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BBC Four - James May's Big Trouble in Model Britain


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I felt the programme did little to encourage younger people to enter the Hobby. It stuck to the corny old sterotype of lonely middle aged nerds, who are a bit loopy playing with steamers in garages and spare rooms, to me it was more than tongue in cheek, more of a p*** take as far as modellers were concerned. There are some younger people, majority who run modern image layouts with all the latest tech that could have been shown to get get away from the anorak nerd image the general public have for modellers.

 

An opportunity missed to boost the hobby I felt.

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24 minutes ago, Pacific231G said:

Though the opposite is obvious, I've never understood why two rail non motive power stock needs to be re-wheeled with non-insulated axles to run on Maerklin layouts. Perhaps they don't (or do they rely on that to keep the running rails connected electrically at points etc.).

I take the point about better running. The three rail HD layout I had as a child ran far more reliably than the two rail Tri-ang TT-3  I "progressed" to. It also had a reversing loop with no special arrangements being needed.  

 

I have never really understood that either.

 

I think it may be OK just to have one axle in the train carrying current between the two outer rails.

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5 hours ago, Pacific231G said:

...What has rather astonished me recently is how many people I know, not from modelling circles and often recently retired,  who are finally "building a model railway". What they mean by that is laying out Hornby setrack on a large table according to a plan in the Hornby "plans"book, buying Hornby RTR models that take their fancy and running them round and round, preferably using DCC so they can run four of them on different circuits at once...

I have been observing this for some years among my acquaintance. Some of it appears to be a long held ambition - "And now I have the cash and the space, because the kids are grown and flown" - some of it is triggered by seeing just how good many current models are. I would imagine that these recent - and previous - 'James May' outings won't have hurt.

 

The Hornby loyalty thing. It's still there, but several have quite quickly been persuaded to broaden their outlook on finding that while Hornby may not make a particular loco class, there are now very acceptable alternatives available.

 

Regarding track I do feel that Hornby - or a competitor - might be missing a trick in failing to provide a superior sectional track system. Why shouldn't there be something to bridge the gap between set track and flexitrack systems? Making it easy to have something better is a well known method for parting punters from their cash.

 

DCC is a definite draw too, I have been busy at times installing decoders as a result. For those content with simple layouts the 'two wires' simplicity of DCC is a truth. Could be even more so with a superior sectional track system...

 

10 minutes ago, reggie said:

I felt the programme did little to encourage younger people to enter the Hobby....

An opportunity missed to boost the hobby I felt.

Then again, consider that different activities perhaps suit different age groups? Maybe taken overall it is simply a better fit for those who were once young and ran around - usually outdoors - but now need a hobby interest that can be pursued indoors, in comfort, in the warm and dry?

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1 hour ago, Phil Parker said:

 

Yes it does. Because the name itself then has value. Hornby could sell all the brand names to other people for quite serious amounts of money and keep all their moulding tools, just change the names on the box.

 

The new owners could them slap the names on pretty much anything they like.

 

Flogging the rights to Hornby, Airfix, Corgi etc. would affect the company finances quite a bit.


But the automatic link in the mind of the general public is that Hornby=TRAINS and nothing much else. Most people don't even know Scalextric is part of the same group. The value of the brand would therefore only be significant to another company making model trains. Maybe Rails of Sheffield (in Sheffield) might be interested.:diablo_mini: I can't see anybody choosing to buy (for instance) a washing machine or a phone because it had a Hornby badge on it.

 

I would concede that Airfix and Corgi would be more easily transferrable though they too are widely recognised as occupying the toy and model sector, albeit more generally. However, any "mainstream" consumer confronted by a box marked Airfix will assume he/she has to assemble what's inside.

 

 

John

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1 hour ago, reggie said:

I felt the programme did little to encourage younger people to enter the Hobby. It stuck to the corny old sterotype of lonely middle aged nerds, who are a bit loopy playing with steamers in garages and spare rooms, to me it was more than tongue in cheek, more of a p*** take as far as modellers were concerned. There are some younger people, majority who run modern image layouts with all the latest tech that could have been shown to get get away from the anorak nerd image the general public have for modellers.

 

An opportunity missed to boost the hobby I felt.

 

Thing is, that wasn't the brief of the programme. It was made, by the looks of things, as a behind the scenes look at efforts to keep a company afloat. It wasn't made by Hornby, so they didn't get to dictate the slant it took. But yes, I agree, the tongue in cheek went a bit too far at times. However, before that programme, how much about what is going on did we REALLY know?

