Pricing ourselves out of a hobby

SPsteam May 25, 2016

  1. SPsteam

    SPsteam TrainBoard Member

    I've been out of the hobby for the last couple of years with other things in life. Other interests and my kid's activities have taken precedence. I pulled out the trains, repaired the faulty wiring on the layout and started running again.

    I've noticed that some of the products that I was waiting on have come to market and are now available. That being said, I've also seen a relatively steep increase in prices. The new Bman and BLI steamers are in the mid $250 range, the same price the Athearn Challenger was when it was released several years ago. Car prices have crept near or above $25 dollars.

    I realize prices have to rise, however is the hobby industry pricing itself out of a market. N scale used to be a cheaper way to get into model railroading. There is a decline in the number of participants in the hobby and could this be one cause? Accumulating a modest fleet of cars and locomotives now costs way more than it used to. Plastic now costs as much or more than brass did 20 - 30 years ago. There are very few deals to be had and with a shrinking market there are fewer on the horizon.

    Will we reach a point where this hobby is just too expensive to really enjoy.

    What do you think?
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  2. Kenneth L. Anthony

    Kenneth L. Anthony TrainBoard Member

    I look at "state of the art" products ONLY when they are of really special interest to me. However I have LOTS of old cars I bought for $5 apiece over a 40 year period. Lots of fodder for rebuilding, decaling etc. Locos I bought for $25-$40. A bit growly. DC. still fun. If I have something I don't need, eBay helps it go bye-bye, cheap for somebody else who doesn't need to have the newest stuff.
    Hardcoaler likes this.
  3. JMaurer1

    JMaurer1 TrainBoard Member

    I think that the hobby has started the tailspin downward. Today's trains are usually container trains: long trains that go from here to there. Most of the general public's interaction is having to wait for them to pass while stuck at a train crossing. They are more of an aggravation than interesting. Also, when you have a device that can take you into another world and kill people, race cars, solve puzzles, create your own empire, and on and on, it's hard to compete. As a result less people are getting into the hobby. With less people sales go down...unless you do limited runs of whatever product you sell and charge more for them. Prices go up and that makes it even harder for new people to join the hobby...and there starts the spiral.

    Toss in the internet and the local train stores begin to vanish as online prices are cheaper when you don't have to have a brick and mortar shop. Now where does someone new to the hobby go to see what they may want to buy and ask the questions about how they do this? When was the last time you saw a locomotive for $25 (that wasn't at one of the 'train shows') and wasn't junk? Old (inexpensive) N scale doesn't 'hook' with the new N scale. Converting a $5 now costs at least $5 ($6.40 retail) for new trucks and couplers. And a new hobbyist might just be put off having to spend more than their $5 car just to make it operational (now a $10+ car).

    One of the things that I have always enjoyed about the hobby is that if I get tired of doing one thing (say wiring) I can enjoy a different aspect of the hobby (say painting and decaling rolling stock), however this makes it even harder for the started hobbyist...the vast amount of knowledge needed to do this hobby. Woodwork (benchwork), layout design, DC wiring, trackwork, painting, plaster and scenery, working with very small parts, tinkering, being artistic, puzzle solving, etc. the list just goes on. Very few really can do most at a respectable skill level. That ALL of these skills are needed just whittles the amount of hobbyists down even further. Even things that were supposed to make model trains easier, doesn't. DCC was supposed to make wiring so much simpler, but (IMHO) the firmware still sucks BAD (I work in IT so I am allowed to say that). Working with computers all day and I still have to refer to cheat sheets for programming my locomotives. How does a new hobbyist even begin to figure out that...and that's only after they get over figuring out what to buy and how to set it up and how to make trains run and get to the point of trying to run more than one train at a time. And don't forget the expense of buying a DCC system.

