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I’ve been involved in this hobby since a was 5 years old. I’ve had layouts and been in a few clubs and also been involved in a train shop. It always is interesting to get in discussions with people on different topics concerning the model train business. I got into discussions with 2 different people selling trains at a show I was at just today. The topic was about MTH and both these people were absolutely stunned to find out MTH is still in business. This happens time and time again since Mike Wolf stepped aside. No matter where I go that has something to do with Model Trains that is what I find. It might be time for MTH to try and spread the word that we are still here. Do any of you find the same thing?

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I had the same gap in knowledge about MTH.  Part of the confusion stems from how the transition to the current business was handled.   

MTH (new product division) was at the Amherst Show.  Wish I could remember names, but the guy I talked to (currently running the business) assured me the are alive and well and releasing new products weekly.  He suggested getting on the e-mail list.

On the other hand if you go to the MTH website the links (pages) are a lot of "dead-ends".  Want to figure out what products are currently being offered "Good Luck"!

BTW Mike is still (at minimum) a part owner.

So I agree with you, they just might want to spread the word.

This may sound harsh but IMO, the current iteration of MTH is seriously lacking Solid Marketing.  "Build it they will come" may not apply if no one knows you are there.

I, too, in engaging with the public with my club, have had to inform fellow hobbyists at train shows that MTH is still around.  Many are under the assumption that MTH was bought out in in its entirety by Lionel or by a combinination of Lionel and Atlas.

Part of the problem, IMHO, is the abrupt way in which they stopped doing catalogs and switched to email-based advertising of new product and services.  If, in their final catalog, they had devoted a prominent page, like the back cover, to advising and instructing people where to go and how to sign up, they might be faring better.  Instead, they relied on news in the magazines and word of mouth within the hobby, and not everyone in the hobby reads the magazines, and word of mouth often gets distorted over time.

The physical catalogs, also IMHO, are still an important part of advertising in this hobby.  A hobby shop can ask people to check out the manufacturers' web sites and sign up for emails all they want, but how many forget the moment the walk out of the shop or just put it off and end up not getting around to it?  A catalog that they can put in potential customers' hands will not be easily forgotten and will act as a reminder every time it is seen.  Add to that the fact that a lot of people  just don't like using email due to the spam, unwanted ads, and scams.  Perhaps even a thin annual catalog released at the beginning of train season in the fall with pages devoted to pushing people towards the online resources would help.

The problem of existence isn't just with MTH.  Every year, when I am with my club at our Kennywood holiday setup, I talk with many non-hobby people about the hobby and the trains, and every year, without fail, many of them are surprised to find out that Lionel is still in business, and my fellow club members report similar conversations.

Andy

Well, while MTH is still shipping product, it's truly a shadow of it's former self.  Every aspect of the business is much "slimmer" than it was.

The problem of existence isn't just with MTH.  Every year, when I am with my club at our Kennywood holiday setup, I talk with many non-hobby people about the hobby and the trains, and every year, without fail, many of them are surprised to find out that Lionel is still in business, and my fellow club members report similar conversations.

That's a little more surprising, I haven't run across people that think Lionel is gone, must be talking to the wrong people.  Maybe they're MTH folks engaging in wishful thinking.

That's a little more surprising, I haven't run across people that think Lionel is gone, must be talking to the wrong people. 

John you certainly are not, nor are most the members of this forum, the "average" consumer related to this hobby.  I believe we are more informed than most.

One of the foundations of being successful in business is "reaching" your customers.

@mwb posted:

While that might seem obvious, it's a truly elusive concept to a lot of model train businesses.....that dry up and blow away.

We on the same page for sure.

I went into a 3R train store about a year and a half ago.  Just the owner was there (alone on a Saturday Afternoon?).  He was on his cell phone with a "dissatisfied customer" (couldn't avoid over hearing his conversation) for 20 minutes.  During the whole incident there was a guy patiently waiting to check-out.  I had a quick question for him.  2 other customers came and went, they both asked me if I thought he was ever going to get off the phone.  Owner might know 3R trains, but he sure doesn't know how to serve customers!

I had the same gap in knowledge about MTH.  Part of the confusion stems from how the transition to the current business was handled.   

MTH (new product division) was at the Amherst Show.  Wish I could remember names, but the guy I talked to (currently running the business) assured me the are alive and well and releasing new products weekly.  He suggested getting on the e-mail list.

On the other hand if you go to the MTH website the links (pages) are a lot of "dead-ends".  Want to figure out what products are currently being offered "Good Luck"!

BTW Mike is still (at minimum) a part owner.

So I agree with you, they just might want to spread the word.

This may sound harsh but IMO, the current iteration of MTH is seriously lacking Solid Marketing.  "Build it they will come" may not apply if no one knows you are there.

You mean Rich Foster?

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John you certainly are not, nor are most the members of this forum, the "average" consumer related to this hobby.  I believe we are more informed than most.

One of the foundations of being successful in business is "reaching" your customers.

Most of the folks that come into the Henning's store, even totally non-train people, know that Lionel still exists.   I get that many don't know that MTH is still around, a lot didn't know that when they were going gangbusters!  Lionel is a name that your grandfather talked about, much different than any of the other companies in the business.

When you have to go searching for a company and its products, you are guaranteed to see modest sales.  Whether it's a catalog, flyers at hobby shops and train shows, hard copy still can matter.  When you have neither a catalog nor advertising on websites where modelers visit or congregate, your sales are going to reflect that absence of communication ultimately.  One can only assume that the folks still involved with MTH are happy with that reduced volume of business as it is, or they'd be doing stuff differently.  Perhaps because their expenses are reduced substantially. Whether this is sustainable over many years remains to be seen.

