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Post by michaellynn2 » Sat Nov 25, 2017 9:50 pm

Free Market....I own a business and understand the free market in my business. I provide a service for my customers. In our hobby we are the customers. We have venders that supply products we use in our hobby. We as customers want the best products for our hobby. We create demand and our venders supply our demands. Our venders provide us with the best they can. If their best does not supply our demand we buy elsewhere. If we do not support a vender it will go out of business.
Our venders (suppliers) are in competition for our business. In a free market this is good. The competition is between venders (suppliers). Competition between venders creates the best products and services for us the consumers. Lets make sure in our passion we keep and eye on we are the customers and our venders are our suppliers. Let them battle for our business. We the customers get the best because of it. Business 101
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Post by Harlock » Mon Nov 27, 2017 12:06 am

Steve Alley and I have had some discussions about this subject in trying to come up with a regime that everyone can live with. (Both the vendor and the customer.) The difficulty is in drawing a fine line regarding use of the drawings, because there are so many grey area cases you can come up with, and indeed have been mentioned in this thread.
James Powell wrote:By failing to supply toolable CAD drawings, I think that you are incentivizing the reproduction of out of copyright material by individuals who want current style drawings, or drawings to run CAM with.
This is THE big conundrum that will face vendors in the hobby over the next 5-10 years. Home CNC is becoming more and more affordable, and so are outside vendors using CNC, waterjet and 3D printing. Many builders want to utilize these resources in the construction of their engine. However there is a problem in the way that I would like to point out by way of another quote from James Powell:
James Powell wrote:I understand, the cost of electronic reproduction of electronic drawings is 0. And that the companies view them as "valuable IP". The companies need to market more than just the IP of the design though, in order to be successful. Perhaps giving away a GA drawing, and the frame drawings, and then selling the casting & drawing for said casting combined? I think any business model which ascribes huge value to the drawings which are steadily drawing to the end of any creative license is doomed to fail.
As Steve Alley has mentioned, most of the sales for Allen Models (and probably other castings+plans vendors) are in the drawings, not the parts. That is because many more people order drawings than actually follow through and decide to build the locomotive. The drawings offer an inexpensive way for someone to dream and plan, or even just figure out if this is something they want to take on. A small subset of those people actually go on to build engines. So right now, any change that suggests giving away drawings is a difficult one. Offering digital files presents the super-easy-to-copy problem. Users are free to model up CAD versions for themselves using the drawings that they purchased, but should not make them available to anyone that hasn't also purchased a drawing set from the supplier for that engine. Within the context of helping friends who are building the same engine, I don't see a problem with that, because the vendor is not out any dough, unless it's replacing a physical part that the vendor currently sells.

That money from the drawings is used to freshen and re-tool the patterns that make the castings, keep inventory up, make improvements and new designs and generally run the business. In the end it is a nice balance. But the apple cart is tipping and MANY people have a desire to have CAD ready model files. The trick is to figure out how to license and distribute drawings and possibly in the future CAD files for use in a way that the work put into the drawings, files and designs is supported and respected.

In regards to what rights a builder should have and what rights the vendor should have, here are some thoughts, for a licensing scenario:

Mike Venezia has generally outlined what he would like to see, and that is basically a license for each set of drawings to produce one locomotive. Steve is thinking along the same lines, and I think I agree with them.

The trouble is when you get into the grey areas.

If that person wants to go to an outside shop to have any of his stuff made for that one engine, he is free to do so. However, the shop is not free to then produce more of those parts for someone else.

But what if that someone else has also purchased a set of plans and is legally entitled to go to that same shop, which may already have the files on hand? I believe they should be allowed to do that for parts that do not replace physical parts the vendor currently sells. Some vendors will want an agreement with that shop regardless.

If a shop wants to advertise that they are producing CNC parts from a supplier that replace castings offered by the supplier, they should absolutely have an agreement with the supplier to use their name and reproduce the parts, and possibly provide a commission for each part made from the supplier's designs. If they are offering to machine parts not offered at all by the vendor and are normally made from stock, I do not see a problem at all there, that is a value added service that allows a builder to complete a locomotive faster should he wish to spend the money. And the builder ordering those parts has already purchased a set of plans to build the engine. But in order to advertise publicly that they are offering these fabricated parts that aren't replacements for castings and use the vendor's name, they should still have a nod and possibly an agreement from the vendor.

