Is our hobby getting more expensive or what?

I just returned from an all day shopping trip with the family which included
a trip to a larger train shop in a major city nearby. I won't mention
either the city or the shop as it is not the intent of this post to complain
about prices.
But while I was looking at $30 and up preassembled buildings and
preassembled cars that ran over $30 in some cases, I couldn't help but ask
myself if our hobby is getting to be way too expensive. I mean, I still
have some old Athearn kits that are priced at $2.50 each. I probably have
some old AHM building kits that were about $4 each as well. Now, those same
kits are three to four times that much... or more. And I can assure you
that my wages haven't gone up three to four times in the same timeframe.
It seems to me that the rapid increases in pricing started about the time
that many modelers quit assembling their own kits. While I realize that
this is a part of the hobby that appears here to stay, it doesn't help keep
costs down much for those of us who are still willing to swab some paint,
turn a few screws and maybe even slide on a decal or two.
Perhaps I haven't kept up with the cost of living... but are we destined to
become just another "rich man's hobby?" Kind of a scary thought to me. I'm
just glad that I have more cars & kits than I'll ever really need.
Dan Merkel
Reply to
Dan Merkel
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Yep! Prices sure have gone up.
It appears that "today's modeler" wants instant gratification and is willing to pay for it.
I always enjoyed assembling kits and customizing them to suit.
Like you, Dan, I have more than I'll ever use.
I suppose old-timers like myself should step aside and let the next generation of rail modelers have their day.
Bill Bill's Railroad Empire
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Not to mention that $30 to $60 for a box of pre-colored Walthers plastic is going to look pretty Plasticville-ish without extensive repainting, weathering and dulling down. Suddenly it's Lionel in 1950!
Reply to
Steve Caple
I don't mean for this to be a put down or anything, but after reading this NG for a couple of years I'm struck by one thing- this doesn't seem to be "model railroading" anymore. It's more like collecting RTR stuff and maybe putting together a layout, if enough prefab stuff is available. Whatever happened to scratchbuilding? Not just tunnel portals or a few structures, but locomotives and rolling stock as well? Are MRs these days just at the mercy of whatever is available in the latest Walthers catalogue?
Sounds like you'll get more out of it just finishing all the stuff you have than a "rich man" could ever buy...
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Why? This isn't a competition. I hope everybody can still get whatever they want out of the hobby. It's about as individualized as you can get. If you want to build N-gauge live steam while everybody else is running big Chinese-made Christmas sets, who cares? It's your hobby...
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Seems to me that it's getting a bit more expensive, hmm or is it just me. I have more stuff than I can run at one time.; Miss those MDC Roundhouse locomotive kits though.
I'm in Canberra Australia and haven't seen any for a long time, last 1 I built I was given with helping a woman sort out the values of her late husbands model railway collection. :(
My Website:
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Hello Dan, living in a country where its hard to get pre assembled US structures etc. ( as if i would want them pre assembled ) i find that there are plenty kits around and for very reasonable prices. I must say i hev looked and googled more then just the Walthers catalogue, plus had a lot of good experiences with e-bay.
I myself can't think of a reason to buy pre assembled , for me 3/4 of the fun in RRmodeling is building structures, vehicles , scenery , painting, and weathering them.
Have a good look around and google , and you'll be surprised what you can get, and you have the advantage of living in the States not in the Netherlands like me.
Grtz Jan
Reply to
Jan (Bouli) Van Gerwen
Thank you! I was just going to say that! I would only use pre assembled kits if someone built it specially for me as a gift or it was a solid resin casting etc... There's more of an accomplishment and satisfaction out of saying "I did it"!
Reply to
Big Rich Soprano
Agreed - and for me, half of the remaining one quarter of the fun is laying track and building turnouts :-).
While some of the blame may well rest on the "instant gratification" syndrome, I think the emphasis on "operation", as espoused by MR and others, has to share the blame.
People running with timetables and waybills often seem to have only minimal scenery and structures, and wouldn't buy a rolling stock or locomotive kit because assembling them would take time away from emulating the prototype (I'm trying to avoid the phrase "playing with trains" ).
The "modeling" is rapidly leaving the hobby.
And I too miss the MDC kits :-).
P.S. Seems to me it hasn't been that long since we had this discussion.
Reply to
Larry Blanchard
Not I. Building turnouts is something I do only because I have to in order to operate my trains.
