Saw in a local (Melbourne) throw-away paper that the German model train
firm Marklin is to sack 400 of its staff, account falling sales of model
railway items. Other traditional European toy makers say the same. Cause:
electronic games and the like. Many of these firms are family companies who
don't want to go to the Orient to get cheaper products. See previous threads
on model trains now not made in the States.
Bill, anyone who thoroughly researches the subject will see that the model
railroading hobby, at least in the USA, has been slowly declining in popularity
since perhaps the mid 1990's. Although a wealth of new products are being
issued lately, the sizes of each of the runs pales before the numbers that used
to be produced per given model. But even limited runs seem in many cases to
still be over-production and existing stock has to be dumped (look at BLI for
just the latest example). Likewise, the steadily increasing prices have far
outstripped inflation and the growth (or lack there of) of personal income in
Magazine sales, too, across the board and always a gauge of the hobby's health
since its very beginning, are down dramatically (MR alone has lost 45,000
readers in the past 10 years). The final straw is that model railroading is
largely a Baby Boomers' hobby (the average age of a hobbyist is placed at close
to 55 currently), resulting mainly from wide exposure to Lionel and Flyer train
sets as kids in the 1940's and 1950's. As the older members of this demographic
begin to pass, the number of hobbyists will show a progressive, substantial
decline. Kids in the 1960's played with slot cars, not trains. In the 1970's
interest in model trains by the general public was perhaps at its lowest ebb
ever, while video games have been the in thing for quite some years now, so the
relative percentage of younger people in the hobby is quite small.
So, while the hobby will undoubted survive for quite some time to come, expect
to see the number of participants dwindle at an ever increasing rate as we pass
the year 2010.
My two cents..............
Comments by messrs. Bortle and Pearce are quite accurate and astute. But
diagnosis is easy.....what about the cure??
During most of the 19th century and into the 40's and well into the 50's a
person could go to just about any railroad depot in the country and purchase
a ticket to travel to almost anywhere served by a railroad through the many
large railroad hubs found in major cities. Trains were omnipresent! Kids
(and adults) would spend hours trackside counting and noting cars from
literally hundreds of North American railroads. Passenger trains......wow!!
Every railroad had it's own design and operation sans Helvetica lettering.
Our heroes were the engineers and train crews who captured our
imaginations. Most of my generation wanted to imbibe this spirit and we
We copied or lived this in our own way through our toy (Yes a PFM Crown is
still a toy) trains...be it any size or scale. Things change. That is the
way of it. Post boomers were not privy to the the excitement and wonders of
mid 20th century railroading. Aviation, space exploration, slot cars, and
high tech everything took over offering different challenges....be it
modeling or just being an aficionado. The retailers always seem to go with
trends with damn few wanting to risk making the path. Bottom line profits
are always the most important...understandably so!
So the days of model train departments in major stores, and serious
promotions to the public are long gone.
Personally I do not think the hobby will die.....change.. yes, possibly down
size..yes, but not disappear. We are fighting a battle of attrition as many
of us old timers are facing retirement, fixed or reduced incomes and smaller
quarters. We were inspired by the likes of John Allen, Allen McClelland,
Carl Apple (OO) , Frank Ellison, Whit Towers, Bill McClanahan, and many
others from this era. The magazines then covered these modelers rather well,
and I can easily venture to claim that most of the boomers and pre boomers
entered the hobby because of these folks....plus coming from and living in
an era well populated with much railroad activity.
Still many new folks do enter this hobby. I see this first hand with The
Great Scale Model Train Show. What is bringing these people in? Where does a
"civilian" here about model railroading?........ only exposure to and
interest in trains! Much of this exposure comes from the many train shows
held each weekend, remaining hobby shops, trains as a kid, and the magazines
that may be found on newsstands..although that is dwindling also..as I would
guess magazine racks are now stocked by suppliers who go with only
mainstream interests........sales and profit again!!
What is frustrating is knowing the many challenges offered and skills that
could and should be acquired through participation in this hobby are
overlooked.....and of course the rewards when these skills are learned.
When Model Railroader came out with the latest article on George Sellios'
Franklin and South Manchester in March of this year....I noticed much new
interest and rejuvenation among the dormant...or from modelers who had been
in "remission." Now this month I read in an editorial in the same magazine,
that four new monthly features will be on expanding the 4'x8' Turtle Creek
layout!! True the magazine has to appeal to all, but who wants to rise to
the heights of mediocrity?? The Sellios coverage with probably the finest
photographs ever of a model railroad by Dave Frary were inspiring to
many....not 4'x8' extensions or 7'x7' N scale shelf layouts. You may be
intimidated or inspired.....I think inspiration is what gets folks into the
hobby. The hobby is solely about limitless imagination. I fired off a letter
to this magazine expressing my concerns...although I seriously doubt that it
will get posted.
