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Is Overseas Modelling Interest Declining?




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#1 Claude_Dreyfus

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 08:47

I have heard on another forum that the 2011 edition of Model Rail International will be its last; at least for the foreseeable future. Although well received, the sales have just not been enough to justify pursuing this venture. One of the comments relating to this decision was '...the apparent decline of interest in overseas railways in the UK market...'

This begs the question as to why this would be. Is it simply because overseas models are generally perceived to be more expensive (in many cases actually more expensive), and therefore more of a 'luxury' in these more straightened times; or is there the view that the enormous gap in quality has been reduced over the last few years meaning more modellers are going back to their first love secure in the knowledge that the things will actually work reliably and look good? Quite a common raison d’être for modellers looking at overseas prototype was the reliability and detail of the trains and accessories…I have heard a number of times the reason being ‘because British stuff is rubbish’. So as British-outline models are becoming less ‘rubbish’, are we seeing a gradual shift from some modellers from Continental?

As a few on here will know, I model Japanese N Gauge. The quality and variety of trains, track and accessories is extremely well known, and many odds and ends find themselves on layouts depicting all countries. It is also easy to obtain, with a number of shops in the UK stocking items, and a number of user friendly internet stores in Japan; yet apart from a number of modellers who have one or two bits for novelty interest, there are few of us who centre on Japan. I don't think this is declining...it is just very small and not growing!

My perception is that the one area that seems to be bucking the trend is US modelling. I'm sure this has seen a slow, but steady, increase. There seem to be more US models being stocked in shops, and I am seeing plenty of US layouts on the exhibition circuit and in Continental Modeller.

If this is the case, is this increase not translating into magazine sales for MRI due to the quality of US-outline modelling mags; such as Model Railroader? Lets face it, there are a number of excellent French, German, and even Japanese railway magazines, but they are almost exclusively (and understandably) written in their native language to cater for their domestic market...not all of us understand these languages well enough to benefit from the magazines other than to take inspiration from the pictures!

I would suggest then that the decline is in European models. Sure there is plenty of flash new technology, especially around DCC innovations; but it costs. There is also anecdotal evidence to suggest that some of the models produced from European manufacturers have not been up to the same quality as their previous offerings, yet prices are still rising.

The question is, are we actually seeing a decline in overseas modellers? And if so is this temporary due to current economics or more permanent owing to the much smaller gap between UK ready to run and continental offerings?

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#2 Gene

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 12:02

Well I can tell you that I stopped buying from the German/Austrian manufacturers because I just felt the costs were to high...at least double if not triple the cost of a US or UK outline piece of rolling-stock.

#3 knobhead

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 12:30

Prices on continental models can indeed make you cry. 00/4 mm is the way to go.

Regards,

Stefan

#4 Removed a/c_Max Stafford

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 12:37

I think it's more complicated than that in many cases. In my case it was simply down to the practicalities of having UK and Continental-outline stock which was I'll freely admit lovely. I still have a great interest in German railways particularly but the fact remains that my primary modelling interest is the railways of the border country and I only have space for a single layout. Cost is indeed a factor, particularly in the last three years since the pound/euro relationship changed dramatically. Prior to that Roco had been introducing models such as the NS 2400 and DR V100 at prices close to what we were paying for new UK outline diesels.
I do miss those models but I simply couldn't justify having this collection with nowhere to use it. I also believe that the quality gap has closed considerably too. When I returned to modelling 17 years ago I originally started with Bachmann and Athearn US because even their mid range stuff was immeasurably superior to the garbage that was being foisted upon the hapless UK modeller.

Changed days now!

Dave.

#5 Dutch_Master

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 12:38

Prices on continental models can indeed make you cry. 00/4 mm is the way to go.

Sorry, I strongly disagree... But that's not the subject here ;)
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#6 Thos

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 12:49

When I renewed my interest - ostensibly to give my seven-year-old a train set for Christmas, I was amazed at the differences in prices. One would expect to pay more for Belgian stock because of low demand, but French stock is €30 to €50 per wagon. I gave him Hornby.
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#7 GreenDiesel

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 13:07

Quick comment here... I mainly model in British 00 but also have a few North American HO models. There seems to be a discrepancy between N. American and British steam models.

I know you can buy a finely-detailed British 00 loco made by Bachmann or Hornby -- say an A4, A3, a Hall or Castle for $200 to $240. However, I've seen HO Canadian National hudsons and pacifics, etc., going for anywhere from $400 to $1000. Granted, some of these are getting into the brass category but not all. Many plastic HO steam locos cost around $400 to $800 -- well out of my budget.

