I think he's right. I'd bet that most kids in this generation have never
even had contact with a model train let alone actually seen one in a
working layout. Around here places like Walmart, Target, K-Mart, Sears,
etc. don't even stock a basic train set (except maybe around Christmas).
Most layouts seem to be hidden away in basements, attics or such and
aside from maybe there being one on display at a hobby shop the average
kid isn't even going to realize there is such a thing. The ONE exception
would be the Thomas toy line. They are truly toys only but that line
does seem to be getting popular (even Walmart carries a section for now)
and if not for that there would be hardly any exposure in society at all
for the hobby.
In general there is probably a lack of imagination in modern generations
of kids. When I think back at all the different hobbies and stuff my
friends and I did and then look at kids in the neighborhood who are
limited to either jump up and down on a skateboard for hours trying to
do a trick that years of practice haven't accomplished anything or
bouncing a basketball endlessly, it's like they don't have a clue what
fun is. We did a very little bit of that too but we also did stuff like
ride bicycles, fly kites, throw various types of balls around, frisbees,
climb trees, build paper airplanes and balsa gliders, plastic model kits
(lots of those), build forts, and all sorts of outdoor and indoor games.
Variety and imagination never lacked.
So I guess between lack of exposure and lack of imagination, we can only
hope model railroading doesn't eventually go extinct. I'd bet a lot of
us had trains when we were young and nostalgia is part of what we like
about the hobby today. But what happens with a generation that doesn't
have that nostalgia to lure them back?
As mentioned in the article, magazines probably do catch peoples
attentions. The pictures often had me flipping through a copy in
In a round about way, this is in part is why I'm getting a little back
into the hobby. When I built plastic models for some 20 years, part of
the enjoyment was entering them as an exhibit in our County Fair. To see
people stop, look and enjoy the displays (kids and adults both) was part
of my inspiration. Despite that dozens of modelers entered stuff, that
category got pushed aside to make room for more mainstream interests in
the exhibit hall. With that gone, I stopped building. Over a decade
later I thought about doing a diorama with those Spooky Town Lemax
structures that come out every Halloween (cheaper variations of the
Dept.56 Hallmark line -but more variety, lighting and animation).
Halloween is one of my favorite Holidays and though we do have a few
guests over, not enough to justify such a one night viewing project.
Model trains had been on my mind off and on too, but again, few would
ever see the work involved so it stayed in limbo.
Then one year I got the idea of putting the Halloween diorama in a
plexiglass case and setting it outside for trick or treaters to see. We
average about 100 plus parents each Halloween so an audience was
guaranteed. Before that even got started another thought came to mind
that I could run a model train through the scene for even more interest
(I'd seen this done for the Christmas scenes but never with the
Halloween stuff). Some pondering on the possibilities settled the issue
that this was something I wanted to try even though now it had become a
much bigger project (plus more time and money). From there I learned
about Narrow Gauge, On30, and all the backwoods looking stuff available
that would go perfect with a spooky scene.
When the first layout finally gets completed or at least operational
enough to set out (I'll add to it each year), the theme will not only
help promote good old fashion trick-or-treating*, but model railroading
too. I think I'll make up some fliers too with some basic info about the
layout, sources, etc. for anyone who seems extra interested. Maybe in
just a little way this will help kids who might not ever be around model
trains to at least see something that will get their attention and maybe
spark an interest.
*What I mean by promoting trick-or-treating is that recently there are
these organized trick-or-treating events dubbed "safe" Halloween where
kids basically get sack loads of candy from closely spaced
commercialized booths. This despite the fact that it's still perfectly
safe in most neighborhoods to enjoy Halloween the traditional way.
Parents are more often taking their kids to these types of events or
"Harvest Festivals" and then not participating in the traditional
neighborhood trick-or-treating. Not even giving out candy for the kids
The only way it seems to counter these pansyfied events is to make sure
the kids who go the traditional route have stories to tell their friends
at school who didn't go about what they missed out on. "Haunts" are one
way which is basically super decorating your yard and having a walk
through (usually in the garage) that simulates a haunted house, but most
people don't have the time or resources to go to that length. I decorate
heavily and get lots of positive comments but don't have a "haunt", so
I'm hoping something like this train layout will add a little extra to
the stories and enjoyment of the night.
Now if I can just get this time and money problem solved. :)
I am not sure where you live, but here in Washington State, there have been
two train shows that were not flea markets. The Washington State Museum in
Tacoma had a large train show with layouts on all four floors, interspersed
with the permanent exhibits. There were live steam engines on the first
floor, a Lionel layout on the second floor, G scale, Lego several HO and N
scale layouts on the third and fourth floor, along with the permanent
railroad. This was all on display for 3 days and there were plenty of
Several weeks later, at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle (near the
Space Needle) was another model Railroad exhibit with many layouts and
exhibits and plenty of children as well, again interspersed with the
permanent exhibits. This generation can be exposed to trains, if we take the
time and make the effort to get the layouts into the public eye.
Many kids see trains in Seattle as they pass along the waterfront. Tacoma
too, the trains roll right along side the highway.
Check out www.4dpnr.org an see what we have been up to and what is coming
4th Division Pacific Northwest Region, NMRA.
It's encouraging to hear of these public (and private) displays that
visitors get to enjoy. We do have real trains crisscrossing all over
town (I can hear a train horn blowing now as I type this), at least one
annual model railroad show, but nothing on display anywhere like at a
mall that can be seen all the time. I guess it's just that the people
who are into the hobby here AND have the time to do something extra to
promote the hobby are either too few or not interested. I wish I could
do something more myself but a little show for Halloween is about all my
current schedule will allow.
