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Just Wondering

11432 Views 87 Replies 29 Participants Last post by  rbednarik
I was wondering if it might not be a good option for Accucraft to offer their engines in a "Custom tuned version"? When someone places their order they could take their chances on getting a good runner, or pay extra upfront and be assured that it would be. There are other products that are offered this way, why not Accucraft Loco's. If you are mechanically inclined and like to tinker you can take your chances with what is right of the assembly line, and if not up to par, get it running right yourself. If not, (Like me) it would be well worth the extra money charged to get a well tuned runner right out of the box. As it is now, if you have problems you spend a lot of time and shipping expense to and from Accucraft for warranty work, let alone the chances you take with the shippers messing up your prized Loco in route. I think many would be happy to pay more to get a good runner up front and avoid the hassles down the road. What do you think? :)
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(Flame-proof suit on)... I have no vested interest in defending Accucraft, but I have to say that I don't think some of you are being very fair. It seems to me that you want an Aster-level product for an Accucraft price. You wouldn't expect to buy a Mercedes or a Porsche for a the price of a Hyundai, nor would you expect Harley Davidson performance from a Vesta. Like Hyundai or Vespa, Accucraft makes an "everyman's" steam locmotive, and they sell them for a price people can afford. Those of you who prefer "top of the line" and are willing to spend the bucks, by all means buy an Aster. Those of us who either can't or are unwilling to spend that kind of money will continue to happily run our Accucraft locos, and there are thousands of Accucraft locos out there running right along that have had absolutely no issues and no mods.

I currently have eight steam locomotives (not counting my Ruby and Ft. Wilderness), of which six are Accucraft. Of these eight, only two have been modified - I reversed the eccentrics on my Mich-Cal #2 - not because it didn't run well right out of the box, but because I wanted to try it, and yes, it did help it run smoother at very slow speeds in forward - but it also ran very well before - not as well, but very well. #21 was tuned and modified by Dave Hottmann before I ever bought it from him.
Accucraft sells well-running highly detailed live steam locomotives for a very reasonable price. They have single-handedly revolutionized the live steam hobby by making it possible for many to afford it. Do they have their glitches and bad ones? Of course - so do car makers, appliance makers, and the company I work for. Could they improve their product? Of course... but for a price. I'm more than happy with them as they now are. Those who aren't should simply fork over the cash and buy something else from someone else.

not what is cost saving (Accucraft already receives a discount in manufacturer through China work force) for the higher profits.
That's at least the second time you've made such a statement Charles. I seriously doubt that you are privy to the financial information, business model, and profit margin of Accucraft. That may be your opinion, but that's all it is... an opinion unsupported by any real facts. "Profit" isn't a dirty word, and the capitalistic system that makes possible the standard of living we all enjoy is supported by it. Were it not for "profits", you and I would be unemployed and this argument would be moot, because we'd all be too worried about where our next meal was coming from to worry about model trains.
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Hello Charles, I'm not sure, but I think that you are making my point?????? /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/blink.gif Guys like you and the others mentioned keep figuring out these Accucraft problems, but we do not see them put into production at the assembly end on new runs of Loco's. (as of yet that is) It is still very hit or miss on running ability, assembly and over all quality control. These are no longer $600.00 Locos but 3.5K and up Accucraft engines. Hit or miss should no longer apply.
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Dwight - The sad part is that all the locos you speak of generally run better out of the box than say a GS4, Cabfoward or a K series loco. I have about 9 locos from all different manufacturers, dam really..... and the 2cyl Shay, Mogul and Rubys all ran very well out of the box. My K28 had some minor timing issues but did run but lumpy. Nevermind having to clean all the fuel parts IE Tank and manifold for some dirt issues. Yet another issue that can be taken care of at the factory. Now timing that was not as easy as the Ruby but I was able to handle it. Spending 400 for a Ruby or 1200 for a mogul I can accept a small bit of work but spending 4500 on a loco I dont expect anytiing to have to be done.

As for wanting more features in a loco like workign valve gear or axlepumps for longer run times. Others have been doing if for a long time not just Aster, things like that may bring up the price a few dollars but the issue is you CANT go somewhere else and get the loco if you want these features. Aster will not produce any narrowgauge stuff due to the amount of Accucraft stuff on the market anyway.

O well I wont go on anymore abotu this....
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but spending 4500 on a loco I dont expect anytiing to have to be done.
And just how much would you think an Aster K-28/K-36 would cost if they did make it? Or an Aster Cab Forward? We already know how much the Aster GS-4 cost. My point is don't expect to get an Aster for 1/3rd the money.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not bashing Aster in any way - ****, I don't even own one, have never run one, and therefore have no opinion about them pro or con (other than they cost more than I want to plunk down - besides, I'm a Narrow Minded SOB and broadgauge doesn't appeal to me ;) ).

