Model Railroading on the way down?

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by shamus, Aug 2, 2001.

  1. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    I don’t know what it is, but there is a census of opinion that Model railroading is declining, at least for the time being. I remember when every kid on my street (nearly 60 years ago) had a train set of one kind or another. Today, maybe one in 50 has a train set.

    Even my 5 Grandchildren (except possibly one) are not the least bit interested in trains, only computer games.

    Model Railroad magazines sales used to be high on the retailers lists, they had dozens of varying magazines, today, only a few remain.

    I hear that magazine sales for MR have plummeted around 40% over the last 4 years, so what in your opinion is the cause. Is it getting too technical with DCC, or is it too pricey, or what in your opinion is it.


    NARA Member #24
  2. scudrunr

    scudrunr New Member

    I think our world is getting too modernized. Busines is not longer point to point it is BTB (business to business) the train is no longer something that people are intrested, they only view it as a roadblock in their fast paced lives when they need to stop at RR crossings. People would rather be on their computer or watch the TV than go out to a railroad yard :)

    I think everyone likes trains a lil' but our society no longer has the time for such things, as we can see most of you are retired and dont have to work and can find a lil' bit more time than alot of people.

    I dont know what has come over me but I just recently have been thinking and our family is moving to a bgger house in the woods, we are going to build it and Im going to finish the basement myself and take a room as mine. I am then going to put a nice layout in it. You all probably dont know this but Im only about to turn 15. im proabably the youngest person on here. I cant wait till we move now, I dont like this house anyways.
  3. kf4jqd

    kf4jqd Active Member

    Model Railroad Interest


    I am sorry to say but the younger people have very little interest in trains. At least here in the US trains are not part of the landscape as they once were. Little boys and even girls can't go down the local railway station and watch trains! Hell, the stations around here has tall fences up around them.

    My friends think I am crazy about building something from the past. A waste of money they say. I am having fun. That's what I tell them. Plus it's a common interest that Jessica and I have together. Keeps our relationship strong!:p

    One final thing. Most people on here knows that I am a Ham Radio operator. IN the last decade, the number of ham operators have drop dramatically. Enfact the average of a ham operator was over 50! The reason why? A number of them. The biggest one was computers and the internet. Then there are the video games. Then there was the complecated radios that was coming onto the market. The biggest change was the morse code.

    How was this changed? The American Radio Relay League and the Federal Communication Commision got together and made a "NO Code" lisence. It worked! More younger ham where coming in! This past year there are only 3 lisences unlike the past there was 6! Plus you only need 5 words per minute in morse code to talk on the shortwave bands!:eek:

    Why am I telling you this. I think we need to change our ways of thinking about introducing model railroading. Show them that computers can control your trains. With web cams, you can post your running trains on the internet. You will learn geometery, history, geology, electronics, computers, electrity, and many more skills. Make it a challenge and fun at the sametime!

    :D :)

    Happy railing,
  4. billk

    billk Active Member

    If we are saying that model railroading is declining because magazine sales are declining, we are only partially correct because magazines no longer the source of information that they once were. Forums such as this replace in part the need for magazines.
    We also need to consider if we should count a kid that gets a model railroad for Christmas or his birthday as a "model railroader" (not that he could become one). There are so many more hobbies, interests and activities available to kids today that its not surprising that that part of the model railroading market is declining - as is, I would bet, other traditional "kid" markets, like baseball gloves, for example.
    I think a more interesting statistic would be the number of "serious" model railroaders, however that would be defined. Is that number declining also, and at what rate?
  5. justind

    justind Member

    I am trying to find the time...

