4-8-0 "survey" results

NW Modeling List nw-modeling-list at nwhs.org
Thu Jul 30 13:28:47 EDT 2015

Frank et al:

In keeping current with this thread, I’ve been making some inferences (which could be wrong) and intend the following as constructive suggestion to a problem I think is arising.

One inference that seems warranted is that Frank is personally interested in a model that represents the 4-8-0 in the Strasburg collection.

Another inference from the responses made in the List that this specific interest isn’t as paramount in other modeler’s minds.  The sense I’m getting in particular is that the interest in specific tenders is very fractionated (with at least 4, possibly 5 legitimate contenders), and that the interest in specific sub-classes of the Mastodons is also very fractionated (with interest divided between three classes and three subclasses, let alone consideration of era-correlated minor appliances).

This is a really dangerous situation for a model producer to misunderstand—and could lead a well-intentioned producer to financial ruin.  In particular, the dozen or so participants (many amazingly erudite) in this thread DO NOT constitute a statistically significant sample of even the hard-core N&W HO steam locomotive model market.  Even assuming that Frank had 20 additional respondents answer his original question off the List, those responses would have had to be nearly identical in order for Frank to have any statistically meaningful basis for championing a specific Mastodon model configuration to a prospective model producer.  And if Frank DID get 20 or more additional responses that are highly consistent in their interest for a Strasburg version, I think all of us in the Modeling List would be very interested in seeing the raw data—not just a synopsis of it.

I absolutely do not want to kill this initiative.  But it doesn’t serve N&W modelers interests at all to have a model producer take a financial loss on a N&W project.  We all need the producers to achieve their financial objectives for a N&W model every single time, regardless of prototype or of model scale or construction.  That means we need to temper our enthusiasm and impulsive responses enough to accurately describe the commitments we can make and keep regarding our purchasing intents.

We haven’t done that so far in this forum, regarding a Mastodon project.  And given the fairly modest number of active participants in this forum compared to the N&WHS Membership at large, it doesn’t feel like a fair census of the likely prospective market has been made.  But I think that it would be possible to do so, and I think that the effort should be made to do so.

Here’s my concrete suggestion for an approach to doing this:
1)  Have really knowledgeable people active on this List assemble a list of the significant configuration of Mastodons (including class, subclass, tender, etc) used on the N&W.  State the era of effectivity of each configuration, the number of Mastodons so-configured, and add notes regarding the locations used.  [It would be cool if this could be done as a live wiki, rather than as individual posts!]  Once the arguing tamps down, we’ll all have a pretty cool understanding of how the N&W applied these beasts, and at least my (hopefully others’ as well) modeling efforts stand to benefit commensurately.  [If done as a wiki, and made available through the Society web site, the benefit of the knowledge gathered would be available to all Society members.  And how cool would it be to have a well-refereed wiki on EVERY piece of N&W and VGN equipment available from the Society web site.]
2)  Have really knowledgeable people active on this List assemble a list of all 4-8-0 and tender models produced in every scale since the Dawn of Time.  State the scale, state the model construction, comment on the fidelity, assess the availability and typical market price for each.  Once the arguing tamps down, we’ll all have a pretty cool understanding of whether our specific interests can be satisfied by past models, and at what price.  [Another wiki opportunity?]  Heck, one or two of us might end up happy!  (Hey, it’s possible.)
3)  Create a “Prospectus for Model” that includes the above information, and a simple matrix of Mastodon Configuration vs Model Features and Price Range (e.g., $350 - $400 DCC-Ready, Plastic; $400 - $450 DC/DCC, Hybrid; $450 - $500 DC/DCC-Sound, Hybrid; $500 - $550, DC/DCC-Sound, Hybrid, High Detail; -- whatever feature/price points the propsective model producer is interested in nominating) with blank spaces for for each configuration vs feature/price element in the matrix for us modelers to make serious expression(s) of intent in.  But here’s the additional key piece of information we need from the propsective producer:  The minimum market commit quantity s/he requires to commit to production for each configuration vs feature/price.
4)  Publish this Prospectus to the Modeling List.  Let the soul-searching and flaming begin.  Let each interested party work as hard as s/he wants to convince the other prospective buyers to commit to her or his favorite configuration vs feature/price model.  I’m betting that after a week or so, it will become apparent that there are two or three configuration vs feature/price model candidates that build significant support among the Model List participants that would actually commit to buying a Mastodon model.
5)  I’ll also take bets that there won’t be more that a dozen genuine commitments for any one configuration vs feature/price models as a result of scrumming this on the Modeling List.  (We are a rare, contentious breed.)  But what we WILL have are two or three configuration vs feature/price candidate models that are historically justified, are historically significant, have a known place in the history of models produced to date, and have some passionate core support.
6)  Cull the Prospectus down to those two or three significant configuration vs feature/price candidates, and publish that smaller Prospectus in The Arrow, inviting the full membership to fill out an electronic survey regarding their purchasing expectations if any of those candidates was brought to market.  Include the objective prototype and use facts of each configuration, and the past model history (if any) of each.  Also allow one champion of each configuration vs feature/price model candidate to write a short “Impassioned Support” advocacy for it, and add these to the Arrow article.  Impress on everybody our self-interest in being rigorously honest in the survey responses, but make it easy to respond to via “Likelihood to Buy” response on a scale of 1-5, while also enabling capture of ad hoc comments.
7)  Give the prospective producer access to the full responses (including ad hoc comments) from the survey of (6).  Let her/him make an informed decision regarding whether to produce any of the configurations, based on the objective evidence from the survey.