It hasn't been all that long since one had to be willing to build their own locomotives if they wanted something not mass produced (and few things were mass produced). The same is true of the smaller scales. Scratchbuilding structures and rolling stock is becoming more and more rare these days as people want instant gratification. Buy it and plunk it down on the layout seems to be the current philosophy. Axel pumps and fully functional valve gear can be added if one really wants them.
I would make an analogy in HO scale of yesterday between Bowser or Tyco and imported brass. The imported brass had all the separate piping, castings, and detail one might want, but it cost several times as mush as a Bowser or Tyco. Those that couldn't, or didn't wish to, pay the price for the brass could buy the Bowser or Tyco and either buy and add additional detail castings or live with less detailed locomotives on their layout. IMHO, the same principle applies here. Accucraft are well detailed and well running and will satisfy most of us. Those who demand the ultimate in performance and gizmos can either fork over the higher price and buy something else that will (hopefully) live up to their expectations, or pay the lesser price and add things like axle pumps, etc. and tune them to meet their satisfaction.

Aster will not produce any narrowgauge stuff due to the amount of Accucraft stuff on the market anyway.
From some of the commentary in this thread, it sounds to me like Aster is missing a real marketing opportunity. ;)
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Steve, et. al

You have hit the nail on the head, a little skewed, but still in the board. As one of your claimed "locosmiths" I can say from the 12 combination lever retrofits along with other various modifications on GS-4's and a few other Accucraft's (C-16's and one K series) that there is a valid marketplace for your idea. My question to you is, why pay extra here, when you shouldn't pay extra for a proper working live steam engine elsewhere?

I commend the company on bringing us affordable models in our community, but I fear for their longevity as their QC and R&D has stood still while their customer base has expanded it's knowledge, with that expansion in knowledge comes higher expectations of the future models.

The preceding is NOT about Aster v. Accucraft or "X" manufacturer does this, so "Y" company should too, but rather posting of a customer feedback and my personal opinion. Simple things that should be/have been ironed out before, or even after the models went into production, no excuses considering the manpower and numerous suggestions/feedback that have been given for nearly every model.
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No fire suite necessary....
You are correct- IMHO; but there are two points of common knowledge that allows me to offer such a conclusion:
Chinese workers â€" who usually make less than $100 a month â€" earn just 3% of Japanese and 2% of U.S. wages. Secondly, Accucraft's NG techniques on SG related to functional parts of steam delivery and usage is low end cost production (non-working combo levers vs. working). These two factors alone will result in higher profit. I have no objection to profit, only when it is a short term gain vs. long term growth and health of the hobby.
We do differ in what is expected and what is fundamental to a proper running engine. Our points of reference are different with NG and SG background. I make my conclusions based on the proven standards of what can be and should be included (apples to apples) and conclude that Accucraft can afford to "get it right" with a greatly discounted price to their customer.
Steve- Spot on!
Jay- Locomotive running correctly; even the basic Ruby need functional correction.
Finally, I personally appreciate Accucraft for their SG offerings in that have allowed me to better understand and establish reference points of excellence in the hobby. I truly admire and salute the high quality that is necessary to be the best in the hobby. For my perspective one should not design a SG engine on NG fundamentals. Finally, I am not sure what lesson Accucraft learned from the GS4, but maybe the other SG production models will prove out either lesson learned or opportunity missed.
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I did not read through this whole topic so I may be repeating....actually this Accucraft-Aster-Quality topic never seems to end. It is very disappointing that Accucraft is still shipping locos that do not even run out of the box and have some deep mechanical issues. I've always tried to see the positive in Accucraft but I'll admit I'm worn pretty thin at this point. One of the problems is- what are the alternatives for someone who wants a 1:20.3 C-16, C-19, C-21, K-27, K-28, or K-36 in live steam?? Is there another choice? It seems that no matter what happens, a lot of us still line up and lay down cash for Accucraft engines. So long as the money keeps coming in, I don't think there will a big change (I really hope I'm wrong).
Dwight, I have a car for you, It cost 1/3 the price of a Rolls Royce, but it lacks a few features. No a/c, and it has a top speed of 65mph, it comes with an inline 6 cyl designed in 1945, and a 2 speed automatic transmission. Now it may or may not run on all 6 cylinders, but you can take it to your local mechanic and let him "tune" it, or you can pay to have it towed back to the dealer and try your luck on another one. But its a great deal it seats 6 people and gets 19 mpg with the windows down. I cheap to fill up the 8.5 gallon tank, and you can put your new 7.5" gauge engine in the trunk, with room left over for several NG engines and rolling stock to go with.... This pretty car in made by a new car company.. Accucraft. I think they used to make model trains and their QC reputation proceeds them..
Hey you said you had your flame proof suit on so I had to try it out.... This post is for entertainment "poke a stick in their eye" FUN,
only ! Accucraft IS the only game in town for NG, just think they could do a tad better for you Narrow Minded folks.
BTW you new engine looks like a good project, guess the gauge one stuff's going to collect lots of dust now!!
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Used to be when you bought a new car, there was an add-on to the price that was designated as "Dealer Prep"? The car did NOT work well direct from the factory, it required a "tune up" first. For that matter, the last NEW car I got, was missing a couple of trim screws, a couple of bolts needed tightening and the bumper was crooked!
So are you saying the "Dealers" should be "tuning" the engines before delivery ??? Not sure their going to like their new responsibility..Are they going to have to be factory "trained""? ???
Jeff - water off a duck's back. :D As has everyone, I stated my personal opinion - no better nor worse than everyone else's. And I didn't say one should buy a car and expect it not to run. I did say that one can't pay for a Hyundai and reasonably expect a Porsche. :)

