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Who can continue to pay for this hobby? Locked

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Who can continue to pay for this hobby?
Posted by Soldier on Thursday, August 10, 2006 2:16 PM

Many ads in MRR magazines reflect the high costs involved with this hoppy. Some box cars going for as much as $39.00, locomotives as high as $400. Flex track for $3.50 each, turn outs up to $20. It seems to me the RR modeling industry is working hard to price the common man out of the hobby.

I would never purchase tracks from Peco with the price the company demands. And Walthers prices -- on nearly every item -- are skyhigh. Is there a move here to limit the development of our hobby to only those who work for the wealthy?

Many MRR items are made in China, where labor costs are very low, yet purchase prices are very high, and continue to rise. It appears the manufactures are inflating the product costs, thus deflating my urge to spend money on their products.

I still have many MRR items purchased decades ago that look just fine -- as realistic as those made today. Flea markets are an excellent place to spend on's cash on used RR items.

Some items produced today are greatly improved and should cost a few dollars more, but not three or four times more. How can anyone afford to stay in this hobby?

What would MRR manufactures do if we all decided to stop buying for six months or for a year? Raise the price, I'm sure. The excuse: They're losing money!

Am I on the right track with my thinking?







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Posted by dragonriversteel on Thursday, August 10, 2006 2:28 PM


      I know what your saying and I'm with you on the fact, but unless model railroaders a retired or super rich or however they pay for their model trains. People will pay for what they want....theres an old saying. " Theres a sucker born every minute" and the manufactors know it. I've complained on this forum and to the model makers. What I got from these fine folks on this forum is, quite your whinning!!!

The only thing that you can really do is shop around for deals on the net. The rich modelers will only drive up the price of what can we do?

The hobby is going in the crapper and the model train makers are doing a fine job helping this dieing hobby along.

The only advice I can give you is, buy what you can.




Fear an Ignorant Man more than a Lion- Turkish proverb

Modeling an ficticious HO scale intergrated Scrap Yard & Steel Mill Melt Shop.

Southland Industrial Railway or S.I.R for short. Enterchanging with Norfolk Southern.

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Posted by nucat78 on Thursday, August 10, 2006 2:31 PM

Well...  Inflation is a fact of economic life.  My dad was outraged when gas went over $0.20 per gallon - yeah, that's 20 CENTS per gallon.  Maybe a better question is how do today's prices compare in constant dollars to prices 5, 10 or 20 years ago.  But it's even more complex as you also have to factor in quality and new materials.

I was out of the hobby for several years and was a little shocked at current prices.  And, due to the downsizing in telecom, I am not making what I made 5 years ago.  But I choose to invest in the hobby, so I'll watch for sales, promos, used items.  If it gets too expensive, I can always railfan for almost free - I bought a scanner and digital camera years ago so not much new investment is required.

Yours is a complex question.



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Posted by cwclark on Thursday, August 10, 2006 2:40 PM
I know what you mean...I just ordered some real simple stuff from walthers and the bill came to $103.00..all i got were three items that are mere trackside details...I do think we are paying more for this stuff than we did 20 years ago ..the detailing is better these days, but still I feel it's way over priced...the only way i can afford this hobby is to go to train shows and buy everybodies used is getting rediculous what they're charging us now a days...chuck

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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, August 10, 2006 2:40 PM
Unfortunately everything is tied to the price of oil, transportation costs, (which just closed my last employer), the plastic bodies from oil, even the flex track which is plastic all ties to oil. My brother stopped by the other day, I am in the middle of building a new layout, he estimated what I had put into it, when I told him what I REALLY had in it, he almost past out! He kept saying there is nothing there!!!!

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Posted by rrinker on Thursday, August 10, 2006 2:41 PM
 This has NEVER been a cheap hobby unless you count 48-hour equipment like old Tyco and LifeLike as truly being part of the hobby. People like to look at the prices in 50's magazines and think how cheap it used to be. Ah but don't forget that salaries people made back then.