    The housing slump dried up most peoples recreational cash spending and any train shops that were just holding on closed and people have only recently starting spending money again...but with so much competition for that money out there, this hobby just doesn't have the pull it had when locomotives were large steel, fire breathing, living monsters (I'm talking about steam here). The glory days are gone and even the railroads are shrinking in size and number and have become only a way to get containers from the boat to the truck for delivery. As we continue to age, without new blood being added (and it just isn't being added quickly enough), the hobby is slowly going to keep shrinking until it quietly disappears...
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  4. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    I'm afraid the answer is yes. Thankfully I have what I need at hand, and only one or two items of possible future interest. I can afford to buy a switch or something else, now and then. If I were on the outside, looking at starting... Hmm.
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  5. brokemoto

    brokemoto TrainBoard Member

    I suspect that much of it is due to what we have been telling the manufacturers. We have told them that we want higher quality product and were willing to pay for it. We asked, they gave us that for which we asked.

    We told the manufacturers that we did not want just generic rolling stock with whatever road name hung on it. They gave it to us. That stuff gets expensive, as road specific product appeals to a limited number of purchasers.

    We asked for DCC ready. That requires more work, thus more money.

    We asked for DCC installed. That gets even more expensive.

    Some of the manufacturers do offer several levels of product. If you are willing to settle for the generic freight cars of old, one or two of the manufacturers still offer a less expensive product line. One or two of the manufacturers have sold off their less expensive lines to other firms, who continue to offer the product. If you are willing to settle for what used to be out there, much of it is, still. If, however, you want something that is at current standards, that will cost you.

    It is similar to the old saw about going into the marketplace to buy feed for your horsey.
    scottmitchell74 likes this.
  6. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Railroads today are bean-countered to death. Just try interacting with one. Miles and miles of miles and miles. No people, no depots and a few inanimate machines passing.................. It's hard when you do find anyone, as too many idiots have caused problems, (theft, vandalism, trespass), so you have a diificult time even getting close any more.

    The railroads made a big mistake when they closed all their agencies in favor of 1-800 phone contact. That removed them from the local community- big PR error. With the companies gone, who can a local youngster meet and build some interest in railroading? And in too many instances, it's just a hiking trail or fading memory anyhow. Without the kids being able to connect wth the real thing any more, to feed their imaginations,...... Oh well. :(
    wpsnts and mtntrainman like this.
  7. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Some folks did ask. That unfortunately dragged everyone else in and along......
  8. nscalestation

    nscalestation TrainBoard Supporter

    Add to that the trend toward multi-packs and pre-weathered cars. Those are great, but I've noticed in recent months the majority of the new Micro-Trains releases fall into those categories with few single, un-weathered cars. Harder for a newbie on a limited budget to get started.
  9. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

    We are already there !!

    Prices are driving the younger crowd away and driving the old gaurd away too. As we older modelers die off...the younger ones are not interested in spending that kind of cash to play with trains. The millinials like their smart devices and newer fads like 'drones'.

    Manufactures need to raise prices to counter the drop in interest and yet the consumers are not able to afford those higher prices to keep the interest up. That in turns drives manufactures out of bussiness and modelers away. But hey...lets just keep raising those prices !! Its a case of the dog chasing its tail.

    I dont buy much "NEW" stuff...cant afford it. The "USED" stuff that is affordable is getting harder to find. Lucky for me...I dont need much more of anything. I run the trains I have and am quite content.

    The manufactures have dug themselves into a hole they cant climb out of. Those modelers with the deeper pockets are not going to be able to keep the manufactures afloat for long. Manufactures throwing in the towel is just becoming a sign of the times.

    I dont buy into the notion that the 'Price of tea in China' is causing the increase in prices of our models. The economy...not. Higher detailing...maybe. Build it and charge sky high prices and hope the hobbiest buy into it mentality...yes. There is NO real logical reason for the outrageous cost for our hobby.

    We are our own worst enemy.

    Just My Opinion
  10. Philip H

    Philip H TrainBoard Member

    How outrageous is the cost really? Sure - we now have $225 locos with sound installed; but is that price really out of line with other things? Gas was under a dollar when I was a kid in the 1970's; now we pay between $2.30 and $4 a gallon depending on year, season, and China (to name a few forces). Home prices have gone up - food prices too. When was the last time you saw $2 gallon of milk? Drones are also not a real comparison (I remember calling them R/C quad copters not long ago) - the cheap ones are $25; the good durable ones are $200 or more a peice.

