Impressions Of An Interview Of Ron Bashista of AM

The latest NASG Dispatch (September-October 2018) has an interview of Ron Bashista of American Models, performed by several members of the Southeastern Michigan S Gaugers.  I thought I'd share my impressions and editorial comment [in blue highlight.]  

Comments and opinions are mine alone.  Those of you that are in the NASG and have received the issue may see things differently.

I'll skip the biographical stuff, except for Ron appears to have quite a surprisingly varied past work experience.

Of course we know that AM recently moved to a bigger facility [So, they must be doing something right.]

[Also, no hint or showing of cards on future new products...]

AM has a small core staff.  No number given, but two employees were shown.

I'm guessing there's still a little bad blood between AM and the former SHS.  Ron says boxcar sales were great until SHS "dumped" thousands of cars on the market. [I thought the two product lines complimented each other fairly well.  What do I know...  Well, look at it this way: AM's still here, SHS is isn't and I don't think MTH will be a serious contender unless something changes over there.]

Flyer-compatible and HighRail are what really keeps AM in business.  [No surprise there.]

It wouldn't cost less today to produce AM locomotives in China.  Most of AM's production is in Michigan.  Molding is done in Michigan and AM's still using one of their original subcontractors for parts.  Some work is still done in China: Complicated paint jobs [Like the T&P GP9's] and some labor-intensive products not defined in the interview.

The AM steam locomotives were good sellers at affordable prices.  Budd cars continue to sell well.  All locomotives are tested before they're shipped. [My RS-11's even had my evil twin's name written on their frames...]

A rerun of RS3's or SD60's in the works?  "We could get around to it." [Direct quote.]   However, nothing with a complicated paint job like the Rock Island RS3.

AM is "kicking around" the possibility of another Pacific.  How's about a Mikado using the Pacific boiler.  Nope.  Ron feels Lionel flooded the market with their HiRail Mikado's over a decade ago and there's not enough Scalers to invest in new drive tooling.  [Wouldn't the same logic hold true for a Pacific?  Lionel did quite a few of them, too.  Well, I suppose it could be because the Pacific's tooling is already done.]

Technology...  [Don't hold your breath.] Conventional DC or AC is it.  Don't expect to see DCC/TMCC/Legacy or any other hi-tech control system offered in AM products.  Ron feels he would have to set up a separate division just to keep up with all of it and any changes.

Track will remain as is, although there's the possibility of Nickle Silver Flex.  Ron appears content to let Lionel, MTH and Fox Valley deal with track.

The future: Ron sees the [Gilbert] Flyer market pretty much non-existent in 10 years. [I dunno, Lionel is carrying the "traditional" torch right now and the may help to keep interest in the Gilbert-made stuff alive.] He also doesn't see if there will be enough Scalers to keep S going.  [I could go on for hours about some of the closed thinking on the Scale side, but I won't.]

Over all, it was a pretty good interview, even I learned a thing or two.  I would have liked to have been given an inkling of some future product, but I guess Ron will let us know if or when he's got something new.

Rusty

Original Post

The future: Ron sees the [Gilbert] Flyer market pretty much non-existent in 10 years. ... Hmm baby Boomers are going to the great train station in the sky and no one is taking their place in the hobby world. Newcomers to the train hobby will usually fall into the HO, N, or O gauge camps.... Pretty sad that we S gaugers may only have about 10yrs left if this is what the future holds..

 

Trains are meant to be fun! Not high priced, limited availability, complicated and cost more money than my first car! 

Ron has a history of keeping new items a secret until he actually has them ready for sale, like the Trainmasters and domed Budd cars.  I frequently drive to his place to pick up items for scratch building and sometimes a car or two.  It saves me postage and time.  One time, years ago, I caught a glimpse of the drawings for his trailer train cars, but thought nothing of it.  He told me later that he was worried I'd let the cat out of the bag about them. He'd rather have any new items ready for shipping and sale than have folks pester him about when anything announced is actually ready.  I don't blame him a bit.

His new facility is quite large and allows him to keep most of his things under one roof.   He even has the molds for his products there when they're not being used.  Visiting the place is like being a kid in a candy store.  I picked up 10 heavyweight trucks a few weeks ago for a project, and it's all organized so well, he had the trucks ready before I could tell him what else I needed!

