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The future of loco kit building


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....What is it with kit manufacturers and this frankly bizarre business model? Create a range of products. Produce a single, hand-written catalogue and hide it under the mist-shrouded, mountainside eyrie of a rare Tanzanian eagle. Fit a device to your phone that administers 20kV to anyone who has the nerve to call you. Only answer written correspondance from those who can prove they are lineal descendants of the Duchy of Burgundy. Attend exhibitions only when the planets are aligned and grant audiences only to those who come proffering a diamond-studded faun's hoof autographed by J D Salinger. It's really rather baffling.

 

It's called "exclusivity".....  :jester:

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What about looking at it from the point of view of a kit maker who's been trading since the 1980s, who has tried to retire once, who is on his own to run the business and do whatever else he has to get done, who has enough work to keep him busy without the 4mm kits but has been persuaded to make them available again despite all the extra work this creates?

 

His address and phone number are all over the internet and if he prefers to deal by post well, that's his right.  Just remember to include an SAE.

 

We rely on the good will of manufacturers to make these products available, it's not a right we have.  If that doesn't suit, well, there's always room for another supplier, especially if you can offer the kind of thing Dan does and at a similar quality.

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What about looking at it from the point of view of a kit maker who's been trading since the 1980s, who has tried to retire once, who is on his own to run the business and do whatever else he has to get done, who has enough work to keep him busy without the 4mm kits but has been persuaded to make them available again despite all the extra work this creates?

 

His address and phone number are all over the internet and if he prefers to deal by post well, that's his right.  Just remember to include an SAE.

 

We rely on the good will of manufacturers to make these products available, it's not a right we have.  If that doesn't suit, well, there's always room for another supplier, especially if you can offer the kind of thing Dan does and at a similar quality.

 

Sorry, but I really don't buy into this notion that businesses are run as an act of good will. The owner(s) may well derive pleasure from their business, but it is a business, not a charity and the profit it generates should compensate the work and outlay it takes to operate, surely?

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.... which is exactly why no-one would blame Dan if he packed up the 4mm again, just did the 7mm, took it easy and made as much as he is comfortable with.

 

Besides which, there's no law which says a business needs to be profitable and a great many accountants who can help you show just the opposite every year end.  Neither is there any requirement or onus on a business operator to put themselves out for the convenience of possible customers.  I run a small business.  I don't make money from it and I don't go out of my way to advertise it.  It's something I can do conveniently while keeping down a full time job as well and for other reasons it suits me to keep it going. I don't feel any compulsion to go out of my way to attract customers because I'm in the lucky position of not needing to.

 

Lets not lose sight of the fact that this is a hobby, for a great many manufacturers as well as modellers and many who are both.

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Sorry, but I really don't buy into this notion that businesses are run as an act of good will. The owner(s) may well derive pleasure from their business, but it is a business, not a charity and the profit it generates should compensate the work and outlay it takes to operate, surely?

 

 

Nope, this like many other cottage industry businesses, is a hobby. The owners have no real need to make any profits and the main, or at least the initial, purpose of the exercise is to provide, otherwise unobtainable, stock for particular layouts.

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Sorry, but I really don't buy into this notion that businesses are run as an act of good will. The owner(s) may well derive pleasure from their business, but it is a business, not a charity and the profit it generates should compensate the work and outlay it takes to operate, surely?

While not run as an act of goodwill,  most "small suppliers" don't make the grade as a commercial proposition. They continue to be run as a low income retirement business, a hobby that creates some income, because the owner is on a treadmill and can't get off (because he probably can't sell it for a reasonable amount), etc.

 

Those off us that are reliant upon such suppliers for our modelling needs and wants, rather than on Hornby, Bachmann, etc. are usually willing to recognise that we are probably more dependant on them than they are upon us and reflect that when dealing with them. A case of use it or lose it, even if it isn't that straightforward.

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Sorry, but I really don't buy into this notion that businesses are run as an act of good will. The owner(s) may well derive pleasure from their business, but it is a business, not a charity and the profit it generates should compensate the work and outlay it takes to operate, surely?

These all tend to be part time businesses, and I am sure they all make loads of money from them and drive around in Ferrari's.

 

I would image break even point on some kits could well be a couple of years worth of sales.

 

I am not sure what is wrong with dealing by post and telephone it was that way far longer than there has been internet. Yes it is slower, but the kits still need to travel by post they cannot come through the net. Also to be honest it is a hobby and nothing is a life or death situation.

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I am not sure what is wrong with dealing by post and telephone it was that way far longer than there has been internet. Yes it is slower, but the kits still need to travel by post they cannot come through the net.

