At the Worlds Greatest Hobby Tour here in the DC area a couple of years back (3?, 4?) I spoke with the Athearn Rep about the future of the Blue Box and why they were important (I am a professional custom painter and inveterate tinkerer) . I could tell by the look in his eyes that every syllable dripping over his blue lips was a lie. I knew right then what I read know. Herb is dead. The kids sold their souls. Horizon Hobbies (the parent company) and the flood of Internet "virtual" hobby whorehouses they support with bottom line mentality are ready to throw another cherished part of the hobby onto the funeral pyre (already fueled by the bones of neighborhood hobby shops killed by throwing stars, poisoned with General Tso's Chicken or drowned in Won Ton Soup).
Athearn didn't write this. Horizon Hobbies did. If Betty Crocker thought this way, the baking goods aisle in the grocery store would vanish overnight, and we'd all be eating the same, someone elses' version of your mothers' German Chocolate cake at $100 a pop on your 5 year-old's birthday.
Expense, my ass. R&D costs for the Blue Box line was recovered decades ago. I'm sure a boxcar kit costs about 25 to 50 cents to produce, box and all. Hell, there is as much material involved as a shampoo bottle. Could be done in the States, if they didn't have to ship them from China along with their high-end Tiffany stock that is too expensive to make here. And the Internet virtual whorehouses have killed off the local shops where craftsmen peruse and buy such items, along with the occasional bottle of paint, pack of track joiners, strip of basswood and a magazine. Hobby shops didn't make much money off these items...Hobby shops kept their doors open with selling locos, and the industry leaders undercutting their own distribution by flooding the internet with discounts have given us cheaper locos, but fewer hobby experiences.
The very reason these items sold well was because of their simplicity and the comfort of having a cheap starting point to begin hacking away. It takes "cajones grande" to started chopping up a $$$ Kadee car or Branchline sleeper as a neophyte. Frankly, if they just sold the undec shell they'd probably do better. How many of us use Athearn trucks? Brakewheels? Roofwalks? I hope someone buys the molds and keeps a trickle coming out. Might be enough to keep a small concern going with a hand full of employees.
Enough. Time to start hoarding.