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Guest oldlugger

The future of loco kit building

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Guest oldlugger

With the advent of high quality RTR locos and ever increasing class coverage, plus the disappearance of many well known loco kit manufacturers, I wonder how many of us are still building loco kits, and whether the future market can support the surviving small scale kit manufacturers? Personally I hope loco kits will always be around, especially of lesser known classes, like the one I'm currently building - a High Level Kits big Barclay 0-6-0. It may be me but adverts for loco kits in the media appear to be quite hard to find, where once they were commonplace and often taken for granted. Railway Modeller used to have quite large ads for companies like Sherwood Models in Nottingham and the West Coast Kit Centre in Cornwall (the latter is probably still there but I haven't purchased any railway mag for a long time). So what's the state of play and how do you think the future will unfold, kit wise?

 

Simon

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They're mostly offered online nowadays.

Edited by Horsetan

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There will always be room for kits as long as there are still modellers awkward enough not to want to model what everyone else wants to model. What may change are the means by which such kits are delivered. My guess is that within a few years it will be possible to organise a kit for anything imaginable at a relatively reasonable price, via the 3D route. What may vanish is the genuine, pure scatch build from raw materials.

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No least of the problems for kit makers is the number of unused or part built kits available second-hand. But exactly as Poggy above, I do anticipate an explosion in new technology enabled kits over the coming decade. It ain't over - yet...

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I thought that though kits are still around the supplies of motors ,wheels etc are quite dependent on a few companies like Mashima ,Markits and Gibson in the main all of which have had dodgy moments ,in the sense of being taken over ,up for sale in the case of Romford etc, in the past .The kits the easy bit in etched brass .Printed will take over at some point though but not yet and maybe no so quick as people think ..Most of its rubbish really at present despite all the fans .

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Some of us prefer to make something rather than open a box, so I hope that kits etc will always be around ;)

 

The fact that the same loco might be available in RTR form would not stop me building a kit if it took my fancy, been like this since my 20s when I built a Millholme Patriot just after Hornby released theirs. There was even a note of thanks in the box as I'd chosen the kit over the RTR version. Still got the loco too

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I'm inclined to agree that it will not go away - unless and until the RTR boys have covered every loco class to grace the rails of this country, in which case I'll eat a hat of someone else's choice. Even then the likelihood is that an early, late, or unusual livery will necessitate a repaint, detailing bits changing and anything else doing to bring it into line with the desired final product. Brassmasters are showing the way with their detailing kits for even the very best RTR locos.

 

The more obscure prototypes will always remain the domain of the kit maker and builder, IMHO. On a harsh note, if the raising of standards means that some of the poorer kits fall by the wayside, well, that's progress. That opens a door for one of the better makers to fill the resultant gap.

 

I also agree that 3D printing isn't where we all hope it will be as yet. Where I think it might be beneficial is in small components like axleboxes and buffers, for example, where the surface unevenness isn't necessarily as apparent. I also think - for the moment - it's future lies in producing accurate masters for resin casting rather than finished product. But we'll see where it goes.

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I think it is less to do with 'modellers awkward enough not to want to model what everyone else wants to model' and more to do with this forum's membership. In otherwords, RMweb is not an accurate reflection of the wider model railway hobby anymore than the non-members perception that RMweb is all about RTR and nothing else. Combine excellent RTR with loss of kit manufacturers and few brandnew 4mm scale kits and yes, there is a shrinking building tendency overall. But if folk want to model the LNWR etc, the only way is the building way.

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Personally I hope kits will always be about as I like to make all my locos and rolling stock, they may not look as good as some RTR models,but I made them. To me that is modelling, to have that ability to say 'I made that' is something that one should be proud of and long may it continue. I hope that there will always be enough of us kit builders about for years to come and that kits such as the Mallard ones I used to buy in the 70s continue to be produced under different banners.

 

I think and hope that the challenge of building replicas of models will always be with us.

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I spent some time at the Warrington show at the weekend but don't recall seeing any kits of any kind for sale. There were a couple of suppliers selling tools and a few box shifters so I left pretty empty-handed apart from a digital caliper. I do note that the owners of GEM are listed as going to the Crewe show though; must be a nostalgia thing and yes I do model the LNWR. Peter

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I think kits will survive but in a different form based around 3D printing . -

 

The modeller chooses a prototype. produces drawings ( this area I think will get a lot easier with apps that will auto scale photos a produce accurate scale parts). Then the modeller prints his kit/model our either at home of via a 3D print bureau. 3D printers will go up in quality and down in price. Traditional kits such as brass with still have a niche market however the future price of brass could make this type of kit out of the reach of most modellers.

