Lack of new MTH Railking tooling

I was wondering if anyone else has been a little disappointed in the recent MTH Railking offerings? Don’t get me wrong, I love my Railking engines and I like MTH as a company, so I’m not trying to bash them here. I’m just trying to understand why the Railking line in recent years just seems to be an endless stream of rehashes and repaints. There was a time when I first got into the hobby that I eagerly anticipated the next catalog. However for the past few years it’s been a ho hum experience. It seems like those of us with smaller layouts seem to be forgotten about. My maximum size in my current house is a 5’x12’ layout. I can run some of the smaller scale pieces on O-48 curves, but the bigger stuff is obviously a no go. It’s almost like MTH assumes that the people purchasing Railking products aren’t really serious hobbyists. Like the Railking is a stepping stone from the starter sets on the way to the premier line. In a perfect world I would love to build a huge layout with O-72 curves, but it just ain’t in the cards. 

I would LOVE to see Railking versions of a Pennsy T1 or J1 2-10-4. A Railking N&W class A would be awesome as well. I’m sorry, but a C&O Allegheny painted in N&W colors just doesn’t do it for me. Lionel started to address some of these wishes with their Lionmaster line, but it’s almost like they just gave up on it. It’s a shame, because that Lionmaster T1 was awesome! I know Mike Wolf is a big Pennsy fan. I can’t believe that he’s not going to round out the Railking Pennsy line with a 4-4-4-4 and a 2-10-4. They did the Pennsy S2 turbine, and that thing wasn’t used by any other railroad, so the potential for repaints was very limited......but they did it anyway. 

I cant remember the last time MTH introduced any new tooling in the Railking line. I guess you could count the Imperial locomotives as a step forward, but that was really just adding a few details here and there. Isn’t it about time for the Railking line to get some love? Maybe a couple of new pieces over the next few years? Perhaps they could also give us something like whistle steam or swinging bell on a couple of the larger Railking locomotives such as the big boy or Allegheny. 

Maybe they just don’t think it would be profitable, but from where I stand I don’t see how they could lose. 

Original Post
NCogaugefan posted:

I cant remember the last time MTH introduced any new tooling in the Railking line...

Maybe they just don’t think it would be profitable...

I agree with your analysis, but you answered your own question in the last sentence.

I returned to O gauge model railroading 21 years ago and have predominantly been a satisfied buyer of MTH Premier locomotives ever since. However, apparently, the economics and market for O gauge steam engines, both Premier and Railking, no longer justify the investment in new tooling, especially for models representative of a small number of railroads. I think the recent GE 44 ton diesel locomotive was a viable investment for MTH because it can be marketed for a large number of railroads. Not necessarily the case for steam engines - but just an opinion on my part.

MELGAR

I thought you would be writing about more freight cars based on post 1970 prototypes in the RailKing line to match the modern RailKing compressed and RailKing scale sized locomotives like the ES44AC, SD60, SD45, C40-8W. There are some, but since there were so many box car, covered hopper, open-top hopper, gondola, flat car variations made since then, it would seem like one more car model would be made each time a catalog was released. 

Andrew

Originally posted by NCOGAUGEFAN:

I was wondering if anyone else has been a little disappointed in the recent MTH Railking offerings?
Don’t get me wrong, I love my Railking engines and I like MTH as a company, so I’m not trying to bash them here.
I’m just trying to understand why the Railking line in recent years just seems to be an endless stream of rehashes
and repaints. There was a time when I first got into the hobby that I eagerly anticipated the next catalog.
However for the past few years it’s been a ho hum experience.

You need to take a Numba! I and others have been saying this for the Premier line and now with the European line. All the MTH Large Scales have been suffering. Only HO seems to be getting attention from MTH these days. This is why I vote with my Wallet and buy from whoever is bringing in a unique product like 3rd Rail or Lionel.

member:Golden Spike Club Charter Member

Just a reflection of the direction of the hobby. When I came to O 3r back in the 1990's I bought only Rail King and only loco sound......as close to traditional as I could get. 

But as Rail King prices went up and I bought a few old Williams scale brass locos I moved to scale. The RK stuff is nice and I still have it all....but am 100% scale today as far as purchases. 

