Allied Model Trains in Culver City downsizing, moving across the street

All aboard! Allied Model Trains is leaving the station.
This week, one of the nation's largest model train stores is closing
its longtime home in Culver City: a half-block-long replica of Los Angeles' Union Station. And fading along with it, says owner Allen Drucker, is the model train industry.
"It's just a dying hobby," said Drucker, 58. "We probably have another good 15 years."
Drucker will hang up his cap after 32 years of running a miniature railroad hub. "I always told myself I didn't want to be the old man running the train store," he said.
New owners will move the business to a smaller Art Deco-style building Drucker owns across the street. He'll rent the Union Station look- alike to Samy's Camera.
[...] http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-station9may09,1,363372.story?coll=la-headlines-business
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charles hobbs spake thus:

Too bad; another one bites the dust.
Apparently he's correct (about the hobby dying), at least in the U.S. But what about elsewhere? Question to our friends across the pond and any Yurpeens who may be reading this: what's the state of the hobby where you live?
My own guess? In a country (the U.S.) that has practically sabotaged its railroads, little wonder that the hobby of running miniature trains is fading ...
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Good evening David;

Unfortunately, automobiles and trucks are faster in some areas. The last time a train travelled down the South Shore of Nova Scotia was 24 years ago. The tracks are gone now. CP Rail closed its Halifax terminal office 25 years ago. I can recall the Sears warehouse in Halifax would unload two boxcars at a time. It's all gone as if it had never been there.
Cheers, John
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John Fraser spake thus:

OK, so the real railroads are history there; what about the hobby? What shape is it in?
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Good morning David;

The hobby itself is slowly decreasing in stature as a whole as fewer people have the interest or the space. The main model shows are in Halifax, Truro and Moncton; the last being the largest. A friend of mine attended the last show in the Halifax area and was disappointed that it only required one medium sized room. The Halifax GREATER METROPOLITAN RAILWAY SOCIETY not have a contact representative, the DARTMOUTH MODEL RAILWAY CLUB has five members. There is a club associated with IWK Children's Hospital in Halifax. There are four other clubs listed in Antigonish, Windsor, Annapolis Valley, and Sydney. If there are others, they're not listed in the Modeller's webring.
This may not sound encouraging, but Maritimers find the Internet less than useful and many sites reflect that attitude.
Cheers, John
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Sabotaged? Passenger trains in the U.S. by and large, suck. We taxpayers have to subsidize them, just like the money losing bus and trolley systems and smokers are not welcome as they once were. The suburbs where I live fan out 180 degrees from the city. There are two lines out of the city; a 30 year old one that heads east, and a newer slower one that heads north. That's it. If you don't work in the city or a few block from the suburban stations every 2-3 miles or so, tough. Bus routes are similar, although the stops are a lot more frequent. So the 98% of gasoline buying commuters get screwed with more taxes and the 2% train and bus riders get a subsidized partly free ride. Socialism pure and simple. The freight trains are holding their own at least, with no subsidies as far as I know.
I once tried to get my son interested in ham radio, back around 1980. I told him he could talk to people half way around the world sometimes. He quipped;"why would I want to talk to strangers half way around the world..........and even if I did, I could just pick up the phone........no studying, no tests, no licenses.

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On Thu, 10 May 2007 00:09:42 -0400, Wayne L wrote:

Er, uh, perhaps you're to young or uninformed to remember the National Cities Lines case. Trolleys and interurbans didn't fall; they were pushed. Capitalism pure and simple, so we'd have no choice other than slow and stinky buses or the transitory image of freedom in our own cars. Much the same illusion so many total putzes have bought into in the past 10 or 15 years, buying dreams of scaling high pinnacles in Monument Valley as they chug alng to work in the shiny clean never been off the road clumsy and ungainly and fuel wasting SUVs - mostly with a single driver, so involved in hte adventure of driving it that he or she (equal opportunity for fools) ar talking on a cell phone or doing their makeup at the same time.
Take your doctrinaire Chamber of Commerce crap over to the Ayn Rants group.
--
Steve

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Wayne L wrote: [...]

Cough, cough. Smokers were never welcome. They were just barely tolerated. I know. I used to be one, back before smoking bans. ;-)
Anyhow, we also subsidise airlines, trucks, and ships. Except that those modes are subsidised indirectly, so you don't have a clue as too how much you are actually paying. And finding out is not a simple exercise. But a few hints will provide a sense of the problem.
Hint #1: Suppose the trucking industry had to build and maintain its own highways. Could you afford to ship by truck?
Hint #2: When diesel fuel prices increased by about 30% a couple of years ago, independent truckers lost money. Their margin was so thin, they couldn't absorb the hike. That means they were subsidising the shippers, and hence you, by accepting less than adequate compensation for their services. By contrast, the railroads had a reduced profit, but didn't lose money.
Hint #3: What about the costs of the health effects of exhaust gases? Accidents? Etc. "Oh," you say, "but I don't pay for those, other people do." Think again. There is only one wallet: yours. If health costs are up because of poisoned air etc, you pay one way or another, even if you don't suffer directly. The costs are built into everything you buy.
Etc. (Add your own hints. ;-))