Charles - if the cost of copper, brass, stainless, etc. in this country is any indication, I expect more and more of Accucraft's funds are being eaten up in materials. Much of the grunt work is I'm sure automated (stamping, machining, etc.) so the main cost difference would be in jobs requiring primarily human labor such as assembly and testing. I'm sure you are quite correct that the cost is cheaper in China. Then there are shipping costs and customs fees, delivery costs on this side of the pond. Then there are advertising fees. I see more ads for Accucraft than for Aster.

So exactly what percentage of total cost involves Chinese labor I have no clue, but I would think that makes up a large percentage of any overall production savings Accucraft enjoys. Considering the retail price differential, I wouldn't expect their profits to be extreme, but then again, I don't really know either when you come right down to it.

Anyway, I've said my piece and will now shut up for a while. :D
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Posted By Dwight Ennis on 05/18/2008
Aster will not produce any narrowgauge stuff due to the amount of Accucraft stuff on the market anyway.
From some of the commentary in this thread, it sounds to me like Aster is missing a real marketing opportunity. ;)" border=0>

In a conversation with Hans he mentioned that a K28 in steam would run at least 7,000 but would need to produce and sell about 200 pcs. Now how many out there would step up to the plate to that and say Id rather have that scale built boiler that runs meths and has an axle pump and proper valve gear with the ability to run for hours..With the already 100 pcs of K27 and 100 K28 and the 50 K36 going to be out there where is the market.....We know Accucraft CAN produce the extras on their locos, after all they have all the valve gear parts already just at the wrong pivot point and needs to have less slop. To a point thats basically all that needs to be done to take a GS4 from non working to working combo levers. Of course retrofitting is not a bolt on job but at the factory it would be just normal assembly. Now if Aster came out with say a Sumpter Valley Mallet I think they would sell and since they have the backround in the articulated locos I know it would be a fine runner. But again it is back to how many would the market bear and probally over 8-9,000 looking at the Garrett going for around 12,000.
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Posted By JEFF RUNGE on 05/18/2008 8:32 PM
So are you saying the "Dealers" should be "tuning" the engines before delivery ??? Not sure their going to like their new responsibility..Are they going to have to be factory "trained""? ???

Yes, if we follow the paradigm of auto manufacture and distribution. I don't call that the "BEST" paradigm, but it is one that works... err... maybe... kind'a... almost... ??? /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/ermm.gif

It would eliminate the locos that are damaged in the "sea" trip (though do nothing for what the domestic shippers do to them afterwards). This is actually what some have called for here... ship it initially to a particular steam Guru for "Dealer Prep" and they then deliver it.

I am sure that some of that is done now and is done "pro bono" amongst "friends", which is probably okay for the "friends" on a onesy-twosy basis. Some may be done on a gratuity basis and maybe some have been done on an hourly rate or "cost plus", but the number that have been done that way is probably very low (per guru).

I understand that at Diamondhead it is done on a 24 hour basis, and little, if any, "remuneration" changes hands!

