Years ago, I had fun rattling the folks who defended their favorite brands of trains ardently. I thought it ridiculous that people could side with a brand of toys with more ardor than religious fanatics to their own concept of Divinity. And I still do. When a hobby evokes such strong emotions, something is definitely wrong.
Truth be told, this was all a source of entertainment for me. Buffoons used to amuse me. Older and wiser, I realize that buffoons are actually pathetic. This goes for any buffoons, not just train nuts. Nonetheless, I think people who attach that much significance to a brand of toy are extremely foolish. Allegiance to family, religious denomination and nation are reasonable. Giving the same to a company that makes toy trains is not.
While I found it amusing to poke and prod those who engaged in the petty squabbles, I never said where I stand on it. My thoughts as to brands and manufacturers and the personalities behind the products is simple. Make something I like and price it within my range. If I like it enough, I will buy it. At this time, I am not buying because I have everything I wanted, and then some. When I was buying, it was that simple. Whoever got there first with the thing I wanted and priced it right was going to sell me one. It did not matter all that much if it was MTH or Lionel or K-Line or Williams.
Of the various brands, I favored K-Line because they usually had what I wanted the way I wanted it.
As to the personalities and their doings, from promotions to lawsuits and all the rest, who cares? The competition is their business as is everything else that goes with it. The one fact is that Lionel has gone through five or six CEOs in the time they have competed against MTH. Another is that MTH has established itself in other scales such as S, HO and Large Scale where others have not done as well with them. Lionel gave up on HO a long time ago. The closest it comes to Large Scale is its assortment of cheap battery-powered sets for kids.
The hobby has changed, and not for the better. Prices are ridiculously high and I see little to attract newcomers to the hobby. Over $800 list for a new rendition of an old transformer? Locomotives starting at over $300 a pop? And it is all made in China. The only way this hobby is going to gain ground with new people is if someone can make items in lower price ranges. Louis Marx did it and got through the Depression a lot better than his competitors. We need someone to focus on the entry level of this hobby. Otherwise, numbers will diminish as the current generations enter old age and attrition accelerates. Without new people joining the ranks of O gauge model railroaders, there won’t be enough to support manufacturers. We could very well end up where the hobby becomes a matter of people collecting and running old trains because nobody is making new ones.