Model trains becoming less popular.

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.
Reply to
William Pearce
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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 the States.
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.
Reply to
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!! 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 did!! We copied or lived this in our own way through our toy (Yes a PFM Crown is still a toy) 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 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 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 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!! HZ
Reply to
Howard Zane
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 instruments, etc.
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.
Regards, Andrew Jeanes
Reply to
Andrew Jeanes
Andy, 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 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 either...just different. 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 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 feel comfortable about playing with your train set as I do. HZ
Reply to
Howard Zane
: : 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 "train wreck", it wasn't unusual to see people posting to rec.models.railroad from domains like,,
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 medicine.
: : 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, and see:
o the middle class under attack with little political representation o over 130 members of the House in the Congressional Caucus of India and Indian-Americans o a similar group in the Senate o jobs being offshored like free guns at a prison break
--Jerry Leslie Note: is invalid for email
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Reply to
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 game.
There's simply something inside us that makes us want to re-create a miniature version of our past, present, or perhaps future.
Mike Tennent "IronPenguin" MRR Electronics Special Effects Lighting
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Reply to
Mike Tennent
On 13 Dec 2004 06:08:39 GMT, (Andrew Jeanes) claims:
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.
Cordially, Ken (NY)
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Reply to
Ken [NY]
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.
Dan Mitchell ============
Reply to
Daniel A. Mitchell
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. Gene ABV61-1043.001.HCB
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"Skinny Dipping and Other Stories" On the web at
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and look for "Into Joy From Sadness" soon.
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Sounds like my father!!! Do you think teenage boys were always just this way or is this a recent phenomenon?
Reply to
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
Reply to
Bruce Favinger
Thanks for a bright spot on an otherwsie gloomy-wintry day.
Reply to
Wolf Kirchmeir
I spent 30 years in the consumer electronics business and we had a saying: When all else fails read the manual. S/V Express 30 "Ringmaster" "Trains are a winter sport"
Reply to
In computer circles, known as RTFM.
Reply to
Steve Caple
When I was a systems programmer on a mainframe many years ago, my answers got so predictable the other programmers made me a sign to hang on the office door. It read "It's in your --- manual!".
Reply to
Larry Blanchard
That stands for "read the Friendly Manual", doesn't it?
Reply to
Of course, that's what we always said when asked.
No telling where some folks' mnds will wander, though!
Reply to
Steve Caple
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 (212) 675-2160 345 West 14th St New York, NY 10014
Red Caboose (212) 575-0155 23 W 45th St New York, NY 10036
Better to go out to the 'burbs, IMO and check out these stores:
Train World (718) 436-7072 751 McDonald Ave Brooklyn, NY 11218
Nassau Hobby Center (516) 378-9594 13 W. Merrick Rd Freeport, NY 11520
Reply to
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.
Reply to
Jim Sherman

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