Attn: local hobby stores. Please earn my business



That has been an ongoing problem for anyone wanting to learn about DCC that isn't in a major city. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of hobby shops that know squat about DCC and none of them are in Cincinnati. I'd venture a guess there might be *one* Digitrax system for sale in a retail store in the entire 2-million metro area at this moment, in one of two possible places. DCC is not a fast learning curve, and it's not necessarily fair to expect dealers to instantly know all about it -- but it's not new anymore, it has been 5+ years since DCC really began to catch on, and it's still a mail order special other than decoders.
One of the best semi-local dealers to get DCC stuff from is Gordy's Hobbies who covers a lot of train shows in the midwest. There are also others, like Tony's and the one from GA that is pretty big. But the brick & mortar stores with few exceptions seem to have been left behind. It would seem like if they wanted to sell DCC, and get a solid customer base buying decoders, accessories, telling their friends, etc. that having a demo system in the store would be rather useful. Let customers get a feel for the system, try out some DCC-equipped locos like the Atlas stuff, or have a look at a few converted locos with the shells off, to get some idea of what's involved. This would be a modest investment for the dealer - basically for Digitrax a Zephyr system ($200 sticker) at dealer cost plus a few decoders... and a little effort to set the thing up. DCC is an area where the *service* aspect of the LHS could really come into play, and yet most of them aren't even trying. I think a lot more people would try DCC if they could have some hands-on experience before taking the plunge.
Andy
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Andy;
Your post reminds me of my experience back in 1987 when I wanted to buy command control. I went to DesPlains Hobbies, as they were a Keller Onboard dealer, so that I could see first hand what the equipment looked like. Based on magazine reviews, I had decided on either Dynatrol or Keller Onboard.
I wait 15 minutes to get waited on. Salesperson finally acknowledges my presence. I tell him I am interested in OnBoard. He brings back this pile of stuff in a box, including two locomotives, one a powered unit, the other a dummy with the decoder, and a mass of wires between them. He walks away.
I have questions, which I never did get answered, and after 45 minutes of watching the salesperson wait on an elderly couple purchasing some LGB Christman car, I got discusted, and walked out. Ordered Dynatrol the next day through Al's Hobby in Elmhurst, and even got a discount. Discount is a foreign word to DesPlaines Hobby except during their annual 20% off sale.
When I finally caved into DCC, based on the experience of two friends with System 1, it was an in-home demonstration by Don Wangrow on my layout that capped the deal. Don wouldn't sell direct, and encouraged me to go to DesPlaines, as he was a big supporter of brick and mortar shops. I went to Tony's Train Exchange instead.
Tony earns my business. Great prices, great service. When I had problems with run-locomotives, it was Tony that clued me into the problem (decoders programmed for DC operation will run away if the track voltage is below a minimum start-up voltage, which occurs with 10 Bachmann passenger cars on the circuit). His web site is easy to navigate, he provides great phone support, has on-line reviews of products, all which make him a premier retailer in my estimation.
regards, Jerry
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snipped-for-privacy@juno.com (Jerry Zeman) wrote in message

