Author Topic: Reproduction Builder/Number Plates - Materials, etc.  (Read 12022 times)

Ira Schreiber

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Re: Reproduction Builder/Number Plates - Materials, etc.
« Reply #15 on: November 16, 2014, 11:46:46 PM »
Make the replicas from chocolate and you satisfy both cravings..........

Stewart "Start" Rhine

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Re: Reproduction Builder/Number Plates - Materials, etc.
« Reply #16 on: November 17, 2014, 12:05:59 AM »
Having a rather close view of gift shop sales, the best analogy to selling high end railfan items like number plates is the 25th anniversary WW&F kero lanterns.  They were introduced in late 2013 and have sold fairly well (22).  At a price of nearly $200.00 they are one of the most expensive items in the store and are marketed to serious railfans and historians.

Here's a quick break down of store sales: Casual visitors purchase small items auch as post cards and small souvenirs. The next step up is the median products like hats, and shirts with a range from T's to the nice denim shirts.  Heritage shirts and fleece jackets round out the group. There's a slight cross-over market between regular visitors and railfans with this type of merchandise.  Serious railfans, modelers and historians purchase the books and top-end items.  For the most part, having to order an item kills a sale in the store.  Most people won't go to the trouble.  The other side of sales is the mail order from the web site.  People will purchase things in stock via mail, email, or phone calls.  They don't mind waiting for the shipping if it's the reasonable time of about 5 to 10 days.  We've not tried special/back order sales via mail order so we don't know how it would work.  A good bit of our mail orders go out from Summer into the Christmas shopping season.  Items are sent quickly, within the first 1-2 business days after the payment has been confirmed.  If we advertised that someting would take a couple of months I'm not sure how well it would sell.  The best thing is to have a few items in stock before rolling out a new product.  If it doesn't sell in a year or so, it eventually gets marked down a bit.  A test market survey of potential buyers may give us an idea of the popularity of a #9 builders or number plate.  The other possibility is to sell miniature ones as pins for hats, etc.

Start  

Andre Anderson

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Re: Reproduction Builder/Number Plates - Materials, etc.
« Reply #17 on: November 17, 2014, 01:09:47 AM »
Steve,

I work in a large hobby shop and I can tell you I sell many more items if I have it already on the shelf, the minute that I tell some one that they will have to wait 95%, especially of expensive items. Many say no thanks, because at that moment buyers remorse has already set in. If they have it in hand they will walk up to the cash registrar and pull out their wallet and pay for it, but if they have to think about it that usually kills the deal. The owner of the store that explains it quite well, " You can't sell from an empty cart! ". And the other saying that you have to remember is that "It takes money to make money!".

Two other things to remember is: The first ting is that the average customer that walks through the door is not one of us, meaning that they are not fanatics which to some degree we all are. By this I mean that they don't volunteer their time, they don't donate money (they feel that the money that they paid for the ride is enough), They probably don't have a library of railroad books at home, they don't read message board like we do, they are not modelers, all they are looking for a nice experience, a nice day out with the family and afterwards as they go through the gift shop they are looking for something that they can remember the experience with. The second is that online, or mail order are a completely different kind of customer, they have already thought about this item as either a gift for some one else or a decoration for their own home at this point they know what they want and where to get it.

Now if you are going to make resin castings those can be done in house for very little money. Make the original and mount it on a smooth surface, build temporary dams around the master so the cast rubber that makes the mold will not run every where. Pour in the mold rubber and let cure. Remove the the rubber mold and turn over and let it cure for 24hrs then cast your first resin casting, and to make it look like bronze you can add a bronze metal powder to the resin before you cast the part. Now you let the resin cure and then remove from the mold. You can also use a layer of paint as a mold release, you paint the mold before you pour the casting resin in and when the resin cures it attaches to the paint which will come out of the mold easily. This method has the advantage that the resin attaches much more firmly to the paint than the paint will attach to the resin, you also don't have to wash the release agent off of the casting.

