Large Scale Central

When is it going to be to hard to deal with China

Just thinking about the model train industry and where its future is headed. Now this is not so much about the popularly of the hobby, but is the manufacturing of products going to be slow in coming, or just not being able to be produced because of the China vs. U.S. relations at this time. I guess I was thinking about the Bachmann Spectrum series that were produced years ago, but today from what I see it is pretty much gone as far as new product. I also found this in the Blackstone HOn3 products, Blackstone who has probably produced the finest HOn3 models has just about shutdown there China production do to the cost of manufacturing there products and being able to sell then to there buyers at a reasonable price. I’m sure this is happing all across the board with all manufactures today and what was once available to buy a reasonable prices, won’t even be offered again at any price. For myself and being a modeler first I still look for those deals on ebay, but it is getting harder and harder to find what I want to re-build for my layout, or should I say what I think I need for the layout. I just wanted to vent on this, but just wondered how others feel about the future of product being manufactured today. I will say like many price is not so much the problem, but avaibility is.

We have a strict no-politics rule here.

That said, I think the issue overall is that Model Railroading as a hobby has been shrinking, and Large Scale is an expensive tiny corner of this shrinking hobby. It’s not worth a manufacturer to have 10000 of anything built at this time, on speculation that they may sell. If Bachmann ran 5000 of their 1:20.3 boxcars, would I buy any more of them? I could probably use more boxcars, but with the bad-metal screwup, I’m not sure I would buy any.

You must have missed that Bachmann just released the old Aristo Dash 9, they just released a new version of the Annie that Kevin Strong reviewed in the online GR News saying it’s a great. They just started shipping the Evan 53’ boxcar with EOT , non EOT is coming.
USA Trains has new product coming, it’s all made in China , but what isn’t. We can worry about it or enjoy the hobby.

I know the USA stuff is already produced but out of stock stuff, but that’s better than nothing

Bachmann also announced 100 Ton Hoppers and the GP40. Unfortunately Bachmann’s parent company Kader is a Chinese co. USAT doesn’t have a parent company taking a percentage and uses different manufacturing facilities which I believe is why they are still able to sell at a more reasonable price.

Not to mention that USAT won their law suit with Kader and has recovered all their dies for their product. No longer dependent on China. I don’t know the details, but would assume they are working their way to finding US manufacturers to run their product.


All sounds good for what has just been produced, but the problem is with the future, as probably most of the new product was probably ordered back some 12 months ago for delivery at this time. It would be curious what Bachmann and USA Trains have to say about their future orders and who they intend to use to manufacture there new products.

Bachmann uses Kader, as they own the molds for all the Aristo stuff. B’mann also stated they found the molds for the GP (orSD cannot remember what I read) 40 and the SD 45 and will be making them too.

All sounds good, I guess we will see what happens in the future, or doesn’t happen.

Scarcity is becoming a real issue on the second hand market. I bought 75% of my stuff second hand, during the recession and after for about a decade, there was plenty to choose from at great prices, add in estate sales and for me it was great despite there being no new product, but those days are over. I have noticed a few things. The second hand market supply has flattened. There are alot fewer used things for sale on Ebay compared to even 5 years ago. I suspect this is due to the facts that those who got out of the hobby post-recession are now long gone. Ebay’s seller unfriendly policies don’t help either. Add in the new idiotic IRS tax on any sales over $600 and that second hand items are now getting fewer because people have left the hobby. Also add in that sellers are now asking more, A LOT more, than 5 years ago. It’s like someone noticed that there was less for sale and what was out there was selling for more, sometimes more than the original MSRP. Even the cheap battery stuff like Eztec is creeping up to Bachmann and LGB prices a few years ago. They may not sell but the perception of value is still there. China is no longer a cheap place to make anything either. Witness the asking MSRP for Bachmann’s newest diesels, wow! Overall this niche hobby is right back to where it was in the early 1990s, a small, poorly supplied niche hobby in a bigger niche hobby. So while I can only hope we see further growth, new layout posts are few and far between because lets face it, this IS an expensive hobby today, it always has been but once upon a time even a poor schlimazel like me could get started and build a respectable collection. One still can, but patience and diligence are an absolute necessity. For me, I have more stuff that I can use, but thats only because I took advantage of the opportunity to feed on the carcass of the pre-recession exuberance. I’m reworking my old inside layout and plan to run what I have until I croak, I’ll get rid of the larger stuff I realize doesn’t work on it, but I’m not expecting to ever buy something NIB ever again, simply because of the shear cost of new items.

