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I haven't been in O scale for as long as many people on these forums, and I know many of the concerns Ive been having have probably been stated before...    but does anyone else feel that the 'new' MTH companies are off to a real rough start?



  • Killing the traditional catalogue in favor of e-newsletter.
    • I know its a different approach but if your not already into MTH trains, then it might not really matter too much, but I would image a lot of parents buying trains for their kids (train sets) will stop by a hobby shop rather than online to save on shipping.  For example: These are parents who, looking for handy information, will pick up those catalogues to make quick comparison on prices and products.  They are not going to sign up for a newsletter and wait months for the bigger picture. 
    • Catalogues also build excitement for products.  Everyone looks forward to the new catalogue for months.  MTH's little blurbs? I skip over in my email box (usually just some custom run by some train store doing a roadname I am statistically unlikely to buy, some of which I have never heard of).
    • Their (Ritch's) current plan (as of the Trainworld virtual live event OCT 18th) for people who do not know of the newsletter-only approach, is to 'pass it along' by word of mouth at York (timestamp 12:00).
    • Honestly when big department stores cut the coveted catalogue, that's usually the major sign of a steady decline.  Will MTH be any different?
  • Burning the library: selling off pick-of-the-litter tooling
    • Can anyone name how many tooling types were sold off to other companies?  Atlas raided the diesels, freight offerings, and large passenger cars.  Lionel made off with Railking steamers, wood-sided passenger tooling, and more.  Don't forget the rumors of the premier steam also having been partly sold!
    • I mean, what is left? The third-rate items no one wanted? Assorted engines that other companies already have an equivalent of?  Small passenger cars of lower quality that most experienced modelers usually overlook?
    • I mean as a Canadian in O, how many of these sold off tooling will we ever see in a Canadian roadname again?  What's the likelihood that Atlas or Lionel will make a Canadian National passenger car/set??? (much less VIA rail cars).
  • ITS not MTH, but 3 MTHs. 1/3 Company for the price of 1.
    • Employees that are now independent contractors (see Andy Edleman and others), lackluster website aesthetics for the parts/services, lack of warehouse space, smaller teams; adaptable, sure, but does not inspire much confidence.  A sign of a thriving company is usually planned expansion: bigger HQ, more staffing, more product lines.  The new MTH(s) are all the opposite of that with no stated plans for hope in re-growing after a "adjustment period" (if there is, then its not widely advertised).
    • When everyone is searching for a hopeful sign of "its all going to be okay", only the parts/sales part has anything at York October 2021.  Not even a small table or signage for the others.  Even if they are not ready, literally anything at all would have been comforting.  Especially when the plan to 'spread word of the newsletter at York is "word of mouth", and "glad-handing".  You know what would have been nice? Nothing new, but make a display of MTH's greatest hits! Like a museum exhibit of the employees favorite past trains!  Simpler, effective, establishes that things are steadily back on track to your biggest customer base.
  • Do not tell people "Be Patient" or "we are still adjusting".
    • Yes, we know the circumstances, but there's only so many times you can say "there is a shortage of chips!".  What's new? What's going on? Should we be investing in Legacy instead?  The covid pandemic provided an excellent case study of how a lack of transparency or satisfactory information can breed misunderstandings and fear.  Just ask your local Anti-Covid-vaxxer!  You don't need to say everything, but a game plan going forward would be nice.  How about "under our current projections, we are planning to release x number of offerings of freight cars in 2022, and y types of locomotive offerings over the next 2 years"?  Even if things do not go exactly as planned, it would be nice to have an idea of what to expect (heck even film studios do this years in advance!).  I would rather see ambitious plans partly fall through and be disappointed, rather than kept worrying if the company will still be around in 3-5 years.


The new MTH fragment will need to grow to survive the new few years.  Like all train companies, they need to cater to the wants of their existing customer base, but also promote their products to 'new' folks entering the hobby (who are not familiar with 'newsletters' junking up the mailbox).  Fears about the companies direction will only encourage existing O scalers to reevaluate the motive-power on their layouts for something seemingly 'more stable' (like a competitor or a different scale entirely).