Rob
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#8 knobhead

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 13:10

No wonder the interest for continental railways is fading when a new Bachmann or Hornby steam loco sets you back £100-150 compared to £300-400 for a continental one of similar quality. This is a very good reason to take a close look at British outline 00/4 mm. Especially when I like to spend as little money as possible. Keeping spending at a minimum is pretty much a universal desire isn't it?

Regards,

Stefan

#9 Arthur

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 13:16

A reason often cited in the past for choosing them was the superior look and performance of US and Continental models. That's no longer so true, and certainly not bearing in mind the cost differences, which has no doubt led to some modellers returning to UK outline modelling.

#10 GreenDiesel

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 13:22

No wonder the interest for continental railways is fading when a new Bachmann or Hornby steam loco sets you back £100-150 compared to £300-400 for a continental one of similar quality. This is a very good reason to take a close look at British outline 00/4 mm. Especially when I like to spend as little money as possible. Keeping spending at a minimum is pretty much a universal desire isn't it?

Regards,

Stefan



You can, however, buy IHC (Mehanno) locos that are more budget items and reasonably priced. Rivarossi/AHM was also a good alternative. I have at least 3 locos made by these companies. I believe Hornby bought out Rivarossi. These seem to be in the minority though.

Rob

#11 brossard

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 13:22

Quick comment here... I mainly model in British 00 but also have a few North American HO models. There seems to be a discrepancy between N. American and British steam models.

I know you can buy a finely-detailed British 00 loco made by Bachmann or Hornby -- say an A4, A3, a Hall or Castle for $200 to $240. However, I've seen HO Canadian National hudsons and pacifics, etc., going for anywhere from $400 to $1000. Granted, some of these are getting into the brass category but not all. Many plastic HO steam locos cost around $400 to $800 -- well out of my budget.

Rob
Toronto, Canada


Not sure where you're buying your models Rob but those prices look steep to me. I usually get mine from Hattons and the non sound, DCC ready models range from $80 to $150. Hattons knock off the VAT (20%), shipping is reasonable and the revenooers here usually don't bother with me. Of course for the last couple of years the pound has been on sale too (currently around $1.60).

Can't speak to North American models but the basic ones look to me to be pretty good and not all that expensive. If you want brass then expect to pay in the 4 figures but I think that deviates from the discussion.

I was at the museum this past weekend busy running our layout, Allingham (see link below, lots of vids and sound equipped locos).

John

#12 shortliner

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 13:38

I think this is the second time that MRI has been discontinued, and it was really only put out earlier this year as a special to co-incide with the Munich show. Looking at the prices on the models in the cases there, would certainly move them into the "collectors", rather than "run on my layout", class - in many cases 300 euros was cheap. There is also the problem that many of the European factorie/firms have either go into liquidation or been bought out, after having lost their access to Kader, who made a lot of their trains, and you are looking at a shrinking supply chain for a shrinking market - not being helped by the prices being charged - an example - Google "Eggerbahn" and take a VERY deep breath!

#13 PaulRhB

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 14:39

Hmmmm MRI hasn't really taken on Continental Modeller though as a magazine has it? It had a large section on the Nuremburg show and just a few layout articles. I'll admit bias here as mine was in it but it needs to compete with a normal ModelRail style mag not a one off special. I know a couple of big advertisers in CM didn't consider it worth splitting their advertising for a one off with limited exposure, they admitted this freely at shows. This months CM has a stunning On30 layout and if you read the comments about CM then US is currently the most popular area which MRI didn't really address except Chris' article on prototype logging. The current prices on Swiss HOm have put me off buying much recently with only one outstanding pre order to go.
So I think marketing wise the reason given is a bit of a broad sweep and if the chaps at MRI were let loose with a monthly or bi monthly edition to encompass the broader Continental Market then probably they would compete successfully. We know that at least Ben & Chris are keen continental modellers as is regular contributer Peter Marriott. Maybe just the figures don't add up for the publisher with the current format.
Personally I think continental modelling is pretty healthy as most of the regulars advertising in CM have been there for years and there are certainly a lot of submissions to the mag. Question is would the publisher take the gamble of trying to get enough of the Market off CM also considering Model Railroader is now widely available here?
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#14 swisspeat

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 17:44

A most interesting chain of posts!

The pictures of Paul's superb layout above remind me just why modelling European railways is such good fun! And perhaps fun is the one thing that supercedes price considerations when having modelling preferences.

As one who has modelled in UK and European outline for 30 plus years my interest in European railways is greater than ever. Why is this?

Though I find some aspects of the UK scene still quite interesting (Cornish branches and Scottish lines) in the main the prevelence of Class 66 as the main freight loco and lack of wagonload traffic does not appeal to me as one who models compact layouts. I do not really have too much intertest in steam based layouts at this time.

