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Stoker

A (constructive) criticism of our hobby...

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I've been modelling narrow gauge for somewhere around 6 years now. I've also modelled in OO, and more recently in N. I'd like to share with you some of my collective disappointments and frustrations in the 7mm narrow gauge hobby in the hope that perhaps some concensus can be reached. Apart from venting, I would like to think that manufacturers and hobby suppliers might see some of this, and change some of the things we hate most.

 

I'd like to point out that this is intended to be purely constructive... so as much as venting is a good thing, lets not get carried away. :P

 

So I'd like to start with something that I've been noticing a lot lately, and that is a lot of comments beginning with "manufacturer X produced a kit of X" followed closely by "but it's no longer available" and all too often followed then by "and isn't likely to be produced ever again". Since I've come back to dabbling in O-16.5, I've found that wrightlines has disappeared, and a number of others are dwindling. Given that there are no ready to run models in this scale and gauge, the loss of kits from the market place is a devastating blow to the hobby. Luckily we still have Agenoria, Mercian, and a few others. My concern however is that we're gradually losing manufactuers. This is, in my opinion, very much so the wrong direction. O16.5 is Britain's answer to On30, and look how popular that is - if you need proof just look out for an On30 layout at the next exhibition you attend. Were there any before Bachmann started making On30? I doubt it, and now there's at least one per show. There's no reason why uk 7mm can't be all the rage here in the UK, we just need a decent selection of products. It wouldn't surprise me to find that many people would like to have a go, but get turned off when they find out that they need to learn how to scratchbuild and work with brass.

 

My next bugbear, is a lack of variety among exhibitor's layouts. These days, I'm lucky if I find a layout that isn't either based on welsh slate, american logging, lynton barnstaple style general carriers, or a port with a mandatory clyde puffer. I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with this, often the standard of modelling is superb, I just personally find it so confusing when the world of narrow gauge is so much broader than that. There are so many more interesting prototypes out there, hundreds of books of them, full of drawings and photographs. Modellers buy these books, read them from cover to cover, put the book down, mention on here how interesting it was, and then decide to build yet another welsh layout! It seems only a spare few dedicated people will actually go on and model something a bit different after reading such a book. Among the prototypes that I have NEVER seen modelled, are whaling stations, sewage works, tin and copper mines, dam/civil construction, china clay, roadstone quarrying, and mining waste tips. I know this argues against point #1, because if we did ever end up with RTR 7mm ng, it'd probably consist of quarry hunslets, double fairlies, slate wagons etc. etc. But I'd like to think of exhibitions as being the cream of the crop. While they are standards wise (for the most part), they're beginning to get a bit cliche and samey. Such a shame when so much can be done with 7mm ng.

 

Don't get me wrong, I've been very impressed with a great many layouts. These have included great war trenches, military railways, sugarbeet tramways, brickworks, sand pits, and steve bennets amazing little O9 creations. They show what you can do with a small space, and there's a wide variety of industries to choose from.

 

The next complaint revolves around couplings. I absolutely hate couplings. I don't much like kadees, I don't much like greenwich couplings, and there's not a lot else out there. Different manufacturers seem to work on different standards, especially given their cottage industry nature, and it's often presented problems for me when it comes to finding consistent solutions. Kadees for instance will fit on some models, and not on others. This adds another layer of overcomplication to the hobby that I feel is deeply unnecessary, and is entirely the result of a hobby that suffers from a lack of industry standards.

 

Personally I can get away with using chain couplings, purely because frankly I couldn't care less about the whole "hand of god" stuff, which is taking things a bit too seriously for me. There are a good number of people who for whatever reason want to make use of reliable magnetic couplers, and in light of this I believe that the hobby should be using NEM pockets as standard. It would be easy enough to provide scale retrofitting alternatives, and would just make people's lives a whole lot easier.

 

I think that's about it, for the moment. I think we're quite well catered when it comes to chassis, which is a major problem for 009. Bullant, black beetle, tenshodo, etc. are all fantastic, not to mention a whole host of others.

