Our janitor, office manager, kit designer, ad planner and kit packer, Merle Rice, relaxed a few years back running his friend’s steam loco model. Bill Pepper, road foreman, is supervising the novice engineer.
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Model Railroad Warehouse is a manufacturer and distributor of Prototype Specific Products ™ model railroad kits and parts made in USA. We’ve been in this business since 1965. Products we make are in the Cannonball Car Shops, Cannonball LTD Series, Cannonball Signature Series and Hometown brands. We ship worldwide to model railroaders and model rail/ hobby shops. Our products are designed for the serious hobbiest – or to create serious modelers. Our warehouse (not open to the public) is located at 235 N. Main Street, Roanoke, Indiana [mailing address of PO Box 411, Roanoke, IN 46783]. Our own products are manufactured locally except the etched brass parts made in California with our tooling. Due to our small size, and the nature of kit design and manufacturing work, we cannot be continually available on the telephone so we have “a system.” Telephone orders are accepted for us by a neighboring business- for a fee. Please call 1-800-672-8762 US (1-260-672-8762 outside USA) during 8-4 (eastern) business hours weekdays to place an order. Please do not call to ask information or request phone calls. We strive to keep this website up to date (each page has current update info) and we read our emails daily (mrrwarehouse (at) yahoo.com) and reply promptly. We post vacation shutdowns on our homepage.
GETTING TO KNOW US AND MEETING THE CREW
We have been in this business since 1965. Boss Merle (that’s me) holds an engineering degree from Rose- Hulman but moved on to the “high paying” world of college and high school teaching for 37 years. To afford teaching and model railroading (NMRA life member, joined in 1955), I started a hobby shop in Ft Wayne in the 1960s and was soon manufacturing kits (engineers aren’t happy any other way, I guess). We purchased Red Ball in 1975 and recently sold that pioneering line after having designed and produced over three hundred different additional kits. My wife, Bea, managed the business days and I was on the night shift. Our son managed our painting and pad printing during the early days of that craft in the US. He has been an Industrial Engineer at the neighboring GM pickup truck plant for nearly two decades now. We had as many as eight employees simultaneously making railroad kits here during many of those years, but I am now trying to do all their jobs while designing new kits and their tooling. My fun seems to have been designing things others said couldn’t be done because they can’t be- with the way things had always been made. The challenge is to create fun (not frustration) for you. We try harder. Here’s additional historic and personal info and pictures that were posted on our website over the years. You’ll see some other folks who have been on our team in recent years too.
COMMUNICATING WITH US Click Here
RESERVING NEW PRODUCTS FROM US/ Back Orders Click Here
ORDERING FROM US – USA HOBBIEST Click Here
ORDERING FROM US- OUTSIDE USA HOBBIEST Click Here
ORDERING FROM US- US RETAIL DEALERS & DISTRIBUTORS Click Here
ORDERING FROM US – FOREIGN DEALERS Click Here
GETTING TO KNOW US AND MEETING THE CREW click Here
PRIVACY, CARD SECURITY & OTHER POLICIES- Click Here
OUR TERMS OF SALE and POLICIES effective March 1, 2014
CATALOGS-CONTACTING US-OUR PHYSICAL LOCATION We are at 235 Main Street, Roanoke, IN 46783 with additional nearby storage, production and packaging locations. These facilities are not open to the public. We may be reached @ mrrwarehouse(at)yahoo.com for prompt response to questions or phone replies (advise your availability at number given). We do not accept phone calls due to the nature of kit planning, production and packaging—with no “front office staff.” Our 800 order taker is contracted [and paid] to take orders –your calls are not “free.” SSAAE sent to MRRW at PO Box 411, Roanoke, IN 46783 will receive prompt hand written responses or printed lists of our INTERURBAN kits, or LTD brass sides & SIGNATURE SERIES kits as specified. We cannot provide other print “free catalogs”—a copy of this website would cost as much as a Chinese import but you are welcome to download and print it for personal reference. Contents are ©.