Another scenario is there have been many cases where parts have been made or machined en mass for group build projects, saving money. As long as -each- person doing the group build has purchased a set of the plans (or 'licensed' them in this regime) then there should be a provision for that to happen. (because people are going to do it anyway.)

Another note is that an individual user who buys plans to build one engine for him or herself has no obligation to purchase anything further than the plans if they so desire. This is already a given. I have seen an engine from a well known design that has been entirely fabricated, with none of the castings called for actually put to use. They traded more labor hours for up-front cost. This is something you cannot and would not want to control, or you would lose all your customers. Builders are free to build as they see fit.

One thing that Allen is doing is offering waterjet frames and will soon offer many other waterjet files to save the builder a lot of time. By offering these files directly, Allen is still in the loop making money off of its IP. Other difficult to make parts we are starting to offer such as the wire-EDM radius links for stephenson valve gear. Those are 100% machined and ready to install. I see more of that happening in the future.

In short, the vendors are going to have to innovate, and find a regime that they can live with for coming to terms with the digital age as it applies to the hobby. I have a feeling that fewer and fewer people will be willing to build an engine the way their dad or granddad did it, with all of the new tools and services available out there. They are going to use all the tools at their disposal to make the process easier.

This is all my personal conjecture and does not reflect the opinion of Steve Alley or Allen Models.
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Post by rkcarguy » Tue Nov 28, 2017 1:23 pm

I'm going to chine in here, as it's a bit of a blurry line of gone-too-far to me. First of all I have no intent of copying anything just making trains parts signals and things for my own use...I'm 12" gage at that. I live very close to the home of Northern Pacific #1070 (an 0-6-0) and if I decide to build a steamer later it will probably be this one. Being I work for a fabricator, was a fabricator myself, and have access to all the equipment, Autocad, laser cutting, and the like, I could easily scratch build anything I wanted. I was able to simply google image search online and found some general dimensions, center-to-center of the wheels, overall length width and height, and so on. I can also simply go out to visit #1070 and take a tape measure and a ladder and get all the dimensions I need. The only parts I would probably order is the cylinder castings to be honest and I shouldn't have to buy someone else's drawings to do so.

As with anyone that is building a scale train, we are copying the full size one and just because my model may look like someone else's isn't automatic plagiarism....after all WE ARE doing our best to make a scale model of the real thing just like Allen, RRSC, or any of the other suppliers. Yet if they came around demanding payment I'd go tell them to pound sand. The drawings are a convenience, which to some that want to model a locomotive that's on the opposite coast that doesn't have a drafting program it's a large convenience, which I would be happy to pay for in that case. Another option is to purchase a well modeled locomotive in HO or O scale and just scale it up. I've been using an Athearn S-12 along with pictures from espee and drawings from Baldwin found online with general dimensions to build my S-12.

So to me, the drawings from these vendors in relation to the parts they supply and how they go together is their property, just like mine would be after I drew up the locomotive and parts the way *I* intend to build it. The blurry part is, if I borrow Vendor X drawings from someone who already has them, use the dimensions yet machine and fabricate the entire project on my own, whose to say that that Vendor can require me to buy drawings and a serial # for "their" locomotive?

As for aftermarket parts, the legal side of things states that it can't be exactly the same. An aftermarket water pump for a Chevy for example, may have a impeller shaped different, or made from stamped steel compared to cast iron, and actually perform better with less cavitation than the OEM part. Chevy doesn't get $$$ every time someone buys an aftermarket water pump. This is what innovation and advancement is about. The first thing that comes to mind for me as I'm fairly new to the ride-on train hobby is that I like roller bearings, not bushings or needle bearings. If one was to offer a casting that fit another vendors locomotive for the axle or truck bearings, but it was changed to accept a roller bearing, I see that as an improvement that the other vendor didn't think of and therefore a "legal" part to produce and sell as an upgrade to said vendors product.

