Credit crunch railroading...

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Gloriousnse
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Credit crunch railroading...

Post by Gloriousnse » Mon Jan 21, 2013 12:46 pm

Got into a brief discussion in another place about how this is increasingly perceived as a 'rich mans hobby' - and it pushed me into a lot of musing and pondering.

I definately don't consider myself a rich man, (well, in global terms sure, in UK terms, definately no!) although I do have some disposable cash to spend on the hobby. But I got to wondering what the barriers to entry for this hobby actually are, and how low those barriers could be made if one was flexible with the attitudes taken to the hobby.

For example, I had a discussion with somebody a while back who said to me that the barriers to joining this hobby were very high, as the average person couldn't afford to walk into Model Junction and buy themselves a trio of £300 sound equipped GEVO's plus 30x £40 freightcars to run as a train. £2100 :? Me neither I thought!

That analogy has never sat easily with me, don't know about you folks, but that wasn't how I started, and i'd be kinda surprised if it was most folks first step into the hobby.

I'd also stress i'm talking about the modern hobby here, with decent quality, nice running RTR products, plus DCC (and maybe sound) - i'm not suggesting saving money by whittling your loco's from scraps of wood and old bean tins.

So, here's a 'starter for ten' entry path.

1. Join an active local group/club like Western Union and take part in their running days: viewtopic.php?f=25&t=274
Cost - £10 per meet attended (they are monthly) - which might feel like a chunk of change, but at least you spread the cost. You don't need to build a layout at this stage, and for a day like the one linked to you don't need any freightcars either as the operating scheme effectively pools them. Value per time involved is very high compared to (say) a cinema trip or especially a footy match!

2. For the WU group you'll need a throttle, pick up a s/h Android off ebay and download Engine Driver (free) - that's assuming you haven't either got a suitable one already or can't blag a used one off a friend/relative. Total cost, £20 (or less). The wifi wasn't actually used on that day, but they do have the gear to run it.

3. Get yourself a loco to run. My suggestions would be:
(a) Limit yourself to one loco to start with, but use your budget to get something well built with a nice mech from a quality make.
(b) Go for the practical one not the pretty one, a lowly RS11, GP38 or MP15 may not be uber-cool, but they are far more useful engines than a DD40X on most model railroads.
(c) Brand-new is not a must for quality products, secondhand/ebay are good sources, especially if you can be flexible with roadname.
Either way, a £100 budget should very easily get you something sturdy and reliable from for instance the Atlas range (or maybe even something like a Kato GP35) plus a (non-sound) decoder to put in it. It may even be possible to get a S/H sound fitted Atlas for that.
An alternative path might be the recent Bachmann range with sound on board (say the GP7, or the upcoming RS3) which would let you get something brand new, sound fitted, and capable of being detailed up further within the same £100 budget. Add £3 or so for a pack of Kadees...

4. This can come a little later if needed as i'm sure you can arrange to borrow the use of one at a meet to set your loco up, but for home use pick up a Sprog and a length of track. Total cost £63. Plus JMRI software (free) - it'll both let you experiment with programming and tweaking the settings on your loco, and can be the DCC command station for your home layout should you build one.

So - one-off costs of £186, (or less,) not all of which need to be spent at once, plus a monthly £10?

Some Upgrade/development paths (in no particular order?)

1. Adding further detail/weathering to your loco to both personalise and improve on the basic product, particularly if you've gone the Bachmann route as they have minimal extra detail. Not only is this not that expensive, but it's also great 'bang for the buck' in terms of hobby time, and can be very satisfying.
2. Freightcars - spread the cost. You don't need to buy yourself a whole train in one hit, pick up a freightcar a month, or as and when you can afford it. Again secondhand is good. Flexible is good, just try and work out the difference between 'cheap as chips' and 'cheap and nasty'.
3. Assuming a group like WU, build a module. Doesn't have to be expensive and complicated. 6' of plain scenery (which is a boon for designers trying to space out the 'towns' in a setup) should be do-able for well under £100, (I would expect under £70, and possibly under £50!) and again, that's not all spent in one hit...although something more involved could also be used as a home layout so may present better value.

So there we go, relatively low cost (especially ongoing cost), but high quality hobby participation.

My thoughts?

* The hobby is very much what you make of it.
* You don't need this years latest shiny new loco (the original discussion centred around the Genesis GP38-2 which, although undeniably gorgeous, is circa £200 with sound) to participate. Don't fall for the hype. Unless it's what you really, really want. ;)
* The UK has a great secondhand market (and the NMRA-BR helps with that!) Good quality stuff is not hard to find.
* Being flexible helps.
* Being focused on what's important to your hobby enjoyment helps.
* Joining a group helps, as it allows you to share resources as well as obtain support.

