From the armchair, pre-grouping models and R-T-R, is back dating that simple?

In a way this post follows on from my previous ramblings in my ‘armchair’ series such as “Armchair R-T-R Designers” and “Armchair R-T-R tooling and manufacturing Logistics” and even my comment piece on “The process in producing an R-T-R Models”.
Questions were recently raised on a popular model railway forum why certain Ready-To-Run (R-T-R) models either have not been or are going to be produced in either Pre-Grouping liveries or form, even to extent that the manufacturers were losing sales because of it. I would point out however that if the demand was not actually there to sell a complete batch, as minimum production run sizes often come into play, of a certain livery then it might be a case of not enough sales rather than one of loosing sales.

I picked up on this because the models in question being discussed were the recently released Adams O2 class 0-4-4t and the forthcoming Pull Push Gate Stock from The Kernow Model Centre, that were not being produced in London South Western Railway (LSWR) liveries. The particular post also cited the fact some manufacturers had already managed to issued Pre-Grouping livery versions such as: the Bachmann E4 Class 0-6-2t and C Class 0-6-0; and the Hornby M7 0-4-4t. Whilst other models including the Hornby 700 Class 0-6-0 and T9 class 4-4-0 and the aforementioned O2 have not yet been so issued.

In an ideal world if money was no object I am sure the likes of The Kernow Model Centre and even the larger manufacturers such as Hornby would love to tool for all permutations and variations of a particular prototype, but economics do rule and decisions have to be taken based on the size of a potential market for a specific variation / livery and the return possible.

Where the existing tooling is correct / accurate for the same locomotive / rolling with either no or very limited detail changes for an earlier period such as the Pre-Grouping era, or even early Grouping times, then producing such liveries, in perhaps a smaller production run becomes a viable option. However where there would need to be substantial tooling changes, complexities or even completely new tooling the return on such an expense, that can easily run into tens of thousands of pounds, against potential sales needs to be taken into account.

I would therefore not perhaps rule out an LSWR liveried Adams O2 at some stage, as this importantly could be achieved from the existing tooling.

With respect to the Kennow Model Centre ex LSWR Gate Stock these were modified in the early 1930’s from the original LSWR design and therefore the proposed tooling would not be correct for any liveries before that modification took place. Sets 373/4 were converted to Southern Railway air control system in 1929/30 and at the same time gained the standard Southern Railway four window pull push unit style front end, instead of the earlier LSWR 3 window front end.  Set 272 was disbanded in 1929 (prior to driving front end and air control conversion) and reformed as set 363 in 1933, with standard SR front and air control, as per sets 373/4.

A version of the Kernow Model Centre ex LSWR Beattie Well Tank was produced in SR Maunsell 1930’s livery No 3329 but as in the early 1930s the Well Tanks were already on their second substantial rebuild, completely new tooling would have been required to be correct for any earlier livery application.

Both the Hornby produced 700 class 0-6-0 and T9 class 4-4-0 engines were fitted with superheaters from the very end of the pre-Grouping period onwards that not only extended the smokeboxes but in the case of the 700 class also raised the pitch of the boilers, by some 9 inches, extended the frames and a new taller cab, and in such a case would not only require a totally new body tooling but would effect the chassis design as well, which even with the high pitched boiler of the superheated version produced is already very tight for space for the motor a gearbox etc. I do note however that that there would be possibly 4 or 5 members of each class that could legitimately be produced in late LSWR livery in the superheated form from the existing tooling, if Hornby felt the the market was there for them.

I hope this post goes a little way to further explain the issues and complexities of producing Ready To Run models and that sometimes it is neither practical or cost effective to be able to please all modellers all of the time. I am pretty sure that none of us want to return to the days of putting any livery on any model regardless of any historical accuracy!




9 thoughts on “From the armchair, pre-grouping models and R-T-R, is back dating that simple?

  1. Thanks for this input Graham. Useful and illuminating as ever.
    I do actually have a Hornby produced T9 in LSWR livery although it is a bit of a “cheat” because it is of 120 as preserved and run in LSWR livery in, I believe, the 1970s? I have a colour photo of it at Haywards Heath, my commuting station for a decade or so.

