• Looks like google predicts the end of model trains

  • Discussion related to everything about model railroading, from layout design and planning, to reviews of related model tools and equipment. Discussion includes O, S, HO, N and Z, as well as narrow gauge topics. Also includes discussion of traditional "toy train" and "collector" topics such as Lionel, American Flyer, Marx, and others. Also includes discussion of outdoor garden railways and live steamers.
Discussion related to everything about model railroading, from layout design and planning, to reviews of related model tools and equipment. Discussion includes O, S, HO, N and Z, as well as narrow gauge topics. Also includes discussion of traditional "toy train" and "collector" topics such as Lionel, American Flyer, Marx, and others. Also includes discussion of outdoor garden railways and live steamers.

Moderators: 3rdrail, Otto Vondrak, stilson4283

  by umtrr-author
 
Getting back to Google for a moment... the number of websites out there continues to increase dramatically as far as I can see. So even if model trains had the same absolute number of hits, the percentage would keep going down.

I know my own website's "popularity"-- if I can call it that-- has trailed off. I think the causal of that is "more choices"-- both railroad related and not railroad related.

As far as how popular trains are, the "golden age" of availability of models of any kind at long defunct stores is over and has been for decades. The "golden age" of product variety may be with us, but I think even that's a debatable point in the pre-order high price point environment. (That's another discussion for another day...)

I don't believe that model trains (or railfanning, for that matter) were ever "highly accepted" by the "mainstream". Many hobbies aren't. Sports are. One of my fellow N Scalers put the reason very simply and elegantly: "Model Trains don't sell beer."
  by Desertdweller
 
George,

No, they don't sell beer.

The demise of model trains could be listed as a self-fulfilling prophecy. It doesn't have to happen as long as there are model railroaders who are willing to spend the money required to support the industry.

What I bemoan is the basic change in the nature of the hobby from a craftsman's workbench hobby to a hobby based on collecting (and, hopefully, operating) ready-made products. As this change is happening, it is accompanied by a decline in the availability of basic supplies needed to support the craftsman angle.

This shift is not all bad. There are lots of wonderful products out there. I recently purchased a very nice Kato N-scale E5. This model is available now in plastic at a price I can afford. It is hard to complain.

As long as there are enough willing buyers, this hobby will exist. If attrition and a lack of interest among the coming generation, then it will die, and there isn't much if anything our generation can do about it.

Les
  by Arborwayfan
 
My 2nd grader son loves our HO layout, which is -- unfortunately for Joes Hobby Barn in Terre Haute -- mostly made of supplies saved from my 1980s-90s kid/teenage layout, including a 30-year-old control panel of Atlas components, with the broken switches marked "Do not use" just like a decaying prototype interlocking machine. No electronics, and not too much insistence of scale or prototype accuracy because I like that he likes to build things out of whatever materials he can find. There must be a few like him around still. On the other hand, I'm hardly a serious modeler.
  by Montrealrail1
 
I'M may be out of the previous discussion but I read post before answer..

First of all..model train are not in decline,but increased..
Hobby store are closing in most of place,cause internet are more popular to do shopping,more choice and more deals.
I remember when I was younger,I was doing a round trip of every hobby shop in my city,many of them haved different choice and prices,may be around a dozain of store where to buy trains and models..now,we get only 3 or 4 hobby stores in all..

when speaking about model trains and railfanning,peopples are looking at me like an extratrestrial :-D
but when I tell them is the same as a plane lovers,busfans or a cars collectors,then I got their attention and most of time,they asking question about railroading..

Internet provide more buying possibilities that save to do long travel through the city or out of the city.and it's so much easy to find rare models or special eddition models.

I still go to local hobby store to buy train model and when I take the subway to come backI notice that peopples are looking curiou when they notice that I have railroad stuff in my bags..

another thing,when I was younger,models was basic and was more comons than today,with the superdetailled models and even,some are prototype..
buyers are now seeking for more realistic and detailled models than before,even now,we have possibility to get sound in some models,that was not current in the past,before the DCC came over the market..
If I compare model from the 90's to a model from today,there a nig difference into the details,and the prices..
here's a good example
at the left side,Rapido train FP9 and on the right side.Athearn blue box..
Image
I remember that the Athearn Blue box locomotive was limited eddition,I got it for 40$
and the Rapido are limited too,but cost me 200$,but get much more details..even if we notice that Athearn blue box was based on UPY blue print for most of their models,now Atthearn take out the Genesis series,that more prototype,but more expensive..

