The decline in the number of model railroaders?

ModelRailroadForums.com is a free Model Railroad Discussion Forum and photo gallery. We cover all scales and sizes of model railroads. Whether you're a master model railroader or just getting started, you'll find something of interest here.


Hawkesburytrain

Well-Known Member
Tony, we can argue till the cows come home, you have your opinion and I've got mine.
If one sits at home and just browses this forum, it's easy to state an opinion of decline, but if you're active and visit some 30+ Facebook groups and about 300+ Youtube groups and go to lots of layout and shows and you might think otherwise.
I've stipulated facts about the growth, what about facts that it isn't

This hobby is GROWING

I'm done here, I'll enjoy the growth while you enjoy the decline.

Now back working on my layout and enjoying talking to people who love this hobby.
 

number9

Member
To throw my $0.02 in here...

I started and stopped MRR a number of times in the last few years, and reading this thread sort of strikes a chord with me. I am in the middle of the age group (I am not a new comer and not an old timer. I did have a 4x8 layout when I was very young in my fathers workshop, which is one of the main reasons I keep wanting to get back into MRR). I used to have a large space to put a new layout, but I do not have that now. Still, I have two observations to make about attracting new comers...

1) Money. Some comments point out that you can get into this "on the cheap". The problem is that searching for MRR on the net, you will find and see great, wonderful layouts, with DCC engines that make prototypical noises and lighting. These things are no where near cheap. A nice DCC engine with sound is how much? Those highly detailed cars, without weathering, are how much? Each one of those buildings costs what? How much was that single tree? A box of 25 pieces of track costs what? Each one of those turnouts were how much?!?

A lot of you would probably say "well, it took a long time to accumulate all of those items", which may be true, but we live in an instant gratification society. Someone wanting to play a computer game (as noted by another post) can spend $20 to $60 on a computer/console game, get it instantly, and play by themselves or perhaps with 10s, 100s or 1000s of others. They may or may not spend more money in the game, but typically over the life of a game it would not cost much more. I will not even delve into the free insane time distractions that are social media. Compare and contrast that in your mind with wanting to build a MRR (in my current situation, there are no MRR shops or clubs within a 250 mile radius of my location). I would have to build baseboard ($200 + how many hours?), order track and perhaps one engine, cars, controller, wire, solder, soldering iron, tools (oh, the cost of tools! Add up how much your tools cost that you use for your MRR) and get to work. Unless you really enjoy building, getting to "I can run trains around this thing" is a journey in and of itself.

2) Level of effort to get into the game. At one time I was planning a nice sized layout in the basement. Something happened during the design phase, and this is what caused my pause and eventual demise of the MRR journey: It was going to cost nearly a grand for the wood alone to build the baseboard. Not to mention the time and effort it would take before one could even lay down a single rail. Sure, I could start smaller, but again I go back to "look at these awesome layouts on the net". Thinking back to when I was young, I had a 4x8 on a pair of saw-horses. A beginner could start out that way, but I bet all of you can guess what happened the first time a friend bent over the middle of that 4x8 sheet to get a look, and leaned on it hard.

Baseboard is important, costly, and takes a great deal of time and skill. There are volumes of books on how to build the baseboard alone. Someone who wanted to get into this even with a 4x8 sheet is looking at real money. (are you going to go to the lumber yard with all of your dimensions and ask them to cut all of the wood for your baseboard (probably at $120 an hour), or are you going to go to the tool store and buy a mitre saw just for your baseboard?) I am sure we can all lay out perfectly logical excuses and solutions to this problem, but someone wanting to get into the game with no power tools, no truck and no shop has a large hill to climb before they can start a "real" layout. After all, setting it up on the floor is great for Christmas, but not as the beginning of your MRR empire.

While it might seem like I am going off on a negative rant, I will admit that there is a great deal of joy in MRR. There is something very satisfying about being able to say "I built that" and see the trains roll around your yards and mainline. One of the main issues is that the "youth" (and plenty of adults) today have a lot more competing for their time. Before 1994 one did not spend their time looking at the computer so much (if at all) and we certainly were not distracted constantly by the computer in our pocket we continue to call a "phone". I think getting more people interested in this hobby (IMHO) would be easier if we could figure out how to break down the high cost of entrance, and the high cost of work+money in the initial baseboard investment. It is a tough cookie to swallow if you want a "large" layout. (and having written those words, I realize I wanted a "large" layout)
 

chessie_system3

Well-Known Member
To throw my $0.02 in here...