And I'm going to run my trains as long as I can.  But my 6 year old grandson is loving "doing trains" with his grandpa. 

 

 

poniaj posted:

Ron has a history of keeping new items a secret until he actually has them ready for sale, like the Trainmasters and domed Budd cars.  I frequently drive to his place to pick up items for scratch building and sometimes a car or two.  It saves me postage and time.  One time, years ago, I caught a glimpse of the drawings for his trailer train cars, but thought nothing of it.  He told me later that he was worried I'd let the cat out of the bag about them. He'd rather have any new items ready for shipping and sale than have folks pester him about when anything announced is actually ready.  I don't blame him a bit.

That's one of the things I really appreciate about AM, no waiting for months or years for something announced to show up.  It's so counter to the rest of the industry.  99% of the time it's ready to go when it shows up on the website or on a flyer in the mail. 

The biggest surprise was when the Northerns were announced and the flyer had the magic words "In stock and ready to ship."

Rusty

Rusty Traque posted:
 
That's one of the things I really appreciate about AM, no waiting for months or years for something announced to show up.  It's so counter to the rest of the industry.  99% of the time it's ready to go when it shows up on the website or on a flyer in the mail ready to shop

Rusty

I'll also add that Ron will sell you just about any part that he has, including body shells.  I've bought all sorts of things for scratch building projects and the very infrequent repairs for even his older things.  I even bought a complete wheel set for one of the first GG1s so I could run it either hi-rail or scale on my club's layout.  No hassle over parts not available due to overseas supply problems.  Even when some of his offerings were made elsewhere, he seemed to have extra parts for sale if needed.  And if not listed in his online catalog, a quick call usually confirmed availability.

 

 

Quote:

"The future: Ron sees the [Gilbert] Flyer market pretty much non-existent in 10 years. <snip editorial comments> He also doesn't see if there will be enough Scalers to keep S going."

Wow, talk about being brutally frank.

Unfortunately, the sad realities are that his view makes sense:

* Us baby boomers are aging out. This is complicated by the fact there are FAR TOO FEW new entrants into the AF/Traditional side of S scale.

* The scale side of S has been dependent upon the AF side of the hobby for scale converted product in meaningful quantities for decades, so it stands to reason when the AF side of things flat lines... the scale side of S is in deep trouble.

I do not foresee "HO, N, O" being the dominant scales. Indications are that O is slowly fading away. Z scale is slowly on the rise. Thus, it could be the major remaining players will be HO, N, and Z. All of the other scales combined will account for less than what O scale represents now. For a while, On30 provided a boon to the scale of O, but didn't really help those modeling standard gauge in O in regards to engines and equipment for their gauge. However, On30 peaked some time ago, and their boom is over.

Speaking of O scale: What a bummer to model standard gauge. Your options are: Accept 5' gauge (and the excess width is often noticeably wide to my eyes) or go to the trouble of converting to P48. What terrible options.

Andre

There are some on Facebook that are greatly upset about the interview (Scalers, what a surprise...)  I'm not on FB, so can I read but can't comment there. 

I appreciate Ron's pragmatic view of the S world, although I would disagree about some of his assumptions.  (Like not making a Mikado using the Pacific's boiler.)  But, it's his tooling money being spent.  And his business plan has worked for over 30 years.

I freely admit AM's products aren't perfect, but they run well, look decent and get better which each new product.  (Plus, my 30 year old FP7's still run like new.) The Athearn of S is the term I like to use. (and yes, Athearn still sells basic former "Blue Box" type products, only now they are Ready To Run.)

While AM hasn't been exactly a ball of fire in releasing new products, hopefully Ron has something up his sleeve for this year...

Rusty

leikec posted:

Has AM ever released an A-A set of Delaware & Hudson PA units?

Jeff C

Yes, D&H was part of the original (and only) release. Like the Santa Fe passenger PA's, the units were chromed and were to be done only once.  Found some web shots.  Yes AM did it as an A-B-A:

Personally, I think enough time has passed (introduced in 1994) that both could be rerun, even if painted silver and not chromed. (And maybe in "DX" versions with handrails and the lower headlight added in the door.)

