Re: Entry-level models and simple kits


Tom,I couldn't agree with you more.I quess we all have to consider the
state of the art at a given time.I started building Varney paper side
cars.Like most,my first locomotive was a Varney Dockside.I later bought a
Mantua Eight Ball Mogul and 0-4-0 Camelback.Back then I used Mantua loop
couplers.I tried others along the way,but it was John Allen that convinced
me to try Kadee couplers even though he used Bakers.My first "large engine"
was a Varney Ten Wheeler.Fidelity to prototype was not an issue as long as
they looked good and ran well.Armand Premo

----- Original Message -----
From: "Tom or Gail Madden" <tgmadden@...>
To: <STMFC@...>
Sent: Friday, April 08, 2005 9:18 PM
Subject: [STMFC] Entry-level models and simple kits

I think we're confusing two things here: entry-level models and
easy-to-assemble kits. The definition of "entry level" has evolved
considerably since I gave up Lionel for HO scale in 1951. Prior to the
post-W.W.II period a competent modeler was expected to have command of a
wide range of metal-working skills. Authors of construction articles
presumed their readers knew how to cut, form, file, drill, tap and solder
brass and didn't need to have those techniques explained in their
The Mantua Belle of the '80s 4-4-0 and 8-Ball Mogul 2-6-0 were touted as
entry level kits when introduced because the brass parts were already
and punched, and no soldering was required. By 1951, "entry level" meant
cast locomotives, like the Mantua Shifter 0-4-0 (my first loco kit), and
Belle and 8-Ball were now craftsman kits. The Shifter, along with other
cast kits from Mantua, Penn Line, Varney, English and Bowser meant you no
longer had to be a machinist to be a model railroader, and the hobby grew

Same story with rolling stock. Once we got past the paper side era,
and Globe (my first car kit) metal boxcars were entry level for a time,
followed by Varney and MDC's metal offerings (fewer parts than Globe and
Athearn), and then Athearn plastic. Richard is right, much of it was junk
(remember the 6" thick Varney roofwalks?) but they brought many of us into
the hobby.

Rather than follow that timeline up to the present, I'll just make the
observation that "entry level" today means ready to run. The typical model
railroading newcomer is looking for something to run, not something to
build. Even someone considering the hobby who really wants to build
something isn't likely to look at a Kadee PS-1 (let alone an Athearn
Challenger) and say "I could do that - sell me a kit!" They will be
by the totality of the hobby, not by the urge to build steam era freight
kits. That may come later, but kit building isn't entry level any more.

Easy to assemble kits is (are) something else, but that's fodder for

Tom Madden

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