I started and stopped MRR a number of times in the last few years, and reading this thread sort of strikes a chord with me. I am in the middle of the age group (I am not a new comer and not an old timer. I did have a 4x8 layout when I was very young in my fathers workshop, which is one of the main reasons I keep wanting to get back into MRR). I used to have a large space to put a new layout, but I do not have that now. Still, I have two observations to make about attracting new comers...

1) Money. Some comments point out that you can get into this "on the cheap". The problem is that searching for MRR on the net, you will find and see great, wonderful layouts, with DCC engines that make prototypical noises and lighting. These things are no where near cheap. A nice DCC engine with sound is how much? Those highly detailed cars, without weathering, are how much? Each one of those buildings costs what? How much was that single tree? A box of 25 pieces of track costs what? Each one of those turnouts were how much?!?

A lot of you would probably say "well, it took a long time to accumulate all of those items", which may be true, but we live in an instant gratification society. Someone wanting to play a computer game (as noted by another post) can spend $20 to $60 on a computer/console game, get it instantly, and play by themselves or perhaps with 10s, 100s or 1000s of others. They may or may not spend more money in the game, but typically over the life of a game it would not cost much more. I will not even delve into the free insane time distractions that are social media. Compare and contrast that in your mind with wanting to build a MRR (in my current situation, there are no MRR shops or clubs within a 250 mile radius of my location). I would have to build baseboard ($200 + how many hours?), order track and perhaps one engine, cars, controller, wire, solder, soldering iron, tools (oh, the cost of tools! Add up how much your tools cost that you use for your MRR) and get to work. Unless you really enjoy building, getting to "I can run trains around this thing" is a journey in and of itself.

2) Level of effort to get into the game. At one time I was planning a nice sized layout in the basement. Something happened during the design phase, and this is what caused my pause and eventual demise of the MRR journey: It was going to cost nearly a grand for the wood alone to build the baseboard. Not to mention the time and effort it would take before one could even lay down a single rail. Sure, I could start smaller, but again I go back to "look at these awesome layouts on the net". Thinking back to when I was young, I had a 4x8 on a pair of saw-horses. A beginner could start out that way, but I bet all of you can guess what happened the first time a friend bent over the middle of that 4x8 sheet to get a look, and leaned on it hard.

Baseboard is important, costly, and takes a great deal of time and skill. There are volumes of books on how to build the baseboard alone. Someone who wanted to get into this even with a 4x8 sheet is looking at real money. (are you going to go to the lumber yard with all of your dimensions and ask them to cut all of the wood for your baseboard (probably at $120 an hour), or are you going to go to the tool store and buy a mitre saw just for your baseboard?) I am sure we can all lay out perfectly logical excuses and solutions to this problem, but someone wanting to get into the game with no power tools, no truck and no shop has a large hill to climb before they can start a "real" layout. After all, setting it up on the floor is great for Christmas, but not as the beginning of your MRR empire.

While it might seem like I am going off on a negative rant, I will admit that there is a great deal of joy in MRR. There is something very satisfying about being able to say "I built that" and see the trains roll around your yards and mainline. One of the main issues is that the "youth" (and plenty of adults) today have a lot more competing for their time. Before 1994 one did not spend their time looking at the computer so much (if at all) and we certainly were not distracted constantly by the computer in our pocket we continue to call a "phone". I think getting more people interested in this hobby (IMHO) would be easier if we could figure out how to break down the high cost of entrance, and the high cost of work+money in the initial baseboard investment. It is a tough cookie to swallow if you want a "large" layout. (and having written those words, I realize I wanted a "large" layout)
You know you made me think here. I think you are on to something. There's so many medium to large layout out there that just makes you want to build one yourself. Then you tally in how much it costs. The medium to large layout idea is something that just seems to be the norm. I ran a 8x4 sacred sheet layout on my last build. I have plans for a larger layout. Expand one side 3 feet basically. All told just adding 3 feet has more than doubled what it would cost for a sacred sheet. Even when you think about it. You can usually fit a trainset on something smaller than the sacred sheet. There's many who think the sacred sheet is a horrible idea due to radius constraints in curves to leaning over the table trying to reach the center of the layout. I for one could care less what size layout I have as long as I can run my trains. But the immediate gratification is also something I suffer from as well. I don't like seeing my fleet back in their original boxes.

