SSM-040 Owens Monumental Company

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Best of Intentions

Like so many things for me, I started this blog 2-1/2 years ago with grandiose ideas about how it would turn out. Turns out I never did anything with it.  One post. Well, much has changed since then, naturally. And now that I can post from basically anywhere on the planet, maybe I can try this blog thing again.

The title of this post is a common theme for how things are going. I started this blog with the best of intentions but haven't done anything with it. I started Stella Scale Models with the best of intentions, but have pretty much ceased kit production. What happened? Here's my take on things...

Like many budding kit manufacturers, I looked at the ads in the hobby magazines and did the math. 400 kits at 400 bucks a pop equals a lot of scratch. Even with considerable start-up and development costs, there looked to be a decent profit potential. I talked to numerous established manufacturers and noted members of the hobby community. In short, it sounded like a good idea at the time. Don't get me wrong, I harbored no illusions (delusions) of instant wealth and fame. So what happened in the last 5 years?

In short, cheap laser cutters and a slowly degrading economy here in the U.S. and seemingly 40 other guys starting kit manufacturing businesses at pretty much the same time. I had an instant success with The New Erie Cafe. Sold a whopping 30 of them in 2008. Maybe 60 in '09. Brought out a bunch of other kits, most of which sold under 50 units in 3 years. Now, I'm no economist, but I do know I started SSM at the economic bottom. In 5 years things have gotten only marginally better.

In those 5 years I've seen the best and the worst of this hobby. I've seen bad people do good things and good people do bad. I've seen at least two marriages disintegrate. I've put on 5 great modeling meets that nearly killed me each time. I've given away more kits than I should, but that's just me. I'd rather give a kit away and get good karma than not.

I've heard all the clich├ęs about getting into the hobby business: if you want to make a small fortune in the biz start with a large one; the best way to ruin a hobby is to make it your job. As to the first, I haven't lost money on it, but I haven't made much either. As to the latter, well that's all true. I love model railroading but it isn't as enjoyable as those N scale Postage Stamp trains were back in 1969... Sigh...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Welcome to the new Stella Scale Models Blog!

Greetings to one and all, and welcome to the new Stella Scale Models Blog! We have been busy with so many different things lately, and that includes reaching out more. Even though I'm not alone in this endeavor, most of the posting from our end here will be from me, Jim Harr, but of course alongside me are the namesake of the business and our truly faithful companion, Stella, and my beautiful and talented wife Lorine.

In case you're not familiar with Stella Scale Models, we design and produce scale model kits of distinctive prototype structures. While we don't adhere to any particular region or architectural style, we certainly favor the Northeastern US, where we are based. The homepage features a couple of images of some of our work; starting at the top we see a close-up of Owens Monumental Company, kit #SSM-040, and at the bottom we see The New Erie Cafe, kit #SSM-010. Both kits are HO scale and are available via our website at

Also, while it is certainly our goal here to promote our products and the hobby of modeling in general, we may post on just about anything, but it will stay fairly close to the main theme, scale modeling. As you can see from my bio on the home page, I've been modeling for nearly 42 years in some form or another. It started with a small 1/72 scale World War I biplane model, a German Albatross, that my brother Jeff convinced me to try and build. I think it was most likely an Airfix kit, but that memory is long faded. Regardless, I was hooked. That was at about age 6, or 1969 to you mathematicians out there. Jump ahead a year or so to 1970 when my parents gave me an N scale Postage Stamp train set - I think it was Aurora. Again, hooked... I stuck with N scale until around 1974 when I got a new train set, this time HO scale. This one was made by Model Power and it featured a 2-8-2 Mikado steam locomotive plus freight cars and a caboose, decorated for the Santa Fe. Santa Fe lasted through High School, when it all got packed up and mothjballed. Fast-forward again to 1992, when I got back into the hobby after flying over the ATSF's Corwith Yard in Chicago. I saw all those scale trains there and thought, "hmmm... I have to dig out those boxes..."

Long story short, here we are. Or I am. If you've stuck with me this long, bear with me for a while longer while I get some interesting stuff together and let's have some fun. I'll be posting tips and tricks, techniques, modeling articles, and lots more, so I hope you come join me, and in the meantime, Happy Modeling everybody!