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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Xuron Track Cutter

I picked up a new Xuron Track Cutter at my local hobby store for $17.95 and it cuts track like butter! I had been using a large, heavy cut off plier, put it was leaving a large v behind. I've also used by Black and Decker muli tool with cut off disks but that's a big pain. It takes longer to cut through the rail and the cut of disk are always braking.

So far the Xuron is cutting track great and leaving behind barely anything to file off.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Shortened Rolling Stock Kits

Prototype narrow gauge railroad cars have a more hunkered down look than the ones offered by Bachmann. On30IMA ( offers a small line of craftsman kits to build great looking shortened rolling stock kits to the On30 modelers at an affordable price.

They offer a box car, stock car, flat car, reefer and passenger coach. When I said "small line" truly what narrow gauge line would need more than these? Unless you also have a logging or mining operation, most short lines didn't run to many cars behind those small narrow gauge locomotives.

The kits are supplied with laser cut frames, floors, sides and roof with detail parts from Grandt Line or Tichy. The kits are sold for approximately $22 - $25 depending on the style and configuration desired. Trucks are sold separately so the modeler can choose the style that fits their layout. The kits are laser cut and not intended for beginners. On30IMA suggests you read through the online instructions to see if you feel you are up to the challenge of these kits.

The kits look great, I have them on my wish list when I get further along on my track work. The cost is very reasonable especially when you consider I spent $20 recently on a cardboard cut out kit from Model Tech Studios.

Bachmann On30 boxcars retail for $51 (discounted to $31) but include trucks and couplers. Notice the coupler height on the Bachmann box car compared to the OnIMA cars lower coupler height.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

It gets worse!

UPDATE: Two weeks since returning the defective kit with half of the missing parts. No word from Model Tech Studios - I guess I should just consider my $20 lost for ever. Hard lesson learned. need to change your modeling approach...

I am so appalled by the treatment I've received from Model Tech Studios (also doing business as that I just had to post the exchange here. To recap, I purchased a small kit from them and over half of the pieces were missing. I simply notified them of the problem and had the expectations that they would send me a new kit or all of the parts that were missing. Since there was no parts list included I kind of assumed that it would be in their best interest to apologize, send me a new kit and earn a new customer. Instead Frank of Model Tech Studios treated me as someone who was trying to rip him off, insulted my modeling skills and basically told me how lucky I was because they didn't collect Massachusetts tax on the item (missing half the parts). There must be a sucker born every minute because I can't imagine how a company can operate in the long term with this kind of customer service.

Here is the complete exchange. Keep in mind its backwards, starts from the bottom. At one point I decided to throw Frank a bone. At any point he could have apologize for 1. selling the defective kit and 2. for his terrible customer service. I think I would have accepted just about any excuse - stress, mental issues, supplier problems etc because I really want to think that there is a logical reason behind such bad behavior.

If you've had positive or negative experiences with Model Tech Studios please comment.


When you produce a product let me know. Then you can speak with knowledge. Our biz is growing just fine for your info
Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

-----Original Message-----
From: Fishboy
Date: Thu, 9 Feb 2012 12:26:06
Subject: Re: Missing parts - Kit #S0161


Have you considered the following?

1. There is no parts list in the kit. Unless that was also left
out, I would not know since I'm not the one who created it. I did
my best at guessing all the parts missing. As I listed in my
initial email, the missing parts amounted to over half of the
major parts of the kit - two walls (both pieces), roof, floor, and
the front trailer parts.

2. How I paint my kit is up to me as the customer. There are no
painting instructions included in the kit. Kind of hard to paint
the interior or contrasting wood work when the model is 85% (or in
my case I would only be able to get to 50%) completed. I certainly
don't need a vendor who knows nothing about my work to make snide

3. I value my time. I drove two hours to attend the Amherst show,
paid for parking, paid for admission and coming from NH I did not
notice the incredible tax savings I was afforded to purchase half
of a kit. I paid cash so I suppose that's between you and the
State of Massachusetts.

4. Here's one for you - have you considered how your actions
impact your business? I've been selling online for over 10 years.
Sure I don't like returns or when I've made a mistake with an
order. But I deal with it in a professional manner. I try to
convert a disgruntled customer into a life long customer.

Did it ever enter your mind that I might purchase from you in the
future if I knew I was dealing with a trustworthy company who
stands by their products?

Have you ever heard that saying that a satisfied customer tells
one other person and a dissatisfied customer tells 24? The first
thing I did after receiving your first email was to look online to
see if others have had similar experiences. And what I found was
that poor customer service and attitude seems to be the norm at
Model Tech Studios. Once you have a bad reputation, it requires
you to work even harder to reverse it.

Missing parts seems to be an ongoing issue at Model Tech Studios
so my advice to you would to concentrate on quality control
instead of getting mad at your customers. Maybe learn a little
humility and actually apologize for selling an incomplete product.
You could learn a lot from your competitors who delight their
customers when errors occur and are rewarded by positive word of
mouth on the hobby boards.

If you can't deal properly with customer, perhaps assign customer
relations to someone else who has a bit more tack.

