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Model Train show bargains

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Model Train show bargains
Posted by MJ4562 on Monday, November 20, 2023 12:34 PM

Are model train shows worth attending if your only purpose is to shop for good deals on quality items?  Or is it more hit and miss and more about joy of the treasure hunt?  Is it more older stuff that is bargain priced and not so much new top tier stuff? 

I ask because around my area train shows within driving distance are maybe once a year so I haven't attended one since I was a kid.  I'm now in acquisition mode so thinking it might be time to try one out, then again maybe not.  I hesitate though as time is limited and my experience with trade shows in other hobbies is that while there is the occaisional bargain to be found, they take a lot of time to track down.  When you add of the cost of travel, entry and time spent, those bargains are a bit of a wash.  

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Posted by wjstix on Monday, November 20, 2023 1:43 PM

It's kinda like fishing, you might go a couple of times and not find anything too interesting, then the next one you find three things you really wanted. 

You probably will have to go to the shows in your area and see what they're like. In my area, some retailers are there selling a mix of old and new stuff, and some book dealers are there. Many are selling older stuff bought from estates or from now-closed hobby shops.

I generally am looking for older stuff rather than brand-new; I'd more likely buy something new online or at a hobby shope. For example I recently bought a Walthers Proto engine for a good price at a show; it hasn't been made for a decade or so but mine was in the original packing with the warranty card etc. and runs great.

Stix
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Posted by MisterBeasley on Monday, November 20, 2023 2:01 PM

I go for the fun of it.  If nothing else, there are always layouts to look at and photograph.  I seldom come away empty handed.  If I go to a show with a specific goal, I am often disappointed, but if I just keep my eyes open I almost always come home with happy surprises.

I always bring an up-to-date spreadsheet of locomotives and rolling stock with road numbers to avoid duplicates.  I've got lots of Accurail boxcars in my home road, the Milwaukee, with all unique road numbers.

I find scenery stuff at shows all the time.  Nothing planned, but if somebody is selling cheap hydrocal, I'll buy some.  I will always look at nice die-cast autos from my era, and maybe packages of people.  Dealers have selections of detail parts that invite browsing.

I did learn to think carefully about buying structures on a whim without a place to put them.  I've still got unopened kits I bought at train shows 20 years ago.  That taught me not to be impulsive.

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

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Posted by Jetrock on Monday, November 20, 2023 2:12 PM

wjstix

It's kinda like fishing, you might go a couple of times and not find anything too interesting, then the next one you find three things you really wanted.

And the thing about fishing is, you rarely hear people complain about what a waste of time a fishing trip was, even if they didn't catch many fish, because it was still fun to hang out and enjoy the experience with other fisher-folks. To me, that's what a train show is: it's an opportunity to enjoy the experience of hunting for cool deals and meeting other model railroaders, learning new things, discovery, and fellowship. Plus you might find some cool stuff that's worth buying, or you might not. While I make a checklist of things I'm looking for at a train show, I'm not disappointed if I don't find many items on the list, or end up buying very different things--it's a tool to provide general guidance.

 

I also take this attitude with me when I go to things like antique fairs or estate sales--I like to think of them like I'm visiting a museum, and I'm principally there to appreciate the objects and the experience, but unlike most museums, if I really like an exhibit, I can spend some money and take it home!

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Posted by NorthBrit on Monday, November 20, 2023 2:52 PM

MJ4562

Are model train shows worth attending if your only purpose is to shop for good deals on quality items?  Or is it more hit and miss and more about joy of the treasure hunt?  Is it more older stuff that is bargain priced and not so much new top tier stuff? 

I ask because around my area train shows within driving distance are maybe once a year so I haven't attended one since I was a kid.  I'm now in acquisition mode so thinking it might be time to try one out, then again maybe not.  I hesitate though as time is limited and my experience with trade shows in other hobbies is that while there is the occaisional bargain to be found, they take a lot of time to track down.  When you add of the cost of travel, entry and time spent, those bargains are a bit of a wash.  

 

 

If you are going to train shows purely to buy and not see the show then why not buy direct from a company or store?

 

Seeing layouts.  Picking up tips and ideas.  Talking to like-minded people.  Having a day out.   Then train shows are a joy.

 

David

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Posted by IC_Tom on Monday, November 20, 2023 3:01 PM

I've only been going after COVID stopped, since about 30 years ago when I first started going to train shows.