This in a RK size might be tough!!!

PRRS1c

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You have to look at how many engines they do have, I mean mth may have more different railking models than lionwl has in all their line. Then look at the different engines they have in premier.  I'm not knocking any company, but lionel and mth both remake same over and over again.

The O gauge 3 rail market is shrinking as covered by several threads in the last year or two. As noted by MaxDeer above, look back at the vast number and variety of new items MTH did produce in it's first 25 years - amazing!  Economically, it is difficult for a company to invest in the new tooling required. Sad, but a fact of life.....

Referring to my "Any New Haven Fans" post, I can't believe that New Haven releases would not be extremely popular and profitable given the interest in this legendary Eastern Class 1 road.  But alas Mel, I fear you  may be right about the economics. But still..........

In my case, scale 3-rail engines are not affordable, so all of the motive power on my railroad (30+ locomotives) except 2 are MTH Rail King. I have noticed for several years that the Rail King line of locomotives and trolley cars has become stagnant. It is obviously due to a lessening of sales, and for this reason I cannot fault Mike Wolf's offerings.

I saw this coming awhile ago, so I bought some duplicate steam engines with the idea of detailing them for railroads that MTH has not done. For example, I have several Rail King 2-8-0 engines that were common place on the Long Island Rail Road, and I plan to letter them and add some details to represent the 100 numbers of H10s. It would be wonderful if MTH made some Premier locomotive details available to upgrade Rail King engines.

 

Bobby Ogage

"I hear that train a coming,

it's Long Island No. 39 rolling

around the bend"

 

laming posted:

Sad facts:

* Our ranks are thinning.

* Thus, there's no longer the profit potential vs cost of new tooling.

I hate it like everything, but (unfortunately), them's the facts, son, the facts.

Andre

Same thing in the plastic model hobby. I remember as a kid having two stamp hobby shops within bike riding range. Are there any stamp hobby shops?? Record stores?? Stationary stores?  Change the only constant. 

I haven't really bought much in recent years, but if MTH is pushing harder in HO scale, it is because the market there is much larger than 3 rail O. Given the size of the 3 rail market, it becomes very difficult to justify spending money on new tooling or to expand the offerings (putting a new paint job or detail on an engine doesn't cost all that  much, doing tooling for a totally new offering does). I haven't paid close attention, given I am not actively buying much, but it sounds like MTH might be doing what other manufacturers do, as they introduce new high end products, what once was the high end becomes re-branded as the next level down (Shimano does this with their bike components, what was the top of the line brakes this year, are priced a couple of years later to be used on lower level lines of bikes, replaced by something new).  

I understand where people are coming from, but there is some irony to this. One of the reasons Lionel was able to produce as much as they did back in the golden age of the post war trains was just how much shared tooling they had, by using the same mechanisms, the same frames, often boilers on steam engines, etc, they were able to produce a wide range of products (obviously not scale or necessarily close to the prototype) because they didn't have the retooling costs. These days the units are more prototypical, so they have a lot more individualized tooling involved, and it limits how much they can produce. 

Basically what they produce reflects the scale and scope of the hobby. We might want to see someone produce a variant of some engine for some railroad, some brilliant example of train engineering, but if the audience is small for that, it isn't worth producing. It is why now so many of the scale offerings are BTO, they need to have a certain number of units to make it profitable for them, and if there isn't enough interest, they don't do it. With their more mass offerings (the ones they build as part of regular offerings) I suspect they likely use a lot more common parts and tools in building them, prob a lot of the mechanisms and the like in the lion chief line lionel puts out (which is also aimed at a more mass market) are common, so they can produce it and the cost of tooling is spread along a lot of different units, with the cost being of course that the lionchief and the like are not likely as close to prototype so they can do this. 

 

The person who dies with the best toys dies a happy person

Lionel post war success had more to do with market than just shared tooling. I recall Lionel, during the holidays the most, at most hardware stores, auto parts stores like Western Auto, even some drug stores. Sears always had huge displays and even dealt in used Lionel. That shows how big the market was at the time......compared to nothing within 150 miles of my house today.  