Bonus - Here's bit I found on the Internet that might of values to

"...building a more intricate (MTS) kit with missing parts, the
response was "this is the first time we've ever had anyone
complain about missing parts." I kid you not. It took quite a lot
of back and forth before being able to secure the missing parts
which I couldn't scratch build. Frankly, I didn't enjoy being
questioned on my veracity regarding a small amount of missing
parts when I had spent a huge amount of money for the kit (larger
scale). The thought that a manufacturer would never admit to
releasing any kits with some missing parts is so ludicrous to be
laughable (if it wasn't at my expense). "S--- just happens" and we
all understand that, but at least we expect some fair resolution.
I remember once missing an entire wall section from a BarMills kit
and when notified, Art said it would go out the next day and it
did, no questions asked. That's customer service."

-- Ed

On Thu Feb 09 04:37:12 CST 2012, James Bester

First, you can't even tell me the exact parts that are need as
you clearly stated in your first email....
Second there should not be paint on anything until the model is
85% assembled, you need to change your modeling approach
Third I apologize that 1.64 is a life altering event for the
exchange.....I'm sure I didn't even access the sales tax on that
purchase so it really all a wash when you put the numbers to
it......did you consider that at all ?
------Original Message------
From: Fishboy
Subject: Re: Missing parts - Kit #S0161
Sent: Feb 8, 2012 10:18 PM

Wow, I didn't expect such a hassle or attitude over a $20 item
purchased at the Amherst show.? I'll be sending back the kit in
the morning. Some of the parts will have paint on them since I
figured you'd simply send the missing parts.

On Wed Feb 08 20:19:32 CST 2012, James Bester

No our idea is the same as any store on the planet
Just like when you walk into a dept store and want to need the item to turn in to do
can't walk in without an exchange item and say "give me another
item". How do I even know you have an item to exchange ?
Our policy to exchange is that we need the item back. Period
------Original Message------
From: Fishboy
Subject: Re: Missing parts - Kit #S0161
Sent: Feb 8, 2012 8:54 PM

So your idea of customer support includes making the customer
pay for shipping and waiting additions days for your mistake?

On Wed Feb 08 18:39:37 CST 2012, James Bester

We will need the kit back in order to do an exchange....
------Original Message------
From: Fishboy
Subject: Missing parts - Kit #S0161
Sent: Feb 8, 2012 7:15 PM


I went to build the Roadside Lunch Wagon O Kit #S0161 tonight
and its missing about half of the parts.

Its missing two sides, the floor, the roof, the triangle shaped
front piece, crank stand and who knows what else might be

Please send me a replacement to:


Thank you, Ed

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Does anyone practice good customer service any more?

My idea of good customer service is, as a business owner (, if I make a mistake I do my darnedest to fix it right away. In fact I strive to go the extra mile to "delight" my customer because any good business person understands that a ticked off customer can either be turned into satisfied customer or be ticked off even more. They say every happy customer tells one other person but every mad customer tells 24 other people.

I trust people enough to believe that if someone is going to complain to me about a hole in a shirt or the wrong shirt was sent, that they are telling the truth. I chalk up the sale as a loss and try to make the customer happy. It doesn't happen often but if it did I'd examine my business practices and either fix the problem or get out of the business. I certainly don't treat every customer as someone trying to rip me off. I hate getting returns but its part of retail.

So anyway, at the Amherst Model Railroad Show, I stop by the Model Tech Studios booth and picked up this neat 0 Scale Lunch Wagon for my wharf scene. $20 for a laser cut, card stock little lunch wagon- a unique looking item. Two weeks go by and I pull it out to work on it. The instructions are slim so it takes me a little bit of time to figure out that about HALF of the kit is missing! No roof, only two out of four walls, no floor. I'm ticked off!

I fire off an email to the company (hotmail email account - not very professional), explaining how half the kit is missing and to please (I did say please) send me the replacement parts. I guess I'm naive because I figured I'd get an message back saying that they are sorry to disappoint and that the replacement parts are on the way.

Nope, they want me to send the kit back to prove that I actually have it. No apology. No sorry. I have to package up the kit, pay for postage and go to the post office and then wait days to hopefully get a new kit back. All of this for a little $20 for a model railroad on which I'm just getting started on and will probably be spending thousands (I don't want to guess how much) on over the years.

The thing that gets me most about this exchange is that after searching around on the Internet I uncovered several grips about missing parts from Model Tech Studios. It seems to be a continuing problem in the quality control area of their business. Knowing that this is a problem I'd think the smart business person would bend over backwards to fix the problem and perhaps gain some positive word of mouth in world as small as the model railroading world.

Here is part of one of the posts about Model Tech Studios lack of customer service:

"...building a more intricate (MTS) kit with missing parts, the response was "this is the first time we've ever had anyone complain about missing parts." I kid you not. It took quite a lot of back and forth before being able to secure the missing parts which I couldn't scratch build. Frankly, I didn't enjoy being questioned on my veracity regarding a small amount of missing parts when I had spent a huge amount of money for the kit (larger scale). The thought that a manufacturer would never admit to releasing any kits with some missing parts is so ludicrous to be laughable (if it wasn't at my expense). "S--- just happens" and we all understand that, but at least we expect some fair resolution. I remember once missing an entire wall section from a BarMills kit and when notified, Art said it would go out the next day and it did, no questions asked. That's customer service."