    Sure - $25 BLMA tank cars are tough to swallow when we used to get good ones from MDC for $10 a pop. But that BLMA car is prototype faithful, and RTR -which is also an increasing trend in MRR.

    And the loss of hobby shops is not keeping people out of the hobby - today's millenials learn stuff from the internet just fine, thanks (Or so I hear from my 20 year old) - just look at all the Youtube videos, Skype Hang Outs and podcasts that exist on model railroading - and all for free too from the comfort of your hobby room.

    Sure the hobby is changing - but dying? Due to prices? Realy?
    Fribur, mu26aeh and Kez like this.
  11. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

    I just bought 2 one gallon jugs of milk for $1.79 each...yesterday. A drone for 25.oo for hours of fun...yet we are expected to pay 25.00 EACH for cars that we need at least 20 of to make up a train....and you need at least 4 full trains. $225.00 for sound in a locomotive...seriously ??:whistle:

    Your talking $2900.00 just for trains ! And you havent even built a layout yet...or bought and laid any track ! We dont need any expensive scenery do we ? Have you checked out the prices for a 10 pack of premade trees ? :eek: Thats just 10 trees...and you need a forest!!

    How about the DCC system to run those locomotives with sound ?? $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$:sick:

    There are way to many 'trends' in model railroading that are costing way to much money. Some can afford those 'trends'...others just pass on by and find something else they can do that wont cost so much !:censored:
    Last edited: May 25, 2016
    SASRR likes this.
  12. SPsteam

    SPsteam TrainBoard Member

    My oldest son has little interest in the hobby, he would rather pay Minecraft. My youngest, 9, still likes to run trains. The best thing I did was pick up a bunch of Unitrak, he loves building various configurations to zip trains around on. I doubt they will ever have a serious interest like I do, there are to many competing factors.

    I think another issue we face is the portability of the hobby. As a military member, lugging my layout around from station to station can be rather difficult. Many younger modelers don't want to commit that kind of space within their house to build something, knowing they will be upgrading/moving in a few years. Back in the day, a family would by a house and reside there for 20-30 years, work at the same place and retire. Those days are behind us. Our current neighborhood is what I would like to call a nursery neighborhood. Young families move in, stay a few years and then move out when they can afford that nice acreage outside of town, its a high turnover.
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  13. montanan

    montanan TrainBoard Member

    I will have to admit that thing are getting quite pricey. Living where I do, I have no choice but to buy on the internet because there are no hobby shops at all close to me. Internet retailers are probably bring the days of a local hobby shop to an end.

    Years ago I was in N scale but the quality of the locomotives was not the best in the late 70's. Nothing like what we have available today. I ended up ripping out my N scale layout which had over 11 scale miles of main line along with scenery and move to HO scale. When I started my present layout over 30 years ago, Athearn locomotives were probably the best bang for the buck and could be had for about $40 bucks a shop. They weren't the best running locomotives compared to todays locomotives, but I ended up remotoring all of them with can motors and they are still in service today and run as good as anything new on the market today.

    The majority of my rolling stock is old Athearn blue box kits. I got many of them undecorated and unpainted and painted them for my freelance railroad at about $5 buck apiece new. Of course Kadee couplers and metal wheels did add to the cost of them, but they were all lightly weathered and when put into a train with newer freight cars, it's hard to tell them apart. I'm not really worried about all of the highly detailed underbody parts as mine are always sitting on their wheels. Who cares. I don't.

    I acquired the majority of my locomotives years ago. The majority of my fleet are the original Atlas Also units which I detailed and custom painted for my freelance railroad. They all still run as good as anything new on the market.

    DCC was brought up. Not cheap. At one time I had looked into DCC, but being that my layout was built mainly for switching and that I am a lone operator, DCC really wouldn't be needed. Sound is also not necessary for me. I do have a couple of locomotives with DCC and sound, mainly because they were not available in DC only, and they were either painted for a railroad that I wanted or were a type of locomotives that I wanted. When I'm working on my layout, I usually will let a train run around the layout and the sound equipped locomotives will drive me nuts. Being a lone operator, the only person I have to make happy is myself and I enjoy my layout just the way it is. I don't have to impress anyone.