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7 hours ago, No Decorum said:

Nor would it surprise me one bit. Look how quickly the King, Terrier and Electro-Diesel were knocked out. No doubt the Large Prairie is being fast-tracked too.

I think the only 'quick knock-out among those is in fact the Terrier.  

 

The 'King' was well underway - from information in the public domain (for those cared to look for it) - a long time before the Hattons version was announced and indeed that was even more obvious from the response in The Engine Shed to Hattons announcement.  Similarly the large prairie has been in development for a couple of years, witness the release already this year of the coaches that go with it, and it was obvious from the very weird CAD image that the 'competitor' was at a very early stage with numerous errors.   Judging by the rate at which projects are normally progressed at Hornby, and the fact that details of it were taken from the surviving prototype before DJM got near it I would  think that Hornby were probably fairly well ahead with that as well although they might have put some acceleration into the project when DJM's intentions became known.

 

9 hours ago, Edwardian said:

For the sake of relevance, I'll throw in a musing ...

 

If James May's programme shows one thing it shows that Hornby is a special case.  It is not mere a household name, it is the household name where trains are concerned, just as Airfix is only one manufacturer of its sort of plastic kits, but is the household name.

 

(snipped)

My point (eventually, and such as it is) is that the reasons why Hornby's survival is important are in my mind entirely disassociated with the reasons why it's a brand that has inspired such affection over the years. Is that affectionate brand-loyalty essential to the company's fortunes? Is it shared by younger generations? The failure of Hornby might not be so unthinkable to younger hobbyists?

 

I am sure among the things the current management team are trying, there will be things that work and that help, and, I suspect, there will be things that work less well and prove less helpful, but I hope the company survives because, provided it continues to produce some of the best RTR equipment out there, we cannot afford to see it go. But, I'm afraid, if it stops focusing on the highest standards, I won't grieve for its passing just because it's Hornby.

 

 

I suspect it might still be very much an age thing although as Phil has pointed out Hornby has an incredible (my word) brand recognition advantage - for whatever reasons.   To many of us 'Hornby' probably best translates as Hornby Dublo and the wonderful 'Castle' and SD series wagons and to some of us it also means 3 rai.  But to other age groups it means other things although the common factor is that the name means something to lots of people who might buy trainsets or model railway items especially those buying from a non-railway modelling background and that is where it has a massive marketing 'pull'.

 

I want to see it succeed because generally a lot of their products are very good albeit there have been some (correctable) weaknesses and I want that to continue, as it is with the prairie and coaches for me this year.  But I also want it to succeed because it has that brand recognition which will help newcomers join our hobby, in whatever way, and help to keep it alive as it changes and evolves.  And if it sells to grandparents buying a trainset for little Johnnie (or Jenny) because of its name and nothing else then that too will be great, for all of us in the hobby.

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2 hours ago, Mallard60022 said:

Ouch!

P

Either the post that responded to (see below) was deleted or I’ve wasted my money at Specsavers.

 

I have found the Bachmann people friendly and approachable, right up to the top man. I happened to catch his eye on a special trip organised by the LTM in relation to the launch of the S Stock. I told him that I appreciated him turning up and he was niceness personified although I was a total stranger to him. Richard Proudman was an excellent choice to follow the near-omniscient Dennis Lovett. Anyone less “miserable and arrogant” than Richard would be hard to find. 

 

2 hours ago, delticfan said:

If Hornby can turn around a terrier in a matter of months they have nothing to fear from Bachmanns standard four year lead in lol. Also their sales team seem a happier bunch, better than the miserable and arrogant Bachmann lot.

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No comment on sales teams, but mention was made above to Bachmann being main competitor, that may have been true 5-6 years ago and previously, but since then Bachmann have had issues delivering new models . The 90 that appears imminent was first announced 5 years ago I believe . Also Bachmann are established . I think what Hornby are trying to do is ward off further new entrants in what is already becoming a saturated market.  The way to avoid this (and Bachmann could learn from this) is to deliver reasonable quantities at regular intervals, then shops would have plenty to sell and not see need to commission models . But I think it’s too late , the lid to Pandora’s box is open and people can see that it is possible to make money out of Model Railways .  They use a direct selling model but still see it as worthwhile .   

