Q: Can I order trees in different colors?
A: Yes. I create these trees in a variety of subtly different shades and include a random mix in each batch (mostly Scenic Express “conifer green” with smaller quantities of others colors mixed in). If you would like trees of a specific shade (or even a few brown “dead” trees), let me know and I’ll create some next time I assemble a batch.
Q: Your trees don’t look quite the same as those I see in my area. Can I special-order?
A: Yes. Many different species of conifer can be accurately represented using these same construction methods. Those you see in the pictures are fairly generic to cover the widest possible market. A different branch structure; trimming to a different shape; or using a different blend of foliage material can make a huge difference. If you want something more specific, send me some photos. I’ll be glad to take a look. If you plan on ordering a fair number of trees, I’ll be building them specifically for your order anyway. Most likely, the customization won’t affect the price.
Q: How many trees do you keep in stock? What if I want more than you have on hand?
A: I typically only keep a couple hundred trees in stock, so if you want a lot of trees, order them early. For the most part, I make everything to order.
Q: Do you really make all the trees yourself? Really?
A: Yes I do. I want you to be happy with your purchase and I don’t want to trust the quality of the products to an employee. If the volume of orders gets out of hand, I may have to train someone, but at the moment I do it all myself.
Q: Can I see an example of a layout featuring your trees?
A: Yes. Many of the photos on this website were taken on a large project layout I worked on in conjunction with another professional builder. In addition, I’ve posted numerous videos of this layout on my you-tube channel mpeterll.
Q: Last time I checked, I thought I saw a special deal with getting a free turnout when I order a bunch. Now I can't find that deal. Am I missing it somewhere?
A: No you're not missing it, but sadly, that idea didn't work out too well. It was fraught with too many complexities for an individually hand-built custom product. On the plus side however, having built so many fast-tracks turnouts over the past year, I'm now building them a little faster. Thus I didn't raise my turnout prices last time my general rates went up - effectively giving everyone a much larger discount on every turnout ordered.
Q: I see the turnout size I want listed in the header page, but it's not included in the pull-down menu. What's the problem?
A: I update the pull-down menus every time I buy new jigs. If the size you want isn't listed, that means it's a jig I don't yet own. I am happy to purchase new jigs to fill customer's orders but there may be a set-up fee towards the cost of the new tooling. I generally waive that fee for larger orders however.
Q: How do I go about ordering a special size not listed in your pull-down menus?
A: First, make sure the size you want is indeed available from fast-tracks (there's a complete list on my header page). Then send me a message with a detailed list of your requirements. Be sure to include any standard sizes you want in the same list as I generally waive the new-tooling set-up fee if you place a substantial order.
Q: Do you ship internationally?
A: Yes I will happily ship outside of the US. I have shipped to several other countries in the past. If you would like an international shipping quote, please tell me exactly what you want and where you live, and I’ll get you a price as soon as possible.
Q: I don’t see any shipping information. How much do you charge?
A: Orders of $200.00 or more ship free within the USA. For smaller domestic orders, I charge a flat rate of $10.00 towards shipping and handling.
Q: Why is the shipping charge so high when there was only $4.50 postage on my package?
A: In common with many other suppliers, I charge a flat rate for shipping and handling of small orders and offer free shipping on the large ones. This is easier than trying to calculate the cost of each package separately. Furthermore, the actual postage is only a small part of the shipping cost. For each order received, I have to purchase packaging materials, assemble the order, wrap it, print out a mailing label, drive into town, stand in line, drive home, and then keep track of the package in case of delivery problems. In most cases, postage is much higher – sometimes $50 or more – yet I never charge more than $10 for shipping within the USA. All things considered, I don’t think my shipping charges are high.
Q: Have you ever done any projects for museums?
A: Yes and no. Although I've never been employed directly by a museum, the first railroad that I built professionally (the one referred to as "Brian's Layout"), was later sold to the Amador County Model Railroad Museum in California, where it is currently being reassembled for public display.
Q: Sometimes you say “we”. Sometimes you say “I”. Which is it?
A: When talking about a business or service-provider of any kind, it is common to use plural pronouns, so I initially did this. For the most part, I work alone. Your project will not be subcontracted to a third party without your prior consent. You can be assured that you will get the same craftsmanship as you see on this website. Although I have removed most of the plural pronouns, I do occasionally find one that I missed.
