Many thanks for the replies.
I am in the process of looking at the prospect of having some models
made in China, & know that a post on a site a while back mentioned that
there were 7 major manufacturers in China dealing with model railways,
& that did not include Bachmann
A few months back I saw the webb address of one them, But owing to some
computer problems & some lost info, the address is now in cyber space,
& no matter where I look or search I can find no addresses anymore.
My hope was that someone in the group may know some of the
Again Thanks, & I will just keep plodding away
Tap in BachmannChina and you should get something. But if you want to
get models made, you'd probably have to have a minimum order of a fair
number, probably in excess of five hundred.
Well, no need to think inside the box, even if it is a China box. :)
Bowser does custom manufacturing in Pennsylvania:
Depending on the kind of models you want, you may even be able to
have parts made at a local non-model RR specific manufacturer.
I would guess that plenty of plastic shops could handle molding a
plastic kit. You'd have to do your homework a bit more with this
What kind of models are you making?
This is an interesting process, as I have a friend who produced some
Chinese Railways Ice Reefers. He checked out the various methods of
manufacture, & with the numbers he wanted, & relative small amount of
interest from modellors of Chinese operations, the best he could come
up with was a price of AU$80.00 each. THey were made by a company in
These models are very, very nice, have good weight, & run nice. The
quote was for resin models with some brass add on detail. Problem came
up when they arrived, & the old block country failed to supply
couplings, which had to then absorbed. The run basically paid for all
costs & he was hoping that doing another run, he could start bringing
in a bit of profit, although his motive was producing something that he
wanted & knew others did as well.
When enquiries were made, said company once again wanted more money for
tooling costs that had already been made. So no more of these models
will come out.
In checking with him in what I am looking at, approx 6000 cariages, he
said that had he cone with plastic type products, & no brass, he could
have had them a lot cheaper.
Looking at the detail & quality of Chinese products, especially rolling
stock I am looking at, I doubt if resin would really be an option.
The problem I face like many other craft producers, is outgoing costs
in production & incoming to cover the costs. The final equation is how
much would modellors be prepared to pay, & if there are sufficient
numbers desiring the models.
I am certain that I have the numbers to purchase the product, but the
price is the thing. From what I see, modellors are a bit of a fickle
lot, & they seem to set a price point, that is often under the model's
However I have found that some kit makers over here, charge a price
higher than the RTR Chinese made models, & the kits are generally
inferior, have been on the market for years, & not had any moulds
reworking. When questioned on these items, the response is usually
that, "that's what is produced & that's it" some have no couplings,
wheels or other detail parts, & to purchase seperatley the models are
not worth it. Sadly some of these companies products will die over
The models I am looking at doing are for the Australian modellor, NSW
Wolf Kirchmeir wrote:
Sure I do. In fact, I design forging dies for a living (though those
much simpler). It all depends how many models he wants to make...and
it were something suitable for a simple 2-part mold like a house or a
plastic kit, cost shouldn't be too bad. Tolerances on stuff like that
Hey, I know a few people in the plastic-mold business. I'm always in
of sending 'em more work...:)
For the items you mention, I agree, cost should be relatively low. But
they'll still be in the low five figures, so that on a run of 10,000
units, the die cost will be upwards of $1 per unit - and that's FOB the
factory. Figure what that means by the time the item shows up at the
retail level. A sale of 10,000 units for a model RR item is more than
pretty good, actually.
Still, costs are poorly understood by hobbyists, who tend to think in
terms of materials (which they buy for scratchbuilding etc) instead of
labour (which they don't cost at all, since it's their own time.) A
large part of the cost of dies making is labour - as you know. CAD/CAM
has reduced the labour component, but has also raised the ante for
quality, so that there hasn't really been any cheapening of the cost of
dies. AFAIK, their cost a pretty well kept pace with inflation, but I'd
like better data than I have.
Back in the late 70s, before there was much CAD/CAM and no cheap Chinese
labour, a set of dies for a moderately complex plastic kit such as cost
$50,000 and up.
One summary of costs that MR ran (IIRC) sometime in the 1960s showed
that the costs of a model RR kit were (in descending order) dies,
packaging and warehousing, office overhead, and materials. A
manufacturer of craft kits whom I met in the 1970s at a trade show told
me that his kit boxes cost him $1 each - on a kit that retailed at
$9.95! He was making the kits as a cottage industry in his garage - his
bread and butter work was senior management.
It may be of interest to note that LifeLike's Canadian roadnames are
made in runs of 144 or 288. They cost 10% to 20% more than the US roads
- the difference represents the incremental cost of setting up the
painting/printing line for these roads.
I read an old copy of Kalmbach's "Building Plastic Railroad Models" from
1979 and even in a book of that vintage it says: "...tooling for a freight
car or structure can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and locomotive
models cost considerably more."
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