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I see a few things changing, but nothing major. For starters, the high cost of track will do two things. First, encourage lower-cost alternatives (to wit, rumblings of Aristo adding aluminum rail to their lineup). Also, it will force people to take a bit more practical approach to planning a garden railroad. Gone is the temptation to lay 1000'+ of track simply because it's cheap, only then to discover what a maintenance headache a railroad of that size can be. At $10/foot, a 300' railroad is a significant investment, but it will emphasize that (a) you don't need a large space for a garden railroad, and (b) less is often more. Small railroads are far easier to maintain, and will likely help keep many folks in the hobby who don't otherwise have the time to keep up with things.

As far as equipment goes, parts from defunct manufacturers will be a problem, but heck--parts from existing manufacturers can sometimes be a problem. That's a problem that's existed in the small scales for decades with no tangible effects beyond an increase in retired old shelf queens. But hey--given the choice between a 1960s vintage Athearn F-7 and a new one from Kato or Atlas... let's just say some technologies are best put out to pasture. If nothing else, a lack of legacy parts from fallen manufacturers bodes well for new product development.

At the same time, it's not like the molds from these various fallen flags are gathering much dust. They're too valuable. Aristo's got most of the old Delton stuff. Hartland has the old Kalamazoo. It looks like Piko's found some of the old MDC molds, and USA's ore cars are reportedly straight from the Lionel molds. Marklin's not about to just sit on all the US-prototype molds they have. They may need time to get production up to speed and incorporate them into the line-up, but it will happen.

Like track, though, I think a tighter hobby budget will reduce the amount of equipment people buy. Instead of buying two locos, perhaps they'll buy just one. Instead of a string of 10 hoppers, maybe just 6 or 7. But since the average hobbyist won't have 1000' of track, the belt-tightening won't be noticeable. A smaller train fits better on smaller railroads. The overall satisfaction--in my opinion--would stay the same.

I think that this hobby in general is too small to enjoy "economies of scale" in terms of production. I think production runs will ultimately level out with demand, whatever that is. I would bet that Aristo-Craft has produced far more mikados than AMS has tank cars, yet both are able to produce their respective products and make a modicum of profit off of them. As money gets tighter, we might see a slight taper in the number of new products. Coupled with that, though, I think we'll see smarter production from the manufacturers; more interchangeable parts, more research into what will sell, and more efficiencies in the production itself which will allow new products to hit the shelves a little cheaper at least on their end.


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