 

Of the biggies I think Bachmann are much the more vulnerable at the moment, with their range in danger of being picked off and them not being able to react in the short term. Hopefully the sparcity of new introductions this year means they are working behind the scenes and will announce new models to market in months not years .  If they don’t get the price right it’s irrelevent though, and here Hornby do seem to have learned the lesson, moderating prices (usually) while Bachmann have gone for gimmicks , fitted at low cost, but deemed to attract higher prices 

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1 hour ago, Legend said:

 

 

Of the biggies I think Bachmann are much the more vulnerable at the moment, with their range in danger of being picked off and them not being able to react in the short term. 

 

 

If internet rumour is to be believed, then classes 37 and 47 have often popped up as as "in danger". Especially now that the 66, and more recently 55, have been duplicated by others.

Unless Bachmann have a surprise "mid-season" announcement, I would put a bet on the 37 succumbing to competition.

(IMO, the Bachmman 37, like the 66, isn't a bad model, but is about ready for an upgrade)

 

Cheers,

Mick

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9 hours ago, 34theletterbetweenB&D said:

I have been observing this for some years among my acquaintance. Some of it appears to be a long held ambition - "And now I have the cash and the space, because the kids are grown and flown" - some of it is triggered by seeing just how good many current models are. I would imagine that these recent - and previous - 'James May' outings won't have hurt.

 

The Hornby loyalty thing. It's still there, but several have quite quickly been persuaded to broaden their outlook on finding that while Hornby may not make a particular loco class, there are now very acceptable alternatives available.

 

Regarding track I do feel that Hornby - or a competitor - might be missing a trick in failing to provide a superior sectional track system. Why shouldn't there be something to bridge the gap between set track and flexitrack systems? Making it easy to have something better is a well known method for parting punters from their cash.

 

Does Peco's code 100 Streamline not already provide that?  It can be freely mixed with their  Setrack range and I know a few people who use Streamline but employ Setrack for tight curves. I'm not sure how compatible Streamline is with Hornby's track but they're both code 100. What else could a superior sectional track system offer?

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7 hours ago, Pacific231G said:

Does Peco's code 100 Streamline not already provide that?  It can be freely mixed with their  Setrack range and I know a few people who use Streamline but employ Setrack for tight curves. I'm not sure how compatible Streamline is with Hornby's track but they're both code 100. What else could a superior sectional track system offer?

Probably needs a new thread!

 

A short selection of features that might be offered for a superior sectional track:

Finer rail section, like code 75

OO proportionally dimensioned and spaced sleepers

Selection of larger radii curves

Larger radius points

Live crossings

Integrated point motors and decoders

Integral connectors for DCC bus

Weathered rail sides

Ready ballasted.

 

What has been promoting this thought with me for some time is Hornby's own advertising. See the very well executed wagon, coach, loco, made to the standard that was once the domain of expert builders and painters. Avert your eyes from the quite horrible track it is standing on.

 

Why shouldn't there be a superior sectional track to 'bridge the gap', from what is offered in current code 100 products, to code 75 flexitrack systems?

 

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17 hours ago, Dunsignalling said:


But the automatic link in the mind of the general public is that Hornby=TRAINS and nothing much else. Most people don't even know Scalextric is part of the same group. The value of the brand would therefore only be significant to another company making model trains. Maybe Rails of Sheffield (in Sheffield) might be interested.:diablo_mini: I can't see anybody choosing to buy (for instance) a washing machine or a phone because it had a Hornby badge on it.

 

I would concede that Airfix and Corgi would be more easily transferrable though they too are widely recognised as occupying the toy and model sector, albeit more generally. However, any "mainstream" consumer confronted by a box marked Airfix will assume he/she has to assemble what's inside.

 

 

John

 

No-one cares if anyone sees Scalextric as part of Hornby or not - my point is each brand name could be sold off separately. I don't imagine that's you'd seel the lot in one lump. You might not even sell off all of them at the same time.

 

Imagine you had a cheap slot car system, the sort of no-name stuff that appears at Christmas. Now imagine you could slap the work "Scalextric" on the box, it's a name people know and your sales would go up in the short term.

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5 minutes ago, jjb1970 said:

Seeing the biggest toy shop chain go into liquidation probably does wonders for the market share of other toy shop chains.

 

 

Which toy shop chain are you referring too ? If it is Inter Toys they are Dutch and as far as I am aware do not have branches over here 

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On ‎20‎/‎03‎/‎2019 at 22:03, Legend said:

No comment on sales teams, but mention was made above to Bachmann being main competitor, that may have been true 5-6 years ago and previously, but since then Bachmann have had issues delivering new models . The 90 that appears imminent was first announced 5 years ago I believe . Also Bachmann are established . I think what Hornby are trying to do is ward off further new entrants in what is already becoming a saturated market.  The way to avoid this (and Bachmann could learn from this) is to deliver reasonable quantities at regular intervals, then shops would have plenty to sell and not see need to commission models . But I think it’s too late , the lid to Pandora’s box is open and people can see that it is possible to make money out of Model Railways .  They use a direct selling model but still see it as worthwhile .   

