26 May 2024

Shifting Gears - 7th Street Shops Nuts & Bolts Post 25

Let's shift gears. Let's talk about 7th Street Shops operations. Generally, this blog is never going to be a "How To" center on how to do stuff. I may from time to time share some ideas about what we do but it isn't an objective to comprehensively teach anyone any of it. However, I've always intended to demonstrate results expressly for the purpose of establishing confidence in our services. This is also the place to discover more about our company as the last 2 dozen posts have hopefully demonstrated.

Art Lort's HOn3 K-27 (paint & lettering iirc) 2010

7th Street Shops will be 15 years old this summer. We started the business at the encouragement of a few fellow modelers in the Denver area after the technical field I was in dried up. 

By July 2009 I was pretty much out of money and was rather cornered financially. My good friend, Patrick Tillery, who happened to modeled D&RGW Sn3 (code for P-B-L),  encouraged me to customize and repair model locomotives - particularly his. I had already been doing that sporadically for a few friends around the metro area so he was quite confident in my ability and supplied numerous jobs for years thereafter. Thank you, Patrick! (Some of you may know him as one of the mail order guys at Caboose Hobbies and the remake of that famous store that took its place). Vicki built our first website, the stellar "7th Street Shops" with the classy C&S Freight Car Red and Teal theme and I announced our debut on the several chat groups I belonged to. Thus - BOOM! - things took off. 

Bob Axsom's Sn3 B-3b (paint and lettering) 2008

Being an Sn3 modeler myself we naturally got a lot of S scale business but we also had plenty of  HO, HOn3 and a few O and On3 jobs as well. Initially, most of the work centered around painting and DCC installation but we were already well equipped to work "under the hood". It wasn't long before our interactions with NorthWest Short Line (under new ownership) developed into a scheme to escape the high cost of Denver. We moved to Hamilton, Montana. That was where the new owners, Dave and Lynda Rygmyr, had move NWSL a few years earlier. We did this on our own nickel in September 2010 with the agreement to work as a non exclusive subcontractor to NWSL. We continued 7th Street Shops but spent part of the day at their location repairing what ever models came thru the door.

HOn3 Mason Bogies (L-R) Balboa & PFM Bruce Jackson - 2009

It was at this point that we began to develop some of our little quirks ("odd behavior" as one former client put it); peculiarities on how we conduct this business.

It wasn't long before it became clear there were some things we should never do. How did we know we should never do them? Because things never turned out well for us and, in fact, we have gotten stuck, repeatedly, and lost money in the process.

One of the first things we learned was that "plastic" equals "disposable". Plastic models are, for the most part, consumable "goods" and our view is that you are better off throwing them out when they break than to try and fix them. There is very limited opportunity to make money repairing plastic. Perhaps a more succinct way to describe this is that if the client can buy 2, 3 - half a dozen - of the same model you are repairing you probably should decline the project. We learned that lesson fairly hard and fairly quickly! 7th Street Shops takes a very limited scope of plastic and die cast models.

Penny's S2 - HO (Paint, Weather, DCC Sound) Kevin Barr 2010

We also found that HOn3 brass was a losing proposition. It appears that, to a certain portion of the hobby community, smaller is cheaper (easier) to fix. After all, that's why the importers of HOn3 brass didn't charge as much for those smaller models... right? Wrong! There are many more HOn3 modelers that S and O scale modelers and even less of those who model narrow gauge in those scales. Therefore the importers of HO narrow gauge could spread costs over many more copies of a model and still make a profit. Larger, not so difficult to manufacture scale models must nevertheless carry the costs of production in fewer copies.

There is also an apparent equation of "thrift" to HOn3. This misconception seems to sway certain modeler who want it all for less. Of course, not every modeler of 1/87th scale narrow gauge has this mentality but compared to other scales a disproportionate number do. Smaller is not cheaper and it certainly is NOT easier to fix. In the heyday of HOn3 brass the builders were very proprietary. They had to be in order to fit the oversized technology into models with very limited internal space (in order that it might at least act like it ran). This required a bit of innovation on their part and a fist full of non standard headaches on ours. In many cases the otherwise typically replaceable parts simply did not exist. Then the option was to find exact replacement parts (by robbing another like model) or inventing your own equally proprietary version of the mechanism - which would cost a lot more than simply finding another running model.

2 HO GN O-1s (Power, Paint, Weather, DCC Sound) Kennedy 2011

We DO NOT work on HOn3 anything... not even for "fun".

Speaking of fun, we do not do this business for fun. It is true much of it does have an element" of fun" about it. But we are in business to make money ("oddly" enough). I realized a long time ago that model railroad customizing and repair is not an end to itself. If we cannot make enough money to make this JOB worth our effort then we will not do it. Yet there is an apparent misconception about that as well.

No! NO! NO! NO!! Plastic HO Bowker - 2011

One evening I got a call from a potential client who became rather disconcerted at the idea that we would charge him a lot of money for what he wanted us to do. He rebuffed with the argument that because we were having fun (his own assumption) we should not charge so much. Apparently fun is its own reward. I kindly refused to take his work and hung up.

Below is a list of the few plastic (or die cast) models we will accept at 7th Street Shops for certain tasks.


HO U.S.Military Railroad (custom painted and lettered ) everyone of them BRASS - Phillip Villanova 2010

Die Cast. HO; MDC Box Cab (Stanton Drives) and Shay (regearing). S scale; Rex Models.

Plastic. HO Bachmann Shay (truck regearing only). On30 Bachmann Shay, Rail Bus and Rail Truck (regearing only).

Link to 7th Street Shops;




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