  • Thoughts from a younger guy
    • Satisfy the customer base: have a much smaller catalogue of the "best of the best" of your offerings still to have something in train shops (and be collectable). Fill up the lack of space with a magazine worthy 'fold-out' poster inside featuring a blow-up of your nicest artwork.  Cheaper and less time consuming than a full book, but still advertises that its basically 'business as usual' at home.  People like catalogues, people look for catalogues, and some people even expect catalogues.
    • Promote the DCS/protosound system: Atlas already has a license to use the Proto-sound system now, and it shouldn't stop there!  Its a great system whether its a cheap model, or more high-line quality, trying to get other companies to offer proto-sound 3.0 locomotives (even just one or two), or work to get Atlas to shift completely over can easily be considered "growth" for that fledgling fragment.
    • Advertise production of new replacement tooling: When your library has been decimated, get new books! Show that your in production of new things to replace what you lost!  Even if its only a handful that's years off, letting the customer know that they can still eventually get their heavy-duty passenger cars with MTH is important (and not have to look elsewhere). 
    • Do something new (and up north):  MTH wants to do things differently? Start over the border! Why do many companies still treat Canada like no one can afford trains and we all live in igloos? The largest train show in Canada happens annually in Calgary (SUPERTRAIN) but there is really no showing of the manufacturers that actually produce the trains!  Send someone out with a small booth (and some tv monitors) to advertise that O-scale is a thing!  Want more Canadians to buy your trains?  Maybe find a way to try to somewhat ease the eternal issues somewhat of expensive shipping of trains for Canadians (when shipping costs as much as the product, that's kind of a barrier to the hobby!). 
    • Do not treat your customer-base like Facebook:  For a company like Facebook (+Twitter), whos number of customers hit critical mass years ago, their goal is simply to retain their existing customer base (literally impossible to grow more).  MTH is not Facebook, there is obviously room to grow.  Relying solely on word-of-mouth and your existing (aging, moving to fixed income/space) customer base is a slow death sentence.  If your trying something different and the customer hasn't heard about it, Lionel/Atlas/other wins.  If the new customers can't afford the new product, Lionel/Atlas/other wins.  Getting complacent and assuming you'll be fine with just a fractured company because of a large existing customer base, is bad business.
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All of this has been beaten to death,….they’re all just starting out on their own trying to figure out what’s gonna work, and what’s not gonna work,….why not give them a chance?…..if they slip up, they slip up,…..have any of you had a catalog printed??….do you know the costs involved??…..it’s easy as pie to be an armchair quarterback, it’s another thing to be out on the field……at least they’re trying,…..would you rather them fold up camp altogether??…….good grief!!…..another thread full of bellyaching,…..

Pat

@DylTrains posted:

but does anyone else feel that the 'new' MTH companies are off to a real rough start?

The new MTH fragment will need to grow to survive the new few years.

Advertise production of new replacement tooling:

MTH seems to be doing OK with all the dealer custom runs, but I do wonder how long that particular business model will remain viable.

If Mike Wolf's goal is to sell off the remainder of the company, he's not going to make investments in new tooling.   Otherwise, why bother selling off the assets in the first place?

Expansion of the remaining tooling inventory will not be rewarded with an increased purchase price.  It may even discourage potential buyers into thinking that MTH will remain in direct completion.

Rusty

I think the answer is at this point it is what it is and whatever it becomes, it becomes. That doesn't mean people shouldn't have concerns. Mike W wanted to retire and get out of the business and what we see is the outcome. Ideally as we have beaten to death, someone would have bought the company and keep going forward with it but that simply wasn't there (for example, a private equity company, like the one that owns Lionel, could theoretically have bought MTH). Lionel and Atlas bought what they wanted of the tooling, what fit their product line, MTH parts spun off, MTH DCS is its own entity, and what is left of MTH product seems to be a custom run shop for hobby stores and some relatively low BTO runs they are doing themselves.

It is unlikely they will ever be a mass market firm (well, what passes for one in this hobby), the train sets, the accessories, are likely gone from what I can tell, so the idea of mom and dad buying a train set, etc, just doesn't seem to be in their future (I could be wrong, again I don't have an inside source).
Is this model workable? All we can do is hope that it works out, whatever they do is still better than if MTH had simply shut down, I try to look at it that way.

