There's been a lot of talk recently on the Bachmann HO Thomas & Friends range, mostly centering on the strange, unannounced appearance of Emily's Coaches in the Large Scale Range.
They say there's no smoke without fire, so it seems perfectly natural to assume that a large scale Emily loco is in the works. Right?
Possibly yes, but we must also consider the precedents set by Hornby in previous years.
For example, not only was a Great Waterton set of resin buildings made by Hornby, to tie in with The Great Discovery, there was also "Stanley's Shed". The implication was, that Hornby intended to make the main character of The Great Discovery as a model. That never came to pass, and the buildings - which did not sell in great numbers at their release - have taken several years of dramatic RRP reductions in sales to disperse completely.
The question to pose - one that cannot be easily answered - is, would the set have sold better if Hornby had produced Stanley to go with them? I think so, purely on the basis that people like to collect all the different pieces of ranges such as these, and having a Stanley themed set, complete with shed, track, controller and trucks, would have been a better themed train-set to advertise The Great Discovery than the dirt encrusted Thomas that was sold instead!
Of course, there are further questions - has Stanley really been popular enough to warrant a model in either range? The engines which buck this trend must be the forthcoming Murdoch model in the Hornby range, and the Salty model in the Bachmann range. Neither of the two characters have really been seen as "popular" - Salty is a conveniently placed diesel most of the time, and Murdoch hasn't appeared for several years in the TV series - yet both are being produced/have been produced as models.
Arguably, given the new Railroad 9F models, Murdoch is a simple enough conversion - with echoes of the Hornby Spencer model reusing the Railroad A4's basic tooling. On that basis, the profit margins must be better than tooling up a whole new model for, say, a Stirling Single...!!!
So what of the popular characters? Duck is the missing link in the Bachmann range (and if we go by TV series accuracy, now has a chassis to go under his body, thanks in part to the introduction of the Scottish Twins), whereas the Scottish Twins are the missing link in Hornby's range.
I've always said that Hornby missed a trick by not simply tooling up a new bodyshell for their standard 0-6-0 chassis, and marrying that with the tender tooling off the Caledonian Single. You would have a very convincing Donald or Douglas model with little in the way of new tooling required.
Several people have actually done just that, and a few people have gone further, making their own loco bodies and tenders from scratch, to fit the standard Hornby 0-6-0 Chassis.
Getting back to the idea of a pattern emerging - does this mean that Emily will be produced in large scale? This reviewer says no, purely on the basis that such an announcement would have raised the roof with Thomas modellers everywhere. Emily is a popular character, and a large scale model would be highly desirable. Releasing her coaches, to me, says they are testing the water as to whether a large scale Emily would sell.
On that bombshell, I'll leave you with this question.
What characters can potentially be produced by reusing existing manufacturing tools by Hornby & Bachmann?
Post your answers in the comments section of this blog - I'll discuss the best ideas later in the week. Until next time!