I believe that model railroading is a fine art and should be recognized as
so...not just as a plaything by folks who did not have the good sense to put
up the trains after Christmas. My own layout is bordering on 3000 square
feet (Piermont Division), and still first time visitors............."Holy
crap, do you set this up every Christmas??
I said enough. For those who stayed awake reading this blurb, my sincere
thanks. It is time to play with my train set!!
I have heard it said before that model railroading will continue to
shrink in popularity as does popular awareness of real railroads. I'm
not sure I buy it.
There are many hobbies dedicated to the recreation of things long
gone: a close friend of mine is a civil war re-enactor--not the war
between American states, the one between parlimentarians and royalists
in England. Other people build models of clipper ships or 18th
century men'o'war, some like to re-create medieval music with period
Two trends in model railroading offer good news and bad news to me.
The first is the explosion of knowledge about current and historical
prototype railroading that has led to an enormous increase in realism
both in the level of detail of commercially available models and the
way we play with them (e.g. timetable and train order operations based
on real railway rules and practices).
The second trend has been the rise in the number of "professional"
model railroaders. While there have always been people who could
build, paint or detail models for paying customers, now we have
companies that will build entire layouts from benchwork to scenery to
rolling stock, leaving the layout owner with nothing to do but sign
the cheque and run the trains.
The problem with both these practices is that they are inherently
elitist. Most people have neither the time to memorize the Uniform
Code of Operating Rules nor the money to buy a custom-built layout.
The average model railroader of thirty or forty years ago built
layouts that were less realistic and models that were less detailed,
and was more likely to do at least some scratchbuilding using
relatively cheap materials like stripwood and sheet styrene. The
average modeler of today can buy beautiful ready-to-run equipment that
looks and runs better than anything he could build himself, which is
good because his skills and time for scratchbuilding are likely nil.
If the economy deteriorates and the current era of ready-to-run
modelling comes to an end, the aggregate number of model railroaders
may go into steep decline and magazines like Model Railroader may be
in a lot of trouble. On the other hand, the volumes of research done
by the railway historical societies and special interest groups won't
disappear. Nor will the small groups of hardcore enthusiasts be
seriously affected--they will likely turn to scratchbuilding again or
commission small runs of resin kits to fill their own needs--nor the
wealthy types who will continue to pay market rates for their dream
layouts. Those remaining model railroaders with neither great skill
nor disposable income will at least be no worse off than their
predecessors back in the 1930s-50s in terms of hobby product
availability and price.
I'm just on the verge of turning 30, and I'm worried about oil
shortages, political instability, environmental crises, voodoo
economics and all sorts of other things, but I'm not worried about
whether I'll still be able to play with trains when I'm 60.
"Sea language would be a very terse and economical speech if the
Old Man didn't lose the advantage by padding it with unnecessary
From your phrasing, I'd guess you are Canadian....possibly British! You
mentioned that models in years past were less detailed. Yes and no! Assuming
you are from Canada, some of the best model railroads ever from that era
were from Canada. There was less available then....in materials, RTR, and in
kits. Considering what the top modelers did in Canada and US and what they
had to work with....proportionally they may have put a dent in your
statement. I have found two basic genres of modelers.....those who want the
most beautiful, and realistic looking trains and those who build for the
enjoyment of building and pride of accomplishment. Nothing wrong with
I do agree that there is much interest in period modeling...and growing. I
know many who model eras found only in history books. They seem to enjoy the
research as well as the modeling. This is especially good news for the brass
folks as for one to complete or just fill in part of their roster, only
these models may be found in brass...be it older or new.
I being much older also have the same concerns about world issues as you
expressed, but I have learned that history rarely changes...only the cast of
characters! We will always have political unrest, runaway oil prices, voodoo
economics, environmental issues, and idiots in office.....so feel
comfortable about playing with your train set as I do.
Andrew Jeanes ( email@example.com) wrote:
: If the economy deteriorates and the current era of ready-to-run
: modelling comes to an end, the aggregate number of model railroaders
: may go into steep decline and magazines like Model Railroader may be
: in a lot of trouble.
IIRC, the percentage of model railroaders in the IT and other high-tech
fields was higher than in the general population.
Before the dot.com "train wreck", it wasn't unusual to see people posting
to rec.models.railroad from domains like cray.com, dec.com, ibm.com.
There was one thread that somehow mentioned text editors such as 'vi'.
I posted a mention of a freeware VMS EDT-like editor* available for Windows,
unix, OS/2, and VMS. The next day, the maintainer of that editor asked
where I had posted because he'd never seen so many download requests.
Now with so many high-tech positions being offshored or turned over to
cheaper foreign workers on non-immigrant visas (H-1B, L-1), many people
have been forced out of high-tech industries into lower-paying "McJobs",
or have gone back to school to retrain in another field, such as law or
: I'm just on the verge of turning 30, and I'm worried about oil
: shortages, political instability, environmental crises, voodoo
: economics and all sorts of other things, but I'm not worried about
: whether I'll still be able to play with trains when I'm 60.