Never model trains will decline,just by looking over all model train shows we get,most of the visitors do not own a train model,but they will own their first one,cause their are fascinated and fall in love with railroading..

and in the real life,planes are more popular,cause it take much less time to got from a city to another one..buses and trains share the rests of travelers..
take off the planes from service,and the train will be always full and will ride with no vacancy seats,cause travelers will chose the trains instead to take the bus,it's more confortable by trains..
remember the 9-1-1 attack in 2001,AMTRAK and VIA Rail was getting overflow of travellers,cause no planes was allowed to flight..

by reviewing the trains models,it still one of the most popular hobby cause its more easy to get some at hobby stores..RC planes and helicopters,boats and cars are behind in the list,cause more expensive and not too much place to run them and,clubs are not popular,than railroad club houses.
  by Snowmojoe
 
I don't think I would let the decline in subscriptions to print-based magazines and other media discourage me about the hobby. Young people simply don't read anymore. Subscription numbers for newspapers and magazines are dying on the vine across the board for all sorts of subject matters. Newspapers are taking an absolute pounding in terms of subscriber numbers. Young people (I would say those oh, 30s and under) simply do not seek information from the same sources that older people do.

I don't want to sound like an "Old Man" (I'm only 39) but I feel somewhat caught in between the two extremes - I see my parents, who are both in their 70s and get 2 newspapers deivered to their house every day (and still use the phone book!). Then there's me - I frequently read print media, but I also interact with plenty of people younger than me who think it's hilariously anachronistic that I read stuff like magazines. You read, like, PRINTED books??? Wow. (If you've never heard of it or seen it used, look up the meaning of "tl;dr". It's an internet slang abbreviation like "LOL" or "IMHO".) They look for info and content on things like YouTube. And if they can't read it or view it on a tablet or a smart phone, forget about your chances of getting them to pay attention. So, declining subscribership doesn't seem like a reliable indicator of hobby participation. Honestly, even if EVERY kid under 25 was an avid model railroader, I think you'd STILL see declining subscribership.

I think it does point to general trends that are probably negatives for the hobby as a whole. Kids have no attention span or imagination anymore. They don't "pretend" or visualize anymore, as a generalization. They prefer pastimes that pay off immediately, like video games and the internet. Waiting around for the amount of time it takes to build a model railroad doesn't appeal to young people. They generally give "new things" a few seconds of their attention before they lose interest. Modeling *anything* requires patience and vision. Still, this doesn't mean that the hobby is doomed. Young people eventually become old people. They develop patience. Hell, I used to hate baseball. Too slow; too boring. Which I say as I watch the Yankees game.
  by [email protected]
 
The end of model trains has been predicted for decades now. Remember when slot cars were supposed to be the new thing to replace model railroading in the 1960s? Then it got too competitive, and then video games came along, and then all kinds of other stuff came and went, but model trains are still here.

When I worked at the hobby shop, we still had parents coming in during the Christmas holidays- heck, sometimes on Christmas Eve- to by a Lionel or some other train set for their kids, for under the tree, or because the kids genuinely liked trains.

There are still kids that grow up around real railroading and rail transit that gets them familiar with trains. Sometimes a visit to a museum or a friend with model trains helps further the interest. We all have our own stories of how we got into trains, real and model. These stories are probably being repeated now. Not for everyone, of course, but you'd be surprised.

The manufacturers think there's a future because they keep investing millions a year in new tooling and products. The industry as a whole may have not helped themselves in recent years by changing how the trains are sold and marketed. We demand the best in our model trains these days with new features like DCC and sound, etc. that helps drive up prices that make the hobby out of reach for beginners. I think it's good to have manufacturers like Model Power that have older tooling and less expensive models. We shouldn't balk at their lower-quality (compared to, say, BLI or Kato) products because they do still serve a purpose.

Those of us with modular layouts or who are members of modular clubs can help market the hobby by showing your layouts at shopping malls, churches, community centers, etc. once in a while. That really helps exposure of the hobby.

