Wednesday, December 13, 2006 at 8:29 pm

Brass and Plastic Converge

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I haven’t been in the hobby long enough to know if this is in any way new or if it’s happened all the time, but I’ve been noticing a trend recently where brass locomotive manufacturers and plastic locomotive manufacturers are converging. See, I always thought that some companies did brass, and some did plastic, and they stayed in their respective corners.

But then last year Overland, probably the biggest brass manufacturer out there, started its plastic division, Tower 55, which puts out models of recent locomotives (like the SD70ACe and ES44AC). And now a couple of high-end plastic manufacturers that always seemed rather closely aligned with one another, Broadway Limited and Precision Craft, have been getting into brass.

GN S2 We’ve already heard about Precision Craft’s plastic Big Boy in HO scale, but they’re also doing one in brass. Broadway Limited’s been doing it too: they started some time back with a very nice-looking HO-scale Great Northern S2-class 4-8-4 Northern (at right; that engine is now available in plastic from Precision Craft), and have recently announced two new brass projects: an HO New Haven I5 4-6-4 Hudson and a mammoth G-scale (1:29) Southern Pacific AC12-class 4-8-8-2 Cab Forward that will set you back five grand, both scheduled for late next year.

Of course, plastic is getting more expensive, more accurate, and more detailed — qualities previously reserved to brass models. But brass is getting more expensive (and better) too: modern brass locomotives regularly run about $1200-1500 in HO scale, and make older, cheaper brass models look, well, old and cheap. No convergence here, just escalation.

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