An additional thought:  The specific interest in tender configurations brought to light in this thread so far lead me to believe that a producer might have a significantly larger market for certain tender types than for complete Mastodon models.  Having a separate market for a good model of a scarcely modeled tender might enable a producer to generate a bit more revenue, and benefit many of us at the same time.  So choice of tender in nominating candidate Mastodon configurations could be important for several reasons.

I volunteer to generate the Prospectuses and write the Arrow article (except for the Impassioned Support stuff) for this.  But the necessary ingredients for success here will be engagement by the really knowledgeable “Mastodonians” on the Modeling List, and solid engagement by the prospective producer, so that the Prospectuses reflect prototype and model production realities.

Doing this right should catch the interest of other producers, and could encourage a bias among producers toward N&W and legacy RR projects.

It might even be fun!

-Eric Bott

From: NW-Modeling-List [mailto:nw-modeling-list-bounces at nwhs.org] On Behalf Of NW Modeling List via NW-Modeling-List
Sent: Wednesday, July 29, 2015 9:49 AM
To: NW Modeling List
Cc: NW Modeling List
Subject: Re: 4-8-0 "survey" results

I'd really love to see this project come to life but I think doing at least some other tenders would be the best way to sell them. The unfortunate thing is the 433 and 475 both have the USRA tenders and that's what will probably be used as a reference. I think doing the 12A (396) and 9A (as built) tenders would be a much better idea and more welcome to most modelers. The 9A by NWSL is very common on the feebay market in brass but the 12A (Sunset & PSC) is pretty scarce. Maybe do the 12A and the USRA tenders?

Just my 2¢,

Roger Huber
Deer Creek Locomotive Works

From: NW Modeling List <nw-modeling-list at nwhs.org<mailto:nw-modeling-list at nwhs.org>>
To: NW Modeling List <nw-modeling-list at nwhs.org<mailto:nw-modeling-list at nwhs.org>>
Sent: Wednesday, July 29, 2015 6:39 AM
Subject: Re: 4-8-0 "survey" results

The tender on 475 was not used on very many M’s.  They used larger tenders.  This would allow for many more numbers/runs.  The extra axles will provide better electrical pick-up too.
Mark Lindsey
Stuck in the 1930’s

From: NW-Modeling-List <nw-modeling-list-bounces at nwhs.org<mailto:nw-modeling-list-bounces at nwhs.org>> on behalf of NW Modeling List <nw-modeling-list at nwhs.org<mailto:nw-modeling-list at nwhs.org>>
Reply-To: NW Modeling List <nw-modeling-list at nwhs.org<mailto:nw-modeling-list at nwhs.org>>
Date: Tuesday, July 28, 2015 at 12:06 PM
To: NW Mailing List <nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org<mailto:nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org>>, NW Modeling List <nw-modeling-list at nwhs.org<mailto:nw-modeling-list at nwhs.org>>
Subject: 4-8-0 "survey" results

I thought I should share the results.  We got a significant number of suggestions (mostly tactful, some not)that we clarify which M we were talking to the manufacturer/importer about.  Our discussions hadn't reached that level, as we were simply exploring the possibility of a "low price" N&W 4-8-0.  The results of the survey made it clear that our best bet is the M, specifically the way it looks (tender, fittings, etc.)at Strasburg today.  It is clear to most of our members that some mass-market appeal will, we think, substantially increase the viability of this project.

I got some comments about getting my M, M-1, and M-2 straighter in my mind.  I don't have it where I want it, but I'm a lot closer than I was two weeks ago (thank you, again, and as always, Col. Jeffries and Harold Davenport).

We got a good number of "You should do the M in a version with variations, especially tenders"; we're going to pass that on, but the cost-effectiveness of that will be determiend by the manufacturer/importer.

We got a good number of "Instead of an M you guys should do []".  We're listening to all of that, but some are probably less likely than others.  I'd like an LC-2, but I'm not holding my breath.

And, we got a surprising number of "at that price I'd be interested in one or two".  I'm quite pleased we did this.

We forwarded the results and constructive suggestions to the manufacturer/importer.  We've been asked to keep "his" name quiet for the time being.  It's not Broadway, but we're looking at that type of model with that level of quality and in that price ballpark.  We will keep you posted as to what happens next.

For those of you who replied with expressions interest and constructive suggestions/comments/cirticism, thank you.

Frank Bongiovanni, NWHS Modeling Committee

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