It's a question of adapting. Even in this age of instant gratification, things like model trains survive. We may see fewer craftsmen, but the whole point is helping to keep the hobby alive. There are lots of ways we can do that. The young folks entering the hobby with their cell phones and their YouFace and their Wikoogle sites will bring their newer methods of promoting the hobby, too.

It's not all bad, and you're going to see stuff coming from the manufacturers that you never thought you'd see in plastic, too! Nice fringe benefit, I think.

Mike Bartel
IHP
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http://www.shapeways.com/shops/ihphobby" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
  by jscola30
 
As someone who is "young" (29, almost 30 years old), maybe I can offer some perspective. I think one of the things model railroad companies must do is get exposure. Jerry Calabrese, CEO of Lionel, has mentioned this before. Many hobby stores are no longer around, so manufactures (and other stake holders) need to find other ways around that. I think the internet has allowed them to do so, but I think perhaps maybe more can be done, maybe public displays, not only of trains but also where one can BUY these trains. I think interest in model trains is most often (though not always) related to someone experiencing a real train. For me, that was riding the MBTA's redline and going to Edaville. As Don Hollander said in his book about Lionel, the drop in Lionel sales coincided with the downturn in real railroads. I think there is a chance as railroads are seemingly in a renaissance, that could prove good for model trains down the road.

I've tried to get answers for this elsewhere, but "when I was growing up", model trains of virtually all scales were for ages 8 and up. Now its "These trains are NOT toys, intended for ages 14 and up." While I think that may be best for smaller scale trains, I think it could also be turning off a generation of hobbyists. (I was playing with trains at 6, but some parents, particularly those unfamiliar with the trains themselves, may just give up).

I remember once reading a letter to the editor in either Model Railroading or Classic Toy Trains that they had given up on their local hobby store for being treated rudely: all attention seemed to go to regulars, and newcomers were treated condescendingly. Obviously, this is not true of every local hobby store, but I also think, simply combined with the fact that most smaller hobby stores can't compete price-wise with the internet or large volume stores like Charles Ro, Trainworld, or Nassau Hobby, spelled the down ward spiral. I know it's one thing to "support a local business," but often, the difference in price is not $10 or $20 but much more ($50, $100 or more), and I think that's become increasingly important in these times.

While this is I know, anecdotal evidence, at the train shows I attend, I have seen more younger people there than when I attended them at their age. I also think using google is a not a great indicator of how "active" model railroading is. If there could be numbers, I would probably say sales if anything would be the best indicator. I agree with those who say we've been predicting the end of model trains since the 1960s. I believe model trains will always be around, not necessarily as it is now, but will still be there if the sales will be there.
  by num1hendrickfan
 
jscola30 wrote:As someone who is "young" (29, almost 30 years old), maybe I can offer some perspective. I think one of the things model railroad companies must do is get exposure. Jerry Calabrese, CEO of Lionel, has mentioned this before. Many hobby stores are no longer around, so manufactures (and other stake holders) need to find other ways around that. I think the internet has allowed them to do so, but I think perhaps maybe more can be done, maybe public displays, not only of trains but also where one can BUY these trains. I think interest in model trains is most often (though not always) related to someone experiencing a real train. For me, that was riding the MBTA's redline and going to Edaville. As Don Hollander said in his book about Lionel, the drop in Lionel sales coincided with the downturn in real railroads. I think there is a chance as railroads are seemingly in a renaissance, that could prove good for model trains down the road.
I can relate and offer similar perspectives, also being 29 ( will be 30 on November 30th, time really flies ). Of course most of the hobby stores around here have a diverse customer base and have been around for many years, and quite a few have branched out into other hobbies that don't necessarily include model railroading. It's getting the individual buyer to come into a physical hobby shop that can be a problem sometimes, but with diversification into say Slot Car sets ( be they 1:24 scale or HO scale ), model airplanes, RC cars, and even static models that can be overcome. When I was growing up the industry was light years behind that of the industry today, with DCC/DCC Ready and highly detailed models being the new normal ( topping the price charts at $70-$300 ). I think part of the problem is that buyers can now find the same product at the local hobby shop for say $20-50 cheaper than what he or she would pay at the local hobby shop, which is true if you know where to look online and play the sales game. The hobby like all others is in transition to a digital world, where the product is easier to come by and might be in stock online while out of stock at the local hobby shop. Thankfully I don't think the Internet will ever fully put say Willis Hobbies or Trainworld/Trainland out of business.