    Personally, I am glad that I am not starting into the hobby today due to the high prices. $200, $300 or more for a locomotive is a hefty price. Yes, I can afford it, but do I want to. $30 to $40 or more for freight cars ??? Ouch.

    Sure am glad that I am an old fart and got started on my layout when I did.
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  14. maxairedale

    maxairedale TrainBoard Member

    The title of this thread is
    Pricing ourselves out of a hobby
    We are not
    Pricing ourselves out of a hobby
    it is the manufactures and the stores who are
    Pricing US out of a hobby

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  15. Logtrain

    Logtrain TrainBoard Member

    I have been saying this for the last 5-7 years. We are our own worst enemy for this. The reason I say this is simple. We want our models to be prototype specific. We want that last little detail 0n this model right out of the box. This drives up the MSRP. Todays modelers also because of our busy schedules don't have time to build model kits either. This is one reason why Woodland Scenics now has their "Built-Up" series. But $40-$50 for a model? Give me a break.

    I can forsee within the next 10 years where you wont be able to get a shake the box kit unless it is a "master series type of kit."

    Us modelers that actually enjoy putting a kit together over the course of a couple nights after work are coming to an end. "armchair modeler" as I call them are taking over and making the hobby not enjoyable anymore.

    Just my $0.02
    mtntrainman likes this.
  16. Philip H

    Philip H TrainBoard Member

    So FreemoN, TTrak, even N Trak can address the portability issue in both size and high quality modeling - as many of our members here show. And I know at least one USAF LTC who crates up his Pennsylvania RR HCD layout and moves it with him. Movement and space can be accounted for.

    And sure DCC is expensive if you buy a system and tons of decoders up front. But is DCC more expensive then the LCD TVs everyone is buying? And no one buys it all at once either.

    Sure, $25 a car adds up quick - so buy 10 cars now and 10 when the hit the secondary market if that's all you can afford.

    My point remains - we live in a time when much of what we WANT (And MRR is a want not a need) has gone up significantly in price. We also live in a time when (IMHO) the economic ability of people to deal with those changes is not what it once was. If our hobby is important, we CAN make CHOICES to make it succeed.
  17. tracktoo

    tracktoo TrainBoard Member

    Any look at thirty year income and wealth trends will put some undeniable facts to the matter. And while any one of us on any given day or in a specific locale can do OK in this environment it's the trends that set the base to support an industry and those trends are pretty bleak. Sure there are increased quality demands but there are offsetting increases in manufacturing improvements for many of those things. Interest may wane as described but the broad statistics of the financial circumstances to support the industry are also absent. All of the interest in the world can't force that away, deny that gravity. And it's not just model trains that have taken this hit.
  18. jpwisc

    jpwisc TrainBoard Member

    How many times are we going to rehash this dead horse of a topic?

    I think the hobby is fine. I see lots of younger people coming into the hobby. They are drawn in for some of the same reasons we all came in, plus the new digital aspects.

    Is this a cheap hobby? No. It never has been. Don't bother giving me the "back in the day" speech. I got my first two freight cars 30 years ago for $2.50/each. In today's dollars I could get a better quality car for the $5.50 that figures out to. The kid coming in can get some second hand Atlas trainman cars for $5 each.

    Cost isn't pushing people away. Kids today have no problem dropping $400 on a new iPhone every couple years.

    Manufacturers are selling product at sufficient levels to make more products. We are seeing new manufacturers stepping up to take the place of some that have fallen off. Add in all the things you can get from Shapeways and we are living in a good time.
  19. Philip H

    Philip H TrainBoard Member

    from a positive stand point - here's the current inventory of N Scale Undec freight cars at some train store:

    http://www.some train

    And here are 463 undecorated cars and locos on ebay:

    Are they kits? Maybe not in the Athearn Blue Box sense, but they are available, they are generally cheaper, and finishing one will give a great sense of satisfaction. There are options - we just have to embrace them.
  20. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

    Most topics having to do with model trains are subjects that are "Beating a dead horse". I think its part of the fun of the hobby...JMO

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