WARRANTIES-ALL PURCHASES ARE FINAL. Products are honestly represented and cannot be shipped for “approval shopping.” All products we distribute (Those not on YARDSALE page) are warranted by their respective manufacturers. Do not return complete kits. Communicate with the manufacturer and return defective parts to the kit maker if and when instructed to do. Defective Cannonball, HOMETOEWN, LTD Series or SIGNATURE Series product PARTS should be returned for replacement after first contacting us (the manufacturer) with explanation of the problem. Construction errors and half built kits cannot be covered by any manufacturer warranties. New products on YARDSALE page are sold “as is” and may not be warranted by manufacturer. Used “Bargain basement” items on YARDSALE page are sold “as is.” DISCOLORATION OF BRASS PARTS FROM AIR EXPOSURE IS NOT A DEFECT. DISFIGURATION OF BRASS PARTS BY COINSUMER HANDLING CREATES DEFECTIVENESS AND IS NOT COVERED BY MANUFACTURER’s WARRANTY.
PROMOTIONAL PRICE, PRE RELEASEDE PRICES and HOLDS Promotional sale prices apply ONLY to orders placed and paid during the posted sale. Pre-release reservations “lock in” the price posted when product was reserved for the quantity reserved if payment is received within 30 days of notification. We cannot be responsible for failure of notification delivery or non-acceptance of (expired?) credit cards. RERESERVE items when changing email addresses (our filing system for reservation is based on email address). Mail reservations should include SSAE for notification as well as credit card information. YARDSALE Items will be held 7 days for payment after notification of availability. Regular prices are subject to change without advance notice and posted price applies at time order is placed and paid.
SHIPPING DAMAGE or LOSS. Uninsured shipments (including most foreign orders) are shipped at customer’s risk. We ONLY SHIP INSURED to USA addresses unless specifically requested otherwise. In case of damage, DO NOT RETURN, keep complete package and contents for carrier’s instructions and or inspection. Notify the carrier and mail or email us so a claim can be initiated- then await instructions. We average less than one damaged or lost shipment a year and the average would have been much lower than that except for GE steeple cabs disappearing in Chicago region mailings when the kit was released. (Rumor has it the result was unemployment).
BACK ORDERS for out of stock are scarce at MRRW. Items on our pages are “IN STOCK, IN TRANSIT or, if not, they’re noted IN THE LINKED UPDATE PAGE” We strive to maintain stock OR POST AVAILABILITY DATA ON THE PAGE UPDATES. When we do note an “Item to follow” we do not charge a second shipping fee.
CHECKS in US funds on US Banks: Orders placed with personal checks will be held for 2 weeks pending check clearance. There will be a $30 charge for checks that do not clear for any reason.
FOREIGN orders may be paid by Paypal or international money order in US funds. There will be a service fee of $3.00 minimum for international Visa or Master card orders. Do NOT email credit card information. It can be faxed to 260-0672-8762. Handling charges – see USA information. WE SUGGEST USING THE SHOPPING CART or HAVING US SEND PAYPAL REQUEST FOR PAYMENT for most economical and prompt fulfillment of your order. Use of shopping cart may result in request for additional shipping charge or a refund of excessive charge. Click Here for more details
SHIPMENT in USA is made by insured UPS on heavier or more costly orders. First Class, Parcel or Priority mail as appropriate on others. We refund any savings on shipping and handling (via Paypal) on website shopping cart orders. TYPICAL Minimum charge is $15 UPS’ $9.00 mail. Decals or small parts may be mailed first class uninsured for $5.00. Canada: we use postal delivery uninsured for the same $9 and $5 minimum charge. Foreign we ship by postal package or air priority mail. Minimum charge is typically $17 though some items can be shipped letter class. Shipment charge is PER SHIPMENT. Our shopping cart charges flat fees based on order size and we refund possible savings. Additional charge may be needed to cover shipping charge. A Paypal email request will be made if needed. HANDLING CHARGES for orders paid by check are typically zero; Fair and minimal based on the 800 calls (typically $1.50), Card processors charges and excess Packing costs to service your particular order. Click here for more details
RESERVATIONS for unreleased products may be made by email to sales (a) mttwarehouse.com with subject line “RESERVATION FOR item name or number.” Give shipping address in message and quantity wanted. We will confirm by email when product appears ready to produce or tool. We will email paypal request for payment (with instructions-you don’t need an account) when ready to ship. RFR items should be similarly reserved. If you send check or money order it will be cashed with understanding it is a firm order for shipment upon availability. (Likewise, shopping cart orders are charged when placed). There will be a $5.00 cancellation fee for refunds after 30 days unless we cancel the potential product. Special terms apply on Grand River products. Please see special FROG reservation system page. Click here for other reserving methods & information
DEALER Terms are linked this page. We do not sell to “drop shipper” internet order taking “dealers” or “travelling road show” operators. Brick and mortar firms listing our product on their website are welcome. B&M dealers who sell at local train shows and advertising custom builders are also welcome. We expect our dealers to show and sell our products and not be “order takers”: for sales we have already created. Dealers may order using the retail shopping cart AFTER ESTABLISHING DEALER RELATIONSHIP WITH FIRST ORDER as explained in DEALER INFO. Your Dealer discount will be refunded by Paypal. There will be a service fee of 3% ($3.00 min) for US dealer order payments by Paypal , Visa or Master cards. Your website and/or listing in consumer magazine dealer directories or other satisfactory evidence of your serving the public as a model retailer/source is a must. We reserve the right to refuse dealership courtesy for any cause. Dealer’s images stressing “low price discounting” are not acceptable. We provide quality products for serious adult model railroaders and expect that image in their representation. Foreign Dealers Click here
DOORPRIZES For many years we provided door prizes and even got a thank you letter of appreciation once. If your NMRA group or active club actually advertise or will distribute our ads, please write. If your club has folks buying our products, please have them write a note with your form letter requesting door prizes.