They could in the future (this thread is on the future of loco kit building after all). If you have a 3-D printer, a file could be sent to you through the net for you to print as many times as necessary on that printer.

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They could in the future (this thread is on the future of loco kit building after all). If you have a 3-D printer, a file could be sent to you through the net for you to print as many times as necessary on that printer.

Difficult to send etched and cast brass through the internet, 3D printing is not the answer to everything. It may well be superb in some uses but I feel it will be more for masters for castings, even then it needs to improve a lot.

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They could in the future (this thread is on the future of loco kit building after all). If you have a 3-D printer, a file could be sent to you through the net for you to print as many times as necessary on that printer.

 

That's as good a way as any of cottage industry designers being ripped off by major manufacturers.

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I am young-er than most who build kits, and I agree with LNWR modeler, support the suppliers, I model the GC and have build some of the excellent kits made by Bill. There is no way I could do them to the same standard and so would resist any undercutting of their money supply which would make him feel it was not worth while. As pointed out 3d printing is great but it is not a panacea.

kit designers thank you,

Richard

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  • 1 year later...

I think that manufacturers need to look at having a multi-media kit. Ie, make use of cast pewter, urethane, etched brass, etc to make up various components of a kit. Etched brass is good for cabs and tender bodies, but you cannot make a dome or chimney in etch. Here, cast metal (either pewter or brass) is preferable.

 

Rolling etched brass boilers is a right pain in the pants. Plastic tube (some boilers happen to be the same diameter as commercially available plastic pipe or tube) or cast urethane would be preferably. In the video below is an NSWGR 18 class 0-6-0 Tank locomotive kit. Australian O gauge has been doing this multi-media approach to kits for years.

 

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.... there's no law which says a business needs to be profitable and a great many accountants who can help you show just the opposite every year end.  Neither is there any requirement or onus on a business operator to put themselves out for the convenience of possible customers.....

 

These are exactly the principles upon which Tony Crook ran Bristol Cars for many years!

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MMP diesels also use the same approach, etched stuff in brass, various thicknesses, etched nickel silver, ditto, cast pewter, brass, white metal and nickel silver, urethane fronts etc.

 

Brilliant, cutting edge stuff. Still unbeatable for detail.

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These are exactly the principles upon which Tony Crook ran Bristol Cars for many years!

That and many other companies (especially international ones) they are doing something wrong in their accounts if they are having profit assessed for corporation tax.

 

But that is a completely different league compared to the sort of side shows (not meant to be derogatory, just realistic comparison) that we deal with here. None of these businesses should be making a "profit" they simply do not account for research and development costs let alone a realistic return on hours.

 

The same is true throughout the modelling businesses from the production of kits and parts to their assembly. Most would not pay realistic prices either, even if asked to do so. If charged the hourly rate that is paid for main employment there would be no custom. Far to many think a service should be provided for free or at the rate of some unskilled worker. Most in this industry do it for the thanks they get and for the pleasure of doing it. Think of that when you next ask someone to build your P4 chassis, or open a box of flat etched brass and loose faith in any ability you may have had that the "kit" purchased would somehow fall together by some design miracle in the instant you removed the packaging.

Edited by Kenton
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Minimum wage! I can get THAT flipping burgers or stacking shelves in any Walmart look alike. Neither of which require skill/ability/research. A skilled job should demand a justifiably compensatory rate. That it doesn't in this case just goes to prove we value nothing in model railways.

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Minimum wage! I can get THAT flipping burgers or stacking shelves in any Walmart look alike. Neither of which require skill/ability/research. A skilled job should demand a justifiably compensatory rate. That it doesn't in this case just goes to prove we value nothing in model railways.

I don't think it's just model railways !

Lots of work/skills underpaid and many "gormless" jobs rewarded.

Edited by lofty1966
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Ha........speak to my lad about that: in the steel industry, the button pusher is king. The guys who maintain and keep the plant running are much lower down the scale.

 

Yet, at Jaguar, the reverse is true.

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Sorry, but I really don't buy into this notion that businesses are run as an act of good will. The owner(s) may well derive pleasure from their business, but it is a business, not a charity and the profit it generates should compensate the work and outlay it takes to operate, surely?

Some of them are good will and operate only to support the hobby or their are of interest. . It is a way for enterprising modellers to get the kits they want and to cover costs, sell on the remaining stock. If time was taken into account, many of these cottage suppliers would not do it at all. I was stock taking with an etched supplier not that long ago and the numbers of etched kits of some of the range actually sold in a year, (usually the ones that he was told would sell 100's if he made it just because they wanted one) could be counted using two hands. You are entitled to your opinion but from where I view directly with some suppliers, the real world is very different. Look at the age of many of the cottage producers. It is fair to say that to some, it is a retirement hobby.