BTW MTH parts is a work in progress, and all I can say is that given what I heard Mike R saying at York and seeing a demo of the parts lookup, I don't think that is a concern going forward, he seems pretty determined to make it work and given how intense he seems to be, I wouldn't bet against it being a smashing success.

Hopefully Lionel and Atlas will fill the holes you are talking about and can keep pushing things forward.

Being predominantly a collector of O gauge product that fits into the "other" category I personally do not have concerns.  95% of what I am interested in that MTH has made is available on the secondary market.

If anything, Atlas's acquisition benefits both MTH buyers and Atlas buyers as it gives Atlas a factory that can hopefully deliver former MTH, Masterline, and Trainman product more efficiently than they have in recent years.

Lionel's acquisition of some of the Premier steam tooling gives them access to decent scale locomotives that can be offered at a price point that is below the Vision Line product and ultimately provide Lionel with a more consistent revenue stream in proven tooling.

DCS being a separate company may help alleviate some of the command turf wars that have plagued the 3 rail world forever as it does not necessarily have to be associated with any one manufacturer.

The reality of today's O gauge market place is there is no "large customer base" as mentioned in the OP.  I don't see that as a negative or a positive, just a reality.

Last edited by GG1 4877

MY CONCERN. I am not real happy with the new warranty. This is  funny that this topic came up today. I was in a hobby shop this morning that sells MTH. I found a railking MP-15 that I was ready to leave with. I was drooling over it in the glass showcase. It was discounted as well. A person walked up to me and asked if I needed help. I asked this person about the warranty. I told her that I have heard that MTH's warranty says that if anytime within a year I have an issue with the loco that I return it to this store and I am entitled for a refund. (since they do not do repairs). This person said let me go ask  "so and so" about that because "so and so" has a better answer and is more into the trains than anyone else in the store. I waited 20 minutes for this person to return. When this person returned, I was never given an answer. It is like I never asked. We made eye contact several times in the remainder of the time I was there. I never seen anything like it. I came home and verified I was right by reading MTH's warranty. My guess is that they don't want it back if it becomes faulty in less than a year. Would have been nice for them to tell me that. This new policy has to hurt dealers that do not do repairs. What a shame. I would have left with that loco but I have to protect myself ( at least for a year).

@jini5 posted:

MY CONCERN. I am not real happy with the new warranty. This is  funny that this topic came up today. I was in a hobby shop this morning that sells MTH. I found a railking MP-15 that I was ready to leave with. I was drooling over it in the glass showcase. It was discounted as well. A person walked up to me and asked if I needed help. I asked this person about the warranty. I told her that I have heard that MTH's warranty says that if anytime within a year I have an issue with the loco that I return it to this store and I am entitled for a refund. (since they do not do repairs). This person said let me go ask  "so and so" about that because "so and so" has a better answer and is more into the trains than anyone else in the store. I waited 20 minutes for this person to return. When this person returned, I was never given an answer. It is like I never asked. We made eye contact several times in the remainder of the time I was there. I never seen anything like it. I came home and verified I was right by reading MTH's warranty. My guess is that they don't want it back if it becomes faulty in less than a year. Would have been nice for them to tell me that. This new policy has to hurt dealers that do not do repairs. What a shame. I would have left with that loco but I have to protect myself ( at least for a year).

I’m confused,…so a second person came out, and neither of you spoke a word??…if you were that enthralled with purchasing it, why not open your mouth a second time?…..were you nervous?….to be sure y’all didn’t just sit there with the death stare??…..

Pat

@gunny posted:

Did you check the build date on the engine? Are they an authorized dealer?

Gunny

I did check the release date of the loco when I got home. It was FEB 2020 so I would be buying it without a warranty. It would have been nice to hear that from the store employees. This is my problem with the new warranty. Used to be MTH had a 5 yr release date cut off.

Last edited by jini5
@harmonyards posted:

I’m confused,…so a second person came out, and neither of you spoke a word??…if you were that enthralled with purchasing it, why not open your mouth a second time?…..were you nervous?….to be sure y’all didn’t just sit there with the death stare??…..