SECURITY Our website shopping cart operates through the secure Paypal system and displays the padlock emblem. We do not maintain a file of credit card information with the exception of pre-release mail or phone orders with credit card payment. Card info is kept with reservation in a secure (not accessible by computer) file. Do not open email files purported to be sent by us UNLESS we advise they are coming by identifying file name.
SPAM The ONLY mass e-mailings we make are to those who have reserved specific unreleased products. These mailings will contain information related to the reserved product and utilize blind copy technology so your address is not sent to other recipients.
CONFIDENTIALITY We do not sell, share, rent or exchange email address lists, mailing lists or customer lists. Links on our website are only posted as references to established websites. References to other sources’, email addresses etc., when given, will use (at) rather than @ to prevent spammers automated use of the addresses. This even applies to our own address. You are welcome to email us at mrrwarehouse(at)yahoo.com.
Model Railroad Warehouse is owned and operated by Merle Rice, a retired college and high school physics instructor and engineer. Merle started this business in 1966 as a retail model railroad shop near (and then moved into) the village of Roanoke, Indiana. (Which has since grown as result of a new GM pickup truck plant nearby). He began designing and producing the HOMETOWN structure line in the early 1070s and Golden Era freight cars (Berghoff Reefer under Roanoke Shops brand- then Ft Wayne Horse & Mule car, Oyster car and O scale traction and passenger cars) as Wabash Valley Lines). Merle developed a precolored styrene brick wall material that was a “breakthrough” in an era when structure kits were of wooden buildings or plastic kits of European masonry design. Hometown made early 20th century town modeling popular.
When Howell Day offered the Red Ball tooling and brand in 1975, Merle and a silent partner formed Wabash Valley Lines, Inc, purchased Red Ball and built an additional building. We grew rapidly to eight employees and two shifts, outgrowing our space and purchased a business building in Roanoke. His engineering background was dangerous—he planned on using the hundreds of Red Ball metal molds to make injection molded styrene parts and kits. Commercial molders said it couldn’t be done so Merle and a local mechanic of all trades (Paul Miller) engineered a way to do it. An injection molding machine was purchased and operated in Miller’s business until he decided to retire. The Roanoke building was enlarged with a machine shop and molding operation (later grown to three injection machines). A second brand name, Cannonball Car Shops, was invented to distinguish the styrene products from the metal and wood Red Ball kits that were still favored by many modelers. This became amusing as we received constant warnings that this new Cannonball outfit was copying our Red Ball line – when they were being made by the same molds in different machines. Some folks were quite sure one line was better detailed than the other too. (The customer is always right, you know, even the guy who complained Wabash Valley wasn’t near the Wabash River. His letter came while flood waters of the Little Wabash River had our plant surrounded. Our plant was one block from the location of the Roanoke station on the Ft Wayne and Wabash Valley traction line, within whistling distance of the Wabash RR and took employee parties to a Wabash River beach. Well there were a lot of problems with part piracy by folks with rubber mold spin casters in those days so we appreciated the loyal diligence of many. Cannonball soon purchased the Kurtz Kraft PS1 boxcar (and reefer) molds from Rip VanWinkle- Alexander Models. And we had begun developing additional plastic molds in our own machine shop, A serious fire shut down the operation for some time after an operator error with one molding machine and in time the wood and metal kit line was shrunk to a core of unique design kits. We had begun by doing our own silk screened wood boxcar and reefer sides. It became more economical to subcontract this step to Gene Walp in Pensacola who also did our early PS boxcars (before plastic compatible model paints). This work was brought in-house when we purchased a precision pad printing machine, one of the very first (third, we think) in the American model industry. For many years we also produced New River Models pad printed Stewart locomotive kits.
