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An interview with Jason Shron


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Why does every single manufacturer have to choose to operate to exactly the same level of detail as every other manufacturer?

 

I would suggest there is room for different levels of detail and quality at different price points. Just as you wouldn’t expect a Bentley to be manufactured to the same tolerances and spec as a Kia, why would a Rapido train have to be to the standards (and prices) set by Hornby Railroad?

 

I would rather have fewer but better. Others may rather have more but less detailed. Isn’t there room in the market for manufacturers to satisfy both markets, rather than insisting they all work to the same level of detail (and price)?

 

Paul

I would agree with this. We have reached a stage whereby does the added detail actually bring anything more to the table?

 

The O gauge market is very interesting in this respect. As a fledgling 7mm scale modeller it is clear there are a number of different markets operating; at one extreme there is the handbuilt brass models from Lee Marsh and Masterpiece Models at up to £3,000. At the lower end is Minerva and Dapol producing plastic bodied locos for £150 to £250, still very high quality products but different and mass produced (as far as anything is in 7mm scale). Then in between are the likes of Lionheart, DJH rtr versions of their kids, the larger Heljan locos etc.

 

Now all of these have a market and buyers. I am firmly in the lower price bracket stance and understand that the product I am buying will not be of the spec of a handbuilt brass model. However I know I am still getting a high quality model which I can then add detail to and customise as I see fit (or not as the case may be). What the likes of Minerva have done is open up the O gauge market to the average modeller such as myself with a very tight budget.

 

It is not about compromises but realism and there is room for everthing from the Hornby Railroad range to handbuilt brass locos. We pay out money and take out choice.

 

Rapido is obviously targeting the higher end in terms of detail and with that comes impacts on costs (both to the manufacturer and buyer). I would accept that as a purchaser.

 

Take for instance the forthcoming Model Rail J70 tram being produced by Rapido. The level of detail to this looks incredible. It is a tiny prototype but Jason's team seen to be able to perform miracles in packing in what they do to the model. As a punter, the RRP for this seems reasonable given this and despite it's small side you are getting an awful lot of model for your money. personally i would love one but as I no longer model in the scale can I justify it finacially.... ultimately no. However I do have other options - the Hornby Toby and Silver Fox - with far less detail but at a much lower cost. It is horses for courses.

 

If there is a market then a manufacturer can and will exploit it. The quest for maximum detail means premium price and we have to accept that. However this is a broad church with room for all, inclusive of every level of skill or budget. After all is is about fun and enjoyment - we are all just playing trains to switch off from the real world when it comes down to it, no matter what our budget or skill level and ability.

 

It should be an inclusive hobby which anyone can enjoy - if you think some prices are too high then there are always other ways of approaching modelling. I think recent articles in the modelling press with likes of Jason Sharon and Chris Klein (Minerva/Ixion) should be applauded. They know their customer, product and most importantly THEIR hobby. We have never loved in better times as modellers, let's just enjoy it!

 

David

Edited by south_tyne
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In some ways high end model trains are very good value for money by hobby standards.

 

At least with a model train you can immediately see where your money has gone and generally differences between cheaper and high end models are easily discernible (note, I am not questioning the attractiveness of lower cost models, I'm a big fan of Piko myself and have a couple of Scale Trains Operator series SD40's) and you can at least see what you've paid for. I have a couple of other hobbies. I like cycling and like classic steel road frames, as much as I love artisan custom made steel frames I also accept that you're paying for very inefficient manufacturing, the fact that people will pay a lot so master frame builders can charge a lot and at the end of the day you're getting something which in pretty much every objective sense is worse than a mass produced carbon or aluminium frame. I like listening to music, to be honest my considered opinion is that a large part (note, I'm not saying all) high end hi-fi is snake oil and in many cases worse than mass produced gear from the big Asian brands yet people will happily pay many thousands of pounds for boutique gear which is essentially just a mirage.

