by Joseph Stachler
A company called Quality Craft was founded in 1965 by Bob Weaver. Quality Craft was in the scale model train manufacturing business, producing HO products. In 1980, Bob decided to get into the O scale manufacturing and Weaver Models was born. Since then many fine scale models have been produced. Locomotives such as the GG-1, Baldwin Sharks, Pennsy Torpedo, SP Daylight, articulated Class R-2s, and the NYC Dreyfuss Hudson are all scale. So is their rolling stock, including scale length aluminum streamlined passenger cars. They've also made 60' reproductions. Weaver Models has been making news with their new Hiawatha sets, and they recently entered into a license agreement with Lionel to use their TrainMaster Command Control and RailSounds technology. We contacted Joseph Hayter, president of Weaver Models, and asked him about the directions of the company in the new millennium.
Toy Train Revue:
How did you get started in the business? When did you come on board at Weaver Models?
Joseph Hayter: My relationship with Weaver Models, then known as Quality Craft, started in 1969. Shortly thereafter I married Bob Weaver's daughter.
TTR: Where do you see Weaver in the 3-rail market? What are the similarities and differences between Weaver and the other manufacturers?
Joseph Hayter: Weaver Models is definitely one of the major players in today's market. We were one of the first to introduce scale models to the 3-Rail market. Except for Lionel, we are the only company actually manufacturing our product in the USA. Comparing our prices to our competition, we feel Weaver offers the "biggest bang for the buck."
TTR: Do you think everyone will survive, or will there be mergers and acquisitions like they have in other industries?
Joseph Hayter: Only time will tell if everyone will survive.
TTR: Why should a modeler buy Weaver? Who's buying all this product in the hobby? What can you tell us about your sales strategy?
Joseph Hayter: A modeler should buy our product because everything we offer is true "O" scale. We have the largest variety of rolling stock, roadnames and multiple road numbers. We are willing to spend more money on tooling so that the extra details can be offered, but our product is very affordable. The large percentage of our products are manufactured right here in our Northumberland, Pennsylvania plant. Our customer service is very personalized as all telephone calls are answered by a person, NOT a machine of "press & dial."
You never know completely who is buying your product. We have sold our product from beginners to serious modelers and collectors.
Exposure is the key factor in the market place today. This is why we do a number of train shows. We have invested in a sophisticated display that we take "on the road." Great pride and countless hours are spent producing our catalog. We have just released the biggest (and we feel our best) 40 page catalog. Weaver advertises in all the major modeling magazines. We also sell Scalecoat Model Railroad Paint, which is used on all the models produced in-house. Our paint is also advertised in several major publications. We have a very colorful "user friendly" web site which is updated daily. Being able to manufacture in our own factory gives us complete production control. Our web site listing can be updated daily to reflect our day's production.
TTR: What about product development? What kind people do you have coming up with the new ideas?
Joseph Hayter: Product Development is the blend of several factors: we listen to the consumer, gather information from museums, libraries and several contacts in our network that specialize in certain Railroads. It is a combination of our ideas and their ideas (such as the case with the add-on passenger cars).
TTR: How is the customer satisfaction? Do you have a service department?
Joseph Hayter: Customer Satisfaction is our number one goal. Model Railroading should be fun. We are still one of the very few companies that actually has a person answering the phone rather than a machine. The point I make to everyone that works in customer service is that the customer is the person in charge of our customer service and we must do what is necessary to make that customer happy.
We feel that our service department is the best. I am very lucky to have Model Railroaders as technicians. Our turn around is typically very fast. We have had modelers call complaining they received their engine back so quickly that they were concerned it wasn't repaired. We advised them to check the engine and they were amazed that it was repaired so quickly.
TTR: Let's talk about some of your new releases such as the Hiawatha cars and
engine? What other new items have just been released or can we expect?
Joseph Hayter: The Hiawatha Cars have never been done properly in scale proportions. This is a first to the 3-Rail market. We have received rave reviews at every show we have attended with these cars. Along with the cars, we have decided to offer a version of the Hudson and the Atlantic. These two models are by far the nicest models we have received to date in brass! These engines will be the first offering from Weaver equipped with TrainMaster Command Control.
This year has been a record year of new releases for Weaver. In addition to the Hiawatha, we have the C&NW Yellow Jacket and D&RGW M-64 scheduled on our Gold Edition Brass Roster. A five car C&NW passenger set will be an option for those interested. Passenger Car "add-on" sets are also new this year. We received numerous requests from customers wishing to add more cars to their existing sets. The biggest announcement for Weaver this year is the release of our first die cast engine - the PRR C-1 0-8-0 Switcher.
Other additions include a 50' flat car with two 20' container loads; upgrading our current RS-3 with metal handrails, stamped steel floor, and die cast drive train with dual motor power; and the reappearance of our 50' Tank Car. In addition to the RS-3 upgrade, we will offer the RSD 4/5, which is a 6 wheel truck version of the RS-3. It too will be ready to run with the metal handrails, stamped steel floor, etc.
Packaging has always been a concern of ours. Added detail means fragile parts and it is difficult to properly protect those parts from damage when product leaves the factory. That is why we developed thermo formed blister packaging that "molds" to the car to protect it inside the gift box. In addition to the protection it offers, modelers will be able to unpack and repack their car in a matter of seconds, which is important to those traveling to clubs intending to display or run their models.
Finally, we now offer all freight cars (except for the Northeastern caboose) with optional die cast trucks and couplers, which has increased the retail price by $10.00 or less per car. This is only an option and all Weaver freight cars will continue to be available with the plastic trucks and couplers for those wishing not to incur the additional expense. For obvious reasons we cannot tell you what to expect in 2001. However, I can say that Weaver Fans will not be disappointed!
TTR: How did the Trainmaster Command Control license come about? Can you design your own sounds to give Weaver products a unique sound apart from Lionel, K-line and Atlas? Does Lionel have a price-point structure for unique sounds?
Joseph Hayter: We have been talking with Lionel over the past two years concerning the use of TrainMaster Command Control and RailSounds. Dick Maddox is really the person that made this happen. The compatibility issue of electronics was probably one of his major concerns. In addition, this will help stimulate the sale of Command Control throughout the industry. We are very grateful to Dick Maddox for making it happen as we feel this is the best sound available in today's industry.
At this point, we will use established sounds from Lionel. We plan to take one step at a time as we haven't even discussed custom sounds at this time.
TTR: How do you see the future? Are there other areas, such as hi-rail accessories or track that you want to produce?
Joseph Hayter: We see the future to be very promising for us. Our sales have increased yearly and we don't foresee manufacturing track and high rail accessories at this time. I won't totally rule out the accessory market, but there are too many good companies offering track.