    I too think Model Railroading is declining, but not as drasticaly as magazine sales might indicate. Someone else made a good point, the inet has made magazines less important. However I have noticed in talking to my dad about the hobby that the thrill the younger public used to have in this hobby isn't there anymore (and as I watch every hobby shop that comes into being wither and die within a year this is painfully obvious). Technology is mostly to blame, but as that is my livelyhood I don't want to complain. I think that the slow, painstaking details that make a great layout, and the time it takes to build up a nice one are enough to make children steer towards faster-paced things such as Playstations and computers, something that wasn't there before. Also, more and more the price of real estate and the congestion in cities is limiting the space available for layouts.
    The thrill of trains is also diminishing. Steam (which I feel is the one thing that kids first associate with trains) is gone for good. Even the diesel lines that remain in my area are so remote and so little actually takes place there that it is downright boring to watch them.
    However all is not lost :D ! I am 21, soon to be 22. I have been interested in trains all my life, and it is something that runs in my family. My new wife (bless her heart) actually enjoys the hobby as well. Time (full-time work and school), money and space (I love that 1 bedroom apartment) keep the hobby on the back-burner, but she bought me some nice life-like power-loc track that sets up well on the carpet. I am sure that if I ever get a layout together that any children I am blessed (or cursed ;) ) with will love them as well.
    The short of it...I think that the enthusiasm is there, it is just waiting for something to kick start it. Show children a nice layout, buy them some accessories to go with that train set under the tree, or if there is some railroad action around let them stand as near the tracks as is safe when a huge freight comes ripping through the yard at 45mph. The shaking in the ground will surely impress them. But you need to find something that can counter that urge in children to forget the slow progressing train collection and run to Unreal Tournament on the computer.
  6. LC

    LC Member

    I think one big problem the magazines have is they have run out of new things to talk about.
    It's always the same, possibly a new never before see model rialroad that some guy with lots of money (and a few rich friends) put together. But I'm tired of looking at and reading about it. that's why I don't order the magazines anymore.
    Then we have the track plans, wonderful, none of them fit what I want to do, and I took very little out of any of them for the track plan for the new layout I'm just starting.
    I really think the information is good, but it's been hashed over too many times.
    I don't know about a decline either, seems each model railroad show we put on there are more and more people who come. Sometimes the same people. We usually get several new members a year from the shows.
    Seems I'm better off buying the how to books and having Shamus as a friend!!!
  7. Catt

    Catt Guest

    One of the problems I see is the ever increasing cost of model railroading.I know it cost money to produce a decent product but dealer cost $65.00 ,your cost $105.00. Thats a hell of a mark up.How many young kids can afford that?

    Another thing I see on a regular basis is older model rails not wanting to be bothered by some "kid" asking questions. How are they going to learn with that thrown in their face?

    There are three mr clubs in my town. Fortunately two of them actively encourage younger people to participate in them.The members of the other club will at least take the time to answer their questions.

    As far as Model Railroader goes ,have you ever priced out one of their project railroads?A $2,500 to $5,000 investment in a 4'x8' layout is not going to encorage anybody into this hobby of ours.

    Sorry for being so long winded ,but we have some serious problems facing us in the future.
  8. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    I think you hit the nail on the head Catt, When I first started into the realms of Railroad Modelling, the knowledge I gained from watching other people work gave me much pleasure. The questions I asked, of these people I watched, must have run into the thousands. All were very helpful in putting up with this very young teenager who wanted a railroad for himself. You are right, something has got to be done to encourage people into this fantastic hobby of ours.


    NARA Member #24
  9. billk

    billk Active Member

    Here's an idea - why don't those with kids at home of school age (or less) ask them what they think of their old man's hobby and post the answers here along with age, gender, whatever?
  10. N Gauger

    N Gauger 1:20.3 Train Addict

    Some of those ideas are good. I think I agree with the ideas about "HAM Operaters" - Things have to change with the times.

    Model Railroading has gone the way of Steam & other Hand Crafted services (locksmithing for example) - they are few & far between & you have to look real hard to find them anywhere.

    The local Hobby shop always has customers, over the age of around 30. At X-mas time - (Nov - Dec) they are overrun by "part timers" those that buy gifts & are trying to get that "once a year layout" running again. These come in most any age - except 12 - 25. And Yes I think this has to do with the intense cost of the individual trains. The (under 12) youngsters are always being towed around by an adult. Their eyes tell the story - they are astonished at the trains running, but you know when they get their first Girlfriend/Boyfriend, or their first car, they will be out of it for a while.

    My 2 Step Daughters 17 & 19 Love to watch Freight on the local crossings, but that's all. As long as it's convenient for them, they are happy. They even laugh as I slow down & not "rush through" the crossings. They would not think of walking for a bit to get near enough a yard to see the switching actions. Then once there, after a few minutes, they would be ready to move on. When I work on the layout, I'm most times alone.

