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Just Wondering

11431 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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Accucraft may be taking some of this to heart. While I am not an insider, I get the impression that the delay in the 4-4-0 was in part to get things
better before shipment.
CHARLES please run this by me again ! chinese labour is less than $100 per month , and only 2% of US wages. This equates to the average US wage being $20,000 per month ? and you crib about a couple of thousand bucks for a loco. I am sure your figures are wrong , but nevertheless it is totally irrelevant to the price of a loco. Try building a gauge 1 steamer from scratch and see how many hours are consumed , even when you are building something that someone else has already designed. Now when you have built one and sorted all the inevitable faults that were present , tool the job for production , make the necessary jigs and patterns and you will rapidly find that the return on your investment is very small. These are model loco's not autos and sales will rarely justify the cost of developing a new model from scratch - unless the price tag is such that people like you baulk at it. Designing and building a model is a labour of love and not inconsiderable skill so please don't de-value it for the sake of a few dollars that MAY be saved by sourcing some parts in Asia.
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I do not believe I have "... de-value it for the sake of a few dollars that MAY be saved by sourcing some parts in Asia." I am indicating the true valve of what you get in the realm of Standard Gauge by Accucraft.

I do believe that you might be incorrect with "sourcing some parts in Asia" if you are referencing Accucraft. As to my knowledge the entire production is done in China. The savings considerable. Labor rates along with materials and bulk shipping along with many factors determine cost and profit. So, one cannot dimiss labor rates as beginning totally irrelevant(otherwise bring the production to the USA)as to mass production of a product.

As for the labor rates, if you happened to have read a related post by John on fixing locos via Dave Hottman, the quoted rates were from an economist who did the comparison. If you need to question them, look him up. I believe the math to be more towards $60000 per year plus change(probably without inclusion of benefits)60K/12*2%=$100/month across the nation from the poor rural/inner city to the higher earners of NJ Cal, Conn etc. Here is a job growth report. Please note the $$$ indicated about an average of $35.5 for a college degree in teaching with the most growth potential. Non-college, lack of experience or specialize training about $25K. The overall average between $20K and $43.6K for average of $31.8K (or about $50/month Chinese) Take a look at the report(porjects 2004-2014 and the economy was good in 2004)US Department of Labor:

Whether or not I can afford an engine for $4449 is not the major point but certainly relevant to every hobbyist budget, lifestyle and other obligations. The point was whether or not for my hard earned money, my pleasure of a hobby should require either skills or extra money to get the locomotive to perform. I say- NO! In fact the premise of this whole discussion is whether there should be "custom tuning offered" which related to performance as determined by draw bar power or tractive effort(MO). For example how can one develop an adjustable exhaust nozzle at this level and for what price relative to cost and performance? Cannot and would not make sense. Yet, there are some fundamental parts that could be established during the mass production (combo levers base line cost were $70 per set plus shipping on a 25 set minimum + extra labor: 6 hours)so about additional $100 to the total cost for a SG level of performance. You going to have to show me the spreadsheet that indicates the cost to be more or that it reduces the profit margin in such a manner as to make it cost prohibitive not to have installed the levers from the factory.

BTW- I know what it cost, the number of hours and the skills required based on the many, many hours of retrofitting said productions for pennies on the dollar allowing fellow hobbyist to have a good running and properly functioning engine. If my fellow hobbyists had to spend what I did in R & D to obtain the necessary parts I can guarantee that they would not have purchased the base line engine to begin with.

Finally, placing my name in BOLD and CAPS can be constured as a negative and disrespectful.
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Could you tell me the Kwan article with the info you quoted.

Email sent
If I have been disprespectful then I apologise and I certainly do not want to be negative ,but as an engineer attempting to make a living from producing quality loco's and parts I can assure you that there is no pot o'gold in model making, I could probably earn more per hour cutting grass, but there would be no satisfaction for me doing that. The figures quoted in the post work out to the average american earning $20,000 per MONTH and this was the reason for my reply.
If Accucraft is not making a profit,they would not be in business.
Thanks for understanding about the name situation.
I sent you an email
...Simple! Because that is all we are willing to pay for...

I disagree, especially at the price points we're talking about. We're not talking Christmas set trains here. I would expect to have troubles with a New Bright set, but the four figures I'm paying for that includes the two after the decimal point. The trains we're discussing are in no way aimed at the mass market. They're aimed at the discriminating enthusiast who (a) appreciates quality and (b) has the financial ability to pay for it. Implicit in that price is the notion that these trains are top-drawer both in finish and operation. The company promotes themselves as builders of "museum quality" models, not "good enough, but..." When a manufacturer bases their business model on that level of fit and finish, things darned well better run out of the box.