In the 1940s and '50s, trains and railroads were seen and used by a larger percentage of the population than today. Hence the broader interest in model trains - which meant Lionel to most people. Thus, it was more cost-effective to invest in tooling and production of model trains than now. HO is doing better because its base, although a small part of the country's population, is much larger than O gauge and O scale put together.

MELGAR

MELGAR posted:

In the 1940s and '50s, trains and railroads were seen and used by a larger percentage of the population than today. Hence the broader interest in model trains - which meant Lionel to most people. Thus, it was more cost-effective to invest in tooling and production of model trains than now. HO is doing better because its base, although a small part of the country's population, is much larger than O gauge and O scale put together.

MELGAR

Melgar, 100% right on!  Plus the smaller HO tooling is less expensive.  A boarder audience and more return on investment, simple math.

I think MTH bas done amazing job offering a wide  variety of products in their RK line.  I understand the line seems stale to those who have been into O gauge for years.  Still seems fresh to me as a relative short time O gauger.  I don't see how MTH could make money trying to keep up with the insatiable appetite for new product year after year by some.  

That said, I think there is one gaping hole in the RK steam line up - a NYC Niagara.  They've done every other iconic 4-8-4.  Why not the Niagara!?  Agree whistle steam would be a great feature addition.

As a Pennsy fan, I would be thrilled with a T-1 or a J-1 offering, but I don't see that happening.  None-the-less, a sizeable stable of Pennsy steam can be assembled with RK (K4, L1, I1, M1a, S2, B6, H10).  Enough to keep me satisfied.  I'm still building my roster...  

Obviously MTH knows how to run their business. If they think the ROI is simply not there on new item molds then it won't be done. The MTH guys are getting older and may not be willing to take a gamble on new items as in the past. Selling your business or retiring comes much faster than expected so the individual nest egg becomes a priority. 

Rod Miller

PRRronbh posted:
MELGAR posted:

In the 1940s and '50s, trains and railroads were seen and used by a larger percentage of the population than today. Hence the broader interest in model trains - which meant Lionel to most people. Thus, it was more cost-effective to invest in tooling and production of model trains than now. HO is doing better because its base, although a small part of the country's population, is much larger than O gauge and O scale put together.

MELGAR

Melgar, 100% right on!  Plus the smaller HO tooling is less expensive.  A boarder audience and more return on investment, simple math.

I think that is a simplification. HO material costs are a lot less, but their tooling may not be that much less than O..however, that tooling cost is a fix cost, so if  you spread it over more engines being sold, the cost/unit goes down. The size of HO makes some things more difficult, for example, to detail them, to fit speakers and sound boards in them, is a lot harder (Mike Wolf in an interview I read a while ago said that miniaturing DCS/DCC for their HO line led to improvements for O gauge units, because that allowed more  complex functions in the larger engines).

As far as trains being intrusive in people's lives and that led to the interesting in Lionel, that one is debatable, it doesn't explain why, for example, so many modern train modelers in all scales are still interested in steam engines, when many of them, like myself, never saw a steam engine in operation (they were rare even by the end of the transition era, c1960), so a lot of those kids who were born in the 1950's and 1960's likely never saw them, let alone younger folks. I think trains were more like airplanes, and while kids had toy airplanes and balsa planes with the rubber band propellers, it wasn't like all kids were into flying model planes. 

.  The real reason was back in the day Lionel was seen as a mass market toy that was tied to the holidays, and was part of mass culture. As others pointed out, Lionel sold their trains through all kinds of outlets, advertised them on tv, radio, newspapers and general purpose magazines, JLC in many ways was a marketing genius from what I have read, I suspect he was the one who helped promote the idea of trains as this holiday tradition, the way other things have come to be associated with the holidays....

for the reasons that have been talked about a lot on here and elsewhere, tastes changed, a lot of new toys were introduced in the 1950's and 60's, things like slot cars (which were directly tied into the car crazy culture we developed, it is a very different love affair people had  with cars then most people had with trains as I mentioned above comparing them to planes), and the kids who grew up with trains didn't necessarily even try to pass it on to their kids, instead of that first train set it was other toys, for a kid who trains was about a train around the tree, which was a lot of the train market, it very well could be something they wouldn't pass down because perhaps it was nothing more to them than what the family did growing up. 