Over a decade ago I traded in all of my Lima locos for Roco ones. It did not matter to me that the fleet reduced in numbers to a third of its size because at least the new fleet ran well! We will all remember those noisy and juddery Lima diesels! The appearance and running qualities of UK locos and rolling stock has improved tremendously over the last decade and continues to do so. I am still buying UK models but am now trading in UK models that are only five years old because the latest offerings are so so much better than those of yesterday.

For me it's the appeal of Alpine scenery that still drives me on to model European railways. The UK has nothing like the Alps! Some may disagree!

European railways still have wagonload traffic, lots of loco hauled carriages, a huge variety of EMUs and DMUs, good scenery, great architecture, exciting sounding destinations (who cannot prefer to model a train travelling to Milan rather than Milton Keynes Central!) and so the widening gulf between the interest factor for me between UK railways and European railways over time is leading me to maintain my Euro fleet in running order at this time.

US products do seem to cost less than European ones but the only reason I have not built a US layout so far is that I will almost need to start from scratch on the research. And I do believe that one can spread one's interest too thinly - personally speaking.

I would loved to have seen MRI continue but if the sales are not there it looks like it will be parked in a European siding awhile.

Enjoy your modelling, whatever you base your layout on.

Kind regards,

Peter

P.S. I am just researching Ardlui station in Scotland and have recalled that the architecture style of the stations was based on Swiss style rooves. Maybe that is why the West Highland Line is one of my favourite lines in the UK!!
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#15 steve1

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 18:08

I get the impression that a lot of Continental models seem to be bought by collectors rather than modellers. Certainly continental layouts at shows with detailed and weathered stock, structures, etc are thin on the ground; rather than the noisy fairground/skaters/burning buildings cliches that do turn up.

Co-incidentally I'm in the process of restarting a German HO project that I've had hanging around for a while. It will be weathered, etc as it will be built in the same way I build all my layouts. [Insert your own comment here B) ]

Pity about MRI though if that's the case. I found it very interesting.

steve

#16 grahame

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 18:44

In N gauge one of the 'attractions' of overseas models used to be the sheer quality of them compared to the British fare. But now that British outline N gauge models have improved considerably and are basically on a par quality wise, there is less attraction and it's easier and more acceptable to stick with the home market railway models. So yep, perhaps interest in overseas modelling has declined in recent times.

G.

#17 Bernard Lamb

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 18:51

The cost difference is only part of it.
A lot of the interest in Swiss railways came from a particular group of people. Ex army officers, public school educated, middle class, took skiing holidays in Switzerland types. Now a dying breed - literally. Add to that the military who served in Germay between 1945 and the 1990s, again all getting older. Over a short period, a large number and probably a large percentage of interesed parties such as many from these groups will be taking less interest in the continental scene.
As for the cost issue. Not so many years ago you could have bought a full size BR52 from the russian reserve for 5000 DM. Not quite reached that point for a model but it won't be long.
Bernard

#18 298

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 19:41

I'm not arguing against the point that European modelling might be in decline compared to overall interest in model railways or when specifically compared to british outline, but one point that might spurn a resurgence could be from UK based enthusiasts who are disillusioned with the prototype scene here and travel to the continent for regular track or loco bashing trips, and recreate what they've seen in model form.
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#19 tetsudofan

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 20:41

Over the years I've accumulated quite a bit of European, American and Japanese stuff related, at first, to where I lived and worked.

Very recently I had a stark reminder of how prices of European models have increased. Couple or so years ago I bought a newly-released Hornby Rivarossi Cl.641 Diesel Railcar (known as the "whale") which cost me £90.00. This month I bought the just released Hornby Rivarossi Cl.627 Diesel Railcar which cost me £180.00. That is some increase over a relatively short period of time.......

Keith

#20 PaulRhB

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 21:10

Yes I think the massive price increases have hit demand rather than interest. What really puzzles me is the likes of Marklin LGB who have moved production to China and Hungary to save costs and raised prices by 79-80%. I've said many times that we now have the best value for money in the UK with prices directly comparable and even cheaper than the US Market and significantly less than many European models. Compare Hornby UK to their International ranges for a really interesting comparison of price vs quality. UK modelling has a remarkable range now and I think that is attracting people back with continental prices rising.
Still hooked on the RhB though but fortunate enough to have a good collection that I can afford to add an odd expensive treat to without sacrificing a long list of other models. Lilliput and Piko seem to be doing very well though with exceptionally good models at near UK prices, now there's a phrase you'd not hear a few years back ;)

#21 GreenDiesel

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Posted 27 August 2011 - 03:32


Not sure where you're buying your models Rob but those prices look steep to me. I usually get mine from Hattons and the non sound, DCC ready models range from $80 to $150. Hattons knock off the VAT (20%), shipping is reasonable and the revenooers here usually don't bother with me. Of course for the last couple of years the pound has been on sale too (currently around $1.60).