If you use a two part mold IE one with a back you could cast the railroads name in to along with the information that it is a reproduction. It could say something like this "This Reproduction was made by the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway Museum, Alna Maine". As to aluminum or bronze you might be able to get a local trade High School to make them for you, when I went through High School in the metal shop was the capability to sand cast both bronze and aluminum. If you do some thing like this all you would have to pay for is the materials that the class use. Most of these type of programs are looking for something like this so that they can teach the whole casting process and as long as it goes to a museum they don't have any problems with it.

Andre

Alan Downey

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Re: Reproduction Builder/Number Plates - Materials, etc.
« Reply #18 on: November 17, 2014, 04:19:32 AM »
I've been watching this discussion pretty closely, because I have had an idea similar to this kicking around in my head for a year or so.  I don't want burst any bubbles, but I think that it is worth having some real numbers involved in the discussion.

I have no idea what it will cost to have #9's plate cast, but I am usually surprised at how much "simple" castings end up costing. But there is more to a finished number plate that could be sold in a gift shop. The painting and polishing are both important and significant steps. Due to the shape of #9's plate- this will be a slightly more delicate task than other examples. All of this will require someones time and energy- a commodity which is often fully allocated at the museum already. At the end of the day, we aren't meant to be a number plate factory, with a railroad on the side. So you would want the valuable time spent by someone, that could have been used on another project, to be made up for by that number being sold for a price that would make a noticeable drop in the bucket after the materials had been accounted for.


The WV Rail Museum sells fully painted replica plates in their gift shop, for $340. I don't have any idea what their materials cost, or labor involvement is. But if that is a reasonable estimate for what we would want to sell a plate for- is that a price that we could expect to sell many for? It's far outside of impulse buy territory at that point. I'm not sure that we would actually sell enough, at a high enough price to make everybody's effort worthwhile. I think we should hold onto the idea of full replica number plates for a purpose that might better serve the museum further on down the road.


There are some other options though-
A scaled down version of a number plate would be much more attainable, however. There are companies which produce finished belt buckles for quite reasonable amounts depending on the size of the order. Would we be closer to impulse buy territory if we had belt buckles in the gift shop for under $70? Honestly, a modestly sized belt buckle is something that I'd love to have.

We already have one or two pins for sale (I believe). I know I've got one. These are a staple of gift shops the world over, and are at a price point which people can jump on without much thought. I don't know how well they sell over the year, but we might be well served to expand our selection of pins to include the number plates of our locomotives.

Just my two cents.
Alan

Andre Anderson

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Re: Reproduction Builder/Number Plates - Materials, etc.
« Reply #19 on: November 17, 2014, 08:18:04 AM »
Allen,

I really like the pin and belt buckle idea, both of these items fall well into the spur of the moment purchase.

Andre

James Patten

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Re: Reproduction Builder/Number Plates - Materials, etc.
« Reply #20 on: November 17, 2014, 12:13:56 PM »
As treasurer, I see all the shop sales as I enter them in the computer.  We sell lots of pins, key chains, friction toys - little stuff priced from $1 to $12.  Fewer, but not an insignificant number of t-shirts, polo shirts, denim shirts, and the spiral-bound Pictorial Guide (Barney) books - price range of $12 - $35.  Far fewer higher priced items.  Aside from the kero lanterns, are highest price items are the big coffee table books like Two Feet to Tidewater at $60 or thereabouts.  Ten years ago these types of books sold really well when they first come out, then tapered off.  Nowadays we may order a dozen of a new book of this type, and it might take six months to sell.

