Model Railroading Conundrum

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Sirfoldalot

Curse You, Red Baron!
Staff member
Quote,"The fact that people liked both the climax and the shay, shows their popularity with the model railroading public!"

And that's exactly why they don't stop producing them!
 
N

NP2626

Guest
I guess it makes sense to you, that Bachmann keeps smacking their head against the wall and fail, fail, fail, that's O.K. with me. I don't think the Shay has been produced in a quite awhile, however, the Climax keeps on, not going and not going!
 
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otiscnj

Well-Known Member
Getting back to your initial question regarding whether 'planned obsolecense has become the strategy of manufacturers,' I'd answer that I'm not sure. I really haven't bought and run too many locos in the last couple of years. I bought one MTH O-gauge engine, that after I ran it for about a month, needed to be repaired as either a gear or universal failed. Impressed by the details, paint, sounds, etc, not impressed by the mechanism, which is why I bought that model, instead of say, a box car. I think its a matter of bad engineering, or one sort or another, or a materials problem, but mainly I blame the people responsible for the design of the actual mechanism. A manufacturer will go out of business eventually, if they can't design a product that has a decent mean time between failures. And if you know you've got a design flaw(which you may not, except for similar models, made with the same materials and general design in the past), that will catch up with you, probably sooner than you think.

I imagine that a lot of the engineers or designers working for the toy companies in Asia, are fresh out of college, and don't know much about what they are trying to design, or the materials they are using. Athearn engines, to me at least, were a standard back when I got serious about the hobby in the 70's. Irv had been at it for 20 years or more at that point, tweaking his designs. Yeah, some of the diesel hoods were too wide, but once you learned about some of the quirks of the common Athearn chassis design to most of his locomotives, you could fix any problem locos yourself, and you and the loco were good to go. Mr. Kato had been in the business a similar amount of time, back in 85, when Atlas imported their RS-3 in HO. While I've never been to one of the companies engineering departments that design and manufacture many current locomotives, from what I've learned over the years, I expect that they have many engineering novices, who have taken their current jobs, as a stepping stone to some other position. When turnover is high, often times, the products don't get much better for a very long time, if the company gets lucky, if it isn't forced to close due to bad reputation.

How many times over the last 20 years have the assorted 'model manufacturers' moved all their production to Asia, and then a few years later, been forced to find a new contractor to build their stuff, as like everywhere else, 'money talks-time to tell the train guys to walk,' as other industries, like computers, cellphones, autos, etc., 'are where the fortunes are to be made.' Its the same everywhere. That I think is the root of most if not all of the reliability issues of most recent (post 1995) crop of locomotives, regardless of scale. From what I can tell, most of the vendors that the hobby manufacturers use, like I said, are in it to make a fast buck, not because of any passion for model trains, etc. Things won't change I think, until this issue fixes itself, which I don't think will be any time soon.
 
N

NP2626

Guest
I will admit that the Climax's mechanism is very complicated, like the real locomotive's drive train! I wonder if a "Run it until it fails" is a part of the Quality Control system the company uses? The failures that I have had, would easily show up in such a program! It's almost like manufacturing puts it on the track, runs it forward, then backward works the lights and after 10 minutes of operation applies their "Stamp of Approval", then sends them off to marketing! The fact that the Climax has had growing pains is well documented, if not here at the Model Railroad Forum, then certainly at other forums I have participated at.
 

tootnkumin

Well-Known Member
Staff member
No. It gets some electrical continuity checks along the production line, then it gets packed in it's box and off to despatch. Eventually you buy it and take it out of it's box, put it on the track, run it forward, then backward works the lights and after 10 minutes of operation, put it into service. You have become final quality control.
 
N

NP2626

Guest
No. It gets some electrical continuity checks along the production line, then it gets packed in it's box and off to despatch. Eventually you buy it and take it out of it's box, put it on the track, run it forward, then backward works the lights and after 10 minutes of operation, put it into service. You have become final quality control.
If what you say is true, that is so very wrong! To have customers be Quality Control is a really good way to have the Company Name turn to crap! However, this would seem to be the case with what has happened to me! I truly am from the old school, I would have a test track and one locomotive out of so many would be run to destruction. It would be very important to me that the public associate my company's name with quality. This is especially true now days, with the quick dissemination of information on products on the market, via the internet!

Product reviews done by the modeling press are worthless as the company that is having its' products reviewed, also pays the modeling press for their advertisements in the magazine. That's why I feel any product reviews done in the modeling press is just going to show what the model being reviewed does while in good working order and nothing more!

