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Author Topic: Bachmann Annoucements for new locomoitives  (Read 21059 times)
Desertdweller

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« Reply #45 on: June 03, 2012, 12:48:56 PM »

When we compare brass locomotives to plastic ones, whether they be Diesel or steam, we are talking about two very different things, even if they appear very much alike when painted.

The economics of producing them are pretty much opposite, and that determines the availability and price.

Producing brass locomotives is labor-intensive but not capital-intensive.  This is why brass locomotives have traditionally been produced in cheap labor countries with a lack of sophisticated manufacturing capability, like Japan used to be.  The early brass locos, at least, were virtually hand-made.  Certain parts that were common between different models could be mass-produced (turnings, lost-wax castings), but other major parts (boilers, frames, cabs, running gear) had to be hand fabricated and assembled (hand-soldered).

Well, what can you produce with a production capability like this?

First, it is almost as easy to produce dozens of models of different prototypes as it is to knock out a series of the same thing.  Your production workers are skilled craftsmen who know how to read blueprints, and understand how the prototype locomotives look and operate.  With a supply of common parts and basic metal shop tools (lathe, press brake, drill press, measuring devices and soldering tools)  these guys could build models of virtually any steam locomotive, in small quantities.

Painting these required a considerable additional investment in equipment, materials, research, space and skills.  So these models were generally sold unpainted.

If you look at the model railroad magazines of the 1960's you will find a huge number of brass locomotive models.  All produced in limited runs.  If there was a big demand for one particular model, generally another manufacturer would step in to fill the demand.  It is mind-boggling to look at these ads, just to consider the variety available.

Then consider the plastic locos.  These require little or none of the fabrication required of brass models.  They do not require craftsmen who can read blueprints or understand the prototype to assemble.  These require something not used in brass loco production:  injection molds for plastic casting.  These molds are extremely expensive, requiring huge numbers of models to be produced to amortize them.  So, the companies producing these cannot offer an extensive line of unique models.  Consider also that the more unique the prototype, the more limited its market appeal is apt to be.

How can a company produce plastic steam locomotives that will have wide market appeal?  You can offer models of particularly popular locomotives, like Daylight 4-8-4's and K4 4-6-2's that "everybody" loves.
And you can choose prototypes that were used by more than one railroad, like USRA types and locomotives based on them.  Produce models based on common frames and boilers with prototype-specific cabs and details.

If one is producing popular Diesel locomotives, the solution is simple.  If there are significant differences within the same prototype, either offer add-on options (steam generator details, dynamic brake details),
or leave it up to the buyer to do their own modifications.  You can use your expensive injection-molding equipment to produce a flood of identical models.  Assemble them with workers with basic skills, and use the money saved to offer them in a variety of paint schemes.  Your major competitors will be doing the same thing, so try to make your models of better quality to maintain your market share

I think a lot of the brass models wound up as shelf models, displayed but not run.  If the mechanical performance was not as good as the appearance, not a big deal to a lot of your customers.

I think almost all of the plastic models wind up being used on actual model railroads.  Why pay extra for DCC and sound if your model is to spend its life in a display case?  So if your models perform poorly, no matter how good they look, you have a big problem.

This is why it is difficult to compare values of brass and plastic locos.  They are really different animals, aimed at different markets.

Les

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ryeguyisme

Heavy Mountain Steam


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« Reply #46 on: June 03, 2012, 05:21:47 PM »

Les, most of the brass I buy was made in the late 70's early 80's when performance was either really good or need some tinkering, my engines will never ever be shelf queens, they have to earn their ownership on the high rail hauling my freight or passenger cars around. Even if a piece was available in the 60's and the chassis wouldn't run, well simple, replace it! Loads of good chassis out there to use in plastic or diecast engines
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Desertdweller

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« Reply #47 on: June 03, 2012, 09:06:14 PM »

Ryeguy,

Good for you for actually using your brass locos!  But I don't think your situation is typical.  I've known people to buy brass locos and not even paint them, much less run them.

I don't have a personal connection with steam.  I was born in 1949, but my hometown railroads converted to Diesels early.  My steam memories consist of hearing switch engines work in a nearby rail yard, my father showing me a hot 0-6-0 while its crew was at beans, and seeing occasional dead locos being hauled in freight trains (presumably to scrap).  Nothing very endearing there.