 

I'm interested in what you think, specifically whether you agree or disagree with anything I've said.

 

Best wishes,

Scott.

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Scott,

 

One reason for a lack of industry standards is a lack of industry. There are a small number of cottage industry suppliers out there who make things when they can. There isn't a big enough market for a bigger approach, as large batches would sit on shelves unsold.

 

I've noticed the general reduction in trade folk over the past 20 years of more, but this is across the entire hobby and probably more noticable in 00. The ready to run models are in a sense too good and put off the novice from trying.

 

I agree that for some NEM pockets are a nicety that makes personal choice of coupling easy, but this is a mainly a spin off from mass production. If getting them right might add another couple of hundred pounds to development costs on a kit that might sell 30 - 50, then it's a big gamble for little return. If accurate injection mouldings are required, in might be more like a couple of grand, depending on the iterations and problems encountered. For 0-9 kits (7mm scale, 15" prototype, 9mm scale track), my friend Owen Ryder hit on a sensible idea and used working scale semi-automatic couplings cast in whitemetal. They wer fine for R&ER stock, but would have been inappropriate for Romney vehicles and unthinkable for another protoype gauge. Some things cannot be a one size fits all.

 

I've always thought of 7mm narrow gauge as an obscure scale. Granted when I started using 9mm track in the early 1990s that was taking things to extremes. Putting on my OTW hat for a moment, when I've tried to offer narrow gauge transfers in 7mm the take up has been very small. In contrast, 009 and SM32 seem to be booming.

 

Finally, I've found there is only one way to turn the tide. Become part of it. You have some ideas of what you'd like in the market place. Unless you're completely mad, there's a fair chance that some others would like something similar. Why not design a kit or two, bring them to market and join the fun?

 

I hope some of this helps.

 

Simon.

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In contrast, 009 and SM32 seem to be booming.

 

I'd like to draw your attention to the fact that both these scales offer a reasonable amount of RTR and kit products in comparison to O-16.5. And I'd also have to respectfully disagree with you on your point that RTR standard gauge items are "too good". The manufacturers are responding to supply and demand in the manner that generates the most profit, and if your suggestion were the case then I'm pretty sure we'd see a lot of manufacturers going bust or giving up on value added systems like DCC and sound. The major point to consider here is that standard gauge modellers generally won't add a loco to their layout unless it's available RTR, despite plenty of kits being available. If they can't afford these then they won't buy them, and they'll do something else instead. The manufacturers lose their sale, no matter how high the pricepoint they won't make that margin back.

 

I'll go into more detail later... right now I have to go to work unfortunately. :(

 

Scott.

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In contrast, 009 and SM32 seem to be booming.

I would disagree with this and find that much the same poor showing of suitable RTR and variety applies to all of the NG world.

 

On30 and O-16.5 is one of the few scale and gauge variations that I have not (yet) ventured into. Like myself I believe a lot of potential modellers are put off this scene by one or more of the following:

- confusion over the many variants of NG On30/O-16.5/Hoe/HOm/OO9/... to name but a few

- the almost "twee" nature of most layouts (Cornish harbour, Welsh mountain/slate mine, industrial brick/hospital/foundry, "continental" . It is sad but I have two that fall in that category and believe, to some extent, is driven by what is available in kit and RTR.

- the lack of RTR and the largely disappearing kits - but how much is this part of the above? Unlike standard gauge with the big 4 + BR where there is a wide choice of very familiar prototypes to model and a broad historical and geographical view that many of us are familiar with, the NG world remains either a mystery, left to imagination, or just simply "foreign".

- fewer modellers are prepared to scratch build.

 

I consider couplings a minor issue as the same thing plagues us with even standard gauge and there are imperfect solutions available.

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I think you are doing yout modelling interest a bit of a dis-service, as it obviously has some degree of interest and manufacturer support, so any concerns that it might disappear will be shared by others, and a collective organisation of many voices will have a greater influence and may even be able to support their members with commercial items.