The fishing analogy is a great one.  Unless the stuff is really old and out-dated (at least in HO), the pricing and selection is not that good at a train show, IMHO.  It's no way comparable to Ebay, for instance.  If you're there for odd stuff - used structures, books, photographs, t-shirts, caps, and maybe the odd electronics stuff here and there, a train show is good.

I'm usually looking for the 5 to 10 year old stuff that is DCC and DCC-ready and was produced in road names I want, but that I missed back then before I returned to the hobby.  (Intermountain Illinois Central GP10s come to mind.)  Train shows are not that good for recent, more advanced stuff.  Then again, maybe I've just been going to the wrong ones ... I've found more on Ebay by checking often and reacting very quickly to sellers when they first list something.

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Posted by Road Foreman of Engines on Monday, November 20, 2023 3:21 PM

Train shows are great! You will find things you never knew you needed.....

Generally older stuff, but occasionally a dealer has a table with new products. I like a bargain, and this is the place! Fun to look around, and they usually have some layouts running.

Paul

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Posted by AEP528 on Monday, November 20, 2023 3:51 PM

NorthBrit

 

 
MJ4562

Are model train shows worth attending if your only purpose is to shop for good deals on quality items?  Or is it more hit and miss and more about joy of the treasure hunt?  Is it more older stuff that is bargain priced and not so much new top tier stuff? 

I ask because around my area train shows within driving distance are maybe once a year so I haven't attended one since I was a kid.  I'm now in acquisition mode so thinking it might be time to try one out, then again maybe not.  I hesitate though as time is limited and my experience with trade shows in other hobbies is that while there is the occaisional bargain to be found, they take a lot of time to track down.  When you add of the cost of travel, entry and time spent, those bargains are a bit of a wash.  

 

 

 

 

If you are going to train shows purely to buy and not see the show then why not buy direct from a company or store?

 

Seeing layouts.  Picking up tips and ideas.  Talking to like-minded people.  Having a day out.   Then train shows are a joy.

 

David

 

Trains shows in the US are mostly retail, relatively little exhibition.

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Posted by John-NYBW on Monday, November 20, 2023 3:57 PM

I rarely go to a train show looking for anything specific but almost invariably I'll find things worth buying. It might be an item that has been out of production for a while or some other hard to find item. I have especially good luck with scenery items. My LHS stocks mostly Woodland Scenics which is good but I'll find things WS doesn't make. Also, train shows are a great source for railroad memorabilia. I'm a sucker for old timetables. 

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Posted by dbduck on Monday, November 20, 2023 4:25 PM

I primarily go to Train, shows to look to see what's available. And view the layouts.

I think it's a great way to spend a Saturday or Sunday morning/afternoon with like-minded folks. Relaxing Road trip.

One item in particular, I will look for are Peco turnouts.

i'm currently in the designing phase of my next layout and plan to use code 100 Peco turnouts throughout the layout.

My most recent find of Pecos  was a box of gently used like new ( no ballast, paint, solder, etc) Various sizes and configurations a box of 20 at @ $5 each

two vendors down I found two double slips, and a three-way @ $15 each same condition 

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Posted by NorthBrit on Monday, November 20, 2023 5:55 PM

AEP528

Trains shows in the US are mostly retail, relatively little exhibition.

 

 

Ah!   The beauty of seeing model trains,  then buying something after.  Big Smile

 

David

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I cannot afford the luxury of a negative thought

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Posted by Attuvian1 on Monday, November 20, 2023 6:23 PM

One other item not yet mentioned:  many (if not most) vendors will entertain an offer if it's not unreasonable.  An adage from the Book applies:  "You have not if you ask not."

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Posted by cowman on Monday, November 20, 2023 6:24 PM

Each show is a little different, that is, each show put on by the same organization is a little different from the last years, as there may be a few different vendors along with some annual standbys.  Shows sponsored by diffeerent groups ususlly differ, as larger vendors may have a preference for a show in a given area, due to previous experience.  ( A friend of mine didn't care for one show "too much Lionel" but I noticed he always went and usually found plenty of HO to lighten his pockets.)  Shows that have a lot of small vendors, those downsizing, selling for the family of a friend that has past or other reasons, may have some unique items.  I had to downsize, even before I was able to get a good start on my layout.  Had many new in the box items from the last 20 years at good prices.  One show I did the booth next to me was selling off items from their father's collection, some really beautiful and unique locos.

You have to go to a show to see what is there.  As I said each show is different.  Then there are working layouts to see as well as people to talk to for ideas that may improve your layout.

