It's the end of the line ...


since 10 Aug 2002
In the paper today, there was the above headline with the following subhead:
"Model trains are a dying hobby, store owner says on closing shop."

It was reported that Allied Model Trains in Culver City, California is closing after 32 years in business. It was housed in a half block long replica of the Los Angeles Union Station. Seems the biggest problem is getting the next generation interested in the hobby as the current fans are grow older. According to the author, there are so many other interests, like video games competing for the attention of today's youth. The article also mentions that Model Railroader has had a drop in magazine circulation fro 272,000 in 1993 to only 162,000 today. And they estimate that the average railroader spends $1555 per year, almost twice the 1993 average.

Well we are part of that competition. If the physical part of the hobby is suffering, we need to sell the virtual aspects and highlight the many advantages not the least of which is the relative low cost to join and play. Unlike the need to buy every car,wagon and other object separately, we can install and use an almost unlimited number objects without incurring extra costs. Creating and using multiple layouts is normal, you don't run out of space and at the end of the day, you can just turn off the computer and not have to worry about putting everything away for the next time. It's also very portable as those with high end laptops can play anywhere, not just in the hobby room. :)

As much as we may lament the loss of such hobby shops, if we at the end of the day don't find and introduce potential trains people to the virtual side of the hobby, they will find other games to get excited about and we will have an even smaller hobby. :(
Well said.
And if the virtual scale railroading sets people off to build physical layouts too, then that's just another bonus.
Althjough actually, I don't see trains in America having the fascination they once did. When the glamour queens of the rails now run slowly in generic Amtrak colors and freight routinely crosses the country in trucks, there's not much in this country to catch the imagination of the next generation.

:cool: Claude
You're exactly right. I hate to see the physical side of model railroading on such a slide, but it's a fact of today's world. In my case, I still love the hobby, but space is a real problem. In today's suburbia, it's harder and harder to find that extra room to build a layout. I've had a fairly nice one, but upon moving to another house, I had to dismantle it and there simply isn't room to build another one. I was going into railroading withdrawals until I found Trainz and now, I can build the layouts of my dreams. But I still love the physical side of the hobby and miss it. I've been in model railroad clubs before, but it's just not the same as being able to go to the basement and work on mine.
a lot of the problem with physical modeling railways is the cost, a good loco can set you back £80, a small selecton of figures can easily come to £5, and a small 5 plank wagon £10, its a very expensive hobby!
Well like most of us as a kid i had a train set made model planes and ships but never got the model railroading bug Motorcycles and fast women were my downfall but I had a good TIME! playing games were a natural progression when I got my first PC Doom ect .......Quake ...I got interested in skinning but when Trainz 1.1 came out I got the bug to create my own worlds ...I just lacked the Gmax skills those days .....
Trainz is more than trains to me these days It gives me a world to create anything in .....................................:eek:
When I was a kid, nearly every young boy wanted a trainset or a racing car set or even both. Even the local department stores sold trainsets and had a reasonable amount of accessories in stock as well.

Over the years, the department stores saw a decline in stocking such things, and one by one specialist model railway stores either closed down or became consolidated hobby stores to cater for wider interest.

Now every kid is just wants the latest version of PS/Xbox/Nintendo platform. Whilst it's all part of progress.....practicality in general, practicality in hobbies/building/creation and just the social/interaction side of all that really has taken a dive.

Shame really. :(
Interestingly Hornby a well known (at least over here) manufacturer of model railway equipment is on the rise. They have targeted their markets carefully. Fine detail expensive models for the, ahem, more mature market :) and Thomas the Tank Engine and the Hogwarts Express for the younger market. Certainly there is more competition, therefore the model railway hobby will have to adapt and try harder to recruit.
Rant to the death

It is not so much a problem over here, I have some Maerklin (a German brand that is sold in very few places in America), okay it is rather expensive but the quality is very good. The problem nowadays is of course cost and competition. 50 years ago you didn't have computers (except for ENIAC) or video games, and the cost of a good Lionel set and maybe some other bits was not comparatively so much, fast forward to 2007. Computers and games for them are relatively inexpensive, a used PS2 is rather cheap. Video arcades are everywhere, model retailers are far and few, and the youth of today have not much interest for trains. In Germany it is not so, here there are many manufacturers for those of different wallets, and retailers, clubs, and other related things are found in most towns the size if Ingelheim or bigger. In Mainz alone there are I think 4 or 5 shops that sell model trains. With the larger concentration of rail and the use of it people are also more exposed to trains so you have more people who are interested in them. The only thing here that could kill off model railroading like in the states is a huge price hike and the killing off of certain manufacturers. LGB has almost had this happen to them (the first part yes, the second we shall see what happens). Over here also computers and PS3's (600 euro for the latter) are far more expensive so people look for a cheaper alternative for a hobby. The only problem is that certain manufacturers like Maerklin have become rather expensive (especially their Systems components). But these same manufacturers also have a sort of "economy" series that are cheaper models, mostly for children but also for those who want to get into the hobby without paying a lot. So model railroading still lives over here, I just wonder what will become of it in the next 50 years.

