Archive for May 2007
Recently, a LHS in Los Angeles, USA – Allied Model Trains – decided to take "the last train to San Francisco" (http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-station9may09,0,1589033.story?page=1&track=mostemailedlink) Many "mourned" the eventual demise of the shop which has been around for 3 decades. The owner, Allen Drucker said, "It’s just a dying hobby. We probably have another good 15 years." It has created a buzz in the town.
If Allen is right, why am I getting into a sunset hobby? And, I have just started. It’s not fair! Already people are talking about the armageddon of model railroading as they see it. Are the manufacturers sharing the same view? I hope not and I believe many modellers do not too. This is not a silver-haired man hobby. It is a hobby for all ages from 1 year old to the oldest man (and woman) on the planet.
If this hobby is to face its own demise, then who is to be blamed? WE ARE. Like any hobby, this is not a one-sided drive. It should come from all parties – manufacturers, local hobby shops, clubs, internet and modellers themselves. Here is my analysis of the situation and how we can all work together to make it better – as I see it.
Let’s start with the manufacturers. Well, it is a "chicken and egg" story. Usually, it is the manufacturers who drive the market. They have done their research and they are the ones that determine what they want to push to the market. At times, they push something that the market may not want. Consumers are more discerning these days and they want quality and reasonable priced products. The price of N scale is at par or sometimes more expensive than HO. Reason given, it costs more to make the miniature parts. Ya ya ya … Bring both prices down. In addition to prices and quality (read: details and quality resin or plastics), there is another aspect to consider – undecorated.
I think there is a huge untapped market for undecorated engines and rolling stocks. Why? Manufacturers somehow felt compelled to produce certain roadnames and numbers which in fact are limiting themselves. Modellers want roadnames and numbers that are not produced. As a result, they will need to repaint and re-decal. Why not produce undecorated but comes with choices of roadnames and number decals? Or, produce the undecorated ones with the right paint scheme and let the modellers put their own decals? Think out of the box, guys!
Unlike in USA or elsewhere, there are not many hobby shops selling model trains in Malaysia. Who are these people who set up the shops? Modellers! They see a market to serve while making a small profit (it is not a sin) and yet keeping the hobby alive. They should be hobbyist first, entrepreneur second. After all, they are modellers like the rest 99% of us. What can these owners do? Please promote the hobby to everyone and of all ages. We need you to show us that this is the "WORLD’S GREATEST HOBBY" – and it is. Cheap trainsets for the young ones to get them interested in trains; quality ones for the still-young-at-heart ones who want to build their railroad empire in a spare room. Do not discriminate your average Joe – they are at the one can help keep you alive.
Clubs equally play a part. I was in Toastmasters back in 2000 and that year, the World Headquarters launched a campaign to promote the best kept secret. There is nothing to be shy about railroad modelling. And we don’t need to keep it a secret. Let people ask questions about trains. Let them touch and have a feel at how it works. At least you have done your part to educate them about this hobby – whether they will join is a separate matter. We need people to know that there is such a hobby and there are groups around the world. Make it your mission to promote whatever scales you want. My dad has a good advice on religion "Never criticise other people’s religion." And I have one for modellers "Never criticise other people’s scale"
And lastly, Internet is here to stay so don’t run away. Use the power of Internet to connect each other and share knowledge and information. I like to blog ever since I started for 2 reasons (i) expresssion of thoughts and (ii) promoting the hobby. We all have our own opinions and ideas. I like to express them here as it gives me the poetic license to write in whatever way and flavour that I deemed fit without passing through the editorial scissors. I am the writer and I am the editor!
Secondly, I believe this is a timeless hobby. Trains will be here to stay in one form or another. We lived in 21st century and we see the fastest and meanest trains ever built on earth. Yet, looking at the Model Railroader magazines, many are modelling early 1900s, steam-diesel transition era of the 50′s and 60′s. Why? ’Coz that the part of the railroad they want to preserve. Hence, we can all model whatever era we want and still create that awe in fellow modellers and non-modellers alike.
So will I see model railroading dead in 15 years time? I don’t think so. Not if I can help it.
My N-scale buddy, Jason related to me his experience at a local hobby shop in USJ suburb recently. The lady at the counter didn’t seem enthusiatic to entertain him where he has about the price of an engine. He claimed she just passed off by saying “a few hundred dollars”. Well, from the tone and the way she says it, I guess this shop will not get my Ringgit.
Somehow, it made me wonder. Why do local hobby shops exist in the first place if it is not to serve a group of enthusiatic modellers or hobbyists. Come on, modellers come in various shapes and sizes – color and creed should not play a role. The fact that some people still see through the racial lense made me think whether they are worth supporting. Modelrailroading in Malaysia is pretty small market. Perhaps there are a few rich and famous people who will patronise such shops and with their better dollar, keep them alive. But the money is actually out there where the masses are. In this case, the masses are the average Joe modellers who are interested in the hobby, would like to get a reasonable priced trainset and expand from there. Furthermore, your LHS assistants and owners are usually more knowledgeable about the hobby and should therefore be even more enthusiatic in promoting the hobby.
To the LHS and other LHSs, don’t think that you can live without the average Joe modellers. Remember there is Internet shopping and eBay. We can easily purchase our supplies there. We may chose to shop at your place if your service and enthusiasm that you give to the rich and famous is also given the your average rests.
Bugger … you think we don’t have money ar ……
Finally, Express 28 to Bandar Puteri Puchong has arrived. It was a long journey but finally we are in our "Home Sweet Home". There are still some touching up to do but we should get it done as we move along.
Next stop, the train room.
Most of us built our layout for operations. Have anyone consider building for photography? What do I mean by that? Well, I am sure all of us are intrigued by the beautiful photos of layouts from various angles. The prototype photos are also inspirational. For those of us who would like capture those magical angles, why don’t we use those photos as reference points and make adjustments to the track planning. This means having a 3D view of our proposed layout and a dash of imagination.
With this in mind, you will get your picturesque layout besides operationally efficient.
Attention all passengers! Express 28 to Bandar Puteri Puchong has been delayed to 5 May due to technical problems. All passengers and guests are advised to disembark and return on 5 May. Thank you.
Sila ambil perhatian! Ekspres 28 ke Bandar Puteri Puchong ditunda ke 5 Mei atas sebab-sebab teknikal. Semua pengumpang dan pelawat dinasihatkan turun dan pulang pada 5 Mei. Sekian, terima kasih
Station Master/Stesen Master