Have fun,

Richard 

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Posted by hon30critter on Monday, November 20, 2023 7:25 PM

When my dad was asked about how good the fishing was at our cottage on northern Georgian Bay, he always said that the fishing was great, but then he would quietly add that sometimes the catching wasn't so good!Smile, Wink & GrinLaughLaugh

Cheers!!

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 TheK4Kid on Monday, November 20, 2023 9:05 PM

I attended  train show-swap meet in Fort Wayne Indiana this past Saturday. I was surprised by the large turnout, I actually stood in line for about 30 minutes, waiting to get in. I Never saw this before at past train shows in this area. There was vast amount of vendors and I took home both some hO and O gauge stuff. One vendor was selling Menards freight cars that I have never seen in the local Menrds stores and his prices were 40% less than Menards, so I picked up several cars for my O gauge train set for around my Christmas tree this year.I also found some HO stuff for my large HO layout in my basement. I enjoyed the camraderie of like minded hobbyists and found a guy who repairs HO locomotives in my area. Plus none of them were charging state sales tax, another savings. I consider this show a very positive event and it was fun to attend! I saw some Lionel Classic trains from the 80s all brand new and pristine in standard gauge!

I like to perouse Ebay for deals also and have occasionally come across some great deals there also. I am still enjoying working on my free lanced PRR HO layout in my basement, based in the mid 1940's to early 1960s I chose the pRR because my Dad and several of my relatives all worked for the PRR in the past. my grand dad on my Mom's side worked in the Ft Wayne freight car repair shop in Ft Wayne in the 1940s. My Dad was a brakeman and my Uncle was steam engine engineer.

I am now retired and fuly enjoy the hobby!

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Posted by Vintagesteamer on Tuesday, November 21, 2023 12:39 AM

It is very much the thrill of the hunt.  Especially if you enjoy hunting for older models, European stuff like Marklin ect.  Or odd scales like TT or American OO.  Train shows are a boon right now as so many collectors are passing on and their estates are showing up at train shows as kids that have no interest in "dads trains" or flippers that buy up the stuff at an estate sale and flip it for a profit at shows.   Since the covid lockdowns lifted.  I have not seen so much brass, and other harder to find models at shows since I was a kid in the early 80's.  To me, its a great time to be in the hobby and activly looking for older models.  For me right now its vintage Marklin HO with a side of gauge 1 and older LGB G scale.  So I might go to several shows and find nothing of interest.  I still enjoy the day, visit with dealers and other modelers I know or may not know.   Then one show I will hit the jackpot and find one or several things to purchase.  Thats the whole fun of it for me.    Mike

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Posted by rrebell on Tuesday, November 21, 2023 6:53 AM

There are no train shows anymore where I live, area with 16 million people.

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Posted by AEP528 on Tuesday, November 21, 2023 7:28 AM

NorthBrit

 

 
AEP528

Trains shows in the US are mostly retail, relatively little exhibition.

 

 

 

 

Ah!   The beauty of seeing model trains,  then buying something after.  Big Smile

 

David

 

I would like to see UK-style exhibitions in the US, which would require quite a mindset change.

First, it needs modellers to embrace the small exhibition layout idea, rather than large club or modular setups that are typically present. This seems like it shouldn't be difficult, because it would give many modellers the opportunity to do something different, in a smaller size and perhaps even in a different scale.

Second it would require shows to embrace the concept of booking and paying for the layout exhibitors to attend. This will be difficult, because many shows barely make money now.

And third it would require visitors to embrace that syle of show. This is hard to predict.

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Posted by dknelson on Tuesday, November 21, 2023 9:55 AM

While I nearly always carry some sort of "want list" with me to train shows, I'd agree with those who say the most enjoyabe purchases are of those things you didn't know you needed until you saw them.  Sometimes you see things you didn't even know EXISTED until you saw them, and this is particularly getting more and more true as small 3D printing based suppliers start to populate the shows.

I also benefit from those shows who sell off the "estate" items of deceased members of the local NMRA region or division as a fund raiser for their division or whatever.  The Madison (WI) train show especially --has a substantial area devoted to that.  Unless you have memorized the Walthers catalogs of the last 45 years you can't really plan ahead for what you might see at such a sale.   And model railroaders being model railroaders you sometimes can glom on to partially completed projects that are exactly what you need for your own partially completed project.   