 

I like Rapido and think they have found their own market space. Their product is superb and I believe it merits the price, as although their products aren't in the economy segment the quality is indeed commensurate with the price. I also love brass, I couldn't in good conscience suggest that people go out and buy models made by Fulgurex, Overland, Tenshodo etc but those that do probably wouldn't be disappointed. Equally I see a space for Hornby Railroad, Piko etc. I really think the key is to understand your market and service that market effectively, something which Rapido do.

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I think it all boils down to one very simple thing - we are not forced to buy anything (or everything) that appears in the model railway market place.  When all is said, done, and analysed we still have a choice about how we do, or do not, spend our money on railway models.

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Broadly I agree Mike that we are not forced to buy - but there is a group who through self-imposed rules might feel forced and that is the collector - in the true sense of the word. 

By this I don't mean the casual collector who buys a model because it looks nice or interesting, I mean the collector who wants one of everything fitting a set criterion -

Made by Rapido/Dapol/Hornby/ACE Trains etc:

or every 00 model which ran on the LNER/LMS/GWR/SR/BR etc.  

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Broadly I agree Mike that we are not forced to buy - but there is a group who through self-imposed rules might feel forced and that is the collector - in the true sense of the word. 

By this I don't mean the casual collector who buys a model because it looks nice or interesting, I mean the collector who wants one of everything fitting a set criterion -

Made by Rapido/Dapol/Hornby/ACE Trains etc:

or every 00 model which ran on the LNER/LMS/GWR/SR/BR etc.  

 

 

There's an easy way to break yourself of collecting, just choose the GN in RTR. . .dusty shelves. . .

Edited by chris p bacon
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Without wishing to open up a can of worms or too much which is not relevant to the thread, I found myself wondering where Hornby are with regard to 'core business' and knowing their market.

 

I write this because the Stirling Single is so beautiful, as high-quality RTR 00 goes, and Hornby have proven they can build beautiful intricate delicate models of nearly that standard with their T9, and yet have also produced the Caledonian Single which would be fine counterpoint to the Stirling if done to that standard. The current/recent Hornby Caley Single version is of course to a 1970s standard with somewhat better paint, but it suggests to me that the market for such things exists.  Presuming of course that the Rapido Stirling Single is profitable.

 

oh, and it could be the start of an RTR GN selection... :)  

 

Actually in general I think Victorian-Edwardian era models would be good sellers, such as an SECR D class but then I'll start frothing and wishing....

Edited by robmcg
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Without wishing to open up a can of worms or too much which is not relevant to the thread, I found myself wondering where Hornby are with regard to 'core business' and knowing their market.

 

I write this because the Stirling Single is so beautiful, as high-quality RTR 00 goes, and Hornby have proven they can build beautiful intricate delicate models of nearly that standard with their T9, and yet have also produced the Caledonian Single which would be fine counterpoint to the Stirling if done to that standard. The current/recent Hornby Caley Single version is of course to a 1970s standard with somewhat better paint, but it suggests to me that the market for such things exists.  Presuming of course that the Rapido Stirling Single is profitable.

 

oh, and it could be the start of an RTR GN selection... :)  

 

Actually in general I think Victorian-Edwardian era models would be good sellers, such as an SECR D class but then I'll start frothing and wishing....

As long as they are preserved or people have fond memories of an obsolete model.

 

BTW the Single is not the first GNR model. Even at the NRM, it is their second after the Atlantic.

 

The Caley single actually ran in the South East during the 50/60s in CR livery as well as the Triang nostalgia. So plenty of justification.

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Hi there,

Price is a factor, of course, but I don't think it's a huge factor. Most people buying Rapido models are adults with disposable income who choose to spend it on model trains.

Jason unabashedly caters for the sector of the market that wants high levels of detail and will pay for it.

His business has grown year-on-year, as has his reputation, so I think the evidence is there.

I am not hugely familiar with the 4mm market, but it appears that Oxford Rail are approaching the market with a similarly unabashed desire to compete on price.

So there is plurality which should work for everyone, and no need for Jason to occupy a sector of the market already catered for.

And yes, it was Revolution who met with Jason on the Severn Valley Railway. As we are all enthusiasts it's become a bit of a tradition. Though I don't think we discussed anything that was running there as a potential model.

Cheers

Ben A.

Rapido have also done their "wife approved pricing" range too.