Were it not for companies like Bachmann and Rivarossi, I probably wouldn't own any steam locomotive models.  They predate the area of my model railroad with only a very narrow overlap.  The steam locomotive models I own are made by Bachmann and Life-Like, and exist primarily as curiosities. Even so, they cost more than my average Diesel unit.  I would not spend the price of brass locomotives to own them.

Will the price of brass locomotives go down?  Yes, I think so.  But only because the demand will fall off as the entire hobby collapses.  Some will become "antique collectibles" and hold their prices.  Most will sadly become garage sale junk or toys for the great-grandchildren of their present owners.  I have seen this happen already with the great tinplate trains of the 1940's and 50's.  You cannot have a hobby that has grown dependent on mass quantities of ready-to-run models without mass numbers of hobbyists. 

This will not happen all at once.  I think as the availability of ready-to-run models ends, the hobby will regress to the type of hobby it was in the 1950's, then the 1940's.  Then, when both ourselves and our children are gone, so will the hobby.

Our hobby withstood the greatest challenge to its existence, the Great Depression, because it was a craftsmen hobby that depended on individuals working with basic tools and materials at home to build their railroads.  It is no longer that kind of hobby.  Without public exposure to actual railroad experiences, I cannot see another generation taking up this hobby.  I have a 30+ year collection of N-scale equipment that sees regular use on my basement model railroad.  At today's prices, I could never afford to replace all that, even if all the equipment were still available (and it isn't).

So, when Bachmann or anyone else announces new locomotives, pay attention!

Les
 
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2-8-8-4

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« Reply #48 on: June 03, 2012, 10:02:48 PM »

Actually within this hobby it seems most people accumulate equipment and never actually operate it beyond a test run.

I've waited upon many of "the accumulators"--whether plastic or brass, or both.

John
« Last Edit: June 03, 2012, 10:18:18 PM by 2-8-8-4 » Logged
2-8-8-4

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« Reply #49 on: June 03, 2012, 10:09:26 PM »

Regarding tool and die costs for plastic injection molded models--yes, I'm very well aware--but what do you do when virtually all the PRR stuff has been done?

BLI is approaching the end of PRR steam power that will have significant national sales appeal.  Perhaps they're not there quite yet--the H-10 is coming, and the L-1 mikado would be a wonderful, common-sense choice--but most of the larger PRR steam classes have been done by somebody.

The USRA steam, for the most part, has been done--though the manufacturers continue to milk that cow.

So I think it is time for some of the "other guys" engines to get done.  Folks have been clamoring for the Northern Pacific 4-8-4, but for whatever reason, it hasn't happened in plastic yet.

Wouldn't it be neat if Bachmann could take the 2-8-0 and upgrade it into perhaps a few more detailed/road specific versions and still crank them out in some quantity?  Would the market go for such an animal the way it seems to gobble up USRA steamers and PRR or UP steam power?

« Last Edit: June 03, 2012, 10:19:26 PM by 2-8-8-4 » Logged
Desertdweller

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« Reply #50 on: June 03, 2012, 11:32:53 PM »

If you can wait long enough, a new crop of model railroaders just might appear to create a demand for models of things previously offered.

If I may use Rivarossi as an example:  This company was started by an Italian Count who sold his family estate to raise the money needed to produce a line of injection-molded plastic models of locomotives and other equipment.  He had an eye for what would be popular sellers in the US market:  Diesels that could be produced cheaply and would fill gaps in the market left open by his competitors.  Thus, we got FM cab units, but also E-units in both cabs and boosters.  GP-18's and other Diesels not produced by the competition.

But, we also got some very good-looking steam locomotives, chosen apparently by what he liked.  We got heavy and light USRA Pacifics, Mikados, IHB 0-8-0's, N&W Y6b's, UP 4-8-8-4's, SP cab-forwards, Nickle Plate 2-8-4's, USRA 0-6-0's, "Casey Jones" 4-6-0's, early 4-4-0's, etc.  Rather than driven by commonality, it looked like he just produced what he liked and thought would sell.  He chose well, and these things did sell well.  Their die work was great, even by today's standards.  Their main problem was that they were underpowered.
Even the big locos used the same little motors that the smaller ones used.