Something seen at some train shows years ago but you never see now --  rejected brass.  The Japanese or Korean manufactures would sometimes have their first batch be rejected by the importer for various reasons and at one time it seems there were vulture firms that would swoop in and buy the rejected merchandise at bargain prices, later to be sold at train shows.  I purchased a nicely made model of a large CB&Q tender that way -- didn't need it but it was just $10.  It was evidently 4 scale feet too long.  Similarly I saw stacks of what looked like CB&Q or California Zephyr domed observation car shells, no floors, selling real cheap and bought one for $20   I think the importers eventually demanded that this rejected stuff be destroyed because I suspect it was diluting their own sales.   Another approach was that taken by North West Short Line -- accept the rejects and sell them yourself at bargain prices.  But that was not at train shows.

As regards the fishing analogy that more than one person has mentioned above, I'm reminded of the bumper sticker: A bad day fishing is still better than a good day working.

Dave Nelson

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Tuesday, November 21, 2023 11:35 AM

Train shows hardly exist in southern Delaware where I am now.  There may be a couple of small ocal ones, but they are more club layout open houses than shows.  My closest big show now would be Timonium, almost 3 hours away.  When I lived in Taxachusetts a had a twice-annual Greenberg show a half hour away, and even the big Springfield only an hour and a half away.

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

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Posted by caldreamer on Tuesday, November 21, 2023 6:25 PM

The two best items that I purchased in all of my years going to train shows were a plastic model of a Jordon Spreader.  Never knew any existed.  All of the others were over priced brass models. It was overpriced, but it was so rare that purchased it. The other was a brand new Kato N scale three car stack trains set with six containers for $15.

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Posted by hardcoalcase on Wednesday, November 22, 2023 12:47 PM

MJ4562
    I hesitate though as time is limited and my experience with trade shows in other hobbies is that while there is the occaisional bargain to be found, they take a lot of time to track down.  When you add of the cost of travel, entry and time spent, those bargains are a bit of a wash.  

In my area, the local train shows send out flyers to hobby shops and clubs for the event, which also have the contact info of the show sponsor.  If one is on the fence about attending, due to distance, etc., you can call the sponsor and ask how many sellers/tables will be there, and about how many are dealing in your scale.

I'm generally open to new (to me) shows, and if there was not much for me in my scale, I'll think twice about attending again, as the shows tend to have the same group of sellers every year.

Another factor is the state of completion that your layout is in. If its gotten to the "plywood pacific" stage" (all or most of the track is in place and running) train shows are a great place to accumulate the many buildings, freight and passenger cars, and detail items needed (cheap!). If still in the early stages - still building benchwork and laying track - maybe waiting til next year would better.

Jim

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Posted by ricktrains4824 on Thursday, November 23, 2023 7:59 AM

Sometimes you find great bargins at train shows, old and new stuff.

Sometimes, you find almost nothing, but can still enjoy the show itself.

But there are very few shows I have not gotten at least one thing at.

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.

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Posted by Jetrock on Thursday, November 23, 2023 12:03 PM

One of the fun things about train shows is often the "let the buyer beware" aspect of shopping; be sure to look inside of boxes! Sometimes I've bought a kit at a train show that seemed like a good deal, only to find the components inside incomplete, or something else entirely inside the box; other times, I've found extra stuff in the box! I bought an old Magnuson kit at a train show earlier this month, and when I went through the box last night I discovered that, while it did contain the kit advertised on the box with all its parts, it also included two other kits: a Magnuson "starter" kit (basically a sub HO scale retail store, as a way for people to learn how to handle & assemble resin kits) and an already-painted Leviathan Manufacturing kit (basically a "mini industry" kit still produced by Walthers in plastic), which even had glazed windows already, so I just glued the walls together and put it right on the layout! (I had a spot on the layout with an old handcar shed kit right next to another Leviathan kit that I had bashed into a double-width background building, adding the new one gives it a bit of "family" feel) So be sure to check those boxes for extras, or absences.

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Posted by jjdamnit on Thursday, November 23, 2023 12:27 PM

Hello All,

MJ4562
Are model train shows worth attending if your only purpose is to shop for good deals on quality items?

I agree with most that it can be hit-and-miss.

Going into a train show I set a budget. I use cash for transactions. I take a wide variety of bills; $1.00's, $5.00's, $10.00's, and if my budget is big enough $20.00's.

This gives me better bargaining power. Having the correct change might get you a bundled deal rather than the seller having to break a $20.00 for a $3.00 item. This also gives the seller much-needed change for their bank.

Most sellers will have some way to process your credit/debit card but that usually involves transaction fees that someone has to pay. With cash it's immediate.

Also, be prepared to pay sales tax. Some sellers will charge sales tax while some will charge the as-marked price and pay the sales tax based on their gross sales.

