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Wagons cancelled

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Here an email I got from ELLIS TRAINS. It gives a little insight into decisions that have to be made in whether to proceed with planned releases or not.

Sharks, Seacows and Sealions


In the shifting sands and moving staircases of the model railway business, there sometimes comes a point where difficult questions must be asked – and tough choices made – to forge the best path forward.


We announced our Shark, Sealion and Seacow projects in August 2022, promising incredible levels of detail to capture some of the railway’s most iconic freight vehicles. But after much collective soul-searching, we’ve decided not to progress with these models at the current time. I know this will be disappointing to those of you with pre-orders, and because honest communication sits at the core of our values, I’d like to explain why we’ve made this decision.


A changing landscape


The O gauge market has blossomed over the last decade, enjoying an influx of high-quality ready-to-run models from several manufacturers – the stuff of dreams to larger-scale modellers hitherto starved of choice. But that market has matured; space constraints will always impose a ceiling on the growth of O gauge, and over-supply of freight vehicles in particular has seen prices slashed and margins tightened. The tooling costs of such highly-detailed models as our Sharks, Sealions and Seacows are equivalent to those of a full-size carriage or even a small engine. They would have been the ultimate wagons – but at the end of the day, they would still have been wagons. And perceptions dictate that there’s only so much that modellers are willing to pay for a wagon, however excellent a product it may be. Pre-orders for these products simply didn’t reflect the level of sales required for them to be viable.


Could we have pressed ahead anyway, relying on the finished products to speak for themselves and hoping that orders would come flooding in after their release? Certainly – but it would have been deeply irresponsible to attempt to turn against the tide in this way. The investment required for such a gamble would jeopardise the strong footing of our business and the fantastic team we’ve built here in Skipton. This in turn would affect other projects that we’re developing and that I know will delight modellers from across the spectrum – we serve you best by keeping our feet firmly on the ground and making sensible business decisions.


You may have noted my reference to “at the current time” regarding the curtailment of this project. Is there a scenario where it could be reactivated? Well, possibly. In a less saturated market – with more price stability and greater numbers of O gauge modellers focusing on the later years of the 20th century – our Sharks, Seacows and Sealions may rise again. We’ll certainly not be throwing away the research and design work completed to date. But time will tell.


After the rain…


Now that the bad news is out of the way, it’s only fair that we take a ‘bigger picture’ look at the current state of play – in short, let’s accentuate the positive!


The Shark, Seacow and Sealion projects were still in a very early stage of development. In part due to delays in our incredibly successful Black 5s, no engineering prototypes had been produced and no money taken from customers – we never ask for deposits on pre-orders. The significant research and development – including refinements in our design process and breakthroughs in the level of detail we’re able to bring you – will be redirected towards forthcoming models.


It's no secret that we have some very exciting projects in the pipeline, in both 4mm and 7mm scales. The cancellation of the Sharks, Seacows and Sealions will enable some of these to be brought forward, and we’ll be bringing you more news in the coming months. Our current (already-announced) projects – O gauge Pullmans and OO gauge Quad-Arts and ‘Austerities’ – are making healthy progress; look out for updates on these very soon.


And of course, the pre-owned element of our business, from whence it all started, goes from strength to strength. We continue to acquire incredible collections featuring models of all scales; a visit to our websites or our showroom will reveal a daily smorgasbord of modelling goodness, with something for everyone.


As always, we’re keen to hear from you with any questions, concerns or feedback – whether regarding the Sharks/Seacows/Sealions or any of our other activities. To this end, I’ll be hosting a question-and-and answer session (on YouTube?) in a couple of weeks, and we’d love to hear your thoughts and queries. Give us a call (01756 7014510) or drop us a line (ellis@ellisclarktrains.com), and we’ll do our best to come up with the answers.

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