I've been seeing a lot of demand for a mac app or iOS app that inventories trains, what you got, what you paid, in for service, etc. I would like to take a stab at creating one for the community and learning to code in Swift along the way.

Does anyone have a list of trains in excel format or a web page that has popular brands, their sku/product number, model name, maker, etc?

Thanks!

Original Post

How good is your Python? It might be easier to just write something to scrape the Lionel and MTH websites for product details.

decent enough to build a webscraper. but the real point is i want it on the app store to distribute (ideally for free, unless we need database storage)

do you have any experience?

There have been several threads on here regarding inventory control.  Some posts include sample Excel spreadsheets that would give you a starting point regarding what information is desired in an inventory app.  Just doing a search for "PWC" and "spreadsheet" returns some threads.  

greg_08 posted:

decent enough to build a webscraper. but the real point is i want it on the app store to distribute (ideally for free, unless we need database storage)

do you have any experience?

I've dabbled with webscrapping for some silly things, but my Python experience has been with scientific computing and computational chemistry. Unfortunately I have no experience with app development, but I'm always interested in learning how to program something different.

Personally, I manage my inventory with an Access database that I've built. I still think that's the best method, but I can see the allure in having a dedicated app with a simple interface.

Here’s a listing posted in the last year or so.  Not sure how current it is.  Perhaps the author or other member will chime in with better details.  Also screen shot example of data.

Lionel engine data base

56455351-36B4-4E9C-89B7-1CFC1BA4C148

 

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So, in searching how to go about designing what I want to create, I found an app called Sortly. It works on iPhone (you can scan and search for a product) as well as through web browser.

Here is my engine database using Sortly.

It is expensive for a pro account, but the free account allows you 100 inventory items.

I might take a stab at developing an app similar to this at some point to really customize it towards trains. Programming is another hobby of mine.

Screen Shot 2020-03-28 at 12.36.25 PM

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TedW posted:

Here’s a listing posted in the last year or so.  Not sure how current it is.  Perhaps the author or other member will chime in with better details.  Also screen shot example of data.

Lionel engine data base

56455351-36B4-4E9C-89B7-1CFC1BA4C148

 

Thank you!!

Choo Choo Charlie posted:

Well Word works fine for me.  Before that I had a pieces of lined paper.

Charlie

But I need to overly complicate everything I do :-)

This post is in no way shape or form meant to discourage you from your project, just some food for thought on the realities that a project like this presents.

MTH has just passed their third decade in business, Lionel is in its 120th year. You add in K Line, Williams, anything else that has come before and the number of SKU's is in the 150,000+ mark. Not only that, but the issue becomes continually updating the information that is in the program. This is what has killed programs that have come before in the last twenty years. Once the size of the market becomes apparent, the financial side of this is not very large. In addition, the technological curve that this hobby runs on seems to be about 15-20 years behind the rest of the market. In order for this to grab ANY kind of meaningful foothold you need something that a very technologically challenged person can figure out and that can also output the data in a somewhat future proof format. That's why you've seen many hobbyist move to excel. It's somewhat simple and future proof. Plus they're not counting on the company to update the SKU's in the program every time. 

I've thought this idea over many times over the past decade. In my personal opinion what would be the best solution is an app that can read the barcode on the manufactures box (Sadly this eliminates a large part of the market), cross references the master database (would need to be maintained),  allows the user to check box a few items such as original box, damage, and assign a grade. Once all of that is done, the app needs to compile this data and output it in a widely used format (PDF, Word, Excel, etc) to future proof it. Oh and then lets make it savable and let people add to it whenever they want. 

I've come to the conclusion that the only real reason most people need to make an inventory is to provide for insurance purposes. I don't think anyone really wants to know what they have spent or what it's "worth". Let's not even get into the dynamic pricing that would need to be built into this for it to provide a fair appraisal value. You would almost have to plug in the MSRP and then create a depreciation formula that somewhat follows the real world curve. I've tried this a few times and coming up with a curve that anyone can actually agree on is nearly impossible. The reality is it tends to land between an 8%-14% per year depreciation in the real world. Try explaining that to most collectors and you'll see them about have a stroke.  

This would need to be as "KISS" (Keep it simple stupid) as possible. I respect and encourage what you are trying to do, it's just a massive project without much actual upside or benefit. People hate keeping an inventory because imputing the data is such a hassle. Eliminating that problem is really really difficult because of the amount of time and technological leaps the hobby has seen in 120+ years. 

