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ing Tips & Tools Monthly, Issue #89--China Syndrome
June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014

China Syndrome Grips Model Railroading

Good morning,

I checked in with my local hobby shop last week and found out we will be facing some pretty hefty price increases in most N Scale paraphernalia because of major economic changes in China.

In the US, a quarter of a percent increase in the minimum wage wouldn't mean much. In China that amounts to a 15 to 20% increase.

If that's all they got passed along in the price of an in scale caboose it wouldn't mean much. But realize everyone from the packer to the shipper, to the dealer, to the retailer are going to get their pieces of action. A couple years ago this article (excerpted) appeared in an O Scale discussion forum. It's ramifications fit all scales:

The 2008 purchase of Sanda Kan, the world’s largest model railroad manufacturer, by Kader Holdings Company Ltd. (which also owns Bachmann Industries) had a huge impact on the model railroad hobby. Where Sanda Kan had contracts with many hobby brands here in the U.S. (large and small), Kader dropped almost everyone but the very largest accounts. According to Shron, “The industry is still recovering from the eviction of Sanda Kan’s clients. The January closure of one of the largest remaining suppliers in the industry will only add to our collective problems.”

At one time, model trains were a US product (remember the Lionel dynasty and the Atlas Tool Co.) but a lot of U.S. manufacturers went to China to reduce manufacturing costs and in this quest for more profit they downsized or eliminated their U.S. workforce.

All model trains used to be made domestically except for the brass imports from Japan and Korea. But what a lot of people thought was a global economy is turning out not to be so flat.

According to recent remarks by Wharton School professor and frequent visitor to China, Marshall Mayer, manufacturing costs in China are going up and rapidly. China’s population is starting to age and they are having trouble finding workers. Other Asian countries are experiencing falling birthrates as well so moving manufacturing to India or Vietnam will only stall, not solve the problem.

China is also experiencing an energy shortage. China generates most of its electricity from coal and while the government does not control the price of coal, it does control the price of electricity and it is held artificially low. So low, that electricity produces cannot make a decent profit because coal costs too much so they shut down their power plants rather than burn more coal. The result is power blackouts.

So, given that China is not the goose that lays the golden egg, I do not accept the idea that model trains cannot be manufactured in North America again. It is a matter of how much will it cost and whether or not train vendors have the will to do what is necessary to bring it back.

I also realize that trains made in North America would cost more than trains made overseas, but I’d be willing to pay a higher price to know that I was supporting American workers and American manufacturing. Bringing manufacturing back here will not be easy but I have to ask does it makes economic sense for the model railroad industry to be at the mercy of one foreign company?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I do not advocate a boycott of foreign-made trains. If you did that, you would limit your model choices to an extreme. But I would like to see some domestic production. For example, the present Atlas Model Railroad Company was once know as the Atlas Tool Company and all of its products were made in New Jersey. It would be great if a company like Atlas would return to its roots and do both its engineering and manufacturing in the U.S. Even Lionel has looked seriously at manufacturing some of its trains here in the Philadelphia area. I hope they do more and I hope that all of the model railroad industry takes a hard look at how and where their trains are made.

Modeling Resources For Sale

As a scale ship modeler looking for the best reference sources, you may want to check out a couple eBay sales I recently set up.

The "Anatomy of the Ship" name has long been recognized as the major resource for the serious modeler. The authors take into account things like details of the ships as presently restored. general arrangement of whole construction, fittings, decorations masts, yards. along with rigging and armament.

It colored photos on the covers front and back are the exact colors of the ships.

These first two books are in perfect condition there don't know pages missing no marks on any of the pages.

If you are interested in the HMS victory simply enter 131211855075 into the eBay search line.

For the USS Constitution enter: 131211975220.

Is Bending Over Our Best Form of a Salute?

We are bending over backwards and baring our butts in front of a charging Porcupine. It is in the name of freedom of religion for Muslims.

All others need not apply.

This concerns all of us who are interested in religious freedom. You can't take prayer out of schools, the 10 Commandments out of the court room, and pretend that you still support America's Bill of Rights.

We can't just stand innocently aside and hide our faith under a bushel.

While others out there might disagree with the premise, it should be increasingly clear these are becoming important issues for religious Americans today.

CBN's "Beltway Buzz" put it this way:

Take, for example, the case of Robin Frazier. She's a local commissioner in Carroll County, Md., and is at the center of a conflict that could land her in jail.

Frazier found herself on the receiving end of a court-ordered injunction that forbade the commission's opening prayers to include references to any deities linked to specific religions.

Frazier had been singled out for prayers in which she invoked the name of Jesus.

One day after the injunction, she wouldn't back down, declaring that she was willing to go to jail over her right to pray.

"This is an infringement on my First Amendment rights of free speech, and I think it is a wrong ruling," she said before the commission meeting.

However, instead of offering her own prayer, she recited one found in George Washington's personal prayer journal, saying "Let thy blessings guide this day and forever, through Jesus Christ."

It's the Beltway Buzz's position that America has taken a major detour (or perhaps a U-turn), if a prayer from one of America's preeminent founding fathers isn't seen as acceptable today.

However Frazier's case plays out will be a pretty good indication of whether there really is a war against religious liberty.

Is praying in the name of Jesus a revolutionary act?

Check out the video: Beltwat Buzz

Do You Suffer From Hobbyists' SCDD?

Many modelers today suffer from being Senior Citizen Decrepitude Deficient, a malady that strikes many in the middle of an intensely finicky modeling operation. Do you think you are SCDD?

