Entry-level models and simple kits


Tom or Gail Madden <tgmadden@...>
 

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 articles. 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 formed and punched, and no soldering was required. By 1951, "entry level" meant die cast locomotives, like the Mantua Shifter 0-4-0 (my first loco kit), and the Belle and 8-Ball were now craftsman kits. The Shifter, along with other die 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 accordingly.

Same story with rolling stock. Once we got past the paper side era, Athearn 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 captured by the totality of the hobby, not by the urge to build steam era freight car 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 another post.

Tom Madden


armprem
 

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
articles.
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
formed
and punched, and no soldering was required. By 1951, "entry level" meant
die
cast locomotives, like the Mantua Shifter 0-4-0 (my first loco kit), and
the
Belle and 8-Ball were now craftsman kits. The Shifter, along with other
die
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
accordingly.

Same story with rolling stock. Once we got past the paper side era,
Athearn
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
captured
by the totality of the hobby, not by the urge to build steam era freight
car
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
another
post.

Tom Madden





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Denny Anspach <danspach@...>
 

Beyond others' judgment and criticism, for most of us "hobby" is a very personal voluntary journey with a destination either not defined, or if defined, in truth seldom reached. An important part of my journey is the enjoyment of building kits, but not to the exclusion of anything else (including RTR).

I love the old Varney and Red Ball paper sides kits, and I still respect greatly the efforts that Varney and M. Dale Newton and colleagues made during those years to produce models that truly "raised all boats". The sides were pretty accurate (even in retrospect because they were permutations of real time photographs), and with care the careful modeler could at that time produce models that deserve respect.

Although these kits were seemingly simple to construct, to complete them neatly, a lot of time and effort was (and still is) required. Details were crude to be sure, but also with effort and skill, many of those details could commonly be significantly refined by the craftsman on his bench.

Recently, I built a very rare re-kitted Varney URTX reefer (Varney 1937) just for the pleasure and discipline of doing so. I purposely only used skills, tools, details and materials that would have been commonly available to a model craftsman of the time. It was quite a challenge, and the time taken to complete the car neatly and with added details was far greater than I ordinarily need to spend to construct a fine resin kit. I have in past years built other ancient kits, and my experience in this regard has been the same.

How do the two compare? On the level of absolute scale modeling, the fine resin car of course wins hands down. On the basis of an exercise in modeling craftsmanship, the field is much more level, at times even equal or tipped in favor of the old.

Denny

--
Denny S. Anspach, MD
Sacramento, California


Walter M. Clark
 

--- In STMFC@..., Denny Anspach <danspach@m...> wrote:
Beyond others' judgment and criticism, for most of us "hobby" is a
very personal voluntary journey with a destination either not
defined, or if defined, in truth seldom reached. An important part
of my journey is the enjoyment of building kits, but not to the
exclusion of anything else (including RTR).

I love the old Varney and Red Ball paper sides kits, and I still
respect greatly the efforts that Varney and M. Dale Newton and
colleagues made during those years to produce models that truly
"raised all boats". The sides were pretty accurate (even in
retrospect because they were permutations of real time photographs),
and with care the careful modeler could at that time produce models
that deserve respect.

Although these kits were seemingly simple to construct, to complete
them neatly, a lot of time and effort was (and still is) required.
Details were crude to be sure, but also with effort and skill, many
of those details could commonly be significantly refined by the
craftsman on his bench.

Recently, I built a very rare re-kitted Varney URTX reefer (Varney
1937) just for the pleasure and discipline of doing so. I purposely
only used skills, tools, details and materials that would have been
commonly available to a model craftsman of the time. It was quite a
challenge, and the time taken to complete the car neatly and with
added details was far greater than I ordinarily need to spend to
construct a fine resin kit.<snip the rest>Denny, your message
reminds me of the continuing discussion in classical music regarding
whether or not accurate, early instruments should be used to play
early music, even including the time of Beethoven or later. Sure, the
instruments of Beethoven's time let us hear what the music would have
sounded like to him, but I wonder if he would have preferred hearing
it now with the instruments of today. IMHO, I like both sounds, just
like I use some of the tools and techniques from ca 1960 without
turning my back on current tools and techniques (an example being my
memories of building a few of the Ambroid 1 in 5000 kits, using
Ambroid glue, compared to using CA to build Al's and Martin's kits).

Walter M. Clark
Time stopped in November 1941 (but only for prototypical purposes)
Riverside, California