 That said, I have ONE of those expensive freight cars, a Kadee covered hopper. It's awesome, I loveit. But i couldn;t afford a whole fleet of them. So for the $39 you quote I buy 3 Branchline Blueprintkits that build up into just as nice a car, plus give plenty of quality hobby time. Very few peopel have layouts big enough for hundreds and hundreds of cars, but that thinking also goes on. Consider that as well.

 I also have ONE expensive loco, the PCM Reading T-1 which I paid $300 for. That't $100 off list price - you don't have to pay list price if you shop around a bit. But all of my other locos, including the Stewarts and P2K's cost me $50 or less - on ebay mostly, a couple at train shows. You CAN get quality and NOT pay hundreds to get it.

 As for track - the Peco code 83 turnouts are even MORE than $20. Forget that - that's why I'm lloking at FastTracks and making them myself. The cost per turnout with FastTracks is quite low - it doesn't take that many to make up the cost of tools, especially when compared to stuff liek the Peco. And the end result is every bit as good if not better. For a little investment of time, you can keep costs down and still have fun. I've never paid $3.50 a section for my flex track, either. I doubt I'll ever handlay that. I think the last batch I got was $2.50 a section or less. Atlas Code 83. Shop around. I get 20% off at my LHS and buy plenty there,I'm not just an internet buyer trying to killt he hobby shop, but on big ticket items, if I can get a better deal I will. The T-1 is a good example, I could have gotten it for $319 plus tax from my LHS guy. The train show guy I've bought tons of stuff from sold it for $300 INCLUDING tax. Worth every penny, too.



Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's


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Posted by beegle55 on Thursday, August 10, 2006 2:44 PM

eBay is a great discount hobby store, but I am 15 and my mother doesn't like me saving money it seems, and she doesn't let me go on as often as I like, but my LHS isn't too outragous yet, so I do the best I can in the hobby, not the hoppy. I like going to the LHS, but gas is high and its 40 miles away, so it isn't exactly ''local'', but a local shop is developing. Who knows what will happen. -beegle55

Head of operations at the Bald Mountain Railroad, a proud division of CSXT since 2002!
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Posted by Darth Santa Fe on Thursday, August 10, 2006 2:48 PM

I look for good deals and buy what I can afford.Big Smile [:D] There are still some high quality, but inexpensive products that can be afforded easily, like Atlas's new Trainman line.Big Smile [:D] Bachmann's new standard engines aren't bad either.Big Smile [:D] With the more expensive stuff, you usually get what you pay for. $400 pays for one of the highest quality drives available with an extremely well detailed body, and a high quality sound system.

I wish I could afford one of those Rivarossi 2-6-6-6s, but they're as well or more detailed than most other plastic steam engines today, and have a very, very high quality drive that makes them smooth running and nearly silent, and were made in Italy, which is why they retailed for $585. Hornby is moving production to China and knocking $85 off the retail price so they'll be more affordable, that is, if they ever get around to bringing them back out, so maybe I still have a chance of getting one.Big Smile [:D]


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Posted by ShadowNix on Thursday, August 10, 2006 2:50 PM


While I concur it is expensive, my answer is swap meets and Ebay.  Patience is key here (I just got a brand new Rivarossi 2 truck heisler for $82!!!) and you often have to shop around for 6 months or so for good deals, but they can be found.  Similarly, swap meets can be good, but it is buyer beware... difficult for the newbie, but great once you know the hobby more.  Also, I would recommend shopping around on the internet.   Standard Hobby Supply has some GREAT deals (Stewart engines for like $60!!!), so I would check out the internet....



"That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger!"
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Posted by One Track Mind on Thursday, August 10, 2006 2:54 PM

It's not that complex of an answer. Priorities and compromises are the answer. If I hear one more of my customers complaining that 65.00 is too much for a decent locomotive, but man that meal at Outback last night sure was good and it was less than 80.00..........

You can get into this hobby for less than 200 dollars. 4 months of cable. 5 tanks of gas. A lifetime of enjoyment. It can be done with the right attitude.


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Posted by TomDiehl on Thursday, August 10, 2006 3:09 PM

A lot has been said about the current prices in the replies above. Let me add my thoughts.

You don't need to buy something the day it's released. That's almost a guarantee you'll pay full retail price, and possibly with an added premium.