Alco PA1 ATSF 51L

Rusty

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I interviewed him for the S Gaugian in 2016.  It was printed in the September/October issue of 2016.  I looked back and his answers haven't changed much.  No steam and no PA's.  

Lionel has now filled the market with Legacy PAs.

He didn't say anything about the end of Gilbert Flyer interest in 2016. 

Rusty Traque posted:

 

The future: Ron sees the [Gilbert] Flyer market pretty much non-existent in 10 years. [I dunno, Lionel is carrying the "traditional" torch right now and the may help to keep interest in the Gilbert-made stuff alive.] 

Rusty

This is where generalizations may be misplaced.

One can view the current Flyer "market" exclusive of new trains as bifurcated into two segments: (I) the Collector segment and (II) the Operator segment. Of course, collectors operate and operators sometimes collect, but permit me to simplify labels for clarity.

  1. The Collector Segment

Common Gilbert rolling stock has and will continue to have depressed demand and pricing. However, based on history of the hobby there is and will be a market for the most desirable Gilbert signature sets in superior condition complete with boxes (i.e., 1956 NP, 1956 NH Clipper, 1958 MP Eagle, 1959 UP Pony Express, etc. ... you know, the usual suspects). The big late 50's 5-digit steam freight sets and 1947 332 SIT Northern are other examples for which reasonably high prices (although lower than at the peak) might still be the norm. To date, the prices for most of the Mini-Craft buildings have held up pretty well. The reason for this is that there will be folks who are still collecting and running vintage US-made trains; and even if one were not to specialize in vintage Gilbert S, one may wish to possess some examples of their most significant trains. And, they look gorgeous when displayed.

      2. The Operator Segment

There is a secondary market for operator grade Flyer, both Gilbert and older Lionel production. Affordability is paramount for this segment. I offer two broad observations. Generally, if one places common pieces on a table for sale at ~ 50% of “book”, the trains sell well. Repairable VG- steam engines handled in this manner have also been observed to change hands. This occurs both at York and at most S-Fests. Secondly, based on repeated comments to me from Doug Peck, parts sell well. Clearly, folks are purchasing parts, utilizing them to fix Flyers, and running the trains. Participants in this segment strike me as being, on the average, younger than the more established Flyer fans. Commerce for trains on the secondary market …an ‘underground’ segment, if you will, is not on the Radar screens of the manufacturers (Lionel, AM, and M.T.H.), nor for the most part addressed by the magazines which are dependent upon advertising for new trains. This would include Ron, by the way. So Gilbert Flyer is not dead, it has rather adjusted to commerce positioned at a lowered stasis level for pricing.

A historical note …

A relatively healthy hobby centered on vintage Standard/Wide gauge trains operates upon a similar template as the one described above. And, Standard gauge (as made by the Lionel Corp. and the American Flyer Manufacturing Co.) "died" with the advent of WW II. Gilbert Flyer could follow the same scenario.

Bob

Roundhouse Bill posted:

I interviewed him for the S Gaugian in 2016.  It was printed in the September/October issue of 2016.  I looked back and his answers haven't changed much.  No steam and no PA's.  

Lionel has now filled the market with Legacy PAs.

He didn't say anything about the end of Gilbert Flyer interest in 2016. 

Do the Legacy PA's have full pilots?

Jeff C

Rusty Traque posted:

The latest NASG Dispatch (September-October 2018) has an interview of Ron Bashista of American Models, performed by several members of the Southeastern Michigan S Gaugers.  I thought I'd share my impressions and editorial comment [in blue highlight.]  

Comments and opinions are mine alone.  Those of you that are in the NASG and have received the issue may see things differently.

I'll skip the biographical stuff, except for Ron appears to have quite a surprisingly varied past work experience.

Of course we know that AM recently moved to a bigger facility [So, they must be doing something right.]

[Also, no hint or showing of cards on future new products...]

AM has a small core staff.  No number given, but two employees were shown.

I'm guessing there's still a little bad blood between AM and the former SHS.  Ron says boxcar sales were great until SHS "dumped" thousands of cars on the market. [I thought the two product lines complimented each other fairly well.  What do I know...  Well, look at it this way: AM's still here, SHS is isn't and I don't think MTH will be a serious contender unless something changes over there.]