Come forward 40 years, and Bachmann is now producing plastic steam locos aimed at the same market.  I do not have any experience with Bachmann HO steam from either era.  I do have Bachmann N-scale steam (4-4-0, 2-6-2, 4-8-4) and Life-Like steam (4-6-2).  One of each.  In an earlier period (the 1980's), I also had one of the same types of Bachmann steam locos that I have today.  The original three have gone by the wayside.  The original 4-4-0 could hardly pull itself, the 2-6-2 broke the notorious "white gear", and the 4-8-4 would experience unexplainable spells of simply not running at all.  All the current-era Bachmann replacements work much better, so I have to say there is some improvement for sure.

Good performing equipment is essential to keeping the hobby alive.  If a kid receives a train set that barely or doesn't work, his reaction will be "all model trains are trash" and the train set winds up either in the next garage sale, or in the trash can.  And that is the last time he will try model railroading.  So, the manufacturers literally owe the existence of the hobby to providing quality products.

Generally speaking, I will not buy anything pre-assembled and "ready to use" if it is available in a kit I get to build.  Building the model is an important part of the enjoyment of the hobby for me.  Same for building the model railroad.  Why pay a hefty fee for someone to design and build a model railroad for you?  That is supposed to be part of the fun.

Les
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ryeguyisme

Heavy Mountain Steam


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« Reply #51 on: June 03, 2012, 11:39:10 PM »

Ryeguy,

 I've known people to buy brass locos and not even paint them, much less run them.



*gasp!* those poor babies Shocked

I treat my engines as if they were pets kind of, if one doesn't use the ash pit "BAD SMOKEY!" haha

there was a point where I thought I'd never see another Key Imports M-75 to add to the roster and that all the others were taken and held on to because even though they were cheaper, they still represented the engine which was built a few times in brass, by Glacier park, Tenshodo, Westside/Key and I even think Berlyn Loco works did a small run of them but all in all they're pretty popular three cylinder engines
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Doneldon

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« Reply #52 on: June 04, 2012, 12:54:34 AM »

Their inventory is real time--if I buy it, the quantity available immediately decreases by one.

Yellow-

My point exactly. The inventory does decrease by one when you make a purchase. The thing is, the demand decreases by one, too. So taking one out of the availability column does not result in an increase in the demand column and prices don't change. Once we Baby Boomers start liquidating our collections, however, the supply column will grow without a concomitant increase in the demand column so prices will decline.

For anyone who thinks steam isn't popular--I respectfully suggest they check the website inventory.  A whole bunch of the best steamers are completely sold out at this time (including many Bachmanns), while diesels, particularly F units, and the latest/greatest thing, are in reasonably good supply.

This only reflects greater demand for steam engines than diesels if, and it's a BIG if, the production runs of steamers and diesels are equal. And we know very well that is not the case. Why are the production runs different sizes, specifically more diesels than steamers? Supply and demand. The manufacturers know that younger modelers, by and large, have a relatively greater interest in diesel compared to steam. They also know that younger modelers have children, college loans and house payments so they may have to save up for a while in order to accumulate the cash for a purchase. So. Greater overall demand and many delayed purchases equals large production runs.

This isn't true for steam engines. Older modelers like me and my Baby Boomer cohort are largely finished with child rearing and college expenses; many of us no longer have house payments, either. Consequently, we can purchase what we want when it is released because we have the money at hand. We have little need for the layaway which rye guy likes so much. But that means that most of us won't be saving for a delayed purchase. A model steam locomotive which doesn't sell in the first three to six months is likely to sit in its manufacturer's warehouse for a very long time. And that spells financial trouble. So ... manufacturers make fewer steam models and plan to sell out comparatively quickly, with few or no residual sales. Two similar products with two entirely different business plans.

There is another issue which increasingly affects model railroad prices but no one seems to want to talk about it. Even I haven't mentioned it and I'm rather like the t**d in the punchbowl on this subject.

