Saturday, February 28, 2009

Market research

Well, the results from Kiwibonds Trademe debut are in and the results are....interesting. (congrats to the winning chap however, hope that you get a few miles out of them)

Actually, no, they are ominous. If RTR models of Uk's with container's hit a price point of $25 then not even the Chinese making a couple of hundred thousand could break even at the moment. All this while S scale models sell at premium prices. Now i know that this was all hashed out on the group last year some time, but at prices like that no manufacturer in his right mind would even look at doing and kits. Even I've been forced to have a second look at the whole thing.

In a complete contrast to this I've been reading the forums over at and the work that these guys do is amazing. Its also incredible to see the amount of reworking that they will put up with to have a model of a locomotive or wagon that they want. In some cases they will shell out for a kit and then completely rebuild it, as well as buying new bits to replace castings and chassis in the kit which are not up to scratch.

A comment from amateur fetler ( and possibly the only bit from an e-mail on this situation that I could print as he was a bit scathing) was also interesting.

"Is the scale full of people who are scared of scratchbuilding because they think they need to model at the same standards set by the new Sn3½ stuff and 9mm? Whatever happened to 2' models??"

This is a good question. My modeling efforts of late have ground to a halt partly/mostly as I'm not happy with the level of detail I'm getting on the models, and also as my subconscious has been seduced by the elusive lure of CAD/ RP stuff, which is creeping closer (my 8 year old computer may well be replaced in the not too distant future, and as long as theres a CAD program that will run under UNIX then everything should be good). It may well also be due to the aborted attempt to make a set of Ed sides in plastic, which them merrily warped to show their collective displeasure at my efforts. maybe a chunk of the problem is that i do look at all these nice we etched kits and think "Yes, thats the way to do it, hmmmm, now how do I do that...", which results in many grand designs and absolutely no concrete progress outside the 4 walls of my brain.

I'll leave this here for the moment and let some of you comment on this (well, I know its optimistic but you never know)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Back from the brink

"frightening the natives"

Well, 6 days several plane flights and a couple of computer crashes later (Air NZ can't seem to do a quick head count and reconcile the baggage without one it seems. No wonder air travel wasn't that popular before computers. How did anyone get anywhere).
I see on my return that far from the nutter's in charge of the asylum, It appears that a couple of old lady's have taken my blog for a spin down to the Vicars tea party. I was expecting the NZ model railway community to have filled my E-mail box with piles of nasty electrons or something...

To answer some of the comments from the previous post, the statcounter tells me the blog has 30 odd regular readers. The current modular standard was developed about 10 years ago and there have been a small number of modules built to it, though We are not sure of the exact numbers.

I would also point out that while its nice to have a local standard, New Zealand is small enough that it should prove possible to have a national modular standard for Nz120 to allow all modelers to build as much of a layout as they want, yet still have to opportunity (if it ever presents itself) to join in with a larger group. At present there seem to be no really strong pockets of modeling in the scale ( unlike the early 90's, with strong groups in Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin) so by in large it is isolated modelers messing around in the back shed. This comes back to Kiwibonds post. We all need to go out and seduce a fellow modeler (Oh err) to the dark side.

I also see that ECMT has announced in the comments section in the last post that the Trackside range was not destroyed as had been previously reported but has survived (so its now at least common knowledge i guess), and after a period of taking stock and hopefully some improvements will be made available again. The proprietor of this blog wishes the new owners much success. Hopefully this is where the scale draws a line in the sand and at least stops sliding backwards.

And finally, theres some Nz120 stuff up on trademe (not mine, so I have no ulterior motive).

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Lunatics have the Asylum...

Well, while the Head Druff is currently in the only part of Australia not suffering from a natural disaster, its been left to Kiwibonds and I to keep the flag flying. So without further ado, Kiwibonds leads of with this thought provoking piece:

What NZ120 Really Needs?