Justin
 

Frank

Active Member
A lot of you would probably say "well, it took a long time to accumulate all of those items", which may be true, but we live in an instant gratification society. Someone wanting to play a computer game (as noted by another post) can spend $20 to $60 on a computer/console game, get it instantly, and play by themselves or perhaps with 10s, 100s or 1000s of others. They may or may not spend more money in the game, but typically over the life of a game it would not cost much more. I will not even delve into the free insane time distractions that are social media. Compare and contrast that in your mind with wanting to build a MRR (in my current situation, there are no MRR shops or clubs within a 250 mile radius of my location). I would have to build baseboard ($200 + how many hours?), order track and perhaps one engine, cars, controller, wire, solder, soldering iron, tools (oh, the cost of tools! Add up how much your tools cost that you use for your MRR) and get to work. Unless you really enjoy building, getting to "I can run trains around this thing" is a journey in and of itself.
That's a failure of the community, not the potential audience. Yes, these layouts can and do get rather expensive, but much of what you've listed in your post is just not necessary for somebody new to the hobby.

All you need to start out is 1 locomotive, a controller and a loop of track. Once you've got that, you can buy piece by piece to complete the track layout. After that, you can buy or make models and scenery as needed. It might be that, somebody can only afford a couple trees at a time or a package of people and that's OK.

I'd say that cost-wise, in some ways the hobby has probably never been as cheap to get into. Modular layouts have a ton of information available about how to successfully plan one and design specs if you want to join it up with other people's models. Paper printed buildings are cheap and astonishingly good looking. Allowing for a newb to have a complete town for not that much money while saving up for more elaborate structures. You can even pay somebody else to 3d print or cut a custom structure if you so choose.

If anything, I'd say any decline is more likely the result of the higher standards and larger number of hobbies/activities now than in the past. There's a ton of things that we can spend money on, but they don't necessarily all contribute equally to the enjoyment of the hobby.

As far as the use of computers go, I'd say that's a ton of the fun early on in the process. I've designed several modules the last couple weeks trying to find something that I liked and could afford. The one I'm going with is a relatively small 39.5"x9.5" switch yard design for inside of a rifle case and I already have most of the necessary track for that. So, I should be able to get it set up and running long before I can afford to build my first 3'x2' module.
 

montanan

Whiskey Merchant
Justin - I do have a larger layout, but it didn't came about overnight. When I was stuck in an apartment I had a small N scale layout that could be slid under a bed. When I move home to Montana and build a train room with a house on top of it, the B scale layout was expanded and then torn out and a move to HO scale was made. I was lucky enough to have had the room available to use the room, but I really never put out a lot of bucks building it. Track, started off hand laying it. Inexpensive compared to purchasing track, although I did complete the layout with commercial track.

Structures, quite a few are scratch built, and the kits were purchased over a long period of time until the final town on the layout.

Scenery, all went slowly. I was running trains on a plywood prairie for a long time.

Locomotive and rolling stock, I did luck out there as I had a dealership with many distributors when I started the layout also.

No instant gratification. Just a slow process making a little progress at a time.
 

Selector

Well-Known Member
A decent bow, quiver, and set of arrows is going to set a person back $8000. What's a snow mobile worth new? How about a horse and its care? Okay, a decent canoe, paddle, PFD, and whistle will be close to $800. A good guitar....or (gulp!) violin?

A game of Monopoly must be close to $40-ish. Or, if you must have it electronically, with gaming chair, goggles, speakers, large 4K monitor....you get the idea. What you don't/can't make yourself, you must pay others to do. If you want to play, ya gotsta pay!

In the end, nobody is owed a hobby. Nobody.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Hawkesburytrain

Well-Known Member
Today, there's lots of information on how to build modular layouts, look up Miles Hale.
A layout could be 18" x 48" and you can spend hours and hours running operations, even weeks and weeks and not once doing the same operations.
But like some of you said, we need instant gratification, we want to see trains run, well the final result would be trains running in circles and at one point get sick and tired of seeing it go round and round and basically give up on the hobby. With the modular layout, once you are done, build another module and another and another. Lots of new comers in this hobby are doing this, look around and you'll find lots of info on this.