As they say, it is what it is, HO is still chugging along, it has its hobbyists and seems to develop new generations. 3 rail has relied on nostalgia for the past and also cultivated a new group, those who like 3 rail for what it can do, they like the scale detail, they like the operating functions. The latter group also includes people doing hi rail but can't/won't buy the high end Legacy and Premiere kind of models, so they buy the railking and the like, and that if anything is what is going to keep going on forward, but it is likely to remain a small market, much smaller than HO. Likely HO sales help MTH keep going with 3 rail O, the way it likely does for Atlas and 3rd rail, lionel is the oddball in that it hasn't really attempted to do HO, so its profits are mostly 3 rail O (with a smattering of S). 

The one nice part is if what I see with manufacturing going on, between flexible automated machinery and 3d printing and similar technology, there could come a time when you would have the ultimate lean production, where a manufacturer would have the scripts set up to produce a wide variety of products, you order it and they 'print' it...and it isn't that far in the future. Not sure if trains survive as a hobby to see that, but it certainly is a viable possibility for the future. Lot cheaper to create a script to produce an item from a printer than the tools, dies and jigs to produce new products the way they do today. 

The person who dies with the best toys dies a happy person

bigkid posted:
PRRronbh posted:
MELGAR posted:

In the 1940s and '50s, trains and railroads were seen and used by a larger percentage of the population than today. Hence the broader interest in model trains - which meant Lionel to most people. Thus, it was more cost-effective to invest in tooling and production of model trains than now. HO is doing better because its base, although a small part of the country's population, is much larger than O gauge and O scale put together.

MELGAR

Melgar, 100% right on!  Plus the smaller HO tooling is less expensive.  A boarder audience and more return on investment, simple math.

I think that is a simplification. HO material costs are a lot less, but their tooling may not be that much less than O..however, that tooling cost is a fix cost, so if  you spread it over more engines being sold, the cost/unit goes down. The size of HO makes some things more difficult, for example, to detail them, to fit speakers and sound boards in them, is a lot harder (Mike Wolf in an interview I read a while ago said that miniaturing DCS/DCC for their HO line led to improvements for O gauge units, because that allowed more  complex functions in the larger engines).

As far as trains being intrusive in people's lives and that led to the interesting in Lionel, that one is debatable, it doesn't explain why, for example, so many modern train modelers in all scales are still interested in steam engines, when many of them, like myself, never saw a steam engine in operation (they were rare even by the end of the transition era, c1960), so a lot of those kids who were born in the 1950's and 1960's likely never saw them, let alone younger folks. I think trains were more like airplanes, and while kids had toy airplanes and balsa planes with the rubber band propellers, it wasn't like all kids were into flying model planes. 

.  The real reason was back in the day Lionel was seen as a mass market toy that was tied to the holidays, and was part of mass culture. As others pointed out, Lionel sold their trains through all kinds of outlets, advertised them on tv, radio, newspapers and general purpose magazines, JLC in many ways was a marketing genius from what I have read, I suspect he was the one who helped promote the idea of trains as this holiday tradition, the way other things have come to be associated with the holidays....

for the reasons that have been talked about a lot on here and elsewhere, tastes changed, a lot of new toys were introduced in the 1950's and 60's, things like slot cars (which were directly tied into the car crazy culture we developed, it is a very different love affair people had  with cars then most people had with trains as I mentioned above comparing them to planes), and the kids who grew up with trains didn't necessarily even try to pass it on to their kids, instead of that first train set it was other toys, for a kid who trains was about a train around the tree, which was a lot of the train market, it very well could be something they wouldn't pass down because perhaps it was nothing more to them than what the family did growing up. 