  2. Back in the early 1980s I tried to keep several models in (then) current liveries and with modifications as applied on the prototype. Plating over boiler filler ports on 31s and 46s comes to mind, as does front-end colour details on HST 43s in ‘Swallow’ livery. My children’s interest was appropriately stimulated, but ‘keeping up’ with changes was not always easy to do.
    Small batches of specialised livery items can be priced to reflect the extra cost for what may be a small production run. You want it? You pay for it.
    That should ensure a commensurate return on any investment and if sales don’t materialise, such ventures won’t recur, unless pre-ordered and prepaid.
    Some manufacturers like to offer ‘collectors’ items’ – at a price – via the NRM et al; good luck to them too.

  3. As usual most interesting. Certainly it remains a commercial decision which may be based on insufficient demand to produce (say) and LSWR livery let alone having to make tooling changes.

    Whilst demand for pre-grouping models is low this may be in part down to the limited amount of R-T-R models available leading to a ‘chicken and egg’ situation. However, I suspect even if the range of pre-grouping UK-outline R-T-R models was expanded demand would probably still be too small for the major manufacturers.

    But this leads to an interesting question about current models and liveries as there is clearly sufficient demand for Southern liveried stock. Perhaps the dilution into say) three pre-grouping companies is too far (LSWR /LBSCR /SECR) unless it is in a specialist area such as the Lynton & Barnstaple railway?

    Then there are modellers who will accept inaccuracies in a model. One example being the rather attractive Birds Eye containers currently produced using the undersized Bachmann AF container instead of the large AFP. Many modellers are accepting this compromise as it probably isn’t commercially viable to retool for new containers and longer wagons.

    By the way did these containers ever reach the Bird’s Eye factory in Eastbourne?

    Notwithstanding this whilst i perceive many UK-outline manufacturers may be risk-adverse in their choice of new models certainly there is a move away from (previously) ignoring the potential for designs that can be modified to provide for variations.

    After all be have all three of the BR numbered Beattie Well Tanks, the promise of the BR Adams radial tank variations (including LSWR and EKR variations), length differences in the M7 tanks, the N15 class cab and tenders, the air-smoothed West Country Pacific’s and so on. A far cry from when I started modelling when the Hornby Dublo R1 was incorrect for what I’d suggest were 23 locomotive variations (which outnumbered the total in class)!

  4. Rather than expecting RTR to cater to all tastes, perhaps the way forward is for independent kit manufacturer to produce more modification kits. I remember reading about your conversion of a Bachmann N class to an N1.

  5. Very interesting Graham. I love seeing pre-grouping layouts at exhibitions. They are in a minority. I do find the prototype articles that magazines print when a new model is released very interesting, especially the changes that happen throughout a particular loco’s life.

    It would be interesting to know the sort of batch run for a turn of the century model. There are smaller companies entering the market but if they get their choice wrong and no one buys, that could be the end of the company.

  6. Thank you Graham for an insight to the manufacturers decision on what models to produce.
    Certainly some of the reasons why I may not find a particular livery that I would like add to my collection.

    To be honest, I can not readily detect the design differences of any particular locomotive over its lifetime in service. (Except, maybe, for the Bulleid Pacifics!)

    While I have been capable of renumbering/re-lettering a BR black locomotive to that of its preceding SR counterpart, I draw the line at repainting the complete assembly in another colour like Malachite Green.
    Luckily for me the manufacturers have been able to supply a fairly good selection of RTR equipment running on Southern rails in post WWII years.

    That is with the exception of Southern electric stock. Can anyone tell me why there is nothing available from the period 1940 – 1947 in Malachite green?
    With 2-BIL and 2-HAL ready available in Maunsell Olive, BR green and even BR blue. Malachite remains conspicuous by its absence.

  7. One thought, as both a BR(S) and LBSCR modeller, is that perhaps manufacturers such as Bachmann have been more judicious in their recent choices of prototype, choosing pre-grouping locos that changed little throughout their lives, and at least one example is preserved. The E4 is a good example, as is the C.

    It seems Hornby have only recently begun to cotton onto this, but I think producing models which can be produced in as many liveries as possible, and lasted for long periods of time without major rebuilding, will provide success as the model will then sell to many more modellers than, say, a BR Standard or Pepprcorn K1, which will sell only to BR modellers, limited by definition in some cases to 20 years! Why do a loco that lasted 20 years, when you can do one that lasted 50, 60, 70 years, and has been preserved for a further 50? The latter (theoretically) should get more sales.

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