57th International Toy Fair
work takes me all over the world but the majority of my contracts are in
North America. It just so happened that my last major contract was in
Vancouver, Canada. I mention this because one of the leading retailers
of European (German) model railroad equipment is located in Langley, BC.
Which was approximately 45 minutes and $500 dollars from my apartment
downtown. I don't think that I ever left his store with less than a half
century debit on my check card! It all started with a DCC starter set from
Fleischmann and degenerated into additional locomotives from Minitrix. Soon
I had a halfway decent roster looking for a permanent layout to run on. The
trundle bed was no longer an option but my library offered an answer to my
dilemma. I would build my empire on top of a set of bookcase that I
have along one side. Designing what I am sure is an over-complicated track
plan I vow to have everything up and running before I add scenery but unlike
my fried Doug, scenery they'll be, since that's one of the areas I enjoy
best. This weekend I will begin the installation of my yard which includes a
turntable, a six-seven stall roundhouse and various service tracks. I will
build the layout as a set of modules and wire each one before progressing to
the next. I will also eventually have working catenary on DC.
This year one hall was devoted entirely to official 2006 World Cup toys launched on the market by soccer's world governing body FIFA, which is expected to earn some two billion euros ($2.4 billion). I didn't want to visit this hall as I'm trying to ignore the Cup until the semi-finals so I won't get disappointed by the perennially under-achieving Dutch team. So I'll have to take their word for it. I did of course visit the halls display Model Construction / Hobbies, Model Railways & Accessories, and Mechanical & Electronic Toys. That was enough to walk myself lame after only 2 days. According to the organizers there are two product groups at the International Toy Fair in Nürnberg that are visited by almost every (male) buyer, even though he has nothing to do with them professionally: Model Railways and Model Construction.
With development costs of around 1 million euros for a new locomotive this means the manufacturers are faced with enormous investment costs every year. A share of some 60 % for manual work is a burden on the production costs and leads to the situation today where even large manufacturers have an increasing number of parts or whole models produced in Asia or Eastern Europe. It also means that these people take their toys seriously. One thing I noticed was that there is a thriving market at the museum quality end of the train hobby spectrum. Manufacturers such as KISS, Micro-Metakit, Dingler along with steam specialist Regner displayed models that were breathtaking. It's a good thing none of them model in N or I would have left my wallet in Germany. It's hard to describe the Toy Fair as anything but huge. There must have been close to a dozen halls. I would concentrate on the model railway and hobby construction areas. All the major brands were here of course, their displays running into the millions. In fact despite the dire reports regarding the hobby in Germany this seemed where the fanciest displays were led by LGB.
have described LGB as a toy brand and I won't deny that but it's a rich
man's toy if you have paid attention to their pricing. In the United states
there are two main streams in our hobby, scale and classic toy. There are
many modelers that run Lionel and American Flyer so the reception towards
LGB has been very favorable. There is also a significant section building
Garden Layouts and here LGB really shines with their reputation for
ruggedness. Beside bringing a full-sized
locomotive with them LGB showed off their Multi-Train System (MTS), a
proprietary DCC system said to support additional sound features. I had
mentioned that LGB had the largest booth if you could call it a booth! They
even had a cafe where you could sit and watch the Hoi Polloi.
ago, Ernst Paul Lehmann Patentwerk was founded as a tin toy maker in
Brandenburg, Germany. In 1950-51, the firm relocated to Nürnberg, Germany,
and on July 14-16, 2006 they will hold an "LGB Festival" at their Saganer
and partner venues around Nürnberg.
Yet it was Viessmann's rather large unit that I was most impressed with. According to their representative it isn't due out till 2007. Viessmann had their central station working alongside their new Gleisabschluss (GBS) system as well as all of their other electronics. This is the latest incarnation of a modular schematic track diagram that displays block occupancy and switch settings. While this can be done cheaper on a PC it won't come close to the sensory and tactile experience you'll get from this sweat piece of hardware. Since I will be using Viessmann catenary and I already have locomotives with their decoders so it looks like I will be waiting for their central station or at least their GBS system.