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Industry News - June 2009

Published: May 6, 2009

No news OK for BNSF model railroading licensing agreement

Negotiations between the model railroad industry, represented by MTH Electric Trains CEO Mike Wolf, and BNSF Railway on a licensing agreement are quiet for now. For the model railroad industry, that's not a bad thing.

BNSF had sought to charge model railroad manufacturers a licensing fee to use the company's trademarks on scale products, and had contacted individual companies to that end. Wolf, having successfully spearheaded the effort for a similar agreement with Union Pacific Railroad several years ago, has been tapped to represent the model railroad manufacturers in the talks.

Wolf said discussions with BNSF began in December 2008 and continued into this year, but there's been no contact from the railroad for about a month.

BNSF had offered the industry a deal where manufacturers would pay the railroad $1 for the next five years, then licensing fees after that. But model railroad makers would rather see a deal similar to the one hammered out with Union Pacific, where use of the railroad trademarks - including merged and predecessor railroads' logos - is free in perpetuity, provided the companies show artwork to the UP and send a sample a year for quality verification. It must also be noted in advertising that products are licensed by UP. Any company producing UP-related model railroad products is eligible to for the agreement.

As part of the deal, UP even provides color verification and paint scheme diagrams for the cost of having them reproduced.

Wolf thinks the legal onus is on the BNSF right now, not the manufacturers. He points out BNSF predecessor Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe used to pay toy train manufacturer Lionel to produce Santa Fe-decorated products. Further, where Union Pacific has protected the trademarks of predecessor railroads by painting modern locomotives in "heritage" paint schemes, BNSF - whose component roads also include Burlington Northern; St. Louis & San Francisco; Spokane, Portland & Seattle; and Chicago, Burlington & Quincy - have failed to do so.

Woodland Scenics erects Landmark Structures brand

Woodland Scenics has announced it's combining its various lines of buildings under one name: Landmark Structures.

Included under the new brand will be its Built-&-Ready structures, DPM (Design Preservation Models), and the recently released Pre-Fab building kits. The line covers structures in N, HO and O scales.

The three components of Landmark Structures offer modelers a variety of architectural options and price points:

  • Built-&-Ready Landmark Structures are hand-painted, highly detailed ready-to-place buildings that include decals and window treatments.

  • DPM Landmark Structures are all-inclusive building kits. The new DPM Select kits feature positive-interlocking prefinished edges along with details, decals and window treatments. DPM modular systems offer design options for building structures of any type, size and shape.

  • Pre-Fab Landmark Structures can be assembled in minutes with craftsmanship results. Add roof sections to preassembled walls, paint and attach details, decals and window treatments.

  • All Landmark Structures are available through your local distributor. For more information, visit Woodland Scenics' Web site, e-mail Sales and Customer Service or call 573-346-5555.

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    It's not too early to think about iHobby Expo '09

    For many, summer is just getting started, but planning for this year's iHobby Expo is well underway. In fact, it started right after the 2008 show ended.

    Hotel and floor space for this year's event, scheduled for Oct. 22-25 at Rosemont, Ill.'s Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, are already filling up. Educational dealer seminars are being planned as the Hobby University program makes a return and special events are being planned to celebrate 25 years of the hobby industry's biggest gathering.

    Some of the participating show hotels have even lowered their rates. Options are available for all budgets.

    The Ticket to Ride program, now in its third year, can help defray and even completely cover retailers' travel expenses to the show. All retailers have to do is place qualifying orders with participating manufacturers and distributors. Dealers will be issued vouchers based on the amount purchased that can be redeemed after the show for reimbursement.

    Since the program has been in existence, more than $20,000 has been returned to retailers, according to HMA Executive Director Pat Koziol.

    Dealer Paks are another show perk for dealers. Each retail attendee will have the opportunity to purchase, at substantial discounts, up to four sample packages of hobby products from exhibiting iHobby Expo manufacturers. Each package is made up of new and in-demand products from the HMA divisions: model railroad, plastic/die cast, radio control and general hobby. Dealer Pak supplies will be limited and can be reserved with a non-refundable $50 fee when retailers register for the show. The reservation fee will be deducted from the cost of the Pak when purchased.

    Companies interested in having their products promoted through the Dealer Paks can contact Jodi Araujo. Sponsorships of various events at the show are also still available.

    Floor space for last year's iHobby Expo sold out and more than 15,500 people came to the public days, setting a new attendance record. Trade attendance was more than 2,500.

    For more information or to register for the show, visit the iHobby Web site. For exhibitor or sponsor information, call Ed Lamphier, 949-786-8647, or click here to e-mail him.

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    Hal's Blog: Pedaling service

    Here's a story only tangentially connected to a hobby store, but the message is applicable in any small retail business.

    One of our neighbors gave my son a bike that his son had outgrown. It was in good shape, except one of the nuts was missing that held the front wheel in the fork. "No problem," I thought, because I had several bikes in the garage that my kids had outgrown; surely a nut off of one of them would fit.

    Of course, not one of them did.

