TT Scale Buisness

Re: TT Scale Buisness

Postby ConnRiver » Sat Apr 11, 2015 2:27 pm

Moved from "Saz Model - Closing" thread.

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ConnRiver:

Mark, based on your TT scale business experiences, would you mind a couple of questions?

In your opinion, is TT scale beyond revival? Or, if the scale had molded plastic flex track and turnouts, and RTR locomotives and rolling stock, would there be hope for the scale's revival in a small but healthy way?

I ask for myself (although I'll bet others here would be highly interested in what you have to say), since I am 18 months away from retirement. I'm working 14 hour days, often six days a week, so while I've talked in the past about this project or that project, I've been keeping my mouth shut pretty much in recent months because I don't have the time to pursue my full-time retirement business dream - working exclusively in TT scale with my engineering software, CNC machines and casting equipment.

I'd like to launch a tiny commercial venture in 18 months, first up would be injection molded plastic flex track strips and turnouts. Second up would be Highliner-style A and B F-units, including DCC-ready power chassis. I have plans afoot for injection molding and am exploring manufacturing of a DC motor as well (since getting one's hands on a supply at an affordable price seems beyond possibility).

I have a fall back plan to work in other scales in niche areas (not including locomotives and track) if TT just isn't revivable.

I've been doing a lot of work on the F-units. I'm planning, for example, to 3D laser scan the nose of CGW FP7 116-A, which is 52 miles up the road from me.

So, Mark, is there hope for TT scale, or is it just not worth the effort and TT scale should be allowed to continue its slide toward natural extinction? Thank you much.

Brian Chapman
Cedar Rapids, Iowa / USA

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Bernd:

Brian, interesting that you mentioned starting a business for manufacturing TT scale products. I believe you have hit the nail on the head with your observations. Not having mass produced North American style track available to run equipment on I think is one of the biggest deterrent's with very limited motive power being a close second, followed by rolling stock. I know that the European modelers on here will be saying they have all the track one could want.

"Not having mass produced North American style track..."?

That was one of the reasons I started to investigate resin cast track strips. They are workable but takes a bit of time. I've also started gathering parts to build a plastic injection machine. I was hoping to have one together by the end of this year.

One thing I think that needs to be done is writing an article for one, or perhaps several of the model magazines. I had an article published in MRC back in their July/October issue. Just when they were bought up by White River Productions. I've been contemplating writing an article for RMC on TT scale. Might just happen by this fall.

Looking forward to what you have in mind. Perhaps we can share ideas if you are so inclined.

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ConducTTor:

Brian just an FYI, most sales for North American models happen in Europe (even more specifically - Germany). If you do start a business, Europe needs to be a major part of your decision making.

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ConnRiver:

> Brian just an FYI, most sales for North American models happen in Europe (even more specifically - Germany). If you do start a business, Europe needs to be a major part of your decision making. -ConducTTor <

Alex, your point is one that has lurked in the back of my mind; considering price differentials existing between the two sides of the Atlantic, might it be that a reasonably priced TT item in the United States could be viewed as a bargain in Europe?

This leads nicely to another question. Is there enough of a TT scale market (whatever the geographic boundaries) for a tiny business, assuming it can develop valued TT locos, track, and rolling stock, to make a go of it? That is, who is the typical TT scale modeler, an individual who enjoys working with the arcane TT items that can be found here and there, or an individual who would prefer to have kits and RTR items similar to those available in the other scales?

Even though I'm age 64 and heading toward retirement from what I do now, as far as I know I'm in excellent health, always have done some weightlifting, some running. I'm serious about working hard and long at my own business, so I have to give TT scale work serious consideration: Is it worth the investment in time and effort that I intend to make? Or should I, reluctantly, move on to Plan B? With the right approach can TT scale not only survive, but thrive?

I'd love to have comments from anyone who wishes to make them.

Brian Chapman
Cedar Rapids, Iowa / USA
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Re: TT Scale Buisness

Postby ConnRiver » Sat Apr 11, 2015 2:34 pm

Bernd wrote:. . . The problem I see, at least from what I've seen on the forum is modelers wanting specific models and 100% accuracy. That's nice for the prototype modeler, but how about the guy that's just getting started and has no idea about the fine details that describe a certain make car. Take a lesson from Irv Athearn when he started out and look where his business went. He provided shake the box plastic kits that produced a boxcar, flat car, stock car even a Santa Fe caboose. Plain generic models for the beginners. I think that's what TT scale needs to get back into the public eye. I'm under the impression here that some want to run before they can even walk. Bernd


Bernd, I'm thinking the model railroad world has changed in so many ways since the 1950s, it would be hazardous to step back to that time as a way to re-introduce TT scale to today's 21st century modelers. TT models must compare favorably with HO and N scale models in order to be received with interest by other railroad modelers.

If we're not good now, those persons who view our models will dismiss us and in the future ignore us.