Flyer-compatible and HighRail are what really keeps AM in business.  [No surprise there.]

It wouldn't cost less today to produce AM locomotives in China.  Most of AM's production is in Michigan.  Molding is done in Michigan and AM's still using one of their original subcontractors for parts.  Some work is still done in China: Complicated paint jobs [Like the T&P GP9's] and some labor-intensive products not defined in the interview.

The AM steam locomotives were good sellers at affordable prices.  Budd cars continue to sell well.  All locomotives are tested before they're shipped. [My RS-11's even had my evil twin's name written on their frames...]

A rerun of RS3's or SD60's in the works?  "We could get around to it." [Direct quote.]   However, nothing with a complicated paint job like the Rock Island RS3.

AM is "kicking around" the possibility of another Pacific.  How's about a Mikado using the Pacific boiler.  Nope.  Ron feels Lionel flooded the market with their HiRail Mikado's over a decade ago and there's not enough Scalers to invest in new drive tooling.  [Wouldn't the same logic hold true for a Pacific?  Lionel did quite a few of them, too.  Well, I suppose it could be because the Pacific's tooling is already done.]

Technology...  [Don't hold your breath.] Conventional DC or AC is it.  Don't expect to see DCC/TMCC/Legacy or any other hi-tech control system offered in AM products.  Ron feels he would have to set up a separate division just to keep up with all of it and any changes.

Track will remain as is, although there's the possibility of Nickle Silver Flex.  Ron appears content to let Lionel, MTH and Fox Valley deal with track.

The future: Ron sees the [Gilbert] Flyer market pretty much non-existent in 10 years. [I dunno, Lionel is carrying the "traditional" torch right now and the may help to keep interest in the Gilbert-made stuff alive.] He also doesn't see if there will be enough Scalers to keep S going.  [I could go on for hours about some of the closed thinking on the Scale side, but I won't.]

Over all, it was a pretty good interview, even I learned a thing or two.  I would have liked to have been given an inkling of some future product, but I guess Ron will let us know if or when he's got something new.

Rusty

I just read it tonight. And people called me negative! Haha. I think he is being very realistic though. He isn't investing in anything new. He doesn't see a bright future for S or model railroading in general. Not sure I disagree with him. He's been at this for 40 years and he has earned the right to have his opinion. 

He still says 80%-90% of his business is Hi-Rail and while he likes "scale", there aren't enough "scale" modelers to sell to. I'm not 100% in agreement with him here. I'm not sure his models are frankly up to the standards of many scale modelers. They certainly aren't as good as HO or O models.The truth is that AM has never built a model to the level of Bachmann, Atlas, or MTH... Let alone something like ScaleTrains.com.  So while he may only sell 10% scale I'm not sure that means that the S community is 90% Hi-Rail. I don't think he ever made a model good enough and detailed enough to test the theory.  If ScaleTrains.com made an S scale SD40-2 would they sell more than the AM GP35? Interesting thought experiment, but we'll never have to worry about it happening.

I still love S scale. It is the perfect size. It is dying a slow an agonizing death however and that is really sad... 

-Jonathan

The AM RS-11 looks pretty decent. The FA's and the PA's look ok to me, and the FP7 is dated, but the overall proportions are good.

The RS-3 never looked right to me, and I've heard other modelers voice dissatisfaction with the GP35.

Oddly enough, I wouldn't buy some of the state of the art HO models, just because of the overly delicate handrails that warp and look awful. Be interesting to see if the new tunnel motors have that problem.

I'm not really a super detailed scale type of modeler, but certain things, such as the wide open pilots on Flyer PA's, drive me nuts.

Jeff C

jonnyspeed posted:

He still says 80%-90% of his business is Hi-Rail and while he likes "scale", there aren't enough "scale" modelers to sell to. I'm not 100% in agreement with him here. I'm not sure his models are frankly up to the standards of many scale modelers. They certainly aren't as good as HO or O models.The truth is that AM has never built a model to the level of Bachmann, Atlas, or MTH... Let alone something like ScaleTrains.com.  So while he may only sell 10% scale I'm not sure that means that the S community is 90% Hi-Rail. I don't think he ever made a model good enough and detailed enough to test the theory.  If ScaleTrains.com made an S scale SD40-2 would they sell more than the AM GP35? Interesting thought experiment, but we'll never have to worry about it happening.

