Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lessons from York - 2B What We Didn't See

A UMD Industrial Rail O-gauge hopper car. Well worth the $10 I paid for it.
The Impact of Practicality
(part 4 of a 4-part series)

There were many things Dad and I saw – and didn’t see at the recent Train Collectors Association Eastern Division toy train York, PA. In part 1 and Part 2, I talked about what we saw in abundance, and why. Part three I mentioned an item seemed to have disappeared. But there was another item that I didn’t see  for a different reason.  It was one I was actually looking for – and couldn’t find because it was too well-designed.

In the 1990’s, operating O-gauge layouts were on the rise. More people were getting into the hobby, and looking for rolling stock to put behind the new locomotives that Lionel, MTH, Atlas and others were offering. All of these companies also made freight cars, but at around $40-$50 a piece, it was difficult to put together a train of any length.
An Atlas Industrial Rail hopper car. This one was a little pricier -- $20.

Enter UMD (United Model Distributors). They came out with a line of basic, good-looking rolling stock to meet the need. Their Industrial Rail series did well – and it was eventually purchased by Atlas, who continued to put out the cars with new graphics (they even expanded the line).

Although Industrial Rail cars were great for operators, they weren’t especially valuable. While new ones sold for $30, I could usually pick up an older UMD car (in the original box) for $10-$15. It was a great way to expand my rolling stock fleet.

The UMD hopper car with original box.
Industrial Rail pieces were never plentiful at the York meet. One time a vendor had several – but that was because an operating layout had been dismantled, releasing stock back into the market. This time, though, I didn’t see any Industrial Rail pieces.


Some pieces – even older UMD stock – has been showing up on eBay, but they’ve been selling for about $30 with $10 shipping. That’s far more than I want to spend.

But the sellers are getting those prices. So are Industrial Rail pieces disappearing from York because they're selling online?

The Atlas hpper car with box. A little bit fancier,
but in essence the same.
I don’t think that's the total answer. Most of the Industrial Rail pieces on eBay have been coming from a large hobby retailer. And once an item sells, the retailer places a duplicate up for auction. In other words, they’re selling off their old stock, one piece at a time. And only certain models are sold.

I think the majority of UMD Industrial Rail pieces don’t show up because they’re still in use. Most operators that would use Industrial Rail pieces are in their 50’s and 60’s. It might be another 10 years before that group begins breaking up layouts as they move to assisted living or liquidate estates.

I’ll keep my eyes open, but I will be very surprised if I see any at the fall meet.

Part 1A - The Impact of a Specialized Product on its Core Audience

Part 1B - The Impact of an Aging Demographic

Part 2A - The Impact of Faux-Collectability

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