Marketing 101 - What they really mean
compiled by Bob Mintz
Since it's now shopping and catalog time,
it would be best to provide a translation
for marketing terms used in any of today's
products, including our beloved trains:
- NEW different color from previous
- ALL NEW parts not interchangeable
with previous design.
- EXCLUSIVE imported product.
- UNMATCHED almost as good as the
- DESIGN SIMPLICITY cost cut to
the bone (manufacturer’s)
- FOOLPROOF DESIGN no provision
- ADVANCED DESIGN copywriter doesn’t
- IT’S HERE AT LAST rush job: nobody
knew it was coming.
- FIELD-TESTED manufacturer lacks
- HIGH ACCURACY unit on which all
- DIRECT SALES ONLY manufacturer
had argument with distributor.
- RUGGED too heavy to lift.
- LIGHTWEIGHT lighter than rugged.
- YEARS OF DEVELOPMENT finally
got one that worked.
- UNPRECEDENTED PERFORMANCE nothing
we had before ever worked like this.
- REVOLUTIONARY it’s different
from our competitors.
- BREAKTHROUGH we finally figured
out a way to sell it.
- FUTURISTIC can’t figure out another
reason why it looks as it does.
- ENERGY SAVING achieved when the
power switch is off.
- DISTINCTIVE a different color
or shape than our competitors.
- NO MAINTENANCE impossible to
- REDESIGNED previous faults are
corrected, we hope.
- HAND CRAFTED machine that assembles
it is operated without gloves.
- PERFORMANCE PROVEN will operate
through warranty period.
- MEETS QUALITY STANDARDS ours,
- SATISFACTION GUARANTEED manufacturer’s,
upon receipt of the check.
Any honest reader will have to admit that
some of these terms, especially the Years
of Development, apply to both Lionel and MTH.
I'd love to take credit for the above,
but I first ran into it in '83, in a third
generation (at least) photocopy, probably
originating in a business magazine. I've
no idea who the author is/was, but he/she
really understands advertising.
Why do freight trains with two or more
locomotives often have at least one turned
You've seen this on long freight trains,
haven't you? How in the world did they end
up with backwards locomotives? It looks
as if it's a contest to see in which direction
the train will move once the locomotives
start to pull. Is this any way to run a
A key element here is the fact that locomotives
are bi-directional: they can move and pull
a load just as well no matter which end
is pointed forward. The other factor is
that it isn't easy to turn one of them around
and it's time consuming. So why bother?
Of course the first locomotive at the
front of the train will always face forward.
Anything else would look stupid. And any
engineer willing to run a train while facing
the rear is probably operating with a loose
Railroads and rocket boosters
The engineering history of railroad tracks
is an interesting bit of technology trivia
that will increase your knowledge of the
space shuttle booster design and make you
chuckle at the same time. I can not verify
the accuracy, so you be the judge. Enjoy
the US standard railroad gauge (width between
the two rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's
an exceedingly odd number. Why was that
Because that's the way they built them
in England, and the US railroads were built
by English expatriates.
Why did the English build them like that?
Because the first rail lines were built
by the same people who built the pre-railroad
tramways, and that's the gauge they used.
Why did "they" use that gauge then? Because
the people who built the tramways used the
same jigs and tools that they used for building
wagons which used that wheel spacing.
Okay! Why did the wagons have that particular
odd wheel spacing?
Well, if they tried to use any other spacing,
the wagon wheels would break on some of
the old, long distance roads in England,
because that's the spacing of the wheel
So who built those old rutted roads? The
first long distance roads in Europe (and
England) were built by Imperial Rome for
The roads have been used ever since. And
the ruts in the roads?
Roman war chariots first formed the initial
ruts, which everyone else had to match for
fear of destroying their wagon wheels. Since
the chariots were made for (or by) Imperial
Rome, they were all alike in the matter
of wheel spacing. The United States standard
railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives
from the original specification for an Imperial
Roman war chariot.
Specifications and bureaucracies live
forever. So the next time you are handed
a specification and wonder what horse's
ass came up with it, you may be exactly
right, because the Imperial Roman war chariots
were made just wide enough to accommodate
the back ends of two war horses.