I never had any interest in command control until DCC had matured to the point that there were at least some choices in the market. One Cincinnati-based analog CC manufacturer used to come to every show. Now this is the horse's mouth here.. he always had a demo going, but about all my hard questions, such as consisting, having more than 16 locos, etc the answer was either to change the subject or more along the lines of "You don't need it... we ain't got it". The most common thing heard from any analog CC peddler was "Why do you need more than X locomotives?" and that was the end of the conversation. Those guys openly laughed at my wish list, a list of things I wanted in a CC system before I'd buy one. ALL of those things are met with virtually all of the major DCC systems available today.
I guess my point is, DCC is not that difficult to learn as a dealer, nor difficult or expensive to set up a working demonstration in a store. Certainly a piece of cake compared to analog CC systems.
BTW, I don't know who owned Des Plaines Hobbies on your unfortunate visit in the 80s, but today Ron has an NCE system set up in the store, and carries both NCE and Digitrax. What sold me on DCC was also a hands-on demo from Don Wangrow at the Rosemont show in 1997. I had been through AJ's demo a few times, but the DT-100 throttle's selection process for 4-digit addressing is so convoluted it makes everything else seem hard. In reality, with the DT-100 consisting *is* easy, it's just selecting that's nearly impossible :-) Anyway, Don handed me the "hammerhead" throttle and talked me through creating a consist, and the process was virtually identical to what I had specified in my "wish list" from the pre-DCC era. That sold me right there. That, plus the fact that it *worked*.
I currently own two DCC systems - the 97 Wangrow and a Digitrax chief w/radio. I bought the latter just for the radio, and because friends use Digitrax and I wanted to learn it and have some shareable, compatible hardware. I think the ultimate thing for my new layout will be to get my Sys-1 upgraded to current NCE specs with radio capability. Digitrax has gotten better, but the Sys-1 has remained bullet proof. Don Wangrow has passed on, but he was the one - with credit to his NCE partners at the time - who convinced me to make the switch.
And the thing is, as much hassle as I've had with DCC and various loco issues, *I* could sell DCC better than most hobby shops. I'd recommend that beginners start out with Atlas decoder-equipped locos first, then begin playing around with doing installs. And mention all the pitfalls with Bachmann's decoder-popping electronics, and P2K's bulb-blowing sockets and decoder-smoking motors, but I think I could make a better case for DCC than most hobby shops. All these problems notwithstanding, I am still very much thumbs-up to DCC.
Andy
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Andy Harman wrote:

Interesting. At the Rosemont show in 1996 and demo by Don Wangrow was the deciding factor to NOT go with his system. When the owner/designer went to select a locomotive, it took off like a jack rabbit. Something to do with the potentiometer not being reset to zero prior to selecting a locomotive.
I when with the Digitrax Chief system that year and upgraded to radio a couple years later.
I an very happy with my choice.
Howard
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On Wed, 17 Sep 2003 12:36:55 -0400, Howard R Garner

I have never had that happen... the hammerhead will allow you to select a new loco regardless of the throttle pot position, but you have to roll it back to zero to actually take control of the new loco. It takes some getting used to, but that must have been the fix for what you describe. Digitrax doesn't have that problem since they use continuous clickers instead of a point-to-point pot.
Andy ----------------------------------------------------------- http://www.duckcreek.org - Pre-Interstate Urban Archaeology -----------------------------------------------------------
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On Thu, 18 Sep 2003 05:03:10 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@notmail.com (Andy Harman) wrote:

Or (not to get TOO far off the subject), if you have a cab with the "digital encoder" instead of the pot, as I do, you don't even have to worry about it! I can leave one locomotive running, select another, and manipulate the new loco's speed immediately.

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Try Caboose Hobbies in Denver, Colorado .../V
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not if you're trying to save money...At least in their store. They have a great selection, but the prices were nothing to brag about. My local hobby shop at least gives a 20% discount on most items.
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The local hobby store is a franchise affair, and its inventory of small but necessary HO items is at best spotty. In addition, the ignorance of the hired hands concerning model railroads is no less than sweeping. I have found the folks at Walthers to be quite competent and very helpful, and stuff arrives here in mid missouri in just a few days. The shipping charges do mount up, but so far at least, they don't charge sales tax on stuff delivered outside their home state. I did try one of the firms that carry large ads in Model Railroader (with lower prices than Walthers, but I'm not sure the $$ i saved was worth the at best businesslike behaviour of the telephoone order takers.
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About 96% of everything is crap. That goes for hobby shops too, brick and mortar or online. Some crap can be improved upon some can not. Fortunately we have one of the rare 4%ers in our area and its a trains only store with prices on many items that are close to the online and magazine discounters. They know trains, they understand DCC and are very helpful. So there are some real good shops out there. This store has about 70% of the 96% of model railroad crap that's available but also has about 80% of the 4% of the good model railroad stuff. I've been buying code 83 Walthers turnouts from them on a regular basis. Walthers turnouts are crap but can be improved upon and the LHS showed me an even quicker, better way to fix them. I think I know how you feel. I have lived in some areas that only had stores specializing in overpriced crap with no knowledge on how to make something useful out of crap let alone dare to sell a product in the 4% category with out a big price, a big deposit and a long wait. Bruce

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Ok Bruce so where is the shop? Let the rest of us in on a good thing.