 

We'll probably never know.  Anybody remember this?  The year was 2014 and the project seems to have fallen off the face of the earth.  Contemporary tooling and road-specific details that would have blown the doors off anything AM makes.

SSA SD45 x2

Instead, after four years, the SD45 resides in S scale purgatory.  The last I heard was in the final analysis was it would cost too much to build.  And without provisions for Flyer compatibility only a very small customer base would be interested.

It's been reported recently that a vanilla 30 year old Overland brass SD40-2 went for over $800.00 on da bay.  Nice looking model, no paint, no command control, no sound.  While I've been known to buy certain "caviar" models, an everyday type of locomotive like an SD40-2 is not on that list, especially at $800 plus.   I would be overjoyed if there was an AM equivalent.

Rusty

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Rusty Traque posted:
jonnyspeed posted:

He still says 80%-90% of his business is Hi-Rail and while he likes "scale", there aren't enough "scale" modelers to sell to. I'm not 100% in agreement with him here. I'm not sure his models are frankly up to the standards of many scale modelers. They certainly aren't as good as HO or O models.The truth is that AM has never built a model to the level of Bachmann, Atlas, or MTH... Let alone something like ScaleTrains.com.  So while he may only sell 10% scale I'm not sure that means that the S community is 90% Hi-Rail. I don't think he ever made a model good enough and detailed enough to test the theory.  If ScaleTrains.com made an S scale SD40-2 would they sell more than the AM GP35? Interesting thought experiment, but we'll never have to worry about it happening.

 

We'll probably never know.  Anybody remember this?  The year was 2014 and the project seems to have fallen off the face of the earth.  Contemporary tooling and road-specific details that would have blown the doors off anything AM makes.

SSA SD45 x2

Instead, after four years, the SD45 resides in S scale purgatory.  The last I heard was in the final analysis was it would cost too much to build.  And without provisions for Flyer compatibility only a very small customer base would be interested.

It's been reported recently that a vanilla 30 year old Overland brass SD40-2 went for over $800.00 on da bay.  Nice looking model, no paint, no command control, no sound.  While I've been known to buy certain "caviar" models, an everyday type of locomotive like an SD40-2 is not on that list, especially at $800 plus.   I would be overjoyed if there was an AM equivalent.

Rusty

Wasn't that developed by Des Planes Hobbies?

Jeff C

 

 

leikec posted:
Rusty Traque posted:
jonnyspeed posted:

He still says 80%-90% of his business is Hi-Rail and while he likes "scale", there aren't enough "scale" modelers to sell to. I'm not 100% in agreement with him here. I'm not sure his models are frankly up to the standards of many scale modelers. They certainly aren't as good as HO or O models.The truth is that AM has never built a model to the level of Bachmann, Atlas, or MTH... Let alone something like ScaleTrains.com.  So while he may only sell 10% scale I'm not sure that means that the S community is 90% Hi-Rail. I don't think he ever made a model good enough and detailed enough to test the theory.  If ScaleTrains.com made an S scale SD40-2 would they sell more than the AM GP35? Interesting thought experiment, but we'll never have to worry about it happening.

 

We'll probably never know.  Anybody remember this?  The year was 2014 and the project seems to have fallen off the face of the earth.  Contemporary tooling and road-specific details that would have blown the doors off anything AM makes.

SSA SD45 x2

Instead, after four years, the SD45 resides in S scale purgatory.  The last I heard was in the final analysis was it would cost too much to build.  And without provisions for Flyer compatibility only a very small customer base would be interested.

It's been reported recently that a vanilla 30 year old Overland brass SD40-2 went for over $800.00 on da bay.  Nice looking model, no paint, no command control, no sound.  While I've been known to buy certain "caviar" models, an everyday type of locomotive like an SD40-2 is not on that list, especially at $800 plus.   I would be overjoyed if there was an AM equivalent.

Rusty

Wasn't that developed by Des Planes Hobbies?