 

I'm in a similar situation with my own modelling interest (American Traction), and can count the number of layouts i've seen in the last 10 years on one hand. There is also minimal trade support after a slow decline and many models that have been produced only seem to exist as unpainted brass in people's collections, and command unrealistically high prices when they do reach the open market. But good modelling is good modelling, and it'd be foolish of me not to appreciate other layouts at shows whilst plugging my own interest in the hope it might be enough to encourage others to have a go.

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Stoker, your third paragraph says it all. Look at 'standard gauges' and note the modern 'limited edition' nature of the production runs for locomotives. Strange that in my youth, erm, about 60 years ago, you could only buy a very limited range of locomotives, from two manufacturers; okay, so they were made as toys.

 

We need to encourage the small, cottage industries even though it may mean more kits 'n bits. It also means transferrable skills, and a greater percentage of us making a larger and larger share of the rolling stock. Working in 22.5 mm gauge, I have had to make track and points for many years... believe me when I say you do get better at it....... and we are a sympathetic lot :rolleyes:

 

The historic nature of the 7mm NG modelling will always be a drawback; we are now following countries like Germany where former big manufacturers like Fleischmann who could afford a 'toy-like' range in 'Oe' - Magic Train, albeit based on Austrian prototypes - are now giving way to small, private enterprises, who mainly produce only bits and pieces. It will be interesting to see if a manufacturer comes forward for 'Oe' or whether, like Roco did with 'Om', the 'toy-like' range quietly disappears.

 

Strange how many times that stuff produced for the toy market ends up as the basis for serious modelling; Gnomy, anyone ?

 

Bob

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I think my comment on 'booming' may have been misunderstood. It was only referring to the relative sales within OTW of 009, 0-16.5 & SM32 waterslide transfers. There is much less take up by trade or modeller in 7mm than sizes smaller or larger. I guess this reflects a market which has Parkside for 009 & Slaters/Coopercraft for SM32.

 

A problem for modeller and manufacturer alike is the wide variation in hardware & practice between different narrow gauge railways. Most standard gauge locos will not look too out of place on any layout of vaguely the correct era (give or take 30 years). However, a Fairlie can only run on the Festiniog, a Quarry Hunslet only in a quarry etc. Whilst I am a great admirer of Motorail's Simplexes, they are hardly a thing of beauty for the average punter.

 

For me the attraction of narrow gauge modelling is that if I spend several months making something, it is unlikely that Bachmann will bring out a new model within days of mine being finished. It is very disheartening to build a nice brass kit or scratch build something and find an RTR equivalent for half the overall price a couple of days later. Some time back there was discussion of an RTR Fairlie and it became apparent that even in 009 there wasn't a market to support the massive investment required.

 

Simon.

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Some time back there was discussion of an RTR Fairlie and it became apparent that even in 009 there wasn't a market to support the massive investment required.

 

 

Not strictly true, Roco went about it in a very backwards fashion. A photo appeared on their website saying that it would be an FR double fairlie. The FR have several, a mix of original, early(ish) preservation era hideous looking square thing, or recreation. They didn't state which version it would be, nor any clues as to price and just expected people to place orders with next to no information. If they'd given us a bit more to go with I bet people would have bought enough to justify it.

 

009 wise there is virtually NO RTR, Paul Windle offers an RTR building service, but that is pretty much it. Otherwise you have to make use of one of the many kits available, but then the problem of suitable chassis crops up. The kits can be modified but not everyone is happy to do that. There ARE easy ways into the hobby, you just have to look for them.

 

It costs about £90k to commission a small run from someone like Ixion, and in many narrow gauge scales there just isn't the demand or funding to justify this.

 

To my mind it's nice to be able to create something which is unique, so I'm more than happy to scratchbuild or kitbash something. Why settle for the same model as everyone else?

