Who Can Afford This Hobby Today?

Discussion in 'General' started by Rick McClellan, Feb 8, 2015.

  1. Rick McClellan

    Rick McClellan 2009 Engineer of the Year

    Fellow Frisco Modelers,

    In the past few months I placed my orders for SLSF SD45s, GP40-2s and the open auto racks. The prices have gone up so much I believe this may be my last order for Frisco Power. The latest Intermountain announcement had their auto racks at $99. This equipment is great but who can afford to buy it? I know I have hit my ceiling.

    Maybe the manufacturers know more than I do but I don't see how the customers of the hobby can continue to absorb these large price increases. If the customers can't buy then the producers cannot sell. If they cannot sell, they will close or change to another industry. I am in pretty good shape on power and equipment but those starting out and young people may be discouraged and move to another form of entertainment. I want to see the hobby grow but these price increases are working against us.

    What do you guys think?
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 8, 2015
  2. TAG1014 (Tom Galbraith RIP 7/15/2020)

    TAG1014 (Tom Galbraith RIP 7/15/2020) Passed Away July 15, 2020 Frisco.org Supporter

    I'm with you Rick, there's no hope of a kid nowadays becoming a model train enthusiast like I did when I was 11 or 12. After a budget Lionel set, I got started with some StromBecker HO wooden boxcars for 35 cents each. Now a decent N scale (My scale now) boxcar is easily $20 if you shop carefully. I'm glad I have about everything I'll need except maybe some glue or paint. I'd hate to be starting out now even with an entry level Lionel or Marx set...

    Tom G>
  3. gbnf

    gbnf Member

    Rising prices are not the reason young people don't flock to model railroading. Not even one of the more important reasons. Model railroading is not unique, and model railroaders are a subset of the population of people in general. Prices for everything, including food, housing and automobiles, are soaring. The only thing not rising is the price of labor. Wages in real terms have been stagnant a decade or more.

    John Bruce begins his long rambling essay "The Sociology of Model Railroading" by quoting Christopher Lasch (1932–1994) "The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations," published in 1979.

    "Personal life, no longer a refuge from deprivation suffered at work, has become as anarchical, as warlike, and as full of stress as the marketplace itself. . . ."

    John is about 60, so he would qualify as "young" compared to me. His bio says his "earliest memories include the transition from steam to diesel ...and his urge to model railroad dates from roughly that time." Same here. He has an HO layout called the Los Feliz and North Western and talks about ""railroads ...I wish I knew better ...include all the roads that are now part of the BNSF" He describes model railroading as "a serious lifetime pursuit that can be an outlet for true creativity that can provide opportunities for research, technical skills, travel, and fellowship that people might not otherwise have." Sounds like stuff for employed stable adults.

    webite for John Bruce's Los Feliz and North Western Railroad, last updated 27 Feb 2012

    Jonathan Crowe is about 44, younger yet. He posted on his blog January 34, 2007, before the recession's effects which we still feel, that

    "model railroading is a hobby for older men rather than children"

    "it’s expensive enough that only well-off older men with lots of discretionary income can afford it."

    Model Railroading: Rich Men, Deep Pockets?

    Railroads were once big employers. People my age have ancestors that were engineers, telegraphers, station agents and the like. Many of the model railroaders I have known were railroad employees. Like so many other industries, the trend in railroading is toward fewer employees. The news so far in 2015 is all about layoffs at IBM, Radio Shack, California Edison, the oil and gas sector, newspapers, Budwesiser, PayPal, eBay. People who are losing their jobs and their homes don't have the luxury of hobbies. People working short shifts without benefits at low paying jobs and sharing small apartments don't either. Google "tiny houses" and see the future. To grow the hobby you have to change a few other things first.
  4. Coonskin

    Coonskin Member

    Yes, it's getting pretty expensive. It is indeed tough for a young person to be in this hobby at Burger King wages.

    It is my understanding that the increase in price is due to factors taking place in China. In a nutshell: The common laborer is wanting a larger piece of the pie. Can't fault them so much for that, but it IS having an impact on prices.

    My goal is to amass the things I'll need now while my income can allow prior to retirement so that most of the activity after retirement is assembly, layout work, and other more labor intensive things, but require less cash outlay.

    While my hobby funds build, I piddle with V scale (computer simulation) which is SO CHEAP it's laughable. While doing V scale, my hobby money builds, and then I go on buying binge! (Like the upcoming reservations I'm fixin' to place.)