Jeff C

 

 

Yes.

Rusty

When I interviewed Ron we talked about his retirement and that was 2 years ago.

Question - With all of us getting up in age, what are your plans for the future of American Models and will it go on if you choose to retire?

Answer - This is something I should be thinking more about. I am not really sure, but I would like to hear if any one or an ongoing business would be interested in continuing the line?  

Maybe there is one of you guys who would like to buy him out and improve on the scale offerings you think the market needs?

Roundhouse Bill posted:

When I interviewed Ron we talked about his retirement and that was 2 years ago.

Question - With all of us getting up in age, what are your plans for the future of American Models and will it go on if you choose to retire?

Answer - This is something I should be thinking more about. I am not really sure, but I would like to hear if any one or an ongoing business would be interested in continuing the line?  

Maybe there is one of you guys who would like to buy him out and improve on the scale offerings you think the market needs?

The best thing that could happen IMHO is for Lionel to purchase AM then update the products with more details and modern electronics. 

Lionel may be the only company in the world that could be “successful” with AM. They already have the market share and many sunk costs. They have a big advantage over anyone trying to start from where AM is currently.

If the numbers made sense I would be interested, but something tells me the numbers wouldn’t add up. If the current owner thinks most of his market is going to be gone in 10 years what does that say to a potential buyer?

-Jonathan

jonnyspeed posted:
Roundhouse Bill posted:

When I interviewed Ron we talked about his retirement and that was 2 years ago.

Question - With all of us getting up in age, what are your plans for the future of American Models and will it go on if you choose to retire?

Answer - This is something I should be thinking more about. I am not really sure, but I would like to hear if any one or an ongoing business would be interested in continuing the line?  

Maybe there is one of you guys who would like to buy him out and improve on the scale offerings you think the market needs?

The best thing that could happen IMHO is for Lionel to purchase AM then update the products with more details and modern electronics. 

Lionel may be the only company in the world that could be “successful” with AM. They already have the market share and many sunk costs. They have a big advantage over anyone trying to start from where AM is currently.

If the numbers made sense I would be interested, but something tells me the numbers wouldn’t add up. If the current owner thinks most of his market is going to be gone in 10 years what does that say to a potential buyer?

Maybe Bill is right...maybe we are violating the natural order of things by hoping that S scale won't stay forever mired in the 1950's. 

Jeff C

 

jonnyspeed posted:

The best thing that could happen IMHO is for Lionel to purchase AM then update the products with more details and modern electronics. 

Lionel may be the only company in the world that could be “successful” with AM. They already have the market share and many sunk costs. They have a big advantage over anyone trying to start from where AM is currently.

 

Well, first of all, it that were to happen, Lionel would either have to shrink their electronics or redesign the drives with vertical motors.  The current Legacy electronics used in the SD70's and such won't fit into most of AM's diesels because of AM's  horizontal design design.  I don't think FlyerChief electronics would fit without a redesign somewhere, either.

Maybe even add swinging pilots... 

And I can just see it now... "FlyerScale" AM freight cars:

FlyerScale 083018 001

Wouldn't it be loverly...

Rusty

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Legacy electronics, let alone with a fan driven smoke unit will not fit in any of the AM engines. As Rusty says they would have to be re engineered. Likely only the shells could be saved. Even the Northerns are a problem. I have two AM Northerns retrofitted with TMCC, Railsounds and a fan driven smoke unit. It took substantial internal mods to get it to fit and work.

I would be concerned that if Lionel took over AM we would have no engines for an extended period of time due to the time and expense of putting modern electronics (Legacy and FlyerChief) in the AM product. Keep in mind the newest S gauge Legacy engines still do not have Bluetooth, unlike the O gauge products.

Tom

Lionel doesn't need the chassis or the horizontal drives. All they needs are the shells. Jon Z told me there was plenty of room in a GP 7/9 if they went to a single vertical motor. New frame, drive, electronics, details, old shell tooling. Done...

-Jonathan

jonnyspeed posted:

Lionel doesn't need the chassis or the horizontal drives. All they needs are the shells. Jon Z told me there was plenty of room in a GP 7/9 if they went to a single vertical motor. New frame, drive, electronics, details, old shell tooling. Done...