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Discount Trains, Dallas, TX. If you ever are in the DFW area its definitally worth a visit.
Bruce

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Hey Bruce, you seem to be an expert on what qualifies as crap in the hobby... what meets your criteria of "crap?"
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I'm no expert at all. But here's some of my crap list. Almost every thing that's not Steam or narrow gauge. Most everything that's Athearn. Most everything that's Bachmann except Spectrum Steam. Most every thing IHC. Most everything that's Life Like except P2K steam and some car kits. My P2K 0-8-0. All most everything Atlas. Almost everything MDC. Everything that's tin plate. Almost all plastic structure kits. Just about all manufactured turnouts. MR's editorial column. Rice's zero tangent 0-4-0 challenging track plans. My work bench or at least what's covering it and my present unpainted back drop. Every hobby shop in the DFW area except Discount trains. Bruce.

hobby...
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On Sun, 14 Sep 2003 05:59:51 GMT, Bruce Favinger wrote:
=>I'm no expert at all. But here's some of my crap list. Almost every thing =>that's not Steam or narrow gauge. Most everything that's Athearn. Most =>everything that's Bachmann except Spectrum Steam. Most every thing IHC. Most =>everything that's Life Like except P2K steam and some car kits. My P2K =>0-8-0. All most everything Atlas. Almost everything MDC. Everything that's =>tin plate. Almost all plastic structure kits. Just about all manufactured =>turnouts. MR's editorial column. Rice's zero tangent 0-4-0 challenging track =>plans. My work bench or at least what's covering it and my present unpainted =>back drop. Every hobby shop in the DFW area except Discount trains. Bruce.
Gee, Bruce, it's a wonder you can find a reason to go on breathing.
--

Wolf Kirchmeir, Blind River, Ontario, Canada
=========================================================
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Well Wolf I've got Discount Trains not too far away. I enjoy scratchbuilding structures. There are many nice steam and narrow gauge loco's and kits out there. There are some fine craftsman kits available. I fix my turnouts so that they function and perform like they should have right out of the box. I can always clean up my work bench and find out what all I've been working on all this time. And my back drop will go from a masonite brown sky to a beautiful Texas blue sooner or later. Then I also have a beautiful wife, daughter and son, my ever faithful lab, six good horses and some new boots. So life is good.

thing
Most
that's
manufactured
track
unpainted
Bruce.
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On Sun, 14 Sep 2003 17:45:01 GMT, Bruce Favinger wrote:
=>Then I also have a beautiful wife, =>daughter and son, my ever faithful lab, six good horses and some new boots. =>So life is good.
AHA!
I knew there was _real_ reason... :-)
Especially the boots. :-)
--

Wolf Kirchmeir, Blind River, Ontario, Canada
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Gotta have good kicks if you're a Texan!
Jay CNS&M Wireheads of the world, unite!
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Hi, Scott. You raise valid points and I agree with them. I have been in model railroading for a long time and have developed my knowledge base along the lines that interested me. I do not know everything, nor does my boss. I work 2 days a week at Joe's Hobby Center, in Farmington Michigan {Shameless plug}. Fortunately my boss and I know different things about the trains. The store also sells RC cars, boats and planes. He hires people who know the hobby they sell. I am in the train dept., obviously. In the few months that I have been at the store, many customers come back time and again and pay full retail because the people who sell to them might not be experts, but at least knowledgeable about the general hobby, as well as being a 'people person'. I enjoy working there, and that is a big part of the success of the store. We all enjoy selling our hobby for others to enjoy.
-- The Gratiot Valley Railroad Club bi-annual train show and sale November 2, 2003, at the Macomb Community College Sports and Expo Center. Macomb County Michigan. Please visit our Web Site at: www.gvrr.org

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along
What Mark doe'snt know everything? But he always has an anwser to my questions.

{Shameless
Shameless plug nothing, Joe's is the best hobby shop in Michigan. I wish a few more local hobby shops were as good as Joes.

time and again and pay >full retail because the people who sell to them might not be experts, but at least knowledgeable about >the general hobby.
I go there again and again, I've spent thousands there. The help is always great and because of my repeat business I usually get a discount.
Bob
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