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Post by rkcarguy » Tue Nov 28, 2017 1:30 pm

"One thing that Allen is doing is offering waterjet frames and will soon offer many other waterjet files to save the builder a lot of time. By offering these files directly, Allen is still in the loop making money off of its IP. Other difficult to make parts we are starting to offer such as the wire-EDM radius links for stephenson valve gear. Those are 100% machined and ready to install. I see more of that happening in the future."

This is smart, and its not just time savings. There is no point in paying to ship heavy proprietary parts across the nation, or for some, around the globe. Here on the west coast I face that problem commonly, parts that come from back east that cost more to ship than the part cost. Buy the files, take them to your nearest water jet or laser cutter, and build away.

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Post by Steve Alley » Tue Nov 28, 2017 11:30 pm

I do not sell files, I sell drawings and plans. I will not sell files.. Once files are out there, I have no owner ship. You should look at my site. You will see that we are supplier for castings with drawings. The hole problem is the Plan a head is selling completion with my Fitchburg Northern engine. Its call a Baldwin 2-6-0, But in reality it the Fitchburg Northern engine. I have no idea if some one buys his drawings then buys my castings that the finish product would work. I would be answering questions from said customer to make it work for him. He could miss machine parts and expect me to replace them do to incorrect information due to these competitors draws.

If you go to all the effort to be a supplier or like I have and bought a proven Locomotive Company that is a standard of the hobby and someone thinks its ok to use Allen Models name with what they supply or create a copy of it. Then there is the rub. You would not like it.

Now as I set here and have been so frustrated with this and have no protection other than speaking out about this. Should I go and have all the plans we sell Copy Written and make a Licence agreement to build one engine only. This is a expense that I do not what to go though. If I was to do this, How can I be sure that the next customer has a set of prints to build a Allen Engine that was not sold by me or past Allen Models owners. There is no way to know. I am not going to ask for this to be proven where the plans came from. Yes we make Money off of castings, But the drawings is the number one thing that sells. There is far more drawing sold then castings bought. A lot of people dream to build engines, and some do it. Most don't have the skills. Use to be club members would work with each other. Think about this, if a club would offer there members access to Machinery and start a build group. There is liability's in doing this. So right there it stops and does not go further. Also if there is a junior member no one what the responsibility nor the liability for this do to if he got hurt.
So Legal rights and lost of old time machinist, also the expenses for machinery has slow or is stopping this hobby to grow. How do we move forward. I would like to have all the money to offer turn key Locomotives or kit fully machine. You see if things like this is road blocks for me.
I can't find qualify machinist to do work or sub contract. The ones I do know I will not give out there names. One they will not have time to do my work or get burn out.
I had a talk with Marty today and told him I contemplated of closing, Yes closing. Look there is not a lot of money in this, and we have this people thinking all the time well I can do this cheaper and not supporting the vendors. It so back stabling. You what the hobby to grow then support us vendors and when you see someone out there doing wrong tell others. You and I should not support this by closing eyes and turning heads. I wanted to put together a consortium of suppliers that back each other and act like IBLS brothers in the hobby. I must say I have had 12 supplier interested and a few that said appositely no. I have seen in the past vendors take money and not deliver the goods. So called supplier buy up product from others suppliers given up and bought the goods and not supplying them. Totaly off the market If you let these keep hurting the hobby and not doing anything about it well, we are doom.
Look, I am not the smarts vendor or person out there, but my heart is in the right place and trying. All I am asking is to stop these running your hobby down. I can not point fingers as it would put me in liability. The consortium would show as a group we support the hobby and would try to police the problems and have you the customer a place to vent. You buy from trusted consortium dealers or vendors. This group would have no dues or licence agreement, No paper work to be involve. We vote you in or let you in and if your get out of line, your off the list we supply the hobby for trusted vendors or suppliers. Simple, Keep it simple stupid. Forst Gump was far smarter because he had manors and honesty in him. To many lack Morels.
Now I am done on this subject and spoken my mind. I hope this wakes people up. If your interested in me and my company then order parts and help out a supplier. Don't post me asking what this or that. Move on. Support the good ones and let the others die.