A month or two ago I started dabbling in American Z scale. It’s a long story. I’ve started doing a serious 1:220 kitbash and can say that it will improve my future modeling immensely because in 1:220 you just have to be spot on or it looks awful. But that is irrelevant to tonight’s discourse. Although Z scale has been around for 40 years now, the American Z scale market is not unlike the NZ120 one –in that there is very little available. Microtrains makes a few wagons and a couple of terribly badly proportioned engines, but that’s about it for the mainstream apart from garage manufacturers unless you want to assemble tiny kitsets or shell out serious coin.

The active posters on the Z message boards say that same things that we do. More models! Better quality! Lower prices! Ready-to-run! Sound familiar?

The reality is that manufacturers rarely do this for love, both markets are tiny and bringing products to market is an incredibly time consuming and expensive proposition. You do the maths. Now I think there could be a reasonable NZ120 market for reasonably well-detailed models at reasonable prices. But I don’t know. I know that there are 98 registered with the Yahoo group (excluding myself) but I’ll bet they aren’t all active NZ120ers. I know that a handful of people make regular contributions to this blog but don’t even know how many people will read this. And isn’t that really the problem?

Tonight I read an interesting post from a US Z scaler, and the crux of his argument is that what Z really needs to move forward is… more modelers.

David K Smith writes:
If more people seriously got involved in the hobby, it would support more manufacturing, and hence more products.Allow me to pose a challenge for all of you with nine-mile-long wishlists. Want a half-decent shot at getting a few of those prized items? Promote the hobby. Get your brother or your cousin involved. Get them to get others involved. Help build the market so that it can actually support more of the things you really want. Don't just sit on your behinds expecting the market to magically grow merely because you want it to. How about making a realistic and balanced New Year's Resolution? Try this on for size: "I'm paring my Z scale wishlist down to just one item, and I'm going to turn my friend Fred into a kickass Z scaler."Myself, I have a modeling friend who is in N scale but has been tempted by Z, and I intend to help turn that temptation into active involvement. We can do this. We can build the hobby... one modeler at a time.

Isn’t it about time the Journal got bombarded with pictures? How many NZ120ers will be at the next Show or Convention? What will they bring to impress the punters?

And how many of you are really out there lurking? Post a comment and say Hi.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Leaving on a small plane

Well, this time tomorrow I'll be sitting on a plane wondering why the beer is crappy Steinlager and not an Emmersons brew (or a Founders Fair Maiden that is gracing my glass this evening mmmm).

while I'm away for a week, I'll leave you all to banter amongst yourselves as to what sort of topics you would like me to cover in the next couple of months.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Another week

I would have thought that the standards post would have provoked a bit more discussion, well, any discussion. I could have proposed anything and you would all have gone along with it. I wonder if I now propose that you send me all your money that would work.

I've not had the energy to put finger to keyboard this week with a set of interesting/ entertaining/frustrating things going on at work. One day I'll write the story of a startup company, assuming it doesn't get nailed by lawsuits.

I have been thinking though about the march of technology and its growing influence on the hobby. Will one day the raw skill of a talented craftsman be outdone by a pimply youth with a computer and an RP machine (you can exchange pimply youth for middle age balding bloke). I've found recently its been harder to start projects as I keep thinking 'I could learn CAD instead of picking up the knife and actually doing something'. It can kill the modeling bug to the point where you start painting 1:300 scale Russian tanks (a long story).

In other news the local polytech is not running CAD courses for the first part of the year, though I have yet to offer to teach them to home brew beer in exchange but I don't think its going to work. I might just have to go back to teaching myself. Is there a CAD for dummies book out yet?

I'll also tell you all that I'm off on Thursday to Perth for a wedding, and will not be back for a week. I'm contemplating turning over the keys to the regular contributors, but I'm worried they will take my blog ram raiding, and I'll come back to find a burn out pile of electrons and a pitchfork and torch wielding mob of the mainstream modeling community on the comments page.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Time for standards?

