The Ideal Model Railroad Store

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jscw1

Jack Strong
Just thought I would throw something out their to railroaders new to the hobby and those with lots of experience under their belts. What would you like to see in the ideal model railroad retail store? Keep in mind this would take into account those just getting started and those just needing supplies for their projects. I often find a lot of hobby stores that carry too much in their inventory and scrimp on the train department or hire people with very little knowledge. How about the stores that for example, carry signals but no block detectors or signal control boards. How about track, switches, electronics, scenery supplies, and detail products. How about instructions for installing different products, setting up DCC or installing decoders. Any way I just mentioned the tip of the ice berg, there is so much more. In my part of the country the closest thing we have is a Hobby Towne USA. I find everything there at the suggested retail price, never any real good deals.
How about some ideas for a top quality store serving the needs of real rail roaders? Jack...Star, Idaho
 

Littlefoot14

Active Member
Location: In town, where we can find it and not on some backstreet or alleyway.

Staff: Someone who is actually a MRR, and not just someone who sells the stuff. Employees who personally model in a variety of scales would be nice too, that way you can get some personal and first hand reviews on products. Someone who used to work on/for a railroad would be great as well. Someone involved in clubs or groups of modelers would be great.

Hours: Open on Saturdays and in the afternoon, like after 5 oclock, so people can stop in on their way home, and they dont even need to be open in the morning during the week, i dont know many people who are out looking for trains at 11 on a weekday.

Store: Id like to see a few layouts in store, nothing fancy, something in the windows and a loop behind the counter wired for different systems so you can try before you buy. Id like to see a variety of RR's offered, not just the area where the shop is located. A wall of rolling stock and a back wall of locomotives, all catergorized like a library. A few shelves of books you can buy and access to some instruction booklets. Some comfortable chairs and a computer where you can sit down, find out what exactly it is that your looking for, find the item number, and then go look for it in-store, or go with an employee and pre-order something.
 

MRLdave

Member
The ideal store would have dozens of every model railroad item in existence at all times, a staff with 30+ years of experience each, and sell at deep discounts.......and will never exist.
 

Lab Rat

19 and crazy
should have all the tools needed to build a railroad including the stuff you would find at home depot that way we dont have to make multiple trips. i personally would love to see an isle or two of materials on racks like you would see at your local lumber yard but al stuff we can use like brass copper tin styrene possibly aluminum. shop would actually have different roadbed options and different scenery options such as the carboard strips and plaster cloth or the mountains of foam insulation and something i am having trouble finding i am looking for a one gallon bottle of elmers white glue. and something never found at hobby town dcc equipment decoders and command stations and throttles i have never seen any digital products at my hobby town half of our store is dedicated to rc cars not much train stuff. would love to have weekly or twice a week programs for hands on help like say a seminar on dcc signalling or maybe backdrop painting or what ever happens to be the requested topic at last weeks meeting or every year you would build a layout in your seminars from the beginning to the end and then raffle it off at the end of the year to the members of the meetings. the ideas are endless
 

Will_annand

Member
Location: In town, where we can find it and not on some backstreet or alleyway.

Staff: Someone who is actually a MRR, and not just someone who sells the stuff. Employees who personally model in a variety of scales would be nice too, that way you can get some personal and first hand reviews on products. Someone who used to work on/for a railroad would be great as well. Someone involved in clubs or groups of modelers would be great.

Hours: Open on Saturdays and in the afternoon, like after 5 oclock, so people can stop in on their way home, and they dont even need to be open in the morning during the week, i dont know many people who are out looking for trains at 11 on a weekday.

Store: Id like to see a few layouts in store, nothing fancy, something in the windows and a loop behind the counter wired for different systems so you can try before you buy. Id like to see a variety of RR's offered, not just the area where the shop is located. A wall of rolling stock and a back wall of locomotives, all catergorized like a library. A few shelves of books you can buy and access to some instruction booklets. Some comfortable chairs and a computer where you can sit down, find out what exactly it is that your looking for, find the item number, and then go look for it in-store, or go with an employee and pre-order something.
I was doing OK, until you hit #4, :D

We are on Main St. right in town, we are open 9:30-6:00 M-F 9:30-2PM Sat. The two fellows who own it, we are model railroaders.