And why is this "blame"? Are we operators at fault for daring to want to run our trains over painting sky, building skyscrapers out of toothpicks, or rolling our own steam boilers out of sheet brass?
And what is the problem with that? If you are simply gonna build 'em and not run them, one might as well build armor or airplane models...
Not at all. I'm modeling a railroad's operation. I could care less if the building I'm running by with my New Haven freight NE-1 ("The Speed Witch") is built from scratch, from a Walthers kit, or a paper mock-up.
Not I. I tried to build one of their HOn3 2-8-0's, and what a nightmare that was. No thanks.
Paul A. Cutler III ************* Weather Or No Go New Haven *************
Reply to
Pac Man
Larry stated:
People running with timetables and waybills often seem to have only minimal scenery and structures, and wouldn't buy a rolling stock or locomotive kit because assembling them would take time away from emulating the prototype (I'm trying to avoid the phrase "playing with trains" ). *********************
You mean "model railroading" as opposed to "railroad modeling" ? ( I know I have argueded this point before but I insist that while many people are railroad modelers and run trains through dioramas, some people are actually model railroaders-modeling the operations of railroads. Then there are those of us who do both. *
"The "modeling" is rapidly leaving the hobby." *
I wouldn't say that. at "Walts Place" just outside of Spanish Fort, they feature "modeling" and l"ap dances."........
We had to close the place down and move it to somewhere besides a "crew change' point on the layout. Without those little red lanterns to hang on the outside of the place, we had a hard time finding the crews........
( ok, "I" thought it was funny )
Reply to
the OTHER Mike
Then I guess it's just like the oldtimers who built everything from scratch making way for those who took the easy way out and built kits back in the 1940's and 50's. Or, even worse, used that "plastic" stuff that was just ruining the hobby! Everyone knows that only wood and zamac are the only real construction materials model railroaders need... LOL
Paul A. Cutler III ************* Weather Or No Go New Haven *************
Reply to
Pac Man
It it was only about building models, then there'd be no differenct between model railroading and plastic armor, airplane, ship, or auto modeling. We'd all be going to IPMS meets instead of train shows...and we wouldn't be building layouts, we'd be building dioramas to display our models. The difference between model railroading and plastic model building is that we run our trains.
I suppose it'll go the way of winding your own motor cores or casting your own smokebox fronts out of zamac. Sure, you can still do it, but if the point is to run the trains and not to build models, then why?
Unless that "rich man"'s goal is to run his trains and have fun doing it.
Paul A. Cutler III ************* Weather Or No Go New Haven *************
Reply to
Pac Man
Not when Athearn, Accurail, Boswer, et al, are all still in business. And there are tons of small laser kits around, etc., etc., etc.
When were Athearn kits $2.50? They were $3.50 in 1991. And remember these prices were kept low by old Irv himself to prevent any competition from muscling in, and he died in the early 1990's.
Well, the bottom line is money (no surprise). Why should a manufacturer make something that doesn't sell? For example, I know the guy who owns the rights to Ambroid kits. He has zero plans to make any because his laser cut business is far superior to anything an Ambroid kit would bring in. In fact, he's said that someone would have to buy the entire production run before he'd even consider it.
It's as "rich" as you want it to be. Nothing's stopping anyone from making boxcars out of wood parts and glueing paper sides to them like they did pre-WWII.
Paul A. Cutler III ************* Weather Or No Go New Haven *************
Reply to
Pac Man
Guys, I don't ever remember the hobby as inexpensive. My income varies quite a bit from year to year so sometimes its difficult to afford higher cost items. During other periods I've been able to get stuff with out flinching at all. But the hobby has never been prohibitive from a cost stand point because I scratch build most all of my structures and rolling stock. There always seems to be some project available that does not require any current outlay of cash. While I only have three un-built kits I've got a ton of strip wood, plastic, detail parts, trucks, couplers, paints, glue and various hardware so I could go a stretch of two or three years and not drop much at at. That money would be mostly for knife blades, sand paper glue and maybe a re-supply of a few strip wood sizes. While scratch building over all is less expensive than RTR, scratch building rolling stock is still not so cheap. If you consider detail parts, good trucks, metal wheel sets, couplers, paint, lettering, bits of brass, strip wood or plastic its easy to have $15 or $16 in a single piece of rolling stock or about the same amount as some nice kits that are available. I'd rather scratch build anyway because I enjoy it at least as far as structures and rolling stock are concerned. After considering what it costs to build a car a price of $25 to $30 dollars does not seem all that out of line for RTR if its well made and highly detailed. The shift is defiantly going towards RTR, collecting and operating. I think that trend towards operation especially now that we have such excellent running models and DCC is where large segments of the more serious modelers are heading. Operation seems to get more and more press and conversation in recent times too. And why not?.........Its Fun.
