Steam Decals

nw-modeling-list at nw-modeling-list at
Mon Dec 13 12:27:13 EST 2004

Interesting thread, one I  am sure the Board of Directors will discuss at some point. Steven's issues with the Society seem to go way beyond decals. But I'll just focus on the decal issue for the moment because I am one that would love to see certain decals produced by someone. And while I am your Publications Chairman, I am speaking only as a member.

First, there is no question there is a lack of decals for many N&W/VGN projects, in both scales. Try to do accurate VGN hoppers, cabooses, wreck cranes; try to do accurate N&W MofW equipment, small steamers, big steamers...the list could go on. (We have a great Tichy derrick in HO and no accurate decals for either road! And O scale doesn't even register on the scale.) On the other hand, we have several Society members who produce niche decal sets as commercial ventures with the result that we probably have as much of a selection as is available for any railroad other than the big three or four. 

The key words are commercial ventures. Each of them make decisions about how to spend limited time and resources, based in part on market demand and sales potential. If they thought/think there is sufficient market demand for the decals we would all like to see, no doubt they would take a shot at it, all the more so because, as Ken Miller points out, it is also a labor of love to some extent. They are all shown in the Commissary; drop them a line.

In my view the Society is no different. It is a "commercial" venture, albeit a tax-exempt one. It needs revenues (other than dues) to sustain its operations. That's why we have a sales department; that's why we publish materials for the benefit of members and others. But like any commercial venture, time, money and labor are limited. I know hours are spent discussing how best to allocate those items among all the potential projects...with varying levels of financial risk. Reviewing the Commissary, it seems to me one can get a feel for the kinds of products the Board believes have market potential. It looks to me like the Board balances outside products that don't require investment of scarce volunteer labor, with those that do. The choice to date has been to leave the production of models and related items to those in those businesses,...leaving some things, like to decals, to others who are better equipped to produce them, and to take the financial risk. 

In that vein, member and former Arrow editor Jim Brewer, under his Pocahontas Models banner, has followed up his aux. tender model with a great resin kit of the B-4/B-4A boxcars in HO, with excellent proprietary decals. Without the Archives, Jim could not have produced either model to the accuracy he demanded. 

Off the top of my head, if the Society were to produce and sell 1000 sets of small steam decals (which seems a stretch to me) at $5 each and made 20% on the sales, it would make $1000 and it would take a number of years to do it. For the time involved in putting that one project together, as Ken Miller points out, that doesn't seem like much of a return. That may be why none of the commercial guys have done some of these. 

Finally, I don't know anything about the inner workings of the C&O Society or how much it sells. $1 Million seems like a lot of jack for a historical society.  But its membership is much larger, it has been around longer, and it has been in the archives business longer. It has done a great job of producing materials from its collection, but if I assume Steven is correct about its sales, then I wonder why the COHS always seems short of money and makes constant appeals for more donations. Maybe bigger isn't necessarily better. Moreover, I don't see any COHS-produced decals in their lineup, despite obvious gaps in the decals available for the C&O/PM.

Just my thoughts, 

Bill McClure
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