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Model Railroading > The end of brass?

Date: 12/18/14 10:59
The end of brass?
Author: Auburnrail

Used to be a few years ago when EMD or GE came out with a new prototype there was usually an exquisite model of it within months of release of the prototype,imported by Overland. With Overland's apparent exit from the new brass business it appears that we will not see this again. I assume that economic conditions in Korea, which was the main manufacturer of these models now preclude limited run of what are hand-crafted models at any realistic cost? Yet I note that there is some life in the brass business since importers such as Coach Yard and Precision Scale still show signs of life. What are those folks doing differently?
I do not want this to become a brass vs. plastic discussion, but just want to note that the time of getting accurate and prototypical brass models of current prototypes may be over.
I note that some years ago Overland tried to shift some manufacturing to China. While China could make beautiful models of complicated bridges, they did not seem to be able to produce any motive power, so Overland pulled out of there.
Finally, I note with some irony that many of the models produced for the European model manufacturers such as Micro Metakit are (were?) actually produced in Korea.
It is further ironic that Overland (now the hobby store) advertises its own past models that are now on consignment with them. It appears that what we've got now of modern diesel power in brass model form is all we'll have with the exception of the re-sellers.

While I truly hope that this era of models has not vanished, I assume that the up-front cost of entry into this business will truly preclude
what we had in the past.

Any comments, observations that I might have missed?


Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 12/18/14 11:06 by Auburnrail.

Date: 12/18/14 11:18
Re: The end of brass?
Author: funnelfan

There is no getting around the brass vs. plastic element in this discussion. Back when overland was in it's heyday, they were competing against Athearn Blue Box and Kato with unpainted detail add-them-yourself kits. It was a no brainier that model train collectors would pony out the money for brass models. Now that Athearn Genesis and some others are every bit as good as those old brass models, the mass produced and low cost model wins. Brass steam sill holds an edge that mass produced models can't quite crack in large part, although it may be short lived as 3D printing technology continues to evolve.

Ted Curphey
Cheney, WA

Date: 12/18/14 13:09
Re: The end of brass?
Author: wabash2800

Also, based on what I've seen as far as prices and my German relatives' buying practices, I get the impression that Europeans (or at least Germans) are willing (or have better financial leverage) to pay a lot more for their models than we are.

Date: 12/18/14 13:52
Re: The end of brass?
Author: Finderskeepers

We even lost our high end die-cast in On3 and On30 with the cessation of new products from MMI....yet precision scale is still offering new brass models. At $3000 for a new west side shay I don't think I will be getting any for Christmas presents

Date: 12/18/14 14:22
Re: The end of brass?
Author: Auburnrail

I would just like to comment that during the last few years of Overland's brass production virtually all models were in "sold out" status upon arrival. Certainly very few if any remained as open stock. Seems like this is any distributor's dream scenario but even this was not enough to keep Overland in the brass business. Those last few runs of modern power from Overland was absolutely beautiful in detail, execution and workmanship. Sure hope somebody can come along and continue this since even at a higher price point these models sold well.

Posted from iPhone

Date: 12/18/14 15:28
Re: The end of brass?
Author: WAF

Boo Rim seems to be doing great

Date: 12/18/14 18:10
Re: The end of brass?
Author: coastdaylight

Big problem with Overland was the demise of Canadian Model Trains and the owner skipping town with the money. The great depression of 2008 didn't help, and with Overland losing their builder, things got tough. I wouldn't count Overland out just yet. There will always be a market for brass. Look and Coach Yard, Union Terminal Imports, Sunset, and others.
It amazes the topic of the end of brass always seem to comes up periodically. Not a criticism, just a observation.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/18/14 18:13 by coastdaylight.

Date: 12/18/14 18:11
Re: The end of brass?
Author: TCnR

There's still a pretty strong caboose and specialty car market out there. Some of the shortline or regionals had unique cabeese that works well in the brass market.

Date: 12/18/14 20:54
Re: The end of brass?
Author: MojaveBill

Two words on the future of brass: Digital printing...

Bill Deaver
Mojave, CA

Date: 12/19/14 05:20
Re: The end of brass?
Author: hogheaded

MojaveBill Wrote:
> Two words on the future of brass: Digital
> printing...

In the larger sense, brass has declined because model RRing has moved-on, and this is a good thing overall for the hobby. I say this as a fat old man who has a considerable investment in, and appreciation of, brass locomotives.

If you will recall, a few years back, we were all wringing our hands over the future of model RRing; our inability to attract young modelers. In essence, the hobby had become the domain of old men like me who worshipped brass and craftsmanship and Lionel trains. These things simply did not fit the mindset of the younger generations, for better or worse.

What saved model railroading for future generations was technology, pure and simple. Computers, DCC, sound and the like have begun a revolution in the hobby, and you ain't seen nuthin yet! Technology is the fuel of the young, and is what attracts them. It is dynamic, ever changing and leaping forward, and it is NOT a bunch of dusty brass engines sitting on a shelf.

I could go on about how much I personably lament the the loss of the brass / craftsman eras, but if you will excuse me, I want to get on with inserting a Tsunami into my dust-encrusted Overland DL109. It's going to look and sound pretty cool when I mate it to my Life-Like E6, once I get the CV's adjusted.


Date: 12/19/14 05:48
Re: The end of brass?
Author: binder001

We have seen this over the years in several hobbies. Imported pre-built, brass models will still be around as long as the law of supply and demand remain in force. As long as enough collectors or modelers will pony up the money to make brass imports profitable they will continue to be made. Even now they are made in smaller runs than back in the 1980's when I worked part time for a hobby shop. We had brass available in "special order" status and I got to be the contact person for several importers.

Surely the brass market has changed dramatically, but so has the plastic market. The high-quality model with road-specific details has always been a desirable item. Now we can get a new diesel with (literally) all the bells and whistles for a lot less than a brass one. However the plastic runs are shorter and more of them are spoken for in pre-orders. Sound familiar?

Steam and certain specialty items will still be a haven for brass importers. I heard a couple guys refer to "digital printing" etc. That is fine for the stuff above the running board, but most steamers didn't run on common chassis like the diesels do. Wheel sizes, styles, wheelbase, etc, etc. vary greatly from loco to loco. Diesels commonly roll on a 40-42" wheel. Look at the old Cal-Scale and Kemtron catalogs to see just part of the variety of steam wheels alone.

Our plastic guys have made good efforts at steam power but they face a problem. A Harriman 2-8-0 model in HO scale (which I would dearly love to see!) comes in at almost the same MSRP as a 4-8-4 or a CHallenger. Which is "sexier" to the average buyer and will move off the shelves quicker? So we end up with big runs of Big Boys, Challengers, Pennsy Duplexes, and other large locos, but few of the Mikados, Pacifics and other lighter power that fed the mainline (unless you are a Pennsy fan, then BLI has you well covered). So there will still be a market for nice models of steam engines for "operators" as well as "collectors".

I can't say that I'd invest my retirement money in brass but the market will be around longer than I will.

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