At this point, without a catalog or much advertising, no starter sets, MTH is almost exclusively preaching to the existing choir is my thought.  And maybe they are fine with that.

Last edited by Landsteiner
@Landsteiner posted:

At this point, without a catalog or much advertising, no starter sets, MTH is almost exclusively preaching to the existing choir is my thought.  And maybe they are fine with that.

Add to that that many of their new releases are just different paint jobs, and it seems they're trying to reach the folks looking for obscure road names that maybe Lionel hasn't tapped yet.

Most of the folks that come into the Henning's store, even totally non-train people, know that Lionel still exists.   I get that many don't know that MTH is still around, a lot didn't know that when they were going gangbusters!  Lionel is a name that your grandfather talked about, much different than any of the other companies in the business.

Great point John.

When I tell people I am into 3R I say, "you know like Lionel Trains", they nod.  Problem is generally talking to people from our generation.  So I don't have the interaction with younger people, to know is they can identify with the Lionel Brand.  Bet if I asked my grandkids if they have heard of Motorola or Zenith or Texas Instruments they wouldn't have a clue.  They know Lionel cause Grandpa is into that.

That's a little more surprising, I haven't run across people that think Lionel is gone, must be talking to the wrong people.  Maybe they're MTH folks engaging in wishful thinking.

The vast majority of the 30k-40k that come through our layout at Kennywood are not hobbyists and probably have never set foot in a train shop or train show.

I probably have had 3 or 4 of these conversations every year of this event.  Probably stems from seeing Lionel product in non-hobby retail stores when they were younger and not seeing it "out in the wild" now.

Just like with MTH, no visibility leads to assumptions of their demise.

Andy

There just isn’t enough human beings at MTH to do all the wishes y’all want,…..the bare bones skeleton crew is doing all they can to keep product rolling, and producing custom runs through the network of dealers. The new MTH is clearly working, as many of the custom runs being built sell out before they’re even in the pipeline, ……Doing a catalog takes more than just one person, ….in fact it takes a dedicated crew just to do that task,…..as I’ve said, they just don’t have the body count to do that anymore…….On the parts side, there’s only two of us sorting & ID’ing 30 + years of parts, …..and then after sorting, ID’ing, applying a part number, taking pictures of every part, there’s only 2 guys putting all the parts in bins, and making them available for y’all to purchase…..As John mentioned earlier in this thread,….it’s a much leaner, trimmer MTH, ….be thankful the handful of fellas charging forward with the company are at least making the attempt…..there is the alternative,……

Pat

-to share another perspective...

i kinda took a 35+ year break from the hobby starting in 1980~81 +/- and I remember being in york with my grand-dad the years prior listening to the ol' timers discuss these 'johnny-come-latelys' K-line and MTH and a few other hobby train-builders like they were no-count so-and-so's making inferior products .... anyhow here we are 40+ years later and K-Line and MTH both had a heyday and seems like they sorta owned everything in the hobby for a while - and now they are gone or a shadow of their former selves.

i'm still confused about the lionel/k-line/mth story arc

Last edited by woodsyT
@harmonyards posted:

There just isn’t enough human beings at MTH to do all the wishes y’all want,…..the bare bones skeleton crew is doing all they can to keep product rolling, and producing custom runs through the network of dealers. The new MTH is clearly working, as many of the custom runs being built sell out before they’re even in the pipeline, ……Doing a catalog takes more than just one person, ….in fact it takes a dedicated crew just to do that task,…..as I’ve said, they just don’t have the body count to do that anymore…….On the parts side, there’s only two of us sorting & ID’ing 30 + years of parts, …..and then after sorting, ID’ing, applying a part number, taking pictures of every part, there’s only 2 guys putting all the parts in bins, and making them available for y’all to purchase…..As John mentioned earlier in this thread,….it’s a much leaner, trimmer MTH, ….be thankful the handful of fellas charging forward with the company are at least making the attempt…..there is the alternative,……

Pat

But what happens when those handful of fellas decided they had enough and want to retire?  I hope there is an avenue of keeping the company going but I don't see one that is obvious.

MTH does definitely have a problem letting the masses know they are still operating.  While we all know the average Joe doesn't but then again to John's point did most of the average Joe's know about MTH in the first place before they walked into a hobby shop.  Lionel is sort of like Kleenex, it's a name everyone grew up with so it's sort of is the generic term for o gauge for those outside the hobby.

Last edited by MartyE
@Landsteiner posted:

... At this point, without a catalog or much advertising, no starter sets, MTH is almost exclusively preaching to the existing choir is my thought.  And maybe they are fine with that.

In addition, don't forget that MTH is selling digital-control engines without the ability for customers to buy the system that's needed for operating those locomotives. 

@MartyE posted:

But what happens when those handful of fellas decided they had enough and want to retire?  I hope there is an avenue of keeping the company going but I don't see one that is obvious.

MTH does definitely have a problem letting the masses know they are still operating.  While we all know the average Joe doesn't but then again to John's point did most of the average Joe's know about MTH in the first place before they walked into a hobby shop.  Lionel is sort of like Kleenex, it's a name everyone grew up with so it's sort of is the generic term for o gauge for those outside the hobby.

Live for the here & now Marty, …..at least it’s still going for the moment,…….it could’ve been worse,….they could’ve slammed the doors shut, and that would be that ….

Pat

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