    Fortunately, nearby is a bike shop called South Shore Cyclery in the building occupied years ago by Cudahy News & Hobby, now Greenfield News & Hobby (Jay Gordon, come back, we still need a hobby store on the south side of Milwaukee!). I'd visited when the cycle shop was just getting started and I needed a tube for a flat tire; the folks were very friendly and excited about what they were doing. I applauded them for opening a bike store, but wondered if they'd make it.

    I'm happy to say they've survived the first few years, and seem to be thriving. My most recent visit gives me some indication as to why: my son and I walked in; we were greeted cheerfully and, as I obviously needed something, was asked what they could do for me today. I told them I needed a nut for the wheel I was holding and one of the men working there said he could fix me right up. As he examined the wheel, he noted the bearings were a bit "grindy" and said they could easily be replaced. When I asked him how much it would be and how long it would take, he had answers for me.

    A few days later, I went back for the wheel after work. The same guy who had helped me before was repairing a bike, but stopped immediately to greet and help me - he was far more cheerful than I was after working all day. The wheel was fixed (when he said it would be) and no longer grindy, and it had cost exactly what he said it would.

    I was in a better mood when I left, in great part because of my experience, and also because my son would be excited about having his bike back in action.

    In the small picture, the guy turned a $1 sale into a $20 sale - not much to write home about. But in the bigger picture, because of his attitude, helpfulness and the quality of the work, here's what the store gained:

  • I'm now looking at buying a bike from the store, and I have three kids under the age of 12 who love to ride. You do the math.

  • I'll recommend South Shore Cyclery to my friends, many of whom also like to ride and have kids.

  • Whenever I need parts, I'll go there rather than a big-box store where finding the right thing is a hit-and-miss proposition and the service is forgettable.

  • The moral of this story: from a nut can spring a mighty tree, or in this case, a loyal customer. Even the smallest (and least profitable) things a retailer does, if done well, can be worth a lot down the road.

    - Hal Miller, editor

    BATFE permits no longer needed

    AeroTech's high-power (generally H class and above) rocket motors and reload kits are now free from regulation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE).This means that no federal BATFE permits are required to purchase, store, sell or use these products by either dealers or consumers.

    AeroTech reminds customers that high-power motors and reloads must only be sold to individuals 18 years of age or older in possession of a National Association of Rocketry (NAR) or Tripoli user certification level commensurate with the motors they wish to buy. In addition, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations remain in effect regarding the operation of all high-power rockets.

    Many AeroTech high-power reload kits may be shipped via USPS Parcel Post without incurring a hazardous-materials fee. And, as of Nov. 24, FAA air-traffic control notification is no longer required for any AeroTech kit using the recommended motors.

    More information is available at the company's Web page at AeroTech Consumer Aerospace is a division of RCS Rocket Motor Components, Cedar City, Utah.

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    Horizon Hobby unveils new 'Beast'

    Hangar 9, owned by Horizon Hobby, announced the impending release of its new Model 12R 'The Beast.' This model, along with the full-size Beast made an appearance at the Joe Nall Flyin last week at Triple Tree Aerodrome in Woodruff, S.C.

    The radio-control airplane design has been a collaboration between the full-size airplane builder and designer, Kevin Kimball, and recent addition to the Horizon design team, Quique Somenzini (see Quique Somenzini joins Horizon Hobby). The project has been in development for the past two years, and Horzion decided that Joe Nall was the place to unveil both planes together. The R/C model has an 89" wingspan, weighs about 27 lbs. and requires a 80cc to 100cc nitro engine. Price and availability are forthcoming.

    The full-size Beast is owned and piloted by Bryan Jensen, who intends to make limited appearances in 2009 and begin a full slate of airshows beginning 2010.

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    Phil Walthers and daughter, Stacey Walthers Naffah

    Walthers adds Stacey Walthers Naffah

    A fourth Walthers generation has joined the model railroad distributor. Stacey Walthers Naffah, daughter of CEO Phil Walthers, will serve as the company's consumer marketing manager.

    Stacey, the oldest of Phil and wife Carole's four children, is familiar with the operations of the company, having helped her father and grandfather, Bruce Walthers, on weekends. She also worked in the company's distribution center and spent a summer during college as an intern in the publications department.

    After earning a Bachelor's of Science in marketing and psychology from Boston College Carroll School of Management in 1996, she began her career at J. Walter Thompson advertising agency and later worked at Reader's Digest. In 2002, Stacey joined People magazine in Chicago, working with clients that included Best Buy, Kraft, McDonald's, Procter & Gamble and Target to develop successful marketing programs.

    She earned Masters of Business Administration from the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Graduate Management in 2005, majoring in entrepreneurship and non-profit management with a concentration in marketing.

    Stacey started in her new position May 11, the same date her great-grandfather began operations in 1932. She, her husband Chris, son Jack, and daughter Cate have recently relocated to the Milwaukee area.

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    Hidden City Games partners with Jakks Pacific

    Hidden City Games, publisher of the Bella Sara entertainment property - which features horse-themed trading cards and an online world developed specifically for girls ages 5-13 - has entered an arrangement with Jakks Pacific to develop the brand through distribution deals with toy stores, mass market retailers, mail order companies and online outlets in the United States and Canada.