 

 

There's a good deal of cottage industry support for most NG scales and gauges, and the likes of Parkside Dundas have been great for 009. It's a shame about the Wrightlines range, but I believe it's still available through the correct channels. Details of this appear on http://ngrm-online.com somewhere.

 

And what's wrong with Clyde Puffers? I've got one on my layout, it's a Scottish harbour. It's been spoilt a little by those not in the prototype area which use them because there are kits available and they like the vessel. Each to their own, it's their trainset.

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The one thing in the discussion that I don't quite get is the argument about manufacturers availabilities. In the cold hard light of day, manufacturers are not here to simply provide us with a plethora of kits and models, but are there to turn a profit. If there is money in O16.5 market in the UK, why is it not being tapped into? My conclusion is that either this is an untapped goldmine, or perhaps the popularity, and more importantly for a manufacturer, the profitability is not there. If manufacturers are worryingly disappearing, I can only surmise that they have been a casualty of the recession and sadly an indicator of lessened interest and profitability, especially when money is getting tighter!

 

The big manufacturers are not daft, and will no doubt explore this market once things reach a threshold when it becomes worthwhile for their costs.

 

Hopefully things will pick up, people will start spending on hobbies, and the interest in other railways other than OO increase. Remember, it took N quite a few years to establish itself, just read the history of Graham Farish, and therefore an increase of manufacturing in O16.5 will not be built overnight, but if the popularity is increasing as indicated in the post above, then eventually the big manufacturers will increase, the kits will increase, as the market improves.

 

I think the answer is in the hands of those who model in this scale, and they need to support and purchase from existing manufacturers at every opportunity to demonstrate that this scale is very much alive with the thing that talks loudest, money!

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Re: A constructive criticism .....

 

I respond to Scott's original posting with the following points.

 

 

[1] If kit manufacturers come and go that is the reality of life. Much has been said elsewhere about the continued availability of one particular range and I will not add to it here.

 

 

[2] Comparisons between O-16.5 and On30 as manufactured by Bachmann are inappropriate. The market for US equipment is larger (both in that country and worldwide) than for British outline models. It should also be noted that Fleischmann are no longer manufacturing their "Magic Train" range (also potentially a larger market than British O-16.5) presumably because sales were insufficient.

 

 

[3] It is one thing to bemoan the lack of narrow gauge RTR and availability of kits, but mistaken to assume that the only alternative is scratch building in brass. Much can be (and is) achieved by many modellers using other materials such as wood, card, and especially styrene.

 

 

[4] The issue of couplings is determined by two factors: firstly the variety of types used on British narrow gauge lines, and secondly the fact that many modellers (especially builders of exhibition layouts) do not care for the intrusion of "the hand of God".

 

 

[5] Harbour and port scenes make attractive subjects for modelling, and the inclusion of suitable shipping is therefore appropriate. Clyde Puffers are popular for the following reasons.

 

(i) The prototypes were physically quite small and thus do not take up too much space.

 

(ii) Information is readily available for those choosing to scratch build them.

 

(iii) In recent years kits have become available from several sources in a variety of scales.

 

(iv) Puffers are widely recognised by exhibition visitors and regarded with affection.

 

 

[6] 7mm scale narrow gauge modelling is alive and well. Evidence for this can be seen at general and specialist exhibitions up and down the UK and especially at the Convention held at Burton-on-Trent last Saturday.

 

 

Christopher Payne

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Although it will probably be seen as covert advertising, and for this I apologise, from the viewpoint of one of the "cottage industry" manufacturers I can never really see the big boys taking on this scale. I have a large range of coach kits,around 40, prototype and freelance(freelance not fantasy), They all sell steadily but in penny numbers, some slower than others, the longer the coach the slower it sells. Festiniog bogie coaches just don't look right on 12" radius curves!

 

Because I use resin casting in rubber moulds the development costs are my time for research and production of a, usually plasticard pattern. this process can often be spread over a couple of years as it is done in spare time from casting and, in a way, thankfully there is less of that as the range grows. This is relatively cheap and enables me to keep the prices to what I'd be prepared to pay as a modeller.

