Athearn Blue Box kits discontinued


pullmanboss <tgmadden@...>
 

From Athearn (via trainorders.com) this morning:

BEGIN QUOTE

Greetings,

Effective immediately, we here at Athearn have made the difficult decision to discontinue the production of our Blue Box line of kits. There were several factors that contributed to this extremely challenging decision however, the primary issue revolved around affordability and ensuring that our Blue Box kit pricing remain aligned with what the market can bear. Unfortunately, due to increased manufacturing and labor costs it has been determined that we are no longer able to continue offering kits at competitive price points as compared to our already assembled products.

For over 50 years the Athearn Blue Box kits have been sold worldwide, bringing happiness, joy and excitement to thousands of model railroad enthusiasts. Your passion for these products has allowed us to thrive and grow into the industry leader you still support today, and for that we are eternally grateful. Moving forward this will allow us to dedicate more resources to new and exciting projects in our Ready To Roll, Genesis and Roundhouse lines for another 50 years, or more.

We will continue to support all service and warranty needs on Blue Box kits from our headquarters in Long Beach, California. You can find our contact information here.

The Folks at Athearn

END QUOTE

Tom Madden


brionboyles
 

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.

Brion


gn3397 <heninger@...>
 

--- In STMFC@..., "Brion" <BrionBoyles@...> wrote:

<big snip>

Enough. Time to start hoarding.

Brion
Interesting rant, but I don't think you'll get much sympathy on this list. I will admit to running lots of "blue box" Athearn kits as a kid, but I last bought one about twenty years ago. All the relevant steam era models from Athearn have long since been replaced by new injection molded or resin kits.

Although I appreciate Irv Athearn's contributions to the hobby, and have many fond memories of slapping those kits together, I don't think model railroading will dry up and blow away because they aren't available. I think Accurail has replaced Athearn in the market for those who want a relatively inexpensive, easy to assemble kit. And they are made in the USA as well.

As for the loss of kitbash fodder, the craftsmen (and women) of today are as likely to assemble a resin kit, or scratchbuild the masters for a kit, as they are to spend hours hacking apart an Athearn boxcar and still end up with a compromised model.

Just my two cents.

Sincerely,
Bob Heninger
Iowa City, IA


Brian Carlson
 

Ignoring the first parts of the message about business practice which are
out of line here. I like many others started with Athearn Blue box kits as
well as MDC, Front range, etc. In Buffalo we have 4 train oriented hobby
shops, only continues to stock blue box kits. Unfortunately or fortunately
depending on your point of view the blue box kits applicable to this steam
era list have been largely superseded by Branchline, IM, Red caboose, kadee
etc. The flaws of blue box kits are many, between crude detailing, door
claws, poor brake components, and the propensity for Athearn to paint them
in any scheme they thought up, prototype be danged. I have long purged my
home layout of Athearn blue box kits, except for one PRR H31 stand in.



Young modelers will still be able to purchase Branchline yardmaster kits,
Bowser, and Accurail kits to experience kit building before moving onto more
advanced models. As for Athearn parts, they will continue sell the blue box
kits built up so parts should be available. Although I am not sure why
Athearn brakewheels and roofwalks would be desired parts since much better
detailed after-market parts are available. I will miss them from a
sentimental standpoint, but that is all.



Brian J. Carlson, P.E.

Cheektowaga NY



From: STMFC@... [mailto:STMFC@...] On Behalf Of
Brion
Sent: Saturday, October 17, 2009 1:14 PM
To: STMFC@...
Subject: [STMFC] Re: Athearn Blue Box kits discontinued



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.

Brion


Richard Hendrickson
 

On Oct 17, 2009, at 11:30 AM, Brian J Carlson wrote:

....Unfortunately or fortunately
depending on your point of view the blue box kits applicable to
this steam
era list have been largely superseded by Branchline, IM, Red
caboose, kadee
etc. The flaws of blue box kits are many, between crude detailing,
door
claws, poor brake components, and the propensity for Athearn to
paint them
in any scheme they thought up, prototype be danged. I have long
purged my
home layout of Athearn blue box kits, except for one PRR H31 stand in.