 

XF

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...I wonder how many of us are still building loco kits...

I think that where the bottom has dropped out of the market is for common prototypes that weren't available as decent RTR models - the kind of things that DJH do (4mm scale WDs, Std 4 tanks, A1s etc). I'm not sure what percentage of the kit market this was, but probably quite a bit. What is telling is that DJH (who concentrated on the more mainstream prototypes) haven't done a new 4mm scale kit for about 10 years, but SE Finecast are still adding relatively obscure pre-group tank engines to their range.

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IF prices for RTR continue to skyrocket who knows? A cheap 00 Craftsman kit loco can now be built for less than the RTR equivalent if you are prepared to use Gibson wheels and a cheapo gearbox.

 

If some one could produce a well designed range based on the old K's vacuum packed "everything you need in the box" principle with adequate quality, up to modern standards and easy to build I think a new market would develop.

 

Comet are nearly there with their Ivatt 2-6-0 and Black Five. If they could include wheels, plates and motor for, say, £130 together with better more attractive packaging I would say it would be a winning formula. (And please could we have moulded plastic brake gear, injectors, backhead and exterior pipework etc)

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I thought that though kits are still around the supplies of motors ,wheels etc are quite dependent on a few companies like Mashima ,Markits and Gibson in the main ...

That's one source. If you look at RTR from the perspective of 'assembled kit of parts' the supplier list and choice expands considerably: though admittedly only for those happy with RTR mechanism standards. In many cases the suitable rolling chassis obtained by buying a new or s/h model and lazily throwing away the unwanted body shell and other bits like tenders is cheaper than buying frames, wheelsets, motors, gearboxes etc.; and you get a guarantee of it working thrown in with the RTR product...

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I have never thought that kit building has much to do with the range(s) of kits available or for that matter the range of manufacturer's out there.

 

The demise of some of the manufacturer's has been IMO long overdue (K's, Falcon/Jidenco, NuCasts) and even some of the few we often morn about in this forum (Impetus) is not a surprise. Other suppliers seem to be surviving well and even extending their ranges. Even if I could build twice as many kits as I can I would still never get through all the available kits that I'd like to in what is left of my lifetime. So do I care - probably not.

 

What worries me more is the loss of small suppliers detailing items or where these items now seem to be overpriced in relation to the basic kit. I am afraid I still like to buy the complete kit rather than to buy just the etches and then have to locate and chase the missing bits.

 

I also believe that there are enough folk out there still interested in kit building, even if much of that appears in new media, to keep the better of the manufacturers alive.

 

Although it is good to get that instant fix out of opening a box containing an exquisitely detailed lump of plastic that runs perfectly straight out of the box and responds to our fancy box of digital electricery with flashing lights and noise, the satisfaction of getting that self-built chassis to run smoothly and to personally craft from flat sheet metal a pretty good likeness of the prototype is something that still gives me a buzz after all these years. Of course the buzz is even more satisfying if it can be done without breaking the bank and from a well designed kit following a decent set of instructions.

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Hi Simon,

 

An interesting debate. You do not say so, but I take it you mean 4mm scale steam loco kit building.

 

It certainly feels as though there are less kits being built. Although not a steam loco by any stretch of the imagination, with the last model I built, it seemed like a race against time to finish it before an RTR version was announced! It must be a widespread feeling that nobody is going to spend months building a loco if an RTR version is in the offing/available.

 

The same probably applies to those involved in wagon building and coach building in 4mm scale. I can't make my mind up if we are losing the ability to make things or if it was only ever a relatively small number of people who could successfully build, paint and finish a kit near to the standards of the present offerings from the RTR manufacturers.

 

All the best,

 

Colin

 

 

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Selling complete kits with wheels and motor bought in from another manufacturer is mental when such items are darn expensive. Capital is tied up until every kit is sold, there is no profit in the venture, and it is definitely not the way to run a business these days.