Right now my concerns are more like how long will detail parts and certain supplies be available. Our LHS is regarded as one of the nations best. Its a train only store with a huge inventory. It has slowly evolved into a mostly huge RTR train store with hardly any kits as far as rolling stock goes and the supply of craftsman kit structures slowly dwindles. Some of the wood structure kits have been sitting on the shelves it seems for years. Detail parts selection grows smaller and smaller with every visit. Strip wood is almost gone with plastic modestly taking its place. There are now isles and isles of RTR and built ups in all scales. A lot of it is really nice stuff and some is not real expensive. I just hope detail parts and building supplies continue to be available at least over the internet and by mail order.
I decided to build a new Timesaver with some late 70's early 80's era cars and power. I did not want to spend lots of time on this non steam era side project so I decided to go with some kits and RTR stuff. I got an Athearn RTR CF7 for about $65 about three months ago. It runs fantastic and looks great. A month ago I bought an Atlas Trainman RTR car for $10.39 plus tax. That Trainman car came with free rolling trucks, metal wheels, nice detail even if some is cast on and a super paint job. I might get another Trainman car on my next visit. I still need at least four more of modern era cars, but what's the rush? I'll have all I need sooner or later. Nice stuff is still affordable. Not cheap but affordable if one does not have the mistaken idea the he must buy every thing all at once. This holds true for those who like to build and for these who like RTR. The one thing both types of Model Railroaders get these days is better quality, more accurate, and more detailed models or parts.
Its seems the craftsman side of the hobby is slowly fading away but then there are still plenty of things available for the builder. The things he needs may no longer be found in the LHS but they are plentiful from the more specialized internet / mail order shops or direct from the manufacturer. Maybe the craftsman or scratch builder is not a dieing breed but is being served by a new model of distribution that is a more efficient profitable way to supply a group of people who have never been large in number, and probably have been more of a drain on a hobby shops inventory budget that much of a profit center. I hope this is the case or we will be back to making or own detail castings and cutting to size our own scale wood or plastic. That's just a little more scratch building than this long spoiled scratch builder wants to do.
Yes there are many expensive models out there, and there is much more emphasis on RTR but if a guy likes to build he can with out spending an arm and a leg. If a guy wants to model with RTR on a budget there good affordable products out there for him too.We may all just have to look around a little more and not let the sticker shock of so many hobby items psych us out. Bruce
Reply to
Bruce Favinger
When I was new to the hobby as a teenager in the 50s about the cheapest kits around where Varney. The Varney flatcar ran $1.99 at the time. Now at the same time, gasolene ran 25 cents a gallon and you could get 15 cent McDonalds burgers. Minimum wage was a buck then so I worked 2+ hours to clear enough to make the purchase of a Varney flatcar kit.
I have to ask when you actually bought the $2.50 Athern and $4 AHM?
Have you tried the moidel RR shows (e.g. Greenberg, etc)? There's usualy a host of used stuff available at bargain prices...especially as the show gets close to the closing hour.
Yet one can still find inexpensive "train sets" if you look for them. I don't know if they did one this year, but Shoprite foodstores usually has an annual Christmas set for under $50...which is then marked down if any are left after Christmas.
Others too have pointed to the "scratch builders" as a way to keep costs down....especially for buildings.
Cheers, Bill S.
Reply to
Bill Sohl
To me model railroading is about more than the issue of scratch building, building kits, or buying RTR. However the layout is operated is up to the individual as well, as layouts get bigger they can progress beyond the individuals ability to run them except with perhaps a single train or 2.
Mine & I guess many others enjoyment in the hobby is with the building & the running of trains, I think I have mentioned in this group before about my abilities in the scatch building area, I have too many thumbs, my soldering is not nice, so I choose to make up kits, or purchase RTR models, especially when the kits are often the same price or dearer than the kits. I cannot justify the extra cost no matter the item.