 

Of the biggies I think Bachmann are much the more vulnerable at the moment, with their range in danger of being picked off and them not being able to react in the short term. Hopefully the sparcity of new introductions this year means they are working behind the scenes and will announce new models to market in months not years .  If they don’t get the price right it’s irrelevent though, and here Hornby do seem to have learned the lesson, moderating prices (usually) while Bachmann have gone for gimmicks , fitted at low cost, but deemed to attract higher prices 

 

I think there's rather more to it than a regular supply of new models from the established players. Also, price may not be the factor it was; enough of us have got used to gritting our teeth, buying one less of everything, or ignoring something we'd quite like in favour of something else that we really want.

 

There's also the point of what is made. I'd strongly suggest that Kernow's first two choices, the Beattie Well tank and the Adams O2, came out of more than local relevance. At the time Bachmann had only ever made two Southern locos and showed no inclination to expand in that direction, whilst Hornby's predilection for "big, green and named" steam locos still dominated their thinking. Risk of duplication? Almost nil, and the same probably went for the SR diesels and the D600 Warships, neither of which hold the iconic status that made Bachmann go for the LMS twins and DP1. Any danger of competition would probably have come from Heljan.

 

Ideas have changed since then, especially at Hornby. Bachmann's more recent incursions into things Southern shows them thinking more like a commissioner themselves by pointedly avoiding prototypes from the ex-LSWR area, where Hornby has a particularly strong record.

 

The big difference that commissioning makes is the freedom for a retailer, or group of retailers, to choose prototypes that Hornby or Bachmann might not get round to producing for a decade, if ever. Once they taste success in that, there's no going back.

 

It seems certain that dogfighting over the mainstream diesel classes will continue. Not indefinitely, but until any further advance comes at such cost, relative to the margin of superiority, that the majority will decide to stick with what they already have.

 

John

 

 

 

    

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1 hour ago, Ron Ron Ron said:

Phil, that profit growth appears to be largely, if not totally, driven by acquisitions and increased market share.

 

Possibly, the point is that they are a high street toy store that isn't closing down.  It's the sort of place Hornby are looking to get product into. In this case, the new Corgi models would be a good start, but I could see the cartoon based Scalextric being a close second followed by Airfix Quick-build kits. Once you have a toe in the door, then other stuff can follow but the process takes time.

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Toys R Us had a token Hornby presence with a few Hornby and Scalextric sets and a few Airfix kits. Smyths don't have any Hornby or model stuff and none of the Entertainer stores I have visited have anything. Few independent toy shops have more than a token model section now. This is maybe as significant as the decline of dedicated model shops as I remember when I was younger many toy shops had model sections as well stocked as many dedicated model shops and even some department stores had good model sections. Our local Hobby Craft has a good plastic kit section but model railways is limited to a token Hornby train set at Christmas time. 

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The significant price increases seen over the last couple of years or so are actually part of the problem for Hornby and Bachmann.  Although it improves profitability for them, it also improves the financial attractiveness for new competitors.  A more profitable market will inevitably attract newcomers!

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On 19/03/2019 at 16:01, The Stationmaster said:

 

The reason Bachmann make the 'City' is quite simple - it was originally an NRM exclusive which subsequently became available for general issue by Bachmann.  So the 'blame' for the 'City' being modelled instead of a 'Bulldog' is really all down to 'City of Truro' and its exploit on Wellington Bank then its preservation - rather than any sort of off-key marketing choice by Bachmann.

 

 

I know. Great if you want to model Truro. Not so good otherwise...

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The two 'proper' model shops in Oxford are no more; The Railway Bookshop at the Green Road roundabout changed hands some years ago and closed soon afterwards, and Howes, having moved successively further away from the city centre, no longer stock model railways (other than some Heljan spares). In the city, Boswells, with a large toy department, gave up on Hornby a couple of years ago, although they still stock (and have a good range of) Revell kits, including, when I was there last week, the UP Big Boy. How can such a shop still sell aircraft, ship and other kits, yet not the by far best known range of British model trains ? A store like that should be a natural outlet for Hornby, and the fact that it is not is concerning.

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