Kits ARE still available for almost all rolling stock types, and are almost always cheaper than RTR. Especially steam kits can be a great education on how these models work, and give you an insight as to whether that "great buy" at the swap meet is worth buying and fixing up. Try for one of the old Tyco or Mantua steam kits with the die cast metal boiler for a first try. These show up on Ebay regularly. A switcher would be the best to start with.

Patience DOES pay off. Even Walthers puts their things on sale on a regular basis. Sign up for their monthly sale flyer, as well as other hobby discounters' flyers.

The more "bells, whistles, and flashing lights" a model has, the more you'll pay. Think about it. Do you really need them? If your answer is yes, don't complain about the price.

I'm also not the type that "needs" every new gadget that comes out. Think about what you really want or need.

Smile, it makes people wonder what you're up to. Chief of Sanitation; Clowntown
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Posted by reale1 on Thursday, August 10, 2006 3:11 PM

I got started in this hobby with the money I earned from delivering newspapers at age ten! If prices continue to do what companies like Walthers are forcing them to do I am afraid it is only a matter of time until the worlds greatest hobby is no more. Youngsters (our future) are simply not going to be able to afford quality stuff. The marketers are buying from the Chinese for next to nothing and selling here for small fortunes. Kids that are forced to buy cheaper and inferior trains will quickly get frustrated because of poor appearance and/or operation and take up some other hobby. Without new blood the ranks of enthusiasts is likely to begin shrinking. The unfortunate prospective these days seems to be "big profits now - no matter what the long term effects"

One other interesting developement... Hobby shops that specialize in trains are becoming fewer and fewer... Five of the nine stores in Atlanta where dads could take their kids to hopefully spark an interest have now closed... Trying to get a youngster excited by looking at pictures in a magazine and ordering on the internet just doesn't have the same impact.

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Posted by BRAKIE on Thursday, August 10, 2006 3:18 PM

One more time...The best price buster you have is your computer..There are several on line shops that have great prices..So..

Here's the choices:

1.Continue to pay high prices at your LHS.

2.Use your computer to save $$ by buying on line.

3.Or start a topic and moan about the high cost of the hobby..


Its your call.



Summerset Ry.

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

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Posted by stokesda on Thursday, August 10, 2006 3:22 PM

I agree some of the prices are high, but I also agree you can get some good deals if you shop around. Don't forget about scratchbuilding, either.

There are many factors that go into why the prices are high. One of them is the price of oil & transportation, which has been mentioned already. Another is that today's stuff is much higher quality than the stuff from decades past, which takes additional effort to develop and produce. The prices from yesteryear may seem low today, but when you adjust for inflation and today's cost of living, is it really that much higher? Americans (in general) have more "disposable" income today than they have ever had, and have enjoyed a higher-than-ever standard of living, so naturally the cost of consumer goods rise to keep pace with the additional demands. A lot of it comes down to personal choices: do you spend that $15 on fast food and gas during the week, or do you carpool and get a loaf of bread and some PB&J so you can get that Accurail kit on eBay?

Another factor that contributes to the high prices is related to the economy of scale. Model RR manufacturers are reaching a very narrow audience, so they only produce a few thousand units of something (if that many), and have to spread the overhead costs over a small quantity. Compare that with a company that manufactures flashlights, who cranks out millions of them because the target market is much larger, there is less risk to the company, and they are able to keep the cost per unit down because they make so many of them.

All that being said, I still scratch my head and wonder every time I see a new product advertised that has a huge price tag on it. Like some of the HO scale construction eqiupment and tractor trailer sets for $200 or more, Kadee twin bay hoppers for $40+, and scale street light posts for about $10 a piece (what if you have a city scene and need dozens of them??!!). I always wonder how these companies can produce items like that and actually sell them.

Dan Stokes

My other car is a tunnel motor

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Posted by MAbruce on Thursday, August 10, 2006 3:28 PM

There seem to be two basic camps when this subject comes up:


Camp One:  The hobby is too expensive and it's getting worse.


Camp Two:  This hobby has always been expensive so get over it.