As they say, it is what it is, HO is still chugging along, it has its hobbyists and seems to develop new generations. 3 rail has relied on nostalgia for the past and also cultivated a new group, those who like 3 rail for what it can do, they like the scale detail, they like the operating functions. The latter group also includes people doing hi rail but can't/won't buy the high end Legacy and Premiere kind of models, so they buy the railking and the like, and that if anything is what is going to keep going on forward, but it is likely to remain a small market, much smaller than HO. Likely HO sales help MTH keep going with 3 rail O, the way it likely does for Atlas and 3rd rail, lionel is the oddball in that it hasn't really attempted to do HO, so its profits are mostly 3 rail O (with a smattering of S). 

The one nice part is if what I see with manufacturing going on, between flexible automated machinery and 3d printing and similar technology, there could come a time when you would have the ultimate lean production, where a manufacturer would have the scripts set up to produce a wide variety of products, you order it and they 'print' it...and it isn't that far in the future. Not sure if trains survive as a hobby to see that, but it certainly is a viable possibility for the future. Lot cheaper to create a script to produce an item from a printer than the tools, dies and jigs to produce new products the way they do today. 

Oh what do I know!  I only designed tooling in the metal fabrication industry at on time before going to Quality Assurance management.

Remember HO is 1/8 the volume of scale O.

PRRronbh posted:
bigkid posted:
PRRronbh posted:
MELGAR posted:

In the 1940s and '50s, trains and railroads were seen and used by a larger percentage of the population than today. Hence the broader interest in model trains - which meant Lionel to most people. Thus, it was more cost-effective to invest in tooling and production of model trains than now. HO is doing better because its base, although a small part of the country's population, is much larger than O gauge and O scale put together.

MELGAR

Melgar, 100% right on!  Plus the smaller HO tooling is less expensive.  A boarder audience and more return on investment, simple math.

I think that is a simplification. HO material costs are a lot less, but their tooling may not be that much less than O..however, that tooling cost is a fix cost, so if  you spread it over more engines being sold, the cost/unit goes down. The size of HO makes some things more difficult, for example, to detail them, to fit speakers and sound boards in them, is a lot harder (Mike Wolf in an interview I read a while ago said that miniaturing DCS/DCC for their HO line led to improvements for O gauge units, because that allowed more  complex functions in the larger engines).

As far as trains being intrusive in people's lives and that led to the interesting in Lionel, that one is debatable, it doesn't explain why, for example, so many modern train modelers in all scales are still interested in steam engines, when many of them, like myself, never saw a steam engine in operation (they were rare even by the end of the transition era, c1960), so a lot of those kids who were born in the 1950's and 1960's likely never saw them, let alone younger folks. I think trains were more like airplanes, and while kids had toy airplanes and balsa planes with the rubber band propellers, it wasn't like all kids were into flying model planes. 

.  The real reason was back in the day Lionel was seen as a mass market toy that was tied to the holidays, and was part of mass culture. As others pointed out, Lionel sold their trains through all kinds of outlets, advertised them on tv, radio, newspapers and general purpose magazines, JLC in many ways was a marketing genius from what I have read, I suspect he was the one who helped promote the idea of trains as this holiday tradition, the way other things have come to be associated with the holidays....

for the reasons that have been talked about a lot on here and elsewhere, tastes changed, a lot of new toys were introduced in the 1950's and 60's, things like slot cars (which were directly tied into the car crazy culture we developed, it is a very different love affair people had  with cars then most people had with trains as I mentioned above comparing them to planes), and the kids who grew up with trains didn't necessarily even try to pass it on to their kids, instead of that first train set it was other toys, for a kid who trains was about a train around the tree, which was a lot of the train market, it very well could be something they wouldn't pass down because perhaps it was nothing more to them than what the family did growing up. 

As they say, it is what it is, HO is still chugging along, it has its hobbyists and seems to develop new generations. 3 rail has relied on nostalgia for the past and also cultivated a new group, those who like 3 rail for what it can do, they like the scale detail, they like the operating functions. The latter group also includes people doing hi rail but can't/won't buy the high end Legacy and Premiere kind of models, so they buy the railking and the like, and that if anything is what is going to keep going on forward, but it is likely to remain a small market, much smaller than HO. Likely HO sales help MTH keep going with 3 rail O, the way it likely does for Atlas and 3rd rail, lionel is the oddball in that it hasn't really attempted to do HO, so its profits are mostly 3 rail O (with a smattering of S). 

