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In depth idiot
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In short, yes. Probably a double whammy, increased demand over lock down, which certainly saw Peco's OO track products selling out. And only two manufacturers with N gauge ranges of any size, and both experiencing difficulties with getting product from China even before Covid. Dapol had announced several of their planned N products 'on hold', and Farish was affected by the general slow down of all Bachmann's output due to closure of a key factory by the government, both occurring well before Covid, which has created further limitations.

And systematic price rises in Chinese made product cover all scales, starting in earnest from about 2015, and the main dealers in s/h have promptly raised prices of even the older s/h to match. Frankly, you have to watch like a hawk for the moments when dealers 'get it wrong' or decide on price reductions to move some s/h stock that is clogging their shelves. What I look for in OO are offers on s/h models that have faults or problems that are known and readily repaired; the same is likely to apply in other scales, but I know nothing of N. (Annoyingly the best models which are robust and reliable rarely appear...)
 

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In depth idiot
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As an OO user, when I re-entered model railways getting on 25 years ago s/h was relatively cheap, and by an exploration of this s/h quickly established that the then newly introduced Bachmann 'Blue Riband' product was a country mile ahead of practically all the then existing RTR OO.

That made for an easy decision, focus on the good new product coming out of China - initially from Bachman - which was based on techniques developed for North American HO. I would rather a few good items, than rather more less refined older s/h. And contrary to the common opinion those 25 years ago, that this product would quickly wear out, it not only hasn't, but is likely to outlive most owners

N gauge likewise, I would suggest: models based on technique originating from Japan and now made in China will be best. A UK brand - CJM - got going well ahead of the OO move East, worth looking out for.
 

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In depth idiot
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I don't think this issue is limited to N gauge. I think it goes across 4mm and 7mm scales as well...
Definitely.so.

The position in OO is easier because of the number of competing brands introducing models, combined with the very large volume of good products from the last 25 years, which is in fairly active circulation in the s/h market. The regrettable aspect affecting all the commercial scales, is that the principal retailers engaged in this 'circulation' of s/h have systematically raised prices. This is simple economics, and if 'we' want to see these businesses continuing, that's the price we pay for them to maintain their business turnover at present: hopefully until more stable supply of new product 'does the job' of depressing s/h pricing.

'Hopefully' the operative word there, present outright barbarity standing in the way, on top of all the other recent problems.
 

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In depth idiot
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...Even if I'd got it for a bargain what is the point if the stuff does not operate reliably ?...
This is where product knowledge pays off big time. My knowledge covers a subset of RTR OO models so won't help you that much, beyond general principles:
Search the net for other owner's experience.
Buy some product that interests you, and has been generally well received
Get to know the manufacturer's technique, both strengths and weaknesses; and find out how you can improve the weak aspects, and rectify problems on otherwise good items.

Major annoyance: manufacturer changes proven satisfactory technique for an inferior one. (May not even be cost down, the 'new way' probably more expensive!)

...In my limited experience diesels seem to run better than steam, less likely to derail, better electrical pick up and greater traction.
The mechanism technique that delivers this superiority from twin bogie traction is common to OO and N and is easily explained.
Structure: a robust casting ensures plentiful weight distributed uniformly on the bogies, and two relatively short wheelbase bogies provide a predictably stable and flexible running chassis with good track holding.
Drive train: a large motor can be accomodated in the centre of the model, with a shaft drive to both bogies, which have gear towers typically driving all wheels.
Current collection: typically available from all wheels, so all the model weight is effective for good rail contact, and the 'agitation' of those wheels by the drive is beneficial for pick up.

This system is so beneficial that I truly wonder why anyone even considers motor bogie drive.

(Sounds wonderful , but there can be problems, as an example in OO, drive couplers between motor and gear tower sometimes slip. Recognising typical symptoms: 'motor definitely running, loco cannot move or only jerks along slowly', 'runs OK in one direction, not in the other', enables purchase of a loco which can be fixed in minutes.)

Compare to steam models (and rigid chassis diesel or electric) there is often less space for motor and gear train, limitations in having sufficient weight well balanced in the centre of the coupled wheelbase; and then there's the drag from any carrying wheels and tenders if present. (It's often the case that a simple 0-6-0T will outperform a much larger steam model for traction, because the 0-6-0T is not having to drag any unpowered wheels around, and plenty of weight may be accomodated in the overall cuboid body form provided by the tanks.)

In HO, Roco power loco and tender using a single motor tender drive, with a shaft coupling to drive the locomotive driving wheels at matched tyre speed. This works well by general report, but not a technique that has made its way into UK product. The technique in Chinese manufacturing is largely derived from North American product. Huge steamers (with shaft drives to both chassis used on mallets) has few matches in UK prototype, it's LNER and BR(ER) alone that you should model to get the best out of it...
 

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In depth idiot
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...What is going on and when will it end ?
You have had good explanations of what is happening, which matches my experience. Individual choice determines where you decide 'too much'. (Mine kicks in when s/h goes over 60% of actual or estimated current new price.)

And also: this isn't infallible, but prices often drop appreciably August/September. I suspect this is because so many have spent money they haven't got while on holiday in the peak summer months, and between being away and necessarily tightening the belt on return in order to pay essential bills, there's less money being thrown at model railway product - for a month or two.
 
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