And I did want to clarify that although it seems to me most kids today
have less imagination, I do see plenty of examples of those who do. And
I also believe kids today are not entirely different than kids of 50 or
even 100 years ago in that IF they are exposed to certain toys, games,
or hobbies from the past, they WILL respond with interest. The primary
difference, with some exception, would be attention span but even that
can probably be overcome. It is about involvement with kids. Turning off
the ballgames and doing something productive with them will do wonders
on many levels.
On a side note, was at Walmart the other day and noticed a mom and dad
with their about 4 year old son riding the shopping cart. They stopped
by the Thomas toy train section and let him happily pick out a new piece
of rolling stock of some sort as the mom pointed out which ones he
didn't have yet. Possibly a future model railroader there. All is not
p.s. I see there is a whole pack of trolls here now. Once in another
board I saw an infestation like this. One started, sort of checking the
water so to speak, and then the rest followed and flooded the board. The
regulars on the other board were smaller in number and so it was easier
to agree to ignore them. They disappeared shortly thereafter. Trolls
feed on attention which reveals their sad state of mental health (can
you imagine actually desiring to spend time each day trying to ruin
other people's enjoyment in a nice discussion group?). They need help
but there isn't a lot we can do for them in cyberspace.
Thus I agree with those who have suggested to ignore them and even go
further in saying it might help as well to do the same to those playing
both sides of the fence: who make legitimate posts but also insist on
continually responding to trolls with sophomoric name calling, which
does nothing but encourage the trolls and keep pushing these unwanted
threads back to the top of the list. Ignore them completely and they
will go away.
in article email@example.com,
firstname.lastname@example.org at email@example.com wrote on 2/25/07 10:11
While I believe it is true that model railroading has dropped of most folks
radar, it is also true that whenever anyone shows up here at my house, with
or without kids (or just kids visiting my 15 year old daughter), and they
hear I have a model train layout, I basically get knocked over with the rush
to see it and watch it run. It's not even complete yet. Big grins all
around: they seem to love seeing trains and asking about how it gets built,
can they run it (yes, DCC is pretty easy to teach a newbie: no blocks to
fret about), etc. and the turnout control panel looks like the layout, so
it's pretty easy to trace out where your train will go with a finger.
So, I'd say anecdotally that there is lots of interest in trains, it doesn't
necessarily translate to parents getting involved with their kids and
building even simple layouts. Maybe if parents could be pried away from
"work two jobs 7 days a week" to make plasma TV and BMW payments, they'd
have ore time for this type of family activity; heck, I'd settle for any
type of family activities which don't involve just dropping he kids off at
the soccer field.
Kids in the Raleigh, NC region get exposed to model trains
everytime they visit the South Hill Shopping Center. There's a 14
x 22 O-Gauge layout, with a table in the rough shape of North
Carolina, in the atrium area. There's also a fair/carnival layout
in one corner. Some pictures from the grand opening several years
ago can be seen at:
More has been done since these pictures were taken, and more work
is in progress. Including adding interactive buttons to
accessories on the carnival layout for the kids.
They also get pretty good exposure to the real thing with the NS,
CSX, and Amtrak running through most towns in the area.
Times have changed... we have gone from teh true department store to the
mass marketing discount chain stores. Do you remember when you were a kid
how the big department stores built layouts around Christmas time? And they
always stocked the stuff that they had on display. Now, it's even hard to
see anything displayed in a store... or find a real department store in the
I remember two places in Wheeling where there were Holiday train displays
and another half dozen places where there was an honest-to-goodness train
man at the stores. It was almost like a small hobby shop in the corner of a
larger store. Today? I don't think any of those places are even open.
Yes, times have changed...
Our club in Elliot Lake (Ontario) finagled an empty store in the mall.
Management is happy to have us there, as we bring in traffic, especially
on Saturdays. They charge a cost-recovery rent, pretty cheap IOW. We
have a bunch of regulars, kids and adults, who come by to see the trains
and whatever progress has been made on the layouts (N, HO and G). We've
instituted a parent & child membership program, and one of the kids is
working with a couple of members building a 2ftx4ft N gauge layout,
which has progressed to the track laying stage. (I expect to see it run
next Saturday, which is my next duty day.)
Don't fuss about kids not knowing about model trains, get out there and
show them what it's about. A portable N layout doesn't have to be big,
just add a lot of interesting bits and pieces so that people discover
something new every time they look at it. If possible, let them turn the
knobs to make the trains go. :-)
"Don't believe everything you think." (Maxine)
I have grandson who will be 3 in May. I don't know how he became
interested in trains, but he is crazy about choo-choo's. He liked
regular trains until I took him last September to the touring Thomas
the Tamk train in nearby Lebanon, Ohio. He really enjoyed the ride,
sitting there next to the engineer with a broad grin on his face.
Since then I have found my Lionel O guage (which I received for
Christmas in 1950 at age 5 - yes I am an old fart). I also set up my
old HO scale train also in the basement, and then my N scale train.
He played with all three, learning to operate the transformer power
packs. He gravitated to the N scale train, so I have started a layout
for him, his father (my son) and me.
I intend to model a section of Interstate railroad that I was
introduced to by my grandfather in the 50's. He was retired from the
railroad, so he was able to flag down the switchers lift me up to the
engineer, climb up himself, and I'd sit at the engineer's seat ring
the bell, blow the whistle and on occasion, operate the throttle and
the brake. On one occasion, we rode the caboose with me up in the top
hanging my head out the window and I picked up a cinder in the eye
from the staem loco's smoke trail. I enjoyed the staem locomotive, and
when it was returedm we did the diesel. While I'll never get to
expose Josh my grandson to this excitement, I hope to show him what
the railroad was like there where my parents grew up.
I keep waiting for his interests to change, but so far he is a
confirmed railroad nut.
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