Pat

We did not speak a word.  The original person came out 20 minutes later and started stocking shelves. Another person also came out and started helping the first person to stock shelves. Not nervous at all..............just mad that I was ignored. I didn't open my mouth because I figured they didn't want the sale and I didn't want to give them the sale. My guess is that I scared them away when I told the employee that the store would be required to give me a refund if the loco needed repaired within the 12 month period.

Personally, I admire those engaged in picking up the pieces of MTH.  I am not an economist, but it seems to me that such a pursuit must be a labor of love bordering on quixotic.  Even if they are in possession of mountains of inventory, tooling, etc., an outlay of capital would be required to promote their products to the satisfaction of some who have commented in this thread, never mind the costs associated with funding comprehensive warranties.  Any clear-headed banker would characterize such investment as “good money after bad” given the niche within a niche nature of the model train business.  These people will not get rich, no matter what business models they adopt.

As consumers, we have to recognize these ventures for what they are - attempts at preserving a resource and creating a viable concern.  Their reliability in the short or long term remains to be seen.  I very much hope they succeed, but until they establish a track record, caveat emptor.

Remember, it’s only business.  Buy or shop elsewhere. Don’t make it personal.

@jini5 posted:

MY CONCERN. I am not real happy with the new warranty. This is  funny that this topic came up today. I was in a hobby shop this morning that sells MTH. I found a railking MP-15 that I was ready to leave with. I was drooling over it in the glass showcase. It was discounted as well. A person walked up to me and asked if I needed help. I asked this person about the warranty. I told her that I have heard that MTH's warranty says that if anytime within a year I have an issue with the loco that I return it to this store and I am entitled for a refund. (since they do not do repairs). This person said let me go ask  "so and so" about that because "so and so" has a better answer and is more into the trains than anyone else in the store. I waited 20 minutes for this person to return. When this person returned, I was never given an answer. It is like I never asked. We made eye contact several times in the remainder of the time I was there. I never seen anything like it. I came home and verified I was right by reading MTH's warranty. My guess is that they don't want it back if it becomes faulty in less than a year. Would have been nice for them to tell me that. This new policy has to hurt dealers that do not do repairs. What a shame. I would have left with that loco but I have to protect myself ( at least for a year).

I'd say that falls under poor customer service by the store rather than a MTH company issue.

@Lou1985 posted:

I'd say that falls under poor customer service by the store rather than a MTH company issue.

True, poor customer service, and I did find out that this would not be covered by a warranty due to the date of release when I got home. My point was that MTH had a warranty that covered newly purchased locos from authorized MTH dealers for 5 years from release date. Now that they don't have the same Warranty policy, that is a concern I have.

@DylTrains posted:

I haven't been in O scale for as long as many people on these forums, and I know many of the concerns Ive been having have probably been stated before...    but does anyone else feel that the 'new' MTH companies are off to a real rough start?

DylTrains,

If I distill your comments down to one salient point I think what I'm hearing is that you were hoping for leadership from "The New MTH" and apparently see none, or at least not enough to calm your fears.

Many of us share your apprehension, but there isn't going to be a dramatic flourish in the near term.  I'm sure that Mike W. was hoping for it, in the form of an organization wanting to by MTH lock, stock and barrel, that would immediately inject energy, a vision, and, above all, leadership.  That's how he ran MTH, from day one onward.  Because he's a man of high standards he expected to see it continue.

Yes, we have little evidence of it yet, but I'm quite pleased with Mike R's work as a start because it follows the desired pattern.  We just won't know for some time if it will happen across the board.

Having said all of this I'll ask a few related questions:

  1. Q: Didn't we also hope for "energy, a vision, and, above all, leadership" from the new Lionel when the old Lionel was sold to it's current owners?      A: Yes, most definitely.
  2. Q: Did it come?      A: No, a little perhaps, but not nearly what we hoped for.


Back to MTH.  Right this instant substantial patience is required.  Have a little faith.  With any luck and some hard work we, and Mike W., will see what we're hoping for.  It happened once.  It can happen again.

Last but not least, anybody want to help make it happen?  Any entrepreneurs among you?  Raise your hand you young people.  That's what Mike W. did nearly 50 years ago now.  The hobby needs you, and now is the time.

Fortunately we see the results of Mike's original commitment with the old MTH even to this day.  Energy, a vision, and, above all, leadership.