 

The most profitable way is to sell only what you manufacture yourself. But as others have said already, it is a shame that the range of boiler mountings and detailing parts has shrunk to almost invisible, a situation that I only realized had changed when I wanted a 'Royal Scot' double chimney to replace the hideous Hornby fitting.

 

Once the pips have been spit out of the process, 3D might indeed be the future for some modellers and look like a simple solution. But they still need painting & lining. 3D bodyline kits to fit RTR chassis may not be kit-building in the old sense of the words but I think they would suit a lot of folk, me included.

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I'm inclined to agree that it will not go away - unless and until the RTR boys have covered every loco class to grace the rails of this country, in which case I'll eat a hat of someone else's choice. Even then the likelihood is that an early, late, or unusual livery will necessitate a repaint, detailing bits changing and anything else doing to bring it into line with the desired final product. Brassmasters are showing the way with their detailing kits for even the very best RTR locos.

 

The more obscure prototypes will always remain the domain of the kit maker and builder, IMHO.

 

I also agree that 3D printing isn't where we all hope it will be as yet. Where I think it might be beneficial is in small components like axleboxes and buffers, for example, where the surface unevenness isn't necessarily as apparent. I also think - for the moment - it's future lies in producing accurate masters for resin casting rather than finished product. But we'll see where it goes.

 

Although it is good to get that instant fix out of opening a box containing an exquisitely detailed lump of plastic that runs perfectly straight out of the box and responds to our fancy box of digital electricery with flashing lights and noise, the satisfaction of getting that self-built chassis to run smoothly and to personally craft from flat sheet metal a pretty good likeness of the prototype is something that still gives me a buzz after all these years. Of course the buzz is even more satisfying if it can be done without breaking the bank and from a well designed kit following a decent set of instructions.

 

An interesting discussion.

I think I can safely assume that locos for the LB&SCR in the 1860s and 70s are probably quite a long way down the RTR manufacturers' list of priorities (although a decent model of a 4mm scale Terrier would not go amiss) and so I have always accepted that I shall be building from kits or from scratch to get the locos that I want. It is probably just as well that I get much more satisfaction from building something myself rather than from operating and so I guess that, for me, the fun will always be about research, construction and painting, rather than opening RTR boxes. Surely that is part of the appeal of the hobby, in that it allows that sort of diversity of approach? I would like to think that the couple of pieces that I have written about the first two etched locos that I have built (Washington and No 166 in MI5) will have encouraged others to have a go - because if I can do it, I am sure that many others out there can also succeed.

New technology opens up new opportunities and, given time, I am sure that we shall see 3D printing offering a new form of "scratch building". When it does, I would like to think that there will be a way to work my way through a few more of the varied range of locos that Mr Craven bequeathed to the Brighton.

Best wishes

Eric

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...the satisfaction of getting that self-built chassis to run smoothly and to personally craft from flat sheet metal a pretty good likeness of the prototype is something that still gives me a buzz after all these years. Of course the buzz is even more satisfying if it can be done without breaking the bank and from a well designed kit following a decent set of instructions.

 

Quite so Kenton, there's nothing quite like a newly built loco' making it's way under power for the first time. Even the duff kits (and we've all built, or rebuilt, a few) provide a certain amount of satisfaction.

 

My Gibson O2 - a kit very difficult to build square and with numerous errors as designed - is even more treasured than my first two etched loco's because of the process of correcting the errors and adding the detail, never mind the complexities of full compensation, made it unique. My converted (to EM) Bachmann 57xx doesn't quite have the same associations though I like the prototype and the model: if you want that sort of pannier in 4mm why make one unless you have the bits in stock? This is precisely the reason why my std 4 4-6-0 will have a Mainline body and my 9F will be Hornby and Comet rather than Bachmann RTR. Not because they're better, though they can be made their equal, but because I've got the necessaries to do the job to hand. That said, I work in EM, if I worked in OO I probably wouldn't bother, at least, not for those prototypes.

 

I won't desert kitbuilding - it's far too interesting.

 

Adam

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The most profitable way is to sell only what you manufacture yourself.

 

Yes I guess it is easy to forget these guys don't just do it for fun - it is a business. But I really think any kit manufacturer who doesn't get the missing bits lined up with associations to other kit suppliers is missing a trick or two. What is the point of a kit for a basic body and reference (probably not updated since the frets were designed) to wheels, buffers, transfers, etc that are no longer (or even never were) easily available or constantly out of stock. These days "nearest" best fit just isn't acceptable. There are some really good kit suppliers out there, we need to focus on them rather than the ones that were producing in the 70's. I build a kit because it is a kit, I care not what the kit is supposed to be of, it is the process of building that is the objective.