I also have very fond memories of watching the Long Island Railroad as a youngster at the Main Street Crossing in Mineola, being the mid-late 80s, 90's most of the equipment happened to be the electric M1's-M3's, and diesels Mp15ac's, GP38-2's, and Alco FA's . That and seeing the blue and white of Conrail off the Island such as when canoeing on the Delaware in sleep-away camp. Ah memories....
  by jscola30
 
same month for birthday (on the 16th for me). and yes time does fly. I would like to add that using trends from Google search terms (or it seemed to say headlines...perhaps even a poorer indicator), don't equal a train purchase. Just like googling a million dollars doesn't mean everyone googling it has a million dollars. I think the recession also had some bearing.
  by CNJ999
 
"The end of model trains has been predicted for decades now. Remember when slot cars were supposed to be the new thing to replace model railroading in the 1960s? Then it got too competitive, and then video games came along, and then all kinds of other stuff came and went, but model trains are still here. - [email protected]"

Indeed I do remember that era...and lived it! But the fact is, Mike, that slot cars did essentially signal the end of model railroading as a mainstream hobby of interest to America's youth - and thereby the hobby's future. It was from the time of the first appearance of slot cars onward that the number of younger participants in model railroading and the sales of the associated products from Lionel and Flyer (historically the youthful breeding grounds of the vast majority of future scale hobbyists) rapidly and steadily declined.

While the era of interest in slot cars was not particularly protracted, youth interest in model trains never experienced any recovery from its mighty impact. By the 1970's, with Marx and Flyer already long gone and Lionel holding on my its fingertips, simple computer console games like PacMan and MissleCommand came along to capture kid's imaginations and interest. The rest is history, with model railroading/electric trains never regaining any significant market share among youth.

Just because our hobby endured through the interest of steadily aging Baby Boomer segment of the population does not imply that that old story of slot cars bringing about the end of model railroading isn't true. It just failed to recognize that its death process would be so drawn out.

CNJ999
  by Desertdweller
 
Slot cars are not a good comparison to model trains. The slot cars and the model trains are similar only from a mechanical and (formerly) a control aspect.

The basic difference is that model railroading is a non-competitive hobby. Slot cars are a very competitive hobby. The two hobbies are not at all alike, although they competed with each other for followers.

Slot cars these days have been pretty well replaced by radio controlled model racers. A competitive hobby taken to the next level of expense.

The problem with competitive hobbies is that the equipment is continually being improved, meaning that current equipment will remain competitive for only so long. Sometimes only two or three months. Non-competitive racing equipment is basically worthless. Model trains can last forever if well-made to begin with and properly cared for.

When I was a teenager, myself and my friends all discovered we had a couple hundred dollars each of obsolete slot cars. Our hometown had a quarter-mile dirt track where actual cars raced. So we gave up buying slot cars and started building and racing full-sized cars. For a group of people, it was not all that more expensive to build a "claim stocker". Some of us went on to field more serious race cars.

Slot cars supplemented model trains because they offered a competitive aspect.

Les
  by jscola30
 
It's interesting, after seeing the topic here, I went around to various other model railroading and toy trains forums seeing what others had to say. Definitely a lot of what's being said here is being said there. I don't have a layout, but I operate N scale, have a garden railroad in G scale and have a very small 1950s style O27 layout. Getting the 027 layout out again has been a recent development, so O gauge has sort of been on my mind as of late, I read some things in regard to O gauge that were very interesting. A few people pointed out that in the 70s, they wanted to start with Lionel and were told by other hobbyists Lionel was done, going to be history soon. Similarly, one person said that with the current recession, or we're just coming out of one, depending on how you look at it, it is a difficult time to judge the future for O gauge (but I think nearly any scale). Many say the hobby will continue, but it will change. I agree with that. There may be some scales that fall out of use, at least in this country. Speaking of that, I've been told model railroading is very big in Germany and Japan, I wonder what the future lies there? I would assume it's big out there because of the strong rail systems both countries have. Again, perhaps a similar thing might happen here if current trends in railroads persist. And I would hazard a guess that the areas where there are more young people interested in model trains are the same areas where a lot of real trains exist. I live in the Boston area, and the largest shows I go to: the Greenburg shows in Wilmington in November and March and the massive show in Springfield, I see young people and those "not of boomer age," moreso I think than when I was younger.