I wonder, what would our "steam guru's" that frequent MLS would charge for this service? Someone here stated they would be willing to spend a couple hundred for it... is that "enough" to make it worth while to anyone?
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One more thing... if there is any "factory training" to be done, it would probably be best if the local steam guru went to China to do the training of the factory! :)
Take a friends C19 Locally my friend spent 4 hours just to get it to limp around the track. It was sent back and worked on by Dave and over 20 hours later it is better then it would ever be from the factory. And no I dont think that a couple hundred would of covered it. Just 100 for shipping there and back plus maybe like 400 more. Shawe charges something like 100 an hr. In the US that converts to about 200. Ouch And his back log is years on a waiting list.
Why would a "Aster Snob" like myself even care?????? Well, I have heard that Accucraft is taking orders for a S.P. 2-10-2 just like the engine that sits on static display outside of Minute Maid field here in Houston. That engine was last inspected by my Grand Dad many years ago. Every time I drive past it I feel like I am seeing a old member of my family. So, for the first time I am getting the hankering for a Accucraft engine /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/shocked.gif (I know Jeff, say it aint so......it's sentimental reasons only). Every engine that I own has been factory built and runs great. Because I am not a tinker'er, builder, or good at adjusting /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/blush.gif I have some concerns about buying a Accucraft engine. All I can do is run em' and tighten the occasional bolt and screw that gets loose from running. I do not want a engine that needs to be rebored, retimed, steam admission changed, resprung, or sent back and forth for warranty work until it runs right. I think I could maybe get used to the valve gear being backwards but that should have been changed years ago too. Maybe this is asking too much for a engine from Accucraft in the 4 to 5K price range. The Factory built Aster Mikado and P8 are in this price range and run great right out of the box. Not all Asters are over 5K.
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Charles M,

You have a PM.


The best thing I can say is to wait and see on the F4/5. I highly doubt the engine will see production until late spring 2009, perhaps even fall.
Once again, you have hit the nail on the head. Even the Aster mikado, a BASIC engine by their standards (Kits didn't even come with an axle pump or handpump) had PROPER working valve gear and correctly dimensioned ports.
And having three Shawe built coal fired engines, I can tell everyone that when he delivers one of his engines it is as close to perfection as one can get.:D/DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/laugh.gif

The engines are well worth the cost and the wait. /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/satisfied.gif

They are ready to run out of the box. And the Shawe engines really are a bargain when you consider he not only builds a boiler he also assembles an engine. /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/whistling.gif:)
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Agreed, John is one of the most respected steam mechanics, plus it's practically his life! He's also a great guy to know and willing to help with just about any engine issue. He finished our K-4 conversion and it runs, well, like a proper engine should. It's a shame the pound-dollar ratio has made the conversions so much more than even four years ago, but they are still worth every penny.
Not matter of the car either being a Hyundai or Porsche both come "tuned" (which is not what dealer prep does) with proper operating systems: overdrive, correct exhaust, valve, gears, and trouble free fuel system, etc as standard equipment.
For me this is not Aster vs Accucraft but Hyundai vs. Porsche in that NG and SG locomotives relative to productions by Accucraft.
Accucraft should not be putting the Hyundai parts in a Porsche. Purchasing a SG engine one should get the proper components and output for a SG engine.

This situation was discussed in 2006 at great length.

Given that it has resurfaced maybe there is some need to voice the "out of the box" problems to Accucraft. Interesting to re-read the thread in 2006 and Brooks communication he shared:
"My objection is the Loss of Quality, both of Manufacturing and Engineering at Accucraft. The company has, perhaps for the reasons Chris cited above (death of a principal), gone downhill. Since this thread started, I've received a confidential email from a person who, for business reasons, can't publicly speak. The Quality problem, according to her, is worse than I imagined/experienced. Of the 4 products Acc. has made for her firm, the first was Superb, "The production model was better than the prototype", while the last was Abysmal -- "Never should have left the factory" were the phrases she used. I trust the writer because she had no reason to lie to me about this decline in quality. In fact, since she wishes me to buy the products produced for her firm by Acc. her incentive would have been the other way. She is worried that this loss of quality may force her firm to search for a new supplier (and asked me for advice on that score, which is why she wrote to me in the first place). As it has been pointed out several times in this thread, Acc. is the lowest cost supplier out there, so it's a big decision for her firm - is the price increase of using a different supplier going to kill her company's sales?." "I was struck recently by the comments of a very experienced steamer, an man who has built locos from scratch for 40 years: he had put his Accucraft loco on the shelf because he could not get it to fire and the frustration was too much. A year or so later he decided to try again, built a new part, and had success. I wonder how many lesser-experienced steamers out there have shelved their locos? " "I might add that nowhere in Accucraft advertisements do I see any phrase like "This might not run right out of the box, but with some work on your part it will likely be chugging along in a satisfactory manner." According to their ads, they are not selling "fixer-uppers."

The reason I selected Brooks is not for his stand on QC but the absence of his voice relative to the this forum and the hobby as a whole. Might that reflect a loss of a "customer" and problem at hand....

Accucraft words not mine:
"...we are committed to nothing short of excellence regarding the product."

I guess I am to the point of frustration with Accucraft SG production. It is one thing to be excused for mistakes on a "first" attempt it is another to know those short comings, been given solutions and then repeat the situation thus establishing a sub par standard for SG.
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