Wayne Laepple

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Re: Reproduction Builder/Number Plates - Materials, etc.
« Reply #21 on: November 17, 2014, 03:07:11 PM »
When the number plate is scheduled for casting, the museum might take orders from folks who are interested in having their own copies. The proceeds from those additional plates would easily cover the cost of producing the plate for No. 9, and the profits could either be used to maintain No. 9 or for other museum projects. As mentioned above, resin copies may be easily produced and might be suitable for sale in the bookstore. Whether it would make sense to produce additional copies in brass/bronze or aluminum depends on the unit cost. Perhaps an annual pour to meet advanced sales is the solution.

Richard Cavalloro

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Re: Reproduction Builder/Number Plates - Materials, etc.
« Reply #22 on: November 18, 2014, 12:35:35 AM »
Speaking of big ticket items.....  are there any more lanterns left???
  Rick

Rick Rowlands

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Re: Reproduction Builder/Number Plates - Materials, etc.
« Reply #23 on: November 18, 2014, 12:45:46 AM »
Over the winter I will be casting several plates in brass/bronze for locomotives.  A set of Baldwin builders plates and number plate and a Porter builders plate and number plate.   I do all the work myself, from making the molds to melting and pouring.   I am sure that we could cast additional plates at reasonable cost if you have a good pattern to work from.

The Baldwin builders plate will be 3D printed, while the Porter builders plate will be cast off of a repro plate that has had the numbers changed.  We have the ability in house to design new plates and to have the patterns 3D printed.  
Rick Rowlands
Chief Engineer
Jones & Laughlin Narrow Gauge Railway
Youngstown, OH

Stewart "Start" Rhine

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Re: Reproduction Builder/Number Plates - Materials, etc.
« Reply #24 on: November 18, 2014, 01:17:50 AM »
There are just 5 WW&F 25th anniversary lanterns left since we sold one yesterday.  Price is $198.90  Add 5.5% tax if sold in the store, otherwise add $20 for shipping outside of Maine. 

Thanks

Alan Downey

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Re: Reproduction Builder/Number Plates - Materials, etc.
« Reply #25 on: January 15, 2015, 04:44:17 PM »
A couple months ago I mentioned that I would've liked a belt buckle sized version of a number plate. I looked at some of the firms that do custom buckles, and the price breaks didn't really line up an everyday gift shop item that the museum could take a risk on. But I still wanted a belt buckle- so I found a foundry in Dallas, and made a few different sizes of patterns over the break (2.5", 2.75", and 3"). I picked up the brass castings yesterday between classes. The foundry had a hard time getting the number to come out, as it needed a much larger fillet, and the medium sized one didn't seem to work. They aren't perfect- with a few small voids in the rims, or the face of the casting- but I'm quite happy with how they turned out. I'd still like to add the buckle hardware, and add a dark patina or paint coating as well.








Hansel Fardon

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Re: Reproduction Builder/Number Plates - Materials, etc.
« Reply #26 on: January 15, 2015, 06:20:32 PM »
Absolutely beautiful.

Wayne Laepple

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Re: Reproduction Builder/Number Plates - Materials, etc.
« Reply #27 on: January 15, 2015, 08:15:53 PM »
They look great! I have one question, though -- will I need to wear suspenders with the belt buckle?

Jock Ellis

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Re: Reproduction Builder/Number Plates - Materials, etc.
« Reply #28 on: January 15, 2015, 10:39:29 PM »
Red suspenders, the wide ones.
Jock Ellis

Alan Downey

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Re: Reproduction Builder/Number Plates - Materials, etc.
« Reply #29 on: March 27, 2015, 02:17:11 AM »
It's been more than couple months since I finished this, but I thought I'd share it anyway.

I thinned down the buckle about .1" more after the comments, and it definitely looks and feels "right". Even though it seems a little large, it would have been difficult to make it much smaller, without making it difficult to mount and space the hardware. Over one weekend I bent a set of hardware out of brass rod, and brazed them into holes I'd drilled into the back side, and buffed the front and back faces. Unsatisfied with available belts, I decided to make my own. I think the full grain leather and copper rivets will hold up well. I certainly hope so at least- since this is now my daily belt!