 

Travel is about the journey not the arrival.

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Over the years I have collected a good number of kits of GCR locos. Many are, quite frankly, dreadful kits. Mostly whitemetal and dating back to the dawn of kit producyion. Think McGowan GCR Atlantic.

 

Even though Bachmann are now bringing out some GCR locos, I would much prefer to run something I have built, rather than something I have bought. I already have two J11s, a Little Engines whitemetal kit and a Gibson etched one, finished and running.

 

I agree that building locos isn't what everybody wants to do and I see little point in even attempting to match the latest RTR models, which is why I have gone Pre-grouping but for those of us who enjoy puttting that sort of work in, kits have been a godsend over the years.

 

To me, there is as much, if not more satisfaction in taking an awful kit and turning into a reasonable model than there is in a state of the art one, that falls together. I remember that a few years ago, some one piece resin bodies appeared on the market. To me, they were not kits, just unpainted bodies. A kit should be something that is assembled from a number of parts. Even if 3D printing takes off and any number of locos are made available, I would still prefer to solder/glue a set of metal parts together.

 

I think that kit building is probably on the decline. The sheer number of unbuilt kits coming onto the market second hand as the collections of those who have left us come on the market probably gives a good indication that out of every ten kits bought, maybe one is ever put together.

 

For me, I hope that kitbuilding (and scratchbuilding) is a part of my hobby for a good while longer.

Edited by t-b-g
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Kenton has a point but I think folk need to look at the price of Markit's wheels not to mention motors and gearboxes. After writing a cheque for etchings, I am not about to write another one for several hundred £££'s just to pack a dozen or so "complete" kits. Not only tha, but putting Markits wheels, motor, grearboxes, couplings etc etc in the kit considerably pushes up the price, yet there is nothing in it for me....I will only make a profit on my etchings, but no doubt Mr.Markits would be dead chuffed at my purchases!

 

We modellers didn't feel put out in the age of the loco kit when we had to source motors and wheels etc so why should folk now?

Edited by coachmann
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Kenton has a point but I think folk need to look at the price of Markit's wheels not to mention motors and gearboxes. After writing a cheque for etchings, I am not about to write another one for several hundred £££'s just to pack a dozen or so "complete" kits. Not only tha, but putting Markits wheels, motor, grearboxes, couplings etc etc in the kit considerably pushes up the price, yet there is nothing in it for me....I will only make a profit on my etchings, but no doubt Mr.Markits would be dead chuffed at my purchases!

 

We modellers didn't feel put out in the age of the loco kit when we had to source motors and wheels etc so why should folk now?

 

And whatever the 4mm kit manufacturer puts in the box, it'll be wrong for a significant number of buyers. Different preferences, gauges, etc.

 

As Larry also said earlier, the picture presented here on RMWeb probably doesn't reflect the doesn't whole situation. Attending one of the scale society shows, Railex, etc. shows that there are still a fair number of modellers buying kits (and building some of them).

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Guest oldlugger

Hi Simon,

 

An interesting debate. You do not say so, but I take it you mean 4mm scale steam loco kit building.

 

It certainly feels as though there are less kits being built. Although not a steam loco by any stretch of the imagination, with the last model I built, it seemed like a race against time to finish it before an RTR version was announced! It must be a widespread feeling that nobody is going to spend months building a loco if an RTR version is in the offing/available.

 

The same probably applies to those involved in wagon building and coach building in 4mm scale. I can't make my mind up if we are losing the ability to make things or if it was only ever a relatively small number of people who could successfully build, paint and finish a kit near to the standards of the present offerings from the RTR manufacturers.

 

All the best,

 

Colin

 

Hello Colin,

 

This might very well be the case for the younger, newer railway modellers who may never have opened a loco kit box before, with so many well detailed RTR locos available ready to plonk on layouts. The idea of having to solder or glue a complex kit of parts and make it run, could seem a pointless activity to young modellers. Hopefully this won't be the case, but if it does become a reality the kit (in any media) will dwindle as a product I think. I personally love kits, I just wish I was better at building them!

 

Cheers

Simon

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