Rail Enthusiasm versus The Future

It's indeed a whimsical drift, but one that touches upon an interesting phenomenon. In the UK, it seems that physical railway modelling is facing a decline. With major exhibitions being cancelled and prominent retailers closing their doors, there's a palpable sense of change in the air.
As someone who enjoys the hobby, I'll be attending the annual ModelRail Exhibition in Glasgow in a couple of weeks, but I can't help but notice the trend towards an older demographic dominating the scene. The "Greybeards and Pensioners' express" is a common sight on railtours, with very few older women in attendance.
This begs the question: is the station clock ticking down towards the demise of railway enthusiasm? Will the crossing gates swing shut as the last lantern splutters into darkness? Or is there hope in the form of virtual modelling, such as TRAINZ, which seems to be defying the trend and carrying the torch of modelling and the love of the iron road to the next generation?
It's a fascinating topic to ponder. While physical railway modelling may be facing challenges, the passion for trains and railways remains strong. Whether it's through traditional model trains or virtual simulations, the allure of the iron road continues to captivate enthusiasts young and old. Perhaps the future of railway enthusiasm lies in embracing new technologies while still cherishing the rich history and nostalgia of the past.
Only time will tell. But for now, let's keep the spirit of railways alive and chug along on this journey together, wherever it may lead us.
Cost and space dictate my choice. I could buy an Athearn HO RTR CP RS-3 for $128.95 or I could buy a Gold membership in Trainz for 54¢ more. I live in a small 3 room apartment. My decision is a no-brainer.

I had Lionel trains and later, HO trains and I enjoyed them, but always wanted more. Even then, cost and space were a factor, plus the layout was always temporary and the rolling stock required constant care.

I'll take Trainz (and TSC & TSW2) any day, and I suspect if I could have seen the future 70 years ago, I'd have preferred virtual railroading then as well. Sure, I could fantasize about a massive model train layout in the attic of my mansion, but I'm not Rod Stewart.
Right, leaving aside the question of how realistic do you want it, space has to be the big issue. With downsizing all the rage these days, how many people would have a place to build even a small layout, never mind their ideal full sized fantasy one? And then there is the question of what do you do when the initial enthusiasm for that layout wears thin? Scrap it and start another one? Tell that to the missus after convincing her that the living room would look better with a few tracks. At least with a virtual setup, you could build as many layouts at the same time as you pleased, all without any sawdust either. Bored with one? Put it aside for a while and only come back later when it suits.
What I've spent annually for a subscription plus any other third-party, mostly JR and K&L Trainz add-ons barely touches the cost of owning a real model railroad. I'm sorry to say I've been sold on this since the early days. It was space, cost, and cats that did it for me. In 2001 I discovered MSTS and purchased the Auran add-ons for the program. It was on the Auran PaintShed box and also the add-on box that I saw www.auran.com and the Auran logo. Curiosity got the better of me one day and I took a look at the old red and black website and lurked around the forums. A bit later, I tried the old Trainz demo. This was immediately after I spent well north of $500 during a recent trip to the hobby store for N-scale switches, track, some building kits, and other things. What was more frustrating was I was undoing what was being broken by the two cats. As I was putting things down, my cats were dismantling the layout and taking the expensive trains downstairs to the living room!

The layout I built was the Scenic and Relaxed layout and expanded it into an L-shape. While this worked fine, I found the space limiting. I had come from a much bigger layout in my old house and ended up dismantling that one in midst of building it due to the family business invading the basement. What was then in 1985 an expensive route that was 3x the size cost as much if not quite a bit less than what I was building now, or rather rebuilding after the cats got a hold of it and became my third and final route to be built and dismantled before I completed it.

It took a couple a years after I saw the website as I watched Trainz develop through Greg Lane's famous puzzle pieces. My old PC couldn't run the demo and would crash on me when I tried it with a black screen. The old ATI video card was extremely unstable and would crash anything if I looked the wrong way at the monitor now that I think about it. During this time, my brother sent me a link about TRS2004 coming out in December 2003. I actually forgot about this until the other day when he mentioned it to me.

What's interesting is that in the mide-1990s, I was working for a company that used 3d-Studio R4 for DOS to produce 3d animations for training programs. On the morning commute with another co-worker, I used to drive because he lived around the corner from me, I told him of an idea I had. The idea was a fully animated world we create ourselves where we could sit in the driver's seat and see the world we created while driving trains. Among the details and animations were passenger cars where the doors opened and closed and we could also ride in the passenger cars as well.

He told me that would be a lot of work and we discussed modeling and the difficulties in making that happen and the hardware required to run it. Heck, in 1995 we were using a Pentium 90 as the "fast" rendering machine and the rest of us had '486s on our desktops. Even the ///Fast AG video editor was a '486 DX50 and that was a fast machine. Little did we know that less than a decade later that this was possible.
Interesting thread.

While shows are cancelling and long time retailers closing, there are also a few companies bucking the trend, Accurascale springs to mind. That said, a loco is approximately £200, albeit the quality looks excellent, and it's easy to see why people wouldn't bother. I used to model in N scale as an early teen but that ended when I left home and joined the rented accommodation cycle, not having the room or the means to store and transport a layout and, to a degree, not having the spare cash.

Roll forward many years later and now I could afford to buy model railway stuff if I wanted, but I'm fully invested in creating my routes digitally now and take great satisfaction in creating something I can recognise from the real world, without the limitation of space. As for cost, Trainz is a paltry sum in comparison to physical modelling so I'm not going to complain there. If you look at The Other Sim, it is considerably more expensive and most route add ons require a plethora of further DLC which boosts the cost even more. I use both sims but for different things.

I'd never go back to physical modelling and I'm happy with most aspects of Trainz for that to remain the case. Maybe digital is taking a bite out of the physical market, but then that seems to be the case with so many aspects of things we all once took for granted.