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A (constructive) criticism of our hobby...


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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.

 

Simon.

Quite so, and that is the problem for the manufacturer. Contrast this with the American and European scene, where far more railways used similar locos and stock "off the shelf". Just look at the variety of liveries that the Bachman etc products can be purchased in, as well as unlettered or even unpainted for your own railroad.

 

In the British Industrial scene, the products of Motorail, Ruston, Hunslet etc are common, but in what we often tend to think of as "British Narrow Gauge" every railway was unique, with locos and stock designed specifically for it. Only in Ireland was there any degree of standardisation, and that was only the trackgauge!

 

Bachmann stuck their neck out a long way with their first On30 models, and that (IIRC) was a complete set, of a fairly widespread mogul loco and typical carriages. That was followed by the little Porter; essentially a widespread industrial loco, and that was followed by allsorts of add-on/conversion kits for it. The British prototype just isnt suitable for this approach.

 

Kits come and go, largely because they are produced in small-ish batches to suit the potential market, and are bought when they are available. (A large proportion will not get built and may re-appear secondhand many years later, another good reason for joining a society). The individual cottage-industry manufacturer may not have the time/inclination/potential sales to sink his freetime and money into producing another batch. Yes its sad/annoying and a loss to the hobby if these products dissappear completely, but unless somebody else is willing to take them over, what can you do? You could argue that the societies should buy up the ranges, and take the risk; but you're still relying on there being enough volunteers with enough time to devote. And societies often struggle to fill their existing commitee posts.

 

But having said all that, narrow-gauge modellers are a highly resourceful and creative bunch, in any scale. Just look at any narrow gauge exhibition, or the pages of any of the Society publications and you'll see what I mean. From the big cab on a diesel shunter from the scale below, to the finest glittering brass scratchbuild, and in everything inbetween, you will find highly imaginative modelling. Narrow Gauge modelling is alive and well!

 

I think thats enough of my ramblings,

Cheers,

Dave.T

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I have always thought of "Narrow Gauge" modelling as being mainly in the realm of the scratch builder / kit builders amongst us. (Mind you I'm probably just a bit biased having been doing so since the early '60s!)

Back in the mid '80s I started building & exhibiting US 0n3 (Colorado based)and some 0n2 (Maine). As there was virtually nothing to be had in the UK at that time (although bits & pieces could be sometimes got at NMRA meets.)Apart from some craftsman freight car kits from the US everything else was scratch built. (Including a Shay in each gauge). You can imagine my reaction when this Bachmann 0n30 came on the scene and the "Punters" would ask if my stuff was from the (then) new range...............

I also built an East German layout using some modified Magic Train equipment, unfortunately that range should have included an 0-6-0t and a railcar....

Due to the diverse nature of Narrow gauge (world wide) there is little likleyhood (in my opinion) of ever being a market for NG R-T-R. (I suspect that in the fullness of time the Bachmann 0n30 market will reach saturation point too)

Kits & manufactures (including some SG ones) have come and gone over the decades, a situation that I am sure will continue.........

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Well put, Dave.

 

I am confused at the number of kits that just disappear though. On occasion I have asked if retiring cottage industry modellers would like to hand over the reins for me (or someone else) to continue a kit. Almost without exception, the answer is the same no. This doesn't seem to be about money (as this isn't discussed) or a possibility that the current manufacturer might start up again. I'm confused and have pretty much stopped asking now as it generally doesn't seem worthwhile. Life is a little too busy to reinvent the wheel when 2/3s of the market already has a particular kit...

 

Simon.

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Well put, Dave.

 

I am confused at the number of kits that just disappear though. On occasion I have asked if retiring cottage industry modellers would like to hand over the reins for me (or someone else) to continue a kit. Almost without exception, the answer is the same no. This doesn't seem to be about money (as this isn't discussed) or a possibility that the current manufacturer might start up again. I'm confused and have pretty much stopped asking now as it generally doesn't seem worthwhile. Life is a little too busy to reinvent the wheel when 2/3s of the market already has a particular kit...

 

Simon.

That is strange behaviour, as well as annoying/frustrating, and could even be described as tragic; that all that hard work and development could be allowed to dissappear.

Don't know what the answer is to that one :(

 

Cheers,

Dave.

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That is strange behaviour, as well as annoying/frustrating, and could even be described as tragic; that all that hard work and development could be allowed to dissappear.

Don't know what the answer is to that one :(

 

Cheers,

Dave.

