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Author Topic: A brief introduction to the Proto:87 Stores  (Read 482 times)

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Offline Accu-track

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A brief introduction to the Proto:87 Stores
« on: February 01, 2013, 11:47:01 PM »
A little before 1995, a tiny, very fine scale oriented, group of North American, HO scale modelers, wanted to model overall far more to scale realistically, and especially by finally using actually accurate to scale, HO wheels and track. And so they got together and the US Proto:87 SIG was born. But back then, there were none of the truly scale sized, yet strong and reliable, track components we would need, and no commercial manufacturer was willing to risk stepping up. So, while still finishing a career of running R&D and Engineering for several successful hi-tech companies, and most importantly, unashamedly selfishly wanting so many of those parts for myself, I volunteered to act as the parts maker, as my own hobby contribution. My own modeling background had included membership of both the 2mm and S4 Societies, as well as many years spent commuting to work through several of the various London Terminii. I was also an avid fan of the Los Angeles Pacific Electric Interurban System and so into the modelling intricacies of overhead electric collection and street track at the same time.  My real  challenge though, was to overcome the many difficulties of making low volume manufacturing work economically, so that even a few of us could still afford to share the resulting parts . . . . . and that started the Proto:87 Stores, as an independently funded,  SIG member service.

The Original Stores Goal was to use every possible hi-tech design idea and lots of thoughtful innovation to obtain or make the basic missing pieces we needed, yet do so economically in just small quantities, without having to make huge investments in little used machinery and high volume tooling. And for all our sakes, to keep the overall costs of “modeling to actually look like the real thing”, much the same as regular HO, or hopefully even less.

What was quickly discovered, once the first parts were made, was that most of the specialized Proto:87 track components, are either the same as or only very slightly different from, those needed for extra-realistic HO. And so the fledgling Stores steadily attracted the attention of many regular HO modelers as well. And their interest helped fund the development of even more new ideas for uniquely extra realistic modeling solutions, including asking for parts also in N and even Z scale. And so the Stores became financially self-supporting for continuing its manufacturing and sales.

Now getting close to 20 years later, the current “Stores” has grown dramatically beyond its initial expectations, providing a wide range of often amazing seeming, as well as mostly home grown and unique, parts to thousands and thousands of like minded modelers, all over the World. However, we are committed to providing just those products and parts that meet our original goals of providing the most exceptional, but economic and practical, true to scale realism, with absolutely dependable performance and close to everlasting reliability, but with the least possible technical compromises. That means that we do not diverge from our purpose by attempting to be either a general “on-line hobby shop” or an “overnight discount warehouse”, nor would we supply or resell unrelated or less realistic items, merely for the profit that they might make.

Because the ideal full product range is still a few more years away from completion, working on my own layout is still a lower and delayed priority, and the “Stores” is still a one-man, hobby within a hobby, operation. All the extensive design work is still performed gratis in my own time and there are occasional other local volunteers, who have the same interests, and help with manufacturing and shipping. But in order to meet the increasing quantity demands, we sub-contract many operations to my past professional industrial source contacts, while using several home built, production dedicated, CNC Machines as “robots” to provide low-cost “labor” for parts that need some aspect of machining.

Most of our parts requests come from picky modelers who have heard of the Stores from the growing group of our existing happy users. However, I welcome newer or less experienced modelers visiting, just in case they would like to have the choice of going in our particular more realistic direction earlier in their plans.

So if you haven’t heard of us before, but might like to see your wonderfully detailed models running on matching equally realistic detailed track, then please check us out anytime when you have a few minutes to spare. As well as our model turnouts that look and work exactly like their prototype, and much lower cost fixtures to build them, we have switch machines and a track wiring system that may save you having to crawl under your baseboards ever again. And our original street track system is almost exact scale, yet works with out of the box RTR vehicles. And hopefully, with just a little more work, far more is yet to come . . .

Andy Reichert


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