Greg, I hope you don't see this as raining on your parade. I applaud the desire to want to make this happen. If you choose to go down this road, just beware of the can of worms your opening. 

All the best,

Derek

 

Notch 6 posted:

This post is in no way shape or form meant to discourage you from your project, just some food for thought on the realities that a project like this presents.

MTH has just passed their third decade in business, Lionel is in its 120th year. You add in K Line, Williams, anything else that has come before and the number of SKU's is in the 150,000+ mark. Not only that, but the issue becomes continually updating the information that is in the program. This is what has killed programs that have come before in the last twenty years. Once the size of the market becomes apparent, the financial side of this is not very large. In addition, the technological curve that this hobby runs on seems to be about 15-20 years behind the rest of the market. In order for this to grab ANY kind of meaningful foothold you need something that a very technologically challenged person can figure out and that can also output the data in a somewhat future proof format. That's why you've seen many hobbyist move to excel. It's somewhat simple and future proof. Plus they're not counting on the company to update the SKU's in the program every time. 

I've thought this idea over many times over the past decade. In my personal opinion what would be the best solution is an app that can read the barcode on the manufactures box (Sadly this eliminates a large part of the market), cross references the master database (would need to be maintained),  allows the user to check box a few items such as original box, damage, and assign a grade. Once all of that is done, the app needs to compile this data and output it in a widely used format (PDF, Word, Excel, etc) to future proof it. Oh and then lets make it savable and let people add to it whenever they want. 

I've come to the conclusion that the only real reason most people need to make an inventory is to provide for insurance purposes. I don't think anyone really wants to know what they have spent or what it's "worth". Let's not even get into the dynamic pricing that would need to be built into this for it to provide a fair appraisal value. You would almost have to plug in the MSRP and then create a depreciation formula that somewhat follows the real world curve. I've tried this a few times and coming up with a curve that anyone can actually agree on is nearly impossible. The reality is it tends to land between an 8%-14% per year depreciation in the real world. Try explaining that to most collectors and you'll see them about have a stroke.  

This would need to be as "KISS" (Keep it simple stupid) as possible. I respect and encourage what you are trying to do, it's just a massive project without much actual upside or benefit. People hate keeping an inventory because imputing the data is such a hassle. Eliminating that problem is really really difficult because of the amount of time and technological leaps the hobby has seen in 120+ years. 

Greg, I hope you don't see this as raining on your parade. I applaud the desire to want to make this happen. If you choose to go down this road, just beware of the can of worms your opening. 

All the best,

Derek

 

I couldn't agree more with you!

I am not discouraged, but motivated. I am going down this road as another hobby of mine. Knowing what people want and how they currently do that is just going to make this more fun for me.

Things like master databases don't need to be maintained if it can scrape the web for new product numbers via the manufacturer website or sites like ebay and amazon just to get the input data. The rating and categorization would be done by the user.

I am still at the drawing board and would love any more feedback you'd be willing to give!

Thanks

greg_08 posted:
.....................

Things like master databases don't need to be maintained if it can scrape the web for new product numbers via the manufacturer website or sites like ebay and amazon just to get the input data. The rating and categorization would be done by the user.........................

Just a thought, but it's quite common for eBay listings to have the wrong item number attached to  a posting, so you would need some method to determine what you think is correct if you find multiple sources.  (would you look for many, then take a "majority rules" poll to guess which one is correct?)

Maybe it's not as common as I think, but as an example, I have a few SKU number searches set up on eBay for emailing me when one comes up.  I've routinely (probably at least 5 or 6 times now over a year or 2) gotten a hit for an item that I know doesn't match.  (while I admit I don't check every time, I think it's probably always the same seller, it's at least the same picture used).

And this example is a modern item, being sold as brand new in the box, so the seller could easily confirm the info before posting, just by reading it off the box label (carelessness).  It could be much worse when the seller needs to use other methods to guess a product number for an item not in the original box.

-Dave

If at all helpful, my KISS approach has been using an Excell spreadsheet.  After putting in even a few descriptive catagories, i was off and running in almost no time.

Also, embellishing my template gets easier, the more i use it....So, congrats on a noble effort on ya'lls part...yet me thinks using Excell is too easy and a best choice. 

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