(I've been reminded today of a night in Wellington during the Guild Jubilee when We could not get into any bars as some visitor thought that jandels and shorts that might work in Christchurch didn't fly in the capital.)

Many moons ago (December 1990 to be precise) It was proposed by Alec Salisbury that the NZMRG accept the same standards as those used by the 2mm association for wheels and track, amended from 9.42 to 9mm gauge (how have the British been allowed to stuff every scale/gauge relationship that they touched?).
fast forward 20 years (man nothing changes fast round here), and there seems to have been no uptake of this system. Modelers have been forced to make do with overseas imports with a variety of standards. While the US ones are not too bad most of the time, the British ones are rough (being very generous here too). The worst would have to be Peco, the most popular for 4 wheel wagon aficionado's. The flanges on these wheels remind me of the old Triang stuff from the 60's with the plastic cookie cutter wheels. While they have served us long and well (a rake of 30 Lc's can't be wrong) maybe its time to look at something a it more into the 1980's.

The 2mm wheel standards are here.
The most important ones for tonight's think are the flange depth, the wheel width and the flange width. these are 0.51mm, 1.3mm and 0.3mm.

Just for interest I wandered over to the NMRA page to see what the equivalent US thoughts are. The standard measurements are here, and the comparative numbers are 0.56mm, 1.8mm and a no result for the flange width.

OK, so the Brits win. Not so fast young grasshoppers, as there's more. Buried in another list on the page are standards for the proto movement, and low and behold, there is a set for N scale. The numbers here are 0.4mm, 1.3mm and 0.3mm.

So where does this leave us then? Personally I'd like to go with the NMRA finescale standards simply because they are widely supported by the American industry.

Does anyone else apart from the usual suspects have an opinion, or should I throw it open to the peanut gallery on the Yahoo group. And just where will all these wheels come from?

Monday, February 09, 2009

Cheer's and Jeer's

(Hmm, fired the post off while I was still thinking about it. maybe my computer is possessed)

Back from a great weekend beer and wine tasting thanks to the WingCO in Blenheim.
The beer festival was a fantastic day. sunny, hot, plenty of beer, food and music. fell off my bike into a bush on the way home though (must have been the sun). For anyone with the opportunity I recommend Blues, brews and BBQ's to anyone in the region).

Right, Jeer's tonight to KATO USA, as I have just received my credit card bill today (you can hear it coming, as the air rushes into the black hole)and I've been overcharged $30 (or a million dollars in the local money :v). Will see how this plays out, but showing the missus something like that is not much fun.

Cheers tonight for the parcel from Woodsworks with some code 40 and 55 rail, and PCB sleepers. I'll have a better look later in the week, but initial appearances are good, and I'll have to make up some jigs to get the soldering right. I have not lost my sanity, its just the heat....

Friday, February 06, 2009

Bit of a gap

Bit of a pause between posts here. I've just had a few other things to do lately (patents suck, but I think I've said that before). about the only things I've done this week have been to break plastic on some Ed sides. however my laminations have not worked well, a check think morning reveals that i either need to have a rethink on what I'm doing or find a prototype Ed with very bendy sides.

Group meeting last night was interesting. Several members have brought the recently released S scale dubs A kit (which is a very nice bit of work BTW Mark). then one of the funniest things I've heard this week, 'but its just so small and hard to assemble'. I did have to laugh out loud.

There was also a discussion on hand laying track in S scale, with some very nice examples being displayed (and some huge complex pieces that were about 5' long). it does get one thinking.

Does any reader know of anyone who has been dumb enough (no offense) to hand lay their own track in this scale. I remember 15 odd years ago at a club meeting in the Hutt Valley where someone was talking about it in Z scale, but i think he was all wind and I never saw any results.

will not be blogging till Sunday as I'm off to Blenheim for a weekend of Blues Brews and BBQ's, which will mostly consist of me indulging in a favorite pastime; beer tasting.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Another new book

This weeks purchase was the 'Spirit of steam' by Roy Sinclair on trademe. While the text is a bit hokey at times ( Its a collection of steal shapes guys, get over it. Then again, all we are is a random assortment of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen and sulphur with a few trace metals thrown in).