 

Historically, a lot of kits and products that do manage to be passed on to another quite soon cease to exist. And while you can simply hand the 'rights' to the product on to someone else, it does not include the passion for that product or even the knowledge of how to make it work or even promote it.

 

Then there is the problem that by the time the product, say a kit, is passed on from a retiring manufacturer, the kit is past it anyway. There is probably an RTR version of it in existence, or perhaps a newer kit using newer technologies. The original manufacturer has probably sold to about 90% of the possible market anyway.

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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!

 

I didn't think it would be long before "the recessession" crept into this discussion. The reality in my view seems to be old age, changing culture meaning fewer recruits, and the resulting sad deaths of many small scale manufacturers having a knock on impact on the scale. If someone stops making X there might be fewer people who'd have a need for Y, and so on. There are a great number, probably a majority, who participate in this hobby using a disposable income. Thus it is somewhat of a bubble in the recession. Those who have been hit hardest are the ones who have been involved in the deeply unfortunate pensions scandles, and have had to choose between living and being alive.

 

You have a good point about manufactuers perspectives on potential markets, and risk vs reward in terms of capital investment. My feelings about manufacturers not entering this market are simply this; given that the manufacturers that be have not attempted to release anything onto the 7mm ng market, there cannot be any discussion about projected profitability, in light of the fact that On30 was a very specialised niche prior to Bachmann's products. This serves as precedent, given that the situation was very much comparable to our own, where manufacturers like Grandt Line were considered the "big boys", and specially comissioned brass imports were the only "RTR" stock. This brass mainly revolved around brass only collectors buying up the remaining stock, with a small percentage actually seeing use on layouts. On3 was always more popular due to the D&RGW, but even that was limited to those few who could afford brass, or had the skill to build the few kits, and it's only recently that we're starting to see plastic entering that market.

 

But the fact is that when manufacturers make life easy for customers by providing the whole shebang within one single range, rolling stock, figures, buildings, track, etc. etc. the little cottage industries become booming aftermarket suppliers and suddenly everyone wants a bit of On30 because they can. If you build it, THEY WILL COME! The amount of scratchbuilding required is a good barometer for the likelihood of an increase in new modellers.

 

By the way, I'd like to thank everyone for their contributions to this thread, this has been a really good debate so far. You've all raised some brilliant points and I intend to respond to as many as possible.

 

Best wishes,

Scott.

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the little cottage industries become booming aftermarket suppliers

....

and I intend to respond

 

 

Scott, I'm sorry but most folk do the cottage industry stuff as a hobby. A bit of spending money is good, but that usually gets mopped up on developing the next product. It's great fun though, and allows a great deal more creativity than if you are tied to a single layout.

 

Probably the best response you can give is to hop over the fence and try your hand at filling a gap you see in the market. Whether CAD drawing for etched brass or making masters for casting in whitemetal and resin, there are a few basic modelling skills but most of it is fairly straightforward.

 

 

Simon.

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If rtr models were introduced then yes there would be those who took up the scale as a result but the deciding factor is whether the manufacturers you are inferring are prepared to take the risk. If they don't see it as being profitable then they won't take the risk and that's their opinion. The Blue Pullman was the subject of similar requests for years and it took the success of all the other limited editions and a lot of internal support first to convince them to take the risk, (which we still don't know will give the desired sales).

This in itself though doesn't make 7mm viable as there is still less consensus on what people would want than the BP.

The loss of certain kits is sad but there is always the fact that it then opens up the Market for a new producer to fill the gap using the latest technology so we are seeing kits in etch replacing more basic whitemetal ones. There will always be those that would rather build a cast or etch kit than the one being produced but at the end of the day there's always scratchbuilding. As said above if you want something badly enough you can learn the skills to produce it if you are prepared to commit the time to learn and accept it's not going to be instant.

Time is always the catch, I know I can build a Hunslet Leeds No1 but haven't found the time to do it, partially because I've spent that time using rtr stuff to complete projects in other scales for that quick result.

I think the rapid advances in rapid prototyping offer the best bet for rtr 7mm stuff but chassis are still not possible so there may be more a market in bodyshells for certain chassis.

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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! :)

 

I agree with Giles. I came back to railway modelling about 7 years ago after a gap of several years. I was amazed how much things had improved in general in terms of detail and performance in OO and N RTR. I'd always been intersted in NG so got involved in 009. Understanding the specialsit nature of the subject I wasn't expecting there to have been any developments in RTR whilst I'd been away but I was impressed with the sheer number and variety of products from the many small manufacturers. Whilst many of us bemoan the non-availability of certain kits I still find it amazing that it is possible to model so many small and obscure railways relatively easily from available kits. One can understand the popularity of the Ffestiniog, Talyllyn and other tourist lines perhaps but the fact that stock for such long closed lines as the Glyn Valley, Snailbeach or Ashover can so readily be acquired is really quite amazing.