If you've read my reviews of their locos in GR, you've undoubtedly seen where I've pointed out what--to me--are very nonsensical defects that are easily correctable at the factory. Why they let locos leave the factory with those kinds of flaws simply boggles the mind and I have no qualms with letting them know about it. If I'm paying $4K for a locomotive, I want window glazing in all the windows, not just most of them. I want add-on details to actually fit where they're supposed to be added on.

It seems completely crazy to me to even contemplate that I'm expecting too much for my money, and I should accept it with those shortcomings because--after all--getting this loco at $4K is a bargain. Not in the financial circles I travel in.


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But, I don't think we should be expecting trouble from New Bright, either. No matter who sells it at whatever price, the product should work out of the box.
I agree that what comes out of the box should work, whether it is a New Bright, Accucraft or Aster.

But those three brands offer product at widely different prices.


I cannot answer with "absolutes" as I have no idea what the processes are that produce the products or what they cost or what the profit margin is for any of the companies.

TO ME, it is obviously a difference in raw material costs, amount of material, engineering of the product and the process that produces the product, advertising, shipping, and the profit margin the company is expecting.

Apparently, the people that are "in the know" but still purchase the New Bright product, expect it to be made of plastic and pot metal and to not be engineered nor manufactured to work well, or to work well for very long. (Those that are not "in the know", either take the unit back to the store for a refund or say, "Well, what did you expect? It was cheap!" and throw it away. Either that, or they only run it an hour or two per year for just a couple of years and then it gets sold at a garage sale where the next owner doesn't care how good it is as they only paid $5.00 for it.)

Now as to the Accucraft and Aster compareson... The companies both have an engineering department of some sort and a manufacturing setup, either 'in-house' or contracted out, and some sort of sales force.

I gather the assumption is that if both companies made similar models of similar locomotives, the Aster one would be more expensive and the Accucraft one would be less expensive.

The question then, is WHY?

The answer could be one or more of many causes.

1) Aster is reaping a windfall profit from their good name, or Accucraft is not making as much profit trying to increase their part of the market share.
2) Labor charges are different for the two companies.
3) Aster's subcontractors are charging more for the piece parts, than Accucraft's.
.... which raises similar questions and answers as to "why?"
4) Aster performs some manufacturing step that Accucraft does not.
5) Aster's assembly process is being performed by more skilled personell that Accucraft's.

There are probably a dozen other things (in various possible combinations) that might account for the difference in price.

The ASSUMPTION by some of us on this forum is that the price difference is primarily my number 4 above, influenced by number 5 ... i.e.: that Accucraft is skipping a manufacturing step and that step is in the QC department to get the assemblers' quality up to snuff.

I agree that if you plunk down a four digit figure for a "toy" it ought'a work right out of the box. But it is possible that if Accucraft were to implement the QC function that would get that result for you, you might, JUST MIGHT, have to add another 3 or 4 digit figure to the price, bringing the price to something similar to what Aster charges.

I, personally own two Aster locomotives and I cannot claim that they worked "right out of the box" because when the came out of the box The piece parts and nuts and bolts were in little plastic bags. They did work "right out of my hands", but that compareson is not at all fair.

I have seen and operated a couple of Accucraft locos and although they DID work "right out of the box" (I helped unpack them and fire them up) they had a couple of problems that were easily corrected. And there were a couple of things that "I" would have engineered differently, but then the same is true of my car, my TV, my telephone answering machine, my house, my computer and the new mouse that I just bought for it (and threw across the room when it revealed itself to be akin to dung in operation) and my two Aster locomotives.

If New Bright, Aster and Accucraft were all to produce a 1:32 scale model of the "General" (of American Civil War fame), I suspect that the Aster would be more expensive than the Accucraft and the Accucraft to be more expensive than the New Bright.

But that price differential would be indicative of some difference in the models... either variance in "engineering", "details", "materials", "construction" or some other thing that might influence my decision as to which one I would be tripping all over myself to purchase.

If the only difference I could perceive was profit margin, I would be buying the cheapest one!

If the difference is in construction faux pas I might go for the cheapest one and hope that my talents can make up for that difference... then again, I may recognize my limitations and go for the higher priced one; yet, it is possible that I would gain nothing for my additional outlay.

You want an Aster at a New Bright price... or somewhere between those extremes... the question then is, what reduces the price to the one you are willing to pay, without complaining that you paid too much for what you got. Personally, I think the New Bright is too expensive for what I would get, the Accucraft is pretty close to delivering what is paid for, and the Aster is well worth the price.