Getting a 10% cash discount might just cover the sales tax that some sellers will charge. Also, not all cash transactions might be declared by the seller for tax purposes Whistling.

Knowing the "street price" or value of the item you are looking at is really helpful. At one train show I attended I offered the seller $30.00 for two used turnouts that he had marked at $17.00 apiece.

I knew that I could get the same turnouts for $18.00 each at my LHS brand new. The seller wouldn't bargain so I passed up this "deal" which was no deal at all. The key thing is not to get "spending fever."

On the other hand when you see a deal buy it then not later. I came across a mine structure kit for $5.00 (retail $25.00). I passed it up figuring I'd check out the rest of the show and come back for it later. I realized my mistake, went back less than 10 minutes later and it was gone!

As far as locomotives, the shows I go to have a test tracks set up for the testing of all gages.

There is a table with both DC & DCC controllers. Before finalizing the purchase you take the locomotive over to the test bed; a show volunteer is usually there to help test the locomotive to your satisfaction, and then you make the deal.

Often times the seller will also accompany the buyer in case there are any problems.

Don't be afraid to ask the seller if they have other items that they didn't have table space for. Usually, they will have boxes under the tables that they will allow you to search through.

When searching through these boxes be as respectful to the items as possible. Don't just start pawing through and when done carefully repack the items as found. 

At one show I found a Walthers conveyor kit and a piping kit in this way. Neither was damaged. They were marked at $11.00 each. I had a $20.00 bill. I offered him the $20.00 and he agreed saying, "At least I won't have to make change." Score!

I've been to some train shows where everything is marked at or above MSRP and no one was willing to haggle. At other shows, I've found that "show gem" and got it at a great price. 

Knowledge is king in these situations.

For more insights check out this thread...

What to and what not to buy at train shows

Hope this helps.

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

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Posted by MJ4562 on Thursday, November 23, 2023 3:19 PM

All great advice, thank you.  
Happy Thanksgiving everyone ! 

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Posted by Vintagesteamer on Thursday, November 23, 2023 7:37 PM

Many vendors will also take Paypal Friends and Family, which in person is not a big issue like it can be with an online purchase off someone you do not personally know.  Just another option once you run out of cash. Most of the shows here in Indiana have an ATM on site or are close by where you could give the vendor a deposit then step out to go to the ATM nearby.  Prices have been good locally, better than on ebay once shipping and other fees are figured in.  The major ones locally are NMRA CID division shows.  Peru, Indiana is a new twice a year show that started right after covid lock downs lifted and it is a really nice show.  Another new one is Flora, Indiana.  I was pleasently supprised by the turn out of both vendors and buyers at that show.  They are out there, many only advertise at other shows or on facebook/word of mouth.  For those posting they have no local shows, they are out there.  Just not as easily found as in years past it seems.  I didnt even know out the recent Ft Wayne Indiana show.  So even I miss local ones at times.   

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Posted by jjdamnit on Friday, November 24, 2023 2:28 PM

Hello All,

Vintagesteamer
Many vendors will also take Paypal...

Good point!

There are also other payment methods like Vinmo and Zell.

Although convenient, on-site ATMs often charge a fee.

I don't like to use them because I have to pay for my money.

Hope this helps.

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

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Posted by kasskaboose on Friday, November 24, 2023 8:33 PM

You can't really judge a train show based on one experience (IMHO).  I purchased things at a great price at train shows, but you have to know the market value of things.  It's very easy to fall into the "gotta-have" trap and over-spend.

Sometimes, you luck out with finding reputable people who are trustworthy and genuinely kind.  They are out there!  Just go for the experience and if you come out with advice and contacts, consider it a win!  Get some stuff you didn't expect is just icing on the proverbial cake.

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Saturday, November 25, 2023 4:41 PM

I remember a local show, one of those with the vendors on the edges sitting on the bleachers because it was at a high school gym.  I didn't go for anything in particular, but I came home happy.  I found an IHC steamer, new in the box, for a good price.  I bought the engine and then found a Soundtraxx decoder for it.  Like most of my purchases, I count the effort needed to bring it to my pike as part of the "play value," so I started the project.

All went well, but the engine didn't run.  I contacted Soundtraxx, and they suggested sending the decoder back to them, which I did.  It took a while, and I heard nothing.  Eventually the tech sent an apologetic email that he got behind because he and his wife had a baby.  As the father of a young girl, I told him no problem, the baby comes first.  I got the decoder and it's never been a problem since.

And I have this story AND a good engine because I went to a train show!

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

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