Saturday 11 July 2020

Saturday Ramble - Price of model railways

It's all gone quite now the Spitfires have gone away. 
A conversation yesterday drifted to the new Bachmann 117 DMU. My opinions on Bachmann drive train engineering are a plenty, so glossing over that for a minute lets look at the price. The RRP is £314, though the dealers are all offering it for £267. To split the difference you are looking at a hundred quid a coach.  I'd like one of these in Blue Grey to go on the possible rebuild of Rhiw (see above) The 117s were solid South Wales units and a bit of a natural for this layout, but three hundred quid? 

I don't want to repeat Tim's review - pick up this months RM - but the detail is exquisite. However a huge inter-car coupling that makes the 1970s Lima tension lock look petite and there are switches to drop various electrical operations in or out. This is all very clever and may well appeal to a generation brought up on smartphones, but is this several steps to far? Operation of said DMU is thus: drive in - pause - drive out; are we into a sledgehammer and nut situation? There is also a 'special tool' required to release the inter-car couplers. Hands up the first person to mislay that at the end of an exhibition. I'm all too aware that I can sound like a luddite in these situations, but surely the very nice aesthetic mouldings driven by a quality set of gears (for experience says that this is likely to be the weak point) would please most buyers and would presumably reduce the price. Have we now got to the point where people will pay a substantial amount for stuff that goes flash-flash and chug-chug, but has the operational interest of a ping pong ball in a toilet roll?
A couple of people questioned me re the terminology used yesterday. There's not much on the net, but the initial search leads to here.


  1. While £300 is a chunk of anyone's money I can see why it costs that much and so wouldn't begrudge the cost for an item that was (a) much better than I could build/kit-bash and (b) exactly right for whatever I was modelling. Looking back at my modelling days I recall being more critical of things I had built than I was of things I had bought, suggesting that I didn't get any greater pleasure from owning something I had built rather than bought. Looking back my collection of nearly 20 OO9 locos in varying states of repair was down more to what turned up at the Tunbridge Wells Model Railway Shop than any planning on my part. And that's not including the £160 I spent on four "unbuildable" Brian Clarke/Merlin OO9 baby Hunslet kits!

    But for most modellers the price of modern equipment is less of an issue because they tend to have one layout for a lengthy period of time and what they need to operate it is governed by the layout's time and setting. IE, a model of Beddgelert circa 1925 needs four locos and no more, while Towyn Pendre circa 1925 needs only two. If you only need a few locos then paying a few hundreds for each is less of an issue.

    But you are a serial layout builder who has built in several different scales across many time periods and settings so if every layout (and there are thirteen named in your blog's heading!) needs at least three locos then price can become a huge issue.

    Could the price of locos and rolling stock, along with the pause and possible permanent reduction in exhibitions, lead you to building a layout that you will keep and operate over a much longer term than usual where the price of those items is effectively spread over several years?

  2. Sorry, it's madness to pay £300 for that, but of course people will. Bits of that "exquisite" detail it's hard to see will probably fall off (and may go un-noticed) and the drive train may well pack up. The only rtr loco I've bought, from a reputable manufacturer, started its life with fine detail falling off from the word go and I've handled it with kid gloves. No more.

  3. I've long thought that the addition of DCC with all the bells and whistles to models is a great excuse for manufacturers to "add value" in their terms or, as many of us would see it, hike the price. I wouldn't bother with lighting on a 1st generation DMU (or other passenger train) anyway...think back and you may remember that the lights only came on as darkness fell or on entering a tunnel...and before the mid-1980s the lights on the front and rear of a train (at least in Britain) would be all but invisible in daylight!
    The other thing that annoys me is the use of white LEDs, again looking completely wrong before the early 2000s for most uses...even our millenial Turbostars are only partly LED lit and ironically the ex-Scotrail examples are all dim old incandescent bulbs...
    I'd want a whole layout for £300...