As far as I know, MRR is a hobby and a hobby is all about craftsmanship. Sure you can buy lots of stuff if you have the money and if you don't, well you can build it yourself. If you don't know how, there is such a thing as Youtube, where you can find just about anything.

Yes most videos on facebook or Youtube are huge layouts, but most of them are clubs were people film their locomotives which they brought to the club.

I've been building my layout now for just over 2 years and once only once did I get my train to go all around, am I in a rush.......absolutely not.

Here's an example:
You can buy kits from Walthers for $50-$60 each or........
You can buy a sheet of styrene 4' x 8' for $18 and build 20-30 and even more buildings. You just need to buy the windows and doors or even make them. Buy some led's from China for very cheap (if you are willing to wait 45-60 days) and some Acrylic paint from the dollar store and you can have a great building.
It's your choice to spend little $$$ or lots $$$

Here's a link to budget model railroading:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/LegacyBMR/


Now back to my layout...later
 

Hawkesburytrain

Well-Known Member
Here's a cost analysis for someone who would like to start an HO layout.

The costs were taken of the internet such as Loew's and Ebay
You would start with a modular layout of 18" x 48" or 24" x 48" and then add other module later.

One module
- Wood, styrofoam, screws and glue, about $50
- Track 6 x 36", road bed, 5 turnouts, wire, solder and rail joiners, about $125
- Scenery such as grass, ballast, trees and 2 small buildings, about $60
- 8 Freights and a DCC/Sound switcher, about $200 (used)
- DCC system (used) about $150 (build one with Arduino for less than $25)

For a total of $585 or even less
The next module could cost about $235

I can't remember the name used for doing operations, but it's used a lot where time or the number of steps taken is important. The possibilities in creating the puzzle operations are numerous, therefore keeping a person busy for a long time.

Hope this helps
 
I still argue that you can start small. In my 20s when I had limited funds, I bought an Athearn GP35, two dummy engines and some scattered rolling stock, plus an MRC Tech II controller (which I still have), and enough Atlas track to make a small oval. I also supplemented my Athearn rolling stock with cheap toy-store rolling stock.



Today, there's a bunch of locos in both H0- and N-scale which sell new for under $100. I got a gorgeous Walther's GP38 for something like $40, new on sale. I just bought two Kato factory-DCC'd locos for $115 each, brand new. My pile of used Kibri and Faller structures cost only a few bucks each. Of the $1,000s worth of fancy FVM and InterMountain locos and BLMA and MTL rolling stock I've acquired over the last year, ironically, I'm currently running a 20+ year old Atlas GP35 I bought used for $40 and a consist of $15 Railbox cars:



 
Last edited by a moderator:

chessie_system3

Well-Known Member
I still argue that you can start small. In my 20s when I had limited funds, I bought an Athearn GP35, two dummy engines and some scattered rolling stock, plus an MRC Tech II controller (which I still have), and enough Atlas track to make a small oval. I also supplemented my Athearn rolling stock with cheap toy-store rolling stock.



Today, there's a bunch of locos in both H0- and N-scale which sell new for under $100. I got a gorgeous Walther's GP38 for something like $40, new on sale. I just bought two Kato factory-DCC'd locos for $115 each, brand new. My pile of used Kibri and Faller structures cost only a few bucks each. Of the $1,000s worth of fancy FVM and InterMountain locos and rolling stock I've acquired over the last year, ironically, I'm currently running a 20+ year old Atlas GP35 I bought used for $40 and a consist of $15 Railbox cars:



Exactly how I got my start as well. Atlas starter pack. Athearn bluebox locomotive and a dozen roundhouse kits. When I started I was still using the supplied horn hook style couplers. Used an old life like blue train set controller until I bought my MRC Tech 4 260. Which is still a staple on my layout.

Justin
 

Greg@mnrr

Section Hand
I always wanted a drone to fly and yesterday I thought that I would check the websites of hobby shops and manufactures. I was looking for a certain drone, but everyone was sold out of it as ell as ones that were similar in price or at a higher cost. The discounted cost was $139.95, plus more for a better battery charger and spare batteries which would bring by total to close to $200.