 

The problem with such discussions is that, it quickly becomes " if you don,t want top end, well you have Railroad." In the HILO mix, the LO is now far too low and seriously obsolete and poor value now. It would be like using a Second World War destroyer as the LO end of modern day Fleet Anti Aircraft protection.

The other thing is, LO does not cover anywhere near everyone's favourite prototypes.

 

Rapido's LO end, is still a decent model which won,t look out of place next to HI end.

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Rapido have also done their "wife approved pricing" range too.

 

Except it is dead.  The customer base was very vocal with their displeasure and there will be no more "Prime Mover" models from Rapido.

 

Rapido's LO end, is still a decent model which won,t look out of place next to HI end.

Part of that is they really didn't release it as a low end model - after the announcement they added several upgrades to the model given the feedback they were getting.

 

The problem with such discussions is that, it quickly becomes " if you don,t want top end, well you have Railroad." In the HILO mix, the LO is now far too low and seriously obsolete and poor value now. It would be like using a Second World War destroyer as the LO end of modern day Fleet Anti Aircraft protection.

The other thing is, LO does not cover anywhere near everyone's favourite prototypes.

The problem is that, except for Oxford, the LO end has seemed to be an afterthought for Hornby with inconsistent pricing on what are basically models dumped there after better models arrive in the market (exception being the Mk1 coaches).  So as you say there is no consistency to the models available, though whether that matters to the typical modeller (who aren't on RMweb) is an open question.

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As long as they are preserved or people have fond memories of an obsolete model.

 

BTW the Single is not the first GNR model. Even at the NRM, it is their second after the Atlantic.

 

The Caley single actually ran in the South East during the 50/60s in CR livery as well as the Triang nostalgia. So plenty of justification.

 

Of course, the lovely GNR Atlantic by NRM/Bachmann.  The RTR 00 GNR list grows!  )

 

I suspect the Rapido Single is a step above what some buyers are used to. 

 

Just don't drop it onto a tile floor,  like I did with a Hornby T9. (although that moment which defies easy description, in polite language a least, the sinking feeling and dark cloud descending... turned out to be not so bad, the model broke into many pieces and nearly all went back into place).

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I think it all boils down to one very simple thing - we are not forced to buy anything (or everything) that appears in the model railway market place. When all is said, done, and analysed we still have a choice about how we do, or do not, spend our money on railway models.

Cannot agree more with this. This is a luxury hobby which we can all do without when it comes down to it. We only buy what we can justify and afford, if we can't then we don't.

 

Indeed you can have an interest in the hobby without spending any money! Am armchair modeller can read, plan, sketch and draw up ideas to his/her heart is content without spending a penny! Extreme case but still true.

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Broadly I agree Mike that we are not forced to buy - but there is a group who through self-imposed rules might feel forced and that is the collector - in the true sense of the word.

By this I don't mean the casual collector who buys a model because it looks nice or interesting, I mean the collector who wants one of everything fitting a set criterion -

Made by Rapido/Dapol/Hornby/ACE Trains etc:

or every 00 model which ran on the LNER/LMS/GWR/SR/BR etc.

Whilst I can appreciate the basis of the comment, if it is a choice between the latest model released by Hornby/Rapids etc to fulfil your collection or the weekly food shop, the children's new shoes or the bus fare to work then it is a no-brainer where priorities lie. Indeed it is why many of us have a hiatus from modelling in our 20s/30s/40s etc when other priorities take good

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Broadly I agree Mike that we are not forced to buy - but there is a group who through self-imposed rules might feel forced and that is the collector - in the true sense of the word. 

By this I don't mean the casual collector who buys a model because it looks nice or interesting, I mean the collector who wants one of everything fitting a set criterion -

Made by Rapido/Dapol/Hornby/ACE Trains etc:

or every 00 model which ran on the LNER/LMS/GWR/SR/BR etc.  

 

Very true Andy.  I think they are probably a relatively small group (whatever Hornby's marketeers might think).   I have only ever come across or heard of two or three Hornby R number collectors and the one I knew reasonably well because he was a regular in Eames, and subsequently at Alton, was probably sufficiently well heeled not to worry too much about prices.  But you are right, such folk do exist and some of them probably are price sensitive.