Young modelers will still be able to purchase Branchline yardmaster
kits,
Bowser, and Accurail kits to experience kit building before moving
onto more
advanced models. As for Athearn parts, they will continue sell the
blue box
kits built up so parts should be available. Although I am not sure why
Athearn brakewheels and roofwalks would be desired parts since much
better
detailed after-market parts are available. I will miss them from a
sentimental standpoint, but that is all.
Sic transit gloria mundi. The blue box bow-wows should have been
discontinued twenty years ago or more, as vastly better products came
on the market to replace them. Their only virtue was that they were
cheap, and that wasn't really a virtue as it depressed prices, thus
discouraging other manufacturers from developing better stuff which
cost more. Some of us fondly remember the very fine (for their day)
Athearn metal kits that the blue box models replaced, which were much
more accurate and better detailed than the plastic models, though
more challenging to build. But Irv Athearn saw undiscriminating
train-set buyers as the future of the hobby, and to some extent it
was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Parts? There isn't a single Athearn
freight car part that hasn't been modeled much better by some other
manufacturer, often several other manufacturers. There are no
Athearn cars left on my freight car roster except for two or three
that have been so extensively kit-bashed as to bear little evidence
of their origins.

Richard Hendrickson


Frederick Freitas <prrinvt@...>
 

Gentlemen,
 
                 try to see the bright side, we now own real collector's items. Wait about 10 years and divest them on e-bay for some ridiculous price!
 
Fred Freitas

--- On Sat, 10/17/09, Richard Hendrickson <rhendrickson@...> wrote:


From: Richard Hendrickson <rhendrickson@...>
Subject: Re: [STMFC] Re: Athearn Blue Box kits discontinued
To: STMFC@...
Date: Saturday, October 17, 2009, 7:49 PM


 



On Oct 17, 2009, at 11:30 AM, Brian J Carlson wrote:

....Unfortunately or fortunately
depending on your point of view the blue box kits applicable to
this steam
era list have been largely superseded by Branchline, IM, Red
caboose, kadee
etc. The flaws of blue box kits are many, between crude detailing,
door
claws, poor brake components, and the propensity for Athearn to
paint them
in any scheme they thought up, prototype be danged. I have long
purged my
home layout of Athearn blue box kits, except for one PRR H31 stand in.



Young modelers will still be able to purchase Branchline yardmaster
kits,
Bowser, and Accurail kits to experience kit building before moving
onto more
advanced models. As for Athearn parts, they will continue sell the
blue box
kits built up so parts should be available. Although I am not sure why
Athearn brakewheels and roofwalks would be desired parts since much
better
detailed after-market parts are available. I will miss them from a
sentimental standpoint, but that is all.
Sic transit gloria mundi. The blue box bow-wows should have been
discontinued twenty years ago or more, as vastly better products came
on the market to replace them. Their only virtue was that they were
cheap, and that wasn't really a virtue as it depressed prices, thus
discouraging other manufacturers from developing better stuff which
cost more. Some of us fondly remember the very fine (for their day)
Athearn metal kits that the blue box models replaced, which were much
more accurate and better detailed than the plastic models, though
more challenging to build. But Irv Athearn saw undiscriminating
train-set buyers as the future of the hobby, and to some extent it
was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Parts? There isn't a single Athearn
freight car part that hasn't been modeled much better by some other
manufacturer, often several other manufacturers. There are no
Athearn cars left on my freight car roster except for two or three
that have been so extensively kit-bashed as to bear little evidence
of their origins.

Richard Hendrickson

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
















[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


Tim O'Connor
 

Richard Hendrickson tosses out the baby w/ the bathwater... :-)

There isn't a single Athearn freight car part that hasn't been
modeled much better by some other manufacturer, often several
other manufacturers.
I suspect you really intended that comment to refer specifically
to the old Blue Box kits and not to more recent Athearn models??
Or even to some amazingly improved older models (esp a few from
Model Die Casting)?

There are no Athearn cars left on my freight car roster except
for two or three that have been so extensively kit-bashed as to
bear little evidence of their origins.
Such as Athearn's recent 65 foot AAR mill gondola? Or that rather
nice SFRD 50 foot reefer? Of course, you would not have any of the
more "modern" Athearn freight cars like airslides or PS 2893's but
you might have Genesis F units... Post-1960 modelers have been
deluged with excellent models from Athearn, while pre-1950 modelers
have been largely ignored... Hmmm, since Athearn is nothing if not
a successful manufacturer, what does that tell you about sales
potential in that (pre-1950) freight car niche?

