Wagon exclusives: how it works

05 September 2023
Retailing exclusive and collectable model railway wagons can be a great way to raise funds for a charity. Jeremy Mole, fundraiser for Myton Hospices explains the steps...

"I have been fundraising for Myton Hospices for several years, and I needed to find new ways to raise money. There is a limit to how often you can ask family and friends for sponsorship", begins Jeremy Mole.

Here are Jeremy's steps to commissioning your own wagon exclusive...

1. Economics

"One of the main considerations before embarking on any project is a return on investment. 100% of our profit was for charity, so I needed to ensure a reasonable amount was raised from every sale, without pricing myself out of the market. The wagons need a unique selling point (USP) to justify their price, as there will almost certainly be cheaper options for the same wagon type.

"My USP was a mix of good cause, local interest (Warwick, Coventry and Rugby are included in the wagon design as these are the Hospice locations) and an attractive livery.

Myton Hospices wagon exclusive

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2. Design

"At the outset, there were two options – a specific livery of a local wagon, or a fictitious livery that is specifically tied to the Myton Hospices. From my own experience, I knew that local place names appeal to railway modellers and can be a 'rule one' purchase. However, I also knew that local model shops in the area had already commissioned several of the local wagon liveries. The option of a fictitious livery ensured that what I produced was exclusive, and by including the hospice name and its location, I broadened appeal to include those supporting the charity as well as those who are railway modellers.

Dapol wagon spraying

Wagon exclusives are first hand sprayed by Dapol in its factory.

"I obtained a seven-plank wagon outline from the internet and using a word processing app started to refine options. To ensure I had maximum appeal, I chose fonts and styles that would be complementary to other private owner wagons, meaning that my fictitious livery would blend with others in a train.

3. Preparation

"I was aware that Dapol would accept commissions and make them in its factory in Chirk, so I made enquiries about prices and process. The price list gave a range of wagon options in N, OO and O-gauge, together with details of setup cost.

"I needed a premium design as I wanted to charge a premium price, so I chose to include shaded lettering and painted ironwork. This all adds to the unit cost, and must be considered in the economics of the project. I had to rule out O gauge, as although they are available in volumes as low as 25 units, this would have tied up a considerable amount of capital.

Dapol wagon artwork

An example of artwork created by Dapol for its wagons.

"Dapol took my artwork and recreated it, using their tools from which they generate the printing plates. The artwork was emailed to me for approval. This is a formal check, and ensures the accuracy of the final design.

"Colour is subjective and almost impossible to accurately represent with printed or screen images. Dapol is able to offer a range of different colour options at no additional cost, or it can offer a bespoke colour for an extra charge. I wanted to find a colour that was close to that used by the hospice, so Dapol kindly spray-painted several bodyshells with a selection of colours, so I could see how well they matched and how they looked in real life.

Related: Go behind the scenes at Dapol. Login to your World of Railways Plus account to learn how model wagons are made.

4. Delivery

"The final step is to sign off on the factory worksheet. One is needed for each scale and this specifies all the production details of the wagon such as type, colour, printing, quantity and if weathering is required. It should be noted that manufacturing takes time, so if you are thinking of commissioning in readiness for a specific show, allow enough time for the whole process.

5. Quantity

"Dapol offers discounts for larger quantities, but as I was doing this for the first time I thought 100 N and 200 OO gauge wagons would be about right. The N gauge version sold out quite quickly, but the OO gauge wagon was a slower seller. This perhaps is down to there being more collectors of N gauge, or more choice in OO gauge for collectors.

"The International N Gauge Show (TINGS) may also be a reason for a faster sales rate as this is a great opportunity to reach a target audience at a single event. Doubly so in my case, as many of the visitors to the Warwickshire Exhibition Centre are from the local area, and also know the good work of the hospice.

Dapol wagon exclusive commission OO gauge N gauge

Producing a batch of wagons can be a time-consuming process, with many labour-intensive processes required to complete the models.

"As part of Dapol’s quality controls, the number of wagons may vary by up to 10% from the quantity ordered, so my delivery actually had a few more of the N gauge and fewer of the OO gauge wagons. For my second commission, I chose nominally 100 of each scale. Although it reduces the profit opportunity, it allows the project to sell out sooner.

6. Selling

"Publicity helps generate interest and sales. Press releases were generated, and imagery was taken. A specific email address was established to take reservations and provide the opportunity to collect at a show, rather than pay for postage. To enable sales, I invested in a contactless card reader, which was especially helpful as cash use has diminished in a post-Covid world.

Related: Does your model project need a promotional push? Get in touch here.

"Over £1500 has been raised so far with more still to come from the second wagon type. Limited numbers are still available, so reservations are invited for collection at 'The International N Gauge Show' on September 9-10, 2023 at the Warwickshire Exhibition Centre. The wagons are priced at £15 each, with all profits going to the hospice. The wagons will also be available for collection from the club stand at the ‘Great British Model Railway Show’ on October 28-29, 2023 at the British Motor Museum, Gaydon.

To order yours, email [email protected]

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