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Post by DianneB » Wed Nov 29, 2017 7:34 am

Steve Alley wrote:Too many lack Morels.
Therein lies the crux of the problem and it is endemic in society today.

I worked much of my career in R&D, developing new and innovative products for industry. The sale of our products was the livelihood for many dozens of people, put the bread and butter on their tables, kept a roof over their heads, and paid for the education of their children.

Many decades ago, even in the "cut-throat world of business", most manufacturers respected the effort of other companies. If a bigger company wanted you product, they would negotiate to buy the rights to it. The odd disreputable company would simply acquire one, reverse-engineer it, and go into production. That's where Patents came in to effect but defending a patent is EXPENSIVE! With international trade and an increasing emphasis on quarterly profits, morals eroded and anyone who wanted to profit from your work simply stole the design and went into production. With the increase in patent violations, fighting each one in court became cost prohibitive and more than one North American company went out of business as their profitable products were plagiarized and cheaply produced in foreign countries.

Within our hobby, the same lack of consideration (for the developer) is also the root of much of the problem.

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Post by cbrew » Wed Nov 29, 2017 9:40 am

Morning Gentlemen,
This has been in interesting topic; I am going to throw my 2.5 cents in here.
This is from a consumer, kit basher and an ERP Software Engineer in the Manufacturing world.
I have never been one to “follow the herd” and this includes my equipment.
I have done business with a number of vendors in the hobby and for the most part, it has ranged from great to barely satisfactory experience personally. However, I have also steered clear of a small number of vendors due to delivery issues.
I completely understand the position Mike and Steve are taking here on this issue.
Now I have not wasted my money on any drawings from Plan-ahead, I always thought they are “over priced” for what they are. For the most part, they claim they recreated from originals. Anyone that has built a locomotive will understand original very rarely will yield a successfully running model do to scaling issues and physics. Sure, the 3D renderings may “function” on the computer. However, my experience with using 3D modeling almost never successes without any issue when it comes to building the physical item.
This is where your drawings come in. They are “drawn” with the intent of ending up with a fully functional item at the end. The drawings that are solid for the models are tried and true. In addition, when an issue is discovered, it is fixed (I hope).
That said, I personally would not be too worried about someone selling an untested drawing packs (for more them the builders prints mind). I would wager that said customer has bought both sets if they truly are building a model. (This is not in any way saying direct copies are ok and if there is a case for legal action, one needs to look into that.)
But you say many buy drawings and never buy a single casting, well they are either a collector, building from bar, a forger or the most likely case, a dreamer that would love to build but cannot. That market will likely not change. There will always be tire kickers.
One thing that seems to be lacking in this hobby (with the exception of a few) are vendors with customer service in mind. The number one complaint I hear from fellow modelers/builders is missed promises and then lying about it when the customer reaches out asking, “What’s up”. Instead of telling the truth, the customer is told the parts shipped. More time goes by, another call, another statement, “it will ship Monday” etc. etc. etc. (I am working with a close friend on a “machined kit” that has been in the works for the last 4 years, due to health issues, there is an expiration date on this build. So I have opened my shop and time for him so he can enjoy his locomotive before he is no long able too. It has been frustrating for him. But having my father die before he was able to enjoy his locomotive. I have put my stuff aside for now so we can get his loco running)
This is not anyway to treat customers; he or I will never be able to suggest this vendor to anyone, it is truly sad and I do not know the true story, but I cannot put my name on a company that does not follow through.
If I can make a suggestion, and take with as it is just one man’s suggestion. Focus on “your” product line. Make sure the castings are always tip-top shape. Your Drawings ae clear and tested and be willing to help the “Kit basher” of the hobby. My experience with Mr. Allen was fantastic when it came to this. When I called and talked to him about adapted the baker valve gear for the consolidation for use on the ten wheeler, he was more them willing to sell me the castings and the drawings that I needed to be able to make the conversion work. It was a good bit of R&D but in the end, I came out the other end with a great looking ten wheeler with baker gear.
I am seeing another sad trend in the hobby. The number of persons that have “knowhow”, tools or even willingness to build a steam locomotive is shrinking. The good thing is, these persons tend to have money. This is where focusing on your customers come into play. In order to widen the customer base. Reliable machined parts need to be on the market. I know that is “easier said than done”. However, there are job shops with idle machines. With good castings, and programs written. Machined parts can be produced at a reasonable cost.
In closing, your guys keep doing when you do best. Customers want to know they “will be treated right” and get a good product for their hard-earned money. Cause in this world of free cad and rapid prototyping. The market will find a way and we need all the good vendors we can get. In addition, do not forget us “Kit-bashers”, but offering castings with the drawing needed to machine the sad casting will add to your bottom line. If the said kit basher wants to machine your castings and sell to those that cannot, maybe find a way to support them. After all, you are selling castings that are no longer collecting dust on the shelf because the intended end user did not / could not machine the casting themselves.
Plus it’s us Kitbashers that come up with locomotives configurations that are not offered elsewhere. The bottom line is moving product, isn’t it?
I can go on, but I need to get back to work.
If it is not live steam. its not worth it.