Hi guys

well i'm 15, nearly 16 and i love my interest in steam locomotives. I wouldn't swap my huge layout in my bedroom for a PS3 or a Nitento Wii etc. I haven't used my PS2 much sine i started being a volinteer at the Mid Hantts Railway as every spare day i have, i will be down there. I think that its a shame that this interest is dieng out. Some of the guys at the railway say without us younger generation learning how to keep locomotives in service, in the furture there all be static pieces in musems. :(

its because of the lack of interest in railroading these days. I used to get made fun of in school for expressing my hobby for railroading. they crowd of today thinks trains are things that go "Chuga Chuga Choo Choo".
It is also the crowd that is relying on the new videogame systems for entertainment. remove those items, and place in virtual railroading, or model railroading, and there you go.
But, its sad to see how it has deteriorated these days...:(
its because of the lack of interest in railroading these days. <snip>
But, its sad to see how it has deteriorated these days...:(

Funny your comment and a couple of 'this day in Toronto Railway History' entries are similar...

May 16, 1978:
The 125th anniversary of Toronto railways still merits a special
occasion and the City of Toronto declares "Railway Heritage Day." CN
steam locomotive No. 6060, assisted by a GP-9 diesel, hauled a 14-car
train bearing Ontario's lieutenant-governor Pauline McGibbon and 720
passengers to Collingwood following a ceremony held by the eastern
entrance to Union Station. A second CN train of two diesels and five
cars, normally stored in Barrie over the weekend for commuter service
to Toronto, carried hundreds of Barrie citizens to Collingwood for a
golden spike ceremony.

May 16, 2003:
The 150th anniversary is completely ignored by the media and
politicians, indicating just how far railways have fallen off the
public radar in the last quarter century. Members of the Aurora
Historical Society handed out pamphlets and bags of tea (part of the
consignment on the 1853 train) to GO passengers boarding the
southbound morning trains. A small group of rail enthusiasts met at
Union Station in the afternoon and boarded the northbound GO train to
Aurora where they assembled in the pouring rain at a historical
plaque near the station for a brief observance.

Derek Boles
Toronto Railway Heritage Moderator
Ah those golden memories. Our reminisces of how it used-to-be make for some fascinating if sad reading.

Even though it pains me to ask, I will, are we flogging a dead (dying?) horse? (iron horse).

Back in the 90's, I was active in the gem and mineral hobby. At our annual shows, there was a time when anything that looked like a crystal or had the name crystal associated with it was a sure fire way to make a sale. Then one day the public's attention went elsewhere and we couldn't give the stuff away.

Now we here are still enthusiastic about trains. It's been a wave that started back in the 1920's, and even before that, that we have been able to ride for a long time. It would appear that we are now seeing the end of that wave as it breaks on the shore of public indifference. There are other waves out there but they have different riders and are going in different directions. Perhaps another wave like the one we have been riding will come along, who knows. If we can introduce our hobby to a new generation, help they become as passionate about it as we are, ... and if the hobby can reinvent itself, provide some of the eye candy of video games to attract as well as real substance to keep them interested, we might have a new wave.

As a great man once said "The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: ... ." Let's hope the next chapter will include our hobby.
I heard on the grape vine that model rail was actually gaining momentum with more poeple reluctant to travel and opting to spend more on pastimes and hobbies. As a young fellow I was always fascinated with the power of locos, even the narrow gauge sugar cane locos were I grew up. I was a fanatical model railway builder, never much good at finishing anything, but just loved trains. Now I have a son who I have built a small layout for but as stated cleaning and storage are always an issue. I waited 20 years for a sim like this and the fact that there are no boundaries with creative expression means your only limited by the time you can spend creating. I would think it only natural progression that my son be more into computer orientated pastimes. As for me I'll keep chipping away at the manual and thread hopping trying to find that missing piece or dependency that eases my next drama.
Don't forget the part that sound plays in the realism of Trainz. A table top layout won't give you the beautiful noises that I can pump through my speakers.
Now if only there were a way to reproduce the smells. Perhaps I could light up the charcoal Weber (outside an open window, of course, for health reasons) and persuade my wife to allow a couple of open cans of warm oil and diesel in the house .... I'll get back to you.
Hi gents:

