Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Online shops for model railroading

There are quite a lot of sites catering to model railroaders. Most have the problem that their online catalog is substantially larger than their in-stock items. Some don't expose whether they have an item in stock or not.

My favorite for Maerklin related pieces is EuroRailHobbies in Vancouver, B.C. Good selection, but they suffer from the "don't show what we have in stock" syndrome. Good personal service, and so far they were able to organize everything I ordered. Good prices, too. However, they are SLOOOOOOOOW. Only one of my orders got shipped the next day, most took 1-2 months to ship (mainly, because they were waiting for a shipment from Germany...). I'm usually not in a hurry, so I don't mind the wait, since their prices are often 10-15% below their US competition.

In the US, of course there is Walthers in Wisconsin, which recently took over distribution services from Maerklin USA. Their Web site is quite messy, and they tend to charge near full retail. I ordered a few things there if I couldn't find the part I wanted elsewhere.

Euro Model Trains has a wide selection of German and American model railroad related brands, a somewhat funky Web site, but they also sell the items from the full Walthers catalog, usually a few bucks cheaper than from Walthers directly (someone explain that to me...) The one order I placed with them has not arrived yet. We'll see how that works out.
Their prices tend to be a bit higher than EuroRailHobbies, but not outrageous.

Somewhat related sites are MicroMark, which specialized on items for the professional modeller, and AllElectronics which has an electronic parts selection geared towards (railroad) modellers. Both MicroMark and AllElectronics have hard to find items like european style terminal blocks (which are much cheaper and more flexible to use than the american counter-parts), or 3M insulation displacement connectors (IDCs), also known as "suitcase connectors".

Finally, for general electronics parts, I like Mouser Electronics and DigiKey. Mouser's online catalog is a bit better organized and really good for browsing. Especially when searching for that specific part you can't quite name.

Do you know other useful model railroading/electronics sites? Add them in the comments.

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