Brian
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Re: TT Scale Buisness

Postby Rob M » Sat Apr 11, 2015 2:48 pm

Bernd wrote:The question has been asked, "Would a TT scale business be viable in todays model railroad hobby market?"
Bernd


Yes, absolutely! But one needs to keep in mind that with the current TT market selling 50 of something would be considered a hot selling item. With that in mind you just need to find a way to keep overhead low enough to make enough profit to keep yourself interested in developing other items. For me that means switching over to resin casting.

I believe one of the main things holding back TT is the lack of a variety of motive power. The MTB SW's were a great addition but I think we need at least 4 more types of engines to get any real gains in the number of TTer's. Track and rolling stock is pretty much readily available.
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Re: TT Scale Buisness

Postby Tom Dempsey » Sat Apr 11, 2015 6:26 pm

I'm sure that some of you will take this as a negative comment, it isn't meant to be. Same conversation, different year.
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Re: TT Scale Buisness

Postby Rob M » Sat Apr 11, 2015 6:36 pm

Tom Dempsey wrote:I'm sure that some of you will take this as a negative comment, it isn't meant to be. Same conversation, different year.

True, but TT now has 3 guys with CNC machines for making things. With a coordinated effort things can (and will :wink: ) get better for the scale.
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Re: TT Scale Buisness

Postby ConducTTor » Sat Apr 11, 2015 10:00 pm

A big chunk of the people who want stuff, don't buy it if it becomes available. There are multiple excuses like "I want a different livery", "the door on the right side is a scale 1/4" too long", "I'm not interested any more", etc.

Anything I make will be in VERY limited quantities with an appropriate price. The few who are diehards will spend the money and I won't be stuck with financial losses. The rest probably wouldn't have bought anyway. Anything I resell for someone else will be limited to what I consider saleable and no more. No, I will not buy 500 flat cars to resell. Anything that there is interest in that I can make happen, money up front or it ain't happening.

Whatever I do make, I will take care to be as accurate as possible within reason (just like your favorite brand doesn't manufacture 100% accurate models).

Accuracy and prototypicality are very important as is getting things as close to RTR as possible.

While growing the scale is my #1 priority and I've spent a ton of money on this site, and on development of potential models, I have no intentions of being a martyr.
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Re: TT Scale Buisness

Postby ConducTTor » Sat Apr 11, 2015 10:21 pm

Another approach is to ask for a down payment on products. If you're going to make a box car that you'll sell for $50, ask for $10 from everyone who wants one. If there are enough people, it's a go and the down payment is non refundable. If not, you refund the money. Get your ducks in a row and be a serious business man - if a project doesn't work out and you don't refund the $$, no one will trust you and you're out of business.
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Re: TT Scale Buisness

Postby dileTTante » Sat Apr 11, 2015 10:28 pm

Some observations which might be relevant.

When oil prices dropped and the petroleum based economy tanked in Alberta, where CSD lives, I wondered whether he could carry on. I'm guessing this somehow has been a factor even though he doesn't say so.

And recently I heard a rumour in a local hobby shop that Atlas refused to pay increased prices for some manufacturing in China, and were unable to get back their fixtures, molds, dies, whatever.

And our local bargain store is finding it hard to compete with another store because, as an example, one of the suppliers has increased the minimum order for a product to a size the first store can't afford.

So I think we're seeing forces that make it difficult to market a small number of anything. There is as well the beginning shift away from the US dollar. Model railroading in all scales, not just TT will likely suffer.

I believe the alternative is what you fellows are proposing, local initiatives marketing through the internet.
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Re: TT Scale Buisness

Postby j p » Sun Apr 12, 2015 3:35 am

One more idea:
Make NA manufactured stuff available in EU and EU manufactured stuff available in US.
This would save some money. I prefer to spend my money on TT models, not on postage, fees, and import taxes.
read: who wants to be a distributor for NA? Rob Dikken can probably take care of the EU part.
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Re: TT Scale Buisness

Postby dileTTante » Sun Apr 12, 2015 5:45 am

j p wrote:who wants to be a distributor for NA?
Mark Sazavsky did and apparently it's not a viable idea.

We ran his models at the train shows and gave out information about his business.

And then there's the situation where one of our TT group works at the local model train store. Our exhibit at the shows is right beside the store's exhibit. Lots of people are interested in TT scale when they see it. And they want to know where they can get some. It would be really nice if we could point them to the store display right beside us. But after all these shows I have never seen a TT scale model for sale in the store.

Moreover this is the reality in the only part of North America where TT scale has been so strongly promoted.

My friends asked me about a train set to run around their Christmas tree. I got them something in HO. It was cheap. No matter the price there was nothing available in a shop or at the shows which I could buy for them in TT scale.

I can't figure it out, so I'll continue to take my trains to the shows and I'll talk to any and every person who is interested. But I know I can't tell them the things they want to hear.

If I ever see Mark again I'd like to buy him a beer.
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