Re: Cocoa Beach Prototype Rails - Low volume "manufacturing"

Joel Holmes <lehighvalley@...>

Hi All,

I am not shortening this post because I think it is important to my comment.

What happens when all the 'skilled modelers' pass on and we have not
helped younger modelers acquire the skills needed with technical help?
Our hobby will resort to nothing more than toy trains of very limited
quantity, variety and quality. I have been modeling now for almost 50
years and I still find I need to learn quite a few thing of a technical
nature. If we do not help new modelers become skilled modelers, we will
not have any new 'skilled modelers' who will get the manufactures to do
quality work.

Now that I have said my 2 bits worth, have at me.

Joel Holmes

--- In, "pullmanboss" <pullmanboss@...> wrote:

Thank you, Alan Monk. You have described EXACTLY what I had hoped the
Cocoa Beach panel discussion would cover. (If you haven't done so, read
Alan's post, included below.) But the audience took us into marketing
co-ops and middlemen, and then into intellectual property issues, and
this panelist, at least, sat there becoming more and more frustrated. (I
don't need someone else to market my stuff - I'm perfectly capable of
doing that. What I want is to limit the customer base to those who don't
need to be guided through the modeling process, either by detailed
step-by-step instructions or guidance FROM ME on where to find this or
that part or kit.)

As someone in the room, I confess that while I heard your comment about
not wanting to hand-hold other modelers using your parts, to my
recollection, it was not a major topic of discussion.

Above you write "What I want is to limit the customer base to those who
don't need to be guided through the modeling process". In some ways, that
seems counter to the desires of many in the room to expand the number of
modelers who want to build "fine scale" models in an attempt to expand the
hobby, or at least the population of modelers that are active in groups
such as STMFC. I have heard a number of modelers lament the inability of
model railroaders to duplicate the explosion of third party detail parts
now produced for military modelers. And many also lament the dwindling
number of modelers willing to build kits.

I think the common consensus of the scope of the meeting was:

1) We were discussing the production of individual components that could
be used in kit-bashes best illustrated by the Cocoa Beach Shake and take

2) The panel discussion was NOT about how to make the parts (e.g. rapid

3) All were talking about very low rate productions - generally cast resin
parts, metal etchings, and decals seem to be the three most popular items
being made in small quantities.

4) This was about how modelers who create such parts can share their
efforts, but not with the intent to create a significant source of income.

Based on the posts here, I would say there were three different
themes/concepts expressed in the meeting:

1) Making it easier to distribute parts to skilled modelers without
creating customers who would need technical advice on how to complete the
full model. (As Tom just expressed)

2) How to make it easier for modelers to spread the word, but then the
modeler who makes the part would do all phases of order fulfillment. (As
Bill Welch just posted)

3) How to make it easier for modelers to distribute their products, while
minimizing their time investment in the distribution phase so they can do
more modeling. (As expressed by Mr. Cagle, the third panelist)

This is a pretty broad range of objectives, and they may not be 100%

For concept 1 - for a literal interpretation of Tom's quote I am not sure
how to improve his situation beyond the current usage pattern of groups
like STMFC and private e-mails.

But I suspect Tom would like to support more modelers as long as he didn't
have to spend time on "tech support".

For Concept 2 - Perhaps we need a dedicated Yahoo group, much as
HOINTERCHANGE operates, where a moderator validates message postings
announcing the availability of parts, and then sold-out notices. Then
there would need to be a second, supporting Yahoo group to collect
input/advice/photos/information/prototype data from consumers of the parts
to make it easier for others to apply the parts (Thereby satisfying Tom's
concern, since he could politely direct people to the Yahoo support group
for tech support) This would also effectively provide almost no-cost
marketing for modelers like Bill Welch.

This has obvious benefits to all modelers because the few modelers who
currently produce these parts have more time to produce new
patterns/parts, rather than provide tech support.

I suspect an operation like Model Railroad Hobbyist might take on the
group ownership and moderator role since it might provide some benefit to
them. Otherwise I do not expect a modeler will step forward to manage this
process since the individual benefit would be small compared to the level
of effort required (The moderator of HOINTERCHANGE often posts models to
sell, so I suspect he is liquidating part of his collection or other
collections without incurring the cost and workload of e-bay)

For Concept 3 - establish a CO-OP where a person assumes responsibility
for managing the yahoo groups and also takes on order fulfillment. They
would also stock the parts and manage the financial transactions. The
objective of this concept would be to make it super easy for modelers
willing to make custom parts, and possibly only custom patterns, to share
their work, with minimal time intrusions on their primary modeling

Some hobbyists (may not even be model railroaders) with existing low
volume production capabilities might provide production at a reasonable
cost so the pattern makers have time to make more patterns.

In this business model, it is hoped that more modelers will build custom
parts and share them, with the objective to improve the quantity and
variety of fine scale models that are possible, and also increase the size
and variety of the "fine scale" modeler population.

Note that I am just trying to capture the range of topics discussed, and
have no personal interest in making concept 3 work - just wanted to get it
captured for future discussions.

In my post to STMFC just after the panel concluded, I did suggest new
styles of clinics for various prototype meets and NMRA conventions that
might expand the "fine scale" modeler population, and the variety of parts
produced, but that was not discussed during the panel discussion.

I also included in that post some additional thoughts on the concept 3
COOP business model, but the following was not discussed during the

The person managing the COOP is not going to do it for the love of the
hobby - it would have to generate some level of income that would make
their efforts worthwhile. I would think the COOP model would need to
generate at least $10k per year in net income (after all taxes, postage,
and part costs) to someone working this in the evenings or at a 10 hr/week
level of effort. Obviously this would need to be someone dedicated and
reliable, and the tax implications (income and sales tax) may make it too
difficult for only $10k per year of income. Clearly a long shot, but the
consensus of the group in the room seemed to be that the MRR market was
not big enough to support the sort of distribution business models being
used in the military modeling custom part market??

Dave Evans
Now retiring from what may have been a feeble attempt as a recording
secretary for the panel....

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