To paraphrase a famous tag line Just do it.  Us oldsters will be here to help -- even if all we can do to support you is to buy your product.  We'll be happy to do so, quite enthusiastically in fact.

Mike

Last edited by Mellow Hudson Mike

And probably a valid one.  MTH has no repair capability at this point, so they depend on the dealers to repair or refund the items.

And not all dealers do repairs. So should you only buy from dealers that do repairs. I don't necessarily want to buy from them. What about the dealer that does not do repairs? I am sure they dont want unhappy customers and dont want the hassle of sending it back to MTH. Doesn't seem profitable for them. I'm think'n no one wins

Unfortunately, I have the feeling that MTH is now passing the price point considering the state of the hobby. The latest 500-dollar engine price point plus shipping forces many out of the marketplace.

I.M.O. the latest asking prices are not justifiable for a toy train diesel. I believe it might be the end of the road for the scale side of the hobby. I would bet dealers are not getting overwhelmed with pre-orders either. Another concern is receiving all the latest over committed products in a timely manner today. That has yet to be seen.

Until then, the item would have to be a new design or special road/model going forward. Instead of buying five items at a time, some might just buy one?

@SIRT posted:

Unfortunately, I have the feeling that MTH is now passing the price point considering the state of the hobby. The latest 500-dollar engine price point plus shipping forces many out of the marketplace.

I.M.O. the latest asking prices are not justifiable for a toy train diesel. I believe it might be the end of the road for the scale side of the hobby. I would bet dealers are not getting overwhelmed with pre-orders either. Another concern is receiving all the latest over committed products in a timely manner today. That has yet to be seen.

Until then, the item would have to be a new design or special road/model going forward. Instead of buying five items at a time, some might just buy one?

Or some of us might move to HO Scale.  In the last three weeks, I've seen nothing but price slaughter for O items, esp. used MTH items.  I've seen people buy up reasonable price items and then offer them at over 100% mark-up of what they paid for them.  I've seen Atlas switches that look like they were run over by a car with new price tags.  I'm not happy about this.  I don't see manufacturers producing new designs or models.  Just the same old runs from the same old tooling over and over again.  But at the same time, I see manufacturers NOT rereleasing models that were popular (Atlas Gunderson Maxi-IV in point).  I'm not happy about this either.

Then you need this over priced controller or this over priced connector to run your layout.  And then you purchase new items and you get them and they're damaged from the manufacturer.  (MTH being THE biggest offender.)  What am I supposed to do then?  Well, you guys keep talking about having the dealer fix it under the new warranty structure.  Most of these dealers can't fix these things.  So the other option not mentioned is, I fix it myself.  Not happy about this either.

I find it a very frustrating time to be in the O hobby.  I've invested heavily in the O end of things at this point and I'm having some regret esp. when I see so many readily available models at cheaper prices for other scales.

Anthony

@A. Wells posted:
I find it a very frustrating time to be in the O hobby.  I've invested heavily in the O end of things at this point and I'm having some regret esp. when I see so many readily available models at cheaper prices for other scales.

My advice is to take a deep breath and give it a little time, I think you'll find that prices won't stay at those levels.  Run what you have, after all, that's why you bought it!  Quite frankly, I'm doing minimal buying right now and waiting to see when sanity returns.

I am more optimistic than some.

I think the original poster's concerns certainly have merit.  The future of MTH is uncertain.  However, we are in a better position than we were last year and the new model of doing dealer-specific runs appears to be doing quite well, at least according to a couple of the MTH dealers with whom I've spoken.  And it has the benefit of closely matching supply and demand generally, and allowing them to make regionally attractive offerings.  And I think now that Atlas has picked up DCS and some reliable factories, certain MTH product will live on under a different and reputable name.

I am also optimistic about Lionel.  Much has been written in terms of complaints, and again I think those concerns likely have merit.  But, they are committing to new tooling at the top end of the hobby and producing technological innovations, such as direct bluetooth control of legacy locomotives, that eliminates much of the DCS v. Legacy/TMCC operating system conflict that has been an issue for the last 20 years.  Yes, I know you lose some legacy functions but my opinion is that this is a "feature delete" of sorts designed to appease the die-hards.  At some point, Legacy handhelds will not be produced due to the internal hardware constraints and we will transition to tablets as the control interface.  Lionel knows this and is pursuing a strategy that straddles both groups during the interim period.  And they are producing other products that simplify accessory and building wiring.  This is forward thinking and commendable.  