My two cents worth, and it probably isn’t worth that much. But I am old enough now to have seen a serous decline in “hobbies” in general. We live in a very different world than when we were kids. But what I say I see as a decline in “hobbies” is a decline in the way we do hobbies and what we consider hobbies. As much as it pains me to say this, “kids” those 30 and younger, do have hobbies. But they revolve around computers, gaming consoles, or social media. I am not sure what that means. Likely what we know and think of as “our” hobbies will continue to decline.

But do we have the same hobbies and do we interact with them the same way that they did in the 1800’s. I don’t know too many people who are blacksmiths. In wood working we see very few wood carvers anymore. These were the hobbies of the day. What would an 1850’s wood carver think of a multispeed powered wood lathe with a duplicator on it. What would they say about a router and a cabinet full of bits.

Anyway this brings me to what I think the future of this hobby is and we have had this argument, but we had better embrace 3D design and technology if we want to see it continue and entice younger modelers. For one 3D printing and the likes opens a huge door to modelers and they don’t need to seek out Bachmann or USA trains. They create their own. Given the robots hobby there are all kinds of motors gears,servos. etc and with things like Arduino we can create our own drives. throw it in a 3D printed design we made and we don’t need anyone else. And this is highly rewarding and plays into the nerd of today. Lets face it we are all nerds, and always were. And so we need to cater to the new nerd.

I see guys like Mike Williams becoming the wave of the future. Small operations catering to a worldwide crowd for a very niche market place. Guys like Dan Gilchrist will become the kings of the hobby. He is producing what I think will be the way of the world. Now Dan is generous and shares freely that which he designs. But guys like Dan C, Dan H, Cliff, and even myself, who have learned this technology and have learned to design “kits” are where it is going. Its two fold. I think you will be able to buy kits produced by others for your assembly, or people will sell design files and you can print your own.

I don’t pretend to have the answer. And I could be 100% wrong. But I think the old school way of doing things is going to continue to die and will be replaced with a virtual world at least in design if not the entire hobby being somehow virtual. Pretty sure the guys who played with their tin toy trains never saw their toy train hobby turning into what it became. We have no idea where this is going but I feel unless we embrace the not so new anymore world of 3D tech we will find ourselves going with it.

One thing I am confident about. . .I will never not have a supplier for my hobby.

Great analysis, Devon. I am in full agreement. The world has changed VASTLY in just the short time I have been here. Where there used to be several hobby shops close by, now you are fortunate if you entire city has ONE. Imagine trying to open a new one today! Things do change and technology sure has changed EVERYTHING. The scratch builder is now from the past, and if you can’t model and print you WILL be left behind. I’m not sure that all of our shows will continue in the same format!

I guess that’s exactly why I got into operations. It’s fun for me and you don’t have to do all that much; in large scale, it does take a lot of room, but also seems very welcoming to spouses. My wife and I have thoroughly enjoyed our visits to railroads around the country. Of course it’s still a tiny niche in a tiny niche so who knows?

1 Like

What I have seen of the quality of printed stuff is not impressive. The affordable home printers have come a long way, but still have a long way to go getting layer lines out and looking good without have to sand and file. But that may be part of the draw to that.

I’m into the Bachmann steam and the prior comments are exactly on regarding eBay. A few years back, I finally got the chance to pickup a K-27 and a 2-6-6-2 used but at high prices, well above the street price when they were new, but I got them. Today, they are going for a good 50% higher than I paid. I was fortunate to snag a yellow C-19 at TrainWorld on their close out but that stuff is gone. Even the old Shays with broken trucks are high considering they will take the $250 metal trucks to revive. That one guy on eBay still has some of the newer climax for “reasonable” prices of $369 but they will be gone soon. I had also got one of the Spectrum caboose when still available new but did not get a box car or gondola. Now impossible to find. So if you want it, grab it when you see it and suck up the cost cuz they will only be harder and harder to find.

Devon, while I totally agree that 3D printing will be the future, there still is an elephant in the room that is the biggest hindrance to the scale. There are very few DRIVE MECHANISMS available on the market. This is pretty much what’s out there:
Bachmann’s and USA’s replacement diesel blocks.
Piko has some for the 0-6-0 and one(?) of the diesels
LBG I know they have some for the Stainz but others???
There really needs to be some customizable plans for drives that can be printed and assembled by home printers that can utilize readily available gears and motors. That would really open up the potential and possibilities.

