This York was an eye opener for me. It seemed like attendance was down quite a bit, but the changes don't stop there. The Brown Hall is gone, the Purple Hall is an empty shell of what it used to be. Dealers in the Orange Hall seemed to have much less new product. There was considerably less new or fairly new high end product in the member halls.
What's going on?
1) The economy has peaked and, with that, we have manufacturer caution, dealer wariness and maxed out train buyers.
2) Many members are reaching the age where making the trek to York may no longer be easy enough.
3) Hobby shops/small dealers are going out of business in greater numbers.
4) The Internet has made it so much easier to get the items that buyers want, the appeal of York is diminished as it has been for many of the other train meets.
5) The cornucopia of new product has finally reached gargantuan size. How much more can the market consume without an enormous stomach ache?
Elliot, you had a first-hand look at what I've been saying for a few years now. Each and every month here on the forum, we see sales from forum sponsors that often offer product at less-than-preorder prices. Bottom line... we don't NEED York for our train-buying extravaganzas. They're right here: both as new products from dealers, as well as Mint, Like-New, and excellent-condition products from forum members.
Newly catalog'd products from many of the major importers represent huge "opportunities" to spend big money on big-ticket purchases everywhere we look nowadays... look north and you'll spend $1K on that small steam locomotive... look east and there goes another $2K on an articulated steamer... look south and you thought you'd spend $250 on some rolling stock but wound up buying 4X your original plan for another $1K out the door... look west and you've just spent another $2K on an ABBA configuration of locomotives! It's just crazy!!!
Between purchase and pre-orders, even folks who attend York are already maxed out. So they proceed cautiously at York... or worse yet, decide not to even make the trip.
We can't fight the laws of physics: many of us have been adults in this hobby since the 1980's... some even longer. That's a good 4+ decades, most of which have seen toy train offerings explode almost endlessly since the days Lionel closed its factory doors in Hillside, NJ.
I attended York for 5 hours on Thursday... the first hour was to take care of deliveries from my recent for-sale thread on the forum. The 4 hours I spent at the show were primarily in the Orange Hall -- stopping by at booths of the key O-Gauge importers, a few dealers, plus one well-known layout builder with a studio in the Adirondacks. Then a quick jaunt over to the Purple Hall - which turned out to be a waste of time (for me, anyway) other than to add to the 8,000+ steps I walked that day.
By 4PM, I was back on the road. And the back of my SUV had two small boxes in it: 2 new MTH/LCT Standard Gauge #4010 tankers from SideTrack Hobbies, which I could have purchased ANYTIME for a good price. Nothing particularly special about buying them at York -- aside from the fact they were my token purchases for this trip.
Aside from my need to get home for a business commitment on Friday, I can't help but wonder how representative I am of MANY folks in the hobby. And when I saw TONS of what I'd call "just regular, good ole rolling stock and locomotives (mostly new old stock)" at many dealer booths in the Orange Hall, my eyes just glazed over... thinking, "Who's gonna buy all this stuff???" Yes, I admit I was moving rather quickly through the hall -- due to my limited time at the show this year. But even at that, I concluded I've reached a new stage in this hobby. I still LOVE it like there's no tomorrow. But it's an entirely different ballgame these days. Can't put a better handle on it than that, but something has definitely changed... and continues to change in that direction.
I'm sure York will be around for years to come. But exactly what it will look like is anyone's guess.
OK... now who's going to Allentown??? Chuck, it's time to plan breakfast at the Hamilton Family Diner... only two weeks away!!! Count me in!!!