Response to Rick Steele's comments


Jim King <jking@...>
 

Rick,

I'm relatively new to this list, but the pro and con discussions about new steam
models is very old and continues to go 'round and 'round with no resolution in sight.
Your comments are what's primarily being addressed here, but the overall mood of my
comments pertains to the whole issue of "what new kit do we ask for".

While most of the comments are accurate, relative to marketability, subject matter,
cost, etc., there are a couple points I take issue with. Being a model manufacturer
myself, I have a different perspective on the subject of "what the modeler wants".

First off, I have nothing against Colorado narrow gauge. The fact that many lines
were built at all tests most engineering principles to the max! Other than the Doe
River Gorge on the ET&WNC, there are few examples of typical Colorado terrain in the
east. But I don't live in the West and have no interest in modeling western roads. I
live in North Carolina ... and I do take offense to the "Puking Buzzard" comment you
made. This state is home to the "ET", Lawndale and many other ng lines that now only
exist in text or memory. Despite the comments made by several subscribers to this
list, there IS a good market for eastern subjects not related just to EBT. Ed Cass'
book on the OR&W has helped bring that well-known road to light. Soon, the Mann's
Creek book will be out. My point is, don't think narrow gaugers exist only in
Colorado just because that's where 3' trains still run.

Second, I take issue with the subject matter of what should/shouldn't be imported. If
a manufacturer is tooling up for a die cast boiler, frame, cylinders, et al, then yes,
he should appeal to the widest market to get a return on investment because a
single-cavity die-cast mold can easily run $60,000-80,000! And you'd better plan on
running a minimum of 15,000-20,000 shots from it to get a payback. Kits made from
etched brass, urethane and white metal DO NOT require such tooling investment, just
time to make patterns and rubber molds or artwork for the brass. Sure there is a lot
of time invested, but more time than tooling dollars, so the subject matter can be
economically produced without a second mortgage on the house. These processes are
aimed at short run, limited production subjects. Get your kit(s) when they are first
available, 'cause they won't be around forever. Same principle as brass imports ...
once they're in the states, you'd better have yours reserved or it's likely to be gone
when 'you get around to it'.

Just because the "mass concensus" says to produce yet another Colorado prototype,
that's no reason to blindly ignore the eastern modelers. As a small manufacturer who
does not make a living by making kits, I can be very selective on the next kit's
prototype. That's why I've joined groups like the ET&WNC HS and have answered their
requests for HOn3 rolling stock by producing, short-run urethane kits of the hopper
and a flat, so far. Although my personal interests are now in On3, I plan to continue
the HOn3 product line because this group has supported my efforts as they said they
would.

You mention imported brass prices being so high. Yup, they are now in the collector's
realm ... almost exclusively. Too bad .. there are a lot of nice models to be had,
but most of us would need to win a lottery to afford just one anymore. With the hopes
of an eastern prototype being imported in HOn3, the ET&WNC Historical Society is
currently taking reservations for a set of the 4-6-0s that made the prototype famous.
They are now working with their third importer and the jury's still out on the
outcome. In the meantime, there is no accurate ng power available, but 2-8-0s can be
cobbled up to "get close". And, I've seen the estimated retail price of the ten
wheelers approaching $1000. Too pricy for me. So the option of a brass/white
metal/urethane mixed kit are again looking promising.

In conclusion, don't get blindsided by all the Colorado-hype. With today's varied
manufacturing techniques, there is no reason why we all can't get closer, if not
nearly exact, to the desired model and not just "settle for close enough". Once the
frame and running gear have been established, the superstructure and tender are
relatively simple. Use your imagination, collect data and present it in a logical
format to a prospective manufacturer. You might be surprised to see "your" model be
produced in a year or two.

Jim King
Smoky Mountain Model Works
Asheville, NC

Rick Steele wrote:

CHoefer533@aol.com wrote:

The various K-series locos appear like a rash in the Brass Caboose catalog!
In fact, one's hard pressed to find anything other than "Colorado" based
locos. NO OFFENSE INTENDED TO ANYONE.
You say "like a rash" and then say "NO OFFENSE". Young bucko, I AM offended. I
could give a damn about the fact that Colorado Rankles you. Without Colorado and
the interest in the three foot gauge there, it is unlikely that you would even
have as much material available for modeling as you do.

If you would think about it, you would realize that the C-16 type and its
derivations were found on many other railroads beside the D&RG, as were the T-12
type. Yes, the importers bring out the C-16's almost as a matter of course. Why?
Maybe because they have two existing examples to measure from and maybe because
the demand is there.

Why did I ask for a C-19? Because of the possibilities of modification, because
four still exist. Because of the chance to have a platform from which to build a
possible 42 different derivations for the C&S alone.

I did not suggest this just to pick at your Colorado Hemmoroids. Use your
imagination.... Why a small 2-8-0? How about because many of the components, like
Everything but the frame, Main rod and Side Rods can be used to make a 4-4-0. So
what if it doesn't come out as a 4-4-0 the first time? So What if it's a Colorado
prototype? Do you have a soldering iron? Do what others do, change it.

My suggestion was to make a model which would appeal to the widest possible market
(and no, I don't model the D&RG) and therefore bring in something which would sell
and encourage this manufacturer to make more derivations of 3' gauge locomotives.
Not to import somebody's favorite locomotive, like an oddball 2-6-0 or 4-4-0 from
the Funny Duck and Western Railroad from Puking Buzzard, North Carolina which
would sit like a turkey on the shelves and discourage this manufacturer from ever
trying the HOn3 market again.

Whether you like it or not, it is consumer demand which drives this economy.

If you want to have a particular prototype, then contact a custom builder or put
your money where your mouth is and have your own run of locomotives imported.

My mainstay locos are the Spartans. Since Boone's article they have become
rarefied! I've only encountered a couple since the article (fortunately one
of those people didn't follow NG closely!) Many are in pretty bad shape too!
As to making them run well AND look good, it can be done but requires a major
rebuild (read $ out of proportion to loco cost [I've done 3]). The overall
dimensions aren't particularly hot either. Overall the Spartans were a great
idea however, but with current brass manufacturing and detail standards, we're
definately ready for a new generation of model.
And did anybody ever ask FED (aka Northwest Short Line) why they stopped importing
these locomotives? I did, through my local Hobby Store when I went in to buy a
couple more and they were unavailable, and the answer that I got back was lack of
sales.

We have an opportunity to get a manufacturer who might listen to the hobbyists
with regards to what might sell (remember, sales are still A#1 when it comes to
importing). Recommend a model with the greatest possible demand and get him
hooked, then ask for your "baby".

....and don't snivel because you don't like Colorado. If it weren't for Colorado
and the popularity of its 3' gauge it is unlikely that we would even be having
this discussion.

Rick Steele

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