There will be a layout, there are a couple of chairs, a computer, but you have to stand at it. We don't have books, however we do have DVDs.

So we do have to add a couple of things, thanks.
 

Littlefoot14

Active Member
I was doing OK, until you hit #4, :D

We are on Main St. right in town, we are open 9:30-6:00 M-F 9:30-2PM Sat. The two fellows who own it, we are model railroaders.

There will be a layout, there are a couple of chairs, a computer, but you have to stand at it. We don't have books, however we do have DVDs.

So we do have to add a couple of things, thanks.
Well jeez dont base your whole operation off a 14 yr old, theres people with alot more experience than I. :D

Keep in mind my LHS is mostly RC with some trains, the other folded and is now a tatoo parlor.... :(, so im dreaming big here :D
 

Lab Rat

19 and crazy
hey do i count i am 19 but i shop on ebay cause i get better deals there however there are still a few things you just cant get one ebay like a lare aray of model paints in all the right colors
 

macjet

Member
28" wide doors with directions to the gym if you can't fit through.:D
 
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scoobydo

Member
I'm a modernist.
I would say that they should have a huge stock room with a lot of stock.
A few computer terminals with everything the carry on them.
This way, they could still have lots of display cases and product out, but plenty of other stuff neatly packed away.
I hate going into shops and asking for something and them saying, "just what you see out"
I know this takes away from the impulse buy mentality, but this way they could carry more product. And with everything in the computer, selling online would also be another avenue as everything is real-time stock.
In today's economy, if your not online, your really crippling yourself.
Terminal can also categorize things very efficiently.
If I come in and type in a product number, not only could it show me if it is in stock, but if parts are available for that particular model or "suggested" other goodies. (couplers, truck replacements, sound decoders for that particluar model etc...) Lots of possibilities with computers in the shop.

Hours are the worst. Everything closes at 4pm or sooner?
Why even open before noon, is beyond me. I know the crowd of MRR are a bit on the older side, maybe even retired, but 4pm is a bit extreme.
Unfortunately, business owners probably want to be home in the evening.
I do think after work hours would be great.

My local hobby shop has a huge book section on train books and plenty of scratch building material. This is huge plus.
 
S

schul4

Guest
Its nice to have a selection of things. All different types of engines, roads and manufacturers.
 

Capndick

Member
Jack,
You're describing the good old days.
I remember a place in NYC called the Model RR Equipment co.
If it was available, they had it. Paradise for a kid.
My dad and I used to go there a lot, bought my first kit there, a Siver Streak wooden caboose, still have it running around.

They had a great little display, a tabletop TT scale layout completely automated, built with pinball machine relays, you put a nickle in it and an engine came out of the engine house, picked up 3 cars individually, made a few trips around the loop and reset each car and returned to the house and the doors closed...very clever, must have been a bear to make.

The guys in the tidewater area of Va have a good shop in Portsmouth, Davis's, but there aren't many left unfortunetly and they have to charge more to keep the doors open.

Dick
http://s167.photobucket.com/albums/u156/Capndick/
 

Davejb

Member
I'd be happy if I had a local shop at all :(
Used to have a couple in my area, by the time I got back into the hobby they had closed.
 

nwdrummer379

Class of '11
Trains n Toys is my place of choice. They are open till 7 on weekdays and 5 on weekends, but are closed sun/mon. They are starting to fill the shelves with Accurail and Bowser kits to replace the blue boxes that are long gone. Not too many locomotives but they always seem to have just what I want. They also have a great selection of walthers/city classics/DPM/ and Atlas structures along with a good scenery selection and other odds and ends including books, videos, T shirts etc.
 

ICG/SOU

HO & O (3-rail) trainman
I've been pretty blessed with some great stores when I've been in the hobby.