I know that this is only a hobby; however, there really does need to be a "Consumer Reports" for Model Railroading. None of the RTR locomotives; or, powering systems are inexpensive anymore! If the manufacturers want us to be their Quality Control Department, than maybe we should do documentation and reporting on them.
 
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santafewillie

Same Ol' Buzzard
Mark - You are truly "old school". Manufacturers doing their own QC went out around the turn of the century, not just in model railroading, but every consumer product. However I have always had good results from certain companies such as Athearn, Accurail and Atlas; less than positive results from Intermountain and Walthers. Horrible results from Bachmann. Never purchased a BLI product.

Willie
 
N

NP2626

Guest
Mark - You are truly "old school". Manufacturers doing their own QC went out around the turn of the century, not just in model railroading, but every consumer product. However I have always had good results from certain companies such as Athearn, Accurail and Atlas; less than positive results from Intermountain and Walthers. Horrible results from Bachmann. Never purchased a BLI product.

Willie
Willie,

Not so, and I feel your badly miss informed! I worked in the machining trades up until 2012, I ran the gauge calibration department, The company I worked for was involved in the Snowmobile, ATV, automotive industries and many other aspects of consumer products. The company I worked for was very heavily involved with and did it's own Quality Control.
 
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trailrider

Well-Known Member
If what you say is true, that is so very wrong! To have customers be Quality Control is a really good way to have the Company Name turn to crap! However, this would seem to be the case with what has happened to me! I truly am from the old school, I would have a test track and one locomotive out of so many would be run to destruction. It would be very important to me that the public associate my company's name with quality. This is especially true now days, with the quick dissemination of information on products on the market, via the internet!

Product reviews done by the modeling press are worthless as the company that is having its' products reviewed, also pays the modeling press for their advertisements in the magazine. That's why I feel any product reviews done in the modeling press is just going to show what the model being reviewed does while in good working order and nothing more!

I know that this is only a hobby; however, there really does need to be a "Consumer Reports" for Model Railroading. None of the RTR locomotives; or, powering systems are inexpensive anymore! If the manufacturers want us to be their Quality Control Department, than maybe we should do documentation and reporting on them.
True quality control usually requires a statistical evaluation of a product by testing a certain number of the product to some point of either longevity or GO/NO-GO evaluation (such as whether a certain number of pyrotechnic initiators out of a lot fire successfully or fail to fire). In the case of reusable electro-mechanical products such testing might determine the mean-time-between-failures (MTBF). To be valid, a number of units would have to be tested. I'm not sure how many model HO scale diesel locomotives would need to be tested out of a lot of so many, but to be statistically valid, it would probably need to be 10 or 15 percent of the production run. That would be that number LESS that would be available for sale. The result would be increased cost to the consumer. (Maybe that is one reason the prices have gone up as much as they have in the past several decades.)

So far as having a consumer forum of some sort is concerned, whenever I have a problem with a product, I contact the manufacturer, reporting the problem and as much detail about the failure mode, as I know. For a non-model railroading example, I returned a kitchen faucet to the manufacturer after it broke off and similar problems occurred with a replacement. The manufacturer refunded my purchase price, and I would not buy their products again! In several cases with model railroad products, two different manufacturers had me return their products, and repaired or replaced them, as was appropriate. I think forums such as this permit the consumer to report problems with products. I would think that various manufacturers or importers would read these reports and would respond either by complaining to the manufacturer (if the are the importers) or taking steps to increase quality control in their own plants. I know of one other example of a non-model railroad product, where a domestic importer contracted with a manufacturer in a major foreign country for a certain product. The first batch of product were full of defective parts, very poor wood-to-metal fitup, and other problems. The result was that the whole lot was returned to the manufacturer. The next batch was a bit better, but by no means satisfactory. The gentleman had to go over to the foreign country to talk at length with the manufacturer. This cost him time and money, not to mention having to deal with a considerable language barrier. By the third or forth time around, the manufacturer seemed to get the message about customer satisfaction in this country...something foreign (no pun intended) to their culture.
 