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Post by michaellynn2 » Wed Nov 29, 2017 10:54 am

Free Market...... I will tell both sides of this story.. All now know, I own a business. In my business, I have offered my products that have been copied. This is very upsetting, but it happened. I once had a competitor speak with me with a friendly manner. I told him some ideas I wanted to try in my business and the competitor copied them and implemented them even before I could. MAD, you bet. I learned that in my business most of us offered the same product, eventually. What could I do to survive? In my market I fill a service that no one else could. I sell myself. My customers see me as a family, now that I sell myself. No one else can be me. In our hobby someone has copied our prints, but he offers them in CAD. Is this useful. In his case, NO. I have spoken to him on the phone and online. He cannot sell himself. In our hobby we are all family. He is not. Our venders go to meets and are like our family. We are loyal and as long as our family vender sells a product similar to another, maybe, we still want him to provide a dynamite, fantastic product. Our family vender may not afford the legal process to protect his innovation and neither can I. Again, sell yourself with your product.
Our offensive competitor has told me he considers dropping his site. Why would he do that? He has no relationship with the family our hobby has. He cannot sell himself enough to survive. So provide a fantastic product, which is necessary in the free market. Then sell yourself and be a family member. I do not tell my customers I am mad as #@&* with my competition. They care some, but not enough to
to save me. I have met our family of venders at club meets. Again, they to me are family. Notice in most of the replies in this debate, we talk about our venders fondly. In closing, Provide a great product and prints and sell yourself. Let that ( so and so) run out of business because he cannot sell himself. With Mike on the job selling himself, Mike sold me some prints and WOW what a man driving hard to be the best and selling his great personality. Also, thanks for treating me like family Mike ( my member of our hobby family.) Business 201
michael george

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Post by rkcarguy » Wed Nov 29, 2017 12:33 pm

I work in an industry where we deal with this on a regular basis. We are known to supply to a good product, deliver it on time, and bend over backwards to meet the customers needs. However, we are undercut on price ALL THE TIME, and even told that we were wanted for these projects but the financing/investors demanded the lowest price which of course comes with so-so quality and "you'll get it when you get it" deliveries. Yet they don't learn unless it hits them really hard, and in the wallet. One job we missed by 0.8%. Well that supplier shipped all the like product to the job site at once, instead of staging it and building packages shipped just in time like we had proposed/included in our bid. As a result, the installer spent weeks sorting, stacking, and staging the products at the jobsite, and the project fell behind schedule and went over budget. As a nation we changed in about 2003 onward. As an example, Costco's CEO back then made $300K a year "I don't need any more than that, I'm good". Well those times are long gone, our nation has sold out our workers and escalated costs of living with artificially low interest rates and rising costs of everything which has left the majority of us squabbling over the scraps because we have to. The ones that don't have to do it, do it anyway out of greed. It's turned into a "screw everybody and rake in as much money as I can" mentality.