 

Each of those kits would cost thousands of pounds to set up for injection moulding to sell sometimes a dozen a year, something Hornby etc. cannot sensibly afford if they wish to stay in business. Before anyone quotes the On30 RTR remember that this a fortunate spin off of a large American market, sales in the UK alone would never support it.

 

Most of you have just missed the 7mm Narrow Gauge Association convention/exhibition at Burton on Trent last weekend which showcases what is available in the scale on some of the best narrow gauge layouts on the circuit in this scale. So that you don't miss it next year the date for your diary is 9th June 2012, all the main traders will be there, Burton on Trent Town Hall very near to the railway station, plenty of free parking in its own car park, real ale in a pleasant bar with plenty of room to sit and natter as well, what more could you want. (Tell us and we'll see if it is viable!)

 

Phil T.

(Port Wynnstay Models)

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Like most things in life there are two sides to this. On one side the manufactures have entered the market to provide a product to make a profit thus allowing other models to be produced, on the other the customer/consumer wants to buy product that doesn't always match this. However there is a gap between what the customer thinks is a valid product and what the manufacturer believes will give them a profit. Unfortunately in NG scales this rarely matches and as stated the size of the potential market is small so it is a gamble for any new to market product.

 

I do however thing with the progression of modern techniques and technologies that the possibility of models that the 'big' manufacturers would shy away from are in the bounds of the small cottage supplier. Just look at the advancement of rapid prototyping, 3D CAD modelling and the ease of etch designing and manufacturing. In an age where you can upload a CAD image to a website and then after a wait receive your model in solid form is in my mind truly amazing. Obviously not every one can do this or wants to do it but it opens up possibilities for many people to get involved in making product that large scales of economy are reticent about providing.

 

Tom

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Chris summarised my thoughts as well... Though I always feel that the current standards of modelling in O-16.5 tend to remind me of 009 modelling back in the 70s and 80s, even down to the same sort of "conversions" of SG stock... Admittedly there are some superb models around, but many are a lot more on the more basic side... that's not meant as an insult, purely an observation... There's also the "invasion" of American On30... Which is what happened in the early days of 009 with Minitrains, Joueff and Liliput, but things developed and 009 developed beyond those early layouts... 0-16.5 will do the same...

 

Like 009 O-16.5 will always be a bit of a backwater compared with its American and European counterparts, and manufacturers will come and go, but that's no bad thing!

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Sorry to butt in chaps, as this is not really 'my' area,

If one models in a "particular" scale, is it not best to join the society that supports that scale, in this case the 7mm ng association! http://www.7mmnga.org.uk/

Only mentioning it as I've followed these discussions with interest and not seen this mentioned before!

Cheers all,

John E.

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Sorry to butt in chaps, as this is not really 'my' area,

If one models in a "particular" scale, is it not best to join the society that supports that scale, in this case the 7mm ng association! http://www.7mmnga.org.uk/

Only mentioning it as I've followed these discussions with interest and not seen this mentioned before!

Cheers all,

John E.

 

 

Not so. The above post by myself and especially that of Phil Traxson did exactly this.

 

Christopher Payne

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009 wise there is virtually NO RTR, .

 

 

See OnTracks advert page 55a of June 2011 Railway Modeller

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The limited availability of older ranges is mostly because people who produce them are usually one person cottage industries and eventually get old and retire. There are a limited number of people with the money and skill to buy these ranges up and do them justice. Remember the original producer isn't going to give away all that hard work for nothing if it is still viable.

EDM recently took over part of the Agenoria range and modellers are fortunate that Paul Martin already produced similar quality kits so understands what quality he needs to maintain in etching and casting in continuing production. It's not as simple as just continuing to use the same contractors as they often disappear or get swallowed up as well.