    Good to see you're still kickin' Rick. The answer to your issue you've already pre-defined: Eat more peanut butter. The wife can eat bread and water. Priorities, man, priorities: Amass more useless toys before you die. :D
  5. William Jackson

    William Jackson Bill Jackson

    Unfortunatly, I keep saying the same thing. Each new Frisco DCC&Sound model is the last one. I have already culled, all other railroads and I have more than I will ever use.
    I would agree, wages, are just far too low, I really just don't know how people can make it. My oldest was all excited, Home Depot offered her a position. $ 8.25 Needless to say, the job she is working now is $ 12. The wages are sickening.
    If you compare it to prices, its even worse. The Town, that I live in has Zero, good paying jobs.
    Someday, hopefully that will change. After the Space Program left, we now have nothing.
  6. gstout

    gstout Member Frisco.org Supporter

    Here's the deal: Suppose you had two kids, ages (let's say) 8 and 12 and you had $500 to spend on toys at Christmas. You could buy some starter stuff for a model railroad, including standard (usually less expensive) DC locomotive, power supply, track, a few cars, plywood, some scenic materials, etc. Assume further that you had space in your home (basement or elsewhere) to put all this together. If you had at least rudimentary carpentry, electrical and artistic skills, you could maybe get this thing up and running in a couple of days. Unfortunately, it wouldn't do much except go 'round in circles, which after an few minutes or an hour or a day would become boring. The solution, then, would be to add additional accessories, track, rolling stock, but at additional cost.

    Alternatively, you could buy an X-box or a Wii, plug it into your TV and have it be instantly interactive after about ten minutes. Which option would Mr. Average Mom and Dad choose, do you think?

  7. rc2477

    rc2477 Member

    one thing that I think is one of the biggest losses to our hobby is the loss of the Athearn blue box kits. I built many Frisco loco's using these kits, they were far from the quality and accuracy from the ready-to-run locos and cars they make now but they were a fraction of the cost and I gained valuable kit-bashing skills. Thank goodness for train shows and swap meets!
  8. Coonskin

    Coonskin Member

    I didn't address the lack of entrants into this hobby, either, I was merely addressing a youth ALREADY wanting to be involved in model railroading, and what they face in regards to wage vs product price. I know of a few young men interested in model railroading, but they simply don't have the financial means (disposable income) to indulge.
  9. Rick McClellan

    Rick McClellan 2009 Engineer of the Year

    You crack me up Andre.
  10. Rick McClellan

    Rick McClellan 2009 Engineer of the Year

    Hi Greg,

    Keyword: Average. That's what we have today (or less). I am watching the so-called artists today try to out-ballad each other. Not even average.

    BTW enjoying the heck out of your book. Finally got it. Doing another?
  11. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Frisco.org Supporter

    Rick -
    It's a very thought-provoking question you pose, even notwithstanding the virtues of an all-peanut butter diet.

    I can only attest to what has worked for my family and me, to wit:

    (1) I've always thought I suffered from so-called "champagne tastes with a beer budget" syndrome in this hobby. I thought the hobby was expensive in the early to mid-1990s. I still think so today, but I have refocused my modeling efforts on that which I only really need and that which I occasionally want. As a result, right now I really have what I need.

    (2) My family knows the hobby is expensive: they often look to model railroading for gift ideas for me. I'm not sure that my kids really comprehend the value of a dollar yet (true story - my son told me that when he turns 16, there are Lamborghini models that are reasonably priced), but they've seen what 3' of flex track costs and they have a good visual of how far that goes - literally.

    (3) A bit of scope creep here, but I've always tried to get the kids involved in the hobby - without pushing them too hard. When they have either gotten bored or frustrated with it, I let them walk out of the workshop and call it a day. If I offer to let them soak and glue ballast but they'd rather be painting track, I let them choose. I'm not sure if it'll make them life-long model railroaders/railroad modelers, but I do know that at ages 15 and 11, they do feel vested in the end product, and they are pushing me to get an "operations session" up and going! I just hope that it'll instill a desire to continue the hobby in the future, prices notwithstanding, even if it means they choose a different prototype railroad to model. I love my kids, even if they chose to model the NYC, or to be Cubs fans, or to [shudder] go to college at that place down the road in Douglas County. :)

    What can we do, individually, other than spending more dollars that we may not individually have? For starters, tell your high net-worth friends that if they're looking to reduce their potential estates through gifting, they could get their kids started in the hobby and reduce their estates in the process.