All I can say to this is you are way behind the times then. While still not yet perfect, filament printers have come a long ways. Take a look at what the Dan’s are doing with them. Great detail and those build lines are all but gone. And there are NO build lines in resin printing, if there are you are doing it wrong, and things need to be re-orientated for printing. And you only do this in the test printing phase. When you go to production it will spit them out close to perfect every time. 8K resin printers now available to the home market for reasonable prices print in exceptional quality.

Here is a model I designed, my friend printed, and another friend assembled and painted. This is a resin printed model. And I assure you there was little to no sanding, filing, drilling. And this can and was printed on a hobby printer. Now Mike is progressing well past the hobby printer in his production but that is due to the high demand for his products. But he was printing great quality pieces from small machines.

Here is where I will give you that the technology isn’t there yet. Even the best mixes of resin are still too brittle in my opinion for general hobby use. You have to take care with them. But that is for the hyper fine details. I could print a car of equal quality as any generic Bachmann car on an FDM printer with little to no build lines out of something like ABS and have it be as strong as an injection molded styrene car.

I used to have very much the same opinion of 3D printing. Big chunky build lines, rudimentary detail, and hard to sand and drill. Those days are going or gone. The technology is coming along in leaps and bounds.

I too thought this. But drive mechanisms aren’t the problem. Drivers and wheels to for them are. Everything you listed is a drive mechanism produced by a G scale train manufacturer, for their product that you must rob or buy as parts. But there are all sorts of motors, servos, gear boxes etc out there. You can buy them all day long and twice on Sunday.

Just one of a million places.

“There really needs to be some customizable plans for drives that can be printed and assembled by home printers that can utilize readily available gears and motors. That would really open up the potential and possibilities”

There already is exactly what you are asking. Its called FUSION 360. A free program (or you can buy it) and you learn it like I did and then you can produce in CAD what ever your heart desires to fit what ever your needs are, and then you print it. The problem is it requires the modeler to learn a new way of doing our hobby.

This is precisely to my point. You are thinking about your way of doing the hobby. And we all admire your way of doing the hobby. I love that you turned me onto Lil Big Haulers or their motor blocks and have several in waiting. But you are used to doing what you do, a certain way, and because you are finding it harder to do it that way because availability, does not mean that there is not another way to approach the hobby.

I can now take a generic motor/gear box and in CAD design the chassis to fit it and then design my model around it. I haven’t had the need to do this yet. But I have no doubt I will be. Mike Williams is producing 3D kit models around drives and selling them. He isn’t using the drives made by the “train” guys and repurposing them.

We HAVE to start looking at this hobby in a new way. IF you want to model in 2030 using 1980 technology and parts yeah you are going to have problems finding what you need. But if you learn to model a new way you will have more than an ample supply.

Again this is all just my opinion. I am neither right nor wrong. But I do believe sincerely that , right or wrong, this is where the hobby will go. We can choose to keep up or struggle. This is coming from a guy who not so long ago “hated” 3D printing and considered it “cheating”. I decide to join in on the fun. And now I can say will 100% confidence, I will never ever not be able to have exactly what I want when I want it.


I mentioned that I think the problem that remains isn’t chassis, motors, or gear boxes. All of that is easily overcome. In fact you have given me an idea, that if there really is a need for motor blocks and people are not wanting or willing to make their own, then maybe I should start.

But the problem is availability of metal drivers and wheels to attach to the gear boxes. I have not overcome this hurdle yet. Since there really is no cheap small hobby CNC mill/lathes this is a problem. If I could make or buy drivers for steam stuff or just metal wheels I could put on axles for diesel blocks I would be set. Its the metal wheels that are the problem as I see it.

In the UK they have several manufacturers of gearboxes available. IP Engineering used to ship to the US, but no longer.

Can’t metal parts be printed? I seem to recall that being available now. Probably expensive but then likely cheaper than a milling machine.

Take a look at the Slaters Plastikard wheels. They are stainless tires on a nylon/resin/fiberglass injected wheel, and they are fully quartered using square axles, and come with bosses for the rods. They don’t make it easy to find the right wheel, but they have a tremendous selection if you do the math and figure out what actual size the wheels are!

This is a 49" wheel in Fn3 for an EBT Mikado, though I never got around to using it. (Prototype used 48".)

1 Like