Model Reviews

NW Modeling List nw-modeling-list at
Sat Jan 31 17:24:54 EST 2015

This is indeed a great thread and discussion!

We all have a stake in getting models right-- or at least making informed trades.  For example, in the past year or two BLI brought out the Wabash "Bluebird" train.  The models were beautiful, but inaccurate, and shunned by many modelers who had saved up their money with the intent of buying something unusual and well done.  Maybe BLI decided they couldn't justify the retooling expense; maybe they just didn't do their research; maybe they didn't know where to go for hard data.  But they probably "learned" not to produce models for a railroad that doesn't have the fan base of PRR, or UP or BNSF, or... .  So we, the modelers, will have fewer almost-mass-market choices in the future.

I enjoy the brass models that have been produced from the mid-1990's on.  Their price always feels extravagant, but when you consider that with the current customer base, that it's rare when a brass model is produced in quantities over 100 (total, all road numbers, paint schemes and variants), that the current models contain 500 - 1250 individual parts, and that (most of them) are well researched and pretty darn faithful to their prototype, well... .  

I also understand the gripe expressed in this thread about the "announcement" of models that never seem to appear.  I'm like many of you who live in terror of the possibility that all of the "announced" models I have on order will be produced and land in the USA on the same day-- I'll need a 2nd mortgage to redeem my commitments!  But if an importer guesses market demand wrong by 40%, he takes a bath on the model.  So, "announcing" a model is their way of gauging the market for it-- by seeing how many pre-orders the model attracts.  This routinely occurs in the brass, hybrid, and plastic model market.

I think there are things that the Society could do that would help us, the Society, and maybe the manufacturers and importers as well.  Here are some, and I hope that many others will get added to this list for the Society members to think through and implement-- or not, where good reasons to refrain become apparent:

1)  When a new N&W or VGN model is announced, have the Society archivists assemble a comprehensive list of all the data, drawings, etc, available for purchase from the archives.  Assemble this into a handy order sheet, and send it out with the next Arrow, and stand by to take orders.  I know that I want all of the hard data I can get in my hands when I look at photos of pilot models, or models that have landed in my local hobby shop-- and would be delighted to purchase from the archives what I obviously wouldn't if I didn't know it existed!

2)  When a new N&W or VGN model is "announced", contact the Membership through the Arrow.  Poll us regarding what we would pay for (for example) an AG with different levels of fidelity (pivoting rear engine, non-conforming sand domes, cast-on piping, [and the alternatives], etc.)  Poll us as to what eras, variants or paint schemes we'd be most willing to pay for.  Send this data, plus the archive artifacts described above free gratis to the importer and producer.  (Hey, so what if this costs $200?  How many N&W and VGN models get announced a year, other than (yet) another Y-6b, or an AC-somethingorother??)  Let's, as a Society, try to get in front of this problem, rather than bemoan the 'stupidity of the damn importers' after the fact!

3)  Offer to collaborate with the importer to develop the "announced" models.  We've got plenty of rivet-counters in the Society (yes, I HAVE done it), and even some elders who remember paint colors-- just read this string!  Maybe they would be willing to review model drawings, dimensions, and paint schedules with the importer after "announcement" and before pilot model production or die cutting?  What higher purpose could we put ourselves to, than to see N&W and its legacy railroads remembered correctly in our models???  And, I'd bet that forestalling even one "obvious" error in a model design would take fewer hours than a single modeler amending one instance of a model error after the fact.

4)  There are enough Society Members who maintain knowledgeable vigilence of "announcements" of models of prototypes similar to those of the N&W and VGN prototypes that the Membership shouldn't ever be surprised when these models pop up.  So, WHY DID RIVAROSSI CUT THEIR DIES FOR THE H8, RATHER THAN FOR THE AG?  Isn't the VGN the much cooler Railway than the C&O?  What is our membership count vs the C&O Historical Society's?  Let's figure out what power we have collectively, and wield it.  If we get in front of these things, with a clear voice and with manifest buying power and intent, we might not have to settle for incorrect sand domes.

Your ideas go here...

-Eric Bott
Saint Peters, MO 
(Hey, Jerome!)

-----Original Message-----
From: NW-Modeling-List [mailto:nw-modeling-list-bounces at] On Behalf Of NW Modeling List via NW-Modeling-List
Sent: Saturday, January 31, 2015 12:10 PM
To: NW Modeling List
Subject: Re: Model Reviews

I agree that the timeliness of a review is critical. In these days of limited production runs based on pre-orders and short runs a review would be based on something that has either come and gone or otherwise reasonably unavailable. Even considering this I still think a review would be of benefit to the membership as if one looks around these "out of production" and "Sold Out" items are indeed available at many hobby shops and places like feedbay, larger shops and individuals. 

I don't think the Arrow would be the best place to review modeling items due to the time factor getting it published and to the members. I think the NW Modeling List and electronic methods would probably be best for these things. I believe the Arrow would be a good place to deal with more common and stable things such as books, DVDs and that sort and maybe even brass items that have been around for a long time. Modeling articles based on these would be welcome, I'm sure.

A review is only as good as the reviewers knowledge, which brings up another serious question. Does the reviewer have facts and data, emotions and opinions or what else is the basis for his comments. The discussion on the VGN AG has already brought out many facts and opinions of just what is "acceptable" in a model and what is an abomination. The swiveling rear engine, domes, stoker, tender, paint, lettering and several other things are apparently not 100% accurate. I think these things should definitely be brought to light in any review. A review should be as critical as possible to enlighten possible buyers without getting into opinions. Facts are facts and need to be backed up. What you choose to do with the information is up to you. Some are appalled by these things....others accept them. Everyone has their limits. With all the things brought out so far I like the AG and I'm glad to see it's just not another C&O H-8 with Virginian on the tender. At  least they tried and semi-failed! I do not care for the lettering being too high and the wrong color as well as the cab windows but as a custom painter those items are very important to me. To others the domes or swiveling rear engine are a "no go" as to a purchase. Whatever bothers you should be brought out in a review so YOU can make a decision as to whether to buy or not. A critical review isn't necessarily a condemnation or a negative thing. It just states facts. I would hope we would do a more valuable and honest review than MR. I realize they have to pacify their advertisers and basically endorse their products so can't really come down too hard but they often get it wrong or omit significant items of importance to use as collectors and modelers. In all fairness I also understand they have reviewers totally unfamiliar with whatever they are reviewing. I do hope if we elect to pursue some review format we rectify that situation. No one would be  more qualified to critique N&W/VGN models than some of our enlightened members. The closer to home the more valuable the information would be to all of us.

A critical review can also have some far reaching consequences. Some manufacturers are rather sensitive about their products and take a critical review as a slap in the face and they run away mad. Some accept it as a wake-up call. They can either not make anything else in that area or seek further assistance in their next creation. I've worked with manufacturers who have gone both ways. In this information age and with all the great historical societies all they need do is ask and the help & information is there. Unfortunately they often don't ask. Sometimes it's a matter of economics such as a C&O H-8 being morphed into an AG and saving the terrible expense of new die work for an accurate boiler.

I'd be glad to assist with any reviews or anything the Society needs. I don't consider myself an expert at anything but I have 55+ years of modeling experience, have a rather huge library & photo/information collection, have been painting railroad models since 1973 and have inspected commercial aircraft for 35 years and I'm rather particular and critical of things so I may have something of value to offer....maybe not!

My 2¢+,
Roger Huber
Deer Creek Locomotive Works
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