Accessories for model railways is a segment that routinely vies for attention with its ‘big brother’, model railways. But even a smaller sibling can shine once it has found its niche. The model railways family has been proving this for years. Vendors of accessories for model railways score big with imagination and creativity.
Just like any union, the model railways family experiences times filled with tension. “After many turbulent years during which everybody was more or less rather self-absorbed”, says Sebastian Topp, Head of Marketing at German accessories manufacturer NOCH, “the feeling for one another was no longer there as usual.” That feeling is now back.
Following the invitation by the DVSI, Germany’s toy industry association, the model railways segment came together for a big family reunion at the end of April. “The most important thing in every family is harmony”, says Michael Hofmann, managing director of Auhagen, “but even constructive disputes can help propel you forward.” Jörg Vallen, managing partner of Busch GmbH & Co. KG, has a very similar view about this: “Any family will be familiar with times that are more harmonious than others.”
The model railways family shows just how a ‘small brother’ can find its niche - and shine with confidence. “As accessories makers, we need not pretend”, says Auhagen’s managing director, Michael Hofmann. Meaning: There is no need to follow models like one’s big brother. Fact is, Faller and other manufacturers have proven time and again that, following the introduction of new production processes (laser cut, 3D printing, etc.) and attractive topics, they are so much more than décor suppliers for model railway installations.
Love of detail
One recent example of inspiration comes from the Busch range for model worlds. Titled “Ort der Stille” (Peaceful Place) with a wink (“not a dead topic”), the company presents a whole range of new cemetery-themed products: cemetery chapel, cemetery set, casket grove, war memorial, mausoleum and a stonemasonry business. And because a funeral is unthinkable without a hearse, the “sepulchre culture” in H0 scale comes complete with a noble hearse. “Peaceful Place” impressively shows how small yet meticulously-crafted details can embellish a model railway system or allow model makers to build a complete diorama.
NOCH proves to be just as creative and inventive. The spectrum stretches from limited sexy scene figures to open air and rock festival sets. At the Spielwarenmesse® 2017, they introduced, amongst others, an orangery kit in H0 scale. The palm house with its filigree structure is a masterpiece of laser cut technology. The concept of whetting customers’ appetite with a constant flow of little treats is obviously working. “We are highly satisfied with the financial year that came to an end in June 2017”, says Sebastian Topp.
New technology caters to customers’ wishes
At Faller, creativity also rules. In 2016, their Bebenhausen convent turned out to be a genuine coup. The limited premium model into which Faller invested 14 months of development and 2 months of true-to-detail model construction, seems to have shattered all previous RRP ceilings.
Concerns about sales? The late Gothic convent turned into a money spinner which is why this year, a railway track model was created. In 2017, the modular “Chemical Plant” kit will be launched, consisting of 1006 individual parts.
To not only meet, but even exceed customer wishes, Faller debuts the use of digital printing technology. The technology helps to individualise products and make life easier for the handicraft enthusiast. For example, the Stamperia laser cut model is given a special realistic patina with the print.
Viessman’s Vollmer brand premiers the first house with walls made of stone art that emulate a natural, life-like surface. This is made possible using a composite material comprised of quartz sand that looks - and feels - like real stone. The artificial stone slabs are cut out following a pattern and glued onto wall brackets.
With its Deiste train station, Auhagen caters to the romantic enthusiast and their yearning for the “good ole’ days”.
Even though it is model railways, the big brother, that lead the way, Michael Hoffman is convinced: “We have our very own, even larger pitch to play on by combining tradition with creativity and technology.” Still, one must and wants to stick together - just like any good family does.
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