Espeefan

Well-Known Member
Product reviews done by the modeling press are worthless as the company that is having its' products reviewed, also pays the modeling press for their advertisements in the magazine. That's why I feel any product reviews done in the modeling press is just going to show what the model being reviewed does while in good working order and nothing more! know that this is only a hobby; however, there really does need to be a "Consumer Reports"
I'm sorry but you're quite wrong here. I've written product reviews for three different hobby magazines, most lately for Model Railroad News. At no time was it ever suggested that I "Santa Claus" a review. I tested the model, built the kit per the manufacturer's instructions, or whatever. I documented pros and cons, and if I had to go to the manufacturer to get support, I documented that, as well as how they responded. I was never less than 100% honest. When I reviewed the Bowser PCC model I stated that it was a very nice model but the trucks were shy on detail. On the next run they upgraded them. When I reviewed the ConCor PCC, I stated what I didn't like about the model, (iffy trolley pole that should be replaced if you were going to run it under wire, and some things on the circuit board I didn't like). All comments were published as I wrote them. Now you can't attack the manufacturer in a review, but a frank discussion of positives and negatives was always encouraged. How much advertising they did with any particular publication was totally irrelevant. I found Model Railroad News unbiased and fair, and never was there any instance of attempting to steer a reviewer in a certain direction. Doing reviews is their main purpose, so your "Consumer Reports for Model Railroaders" exists. If such a magazine did what you suggest, their credibility would very quickly drop to zero. I've found that reputable companies are open to customer input. They aren't going to give credibility to a whiner, but if you present your case in a reasonable manner, and even offer suggestions, they generally listen. (except for Athearn and those darned plastic couplers! :D)
 
N

NP2626

Guest
True quality control usually requires a statistical evaluation of a product by testing a certain number of the product to some point of either longevity or GO/NO-GO evaluation (such as whether a certain number of pyrotechnic initiators out of a lot fire successfully or fail to fire). In the case of reusable electro-mechanical products such testing might determine the mean-time-between-failures (MTBF). To be valid, a number of units would have to be tested. I'm not sure how many model HO scale diesel locomotives would need to be tested out of a lot of so many, but to be statistically valid, it would probably need to be 10 or 15 percent of the production run. That would be that number LESS that would be available for sale. The result would be increased cost to the consumer. (Maybe that is one reason the prices have gone up as much as they have in the past several decades.)

So far as having a consumer forum of some sort is concerned, whenever I have a problem with a product, I contact the manufacturer, reporting the problem and as much detail about the failure mode, as I know. For a non-model railroading example, I returned a kitchen faucet to the manufacturer after it broke off and similar problems occurred with a replacement. The manufacturer refunded my purchase price, and I would not buy their products again! In several cases with model railroad products, two different manufacturers had me return their products, and repaired or replaced them, as was appropriate. I think forums such as this permit the consumer to report problems with products. I would think that various manufacturers or importers would read these reports and would respond either by complaining to the manufacturer (if the are the importers) or taking steps to increase quality control in their own plants. I know of one other example of a non-model railroad product, where a domestic importer contracted with a manufacturer in a major foreign country for a certain product. The first batch of product were full of defective parts, very poor wood-to-metal fitup, and other problems. The result was that the whole lot was returned to the manufacturer. The next batch was a bit better, but by no means satisfactory. The gentleman had to go over to the foreign country to talk at length with the manufacturer. This cost him time and money, not to mention having to deal with a considerable language barrier. By the third or forth time around, the manufacturer seemed to get the message about customer satisfaction in this country...something foreign (no pun intended) to their culture.
American Manufacturing has adopted Statistical Process Controls (SPC). The company I worked for used SPC extensively. SPC and the high tech methods of gathering data on quality, actually saves a manufacturing companies money! However because so much model railroading products are manufactured overseas, whether they use SPC; or, other sound quality systems, is certainly anyone's guess. if they are using SPC; and/or, best quality practices, why is quality such a problem for some of them?
 
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Greg@mnrr

Section Hand
My approach is if I had a bad product experience, give the manufacture a chance to correct the problem and if they don't correct the problem then simply never purchase any of the manufacture's products again.

Greg
 

Greg@mnrr

Section Hand
Perhaps along the lines of what Chet maybe thinking, use this Forum as a place to "ASK" about a certain product and what the Forum member's experience have been with that product. This may give a potential buyer enough information to make an informed purchase or decide not to purchase a specific product.

Thanks.

Greg
 
N

NP2626

Guest
I have done exactly what both Greg and Chet have suggested. Sound advice!
 
IMO, this is a golden age for HO and N scale.

Current manufacturers make marvelous engines and rolling stock. The detail is beyond belief. $300-$1000 brass-hybrid engines with DCC and sound operate and sound amazing.

Recently in Wal-mart I saw a static "collectable" mass-produced figure for $25, another for $50. If that is the cost of statues with little detail, then $35 rolling stock and $125-$300 engines are a bargain for reliable equipment.
 




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