    They mention the trains to their friends - but they are not interested yet. But they respect my intense interest in the hobby... Thank Goodness! :) :D
  11. jimmybeersa

    jimmybeersa Member

    I am a firm believer in the power of Grand Parents.
    It is our duty to ensure that the Model Railway interests do not die out, because of computers,vidio games and the like.
    When last did you invite a few of the nieghborhood kids in to see your layout in operation, just observe which of them are truely interested and encourage them to come back.
    Look to those young people who are starting out in life ,when they are setting up homes and starting families, can they afford layouts? invite them into your life,
    How many of us were armchair dreamers and at middle age came back into the Hobby.
    My own son is into "StreetRods" but each of my 3 grandsons know how to fire a live steam model loco and drive it safely,they know how it works and what it needs to make it go,only because they have been encouraged to come into my workshop and use the tools and be part of the loco's construction, some time in their future when I am gone I am willing to bet that they will be Model Railoaders. The answer lies with us to keep our Hobby alive.
    Jimmy B
  12. Bill Stone

    Bill Stone Member

    About hobby shop mark ups: It's a little understood fact that markups are really necessary. With some variation between types of merchandise, it is a general rule that a manufactured item must be able to be sold at a retail price 5 times its cost of manufacture. Sounds awful, but it's not. The manufacturer HAS to make a profit. The distributor HAS to make a profit. There are plenty of packaging and shipping costs, often import duties, advertising, losses due to damage, theft, etc. And finally, don't expect a retailer to be able to pay his rent and other overhead AND make a profit, if he cannot mark an item up 100%. None of this involves ripoff. (There are SOME products that are traditionally marked up excessively --- Perfumes and high-ticket jewelry are often marked up over 1,000% just at retail but most stuff is around 100% +/-.)

    About the decline of model railroading: I'm the guy who started this thread on MR Forum a few months back, and there were some interesting (and some wierd) answers there. I think my opinion has come down to a concept that there is a core of what I would call REAL model railroaders --- people who are model builders, craftsmen (to individually greater or lesser degrees of skill, but craftsmen all)who gain their enjoyment of the hobby from the whole spectrum: Research, model building, layout planning and construction, scenery, perhaps hand-laying track, perhaps photography, and finally --- perhaps --- operation. This core is probably relatively small, likely less than a quarter of the number of bodies generally counted as model railroaders. And this core doesn't spend nearly as much money as the "business of model railroading" would like them to. It's not that they are cheap, nor necessarily poor (tho' some of us are...) it's that a few pieces of rectangular and round brass bar stock, some detail parts and a motor, tend to cost a whole lot less than a ready to run steam locomotive. Card stock, strip wood, and styrene cost a whole lot less than a car or structure kit. Hand-laid track and turnouts cost a tiny fraction of flex or ready track. And the money you might spend on a Sherline lathe and mill (or even that brass bar stock) are likely not dollars counted as having been spent "in" the hobby of model railroading.

    I imagine this "core" of "real" model railroaders stays relatively stable, and it's the fads of the moment, driven as often as not by marketing hype and media frenzy that causes the number of "all" model railroaders to fluctuate. This isn't the first big spike downward. I remember in the late 50s and early 60s it was generally considered that slot racing was to be the end of model railroading!

    And PLEASE NOTE: I do not fault those who I leave out of my "real" model railroader group. They are welcome to do whatever it is that turns them on: $1500 brass locos. Buying a box full of (sorta) ready-to-run rolling stock. Prefering operation over model building. The annual loop of track around the Christmas tree. Whatever. That's great. Do it. But perhaps they should be called something besides "model railroaders" by the Harvard MBAs who think they know how to measure whether the hobby of model railroading is advancing or declining.

  13. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    Damn pooters!


    Put simply.... its the pooter. and playstations and attention spans. (well, at least they kept the station bit!!) :eek: Plus modern day trains have lost their appeal and character. Notice how there used to be architecture, and style in design. Nowadays all trains look the same. A train trip used to be an adventure, now it's a chore.

    Onya Scudrunr. keep up the enthusiasm and you'll have a great layout. I started mine only 6 months ago.
  14. michael l

    michael l Member

    hey everyone,

    lets face one fact everyone. if it is not on a computer of some type the "kids" of today and tomorrow will not even be exposed to it! kids get most of their info from tv and computer. when was the last time you saw a lionel, mth, bachman ad or commercial? the companies who produce the products are adding to the decline. like any new product, model railroading would have to be "re-launched" to this new generation like it was for us and our parents.