The one nice part is if what I see with manufacturing going on, between flexible automated machinery and 3d printing and similar technology, there could come a time when you would have the ultimate lean production, where a manufacturer would have the scripts set up to produce a wide variety of products, you order it and they 'print' it...and it isn't that far in the future. Not sure if trains survive as a hobby to see that, but it certainly is a viable possibility for the future. Lot cheaper to create a script to produce an item from a printer than the tools, dies and jigs to produce new products the way they do today. 

Oh what do I know!  I only designed tooling in the metal fabrication industry at on time before going to Quality Assurance management.

Remember HO is 1/8 the volume of scale O.

I apologize if you thought I was dismissing what you said, when I said it was a simplification I was talking about all the factors, including things like why Lionel was big in the 1950's and so forth.

When I talked about tooling, I wasn't talking just the expense of the materials , the cost of the product being produced (steel, plastic, etc), or the materials used in the production, but also the cost of designing the machine tools, jigs and machines that ultimately produce the product, which is from what I know a significant portion of the cost (not to mention actually designing the model, designing how the engine goes into it, the functionality in the command control, how the trucks mount, etc). Design time is expensive, and based only on my own experience it is often one of the largest costs. HO scale being smaller wouldn't make the design process cheaper and likely wouldn't make the cost of the tooling that much cheaper (leaving out the cost of materials), because of the design elements involved. If you look at mass produced HO scale items, from an Athearn or an Atlas, and compare it to the relatively small scale runs of another house, Athearn or Atlas spread that cost over more units, and it shows in the prices (yes, I realize you can't compare an athearn plastic unit against a brass engine from let's say Sunset).  I don't think it is the tooling that necessarily makes HO cheaper, in other words, or the cost of material, it likely is the size of their market, Lionel, MTH et al have to spread that cost over a lot smaller production run so the cost /unit is higher. 

The person who dies with the best toys dies a happy person

I am sure someone here has the answer to this question.

How many different (not road names, actual types of) steam engines, diesels and electrics did Lionel produce in the post war period, and later periods, divide the periods up as you see fit.  Example: 646 and 2046 is one type.

How many did MTH do in their life time.

How many did Williams do...

How many did Weaver do...

How many did any of the other manufacturers do, include as many as you wish.

Well, l vote with my dollars.  And l am able, for the reasons said above, to buy almost nothing from catalogs since Weaver, Williams (and that brand had the same prototype problem that l and others have said above and before),  and K-line,  bit the dust.  Third Rail appears to be finding steam less profitable, too, with diesels more evident.  I was lucky to see steam in action, but not lucky to be aging, and not lucky that people have to find a tourist road to ride behind steam, so we are not winning converts.  All l can do is hang around the fringes with consists and other aspects of railroad modeling, and avoid engines l don't want.

 

  

??Another one of THOSE!!??  What you want to sell is not what I want to buy!

Scott R posted:

That said, I think there is one gaping hole in the RK steam line up - a NYC Niagara.  They've done every other iconic 4-8-4.  Why not the Niagara!? 

I have wondered that, and mentioned that, also.  

Lou N

The lack of new MTH offerings, both Premier and RailKing, really disappoints me. For example, I know for a fact that MTH has been using the same tooling for the RailKing Berkshires since the '90s.

759then759now

Even their sound system needs a major overhaul. Their engines still sound like they did in the early 2000s when Protosound 2 came out. In my opinion, the fact that MTH is putting the whistle steam effect into their Premier Big Boys is a big step in innovation, but because it's kind of difficult to activate from the DCS remote (at least from what I've seen) it's not really worth it in the end. Despite what some people might say, in innovation, Lionel is definitely a giant leap ahead of MTH.

Nick

Modeling the Pennsy, I guess.

Pennsy Productions - Bringing you the best railroads of the Midwest.

“If anyone has bolted together a mechanism with just fifty per cent of the steam locomotive’s solid spiritual satisfaction, he hasn’t filed for a patent yet. “ - David P. Morgan

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