Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Are You Ready To Run?

I got my first chance at the weekend to take a look at Heljan's 009 ready-to-run Lynton and Barnstaple Manning Wardle tank loco, and mighty impressive it looks too.

This really does mark a watershed for the scale.

For the first time a manufacturer is giving us a model of equivalent standard to that which standard gauge modellers have been able to take for granted.

I hope that they, Heljan, will have massively underestimated the demand for models like this, are both rewarded for their gamble and encouraged to look for follow ups.

This model was being held captive inside a display case in Glasgow so we were unable to take a close look at it.

Himself's first impression was that he still thought the Backwoods Miniatures kit - which we used to make our Lyd - is a better model.

But then he would say that, because he can build them!

For the likes of mechanical imbeciles me like this loco looks like a glimpse into the promised land.

Do not take from what I have written that we are kit and scratch building snobs who turn our noses up at ready-to-run, for we long ago put down a reservation for the long-awaited Bachmann Baldwin WD 4-6-0's.

There is nothing wrong with top quality RTR in my eyes, nor with the best of the 3D printed bodies that are being designed by enterprising people like Narrow Planet and Robex.

I will admit, though,  to being more than a little frustrated at some of the utter abominations that I do see being knocked out on printers by modellers who it would appear are content to have something that bears only the most passing resemblance to the prototype.

It looks suspiciously like in many of these cases the truth is that all that matters is that the model is designed and produced at the fastest possible speed.

Many of the people behind these seem to be young, and impatience goes with the territory. Perhaps they will be in less of a busting rush as they mature.

What really irks me, however, is that in this age of cyber commerce many of these 'models' are put out there to buy through 3D printing websites.

Which brings us back to ready-to-run 009 which must be carefully nurtured in its infancy.

I believe strongly that we should not baulk at the prices the manufacturers charge for models such as this Manning Wardle, nor judge it against the cost to some of these 3D print offerings.

That would be to compare oranges and rotten apples.

The other thought I have is whether we, as a scale, will be able to exploit the potential for bespoke ready-to-run in the same way as the 00 fraternity has?

Look in any of the model magazines and you will see adverts from some of the most well known model shops and specialist firms for exclusive, short-runs of unusual prototypes.

Others, I note, are embracing crowd funding.

Can this not be done in 009? And who might be brave enough to do it?

One of the delights of Narrow Gauge is that there are so many one-off locomotives, and I suppose it could be difficult to find a market for hundreds of models of one single engine.

But there are other examples of small classes that can be exploited just as Heljan and Bachmann are doing.

For example, what about the Rhiedol tanks? Yes, there are only three of them but look how many livery variations have they worn between them over the years.

The current VoR owners seem very enterprising and go-ahead people.  Might they not like to explore the idea of commissioning a run of models to sell exclusively?

You've got a retail and marketing proposition rolled into one there.

Then there's my own first love, the FR. And how many opportunities there are here!

Can anyone seriously argue that a top-notch RTR 009 England engine wouldn't sell?

What about the Penrhyn Ladies?

If Heljan can provide for interchangeable cabs on their L&B locos then surely it's not impossible, with a common chassis and basic body dimensions to mass produce some lovely models of Linda, Blanche and Charles.

I suspect the lead-time on a model would be too long, and Boston Lodge would beat them too it, but what a marketing wheeze it might have been for the FR to commission a 009 model of their new Double Fairlie James Spooner?

The chassis is always the stumbling block in 009. Once you've got that look at how many other Double Fairlie variants you could plonk on top.  (So long a the rivet counters would overlook the variations in wheelbase and other minor details.)

Can I be the only one thinking along these lines?  I'd love to read your thoughts.


  1. I'd buy a VOR loco like a shot. BR blue please. Better still, promise NOT to make BR blue ever and I'll repaint it so I have the only one.

    I agree with everything you say here. When the loco appears for sale there will be howls at the price with people deamnding Heljan sell at a loss, but this is a tiny market and tooling costs won't be any lower than those of a much better selling OO model.

    Mnay of the 3D printed models are both poor desings, and terrible quality. Too often I see a lump that appears to be made from sand trumpeted as marking the death of injection moulding and traditional kit building.

  2. What's not to agree with here. I like the fact that 009 requires some work, and layouts don't all have the same locos (though some kits are pretty common). But RTR is unlikely to change that, it can provide an easy way in and possibly help raise standards too.

    Anyway, I've already got a Minitrains Bagnall, and a pre-order for one of those Heljan 2-6-2s...