I have a 14.5 by 40 ft HOn3 model railroad and to be honest I haven't touched it since I got gmax and Trainz. Being retired and on a fixed income I can no longer afford to do much of anything for $$$ reasons. An 0-6-0T in HOn3 runs $495.00, K-36's and 37's run $800 to $900, and the Sumpter Valley 2-6-6-2 is $1000. My first loco (a 4-6-0) ran $37.00 in 1957). They have priced thier product beyond the reach of the average model railroader. Sad, as I have always been an avid physical model railroader but I have no choice but to give it up for Trainz even tho I'd prefer to enjoy both.

Hi gents:

I have a 14.5 by 40 ft HOn3 model railroad and to be honest I haven't touched it since I got gmax and Trainz. Being retired and on a fixed income I can no longer afford to do much of anything for $$$ reasons. An 0-6-0T in HOn3 runs $495.00, K-36's and 37's run $800 to $900, and the Sumpter Valley 2-6-6-2 is $1000. My first loco (a 4-6-0) ran $37.00 in 1957). They have priced thier product beyond the reach of the average model railroader. Sad, as I have always been an avid physical model railroader but I have no choice but to give it up for Trainz even tho I'd prefer to enjoy both.


I think my layout is just a 4 by 8 sheet, recently I pulled up the n gauge track and laid down Lego track. Doesn't seem to need the same amount of cleaning either on the track or the locos. I have a couple of sets of HO lying around, local supermarket, loco, five wagons, track and controller $50. The curves are a bit sharp though, but the locos aren't bad at all.

In someways it helps and in some ways it hinders but cutting out the low end of the market from the model shops.

The other interesting thing about Trainz is where the expertise comes from. In the real model railway world can you image an American building GWR Broad gauge turntables. Even in the UK its a very specialised branch of modelling since practically everything has to be scratch built. Thanks

Cheerio John
I heard on the grape vine that model rail was actually gaining momentum

My local model shop expanded recently, so business is clearly doing well for him. I went in yesterday for a Railway Modeller, and they'd run out (it was published on Thursday). Next month I'll be there two days before with my tent ;)

Here's a few shots of my own model railway - I got it for my 6th birthday, over 11 years it didn't change (except the points 'cos they wore out). The simple pleasures in life eh? (These pictures aren't new, by the way)


That said, my first coaches were three LMS four wheeled vehicles, which are now £10. When I started, these were only £6. I've still got them (they need new wheels though - the flanges are wearing a bit thin (you think I'm joking?)).

For cleaning, I got some dodgy solvent from York called Rail Zip (works chemically), but it is increadibly effective, even on ancient track. It is irritant though, so I'd recommend against using it on a child's layout.

There is also the sophistication factor. Long ago, wiring a large model RR was an absolute nightmare (block or cab control). Miles and miles of wire. Today DCC makes wiring far easier and makes operation not only easier but closer to prototype as well. Automatic block detection, loop reversal, train selection, and so on but all that sophistication comes at an ever steepening price tag. I'd hate to add up what I have invested in DDC equipment and I've hardly started on the wiring. Model RRing is becoming a hobby for the well to do. Trainz has its sophistication factor too but its (by and large) free thanks to content creators who make ultra detailed locos, structures, rolling stock, sound and animation effects, industry interactivity, running water, etc. Thanks to Auran, Trainz will always cost everyone the same (and a modest cost at that).

As for that American making GWR broad gauge items---all Americans are crazy ya know.:D

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Oh yes we Germans are crazy too:p...

Wiring up my dads LGB layout in the backyard is not much fun either, first I have to hook up all the switches, then dig a trench (@#$%&*! sewer lines! [please don't ask]). Put the wires in, cover it all up, hook it to a switchboard and then start running. And when the switch starts going weird it is only so fun to dig it all up and find which stupid wire is doing it. I use the mfx system from Maerklin and it is far easier to use. The switches take direct feed and command through the track so only a little wiring for the decoder, signals are the same. And I needn't dig through a locomotive manual to find the address so I can run the engine, and I needn't bother with typing in a switch number and switching (and hoping I remember which switch it was). Just plug it in and go. The only problem is as bendorsey mentioned is the cost, the control equipment I have cost me about 450 euro, and that was through ebay! Normally I'd end up having to cough up 700 euro for all of it. But locomotives and wagons aren't as expensive as HoN3 ones, cost me 260 euro for a nice rail bus with sound, I can't imagine paying 900 dollars for a K-37! Especially when I can get an HO Big Boy for about half that.

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