    Best Regards,
  12. r c h

    r c h Ft Worth - Tulsa Engineer

    I don't think anyone "needs" to have the latest and greatest equipment to enjoy this hobby or even that much of it. I once built a little Timesaver inspired layout on a shelf and had a blast with that, even extending the ends to make longer and better industries to spot. I played with that layout way more than any roundy-round layout I had as a kid and definitely logged more hours on it that any of the Free-mo modules I've built. I'd often use only a switcher and a handful of cars and lots of imagination.

    It helps to have good quality models, throttles, track and well-constructed benchwork, but that stuff doesn't have to fill a basement or garage or spare bedroom. You can accomplish a whole lot on just a shelf layout or a small module or set of modules. When you keep the layout design small enough to manage, you keep the cost down which allows you to spend where it counts: on quality materials and equipment.

    Ebay is awash with all kinds of kits from MDC Roundhouse and Athearn blue box on the inexpensive end to Tangent on the high end. I have picked up lots of P2K kits for cheap, even paying as little as $20 each for several Tangent kits and $7 each for several undecorated Genesis tank cars. Now, finding high quality locomotives for a song might be difficult, but that's why you're thrifty where you can be to save for those purchases. And you don't need dozens of locomotives to have fun. A pair of switchers can keep you and a friend busy.

    I'm not denying that things have gotten more expensive. But I think a lot of the complaints come from wanting your cake and eating it, too. You can't have both ultra-detailed RTR models and inexpensive models. You can roll your own for little money and lots of time, or you can open a box in seconds and get a great model, but you'll pay for it.

    I don't see how there's a market to support all the crazy expensive stuff out there, but there must be. I sometimes buy leftovers after the dust has cleared but I never pre-order. I've only played the get-it-as-soon-as-it-comes-out game once, and that was for a Genesis GP38-2 decorated for a certain railroad. Other than that, I'll buy when I can find a deal. That way I save my money for the important stuff, like track and lumber.
  13. dricketts

    dricketts Member Frisco.org Supporter

    We're just not the economic powerhouse we once were and likey never will be again. The rest of the world is and has been catching up for years. It's a much more level playing field for other countries. A world economy with far less restrictions is great for countries like India, Brazil, Laos, and China but not so much for wages in the US. It's not your father's or grandfather's economy anymore.
  14. John Sanders

    John Sanders Member

    I like Ryan's take on this topic. I have been in HO scale models since July 1966. At that time there were still some folks who predicted slot cars would wipe out the model railroad hobby. Both slot cars and model trains (your choice) are still around. Some folks compare the blue-box (and yellow box) Athearn kits to current day Kadee PS1 cars. A better comparison would be Athearn kits vs. Accurail, or Bowser car kits. I will not argue which inflation multiplier is correct, but the great thing about being in the hobby in 2015 is you can buy either Athearn, Accurail, or Bowser cars, new and used. My preference is for modern kits which are available in many more accurate body styles (and better paint jobs) than kits 45 years ago.

    Another thing people get worked up over is the current expectation that everyone is entitled to a huge layout. Many people in 1966 started with a 4 x 6 piece of plywood and if they were really blessed worked with a 5 x 9 board. I started with Kalmbach's "Small Layouts You Can Build" Pine Tree Central and only dreamed about a larger layout. Monster layouts were primarily built by clubs. This required lots of club members to finance and build. My best friends in the early 1970s had layouts in their spare rooms, garages, and basements. Very few were completed and I have helped dismantle several of them (one of the saddest tasks). I like building cars and modifying locomotives. I don't have a layout, but hope to build modified Free-MO modules that can represent favorite scenes in the Springfield to Thayer region. I do not really expect to fill my basement with dozens of modules. The first module may become nothing more than a photography platform that can be carried outside for natural light , or for authentic fall colors backdrop.
    This really is the best time to be a model railroader. If you pine for the old stuff, you can still find it. If you like the new stuff you may have to model the Current River branch with an RS1, not greater Kansas City.
    John Sanders
  15. geep07

    geep07 Member

    Let's face it folks, remember it's called a hobby. You make it what you want to make it, complicated or simple. When I started in this hobby as a teen, I have seen a lot of changes in this industry over the years, but will not get into details with this. A comment I will like to make is only an opinion. When I started in this hobby, in the mid 1960's most of the vendor/manufacturers where small venues operating out of their basements/garages/shed or what have you. They did this as a hobby and made a few extra dollars to supplement their current wages by making a living on another job. As time rolled on, the economy was growing, these same individuals decided that they can make a living on the hobby that they loved. So they ventured in manufacturing their product. Some became very successful (we know who they are). It is no different than buying a house or a car. You apt to what you can afford and live within your means as they say. As for me in this hobby, I will make it what I want to make of it and roll with the good and the bad! I am hoping that our hobby will continue in the future.