Even freight trains are subsidised. Eg, rail/road crossings, line relocations to make driving safer (so that idjits aren't tempted to race a train to the crossing), sound damping walls, etc are all at least partly paid for by municipalities, states/provinces, and federal agencies. Emergency services needed when a freight train derails are wholly or partly paid by governments. Where a railroad crosses a navigable waterway, there's federal subsidy to ensure the waterway is kept safe and clear. And so on.
All transportation is subsidised. There are only two issues: a) How transparent is the subsidy? and b) How much price distortion results?
Me, I'm a radical free-marketeer. I don't believe in subsidies for anything. No "externalities", either - you pay the whole cost of what you do. If other people can't afford your goods and services, tough. The market rules. Of course, that'll never happen. Sigh.
So we have to make sure we know what the actual subsidies are, including the externalities, and adjust taxes to make prices reflect costs more accurately. Especially the costs of externalities. That's called politics. Which we really shouldn't be discussing on this forum. There's a rail transport newsgroup for that, if you enjoy a good flame war once in a while. ;-)
HTH
--

Wolf

"Don't believe everything you think." (Maxine)
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Speaking of smoking.... anyone remember "The Train Stop" in San Dimas, CA? It operated back in the 70's and 80's
Anyway, the owner made a big brew-ha-ha about how he was going to smoke in his store, and he didn't care if anyone else didn't like it. It was written up in one of the newspapers, out there, if I recall...
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Probably more like the model trains take up a lot of space and time, which many people have a lot less of now....
Like ham radio and a number of other hobbies that are kind of fading out....the current adherents are dying off and the kids are into other stuff for the most part....like video games and cell phones.....
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"Bites the dust"? The original owner sold it and it's moving to a smaller locale (probably because the new owners took on a big debt load just to buy the store while Drucker had it paid off). It isn't closing.

Oh, great. Another "we're all doomed, dooooooomed, I say!" type of threads. All we need is an appearance of John Bortle (CNJ999...the original doom and gloomer) here on this thread to make it complete. He'll quote old Model Railroader subscription numbers, MR page counts, the average age of model railroaders (according to both old MR polls and anecdotal info), and proclaim that the hobby is dying a horrible, painful death unless we all convert to "John Bortle's True Path to Model Railroading Enlightenment (tm)" (credit: OvC) where we go back...go back to the old ways of model railroading where guys made freight cars from toothpicks and would wind their own motor cores and cast their own smokebox fronts. Things like that. And of course all attempts to prove him wrong (the rise of the internet, for example) will be waved off and dismissed with a short, "Bah!" After which he'll declare victory and disappear for a while. Oh, well, at least he's consistant.

