If you are reading this article, you are probably all excited about model steam engines. You most likely have been browsing through Instagram or the Internet, looking for the latest and greatest steam engine pieces. I cannot say I blame you. Whenever anybody gets into a new hobby, they often get beside themselves with excitement. You just want to know everything there is to know about your current hobby. The collecting bug has bitten you and you cannot get enough. This is all too clear, and I completely know and understand what you are going through.
With that said, you cannot get so excited that you start making bad decisions. One of the worst decisions you could make when it comes to picking up pieces for your steam engine collection is to buy into the faulty idea that all model steam engines are created equal. Right out of the box, it may seem like all these brands and models are identical, but with enough operation and with ample time, you would quickly realize that there is actually quite a bit of a difference between brands. Models are practically parts of different series for a good reason.
This is a very common problem for newbie hobbyists. They really get into it. They get all excited. In many cases, they act impulsively. At the end of the process, they end up spending too much time, effort and, unfortunately, money.
If you do not want this to happen, pay attention to the following differences. Make no mistake about it, model steam engines are not created equal. Never in a million years. Pay attention to the following distinctions, otherwise you might end up losing a lot more money than you care to spend on your new hobby.
Difference Impacts Collector Value
The first thing that you need to understand is that the differences in brands impact the resale or collector value of the pieces you bought. This is extremely important because you have to pay attention to your exit strategy. Right now, you might be feeling that you are going to be playing with model steam engines until they put you in a box and put that box in the ground. That is all well and good, but we can only remain passionate for so long. Passion tends to evaporate over time.
You have to ask yourself what would happen to my collection once I am no longer into it? That is a very good question to ask yourself now. Otherwise, you might be picking up non-collector stuff and forced to just basically give it away or worse yet, throw it in the trash. What a tragedy!
Difference Impacts Overall Experience and Enjoyment
There are many various brands of these types of models and unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, they have different impacts on your total experience. If you are in the middle of your collection, and you see these trains going in circles around you, you will see small differences. These minute differences have a distinct impact on your overall experience and enjoyment.
Different Brands Mean Varied Quality
This should be obvious. Various brands have distinct quality points because some brands focus on price. Other brands focus on a nice-looking unit, but the unit, it turns out, is not that durable. Other brands focus on a not so sexy look that withstands the test of time. Each brand has its own forte.
You have to find a particular brand that exhibits the quality values that are more in line with what you are looking for. Every collector is different. Every hobbyist has a specific agenda. Every hobbyist is different from others. So, do yourself a big favor and make sure that the quality standards of the brand of steam engines you are thinking of collecting comports to your own.
Different Design Focus
In addition to quality, brands tend to focus on different designs. Some brands focus on an authentic steam engine look from the 1800s. Others have a cartoon-like, fun, escape-type design. Others are completely outlandish. There is really no right or wrong answer. You just need to look at the various design orientations and see which brand has a design aesthetic that lines up more neatly with your own expectations.
Different Overall Value
Value is a very slippery word. What is valuable to you might be a complete and total pile of junk to me. With that said, there are certain objective standards. One key unbiased standard, of course, is durability. Another key standard is overall workmanship. Pay attention to these objective standards because they give you a rough idea of the value you would be getting from the steam engines you are considering buying.
Different Scalability and Accessories
This is a big one. As I mentioned above, once you get into any kind of train hobby, it is very easy to keep going and going and going. It is hard to stop because it is all about scalability. You might start off with a nice short track, next you want to put a mountain in the middle. Then you extend the track, afterwards you buy more units and on and on it goes. In fact, the more excited you are about your hobby, the more you scale up. This is going to be an issue because not all brands are very scalable. Not all brands have the wide range of accessories that you would need to properly scale up your layout.