As Merle continued developing new Red Ball kits they began involving etched brass components. Then new styrene parts. And the distinction between CCS and Red Ball blurred. A second fire at our original building, now storage facility, helped cause the decision to downsize. Wabash Valley Inc ceased and Merle’s underlying Model Railroad Warehouse assumed operation. MRRW operated a distributorship of several train lines n a second Roanoke business location since the 1980s. The Roanoke “factory” building was sold, Red Ball’s “heritage line” (kits based on wood and metal) and machines were sold to LaBelle Woodworking. Cannonball adopted the styrene and brass kit line and brass parts line. and operates in the “second” Roanoke (warehouse) location. Our brass etchings are made by a premiere California firm in the business and our styrene is molded by a nearby molding firm that refuses automotive work Plastic molders who accept automotive contracts frequently must “evict” their other customers. Then they are subject to severe big customer pricing pressures – often leading to failure. We chose them as they accepted our desire for quality work at slightly higher prices- and one the mold maker who produced many of our molds was an impressive student of Merle’s at a local college.
The popular HOMETOWEN structure line was “back burnered” for some time as labor costs began forcing unrealistic pricing of our kits. We’ve re-engineered them for printing as Bristol cardstock kits that can accept Tichy windows for dress p. Freestanding as built, they can be “lined” with popular plastic poster board for use in damp environments. Some also use them as plans for scratch building and inexpensive “stand ins.” Our intent was to create structures with character for entry level layouts and backer ground / supper detailing use on discriminating layouts. These are produced for us by the nearby firm who also contract to take your 800 orders.
A thumbnail history of Red Ball was posted on our website when we announced its sale to LaBelle Woodworking:
Red Ball, head-quartered at Roanoke and Huntington Indiana, since 1976, is packing up to move back out west — to Cheyenne, Wyoming. Negotiations and preparations (in Indiana and Wyoming) have been underway since October 2007.
M. Dale Newton founded the Red Ball kit firm in 1939 and operated it from his printing business in Los Angeles, Ca. He moved to Medford, Oregon, during World War 2 and continued operations there. John Anderson, later a leading force at Kemtron then founder of Cal Scale, milled hundreds of the crisply detailed solid metal Red Ball molds during the post war years. Red Ball was briefly located in Elkhart, Indiana, but returned to Medford prior to its purchase in 1955 by Howell Day. Mr. Day was a pioneer model rail shop proprietor in Dunellen/Piscataway, New Jersey. He had manufactured O scale kits and had introduced an HO PRR K4 kit prior to World War 2 under the “H Owen” brand. The Red Ball line was expanded to include dozens of unique prototype kits, well over 200 bilboard frfrigerator cars and over a hundred wood style boxcars during the New Jersey era. Red Ball was also an early importer of Japanese made brass motive power and specialty cars. Upon his retirement in 1975 the parts and kit line was acquired by Wabash Valley Lines, Inc. and has been operated by Merle Rice’s Model Railroad Warehouse for the past 34 years. Rice added dozens of additional prototype specific kits and engineered the use of most Red Ball molds to produce injection molded styrene parts and kits. During this era, the wood and metal Red Ball line was differentiated from the styrene kits by introduction of the “Cannonball Car Shop” brand for styrene kits and parts. Red Ball, at seventy years old, is one of the handful of remaining pioneer kit makers and has been particularly notable for introducing a wide variety of detailed unique prototype cars and carsides to the hobby. As Red Ball enters its seventy-first year of kitmaking it will be conducted by LaBelle Woodworking Company’s Rick Steele.
Over the years we have exhibited at NMRA National Train Shows in St. Louis, Detroit, Cincinnati and Seattle as well as many years the hobby industry show at Chicago (beginning at its beginning in Ford City). Following the Cincy show we donated the historic molds for the Kurtz Kraft PS1 boxcar to the NMRA’s Howell Day Museum. Why historic? This was THE first injection molded plastic railcar kit. The Getting to Know Us page includes information that was current at the time of the Seattle convention and pictures taken then AND photos of some of the folks who have made our quality products possible. Some “About Us” as posted several years back:
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