 

I refuse absolutely to talk about railway postcards where some of my apparently similar ones (several times over) remain in the albums because they have a different back from others with the same pictorial front but certain Railways or series of cards are 'filtered out' of my interest in order to keep costs under control.  In reality any collector has to live within his means and that can mean collecting only particular themes (hence as far as handbills are concerned I have never been able to afford, or prepared to buy at the prices they command, those linked to horse racing events).

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Without wishing to open up a can of worms or too much which is not relevant to the thread, I found myself wondering where Hornby are with regard to 'core business' and knowing their market.

 

I write this because the Stirling Single is so beautiful, as high-quality RTR 00 goes, and Hornby have proven they can build beautiful intricate delicate models of nearly that standard with their T9, and yet have also produced the Caledonian Single which would be fine counterpoint to the Stirling if done to that standard. The current/recent Hornby Caley Single version is of course to a 1970s standard with somewhat better paint, but it suggests to me that the market for such things exists.  Presuming of course that the Rapido Stirling Single is profitable.

 

oh, and it could be the start of an RTR GN selection... :)  

 

Actually in general I think Victorian-Edwardian era models would be good sellers, such as an SECR D class but then I'll start frothing and wishing....

 

And it is fervently to hoped that the Single does not in any way resemble the T9 in terms of chassis design and performance.The Hornby model's beauty is skin deep only.Besides which it is equipped (whisper it softly ) with traction tyres.

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But at least I've got a GNR refreshment rooms paper bag for takeaway items   ;) (Oh and a GNR office paperweight)

 

What's the burglary rate in your parts. . . .I see it increasing. .  :hunter:

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The problem is that, except for Oxford, the LO end has seemed to be an afterthought for Hornby with inconsistent pricing on what are basically models dumped there after better models arrive in the market (exception being the Mk1 coaches).  So as you say there is no consistency to the models available, though whether that matters to the typical modeller (who aren't on RMweb) is an open question.

That's not entirely fair to Hornby, they did a number of newly tooled items for the Railroad range, I believe the first was their model of Tornado, others include the Hall, P2, Crosti 9F and Duke of Gloucester. One of the problems with some of these models is that Hornby tried to market them as both main range and also as Railroad models by varying the paint finish. The models were (and still are) excellent as lower cost alternatives to full fat models but never cut the mustard in the main range.

 

Designing a model to sit in two price segments can be done, Scale Trains have demonstrated it with their Operator and Rivet Counter concept, but Hornby never managed to pull it off as the models although superb as lower cost models just weren't good enough to be full price releases.

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Whilst I can appreciate the basis of the comment, if it is a choice between the latest model released by Hornby/Rapids etc to fulfil your collection or the weekly food shop, the children's new shoes or the bus fare to work then it is a no-brainer where priorities lie. Indeed it is why many of us have a hiatus from modelling in our 20s/30s/40s etc when other priorities take good

The sad thing is that there are people out there who can't recognise those priorities. OK, maybe I shouldn't judge but I've known people in model railway clubs who were living in what could probably be described as squalor whilst spending an insane amount on models. What offended me wasn't so much their decision to prioritise a hobby over all else (it's a free world and if that' what they want to do then it's entirely their choice) but the fact that all of them were blaming somebody else (generally the government) for the fact that spending thousands of pounds a year on models and going on bashing expeditions had left them without two pennies to rub together for anything else.

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What would Jason would gain by changing his approach? All I can see is negatives - disapppointing his existing customers, losing his hard won reputation and producing models he personally wouldn't buy.

 

Cheers

 

Ben A.

 

 

I've been enjoying reading this topic and sorry I am late to the table with my input.

 

A couple of thoughts.

 

First, to Ben's comment and a couple of other posts which mentioned our Prime Movers line. We actually upset a lot of people with that. While we have brought on some new customers with our HO scale CN/BCR Dash 8 locomotive, in the end it was not worth it. We've basically poisoned the market for anyone - including ourselves - to bring out a super detailed Dash 8. Because we sold so many of them, it would seriously affect the viability of a Rapido-level Dash 8. That means that the only model on the market is the entry level one.