Do I manage to live by this all the time? Not a chance... ;)

Over to you guys, any other tips?
Martyn Read

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Re: Credit crunch railroading...

Post by torikoos » Mon Jan 21, 2013 10:42 pm

Well I think that's where the more recent Bachmann stuff comes in, as in the GP7 / 9 mentioned below. Quite a decent base model, that allows plenty of add on detail parts, without having to remove too many cast on items. From what I understood elsewhere, they are not too bad mechanically either, and run reasonably well. If I didn't already have enough locos to get on with, I'd certainly contemplate getting a few, as they would complement the earlier Proto 2000 Geeps pretty well. They also provide a great entry into the hobby.

Koos
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Re: Credit crunch railroading...

Post by calaf01 » Mon Jan 21, 2013 10:59 pm

ednmra wrote:I feel a lot of this is due to the fairly large proportion of "modellers" these days who are not modellers. They are "take it out of the box and run it till it is time to go home-ers."
I think you exaggerated a lot. I have to confess I'm one of those. My interest is in operations, not just round and round, but getting the railroad to do something and earn its virtual keep. I'm not a good modeller. Every time I try something it breaks or I mess it up somehow. I prefer to leave that delicate stuff to people who are better at it than I am and have more interest in it than I do. But I know quite a few modellers who are great at building stuff, but then don't do anything with their wonderful models. Yes, they show them off and run them round and everyone goes ooh and ahh, but all they're basically doing is playing Thomas the Tank Engine with very expensive models. Now that's where I come in. Give me a decent layout with some good models on it and I'll turn it into a railroad. I'll work out an operating schedule with car cards and waybills and switchlists and make it do something coherent. A friend of mine at the club has a lovely little switching module which he was always happy for me to operate at exhibitions because he got tired of pushing freight cars back and forward on it and would rather be off seeing things, buying things and talking about things. Fair enough. I persuaded him to put a small bit of staging on one end so we could have arrivals and departures. The last time we operated it together he said he had a lot more fun because he could see the point of what we were doing.

Now I know there are a lot of good modellers who are great builders and great operators and good luck to them. But we shouldn't get too fussy because someone else doesn't have the same emphasis as we have. That's the great thing about this wonderful hobby of ours. There are so many different facets to it that we can all find at least some part of it that we can be passionate about. And if there's someone who just wants to come along and watch and go ooh and ahh with passion, that's good enough for me. We all make our contribution, even if it's just paying subscriptions to our club so that it manages to survive. Their time will probably come, but not if we've frightened them off because "they aren't modellers" according to our own view.

This thread is about Credit Crunch Railroading, and I'm one of those who is reluctant to spend a lot of money on fancy models. I don't have a DCC system because I can't really afford it and I don't have a layout to use it on anyway. That's why I belong to a club. I can do what I can do and what I can afford to do and thoroughly enjoy myself. I make contributions to the efforts, hopefully not insignificant ones (I just had a triumph with the electrics on a complicated FreeMo module - I'm interested in that), and I'm as generous as I can afford to be with my time and my money. That should be enough, don't you think?
Alan C.

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Re: Credit crunch railroading...

Post by warbonnetuk » Tue Jan 22, 2013 11:37 am

Gloriousnse wrote: * The hobby is very much what you make of it.
* You don't need this years latest shiny new loco (the original discussion centred around the Genesis GP38-2 which, although undeniably gorgeous, is circa £200 with sound) to participate. Don't fall for the hype. Unless it's what you really, really want. ;)
* The UK has a great secondhand market (and the NMRA-BR helps with that!) Good quality stuff is not hard to find.
* Being flexible helps.
* Being focused on what's important to your hobby enjoyment helps.
* Joining a group helps, as it allows you to share resources as well as obtain support.
V thought provking........

I'm going to approach this on the basis of someone with experience in the hobby coming over to "the dark side" ;) from either UK or Euro modelling, which is what I did.

1: Research i.e. work out roughly which geographical region/road/time period you want to model and then work from there to avoid buying stuff that 'doesn't fit' and has to be moved on. For your layout / module do a little research to so you are happy with the end result

2: Advice - both protoypical and technical esp around DCC i.e. DCC system A isn't cheap but will grow with me as I develop my railway vs Sys B which is cheaper but will need to be replaced should I want to run more trains / add features.

3. Patience - E-bay is good for a bargin but, being an auction site, is populated by those with an itchy 'Bid' finger. Unless you are modelling something v eclectic or v popular / v small supply (IAIS / DME / ICE locos anyone?) chances are you'll be able to something decent is you resist the first listing you see. From checking E-bay yesterday there was a private seller selling a P2K GP30 in SF/BNSF patch and a Kato GP35 in SF both at v reasonaly prices on a 'Buy It Now' (£40 inc p&P IIRC) which compares v favorably with the £70 par price that traders post stuff up at.