As I reflect the cost here in OZ I have been going over some old model mags over the past week or so, some many years old, I saw a steam loco kit advertised for $235.00 in a mag dated 1992,, today the same kit is $245.00. In an earlier ag, of 1983, we had some wagon kits for $4.95, today they are between $12.95 - $18.95.
The difference is that in the early kits, they had no wheel sets, no couplers, & pretty poor parts & fitted together poorely. The kit that retails at $18.95, is one I will not buy as the only difference with it & the 1983 kit is that it now has wheels, but still assembles poorely. On the other hand I can buy a RTR model of the same kit for $12.50, or 10 for $100.00, these have wheel sets, & couplers, good wieght & run much better than the kit.
Later RTR models sell for $55.00 in packs of 4, but are of a different variant, & have wonderful detail, such as side chains etc. Another set of RTR models sell for $85.00 today, but when previously released sold for $27.00, a kit of the same model sells for $18.00.
IS there really choice?
In the September 1968 Model Railroader Mag Walthers advertised a Kemtron Switch machine at $2.65, what was the wage in 1968 compared to today, when I see switches advertised in kit form for $6.95 in lots of 12.
Gem models of a HO PRR Mountain $64.95, with long distance tender an extra $24.95, yeas they are brass, but, how do they really compare with what is available today, with dcc & sound. & then there is a U.P 4-10-2 for $99.50.
In saying this, there is little doubt that the hobby has changed, but I think it is mainly in the way in which we source things, & I would agree that we have lost the art of scratch building, but is this something that is peculiar to just this hobby?
When I was in High school in the late 50's early 60's we had subjects that would enable us to go into a trade courses such as woodwork & metalwork. High schools had exceptional large class rooms fully equipped with lathes & all manner of machines, as a teenager we learnt the basic skills, by building basic items in metal & wood.
In fact I still have a kidney shaped coffer table I made in 1961. Sadly these subjects are no longer taught as this country moved away from being a manufacturing country, & trade skills were lost. We can look back at a couple of generations that has not been introduced to the art of manual work, or as an old saying goes
"many youg people think that Manual Labour is a Mexican Tennis player" lost art is in also in the field of learning to construct, & plan.
I have turned my hands to scratch building generic types of buildings for my layout, such as a Harman Coal hoist, rurals stations & houses, as for the rolling stock. It will be & is mainly going to RTR & kits.
I honestly think that when I purchased my first locomotive a brass c38 pacific loco at $50.00 & my wage was $12.00 a week as a trainee enginman, an engine that sort of looked the part "close enough, near enough" & compare it with the forthcoming RTR model with DCC & sound for $600.00, with my pension being $400.00 per week, I wonder at the question of how much has things incresed in price?
I also agree that we are in a hobby that never really has been what we could cheap. In some areas it is probably more expesive, in others cheaper, but overall maybe it remains fairly stable
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When was it ever cheap?
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I'm not going to start throwing out stats about income , prices , from 1950 to present and so on , although I have done a bit of research in that area the last couple days. Bottom line is this , I have never seen so many have so much in the way of high quality equipment , structures etc as in the last few years. Also , libraries of all sorts of expensive how to manuals , books and so on. Seems to me it's better than ever. I remember , as many of you do , when a 4'x8' layout on a grass mat with a few plastic building and a handful of motive power and freight cars was the norm , and it wasn't easy to come up with the bucks to purchase the stuff.
Just my .02 cents worth.
Ken Day Ken Day
Reply to
Ken Day
Almost, but you forgot to include those who are willing to pay someone else to build their layout for them! Talk about instant gratification...
It seems to me that we are too concerned nowadays about the "ends" and not the means. I happen to enjoy working on those new number puzzles (sudoku?). I recently found a site online where you can simply enter the given numbers and BOOM, the puzzle is solved. If the goal is to solve the problem, then I guess that is OK, but to me, it is the road to solving that problem that provides the enjoyment. And, the satisfaction comes from your using your head to solve it. Just the same as the real satisfaction of building a layout is using your hands to create the things that untimately end up on it.
Whatever happened to the satisfaction and pride of doing something, anything yourself??!?
Perhaps, but in the process, I'll become an "old man" by the time I get them all assembled! :)
Reply to
Dan Merkel

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