 

Now don't get me wrong - a lot of people are REALLY happy with the model. But we're not. We actually tooled the Dash 8 as the start of a planned train set which was going to retail in the $300-$400 range. But then we found that the unit cost was going to be higher than we budgeted and that track was prohibitively expensive and subject to huge production delays. So we decided to abandon the idea. But by then the moulds were made and the model was stuck as an entry-level model. And the Prime Movers line is officially abandoned. We won't do it again. In fact, our N scale Dash 8, just announced, is more detailed than our HO model.

 

Secondly, I've mentioned before that my approach to manufacturing models is that I want to recreate memories in miniature. And my primary childhood memories of passenger cars are standing at trackside as the train pulled up - thus getting a very close-up view of the underbody appliances - and of riding on board the trains.

 

Making the underframes and interiors as detailed as possible is a way for me to recreate those memories. Honestly, if I could make the AC condenser and compressor under the car really work, I would. It would add to that recreation of memory. We're actually looking at adding moving bits to some North American passenger equipment - beyond the wheels and trucks, of course. If we can pull that off (it's giving us headaches right now), there will be people who say "what a waste of time and money - I don't need that at ALL" and there will be others who say "I have been waiting for that forever - thank you!"

 

There is nothing wrong with either point of view as long as it is respectfully shared, as they have been in this topic. On Facebook there are clearly some people who have a personal hate-on for me. I'm not sure what I did, but they make it personal. There's nothing I can do about those guys except ignore them and engage with the people who can respectfully share differences of opinion.

 

-Jason

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I cant understand why people are griping about Rapido's detail levels or pricing.  If they want to make high detail models then why shouldnt they?  No-one is forcing you to buy, but if you feel you must buy everything that is released then that is your problem, not the manufacturers.

 

From the outset with each model Jason tells us what the details levels are, the differences catered for, the price point and opens up the order books.  If enough orders coming, then the project is kicked off, if certain versions dont attract the orders then they are canned.  For the modeller its a win-win situation, and (I guess) a lower risk to Rapido.

 

I dont know how much money is spent before revealing a probable new model, as CAD's and a rough prototype are sometimes shown, but Rapido know their market and know what is likely to sell.  Surely whatever is spent in the run up to an announcement is much less than producing a couple of thousand items that sit about in their warehouse/retailers shelves.

 

Price point is a big thing, but you pay the premium for a premium model.  

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I am surprised that no one has so far commented on what Jason has said about new modelers:

 

“But I'm seeing a lot of younger modellers coming in, guys in their 20s to 40s, and then there are the long-time modellers in their late 60s to 80s. 

But I'm not seeing a lot of new people come in who are in their 50s right now.”

 

This is really good news for the hobby. Jason: is this just in your home market, og do you see the same thing in the UK? I must admit that I assumed that the average age of us modellers was increasing all the time and the total number falling constantly. Like a lot of people I have always worried about the hobby dying out as the generation of steam train spotters dwindles. I have also worried about the apparent lack of youngsters coming into the hobby.  Hornby have obviously same worry hence Thomas, and to some extent the ‘railroad’ range. But if Jason is correct in that it is the 20-30’s who are the new modellers this might mean the RTR companies need to change their approach.

 

I have always assumed that people model what they know ( even though I am at least 20 years too young to know my models).  But there are other hobbies, for example wargaming, that are similar to models railways where people spend a lot of time and money on things they have not experienced. So may be it is unusual trains that are different from the rectangular boxes that constitute the trains 20-30's know ( and probably don't love) that will attract the next generation. Things like the  new single, or even 'the rocket' and quaint old fashioned carriages that can fit in less space than modern stock does.

Edited by Vistisen
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For the North American market I view Rapido* as the modern equivalent of the RTR brass models of the 70s-90s, detailed but pricy, with the added advantage of being factory painted. They also often make more obscure prototypes.

*there are other manufacturers of the same quality and price, but they tend to concentrate on freight cars, not sure if any others do passenger stock

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