Anyone else have a good story about customer service among model railroad vendors? Positive or negative? Seems to me that model railroaders in general are a rather decent customer base willing to cut the vendors some slack when the vendors are willing to meet them half way. We appreciate having products available to purchase but need a decent amount of respect.

My Wife's Project

I have to give my wife plenty of time to work on her quilt project so she can get back to work on the freight station model she's building!

The O Scale Gravel Barge - Final

Final result from my scratch built O scale gravel barge project.

See the article here.

Vintage Model Train Car

Amherst Model Railroad Show

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Photograph from the Amherst Model Railroad Show

Photograph copyrighted by Edward M. Fielding (

Purchase this photograph on cards, prints or posters here.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Modeling a On30 Gravel Barge

One of the features of my new harbor area of Seal Cove is going to be a gravel barge anchored at the dock for my mining trains with their V tippers to unload. I haven't figured out what the final product to be mined will but I need a barge never the less. Something along the line of this:

At the Amherst Railroad Show I saw an unpainted resin kit for a barge from Frenchman Model Works for around $32. I also saw a laser cut, wooden barge kit from Deerfield River Laser for about the same price.

Trying keep costs down, I figured I try to make one myself. After all the shape of the barge is rather simple. The hardest part was figuring out how to cut out the depression in the middle. I thought about carving the basic shape out of foam but getting that middle cut out will be tricky.

I used a piece of graph paper to come up with my rough dimensions that would fit the area available. This is going to be custom made barge built by the local company. No need to be worried about exact dimensions. I just need something that looks like it makes sense.

In the end I used MDF scraps that I had laying around. The basic body of the barge is layers of MDF with the top thicker layer cut in to four pieces using my table saw and miter saw.

The shapes were then glued together. I then cut an angle in the front and back and sanded it down until it was smooth all around. The MDF keeps a nice smooth finish.

For the inside of the bay I used styrene scored with a paper cutter and then snapped apart. In the photo I'm using an extra piece of styrene to keep pressure on the sides as the glue dries.

Here is a shot after making some brackets out of angled styrene and adding some detail parts I got at the Amherst Train Show.

Unfortunately after finding the first photo in this article I see that I put the details in the wrong place. I'll remove them, paint it and add some more right back. we go...

Now that is a boat load of salt!

Note: MDF is a thirsty material, it soaks up a lot of paint so be sure to use a sealer. I used a spray on lacquer sealer made for wood.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Building S.C.R.R. - Part 1 - Retaining Wall

The Christmas Fishboy rush is over, the relatives have gone home, my microstock photography business has gotten off to healthy start and this winter hasn't provide much in the way of tempting snowfall, so after attending the Amherst Model Railroad show and picking up some O scale detail parts and some scenery supplies, watching Troels Kirk's excellent DVD on creating realistic color for railroad modeling, its time to tackle the second major section of my On30 layout.

Last fall and winter I started the basic bench work and electrical work for the first section. My personality of not doing much planning and having a hard time committing to a track plan lead me to something that I'm not entirely happy with. So I'm starting on the other side with the thought that I might change what I have on the first part at some later date.

The layout is in a loft area of my house used to house the t-shirts of my Fishboy business (funny t-shirts). I had to build my layout above the t-shirts so I could utilize the space for both business and hobby. The side I'm going to work on next is basically a shelf.

After kicking around a few ideas, I've decide to go with a basic Gum Stump plan using switchbacks to gain elevation so the trains will climb to a middle level and then a higher level. I'm just waiting for some Peco On30 switches to arrive so I can start putting down track and finalizing the plan. I've included a passing siding so the goal is to make this part of the layout self sustainable in case down the road I want to redo the other side.

Anyway I've started on the far end of the layout which is going to be the coastal town of Seal Cove. The name comes from the part of Mount Desert Island that we used to live on. The fictional On30 Seal Cove will be a wharf with a collection of buildings, a barge for dumping mining rock and some fishing industry type industries like a canning company. I want to get all of the track work done and working and the basic landforms so I can move on to doing what I like best - building structures.

Here are a few shots of the beginnings of the wharf. This wharf is built on a foundation of rip rap rock and natural stone rather than an all wooden pier. This harbor enjoys a quick drop off of sea level.

I'm using some of the dry brush techniques promoted by Troels Kirk as well as the use of dry brushing over a initial black paint undercoating. A fan brush does a great job on this.

I'm not sure if it shows in the photos but I dry brushed granite grey acrylics over the black on the rocks and then used different mixes of browns and greens to bring out different levels of the water line. Shorelines get different amounts of dry and wet periods and different organisms live at the different splash zones. I tried to give the impression of these zones and the plant life and organism that live there. Down near the water I added green for seaweed and highlighted white caps on the water. I'll be adding some varnish gel later to further enhance the sea.

I'm thinking about adding something like poppy seeds as mussels.