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Post by michaellynn2 » Wed Nov 29, 2017 10:35 pm

Being a person in business, I will not delude myself into thinking its a breeze. I will be happy to discuss business with anyone. BUT, let's not forget what all this discussion started out being. There is an old gentleman wanting to carry on his career in his retirement. He has gotten carried away and started copying others property and converting it into a product he thinks will float. His intentions have started a firestorm in our family knit hobby. He has not used good manners in his handling others property. I have spoken to him on many occasions and he has had me burning mad at his mindset. He sees nothing wrong in taking somebodies hard work and putting his spin on it. He does not ask for permission and this is disturbing. He had told me that he is intending to take down the site. He has told me that he knows his project is dead. He has cost many allot of money and does not seem to mind. rkcarguy is correct about the status of the business world. I have been in business for 36 years and still at it. I have been angry, sad, and elated in my business dealings. Yes, I have been burned by my competition. I have been kicked and laughed at. FOLKS, winners get up and dust themselves off and march forward. This hobby, to me is all winners. We all take on a task and do not quit until SUCCESS!!! Speaking of success, have you seen the castings Mike is advertising. He is in business, got mad, protected himself from a thief, and marched on. HE is a WINNER!
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Post by Mikadoguy » Wed Dec 06, 2017 1:04 am

A lot of great information here and I will back STEVE and MIKE up 100%. Its not right to copy someone else hard work that they have taken their time to make these drawings and sell them. Though I am not deep into Railroad Supply, I do try to help out my dad the best I can when I have time off from the Railroad and the Military. As for the drawings go, I have done orders to many customers, and in some cases have order parts and built engine. Some people are scratch builders and have many drawings from many vendors to make an engine of their choice. As always, I would always sell parts to customer if requested by them and provide them with service.

I have read a lot about RSC CP 173 and the Disney version. At one point RSC tried to buy the design of Walt Disney's engine but it was unsuccessful. Though please correct if i am wrong, I do not know everything, that both engines if you put them side by side are different. One example would be inside the cylinder block we installed a liner. Walts Engine has no liner.

Another example as some of you may have known or know, that Railroad Supply was in a lengthy court battle over ownership of the USRA Heavy Mikado. We won the court battle and won owner ship of the engineering design and the owner ship of of the drawings. Since we won, I asked my dad why dont we go after the pattern boards for the mikado? He told me spending all this money in legal and court fees it was not worth it and plus the pattern boards we junk. I have helped my dad with the pattern boards and have paid pretty much close to 25 grand. Yes there is another company offering the almost the exact same engine. Do i have problem with it, in my eyes no, its a hobby, and i do this as hobby. I still talk to this company and as far as i know we still are on good terms. We both are providing for this great hobby.

Last example, Couplers. we pretty much all make the same coupler and have the same design to them. Railroad supply stopped selling couplers last year in fact i pulled the pattern boards and core boxes from the foundry. How can i justify someone making almost they exact same thing at half of what they were selling for our price 125 rtr verse 65 dollars. If i was the buyer i would go with the 65 dollar one. Same thing goes for the freight car trucks. We hardly sell trucks anymore cause of our prices.

At some point in 2018, i plan on making some of my own molds and tooling to for a WORKING steam turbine generator. The only thing i will using is a 1:1 scale drawing. I will try to add as much detail as i can and keep it to scale as to those of the real ones. They will be 1.5/1.6 scale. The goal i have in mind is to provide the Hobby Group a working Steam Generator at a fair price. Will i make a crap ton of money on them. Nope. i ll be lucky if i break even, but it is the fact of providing it to the hobby community is what matters to me and making people happy.

Please if have miss spoken, or got something out of text, please chime in. I hope all of you have a great week and happy holidays to you and your family.

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Post by Dick_Morris » Wed Dec 06, 2017 1:54 am

I built a RRSC CP-173 and have a set of Drawings for the Disney version. While they both have the same prototype, they are very different locomotives. The Disney version is a more complex design and has more detail.

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