4. Avoid 'Rainy Day' Purchases - I'll fess up here to have sinned on this one on a lot of occations as the crates of so far untouched stuff in my loft will testify to. If you going down the 2nd Hand route of stock purchase then don't hoard 'future projects' as, unless you are have a lot of time to knock them off they will either become obsolete or you'll lose interest.

5. [Tongue in Cheek Alert] Find a friend who goes to the US - I'm not not condoning tax evation but every little helps when you can save on postage, VAT and the Post Office's "sit on a parcel for 10 weeks" charge ;)


So a few points for add to the mix...

Dan
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Re: Credit crunch railroading...

Post by Gloriousnse » Tue Jan 22, 2013 12:33 pm

Ok, maybe I exaggerate a little! But when I started US modelling, one could use Athearn diesels costing about £10 or less, enjoy adding better details such as grab irons and hoses, costing a few bob, build things like Silver Streak kits of cabooses, and so on and so on. You might say this stuff isn't around today but it is, if only at bring and buy etc.
When I started buying US stuff (1994) my reccolection is Athearn blue-box diesels were already in the £35 to £45 range by that point, and for that price what you got was actually rather crude by todays standards, albeit not so bad by UK standards of the time (it does depend on the specific model in the range, some Athearn tooling was already extremely crude by 1994 standards - no quantity of detail parts will make the old blue-box SD45/GP35/SDP40 look less grossly misshapen!)

Importantly to me, they were definately crude (by todays standards) in terms of running quality.

And just like today, there were many higher end models available which were largely outside my price range, (Rivarossi, Atlas, Kato,) - the hobby was never 'just' blue box!

The same market today is covered by models like the Bachmann loco's that Koos and I mentioned (circa £50 new with DCC, £100 with DCC sound) or Atlas Trainman (circa £60 new - but those come with a mech based closely on the silky-smooth Kato's I lusted after all those years ago) - after nearly 20 years of inflation that's not bad!

A quick play with this:
http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/bill ... -1900.html
Suggests that a £35 to £45 Athearn would now be a £56 to £72 Athearn. So the prices on those cheap 'starter' models listed are comparable.

And not only is it not any more expensive, but you get a much less crude platform to detail from if that is your thing - a much better looking and (more importantly to my mind) a much better running loco is the end result from your work.
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Re: Credit crunch railroading...

Post by Gloriousnse » Tue Jan 22, 2013 1:06 pm

warbonnetuk wrote:1: Research i.e. work out roughly which geographical region/road/time period you want to model and then work from there to avoid buying stuff that 'doesn't fit' and has to be moved on.
I'd still suggest not spending lots of time on the research - just get something (practical) and join in and have fun.

The subject matter is vast and diverse, i'm still finding cute modelleable shortlines that i've never heard of before after 19 years of 'research' for example!

Then when you decide what you really want then there's options, repaint (that B&M GP38 could just as easily be a UP one) - or trade (for example if your chosen first loco is something like a £40 Kato GP35 you're highly unlikely to lose a vast sum reselling it!)
3. Patience - E-bay is good for a bargin but, being an auction site, is populated by those with an itchy 'Bid' finger. Unless you are modelling something v eclectic or v popular / v small supply (IAIS / DME / ICE locos anyone?) chances are you'll be able to something decent is you resist the first listing you see. From checking E-bay yesterday there was a private seller selling a P2K GP30 in SF/BNSF patch and a Kato GP35 in SF both at v reasonaly prices on a 'Buy It Now' (£40 inc p&P IIRC) which compares v favorably with the £70 par price that traders post stuff up at.
That GP35 was in my mind when I wrote the first post (no i'm not going for it, see Rainy day purchases!) - there's also a lovely Atlas GP40-2 (with some other bits thrown in) at under £40 start...

Either would give you a reliable, largely maintainence free 'Rolls Royce' mech to run with, at less than the cost of a brand new starter loco.
Martyn Read

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Re: Credit crunch railroading...

Post by warbonnetuk » Tue Jan 22, 2013 3:55 pm

Martyn

I mention research only on the basis of personal experience of not knowing anything at first and buying a load of stuff that, once I know a bit better, didn't really go together. So long as you did spend a lot then no probs.

On the flipside I agree with you on avoiding "anaylsis paralysis"

Dan
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Re: Credit crunch railroading...