Q: It looks like all your pictures were taken on just a few layouts. Why should I hire you over a more established company with dozens of layouts behind them?
A: An excellent question! Even a small model railroad takes a lot of hours to build. If a layout-builder has constructed many layouts, he hasn’t done it alone. Instead, he must sub-contract much of the work to lesser talents, often minimum-wage employees who may care less about the results than they do about their own paychecks. As a lone wolf I do it all, so the quality of craftsmanship you see here is what you can expect to receive if you hire me.
Q: How can a solo builder offer so many services when they all require so much time?
A: I have a very small customer-base – often only one customer at a time. This permits a reasonable turn-around time for most projects. Even so, the wait time for some kinds of projects has been gradually creeping up as my services become more popular - so if you know you want to hire me in the future for a layout design and/or build, contact me soon. If you delay until your layout room is ready, you may have a long wait. Projects are prioritized in the order they are accepted, so you will not find your project getting pushed to the back of an ever-growing queue.
Q: Some of the pictures on your web-site look a lot like those I’ve seen elsewhere. What gives?
A: I used to hire myself out as a subcontractor to another professional layout builder. If I built a scene on another builder’s project layout, I may have put up a picture of it here while the primary layout builder has the same photo on his web-site. Both locations are legitimate. If you are in the market for some custom work, it is good that you are looking around at multiple providers. I hope you find the one that is the best fit for your ideals.
Q: How much does it cost?
A: I generally work on a base figure of $70 per hour for custom work. In most cases, this will be billed using the actual time invested in your project. In others, a flat rate can be given in advance, based on my estimate of how long a project will take.
Q: Why is it so expensive?
A: Custom or hand-built work will always cost more than a standard item off the shelf, and everything I do is individually hand-built (most of it is also custom work). Actually, I don't think I am expensive at all. I can't think of another trade in which you can hire someone with the same level of knowledge as me for only $70/hour.
Q: Another builder quoted a lower price than you for the same project, and his work comes with a guarantee of “museum quality”. Will you price match?
A: Firstly, I’m glad that you are taking the trouble to compare multiple builders for your project, but in most cases I will have to decline a request to match a competitor’s price. Although some people may indeed undervalue their time while still doing good work, a significantly lower price is often a warning that something is not right. Some people will deliberately low-ball their initial estimate in an underhanded attempt to get a job when they have no expectation of being able to deliver the promised result for that price. When comparing prices, check out exactly what is being provided, ask to see photos of similar projects they have done, and don’t be sucked in by misleading phrases like “museum quality” – frankly, many museum models are sub-par in terms of quality. Also be sure to ask if the proprietor does all the work himself. Often companies will have minimum-wage employees do much of the work while still billing top dollar for their time.
Q: What if I don’t like the layout you’ve designed for me?
A: If you have been honest with yourself during the initial discussion about what is important to you, the layout I design should be pretty close. I give my clients ample opportunity for feedback at every stage of the project and I will be making constant changes based on this feedback. I will continue making any requested changes at no additional charge, up to 10% of the hours you initially paid for. In most cases, this should be enough to give you the layout you want. After this, if you still want additional changes, these will be charged for. At any time, you may call a design “done”, and I will send you the 3pi file to use or modify as you see fit.
Q: You mentioned a full-sized track template for layout designs. Is this included?
A: No. I don’t have the hardware to produce it, but I know someone who provides this service as a reasonable price (usually about $2/sf). Not everyone will want it so I don’t add it into the base price. I can order it for you but there is an extra charge for it.
Q: Can I take a track plan you draw for me and show it to another professional builder?
A: Yes, you can take it to as many other builders as you like. You will be buying my time to create the plan for you and the finished plan is yours to use as you see fit. A professionally-built railroad is a major undertaking, so you need to be happy that you are hiring the right professional for you. There is certainly no implied or expressed obligation to have me build the layout for you, as much as I would like the opportunity to do so.
Q: You mentioned discounting your building services by the amount I paid for the design. How does this work?
A: When you hire me to build a layout that I have designed for you, I will take the full amount you paid me for the design, and deduct it from my final invoice. If you only hire me for a portion of the build process, I will deduct a portion of the design costs as follows:
Benchwork only – 30%
Benchwork and track – 60%
Benchwork, track and scenery – 100%
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