I’ve come to the conclusion that both camps are right.    

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Posted by howmus on Thursday, August 10, 2006 3:30 PM
I don't know af any "cheap" hobbies.  I know some guys who hang out in bars a lot.  They spend a whole lot more on that hobby than I do on all of mine.  You could take up Camping (one of my hobbies).  Lets see if you want to go top shelf, a new Motor Home will cost somewhere between $100,000 and $800,000.  (If you can call that "camping"?)  Like to go fishing... well priced any fishing boats lately?  Take up photography.  Keep it cheap, go digital.  Lets see a Canon EOS digital Rebel is cheaper than it used to be.  If you get the 8 mega pixel one you can get out of the store for around $1,100.  Oh you want to take close ups of far away objects, better spring for a $1000 zoom lens.  Or for taking photos of your models, you might want a $400 macro lens.  Don't forget if your going to do this right you should get a pro application like Photoshop at $.........

Personally I don't think the hobby is more expensive than it was thirty years ago compared to the cost of living rise during that same time period.  Thirty years ago I was making less than $10.000 a year.  I've been retired now for 6 years (ie: fixed income) and can still afford the hobby more today than I could back then.

Any one like some cheese with this thread?

Ray Seneca Lake, Ontario, and Western R.R. (S.L.O.&W.) in HO

We'll get there sooner or later! 

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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, August 10, 2006 3:31 PM

As a model railroader I think this is one of the more affordable hobbies. I was in R/C planes for 50 years and if you think this hobby is expensive...

How about golf? Do you realize how much it costs for equipment, and a round of golf?

Everything costs more today that years ago.

Wages are higher than ever. In 1957 after getting out of the Army I had a job that my gross pay was $42.00 for 44 hours work! I had two children at the time.

Quit complaining about the cost. I don't hear complaints in the other forums nearly as much as this one.

That, by the way, is why a lot of the former members of this forum have left... tired of the complainers.

A lot of you would complain if inherited $1,000,000 because it came in 1$ bills!

End of rant.

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Posted by tstage on Thursday, August 10, 2006 3:34 PM
My method for dealing with the cost of this hobby is two-fold:
  1. I economize as much as possible by buying kits, kit bashing, or scratch-building.  And I look for suitable alternatives for supplies at discount craft stores or around the house.
  2. I save up my pennies on the stuff I can't.
Unfortunately, I've had to learn all this as I go.  The initial output for supplies was the steepest because I had no "foundation" - i.e. I had to buy EVERYTHING: locomotive(s), track, turnouts, power supply, wire, wood, fasteners, paints, brushes, adhesives, lubricants, etc.  Now that I have a larger hobby and knowledge "base" to work from, I can come up with more economical alternatives to my projects.  (For instance: $2-3 light poles instead of $15-20 commercial ones.)


Time...It marches on...without ever turning around to see if anyone is even keeping in step.

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Posted by steamage on Thursday, August 10, 2006 3:36 PM
Over the years I now have 19 switches on my layout and enough diesels from years ago to keep me happy. But I do still buy a model that fits in with what I'm doing. In the long run the hobby has been good for me. Could have spent all this money on really stupid things like a boat, or motor home and gas to run it.

I don't buy the newest kit that is likely to end up in the closet for years. Check your kits and build those first before buying more.

I scratch build almost every structure on my layout, so the only company I really keep in business is Evergreen Styrene.

Still an inexpensive hobby as far as I'm concerned.

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Posted by simon1966 on Thursday, August 10, 2006 3:47 PM

First of all, this is really not a kids hobby.  Accurate, high priced scale models are targetted at an adult collectors audience.  Seemingly the demand has been for models to be more accurate, more detailed, better running and equipped with better elecronics and control.  The cost to develp the drawings and tooling for these more detailed models is significant, and has to be recovered over a relatively small production run.  Throw in incresed materials costs, transportation costs and the fact that the Chinese are starting to wake up and earn higher wages and it is not altogether a shock that prices are escalating.

The bottom line is that if the market continues to demand more accurate models with ever increasing electronic sophistication the prices will keep rising.