Hobby Corner--Laurel, MS (open for 30 years or so, until the owner died 10 years or so ago). He had several operating layouts, a wide selection of paints, kits, and materials. He was a railfan and modeler himself, so he had knowledge. He had a good selection of locos and kits (Athearn is mostly what I got from him). He was open 6 days a week, with Thursday being open until 10pm, I think. He was always kind and willing to teach kids like me some stuff.

Hobbytown USA, San Antonio, TX--I've found that most Hobbytowns can be a mixed bag, because the franchise owner will determine what is sold. Some Hobbytowns only have Bachmann or Model Power with a few Lionel sets, while others, like mine, will have a wide variety of both the above as well as scenery, electronics and decoders and DCC, track, and most major brands locomotives and rolling stock. They have both building kits and RTR preassembled buildings. The folks that work the train section are train enthusiasts too, either operationally or in the model building (superdetailing locomotives and rolling stock). They will do special orders, and are open 7 days a week. They sometimes run a buck or two cheaper than MSRP, and will mark down old stock that doesn't move fast enough.

Lone Star Trains, San Antonio, TX-- They have knowledgeable folks and a good selection of older items as well as some newer stuff. They have all scales, and will work on stuff if necessary. They are on the internet (unlike the other places here) but I've never bought from them online. They're only open 6 days a week now, and will do special orders.

Dibble's Hobbies, San Antonio, TX-- the store is about 1/2 trains, 1/2 models and game stuff. Lots of detail parts, decoders, paints, scratchbuilding supplies, and knowledgeable staff. If I need DCC help, Mike there is the man. Not as much rolling stock on the shelf or locomotives in the cases, but they will order anything they can get and a little discount on stuff. They're open 5 days a week (closed Sunday and Monday) and are not on the net, but I don't think they're hurting for business.

We had the Collectible Caboose in Cedar Park, TX, but they closed down last year after the owner passed away. It was another great store, even though most of it was gifts and other things the wives would prefer.

In just building mine, I know that layouts cost money and stock space, as well as taking up time for maintenance. I think that's one reason why many places don't have supercool layouts like the old days. In the current economy, stock costs a lot more and doesn't do anyone good sitting there until someone shows up to buy it, so I've noticed some places cut back on what they have. However, the staff makes a store. If the people are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about helping or making a special order, then I'll go back. If they don't have something, and can't get it, yet tell me where in town (a competitor) to go and who to ask for or talk to, then I'll recommend them to anyone who will listen.
 

Gary B

The Fox Valley Railroad
Well not to be negative, but one way to point to perfection is to point out what's wrong. So, what's wrong with my LHS that make them miss the mark of perfection?

Store #1 Huge selection, good selection of current stuff and some unusual and old stuff. Prices OK but be careful. Down side, the place stinks! The isles are all but blocked by stuff, including large tropical birds! Half the lights are missing. The counter is covered with stuff six layers deep at least. I refer to it as the 'Hobby Hell Hole'. My wife (who will not even enter the store after visiting it once) keeps hand cleaner in the car to clean up after touching stuff in stores. After leaving this place I want a shower. Oh yeah you really have to meet the owner, he is one of a kind.

Store #2 Nice people, real model railroaders usually sitting around chatting. Limited selection, 10% off list and will order for you from Walters. Just don't ask about anything that's new to the hobby after 1970. Not your place to go for DCC.

Store #3 Again good people, limited selection but focused on RC. Kind of tight since they halved their floor space a few years ago.

Store #4 Limited selection, focus is Lionel and kids toys.

Store #5 In a bar and above it. Lots of stuff! Lighting so bad I bring a flashlight! Again, not clean. Prices can be pretty good. Location is such I'm afraid my car will be stolen!

Store #6 - Hobby Lobby Limited selection but great prices with a coupon. If you find help they think scale is something to weight themselves on! (Oh, and closed Sundays)

Well actually there are others near me (I know, I'm lucky) but these are the places I spend my money. So I would take knowledgable staff, decent hours, decent selection with a willingness to place orders with a clean well lite shop.
 

Lab Rat

19 and crazy
the hobby town i go to has raised the price on the same box of flex track three times at least and i know it has been sitting there for ten years or longer. i probably bought most of it
 




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