What it is good for is the detail shots of the locos (mostly K and J class) and also some of the smaller details that often are not noticed.

On the picture above note the bent rails protecting the water standpipe, obviously put there through long experience. Ditto the collection of pipework on a Ka boiler that needs to be modeled so as not to offend the purists. Also note that the Ka had a cross compound pump in place of the 2 Westinghouse pumps up the front. (I know that 957 and 962 were so treated, and had large air cylinders at the front in the pumps place. hows that for geeky?)
(Also note how easy it is to spot pictures of the Paikakariki loco depot, just due to the slope of the hillside behind it.)

Sunday, February 01, 2009

You are talking how much!?

My mind has been wandering again (it would be nice if it could settle on one thing for long enough to actually achieve something). Anyway, today's wander has involved an inspection of the 2mm association page, and a tally up of what it would cost to build a mech for a 4-8-4. We'll start with the driving wheels. 4 sets of 11mm drivers at 6.25 each ( and remember this is the pound we are talking) comes to 25 quid. Now, we will want pickup on as many axles as possible (like all) so another 8 wheelsets at 2.15 each is 17.20. 4 pounds for the central muffs to hold then all together.
Now, for the guts. if all 4 main axles are driven there's less strain on the rods, and the 4 muffs are 1 pound each. Oh, and there needs to be 3 idler gears so thats another 3. Now, the gears are brass, and theres going to be 6 at 2 pounds each, plus a worm and gear set at 4 pounds. Bearings for the frames and bits to hold the frames apart are another 3 pounds. This all tallies up to....72 pounds. At today's exchange rate that's about $200, and that's before a motor, and actually raising a scriber in anger.
As an aside here I did wonder if North yard could be interested in making wheels locally. not much, just a 4'6" driving wheel (counterweights could be added as etches), and a 2'6" wagon wheel on a 13mm axle. There's not much else that would be needed. Actually, given the wide range of wheels that they do make, why hasn't this been done before? Is it because the Nz120 crowd have never really been that organised, or that we have all been modern image modelers, or that we don't live in Auckland and have the ear of Graham Selman. would it be possible to get lost wax brass wheels cast, machined and plated for less than this?
(If there's anyone who knows about getting something like this organised locally I'm all ears)

Adventures in Casting - part 2

(Kiwibonds with more on his casting experiences)

I think I’m enjoying this… Getting all the bits cast, painted and assembled is pretty slow going, but fairly rewarding. As with most things, it’s not the slog but the eventual reward and that makes it all worthwhile. So much so, that I’m not sure why I was so scared of casting things back in the NZ120 Middle Ages. The KPs are decent if unspectacular one piece molds on Pecos chassis and their only real failing, other than not having headstocks, is that the door ribs seem to pick up a few air bubbles that need to be exorcised by some Squadron Putty or whatever brand it is I have. The rest comes out well though - I don’t know why the end corrugations don’t have similar set of bubbles, but there you go.

I’m surprised at the detail that is coming out in the green side opening containers now, with (rounded down to) only a handful of bubbles of note despite the complex pattern – these are on Micro trains ‘roller bearing’ bogies with ‘ext’ (medium) extension couplers:

And the pièce de résistance (as I didn’t waste my time learning French in the 5th form - I couldn’t even master English - I have no idea what that actually means. Even in English it doesn’t make sense. Those crazy Frenchies.)

No recollection of the ‘80s would be complete without those things buzzing around between freezing works and port. Decals courtesy of my old ALPS printer which I spent about 8 solid hours trying to get working on Windows XP a few months back. Those need some practice too. All in all, it’s hardly VCC Models Comes to NZ120, but they’re not completely awful either. If there is any room left in my NZ Summer Excursion suitcase, I’ll throw a few extras in and put them on Trademe in a few weeks time.