Tim O'Connor


gn3397 <heninger@...>
 

--- In STMFC@..., Tim O'Connor <timboconnor@...> wrote:

Post-1960 modelers have been
deluged with excellent models from Athearn, while pre-1950 modelers
have been largely ignored... Hmmm, since Athearn is nothing if not
a successful manufacturer, what does that tell you about sales
potential in that (pre-1950) freight car niche?

Tim O'Connor
Tim,
I suspect that Athearn, being a successful manufacturer as you state, have chosen to fill a neglected niche of the hobby (60s-70s era prototypes), rather than representing a true lack of sales potential for earlier prototypes. I don't think our sources of pre-50s models are going away anytime soon.

Speaking of pre-50s models, will Wright Trak have the B&O wagontop available at Naperville?

Sincerely,
Bob Heninger
Iowa City, IA


Richard Hendrickson
 

On Oct 17, 2009, at 8:02 PM, Tim O'Connor wrote:

Richard Hendrickson tosses out the baby w/ the bathwater... :-)

There isn't a single Athearn freight car part that hasn't been
modeled much better by some other manufacturer, often several
other manufacturers.
I suspect you really intended that comment to refer specifically
to the old Blue Box kits and not to more recent Athearn models?
Just so, Tim, as I think was sufficiently obvious. Athearn's recent
steam era freight car models are excellent, and I can claim some
small credit for some of them, having provided photos and data.


Richard Hendrickson


Anthony Thompson <thompson@...>
 

Everyone who's trashing Blue Box cars will get broad agreement from me, BUT I have to point out that for SP modelers the tank car is a godsend. Now of course it requires work (and both Richard Hendrickson and I have published articles showing that work), but it's WAY less work than scratchbuilding.

Tony Thompson Editor, Signature Press, Berkeley, CA
2906 Forest Ave., Berkeley, CA 94705 www.signaturepress.com
(510) 540-6538; fax, (510) 540-1937; e-mail, thompson@...
Publishers of books on railroad history


jerryglow2
 

Although I agree with the negatives about Athearn's Blue Box kits, they do provide a basis for lesser experienced modelers than this audience to learn and hone their modeling skills. I can't see the "cost" of continuing the line a valid factor other than potential lost sales in other more profitible lines into which they are forcing the market. As for the arguments about the low prices discouraging others' entry into the market, I believe that was more a matter of the development of a more matured (modeliing wise) and educated buyer - something that took time to develop.

Chalk up another "victory" for the RTR mentality.

Jerry Glow

--- In STMFC@..., Richard Hendrickson <rhendrickson@...> wrote:


Sic transit gloria mundi. The blue box bow-wows should have been
discontinued twenty years ago or more, as vastly better products came
on the market to replace them. Their only virtue was that they were
cheap, and that wasn't really a virtue as it depressed prices, thus
discouraging other manufacturers from developing better stuff which
cost more. Some of us fondly remember the very fine (for their day)
Athearn metal kits that the blue box models replaced, which were much
more accurate and better detailed than the plastic models, though
more challenging to build. But Irv Athearn saw undiscriminating
train-set buyers as the future of the hobby, and to some extent it
was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Parts? There isn't a single Athearn
freight car part that hasn't been modeled much better by some other
manufacturer, often several other manufacturers. There are no
Athearn cars left on my freight car roster except for two or three
that have been so extensively kit-bashed as to bear little evidence
of their origins.

Richard Hendrickson



[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


James Eckman
 

Posted by: "Brion"

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.
I'm sure there are fortunes to be made by anybody building freight car models ;) Is it Westerfield that has the fleet of gold-plated Rolls-Royces?
Certainly for the small market STMFC represents, the resin cars and other kits cover much of the period. I know of at least one styrene kit made (narrow gauge) made by a basement operation, the price was not 25 cents but shows that it's within reach of small companies and individuals. Plunk down $7-8,000 and make your own! As pointed out by others, most of the Athearn kits aren't even good bash fodder anymore compared to more current offerings.

