (or whatever).  If you threw it away, then someone else could pick up the bottle and claim the Deposit.

Whereupon, the bottler boiled and steamed (autoclaved?) the bottle and put it back on the assembly line.

If the bottle was chipped or broken, you got nothing for it.  That was "recycling" back in the day.

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Posted by maxman on Tuesday, November 14, 2023 12:11 PM

IC_Tom
When I'd pick them up in my wagon back in the day, it was a Deposit Refund. 

You must be a youngster.  When I worked at the market during high school I ended up being the bottle boy, primarily because I was the only one organized enough to get that job done without making a all day ordeal out of it.

This was between 1960 and 1965.  And back then, at least in Massachusetts, there was not an amount added to the purchase price for bottle deposit.  I think the 2 or 5 cents per bottle was sort of a reward for bringing the bottles back. 

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Posted by csxns on Tuesday, November 14, 2023 3:15 PM

rrebell
So your income is soposted to go down once you retire,

I am getting ready to retire and if trains keeps going up I have enought to keep me going till that day comes.

Russell

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Posted by wjstix on Tuesday, November 14, 2023 3:44 PM

I find as I also near retirement that what was good enough for me 30 years ago is often still good enough now. Given the choice of buying a new 'state of the art' freight car for $50 or passenger car for $90, I'm OK with picking up an older version of the car at a flea market for $10-15. I can live with cast-on ladders and handrails for the price difference. 

Stix
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Posted by TheK4Kid on Tuesday, November 14, 2023 3:52 PM

I haven't seen soda pop in glass bottles in years! Everything is either alumium cans or plastic bottles.

I'm an old timer, I remember going to the grocery store with my Mom in the 50's and I could buy a Coke from the pop machine for a nickel for awhile until it went to 10 cents. A coke and candy bar was my treat for 15 to 20 cents! I also remember the Rogers Market store selling Revell plastic model airplane kits for 69 to 98 cents. Guess what some of those same models cost today in untouched cellophane wrapped boxes?I have a softback book on collecting them today, some are 100, 200, and 300 dollars today! I tend to look around before buying my HO model train kits or equipment,some I get at reasobale prices at local train shows or on Ebay.What I spend my retirement bucks on depends on how much I want an item, or if the price is reasonable or not.

 

 

Ed

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Posted by richhotrain on Tuesday, November 14, 2023 3:53 PM

IC_Tom

What the heck is all this talk about recycling coke bottles?  When I'd pick them up in my wagon back in the day, it was a Deposit Refund.  You paid for the bottles when you bought the cokes (or whatever).  If you threw it away, then someone else could pick up the bottle and claim the Deposit.

That someone else would be me. Back in the 1950s, I rode my bike down the alley from my apartment to the luncheon shop across from the American Can Company in Chicago. All the workers from the ACC would be sitting on the ground against the wall of the luncheon shop eating their bag lunch and drinking a Coke purchased from the shop. I would go around collecting the all of the empty bottles and returning them for the deposit.

Rich

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Posted by maxman on Tuesday, November 14, 2023 4:05 PM

TheK4Kid
I haven't seen soda pop in glass bottles in years!

Mexican Coke

Coca Cola de Mexico (355ML glass bottles, 24 pk.)

And still made with the original formula, not the "real" or "new" variety.

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Posted by maxman on Tuesday, November 14, 2023 4:36 PM

richhotrain
All the workers from the ACC would be sitting on the ground against the wall of the luncheon shop eating their bag lunch and drinking a Coke purchased from the shop.

[quote user="richhotrain"] 

All the can company workers were outside drinking from bottles?

Something looks wrong with that picture.

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Posted by richhotrain on Tuesday, November 14, 2023 5:10 PM

[quote user="maxman"] 

richhotrain
All the workers from the ACC would be sitting on the ground against the wall of the luncheon shop eating their bag lunch and drinking a Coke purchased from the shop. 

maxman
 

All the can company workers were outside drinking from bottles?

Something looks wrong with that picture. 

Well, if I had a photo, I would post it.

Rich

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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Saturday, November 18, 2023 2:59 PM

I remember those days in the 50's/early 60's.  Used to get 2 cents a bottle.

Paul

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Posted by mobilman44 on Saturday, November 18, 2023 3:27 PM

Hi,

Many of us are middle age or older (like me).  We tend to look at prices - no matter what the item or service - and compare it with what we paid years ago.

We may also tend to overlook the increase in the average wage, and the fact that most of what we buy today is improved - in one way or another.

 

 

ENJOY  !

 

Mobilman44

 

Living in southeast Texas, formerly modeling the "postwar" Santa Fe and Illinois Central 

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Posted by thomas81z on Saturday, November 18, 2023 5:54 PM

mobilman44

Hi,

Many of us are middle age or older (like me).  We tend to look at prices - no matter what the item or service - and compare it with what we paid years ago.

We may also tend to overlook the increase in the average wage, and the fact that most of what we buy today is improved - in one way or another.

 

 

 

Agreed

I collected 30 ho big boys & the rivarossi ones are with dcc& sound that i installed were still overall a pretty penny.

my MTH& BLI & ATHEARN & TRIX are way more expense then the 60s rivarossis but look @ what you get compared to the old dc big boys .Like any hobby it takes $$$$$ ,i bought them now because i wont be able to afford them in retirement

 

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Posted by PRR8259 on Saturday, November 18, 2023 10:41 PM

To the OP--

Very well said indeed, and I couldn't agree more with your post.

I've also been one of the relative kings of impulse buying, but no more.  Having re-assessed what I really "needed", I adjusted my interests to what I felt was the best option for my layout, basically some vintage Atlas diesels originally made anywhere from 10 to 18 years ago, as well as a handful of Bowser units from almost the same time period.

Of course I like some of the newer products, but having studied locomotive history and what I want for my layout based upon my understanding of loco history, there were fine models of them made by Atlas and Bowser that I can use, typically available for much less than some current brand new models.  So I'm now more value conscious than I was before.

John

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Posted by Track fiddler on Saturday, November 18, 2023 10:53 PM

Evening

It is what it is.  

If you ever noticed, whining about something, never changed nothing about anything.

There's choice here, sit back and admire, or buck up and pay the piper.

That's it!

 

TF

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Posted by NorthBrit on Sunday, November 19, 2023 5:22 AM

I am glad I bought my locomotives  a good few years ago.

Now I buy what I really need  or from   Medway Queen Preservation Society  which I support.

 

David

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

I cannot afford the luxury of a negative thought

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