As was done with the FlyerChief GP7.

However, add electro-couplers (which most Flyer enthusiasts would want,) where the current coupler gaps in AM shells won't accommodate the bulk of the coil, Lionel would either have to go with opening up the pilots or make the pilot move with the trucks. 

Lionel's gotta keep the R20 folks happy.

NKP 514 122317 009

Plus, I think Lionel would be very tempted to utilize the new FlyerChief Blomberg truck on the 4 axle locomotives...

...which while a vast improvement for the Traditional Flyer GP (and Baldwin switcher w/AAR sideframe) would be a giant step backwards on any AM product.

In the end, it would probably be less expensive to tool up new products from the wheels up rather than adapting AM stuff to Lionel's way of thinking.

AmFlyer posted:

I would be concerned that if Lionel took over AM we would have no engines for an extended period of time due to the time and expense of putting modern electronics (Legacy and FlyerChief) in the AM product. Keep in mind the newest S gauge Legacy engines still do not have Bluetooth, unlike the O gauge products.

Right.  After all, adapting the SHS F3 to MTH electronics went so quickly...

Rusty

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I don't think Lionel would ever have any interest in AM.  Well, unless it came for next to no cost.  Why would they as their line, as it is, drives S Gauge.  Plus, I don't think Ron would sell to Lionel.

My earlier comment that Jeff C took as "Not Nice" was not meant that way.  You never know who is out there reading this stuff and there may be someone rich and famous like Rod Stewart who would like to have fun owning his on train company.  I know a number of people who watch and never write.

My interest in S-scale trains revived in the early 1980s. There was very little available in hobby shops except in junk bins, but Lionel had some reissues of old Gilbert product that did little but dampen my enthusiasm. Then I noticed an ad in Model Railroader  for an American Models FP7--the first F unit I ever saw in our scale! AM had boxcars and gondolas, too, and they had free running wheels with actual springs in the trucks.  The quality and variety in even those early stages is what drove me back to 1/64 scale instead of flunking out to the easier HO camp. The AM product line expanded with more locomotives, rolling stock, and track with the help of and eventual split from S Helper Service. SHS and Des Plaines Hobbies' S Scale America brought "brass quality" to plastic models, and Lionel eventually responded with some great locomotives and many embarrassing stumbles--but only after American Models breathed life back into S scale.  Maybe Lionel "drives" S scale these days with more frequent product releases and more press, but I prefer the way Ron does business and supports the products he has sold.

TOKELLY posted:

Then I noticed an ad in Model Railroader  for an American Models FP7--the first F unit I ever saw in our scale! AM had boxcars and gondolas, too, and they had free running wheels with actual springs in the trucks.  The quality and variety in even those early stages is what drove me back to 1/64 scale instead of flunking out to the easier HO camp.

You can blame American Models and the FP7 for getting me into S Scale around 85/86.  Otherwise I would have stayed in HO.

Here's the fist ad I could locate for AM.  June 1982 Model Railroader:

AM First Ad 0682

S Scale has never been the same since.

Rusty

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Yep, that's the one! And that's the price I paid, too (unless you count all the evenings I upset my wife by "playing with toys.")

Those FP7s still run like clockwork. If anything does go wrong, Ron has the parts; and his locomotives are easy to fix, easy to run, and easy to detail.

Roundhouse Bill posted:

I don't think Lionel would ever have any interest in AM.  Well, unless it came for next to no cost.  Why would they as their line, as it is, drives S Gauge.  Plus, I don't think Ron would sell to Lionel.

My earlier comment that Jeff C took as "Not Nice" was not meant that way.  You never know who is out there reading this stuff and there may be someone rich and famous like Rod Stewart who would like to have fun owning his on train company.  I know a number of people who watch and never write.

I took the post as "Buy the company if you want scale stuff made, otherwise please shut up." 

I do apologize if I misunderstood you. 

Jeff C

Rusty Traque posted:

However, add electro-couplers (which most Flyer enthusiasts would want,) where the current coupler gaps in AM shells won't accommodate the bulk of the coil, Lionel would either have to go with opening up the pilots or make the pilot move with the trucks. 