Jim


rfederle@...
 

I second this. I dont know how many youngsters I saw picking up blue box kits at local shops. I didnt ask but I will assume it was because of price and their level of expertise. What better way to learn at a relatively low cost. Similarly, a person on a fixed income has to choose what they can fit in a budget (my Father, before he passed, bought blue box kits and loco's because thats what he could afford).

Robert Federle
---- jerryglow@... wrote:

Although I agree with the negatives about Athearn's Blue Box kits, they do provide a basis for lesser experienced modelers than this audience to learn and hone their modeling skills. I can't see the "cost" of continuing the line a valid factor other than potential lost sales in other more profitible lines into which they are forcing the market. As for the arguments about the low prices discouraging others' entry into the market, I believe that was more a matter of the development of a more matured (modeliing wise) and educated buyer - something that took time to develop.

Chalk up another "victory" for the RTR mentality.

Jerry Glow

--- In STMFC@..., Richard Hendrickson <rhendrickson@...> wrote:


Sic transit gloria mundi. The blue box bow-wows should have been
discontinued twenty years ago or more, as vastly better products came
on the market to replace them. Their only virtue was that they were
cheap, and that wasn't really a virtue as it depressed prices, thus
discouraging other manufacturers from developing better stuff which
cost more. Some of us fondly remember the very fine (for their day)
Athearn metal kits that the blue box models replaced, which were much
more accurate and better detailed than the plastic models, though
more challenging to build. But Irv Athearn saw undiscriminating
train-set buyers as the future of the hobby, and to some extent it
was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Parts? There isn't a single Athearn
freight car part that hasn't been modeled much better by some other
manufacturer, often several other manufacturers. There are no
Athearn cars left on my freight car roster except for two or three
that have been so extensively kit-bashed as to bear little evidence
of their origins.

Richard Hendrickson





Jon Miller <atsf@...>
 

This thread should die but will add one more comment. At any given Coast auction meet there are probably hundreds of "blue box" kit and cars available. Built up cars probably go as high as a dollar. I don't think our young modelers are being left out here. What other areas have auctions I don't know but if they don't maybe they should think about starting one.

Jon Miller
AT&SF
For me time has stopped in 1941
Digitrax, Chief/Zephyr systems, JMRI user
NMRA Life member #2623
Member SFRH&MS


Gene <bierglaeser@...>
 

--- In STMFC@..., "Jon Miller" <atsf@...> wrote:

This thread should die but will add one more comment. At any given
Coast auction meet there are probably hundreds of "blue box" kit and cars
available. Built up cars probably go as high as a dollar. I don't think
our young modelers are being left out here. What other areas have auctions
I don't know but if they don't maybe they should think about starting one.

Jon Miller
AT&SF
For me time has stopped in 1941
Digitrax, Chief/Zephyr systems, JMRI user
NMRA Life member #2623
Member SFRH&MS
I would like to point out that young modelers may well have a harder time getting to auctions and trains shows if their father or grandfather isn't also interested enough to provide transportation. But they could get to the hobby shop on a bicycle in many cases.

Perhaps in defense of Athearn Blue-Box I'd like to point out another kit that was at least a model of an actual prototype and letter (pretty much) correctly; their "Heavy Duty Flat" with four trucks lettered for C&NW #48053. The kit requires some work to get a nice model but it is better than scratch-building IMHO.

Gene Green


Richard Hendrickson
 

On Oct 18, 2009, at 4:04 AM, jerryglow@... wrote:

Although I agree with the negatives about Athearn's Blue Box kits,
they do provide a basis for lesser experienced modelers than this
audience to learn and hone their modeling skills. I can't see the
"cost" of continuing the line a valid factor other than potential
lost sales in other more profitible lines into which they are
forcing the market.
Jerry, what everyone who has posted on this subject seems to overlook
is the fact that the tooling for the Athearn blue box kits is very
old and, especially for the most popular car types like the box car
and reefer, worn out. Look at the moldings coming out of those dies
now and compare them with the much crisper moldings of thirty years
ago. If Athearn were to continue producing these models, at some
point sooner rather than later they would have to invest in new
tooling. I'd much rather have the $$$ that would take go to the
production of new state-of-the-art models.

Richard Hendrickson