Here are six symptoms:

· You do an entire model doing your cutting and trimming with a butter knife.

· Your finished model is held together with rubber cement.

· You get yourself locked into the repetitive finishing cycle of filling + sanding / digging + filling to the point the wall of the model is too thin to support painting.

· You use a two-way Xacto blade to shave off a bad paint job and neither side works.

· You pull off a hypercritical modeling operation only to find it blocks access to a touchier job underneath.

· You honestly cannot understand how you could make such a dumb choice after you have failed to finish the kit.

Do You Have A Health Issue?

Most sufferers are filled with delusion. While Senior Citizen Decrepitude Deficient is not contagious (most modelers work alone) it does seem to run in groups, such as modeling clubs and contest friends.

SCDD suffers should not work on group projects as they never know whose turn it is.

Yes, as you have probably surmised SCDD is really a figment of my imagination and you won't find it in any medical dictionary, but for many of us, it is too close to reality. For instance, I am a sufferer and from time to time maladies like this have put my modeling on hold and I'd like to say it is declining eyesight, but to be more realistic, right now it is probably more like dealing with minor Essential Tremor which makes fine work with tweezers and thread much more difficult.

In the past there have also been things like cardiac infarct ions, and an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm that brought things to a halt.

Usually The First Thing To Go

Scale ship modeling is almost dependent upon good eyesight as you are dealing with fine rigging line, tiny holes needing to be threaded in blocks and hundreds of miniature parts of seagoing paraphernalia.

It is these parts that cause many Senior Citizens consternation in dealing with miniature blocks that measure less than an eighth if an inch in diameter,

But these are the small parts that cause self-appointed scale modeling judges to comment "that sure looks out-of-scale."

For most people, there is a sincere appreciation in the authentic recreation of historical ships, and the appreciation that others have for the authenticity.

No where do any of the modelers find suggestions on how to improve the way we see these small parts or how to thread tiny holes using thread that is the same diameter as the hole.

For years, I have worn glasses to deal with my inability to do close up work. Sure, there are magnifiers and binocular-type glasses and lasik surgery, but next to nothing on how to improve eyesight. That’s what I’m looking for, I am not ready to just write off my vision ability.

For others there have been incidents of carpal tunnel syndrome, Arthritis, back and spinal, Fibromyalgia concerns, auto immunities and major depression problems.

Many of these malfunctions can be severely debilitating and all too often, the remedy from our medical community tends to be ever increasingly expensive drugs and/or surgery.

It is important to realize, particularly as we age, that there are natural, non-drug and non-surgical cures for almost every illness and disease.

Let's Take A Closer Look At What Ails Us

Health as you can probably imagine, has been a concern with my modeling as I approach the beginning of my 7th decade.

As a survivor of a heart attack, Prostate cancer, an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm and lately, minor Essential Tremor and a walking disability, I have been doing a lot of online medical research.

To me, it is interesting how various maladies impact the different types of modeling and the different forms of natural treatment that don't require large amounts of money or a prescription.

Model It Your Way

I have had the pleasure of always living under the freedom present in America.

I can build (and freely display) models of an American submarine, a German battleship, a Jewish gas chamber diorama, a Hezbollah truck mounted rocket launcher, a diorama of an Iranian heavy water reactor, a Russian MIG35 or a diorama of a Muslim attack on Christian Church children.

After all, this is a free country...isn't it? Did you ever notice how quickly totalitarianism (a centralized government that does not tolerate parties of differing opinion and that exercises dictatorial control over many aspects of life) can set in.

A few weeks ago Mozilla, the company that started and maintained the world's second web browser, Firefox forced the resignation of its CEO, Brendan Eich for the corporate sin of six years ago donating $1,000 of his own money to an organization backing Proposition 8 which backed traditional marriage in California.

How quickly a small group with a free dating service could destroy a man's reputation on their website forcing Eich's resignation over LGBT "principles".

No grand theft, no corporate miss cues and no political intrigue, just a cold case of "political incorrectness) I know there's no such word, but it fits right in.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me -- Pastor Martin Niemoller.

Ship Planking Pointers

So, are there any secrets to getting a model planking them out looking right? It's not the easiest thing to explain in a paragraph or two but there are a couple of critical steps I can pass along here and give you a couple helpful links elsewhere on my website.

First, no matter how bad it looks, the number of gaps, even sloppy gluing, finish each model you start. You will learn a lot from your own efforts, and you will have a report of your improvement. If you still feel it is hopeless, start your own junk drawer of specific stripwood sizes and colors along with Zip packs of deck furniture and rigging material.

Second, the critical step most of us don't pay enough attention to in the beginning is making sure bulkheads are square to the keel and the line of the bulkhead edges is true. This truing operation is best done with sandpaper wrapped around a block that spans at least 3 bulkheads. Sanding them three-at-time will level out bumps and inconsistencies.

I have written extensively on this subject as it haunted me for a long time (I have a pretty large junk box). Start here and pick-up the ship modeling from scratch eBook.

It is a fun hobby, don't throw in the towel.

An Important Voice Is Missing

You may not have noticed the passing a couple weeks ago of Dr. Maya Angelou, one of the most renowned and influential voices of our time. Hailed as a global renaissance woman, Dr. Angelou is a celebrated poet, memoirist, novelist, educator, dramatist, producer, actress, historian, filmmaker, and civil rights activist.

I would like to close out this issue with her words in her own words:

Dr. Angelou

Until Next Month

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