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HOW TO WORK WITH HYDROCAL
AND OTHER MODELING TIPS -

THE HYDROCAL BUSINESS

So, you want to be a model kit manufacturer?

    I've been casting Hydrocal "professionally" since 1984. I am only able to do this artificially, by working out of the basement of my parent's home. So far it has not afforded its own roof! If I had a wife and kids to take care of there is no way I could do this. For that matter I should have not done it to myself. There's no retirement or any of the other benefits of having a real job...

    Perhaps very foolishly I have openly shared my knowledge with you, my fellow modelers. I have written several dozen how-to articles, conducted insightful clinics, answered all sorts of technical questions openly, and now even provide this information on-line. Much of this knowledge took years to develop the old fashioned way of trial and error. Yet I blab away. On more than one occasion my competitors have told me that I inspired them to become structure kit manufacturers!

    So, is that a big hole in my foot? Or have I helped the hobby? Well, financially I may not be wealthy but I keep telling myself it's okay, money is not everything- (none of the women I know, or have known, seem to agree). However, I am rich, very rich, in knowing that people are enjoying my models and technical help. Or at least I hope they are.

    Occasionally, I especially like this on a bad day, I'll go to the mail box and pull out an envelope where someone has take the time to write me a note, just a simple one, telling me how much they enjoyed one of my kits or made us of my castings in building a special model. It's a great feeling. It makes it that much easier to cast the next set or work on some new pattern work.

    Unfortunately, the hobby is graying fast. Go to any hobby shop, model railroading event or swap meet and just look around. There are not many kids entering the hobby. They are back at home in front of their computer screens, playing video games, surfing the net viewing God knows what (certainly not this site!). They wouldn't know the first thing about building a model. Would they? We no longer even teach them the basics in high school wood shop or drafting. And we old guys wouldn't know the first thing about what they are doing. I wish I was wrong and the kids today were excited about this great hobby. There are a few out there but certainly not as many who are able to tackle the many wonderful craftsman projects of my youth. Compare a typical issue of Model Railroader today with one 30-40 years ago! It's a very different hobby.

    All this looks bleak for our hobby. Even bleaker for someone like me who is attempting to make a living at it, at least in the traditional sense of craftsman structure kits. I've got a few years head start on anyone considering entering the market today. Perhaps this is counter productive to my earlier statement regarding my desire to help the hobby. If you can contribute, sure, why not climb on board. But understand that you probably are not going to make much money at it. I think I make about $2 per hour, if that. And there is no benefits package, no 401k, no paid holidays or 30 year reward pins. Though I could make my own! So, why did I quit the telephone company?

    It's long forgotten who first said this, but posed as a question: How do you make $100,000 in the model train business? Answer: Start with $200,000!

   


Or You Can Always Buy Out the Competition

    I've always prided myself in doing my own work. Or at least the core of it was my own, the Hydrocal patterns, the kit designs, the research. Though I do purchase parts from outside resources like Central Valley, Grandt Line and so on. And I've always pooh-poohed those heartless machine-made plastics, or laser cut, or even those CAD drawings. They just don't have that extra human touch of the good old fashioned hand-produced items.

    So I was offered this great deal in the summer of 2002, to buy Jim Haggard's Builders In Scale. Jim's kits not only feature a little Hydrocal, my forte', but they excel in white metal details and laser cut wood. There's also a long list of other high quality components such as scale chain, corrugated and ribbed seam metal roofing/siding, tar papers, laser cut shingles of all shapes and sizes, photo etched items- everything you need to make, at least in my opinion, some of the best craftsman structure kits on the market.

    It was just too good a deal to pass up. I was the perfect candidate to take over his business. Not only do I know how to pick up what he's already got going, the Evening Express kits, the many detail parts and model builders supplies, but I know how to continue on beyond them and bring out new products and kits, not only for Builders In Scale, but the C. C. Crow line too! This is just too cool!

    So forget what I said about those heartless machines! Let's put them to work. Let's see what I can do with them.

Seven Years Later...

    Has it been that long? Actually, longer. Where did the time go? It's been crazy. I've been doing the work of two people, actually three is you include me as C. C. Crow. Jim and Jan used to run Builders In Scale. Now I do all three jobs. Or try to. While I have gotten all of the BIS line back in stock as well as added greatly to the detail parts line I've yet to release a limited run kit. I've just been too busy to and the response to No. 12 - The National Belle Mine has been underwhelming (I plan to release it soon anyway (summer 2012). I have released a mostly un-noticed top-shelf kit under C. C. Crow (The NP Hotel). Okay, I have not advertised it and am happy with it anyway. I have also added several new kits to the BIS Evening Express Line though some of them might require more than a week of evenings to complete. I thought about coining a new "Empire Builder's" line but thought many would relate the EB line to the Great Northern, and I had all these blue boxes handy. But the BIG CCC project has been developing and now producing the Durango Roundhouse in 1/4 inch which balances out between the two.

    So combining CCC with BIS has worked out well. I help BIS and BIS helps CCC. Together we are doing more than what we could do apart. And despite the terrible ecconomy 2011 has been the best year ever. If it keeps up I'll have to hire help, pay taxes and join the Repulican Party. Screw that! I'm not that old, am I?

    Oh, let me toss this in while we are talking about starting your own model railroad business or buying one. Elsewhere you will read my barking about pirating. Specifically, I identify Art Fahie of Bar Mill Models who took the liberty of reproducing some of our BIS detail parts and adding them to his kits without our permission. So Artie is at one of the conventions I'm attending just after I picked up Builders In Scale and he's telling me that he would never buy a company. What for? Well, I had my reasons as expressed above. I didn't explain them to Artie. I didn't really know the guy. But a few years later when I discovered that he was pirating our parts I realized why he would say that. Why pay for something that you can steal? Why indeed?

    Repeatedly, I kindly asked Artie to quite pirating BIS parts. The first time after he apologized and said he just pulled a bunch of parts out of his scrap box and thought no one would care. A few weeks later more BIS parts showed up under his brand in the Walthers catalog. I sort of freaked out and called Walthers on it. Several years later our chimneys are still in his packages!

    Well, I'm told it's just business. I'm told I shouldn't squalk about it. It makes me look bad. Yeah, I'm the bad guy. I don't know. It makes me feel better to get it off my chest. I'm not loosing any sleep. After all, they are not my parts. I didn't make them. Jim Haggard did. I simply bought the rights to them. It just bugs me. And I know Jim is rolling over in his grave, mad as all hell. And I think he has every right to be.

    But yes, he has hired someone to make new patterns so I got him to move quite a ways. And I should be happy about that. So okay, I'll shut up.



C. C. CROW 's
HOW TO CLINICS






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