  16. Larry F.

    Larry F. Member

    I've been in this hobby for a long time and have seen the prices escalate to the point that, like Rick McClellan, I've reached my ceiling. I remember a long time ago when Atlas crossed the $100.00 mark for an engine and was flabbergasted...but at the time everything else pretty much stayed the same so one could afford to buy cars. I was in a hobby shop the other day and looked at a cement hopper that was going for fifty bucks...a cement hopper!?! I put it down carefully and backed away...ooh, what if I'd dropped it! While I admire the craftsmanship, I can't justify spending that much money for a car that would be lost among lesser detailed cars. What I've been doing lately is buying Accurail cars and detailing them. Microscale makes Frisco box and hopper car decals so a little paint, a few wire grab irons, and new decals, and a little time one can make a very credible model for less than twenty bucks. So, for the price of one higher dollar car I can make two and have enough left over for a cup of coffee (as long as it isn't one of the designer coffees but that's another story). Larry F.
  17. gjslsffan

    gjslsffan Staff Member Staff Member

    Great to hear from you Rick,

    They have just about beat me up enough on these prices, and just the general way they do business myself as well. I am sitting here, wondering how to justify
    buying/pre-ordering 4 (Frisco ran them a lot in 4 unit lashups) of these Genesis GP40-2's, but if you don't pre-order, you could pay a hefty penalty. Can always sell the BB ones I have now, to help pay for the new ones, problem is I'm still pretty attached these old locos, still think they look OK.

    Peanut butter may be a luxury around here for quite some time, we may be on the Ramen Noodles, for the foreseeable future. Good thing they have a few different flavors :)

    Also not really big on buying an item before I see it, but if you don't do it, you pay the price on occasion there too, or they're just gone.

    Like others have said, I wouldn't have much if it weren't for the kits available years ago, and I enjoyed putting every one of them together, painting, decaling and adding a few details once in a while.
  18. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Frisco.org Supporter

    My take; beginners hit the train shows, buy used Athearn and Roundhouse cars or others and avoid the expensive new models. Daily older modelers pass and their estates get liquidated; within the past month we locally have had two such occurrences and one estate included a lot of brass. I have relatively few highly detailed models such as Intermountain, Tangent or others; most of my rolling stock fits in the "bluebox" category or Proto 2000 kits purchased cheap. The highly detailed cars get too easily damaged in the process of use during operating sessions; just ask Rick.

    I have to admit that where my main expense has been is locomotives, having started with none in January 2009. Now with a roster of 70 plus and the addition of Tsunami sound, the rest of my investment sort of pales by comparison.

    It is still affordable to be a model railroader. It all depends on your standards.
  19. timothy_cannon

    timothy_cannon Member Frisco.org Supporter

    Ha! Try switching to Oscale 2 rail like I did. My plan was to have a small layout with one or two small locos and scratch build everything else. Well that plan failed! Steam period has moved into the early diesel age too! The small layout is now half of the basement. 2 rail stuff is hard to find anyway as compared to HO or 3 rail and HIGH $. BUT,scouring EBay constantly has produced many many bargains. There are also Yahoo groups such as OSCALEYARDSALE where fellow modelers practically give stuff away sometimes to help another modeler out. I have found bargains right here on Frisco.org. Unless you absolutely have to have brand new stuff there are bargains out there but you have to watch for them and be patient. Here is a great place to find bargains http://marketplace.collector-modeltrains.com/ OR for example HO diesel locos http://marketplace.collector-modeltrains.com/category/All+categories/HO+Modern/Diesel+Loco?listingtype=auction_bin&box=&sort=enddateasc


    "Yes Virginia, 3 rail can be converted to 2 rail"
  20. magistrate

    magistrate Member

    Hi Tim,

    I also went to O scale 2 rail and my special interest is building the steam locos by varney/general models/all nations. The parts are geting to be high priced and hard to find especialy since BTS bought the line in 2010 but has never started selling the parts or kits. Everything O scale 2 rail is expensive especialy track and switches.

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