Post by Gloriousnse » Tue Jan 22, 2013 5:41 pm

Well I wasn't born in 1970, so had to use what I knew. (Sorry!) ;)

Martin - £10 (old) in 1970 comes up as £129.70 in todays money! Ouch! Imagine that, £130 for a poor model, plus another £30 of detail parts, and another £20 for a can motor...

£180 down and depending on which model you've stuck the parts to it still might not actually look much like the real thing! I'm not overcome with nostalgia here! ;)

Sure, you can spend a lot of time and effort repowering stuff, but why on earth would you do that if there is a better built (and likely cheaper) modern chassis out there? Repowering (and all those little tricks with toothpaste etc) were never the point of the hobby, just a means to an end.

Given that 1970 Athearn is substantially more expensive than a brand new Bachmann DCC + sound fitted diesel, it suggests the 'DCC causes price rises' theory does not tally either.
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Re: Credit crunch railroading...

Post by torikoos » Tue Jan 22, 2013 6:21 pm

I was born in 1970 :-)

But bought my first US loco in 1992, a bluebox Athearn GP38-2, for 50 guilders new. (that unit of currency doesn't even exist anymore, but 8 years later was replaced by the euro at a rate of 2:1, so 25 euros, not counting inflation)...
Yes it was a little crude, but I had fun detailing it when I discovered the detail market, by 1994 it had a cannon&co cab added and that's how it ran for quite some time until 3 years ago, I rejoined the NMRA, found my models back, added a TCS decoder for £25,- replaced the motor with a mashima (the gears had the toothpaste treatment many years prior), and operated it at the western union for the first time, with a working roof beacon, not long after that. Smiles all round (but also got bitten by the sound bug then, and the TCS decoder was replaced with a Tsunami).

What I mean to illustrate here is that I made improvements to a cheap loco slowly but steadily, spreading the cost over the years, and had fun doing so.
Yes I would probably not start with another Blue box loco now, but go for the more reasonable Bachmann, or an Atlas . I don't own any Kato yet, and are harder to come by I find so far.
In any case, that was my approach on modeling, and similar paths are available to others now with newer models to work from (if that's your thing of course...).

Koos
Koos Fockens -Devon UK. North American Model Railroading
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Re: Credit crunch railroading...

Post by BrianMoore » Tue Jan 22, 2013 9:21 pm

As Alan C. says, we're in it for different reasons, but all of them are complimentary to the broad, common goal.

Personally, I have zero interest in building or owning a highly accurate model "for show purposes". I just can't see the point. Yawnsville, etc. I want to own good running (and sounding), reasonably accurate locomotives and stock that I can run on a reasonably accurate model railroad in a reasonably prototypical fashion.

Any new member can't expect to immediately own a big collection of trains. That's just daft. But if they have an interest in wishing to start one off, with a little advice they can acquire a decent branch line DCC&sound locomotive and a few boxcars for less than £200, which is relative peanuts. Eventually, they may wish to make a locomotive "more accurate", but there's no real need for that, in respect of the majority of out-of-the-box stuff available today. The owner may wish to concentrate on other parts of the hobby.

But they don't have to just bring trains to contribute, either. Any skill or assistance (from helping to transport and carry stuff to offering specialist electronics support) is as valid a contribution, if everyone is happy. Only if we harness different skills and accept that each person is contributing time and resources in their own way, will we reach a goal.
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Re: Credit crunch railroading...

Post by Gloriousnse » Wed Jan 23, 2013 11:40 am

Thanks for reposting Martin, and apologies again for my slip-up last night.

I still don't see why you would ever suggest a new entrant starts out with an Athearn bluebox kit loco though. I think we've demonstrated it's not really any cheaper than carefully buying something with a higher spec - and from experience it will give you a worse result unless you're already a reasonably accomplished modeller and invest a fair bit more cash in it.

Why would you saddle a new entrant with something that's going to feel like a second-rate model in virtually every conceivable way, that they have to spend a few hours fiddling with before they can even use, and then will still not work as reliably as other folks stuff?

Even when blue-box kits were the mainstream they were the means to an end for most modellers, not the end in itself. I'm sorry but the bin is probably the best place for any unbuilt ones, unless somebody especially likes rebuilding them as a hobby in their own right.
Martyn Read

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Re: Credit crunch railroading...

Post by BrianMoore » Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:32 pm



Here's a Lance Mindheim video, where he tells a questioner that the locomotive is, "...totally stock. The later P2K units have a reputation for being pretty smooth runners. I have two and they both run like that. I don't know if it's still the case but you used to be able to pick these GP38-2 units up for less than $70."

Straight from the mouth of the horse, that Lance The Man uses off-the-shelf units that can be picked up cheaply.
Brian Moore

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