 

I think the RTR Fairlie would probably have sold well as has been suggested. The Ffestiniog does seem to be a bit like the NG equivalent of the GWR in modelling terms with so much commercially available. I know people that were already saving up for a Fairlie even without knowing which version it would be or how much it would cost. I think the response to RTR models such as the Beattie well tank proves that people will find an excuse to have a model of an iconic or attractive prototype even if its not from their main area of interest (which may explain why I'm intersted in obscure NG and light railways but have an NSE liveried Bachman 03! :D ).

 

Patrick

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Fair enough, it would be nice for something new rather than recycling 'retro' models though. As I said before though, the chassis are useful.

 

If anyone has read Nick Welch's book 'Festiniog Odyssey' he makes extensive use of the old Minitrains chassis with replacement Mashima motors. A very inspiring and interesting read.

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Whilst I applaud the efforts of manufacturers who produce "009" ready to run, it does also lead, as we have seen previously with the Egger etc ranges, to a large amount of freelance modelling based on conversions of that range. This in itself isn't necessarily a bad thing, but as it makes production of freelance stock easier, it may possibly lead to modellers being less willing to try scratchbuilding or building kits (the prorotype based ones) and thus can lead to a bad image of the scale. The counter is that without this ready to run stuff people might just not get involved in the scale at all, especially as many who start with conversions of RTR progress to kits and then scratchbuilding.

 

As Invercloy said one of the things about NG is that as all lines were individual, and, as this applied to the stock too, having to scratchbuild is part and parcel of NG modelling,and for many this is what sets it apart from SG modelling. I guess there are those who would like to have accurate NG models but don't have the skills/time to scratchbuild - unfortunately it's part and parcel of modelling something which is relatively obscure (compared to BR SG etc)

 

Swings and roundabouts I think.

 

Stu

 

 

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I've been modelling NG for a few years now, building models of locos from the Dinorwic, Ffestiniog, WHR and Penrhyn systems before settling on the WDLR in 4mm and I've come to believe that the major problem is that NG is by its very nature confining. If you model standard gauge you have the whole country to pick locations from, and over the years hundreds of loco,coach and wagons to build or buy. In contrast, most NG systems were very short and localised, and used few types. For these reasons any loco type, except possibly a quarry Hunslet, would not sell in numbers enough to justify a RTR example. It seems that Roco did not get enough enthusiasm to justify going ahead with the Fairlie - which is a pity in my opinion, as I think that it would have sold suprisingly well.

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Scott, I'm sorry but most folk do the cottage industry stuff as a hobby.

 

I'm really not sure what your point is. Are you saying that my statement about cottage industries becoming larger concerns was not factual? If so I can simply provide you with a few links to demonstrate my point. Please clarify.

 

As for comments that I should introduce my own kits to the market, ironically enough and completely unrelated to this thread I've been spending the last few weeks researching the use of resin and whitemetal in the casting process. I am considering making a few kits available once I've done some more research. I would like to produce at least a wagon and an internal combustion locomotive.

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As Invercloy said one of the things about NG is that as all lines were individual, and, as this applied to the stock too, having to scratchbuild is part and parcel of NG modelling,and for many this is what sets it apart from SG modelling. I guess there are those who would like to have accurate NG models but don't have the skills/time to scratchbuild - unfortunately it's part and parcel of modelling something which is relatively obscure (compared to BR SG etc)

 

 

Thanks Stu, more eloquently put than I. It's all about being more individual to my mind, I don't want a layout full of BR blue diesels, or Bachmann Spectrum ON30 2-8-0s which I can just take out of a box and play with. It would be great to introduce new people to NG modelling by having more RTR, don't get me wrong, but I think you'd find the majority of people would begin to modify RTR items when they were a bit more experienced.

 

As for comments that I should introduce my own kits to the market, ironically enough and completely unrelated to this thread I've been spending the last few weeks researching the use of resin and whitemetal in the casting process. I am considering making a few kits available once I've done some more research. I would like to produce at least a wagon and an internal combustion locomotive.

 

In that case you may wish to market your ideas to a wider (narrower?) audience on http://ngrm-online.com where there are many NG modellers who don't check in here.

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