    if someone(bachman, lionel, mth) were to throw some serious money at a new marketing campaign(including a price recuction for "new modelers"), i guarantee their sales would increase. the interest in trains is out there. it is just not part of our daily lives, like computers, tv's, cell phones. if the manufacturers can make it a daily part of our life, and advertise, and promote, not just to a very specific group, the hobby would grow overnight. even if only 10% of the people actually stay in the hobby after the initial "newness" wears off. that would be thousands of new model railroaders.

    i think it is up to us to keep the hobby going. to keep people, friends, relatives interested and the knowledge base up. i think there definitley were more "kids" interested in say, lionel in the 40-50s. vs. 90s-now. my little nephew is my project, so to speak, into playstation and gamboys bigtime, he is coming for a visit and said, "can i run the trains when i get there?" he will be getting a train set for xmas.

    marketing to a very select group of people can be a bad thing sometimes... to the rest of the world we are the "train experts". and the manufacturers are marketing to the experts. the problem lies in that all an expert is;

    a person who knows more and more about less and less.

    so the general sales will eventually dwindle if something is not changed.

    sorry for babbling on..
  15. Dave Flinn

    Dave Flinn Member

    Decline of Model Railroading

    As a fellow Ham operator (W2CFP), I have to agree with Andy that we must change with the times. In some cases, this may take some study to find out just what has to change; but the decline of youth interest is happening in MANY areas. I am a Rotarian, and this has been a concern of Rotary Clubs around the world for some time now. The National Railway Historical Society also is seeking ways to bring in the young. Name any organization and/or hobby and you will find the same situation.

    As I said, the solution in each individual activity may be different, and maybe we don't know what this solution is yet. But, if we're going to continue to sustain our interests, we have to find a way to interest the youngsters. I have taken both my grandchildren (boy age 12 and girl age 17) to NMRA Conventions, but they don't seem particularly interested in trains. Yet, who knows, without that exposure they may NEVER develop an interest. With the exposure, someday they may decide that this is something that they want to pursue.

    No, I haven't offered any specific solutions, but I hope I have given us all something to think about.
  16. jimmybeersa

    jimmybeersa Member

    Q: What is an expert?
    A: " a has been drip ":p :p :p LOL
  17. LC

    LC Member

    I agree with all of you, you have brought up many valid reasons for decline not only in modeling but other areas as well.
    I really think the fact that trains of today all look the same is one reason for this lack of interest in our hobby. Before I reached the age of 15 I had traveled 84,000 + miles between Chicago and L.A. and back on the U.P.(once on Santa Fe because my Lionel set had silver cars)
    This was in the late 40s - 1962. In those days kids rushed to the tracks to see the passenger trains go by. The railroads had something we were interested in, it caught our eye, and it produced interest in model railroading as well.
    I go to lots of shows as I'm sure you all do. The trains that really catch the eye of the public are the long passenger trains. Pulled by E-9 A B As or Alco PAs., and lets not forget steam.
    I think the longest train we have pulled on excursions so far was 19 cars . On these there are many parents who bring their children, I see some of the same people several times on different trips, and ticket sales seem to be no problem. First class always sells out first.
    Oh there is still interest, we just have to find a way to really bring it out.

  18. Bill Stone

    Bill Stone Member

    I guess that from an admittedly selfish standpoint, I couldn't care less whether the hobby is on the decline or not. As has been said many times before by smarter guys than me, the model railroad magazines were really more informative and more interesting 40 years ago. And, if memory isn't playing tricks, there were more oddball little parts and things available back then. So I cannot imagine any personal loss if there became only 50,000 "real" model railroaders in the world instead of 250,000 or 500,000 people who occasionally buy railroad models or toys, nor even any real loss if this "recession" in the hobby caused the magazines and manufacturers to scale back what they do.

    Anyone who wants to do anything with trains is welcome, and any manufacture who wants to try to market anything in the field is welcome. And overpriced, too-glitzy magazines are welcome. And the NMRA can keep shooting itself in the foot by striving to be always bigger, always seeking yet more money to pay for ever-more-impressive headquarters, contests, and conventions --- but tending to concentrate on standards less and less. None of this really much impacts on my puttering around at my little work bench, thoroughly enjoying building models.

    I'm not even sure whether it's REALLY true, or if I REALLY care that kids today can't concentrate on anything that isn't exagerated and immediate. So long as they don't prevent me from enjoying what I want to do, they are welcome to their world. They're the ones who'll have to dig themselves out from under it! And if they don't fry their brains too much, some small percentage of them will be model railroaders in 20 or 30 or 40 years.


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