Thus, we have the answer to the original
Now the twist to the story...
There's an interesting extension to the
story about railroad gauges and horses'
behinds. When we see a Space Shuttle sitting
on its launch pad, there are two big booster
rockets attached to the sides of the main
fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters,
or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at
their factory in Utah. The engineers who
>designed the SRBs might have preferred
to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs
had to be shipped by train from the factory
to the launch site.
The railroad line from the factory had
to run through a tunnel in the mountains.
The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel.
The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad
track, and the railroad track is about as
wide as two horses' behinds. So, the major
design feature of what is arguably the world's
most advanced transportation system was
determined over two thousand years ago by
the width of a Horse's Ass!
Amtrak Train Hits a House
An Amtrak Special train carrying Seattle
Seahawk fans home from the football game
collided with a house in Sumner, WA (South
of Seattle). Amtrak regularly runs football
specials for the Hawks home games.
The train was on it's trip back to Portland
at about 11 PM when it collided with the
house in the town of Sumner, WA. The house
was being moved, and was crossing the tracks
on a public grade crossing at the time of
The crossing has lights and gates, and
they were working. The house movers saw
them come on, but could not get the house
off of the tracks in time to avoid a collision.
It appears the engineer saw the obstacle,
as the train stopped not long after the
collision. The house was demolished, and
what was left of it was moved off the tracks
with a trackhoe so that the mainline could
Men moving house had seconds to react
to oncoming train December 25, 2000, 12:00
TACOMA Anthony Payne says he had
about 10 seconds to react to the oncoming
It was closing in on midnight Saturday
and he and a friend were on the roof of
a house being pulled by a semi-tractor-trailer
rig, lifting low-hanging wires out of the
The house was on the tracks.
And there was no time to get out of the
way of the Portland-bound special Amtrak
train carrying 90 Seahawks fans.
"I just screamed `TRAIN!' and he " - driver
Jeffrey Douglas Pounder, 45, of Auburn -
"started to try to pull out of there," he
When the train hit, Payne, 25, of Auburn,
was thrown into the air. He slid into a
gully, landed in a grassy field and walked
away with only a scratch and bruise near
his right eye.
"If he hadn't moved it forward, I know
that I'd be dead," Payne said.
The other man on the roof, David Higman
of Seattle, slid through the debris to the
No serious injuries were reported, though
Payne and several people from the train
were treated and released by area hospitals.
The house was demolished. The train engine
was taken out of service. Most of the 90
Seahawks fans on board were bused to Portland.
Pounder - cited for driving under the
influence and driving with a suspended license
- returned to the site after talking with
authorities to help with cleanup.
Pounder, who has an unpublished telephone
number, could not be reached for comment
Debris - 2 x 4s, rugs, sheetrock, insulation
and more - littered a 300-yard stretch of
track on Sunday. Folks came from miles around
to see the aftermath and take pictures.
"There was no reason for that thing to
be on the tracks," said Amtrak spokesman
"It as an unscheduled train," noted spokesman
Ed Troyer with the Pierce County Sheriff's
Department. A deputy in a car was escorting
the rig, but was at the next intersection
and did not see the collision, he said.
Pounder had the permits required for moving
the house, Washington State Patrol Lt. Dan
The house had been owned by Auburn residents
Larry and Mickey Fassbind, who gave it to
Pounder in exchange for his removing it
from their property.
"Kinda makes you feel kinda sick. It's
my house, my kids were born in that house,"
said Mickey Fassbind.
Pounder. who operated Emerald City Moving
and Restoration, had spent months preparing
the 35-year-old, 2,200-square-foot house
for the move, they said.
"He (Pounder) had all his permits. This
train wasn't supposed to be here," Mickey
The Fassbinds donated the house several
months ago to an Alaska Airlines fund-raising
auction to benefit a child whose mother
died last January in the crash of Flight
261 off the California coast.
A couple bought the house for $580 but
didn't claim it after learning it would
cost $20,000 to move, the Fassbinds said.
RARE is the car you are selling. SCARCE
is the RARE car you want to buy.
"The only one word oxymoron that I know
of is "collectable."