The rtr possibilities have been well covered and having done a bit of research for an acquaintance in the rtr business there is a major problem. The wonderful diversity of UK narrow gauge, everyone likes something different and the only consensus is the quarry hunslets with the question of where to go after that. ;)

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I wonder if the thoughts of most modellers that start down the NG route were like I was many years ago. The main OO layout was moved from the bedroom into the loft leaving a section above my book case. If I'd known about the Arendt site then I'd have built a OO shunting layout. Instead I built a HOe/OO9 using initially Lilliput stock. Main thought being that was a scale that I knew.

 

Since building the 16.5mm gauge inglenook I have designed it so that I can change buildings stock etc and have OO, On30 or O16.5. I feel that with all of the quality mechanisms that are produced in 16.5mm gauge (OO) many potential NG modellers are missing out big time.

 

If kit bashers look at the likes of the Bachmann OO 03 or the Underground Ernie as a potential motive power then I'm suprised that it hasn't already been thought of by Bachmann. With these you do get NEM pockets and DCC.

 

Quarry Hunslets would work for many era's as I suspect that some might look to built a preserved NG line on a modern image layout.

 

The other loco that would be good idea is the Hunslet WD 4-6-0T as these were built and used on 2' and 2'6" lines.

 

Pashupati at Khajuri in Nepal (2'6")

041201%20005%20Khajuri%20War%20Office%204-6-0T%20Pashupati%20(HEC%201537%201926).jpg

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See OnTracks advert page 55a of June 2011 Railway Modeller

 

I generally don't buy RM, what is the item you're talking about?

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Looking at their online website, perhaps its the Minitrains stuff, which they have listed under 009, as well as HOe?

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Fascinating!

 

I think there's an element of perspective here, as well..... I first had a dabble in 0-16.5 more than 20 years ago, when there were two Peco loco kits, and a few Wrightlines, and precious few others available - and if you wanted to do anything remotely out of the ordinary - it was kit-bash or scratch-build!

I was lucky enough to go up to Burton-on-Trent last year, and was amazed by how much was available commercially nowadays. Perhaps it fluctuates slightly, but for what is still a minority branch of the railway hobby, I for one count myself very fortunate as to what is available to me! :)

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Many years ago we had a family holiday in North Wales and rode on the "Great Little Trains" as they were then marketed, I'm not sure if they still are. In all the railway shops I asked if they had a beginners train set of a narrow gauge type that we had ridden on. The answer was almost always "No, but we have some Hornby". Not what we wanted at all, we could buy Hornby anywhere. I feel that if the narrow gauge railways had RTR models in a basic set they would enjoy sales as their customers have already shown an interest in ng railways by riding on them.

 

The trouble then would be which scale to offer? 009 or 016.5 both have their supporters, but in my opinion the similarity in size with Bachmann 0n30 would make 016.5 the obvious choice. I am sure that a quarry Hunslet with four wheel wagons or passenger coaches in a starter pack would be a seller.

 

What makes everyone think that UK narrow gauge trains are only of interest in the UK? Bemo have traded very successfully for years with mainly Swiss narrow gauge trains, and I bet that most of their sales are from outside Switzerland. Not only that, they sell in a high price bracket. Not something that would work for the UK, where we always seem to want low prices. On that sad note I will knock off.

 

Geoff.

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I think the biggest problem would be cost, Geoff, due to low sales a NG prototype RRP would be far more than a Hornby train, even allowing for "tourist" sales it would still not get sales anywhere near the turnover someone like Hornby would need to make it pay its way... Would those tourists actually buy the model if it cost so much more? Then you'd have to have a different prototype for each preserved line, though perhaps the Corris and Tallylyn and the WHR and Ffestiniog could share!

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Looking at their online website, perhaps its the Minitrains stuff, which they have listed under 009, as well as HOe?

 

Makes sense, not my taste personally, although I think the chassis might come in handy.

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I generally don't buy RM, what is the item you're talking about?

It is the new MiniTrains stuff with completely re-designed mechs - diesel in various liveries and now the Steam loco,+ all the little wagons

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