Overall, there are fewer model railroaders every year. That's because there are many more older modelers like me leaving the hobby than there are younger persons coming into the hobby. My Baby Boomer cohort has begun to reach our 70s (not me -- I'm only 69 -- until January). We are leaving the hobby at increasing rates from year to year due to death or infirmity. Maybe we can't get up and down the basement steps anymore. Maybe we have dementia. Maybe we need assisted living (which doesn't include assistance with model railroads!). Or maybe we're dead. World War veterans are dying at a rate of more than 1000 each day; Boomers are only a few years younger on average. And younger people simply aren't coming into the hobby in large numbers. There will be less and less demand as time goes by, and therefore lower prices across the board.

That's great if you're a young model rail, but there's a down side, too. I predict that the next 10, 20 or 30 years will see fewer and fewer new products. Why? We folks with the ready cash will be in short supply and we aren't being replaced by similar numbers of new model rails. Manufacturers won't be able to justify rushing new products to market until after a demand develops. No more making demand as well as models.

                                                                                                                                              -- D
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ryeguyisme

Heavy Mountain Steam


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« Reply #53 on: June 04, 2012, 09:15:27 AM »

The decline in interest in the hobby is apparent, but that's not to say something can't be done about it. At one point I've had donations and bought layouts at low prices from people who just weren't into the hobby anymore and one part of me is like I'm glad I'm able to save money by collectiong more track/equipment/buildings/etc for my projects, and the the other part of me is saddened because another model railroader soul has bit the dust

But that's not to say it can't be helped, there are ways to continually support the hobby. Some of these things I recieve I use or sell to work on my annual postwar O gauged 3 rail train display for the local park and I do it out of the goodness of my heart to my community but on the flip side I'm showing people around me there's more to life than the video games and the television, in some ways I believe my actions lead to inspire newcomers to the hobby as well as promote skills involved. At my job at home depot a lot of the staff and customers wonder how I know so much with hardware, lumber, builing materials and electrical all at once, and I simply reply Model Railroading

Model Railroading in its process can teach you a lot of key life skills, like geometry, geography, electrical, physics, woodwork, use of a variety of tools, history and so on. It's hard to name another hobby with that amount of skill set, and granted not everyone can do everything, I Excel in geometry, but give me an advanced algebra question and I can't answer it for the life of me. Sitting through that class was like watching late night crap product commercials that try to sell you something you don't really neeed. Model Railroading shouldn't be rocket science, yet some people can't think as complex to build a varney steam locomotive kit or handlay track, and that's why our companies have evolved to sell ez-track snap track and ready to run locomotives to broaden the people it can sell to.

Remember at one point brass was almost the only way you actually buy ready to run besides a few companies that would actually prebuild the models for a price increase
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2-8-8-4

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« Reply #54 on: June 04, 2012, 12:22:58 PM »

Doneldon--

First, it seems you may be over-thinking in your post above.

The inventory of modeltrainstuff does not necessarily reflect real demand--only their supply--what they ordered, and nothing more.

I guarantee you right now that if they had more Tangent WM or Lehigh Valley Bethlehem Steel gondolas, they would be gone instantly--within a day, as would some Alco PA's that just sold like hotcakes.  When one watches their inventory on a daily basis, one can see when they go back and order extra quantities of some items.

There are many times I've had to go elsewhere and spend more money to buy things that they were sold out of--because they are the first dealer to sell out of inventory due to their very favorable price structure.

Second--you are very likely mistaken if you think the diesels are being done in large runs--especially relative to Bachmann's rather large production runs of steam power.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2012, 01:27:21 PM by 2-8-8-4 » Logged
2-8-8-4

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« Reply #55 on: June 04, 2012, 01:21:09 PM »

The manufacturers do not sit around and say "this is a diesel so we'll make twice as many".

Instead they say "how many do we need to sell for this to be a viable project".  Then they hit that quantity, or exceed it if they can, but though many people do buy diesels, it is a bit overly simplistic to assume they vastly outsell steam, if you would make a comparison based upon dollars spent and not merely units.

BLI manages to keep producing runs of steam power that get gobbled up, but the diesels may languish on the shelves, depending on the model.