I felt the same way at 30, but feel differently now that I'm almost 60,
o the middle class under attack with little political representation
o over 130 members of the House in the Congressional Caucus of India
o a similar group in the Senate
o jobs being offshored like free guns at a prison break
Note: firstname.lastname@example.org is invalid for email
On 13 Dec 2004 06:08:39 GMT, email@example.com (Andrew
I don't either. Model railroading used to be a craftsman's
hobby decades ago. When I was a kid, I was able to go to the local
hobby shop and buy enough materials with my spare change to spend
hours scratchbuilding RR cars. But train stores which used to sell
craftsman's kits and scratchbuilding supplies have been vanishing
during the past decade or so. Last time I looked, New York City has no
more train stores. Thank goodness for the internet.
But toy trains are still a big thing with the public. And
there are a lot of scale RR collectors still around as well as
shake-the-box "kits" available.
spammers can send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
The hobby is cyclical. It had a low point in the 1960's, and has had a
big resurgence. And, real trains are NOT going to go away anytime soon.
They still haul most of our 'bulk' commodities, and no alternative is
anywhere in sight.
Sure there are model train shops in NYC. Haven't visited in many years so I
can't say I'd recommend them.
Stuyvesant Trains & Hobbies
345 West 14th St
New York, NY 10014
23 W 45th St
New York, NY 10036
Better to go out to the 'burbs, IMO and check out these stores:
751 McDonald Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11218
Nassau Hobby Center
13 W. Merrick Rd
Freeport, NY 11520
While a sizeable portion of the hobby is, and continues to be, folks
who are avid fans of "real" railroads, I'd submit that a substantial
number in the hobby are less seriously interested in that aspect. It's
part of the appeal, but not the primary one. They are attracted by a
more universal appeal - modeling.
Without delving into a deep psychological discussion (which I don't
have any particular knowledge of) it's obvious that there is something
in the human nature that likes miniature versions of things we see
every day. We get some kind of inner satisfaction out of simply
building a model of something or drawing it, or painting it. Perhaps
it's the same inner craving that led cavemen to draw on their walls.
No matter how important, or unimportant, trains are in our daily
lives, there will be a portion of the population that will choose mrr
as a creative outlet. It's quite good for that - it's familiar, it's
animated, it's fun, etc. It appeals to an inner creative urge and is
more lasting in satisfaction than this week's "must have" new video
There's simply something inside us that makes us want to re-create a
miniature version of our past, present, or perhaps future.
Special Effects Lighting
For the past three or four years I've helped the club do a table for the Boy
Scout exhibition in a local major mall. We do the Railroading merit badge, of
course. My job has been to show them how to build a simple kit and inspect
their work. What I have seen bothers me. The boys had major problems with
shake the box kits. Many had no idea how to hold a screw driver. None wanted
to look at the instructions. Almost none wanted to watch a demonstration on
how to assemble.
<A HREF="http://www.tckworld.com/opfoot ">http://www.tckworld.com/opfoot </A>
Find "Skinny Dipping and Other Stories"
On the web at www.publishamerica.com or
and look for "Into Joy From Sadness" soon.
Probably most people not just teen age boys, and its an age old phenomenon.
I remember building a simple airplane kit when I was maybe 11 or 12. My dad
took a look at it and asked why I didn't put the anything in the cockpit. I
told him that I had glued the fuselage halves together and I didn't realize
I had to install the cockpit parts on one side first. He waved the
instructions at me and said "do you know why they call this an idiot sheet?
Because idiots don't read them." I have read the instructions to just about
everything I've put together ever since. I have discovered that some idiot
sheets are actually written by idiots so your on your own anyway. Bruce
On Sun, 19 Dec 2004 10:47:00 -0800, Larry Blanchard
When I was a system programmer, what always got me p****d was looking
in the manual for an answer and finding "ask your system programmer"!
That happened at least once a week. IBM stood for Incredibly Bad
Manuals. No problem could be worked on with less than 6 open at a
time. It was particularly annoying having converted from a Unisys
(Burroughs), where the entire "JCL-equivalent" (WFL) required to run a
program was "run" and the program name.
And an incredibly long shelf of them :-).
I was lucky. I worked on Univac and GE computers till minicomputers
appeared and then switched to Modcomp and realtime. Only IBM equipment
I had more than a passing acquaintance with was an 1130 (a mini?).
On Mon, 27 Dec 2004 09:49:00 -0800, Jim Sherman wrote:
Never worked on their hardware, but used System 38 and and 4381 stuff, and
came to hate VMAS - the manuals for ver. 5 were worse than the ones for
ver. 4 - the overpaid IBM techs trying to learn about what they were
supposed to be helping out on always went back to the v4 manuals to look
Colin Powell to White House staffers: "What proof do we have there ever
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