I think cost has something to do with it. I think a lot more people would be model railroaders if it wasn't so expensive. One of the things I STILL can't get over, people saying MTH is cheaper than Lionel. Both don't currently offer any conventional separate sale locos under $200 (except the starter sets, and Lionel is doing Lionchief, a new system which will be cheaper). And to me, MTH's freight cars are only slightly cheaper. I guess the real value gets when you spend more than $200-$300, but again, that's still alot of money. (I've been buying 2nd hand Lionel, including postwar, and Williams by Bachmann, which I highly recommend, great value, and very cheap, at least right now at Trainworld). So I can imagine that after college loans, bills, and yes a new smart phone, that's a lot of money. I post lots of train pictures on Facebook of both model and real, I've gotten the most surprising likes. I wonder, why don't they have model trains? Probably because of the cost or lack of space (but we know, that can be overcome!).

I don't tend to be an optimistic person, but I am optimistic of the future of trains and model trains. So many "surprises" have happened. Who could have forseen the Polar Express in 2004, or the massive crowds at Day Out With Thomas at tourist railroads even 10-15 years ago? I dunno, maybe something like that again might happen in a decade or so. Even children who put trains away now, might get back into them later. I think there's a lot of potential, it's just about making sure that the manufactures exploit this, and do a lot of out of the box thinking. It seems Jerry at Lionel is thinking in that direction, hopefully others will follow.

But then again, we have to know that nothing lasts forever. There are no more Ives (except maybe a few reproductions), Carlisle and Finch, Bing, Hafner, etc. And there's no Uhaul behind the hearse, so we should enjoy what we have now.
  by scharnhorst
 
I did my part and spent $200.00 on supplies and $100.00 on a locomotive. I my self don't think the hobby is dying off I would say that it has it's ups and downs like any hobby. Yeah people may not be dishing out the money that they used to on the hobby but that could also go for any hobby right now. I'll note that many of the manufactures are getting a little bold and producing cars and Locomotives that have never been made before and there also starting to introduce road names not just in the normal Class 1 road names but there now also starting to introduce road names for Class 2 and Class 3 lines. I have also noticed a lot of different fallen flag road names also coming out and most of what there making are small short lines that have long scents despaired before 1990 adding a flood of interesting names to the collectors market.
  by Flat-Wheeler
 
scharnhorst wrote:I'll note that many of the manufactures are getting a little bold and ... starting to introduce road names not just in the normal Class 1 road names but there now also starting to introduce road names for Class 2 and Class 3 lines. I have also noticed a lot of different fallen flag road names also coming out and most of what there making are small short lines that have long scents despaired before 1990 adding a flood of interesting names to the collectors market.
They have been doing this for over a decade. Nothing new, except maybe your awareness.
  by CNJ999
 
scharnhorst wrote:I did my part and spent $200.00 on supplies and $100.00 on a locomotive. I my self don't think the hobby is dying off I would say that it has it's ups and downs like any hobby. Yeah people may not be dishing out the money that they used to on the hobby but that could also go for any hobby right now. I'll note that many of the manufactures are getting a little bold and producing cars and Locomotives that have never been made before and there also starting to introduce road names not just in the normal Class 1 road names but there now also starting to introduce road names for Class 2 and Class 3 lines. I have also noticed a lot of different fallen flag road names also coming out and most of what there making are small short lines that have long scents despaired before 1990 adding a flood of interesting names to the collectors market.
Actual, this isn't anything that reflects any widening interest in the manufacturers' desire to broaden hobby interest. Rather it is a example of them stretching application of their investments to the absolute maximum for return. They are simply taking locomotives they originally manufactured for Class 1 RRs in their earlier runs and recycling and re-running them in new paint and art work for any secondary road/shortlines that might happened to have owned the same, or similar, motive power. Thus, an SD-40 originally detailed for say the Santa Fe can, in repaint, stand-in fairly closely with one obtained maybe 15 years later by the Podunk Short Line. It's not like the manufacturers are making exact replicas with road specific details for each different road they sell. It's really a very old practice, except today's manufacturers are a bit more likely to limit their issued models to roadnames that more-or-less did own similar locos or cars, unlike Athearn and MDC of old where any engine/car could be labled as any road name. Witness the New Haven GG1 by Tyco circa 1960!

CNJ999