    The license acquired encompasses a range of products, including plush toys, figurines, dolls, play sets, dress-up items, kites and stationery.

    ITV Global Entertainment represents the Bella Sara consumer product portfolio worldwide. Bella Sara debuted in North America in March 2007.

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    Traxxas TORC events include R/C races

    Traxxas, title sponsor of The Traxxas Off-Road Championship Series (TORC), has announced it will be hosting radio-control (R/C) racing events at each venue on the TORC circuit (see Traxxas signs three-year sponsorship deal). R/C racers of all skill levels will be able to experience the excitement of short-course racing as they compete with Traxxas Slash and Slayer models.

    The TORC series is a short-course off-road racing series and pits purpose-built, 900-plus hp trucks racing against each other on a closed course.

    Each race on the TORC Series circuit will feature a professionally constructed R/C race course complete with drivers' stand and electronic lap counting system. Race classes will include Spec Slash, Modified Slash, and Nitro Slayer with trophies and prizes for the podium finishers. The electric Slash and nitro-powered Slayer models replicate the appearance and performance of the full-size TORC racing machines. The Spec Slash class uses virtually box-stock Slash models for exciting short-course competition that pits driver against driver.

    Racers can get the TORC schedule, receive discounted admission tickets and register to race at the events at, or in person on the day of the race. TORC R/C racers will have access to the full-size racing event, including the pits. The Traxxas Mobile Support Center will be on hand to help everyone have a fun experience.

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    CPSC issues lead testing change

    The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued a new standard operating procedure (SOP) for determining total lead content of paint, or a painted surface, on a dry paint basis. The new guidelines are based on recommendations submitted by a Toy Industry Association task group which included experts from several laboratories.

    Test method CPSC-CH-E1003-09, published April 26, 2009, states that composite testing of like paints from several like parts or products is appropriate and may even be necessary to obtain valid analytical results. Composite testing of different paints (e.g. multiple colors from one or more samples to reduce the number of digestions and instrumental lead analyses performed) is also acceptable, but it must be done with adequate care, planning, and understanding to ensure that samples are not diluted such that excessive lead in one individual paint is not detected. The new SOP provides guidance on how to avoid inaccurate results and suggests that any composite testing of paints which yields a result that is greater than 80% of the limit for lead in paint be retested.

    This method supersedes all previously published SOPs for lead in paint testing. The CPSC has concluded that this method is sufficient to make determinations of compliance with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. While the CPSC's testing laboratory uses this method, outside laboratories are not required to follow it. The CPSC notes that existing laboratory accreditations remain valid, and the rules for accreditation for lead paint testing for compliance with 16 CFR 1303 remain unchanged and do not explicitly require the use of this or any earlier SOP.

    In related news, President Barack Obama has chosen chose former South Carolina education superintendent Inez Moore Tenenbaum to chair the CPSC. If confirmed, she would replace acting chairwoman Nancy Nord, who was appointed to the commission in 2005 and said last fall that she plans to serve out her term as a commissioner, which ends in 2012. Nord has faced bipartisan criticism for lax enforcement of toy safety laws and repeatedly taking costly trips at industry expense.

    The president also announced this week the expansion of the number of commissioners from three to five, and tapped Robert S. Adler to serve on the board. He will fill one of the two new spots if Congress approves the expansion. A professor of legal studies at the University of North Carolina, he has also been elected six times to the board of directors of Consumers Union, publisher of the popular Consumer Reports magazine.

    CPSC is headquartered in Bethesda, Md., and has approximately 430 employees. It oversees about 15,000 products, ranging from children's knitted hats to hair dryers to dinosaur play sets.

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    Royal Nooteboom Trailers names DHS as preferred US distributor

    Royal Nooteboom Trailers, one of the world's largest trailer manufacturers for special transport and heavy haulage, has named DHS Diecast Collectables (Berea, Ohio) as its preferred distributor for its branded merchandise in the United States.

    Nooteboom, based in Wijchen, the Netherlands, offers promotional material such as scale models, caps, shirts, videos and books. With the addition of DHS as a preferred distributor, this merchandise is now available to interested customers in the United States and Canada without the additional shipping charges and lead times coming from overseas.

    For more information about DHS, contact Chuck Sword at 440-816-1882 or visit

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    AeroTech releases 2009-2010 catalog

    AeroTech Consumer Aerospace has released its new catalog of products. The 20-page 2009-2010 catalog includes new rocket action photos taken by contributors Mark Canepa, Steve Jurvetson and Nancy Snyder. The cover features Dan Michael's (Maryland Delaware Rocketry Association) ¾-scale Patriot.

    The catalog includes all recently introduced Mojave Green, Black Max and Warp-9 motors and RMS reload kits; the 98/15360 N1000W long-burn motor; and a number of other new products the company will release before LDRS-28. In addition, AeroTech has updated motor technical data, thrust curves and projected altitudes for its kits to include the latest model rocket RMS and standard hobby line single-use and LMS model rocket motors.

    The catalog is available for download in PDF format from the AeroTech Resource Library. AeroTech is a division of RCS Rocket Motor Components, Cedar City, Utah.

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