Stagger's took care of any "sabotage". And that was over 25 years ago. Right now, RR's are moving more tonnage over less track then ever before. RR's are even getting good looks from Wall St. these days. There are still a lot of trains and rail lines all over the place. Sure, they aren't in every town any more, but what towns have 'em are seeing a lot of trains (in general terms). As long as there are real trains, there will be models of them. Their quantity and quality will change, but to say the hobby is doomed at this time is way, way premature. Some day, I'm sure the doom and gloomers will be right...too bad they will all be dead by then. After all, the sun will explode at some point, too.
Paul A. Cutler III ************* What have you done to save r.m.r today? *************
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Folks:
Oh, heavens. Everybody's always so despondent. A good 15 years left? Well, maybe if the Earth is destroyed by Vogons in 2022. I didn't exactly see tumbleweeds blowing through the last local train show.
Shrinking? Who knows? It got huge in the 1960s-70s. The effects were not entirely positive.
So a store is downsizing and moving. I've seen stores come and go. Stock what people want, act like you Like Having Customers (star star star), and promote things a bit, and people will come.
One little trick -- if you have a display layout, make sure it's always running something. That's a draw. I know of several stores that have them, but they never run. Who's going to be drawn in by a static pile of dusty equipment? If you don't have one, then /build/ one, even if it's a 4 x 4 loop on a grass mat with some cardboard buildings and a styrofoam tunnel. Put it in the window, where passing shoppers can see it.
Real trains don't get most people into model railroading. Model trains get most people into model railroading. After that the interest in the real thing develops.
Cordially yours: Gerard P. President, a box of track and some grids.
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Then, of course, we also have the hobby's classic buffoons like Paul III - lots of high talk but ever unable to offer anything of real substance to a discussion. He and his kind will dismiss out-of-hand whatever does not agree with their fantasy world, while being intellectually incapable of presenting anything in the way of solid, documented evidence to support their own view! Living in such a Pollyanna world, unable to accept reallity, is extremely juvenile and borders on pathetic.
To anyone with an adult mentality and simple powers of observation, model railroading is seen to be currently in a progressive decline and has been for the better part of 15 years now, ever since the influx of Baby Boomers peaked back in the early 90's. It's participants are nowadays largely old men, its products are increasing done in small, limited runs and for the very first time in its 80 year history, it's become necessary to create a traveling road show (the World's Greatest Hobby) in a desperate attempt by the manufacturers (who have put up over a million dollars for WGH) to drum up new support for the hobby.
Likewise, Mr. Drucker is clearly no fool as a businessman. Having run a highly successful hobby shop, one of the largest on the West Coast, for more than 30 years, it takes little imagination to see that his take on the state of the hobby and its future has to be magnitudes more accurate and objective than that of Pollyanna-Paul's.
There are innumerable indicators out there of the hobby's decline if the individaul bothers to examine the circumstances objectively. So, don't take anybody's word for things, especially not someone like Pollyanna-Paul's. Look up the facts for yourself, it's the only way to get true insight into any situation on these forums.
CNJ999
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get true insight into any situation on these forums<
The problem is that certain facts ( by this I mean companies and their profit ratio) are impossible to get as most companies are private. There is no way to see the books. What we do see is a lot of tooling/research investments being spent for higher quality products. These products seem to be selling. DCC and now sound is leading the market. This is in what I will call the scale market and a lot of puuchasing power (money being spent) is there at this time. Varney could have produced products better to scale (rivet counting if you like) but there was no need and his return was probably much better than it is today. I can't comment on the tinplate world as all I know about it is there is a good profit there and large sales.
I think the store fronts that close do it for various reason but probably the greatest is the owners are dinosaurs. They refuse to "get on the net". They refuse to go electronic (DCC and related items). They refuse to discount to keep up with their competation. Botton line is they either refuse or can't become "modern"!
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Actually, Jon, the telling numbers regarding evolving hobby interest would not simply be the corporate bottom lines but rather unit sales, now vs. a decade and two decades ago...something we can never hope to see but that would tell the real story. Considering that the relative price per unit of most newly issued RR items (available today only as RTR) is at least double what it was a decade or so ago and in the case of motive power many are 4x what people were spending 15 years ago, most companies can probable still keep their heads above water for a while. On the other hand, how many Regular Joe's do you know who have had their income go up by 200% to 400% over the past 15 years? A great many hobbyists haven't seen raises that matched simple inflation numbers!
It might interest readers to know that the brass market was able to sustain itself for quite a while as its clientele shrank, doing this by producing fewer and fewer, better and better, increasingly expensive engines...sound familiar? Once upon a time quite a few brass items were done in 1,000 unit runs. Today the runs often amount to under 100. What's left of Brass is currently operating at around a couple of percent of its orginal market share. Where would regular model railroading ends up if more and more it follows the path brass took?
Regarding brick and mortar hobby shops competing or not, they don't generally close because the owner can not adapt to the Internet world. They close because they can't cover their rent and bills for long selling at Internet discount prices of 30%-40% off. I'm friends with the former owner of a major shop in my region. He closed his doors a few years back and went strictly Internet. He's a big success today but he says Internet margins simply won't support a storefront operation very long unless you can buy in real bulk, as Trainworld does.
Just some basic points to ponder.
CNJ999
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CNJ999 wrote: [...]

NB that 40% off MSRP is the "standard discount". An internet store that is selling at this discount is buying at 50-60% off MSRP, sometimes better than that. So, a $100 item bought at $50 and selling for $60 provides a 20% gross profit - just barely enough to survive, if you have a low overhead. Bought at $40 and selling at $60 provides a 50% gross profit, which is pretty good for a hobby/toy shop.
HTH
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Wolf

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Volume becomes important too though when you have fixed costs to meet. A 20% markup would be pretty good IF you were selling hundreds of that item. But if you are only selling a few, even the 50% markup doesn't generate a sufficient volume of real dollars.. or what ever currency unit you want to use.
What kills me is that the small things that the hobby shop stocks are the things that become so expensive. It was almost standard fare for me to pick up a couple of packages of Kadee couplers during each hobby shop visit. Now, because of shipping, I'm forced to either pay $5 a package or by ten packages at a time. While this might work for Kadee couplers, I'm not interested in buying large quantities of parts that I'll only need one of. The premium prices that we paid for those nice engines sitting on the hobby shop shelves also helped pay for those $1 and $2 parts, paints & other small items sitting on the shelves.
The guy who sits back and says that hobby shops need to lower their prices to compete aren't looking at the total picture. How long do you think your local grocery store would stay in business if they only dealt with bread & milk on which they only make a penny or two per sale?
dlm
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I see you are back even though you said you were quitting RMR?
Are you putting your money where you mouth is and starting a train business if it is such a great deal?

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Oh, please. He's closing up shop because it's a "dying hobby"? More like he won't use all the resources available (like mail order & the internet). This hobby has always gone through ups and downs. Remember when slot cars were going to kill this hobby? Ha! Personally, I think Drucker there is blaming the customer for his lack of knowledge or skill about alternate means of selling trains. We're in a "golden age" of model railroading right now. Never before has so much been available, and done so well. For example, twenty years ago, did anyone think we'd ever see DL109's and Erie Builts in anything but brass? And now you can get them easily for $55 or less...and with a quality drive to boot.
Paul A. Cutler III ************* What have you done to save r.m.r today? *************
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He (Drucker) has been accused of being anti-Internet, and otherwise not providing the best customer service in general....

There were slot car clubs in the San Fernando Valley as late as 1994....
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