THE HISTORY AND PHILOSOPHY OF THE PROTO:87 STORES
It began with R&D and engineering…
A little before 1995 a tiny, very fine scale oriented, group of North American HO scale modelers wanted to model far more to scale realistically, and especially by using actually accurate to scale HO wheels and track. So they got together and the US Proto:87 SIG was born. Back then there were none of the truly scale sized yet strong and reliable track components that we would need, and no commercial manufacturer was willing to risk stepping up. So while still finishing a career of running R&D and Engineering for several successful hi-tech companies, and unashamedly selfishly wanting so many of those parts for myself, I volunteered to act as the parts maker as my own hobby contribution. My challenge was to overcome the many difficulties so that we could then all share the resulting parts… and that started the Proto:87 Stores as an independently funded SIG member service.
At first just Proto:87…
The original Proto:87 Stores’ goal was to use every possible hi-tech design idea and lots of thoughtful innovation to obtain or make the basic missing pieces we needed, yet to do so economically in small quantities, without having to make huge investments in little used machinery and high volume tooling. Also to keep the overall costs of “modeling to actually look like the real thing” much the same as regular HO, or hopefully even less.
HO & other scales quickly followed
What was quickly discovered once the first parts were made, was that most of the specialized Proto:87 track components are either the same as or only very slightly different from those needed for extra-realistic HO. And so the fledgling Proto:87 Stores steadily attracted the attention of many regular HO modelers as well. Their interest helped fund the development of even more new ideas for uniquely extra realistic modeling solutions, including now some asked for parts in N and even Z scale. The Proto:87 Stores became financially self-supporting for continuing its manufacturing and sales.
Thousands of satisfied customers
Now getting close to 20 years later, the current Proto:87 Stores has grown dramatically beyond its initial expectations providing a wide range of often amazing seeming, as well as mostly home grown and unique, parts to thousands and thousands of like minded modelers all over the world. We are committed to providing those products and parts that meet our original goals of providing the most exceptional, economic and practical, true to scale realism, with absolutely dependable performance and close to everlasting reliability, but with the least possible technical compromises. That means that we do not diverge from our purpose by attempting to be either a general on-line hobby shop or an overnight discount warehouse, nor would we supply or resell unrelated or less realistic items merely for the profit that they might make.
Ongoing product line development
Because the ideal full product range is still a few more years away from completion, working on my own layout is still a lower and delayed priority, and the Proto:87 Stores is still a one-man hobby within a hobby operation. All the extensive design work is still performed gratis in my own time and there are occasional other local volunteers, who have the same interests, and help with manufacturing and shipping. In order to meet the increasing quantity demands, we sub-contract many operations to my past professional industrial source contacts, while using several home built, production dedicated automated CNC machines to provide low-cost labor for parts that need some aspect of machining.
Most of our parts requests come from picky modelers who have heard of the Poto:87 Stores from the growing group of our existing happy users. However, I welcome newer or less experienced modelers visiting, just in case they would like to have the choice of going in our particular more realistic direction earlier in their plans.
Low cost, high quality
So if you haven’t heard of us before, but might like to see your wonderfully detailed models running on matching equally realistic detailed track, then please check us out anytime when you have a few minutes to spare. As well as our model turnouts that look and work exactly like their prototype, and much lower cost fixtures to build them, we have switch machines and a track wiring system that may save you having to crawl under your baseboards ever again. And our original street track system is almost exact scale, yet works with out of the box RTR vehicles. And far more is yet to come…