 

This sort of thread crops up every now and then, and I avoid showing them to the producers (luckily they don't do internet so unlikely to see them) as when I have in the past, the response is 'why do I bother?'. It is sad that there are hidden ranges out there that do not advertise as they are produced in very limited numbers to those in the know who appreciate the effort that has gone in to these kits, just so they don't have to tolerate such negative views.

 

Just in case you are wondering, the stock check showed that the Bugatti Veyron will have to be put on hold again!

 

Mike Wiltshire

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I avoid showing them to the producers (luckily they don't do internet so unlikely to see them) as when I have in the past, the response is 'why do I bother?'. It is sad that there are hidden ranges out there that do not advertise as they are produced in very limited numbers to those in the know who appreciate the effort that has gone in to these kits, just so they don't have to tolerate such negative views.

 

Though it has to said that some are their own worse enemies. Many not having any basic business skills but do have lots of enthusiasm and a certain "know how" in terms of design and production.

 

Having a good kit for your own benefit is just fine, selling to friends for a few beer tokens is also just fine. But generating a large stock of same kits and then making no effort to advertise their availability to a wide community is not business. It is as bad as any of us hoarding kits we will never get round to building. That is OK by me, but they cannot complain "why do I bother" as they have effectively chosen not to sell.

 

Now I don't really care if they are on the internet or have a website that accepts credit cards - nice, especially if I am otherwise expected to bung £200-£800 in a brown envelope, but it is not essential. But if they really do want to sell these kits then they do need to make a small amount of effort and let us know about them. Otherwise they shouldn't complain about counting their stock (why bother? if it has been sitting around unsold for even a few years it is effectively worthless in terms of any business, they might as well go out into the garden an count potatoes as they might sell more readily)

 

A little careful market research would help. If they are making something so peculiar that it is unique to the knowledge of only a few then it is unlikely to sell in the 100's - perhaps 5 if lucky so that was never business sense just selfish (and I have no issue with someone being selfish and making something solely for their own benefit) just don't complain that it is a business and don't make out that it is.

 

It just seems to make them think that their "business" has value as a "retirement nest egg" - maybe if someone is daft enough to come along and pay money for it - but having said that we have seen a fair few of those. All good intentions but not an iota of business acumen.

 

But just remember to say thank you nicely when you next buy a kit and grovel accordingly. Thank you for putting the information out there to let you know it was for sale; and thank you for all the effort taken to make it available. Then depart with a smile on your face 'cause you definitely got a bargain and many hours of entertainment. As to the rest of those hoarders they can cuddle up to their secret kits on a dark lonely night safe in the satisfaction they have a pile of worthless scrap metal and the only one ever built (maybe).

Edited by Kenton
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Ha........speak to my lad about that: in the steel industry, the button pusher is king. The guys who maintain and keep the plant running are much lower down the scale.

 

To the accountant the button pusher creates revenue, but the maintenance is an overhead and results in downtime. An unfortunate view but one that exists in many other companies.

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Many people in cottage industries do not earn much, the average self employed person is on low pay. I look as some shops and wonder how they make money. Some in our hobby command high prices, others run businesses that make money. Many though have day jobs and supply items because they enjoy doing so or because it subsides their own modelling, or they make items designed for themselves available to others.

 

My wife's grandfather was the local watch repairer (wind up things), never made much money just enough to get by.

 

As for loco kit building, its alive and kicking. Many enjoy the hours spent model making, though its not for everyone. Many progressed from Airfix kits in the past and will do so in the future, even if they start attaching a 3D body to a RTR chassis. At the moment I am making a GEM whitemetal loco and one of the GEM etched chassis. The instructions for the body are non-existent, the chassis suffers from information overload. The Highlevel gearbox are a bit in between the two GEM ones, though a quick phone call answered a couple of queries. 

 

Its a pity there are not the odd entry level kit for beginners, though some of the Southeastern Finecast tank locos must come into this catagory as I guess do some other makes/kits

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They could in the future (this thread is on the future of loco kit building after all). If you have a 3-D printer, a file could be sent to you through the net for you to print as many times as necessary on that printer.

So how much are going to pay for this then, and not do file sharing as well because you and your friends are too mean to all pay, or are you expecting somebody to make pittance so you can have your cheap engine etc. It will take many hours to do an engine of skilled time at say at least £25.00 per hour for a skilled computer operator to do it.  

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