Can't speak to North American models but the basic ones look to me to be pretty good and not all that expensive. If you want brass then expect to pay in the 4 figures but I think that deviates from the discussion.

I was at the museum this past weekend busy running our layout, Allingham (see link below, lots of vids and sound equipped locos).

John


Hi John,

For British models, I was referring to the more expensive ones, such as a top-of-the-line Pacific (say a Mallard model, etc.). Yes, there are several 3MTs, 4MTs, etc., in the $90 to $140 range. However, most of the North American steam engines that I see at (say) George's Trains near Toronto are in excess of $300 -- or, at least there are several there in that price range and I haven't seen many going for less!

Quick question: So Hattons will actually deduct 20% VAT off their prices? If so, I should be buying more from Hattons! The Pound, as you say, is already on sale and it would be even better if they were to deduct 20%.

Cheers,
Rob

#22 GreenDiesel

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Posted 27 August 2011 - 03:58

I just had another thought. It could be that the web & online magazines, etc., are taking a toll on the more specialized magazines such as Continental Modeller. In general, over here, the print industry is suffering to some extent because of all the online media and digital magazines that are out there now.

I'm strongly biased in favour of print magazines but I think, in some niches, they're struggling because more people are reading their modelling material electronically.

Rob

#23 brossard

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Posted 27 August 2011 - 04:21


Hi John,

Quick question: So Hattons will actually deduct 20% VAT off their prices? If so, I should be buying more from Hattons! The Pound, as you say, is already on sale and it would be even better if they were to deduct 20%.

Cheers,
Rob


Oh yes, any UK retailer worth its salt is VAT Registered and will deduct VAT at source. Remember, prices quoted in the UK are inclusive of VAT. Hatton's even has a currency converter so you can see their price in CDN$. I have come across the occasional vendor (usually the small ones) that are not VAT registered so if you buy from them you will have to pay the VAT.

Just for fun, I checked the site and there was Mallard (R2339) listed at $181 (but you need to take 20% off that). This comes to $145 before shipping. That is pretty much the top end of steam locos. R2805X "Herring Gull" is fitted with sound and costs $292 (VAT incl).

John

#24 PaulRhB

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Posted 27 August 2011 - 18:46

. It could be that the web & online magazines, etc., are taking a toll on the more specialized magazines such as Continental Modeller.

Well CM and model railroader are in most branches of Smiths round me except the very small ones and there are usually the big 4 UK magazines and MRJ and Gardenrail too. I think that is fairly healthy representation for Continental interest at roughly a quarter of the shelf space. I've not seen any particular surge of online material to replace them either and pretty much every exhibitor of such layouts seems to know CM.
As I said above I think that MRI needs to take on the monthly not the Nuremburg editions which I find pretty sparse interest wise in CM too. It provides a good service to know what's coming but to be honest I'd rather see a four page photo highlights with listings of the other main releases than the big multi page report we get from both mags. The military modelling mags do it this way and then review the stuff as it arrives. If you are interested then that should tell you where to look and then you can get more from the website or their catalogues.
I suspect Ben Jones is too busy with the main mag to take on a second and incorporating it with UK stuff won't work as that's already been announced in Jan and Feb so would have nothing new to say to UK modellers. MRI either needs to take on CM directly or somehow start as a supplement to Modelrail ,(probably with howls of protest about stuff not of interest to the UK Modeller ;) ).
The railway mags here are so UK only orientated that they miss out on some inspirational modelling, pick up a military modelling mag and you'll see global coverage. Look at how Modelrail has recently focused on paint and weathering by a military modeller. Pick up Tamiya model mag or it's military modelling offshoot to see some amazing techniques and realisim.
As before I think it's purely a figures reaction that it doesn't sell enough but it doesn't have the opportunity to build on it the next month due to it's annual nature at present. Model railroader produces two excellent annuals, one on layouts and the other on planning layouts and they offer a feast of photos of inspiration and different approaches. Now add say 4-5 more layouts to MRI, including a couple of stunning photo sets like Chris' Pendon shots in full, with a condensed show review and I think you'd have a true Continental mag that would sell well here and possibly abroad. A sort of best of UK continental modelling.
Just my thought's as someone who buys CM regularly and has enjoyed all the MRI's so far. I was hoping to see Brewhouse Quay go continental next year ;)


#25 Wolfy

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Posted 27 August 2011 - 22:34


Quick question: So Hattons will actually deduct 20% VAT off their prices? If so, I should be buying more from Hattons! The Pound, as you say, is already on sale and it would be even better if they were to deduct 20%.

Cheers,
Rob


Can I be a tedious pedant and point out that VAT is 20% of the pre-VAT price, so Hattons would remove just under 17% of the sale price?






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