Lionel's gotta keep the R20 folks happy.

I don't often disagree with Rusty, but I do not concur that most Flyer enthusiasts want electro-couplers.  Electro-couplers and Crew talk are features that most of the Flyer enthusiasts that I know  don't particularly care about.  After all, can you hear what the engineer says to the tower from 20 feet away?

I know that I never use those features on locomotives so configured.

All I want is a basic sound system with horn/whistle,  basic steam or diesel sounds and a bell (maybe, but I'm not big on that).

I love American Models products. They work, I can repair them myself and they are more detailed than Gilbert Flyer but they are not fragile.  I do agree with Rusty, were it not for AM, I would have only a minimal interest in S gauge today.

Having said all that,  I guess I  am an R20 person. I'm not gonna tear up an R20 layout that I worked on for 30 years.  If someone makes a "scale" product that I can not make run on my layout with minimal alterations with hand tools, I'm just not going to buy it.  

To address the second point Rusty made.  I hate both the swinging pilots and the open pilots on Diesel locomotives. It is easy to modify an AM Flyer-compatible coupler to work on a closed pilot locomotive that has a body mounted coupler (like the AM Trainmaster, GP-9/18 or RS-3)  by using a piece of plastruct square tubing and a small screw  to extend the coupler (i.e. make it "double jointed"),  It will not, then, pull a following car with a talgo mounted coupler off the rails on R20 track.  If an "all thumbs" non engineer like me can do that modification, using only a hand drill and a saw, certainly an engineer type can figure out a more elegant solution that is not "butt ugly". 

LittleTommy 

TOKELLY posted:

Yep, that's the one! And that's the price I paid, too (unless you count all the evenings I upset my wife by "playing with toys.")

Those FP7s still run like clockwork. If anything does go wrong, Ron has the parts; and his locomotives are easy to fix, easy to run, and easy to detail.

My original FP7's are 30 years old and still going strong. The only problem I had was the flywheel becoming loose on one unit.  A little Gorilla Glue took car of that.

This is a series of pictures of my original batch of S Scale, mostly AM (There's a couple of flyer conversions in there, also.)  Life before SHS, PRS or DPH/SSA entered the scene.  The Linde and Dubuque cars were my very first purchases.  I was going to write a post about my 30 Year Anniversary in S but events overtook me at the time and I forgot about it:

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Rusty

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In 1994 I purchased a GG1 from American Models because I've always liked the design and the Lionel ones were horribly foreshortened.  I could never bring myself to try three rail O anyway since I've had S ever since 1956 when my Dad got me a Silver Rocket set that set him back a pretty penny in those days.  Since that initial purchase, I've been a steady customer and booster of his enterprise.  Also the GG1 has given yeoman service ever since and has undergone modifications including directional lights and working marker lights.  I've also configured it to run on AC or DC via a DPDT switch or two and swapping out scale wheels for use on scale trackage.  I've worn the wipers off the wheels and have replaced them.  That plus a periodic lubrication has been all it's needed. 

Here it is pulling every PRR passenger car I own on my club's (Southeastern Michigan S Gaugers) layout a few years ago:

 

 

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Almost as old but not quite: In the late 80's or early 90's Scenery Unlimited had a run of custom painted IC FP7's to go with the IC passenger cars they had AM make.  While the passenger cars were done by AM, the FP7's were not.  It appears HO decals were used on the FP7's.  I wound up buying the last two Don had and numbered them in an opening after IC's E8/9's.

And of course, like the GN, the IC never owned any FP7's, let alone any F-units, until as the ICG, the railroad inherited some ex-GM&O F3's.

Once AM did the E8's in 2001, the FP7's became superfluous, but they're too nice to part with and still make a guest appearance every now and then.

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Rusty

 

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TOKELLY:

Your layout looks nice and your S stuff look great. Long have I appreciated the GN's "Empire" schemes!

Rusty:

So they're "fantasy"... but those are handsome IC engines! NICE. Still think the windows and nose of the AM FP7 is looks more "F" than the "wide eyed" MTH/SHS F windows. I was going to try to find a way to minimize the "wide eyed" look on my SHS F's "back when". I'm a bit on the "anal" side when it comes to models of F's. 

Andre

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