John
« Last Edit: June 04, 2012, 01:23:40 PM by 2-8-8-4 » Logged
Desertdweller

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« Reply #56 on: June 04, 2012, 01:54:05 PM »

Obviously, plastic Diesels are produced in numbers exceeding plastic steamers.  Is this just because they are cheaper, so they can be included in train sets and sold to a less affluent market?  I don't think that is the entire answer.

Because they are less expensive, it is easier for modelers to build up fleets of the same model type.  This not only helps build a more believable roster, it also allows the Diesels to be used in the way the big railroads use them: in multiple units on one train.  In the real world, one seldom sees a train with only one unit.  Short local freights, switch jobs, short passenger trains, maybe work trains.  All others, even on short lines, will use more than one unit.  By the time a modeler uses two or three powered units on a train, he is looking at a cost comparable to using steam.

One of the great sights of model railroading, for me, is the look of a matched set of units on a train.  Particularly cab-and booster units.

In the same line of thought, I've noticed a decrease in the popularity of dummy Diesel units lately.  A lot of people these days would rather have all their Diesels powered, even B units.  I think this is a good thing.  On my own railroad, one powered unit is sufficient for a passenger train of seven cars.  If I add a dummy unit, I've reduced the number of cars I can handle.  But if I run eight or nine car passenger trains, which I regularly do, I'll add a second powered unit for the same reason a big railroad would.

Les
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Doneldon

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« Reply #57 on: June 04, 2012, 02:25:43 PM »

it is a bit overly simplistic to assume they vastly outsell steam, if you would make a comparison based upon dollars spent and not merely units.

John-

It is number built, not dollars spent which defines the size of a production run and the available inventory. I suspect that dollars spent on steam and diesel are not terribly different but that is because, on average, steam costs more than diesel. So we can't compare dollars spent to ascertain how many units were made.
                                                                                                                                                     -- D
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2-8-8-4

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« Reply #58 on: June 04, 2012, 06:22:04 PM »

You contended that diesels are built in far superior numbers to steam or rather that the market greatly prefers diesel power.  I disagreed.

What I said is if one looks at the total dollars spent upon motive power, it would be more nearly even (because steam generally costs more per unit sold).  If the dollars spent are more nearly even, then it is not necessarily accurate to say that people generally prefer diesel over steam.  There are some who buy diesels only because they are cheaper, or because steam has the reputation of being more hassle to operate.

Dummy units are no longer made because most of the cost is now in the assembly, detailing and finishing of the shell, and packaging for dummy units might be slightly different.  It is therefore easier for the manufacturer to just make everything powered--that way people can run longer trains--which most want to do anyway (maximize the length of train on their own layout).

Lots of steam engines get sold because people "just want to have one (big boy, or GS-4, or fill in the blank)".  Even though they may have primarily diesel power on their layout, a significant portion of buyers will always want to have that one big or special "excursion" engine or big boy or whatever feeds their ego.  I don't think steam will go away entirely.  That's the real point.

As David P. Morgan and others wrote, the diesel is not nearly as satisfying to the senses as steam, which seems to be a living breathing beast.

John

P.S. Bachmann is the one manufacturer who still seems to make plenty of stock for store (or at least distributor) shelves, rather than just to cover pre-orders plus a small percentage.  If one wants a particular Bachmann engine, one can usually find a distributor that has or can get one.  That is not necessarily the case with the other guys.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2012, 06:35:07 PM by 2-8-8-4 » Logged
Doneldon

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« Reply #59 on: June 04, 2012, 10:48:27 PM »

John-

This interchange is sounding more and more argumentative and I'm concerned that you are putting words in my mouth. (E.g., where did I ever state  "that diesels are built in far superior numbers to steam or rather that the market greatly prefers diesel power?") Consequently, I am ending my participation in our conversation before things get out of hand. You are welcome to the last word.

I don't think your belief is amenable to a factual discussion and I'm not sure that responding to your impassioned position will lead to anything other than an escalating conflict to which the other participants on this Board don't need to be exposed. For reasons of your own you have chosen a frankly indefensible position and I don't care to be a foil for your polemics. I'm quite confident that the large majority of folks on this Board have their own data-centered opinions and an ongoing debate on this subject, especially an emotional one which could easily become acrimonious, will interest or inform them in any productive way.
 
                                                                                                                                                        -- D
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