One of the things I’ve found in this hobby is some really great customer service from the manufacturers and retailers.
Mike Fifer is an active model railroader, in addition to running his retail and online supply business. He also has a great series of videos on YouTube outlining the construction of his AC&T Railroad at the shop. I’ve had excellent service from Mike & Robin, including some more than fair “above and beyond” business practices regarding shipping. They clearly are out to build a good relationship with their customers by doing the right thing all the time.
Mike has also been very quick and patient in responding to the many questions I have peppered him with, and it is clear that he would be just as nice regardless of how much I was buying from him (and in truth, I’ve bought very little, $$$ wise).
As for Tam Valley Depot, well, if you’re looking for turnout controls or other electronics for your layout, you’ve got to check these guys out. They have an excellent product line that has been clearly very well thought out and designed with flexibility and ease of use in mind. I can say that with authority, as I do this kind of stuff for a living. It’s really good stuff, and well documented, too.
Again, just like with Mike & Robin, Duncan has been more than helpful and patient in answering the dozens of planning questions I have sent his way, and I have yet to drop a dime on his company. That speaks very well of him and his company, in that they understand their customers’ needs and are passionate and engaged in helping folks achieve their goals.
Thing is, it’s not just me, either. I’ve seen many, many posts on the forums from a broad spectrum of other folks regarding these two companies, all to the same effect. Top notch products, over the top service, and a real passion for the hobby.
Of course, there are many other MRR companies out there that also do an excellent job, and a few that perhaps don’t do so well. But Fifer Hobby and Tam Valley Depot are certainly two examples of the right way to do things.
(Note: While Tam Valley Depot products could be used on any layout, Fifer Hobby is an N-scale specific retailer).