28 January 2016

Menards and O Scale prices

In the Upper Midwest and a few other outlying places the mention of Menards summons up a banjo ditty with lyric: "Save big money, you save big money, when you shop Menards." The big box home improvement retailer and its spokesperson Ray are responsible for etching those words into my mind and others. Their common sales approach is giving out rebates in the form of merchandise credit checks usable only at their stores. Clever way to induce cyclic patterns of shopping at Menards. And for the last decade or so, most of their outlets have added food stuffs, clothes, books, and a few electronics. Every Christmas they would also have a some Lionel train sets including a Menard's only set.
Then, back just a few years ago (perhaps 2011 or 2012) they began to release their own exclusive line of O scale train freight cars.
First it started with a trickle of flat cars with Menard loads: a Menards trailer, a Menards truck, a Menards racecar. They followed it up with flat cars with truss loads and lumber loads. I think they also added a few buildings too. In 2014 they increased their line to include box cars, basic flatcars, and flat cars with military loads with actual railroad names in addition to about a half dozen bui1dings. Above is a Menard Southern Railroad boxcar I own. Then in 2015 things started to explode with more boxcars, flat cars with different loads, tubular track and more buildings. A whole section of their website is dedicated to the train items. In 2016 they continue to release new items- this month alone they put out tank cars, hoppers, and a commemorative WWII box car set.
The good news is these items are probably the least expensive O scale items around these days. Most of the cars hover around $20. The cars are rather well made with metal trucks and wheels and an air brake. There is a minimal amount of detail but do not expect these to be spot on with a prototype. On the track they run very smoothly although the boxcars do have a little sway.

Above is a comparative image of the Menards box car with a Lionel Post-War 6464 series box car. You cannot tell, but the Menards car is a little bigger than the Lionel one. It is also slightly wider but still semi-scale.
The Menards Goldline buildings are a decent value at between $30 and $100 and most include light effects and figures. I have a corner 2 story store which appears to have been manufactured by Woodland Scenics. Some other interesting ones are Harry's Saurkraut Factory and a fire damaged engine shed.
The tubular track addition was a surprise. But since it appears Lionel has stopped tubular track manufacturing, someone had to come in to fill the void. Menards track is full profile O gauge and comes in quite an assortment of sizes at reasonable prices.
New O gauge cars at Menards

With the demise of K-line and Industrial Rail in the early aughts, there has been a great price gap in the O gauge market. Lionel and MTH have pretty much been producing items for hobbyists with bigger bankrolls. Atlas, Williams by Bachmann,Weaver have been somewhere in between although I am beginning to like Williams more. RMT has done a superb job at producing some fine models at reasonable cost but will be closing soon. So Menards' train line arrives at the right time. One could only wonder if they will ever be releasing engines.

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