If you think the Accucraft is not as good as the price charged, then I have a wireless mouse you can have (it has only been thrown across the room once and it still works as poorly as it did yesterday when it was new!)
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Charles, I'll let you enjoy your wireless mouse. Heaving it across the room is--at the very least--therapeutic. (I've had the same luck with wireless mice. At least they fly well.)

I agree that if you plunk down a four digit figure for a "toy" it ought'a work right out of the box. But it is possible that if Accucraft were to implement the QC function that would get that result for you, you might, JUST MIGHT, have to add another 3 or 4 digit figure to the price, bringing the price to something similar to what Aster charges.

I think people would be willing to pay that straight out. When someone buys a loco on this level, I think price is a secondary consideration. It's still a factor, but people who want a live steam {insert favorite loco here} will pay just to have one on their roster. Obviously there's a limit, but I don't think an extra few hundred, or even $1,000 would be a deal breaker. It's a significant purchase--for many of us a once-in-a-lifetime type thing. A little extra isn't going to dissuade someone in that position. Clearly, Aster's been able to sell 5-figure locomotives, so I think the rule is--if you want it bad enough, you'll find a way.

I think the game changes a bit with locos priced in the $1K range, as they're appealing to a slightly broader market. I'd still have to buy my wife something really special in exchange for a $1,500 loco, but it's a bit more in line with other purchases like computers, cameras, and things like that. Price is more of a consideration here, because someone just "testing the waters" so to speak, who just wants a live steam something will go with what appeals to him/her, but balanced more with what they want to spend. In my opinion, folks in this market are less prone to spend extra money if they don't have to.

Locomotives in both price ranges should run very well right out of the gate. The former, because at that price point the buyer expects it to; the latter because the manufacturer needs it to in order to hook the customer and get them to eventually buy the more expensive product line.


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The dumb mousy is an interesting analogy here. I paid twice the price of a wired mouse and got less than a tenth the functionality... WAY LESS! It shuts down if not moved every few seconds. It randomly looses contact with the computer and I have to used the keyboard shortcuts to call the "Reset" program and go through an elaborate sequence of button pushing to regain control. The mouse arrow moves in spits and spurts, not always in the direction I move the mouse. The scroll wheel doesn't scroll the screen the same amount "down" and it does "up" for the same movement of the wheel... even moving the wheel one 'detent' per second or less. Sometimes the screen goes the opposite way in a series of wheel moves in one direction.

I have tried all sorts of variations in the settings for all the features: speed, acceleration, etc. I tried the original drivers as well as the latest from the manufacturer's web site.

All in all, dribbling a basketball, blindfolded, on a "touch pad" would be less frustrating to control the mouse arrow. /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/sick.gif

It is in this that I understand the people that say they want the Accucraft loco to run right "out of the box" --- I "expect" the mouse to work "correctly" -- "right out of the box"! /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/angry.gif /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/angry.gif /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/angry.gif

I thought I'd get what I paid for! I paid an Aster price and got a New Bright garage sale reject! /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/sick.gif

Throwing it across the room was not nearly theraputic enough. Regardless of the $40.00 I paid for it, it is the fact that it would be environmentally irresponsible to pretend the mouse is a spike and test my aim with my genuine Burlington Route RR spike hammer.

What's worse to admit is that this is the third try in 6 years to get a wireless mouse. /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/w00t.gif I love the idea, but they DO NOT WORK. :mad:
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To add a possible 10 pennies-worth to this invaluable discussion is to introduce the notion of disparate charging; some call it robbing; by the British merchants.
In the UK LP's, CD'S, all computers, most electronic gear and in our focus of interest - model steam locomotives, exhibit much higher prices than North Americans would ever tolerate. I can only winge here. I recently purchased an Accucraft SP Cab Forward 4-8-8-2 AC11 #4274, Live Steam, 1 of only 2 imported into the UK (btw. it was smashed but the Dealer fixed it quickly). The magnificent looking loco. was extremely expensive. I give beneath a comparative price listing: - USA 6950.00 USD; Germany 7223.00 Euro = 11,243.00 USD; UK 5950.00 GBP = 11,629.00 USD.

In conclusion to this thread is the notion that if North America is being short done by then there are much worse places that need a (superheated) tea-party ...
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This disparate pricing with any product which is imported from its primary /first market is not dealers "robbing" people.
Looking at recent import shipment costing , this is what happens.
[1] Ex Warehouse price in USA , dealer cost [same as all US dealers]

[2] USA frieght charges to air port/shipper .

[3] air frieght charges.