Personally, I like making things.  I like to look at value based on the modelling time that I get out of a project.  I would rather pay $30.00 for a wooden structure kit from someone like JL Innovative and have a weeks worth of modelling than spend that same $ amount on a R to R freight car that I just place on the track.

Finally, anyone that pays MSRP or purchases directly from Walthers is going to notice the pinch.  There are plently of ways of paying alot less for the models than MSRP. 

Simon Modelling CB&Q and Wabash See my slowly evolving layout on my picturetrail site and our videos at

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Posted by jfugate on Thursday, August 10, 2006 3:53 PM
Well lets see, maybe we should all go into a cheaper hobby, like radio controlled cars?

Here's one: Traxxas® Jato 3.3 RTR ...

It's only $409 ...

No wait, let's try radio controlled airplanes ... yeh, that's it. That's a cheap hobby.

$320 for a P-51 Mustang model, engine, radio controller, and accessories ...

Naw, let's go for a really cheap hobby, like model ships.

Let's see, it's only $295 for a Constellation model kit.

Hmmm ... maybe I should just take up playing video games. I can get a Sony PSP for $199 and then the good games are $40 each. So I've dropped about $280 for the game console and a couple of good games.

So if you don't do trains, what other hobby are you going into that's *cheap* these days? Even doll house collectors will drop $200 for a doll house with furniture without even blinking. Welcome to the 21st century leisure-time economy. Smile,Wink, & Grin [swg]

Joe Fugate Modeling the 1980s SP Siskiyou Line in southern Oregon

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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, August 10, 2006 3:55 PM
Modelers have always complained about what they think is the high cost of modeling.  Just find some old magazines from the 50's 60's 70's 80's 90's and look in the readers forums.  Man, when Model Railroader went up from 50 cents to 75 cents a copy they squealed like stuck hogs. 

My neighbor races old beat up dirt track stock cars chasing a plastic trophy and $25 cash for winning.  He spend $6 a gallon for racing fuel and $4000 for a motor that may run 3 hours.  A $400 BLI locomotive that will last a lifetime and run on 8 cent a KWH electric sure sounds like a bargain to me. How about the hunter who buys a $700 rifle so he can get up at the crack of dawn for a week to try and kill $250 worth of meat nobody likes but him. "Hey Fred, want some more of that deer jerky" he says.  What's a Bass Boat cost?  How about a snowmobile?  Hell, a model car cost $15, and you don't even get glue or paint. 

Maybe we should take up video games, my boy spent $400+ for an X box2 that won't even work without a TV and an $80 dollar game.  And it has been broke and sent back twice for $100 per time already.  Yep, them video games that are killing model railroading sure are cheap. 

Maybe whe should take up beading, but man, have you checked them prices for plastic beads lately.  Ain't just the model railroad 
manufacturer getting rich, hell, some of them bags of beads are $3 for about 10 little plastic beads.  We couldn't even afford to pay them Indians in beads for Manhatten today at these prices. Fred
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Posted by davekelly on Thursday, August 10, 2006 4:23 PM

I guess in my mind if it were true that the MRR industry is just unreasonably jacking up prices then it seems to me the market is perfect for some individual or group to mortgage their homes and start up a business.  Those guys should be able to make a mint!

If you ain't having fun, you're not doing it right and if you are having fun, don't let anyone tell you you're doing it wrong.
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Posted by One Track Mind on Thursday, August 10, 2006 4:33 PM

Dave! The funniest line I've heard yet about the hobby business is:

You know how to make a small fortune in the hobby business? Start with a large one!

I know it's an old joke. Sad but true. Still kinda funny though.

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Posted by csmith9474 on Thursday, August 10, 2006 4:37 PM

"Who can continue to pay for this hobby?"

ME!!!!Big Smile [:D]



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Posted by jfugate on Thursday, August 10, 2006 4:39 PM
 davekelly wrote:

I guess in my mind if it were true that the MRR industry is just unreasonably jacking up prices then it seems to me the market is perfect for some individual or group to mortgage their homes and start up a business.  Those guys should be able to make a mint!

Boy that's the truth!

If it's possible to really sell stuff cheaper, then someone stands to make a fortune by entering the market and underselling all these overpriced outlets ... they would corner the market.