And then you have Menards.  We have a huge supply of wonderful buildings and other accessories that are animated and realistic at the same time.  And now they appear to be moving into motive power.

So not to sound overly optimistic, but this is still a strong period for the hobby as compared to the 1970s when I was a young kid and we were largely confined to MPC products, many of which ran like crap (and some of which I will admit were very good).  

Final note is in on pricing:  we all read news and have read about inflation. Aside from that development, we have gotten spoiled by pricing in the O gauge hobby.  When I was a youngster, my dad bought me an MPC Hudson that was probably the better part of $1k in the mid to late 80s.  Today, $1k plus a small margin buys an MTH premier or Lionel Legacy steamer that from a detail, operational, and any other perspective is in a different league.  Yes prices are climbing but this is due to a combination of factors that is outside of anyone's control, including the makers, and we will have to adjust as hobbyists.  Nevertheless, MTH's pricing is still very attractive and provides an advantage in the market within a certain segment vis a vis Lionel.  

Have a great day everyone.  

Last edited by Ray Lombardo

The original poster wants to see the original MTH reborn.  Doesn't seem a realistic possibility in most ways, so best to just accept that this is a permanent change in MTH, with the future uncertain.  Almost certainly not going to see new tooling or 200 page catalogs in the short run.  In the long run, totally unpredictable.

Perhaps it is best to think of the new MTH as a company more like 3rd Rail.  Boutique products without a full line of power supplies, track, train sets, etc.  Different animal.  Probably not going to resemble the previous MTH.  Product of various factors, such as Mike Wolf's desire to retire/downsize, the marketplace and production limitations.  It's a problem for those who don't want or aren't pleased with the remaining full line producer, Lionel, to be sure.  Still you can get track from Gargraves, Ross and others.  You can get power supplies from Lionel (no one is complaining about the ZW-L) and MRC.  Train sets have always been 95% (or so) Lionel in volume in any case.  If you are MTH only, you can get locos and rolling stock from custom runs and MTH's remaining production.  Doesn't seem the end of the world  (yet) to me for anyone.

Last edited by Landsteiner

At this time I have all the Locomotives I need. I am a big supporter of MTH. I will keep buying Premier rolling stock as there is not much that can go wrong that can’t be fixed. Maybe when Atlas gets their Premier Line all worked out I’ll take the chance. I feel that part is in good hands. Lets just see what happens.

@DylTrains posted:

  • How about "under our current projections, we are planning to release x number of offerings of freight cars in 2022, and y types of locomotive offerings over the next 2 years"?  Even if things do not go exactly as planned, it would be nice to have an idea of what to expect (heck even film studios do this years in advance!).  I would rather see ambitious plans partly fall through and be disappointed, rather than kept worrying if the company will still be around in 3-5 years.


I think you posted some valid concerns but I agree with the sentiment to wait and see what happens. I certainly hope at some point they do release a catalog even if it is small like the Atlas O catalogs in the late'90s. I agree this new MTH will not be like the old MTH however I would rather have that then no MTH at all. Having said that No train company in their right mind would do what you suggested above. They either put it out there that they are doing a run of a certain car or locomotive or they don't. Announcing that they will offer a car or locomotive next year gives their competition time to make a competing model. It is sort of like a quarterback telling the defense Hey we are going to run a slant for 7 yards. I have been in this hobby since 1997 and I have never any train company announce something like that. There are some things these companies must keep close to the vest.

My main issue is the trickle of announcements coming out.  Very hard to keep track of who has what.  I'd prefer to see, say, a quarterly announcement from MTH that says "Here's what we're offering in general, and here's the roadnames specific to single dealers".  Then the next quarter they announce what actually made the cut for production, and announce the next batch of runs.  And dealers forbidden to announce before the main announcement so there's no jumping the gun.  That's really the only thing that could be improved.  I know the remainder of the issues with the supply chain are out of their control right now.

My christmas wish would be for whomever has the European model tooling to come out and tell us their plans for it, if any.  Hopefully it's still MTH.

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