[4] Import treminal charges.

[5] Import documnatation charge.

[6] customs processing charges.

[7] quarantine processing chrarges.

[8] airport terminal charge.Handling etc.

[9] air frieght agency fee.

[10] Local trucking charge , Airport to Destination.

all these charges are added together. and then ! Goods and services taxat 10% is applied to the total.

This results in a CIS [ Cost into Store] which is approximately 160% of the CIS for a USA dealer..

in the Case of UK the Tax added is at 17.5%!!!

surprise surprise , the selling prices are then about 160-170% of US street prices! there is no mystery or thievery involved.

There are no Dealers/Importers driving around in Rolls Royces that I know! the only way you avoid these costs is to only buy in the Country where Goods are actually made or which is the primary distribution market.

If people are motivated enough to purchase by Mail Order direct from US discount box shifters , thats fine but be aware that Warranty does not apply outside US and labour costs will be charged for any work needed.. I know of one person whos has 2 shelf queens less than a year old . wont pay the local importer to repair and the US retailer wont help either..
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And I thought that it was just the election that was divided /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/laugh.gif

Sometimes it is enough to agree to disagree and move on. :)

Maybe a Duel, each locomotive to take ten ties to the turntable turn and fire up..... /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/laugh.gif /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/hehe.gif /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/laugh.gif
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Well, as we move on- the running tally (as I intrepet it- hanging chad and all) should indicate to Accucraft what customers feedback was on the topic of tuning and out of the box RTR:

Tally of responses (only one tally given per contributor)

12- RTR (no extra expense or tuning necessary)
01- Tuning might be worth the option
01- Value for the dollar from the as is production run
06- Offering suggestions, or neutral or off topic or other related topic information

However one looks at the responses, this sampling of what is important to the customer: RTR tops the list.

I feel that I must come in on your comments and state that I cannot agree with you. I regularly purchase from dealers in the USA and have goods posted to me in the UK. My most recent, after paying very high carriage charges, import duty, import clearing charge and then VAT on all of this (note not just 17.5% VAT)worked out at 62 GBP (122 USD)per item. Exactly the same items from a UK dealer would cost me 129 GBP (254 USD) plus delivery charges from the dealership. The points that you make cannot justify this price differential. I was buying at retail prices from a dealer who I presume has already had to add in import duty and carriage charges to get the items to that dealership, and I presume that the UK dealership would be buying at wholesale prices from the manufacturer. Now I cannot say that this price differential is all down to the dealer, or whether the manufacturer is adding an extra margin, but recent investigations on UK television have highlighted just how much UK and European legislation is biased against UK customers to protect high pricing in the UK.

On the original topic of this thread I can only comment on my own limited experience of buying 3 ready to run steam locomotives. Two of these are Accucraft and both ran well from the start. I have since made extensive cosmetic changes to one of these. The other locomotive, my first as it happens, was a real problem from the start and went back to the manufacturer twice for remedial work. It then took me about 3 or 4 years of enhancements and modifications to get the locomotive to the point where it runs to my satisfaction. I am very pleased with the standard of the locomotives I have had from Accucraft and I would certainly give positive consideration to that supplier again should they come up with models of the prototypes I would like to add to my railway.

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The problem is that it is so "hit or miss" on if you get a good runner. There is no doubt that "some" run well out of the box, its the rest that are the problem.
The figures quoted in the post work out to the average american earning $20,000 per MONTH and this was the reason for my reply.

You meant to tell me that the 'average American' doesn't earn $20,000 a month? I may have gotten it wrong here, but are you saying that no American earns as little as $20,000 a month? /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/shocked.gif

I really don't know how you can survive on only $20,000 a month.;) Certainly my old pal Perry, who collects Duesenbergs, pre-war biplanes, Riva powerboats and golf courses, couldn't manage on so little, he tells me. His wife, Dwyla, prolly spends that much on her hair and shoes. /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/w00t.gif

I 'spose that it's all relative - we filled up both our old cars here this morning at a supermarket - one cost just under $135 and the other just over $145...

As for the comments from Mr ARF and LindaH about rip-off UK, this is far too
well-known to be a myth. The very clothes I'm wearing right now are mostly British-made, and by buying them in Oregon they cost me half the price I would pay for them here.

Both our Mercedes-Benz cars were bought on mainland Europe, and the difference between the UK price for our ML350 and the exact identical car bought in The Netherlands was enough to pay for a three month vacation in Canada and NWP USA, including hiring a three-bedroomed rental house - and there was sufficient spare cash to buy a nice little runabout convertible instead of renting one. /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/whistling.gif

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