Smile,Wink, & Grin [swg]

Joe Fugate Modeling the 1980s SP Siskiyou Line in southern Oregon

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Posted by Randy Stahl on Thursday, August 10, 2006 4:46 PM
 BRAKIE wrote:

One more time...The best price buster you have is your computer..There are several on line shops that have great prices..So..

Here's the choices:

1.Continue to pay high prices at your LHS.

2.Use your computer to save $$ by buying on line.

3.Or start a topic and moan about the high cost of the hobby..


Its your call.

Option 4 , build it your self, strip wood is still cheap . In the early days of modeling it wasn't prices that were frustrating , it was the total lack of manufacturers. It's strange reading old model railroaders from the 50s , on one hand people are complaining that the stuff isn't available, on the other there are complaints that manufacturers are taking the skill and talent out of modeling. There isn't a happy medium it seems. For me the best deals are the el cheapo n scale cars on E Bay. A little time spent changing the details , installing new grab irons etc.. are efforts rivaling the best RTR equipment, plus I have the pride of saying " I did it !"

Track is very cheap to handlay , the turnouts are custom and look far better than anything currently available , I 'll never buy commercial track again, " I built it" , In the USA !!!!


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Posted by simon1966 on Thursday, August 10, 2006 4:50 PM
I thought it might be fun to take the kids to the Rams preseason game tonight since it is not sold out and blacked out on TV.  $45 per ticket $4.50 convenience fee per ticket then $1.50 delivery via e-mail per ticket so really $51 per ticket.  To see a bunch of kids play who will be ex-nfl players in about a week from the nose-bleed seats.  God forbid we would want a beer or soda or dog at the game, I doubt very much if me and the 2 boys would get out of there for under $200.  I think I would rather take this cash to the LHS and read about the game on the web tonight.

Simon Modelling CB&Q and Wabash See my slowly evolving layout on my picturetrail site and our videos at

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Posted by claycts on Thursday, August 10, 2006 4:59 PM

This hobby is very INEXPENSIVE compared to many other hobbies. Try playing GOLF, $50 to $125.00 per round for 5 hours of fun that is not including a club membership, drinks, food. 1 round at a GOOD CC is a $150.00 day.

Not into golf, how about boating, not a hobby per say but BOAT is BRING OVER ANOTHER THOUSAND. Not to forget $3.00 per gallon for gas.

Ig you realy want an EXPENSIVE hobby try collection exotic cars, not the models, the real ones. Now that is BIG Money.

Why is the hobby expensive, SIMPLE look at the prices of th raw materials required to build these items. Plastic is way up, Nickel, Silver, Brass, Copper. Nothing low pricedin that group. now the BIG COSTS. R&D for a new item. You have the designer who starts the plans, the CAD person who makes it fit, the engineer (not the train guy) who checks all the neumbers. The R&D people who run it and send it back for revisions. Those people are making more than $5.00 per hour I hope.

NOW add the stupid lawsuites and do not forget the license fee for the road names and design and anything else they can charge you for.

The price per hour is VERY LOW in this hobby and if you figure it in that way it is inexpensive hobby.

What do you feel your time is worth when you are NOT working and having fun. What would you pay per hour to relax and enjoy something. Broadway is $125+ for 3 hours, Footbal game about $50.00 or more for about 2.5 hours. None of these can be gone back to and done again WITH OUT PAYING AGAIN.

The way you LOWER the price is not to purchase an item and then it goes on sale so they can get it off the shelf. Look at Lionel and their HO effort.

SoapBox [soapbox] is now put away.

Take Care George Pavlisko Driving Race cars and working on HO trains More fun than I can stand!!!
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, August 10, 2006 5:09 PM

Nice to see not everyone on this forum is doom and gloom!

One of the problems now days is everyone wants everything NOW!

I worked my butt off putting myself though school... no scholarships, while raising a family.

I worked hard from age 14 (farm hand) until I retired at 70 years of age (Software Engineer).

If I can afford this 'expensive hobby' on retirement it can't be all that bad.

And I am far from rich!!


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