Adults aren't the only ones flying drones since I seen a lot of younger people at a hobby shop I visit buying drone parts and batteries and extra drone bodies.

This may prove that there's money out there to be spent on model railroading if there is an interest. Like others have pointed out, the price of goods over time is relative and a $100 locomotive may not be out of reach of the person who's in school with a part time job, lives at home and has an interest in model railroading. I was like 12 when I rode my bike into town and purchased an all metal locomotive for under $10. (I still have the locomotive.) My allowance was $2.00 a week at that time, but extra money for special projects, birthdays and X-mas money.

Greg
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Frank

Active Member
I always wanted a drone to fly and yesterday I thought that I would check the websites of hobby shops and manufactures. I was looking for a certain drone, but everyone was sold out of it as ell as ones that were similar in price or at a higher cost. The discounted cost was $139.95, plus more for a better battery charger and spare batteries which would bring by total to close to $200.
That's another issue, there aren't many hobby shops left around here to get interested in these sorts of things. When I was a kid, there was a shop a longish walk from home and probably another half dozen or so in the city. Now, there's like two train shops in 20 miles of here, plus 2 or 3 generic hobby shops. Makes it a lot harder to get interested if you have to go along way and it also makes it more or less out of reach of kids that don't have transportation to and from the shop.

On the cost side of things, making your own stuff can save a bunch of money if you go about it right.
 
N

NP2626

Guest
Who are we to be thinking we know what other people can afford?

Hobby shops are closing because people aren't buying their wares, It's as simple as that. The Internet has supplanted the brick and mortar hobby shop; so we all are to blame for this.

We can expose how simple the hobby has become, that it is lacking any real depth, because so much is done for us. I think this can be a part of it's lack of appeal and maybe it's a part of the Dumbing Down process of this country.


Without doubt, less of us are making living incomes than anytime since the great depression. The absolute imperative things we must have, smart phones, computers and transportation are pretty expensive and their operating costs are big money, too! That there is alack of money for hobbies should not surprise us!



 
Last edited by a moderator:

Y3a

Stuck in the 1930's
Kids no longer do stuff for the accomplishment. Its all participation awards now. Their parents have no skills to teach their kids either. Been going on for 20 years or more.
 

Hawkesburytrain

Well-Known Member
Kids no longer do stuff for the accomplishment. Its all participation awards now. Their parents have no skills to teach their kids either. Been going on for 20 years or more.
You're absolutely right on that, most parents today don't spend or have time for their kids. It's much easier to give them a smart phone, computer or game console and tell them to go play.


Mark, as for blaming myself for hobby stores closing, absolutely not. I will not spend $100 more on a locomotive to encourage a brick and mortar store, I will buy what ever I need at the best price I can find. I know of two brick and mortar hobby shop that also sell on the internet and are doing very well. Yes they do have 2 set of prices and I will encourage the internet side of their business. If the other brick and mortar shop who are closing are not on the internet, that's their problem, they needed to adapt.


When it comes to money, it's all about the life style you want to live. In my line of work, if someone says I don't have any money, most of the time I find some by arranging their finances, then it's up to them to decide what they want to do. I also do lots of volunteer work helping people manage their finance and yes even welfare people, so I do have a very good knowledge about peoples money.
 

Frank

Active Member
Who are we to be thinking we know what other people can afford?
SNIP
People who genuinely can't afford this hobby are few and far between. Sure, they might only have $5 a week, or perhaps a month, to set aside, but at $5 a week by the end of the year they'd have more than enough to purchase a beginner set. $260 buys a pretty decent set up it you're not insisting upon having it all at one time. At that point you can buy a switch or a bit of track monthly without breaking the bank.

Not to mention the fact, that you don't necessarily need to buy these products with money. The tools can be shared amongst a small group and often times you can barter time on something that you're good at for a bit of money or used gear.

I know there are people out there that are genuinely so poor that this isn't possible because they're already working multiple jobs just to pay the actual necessities, but they aren't the ones that would be causing the decline.

If we have the attitude that virtually everybody can't afford to get involved in this, then we're going to have a decline whether or not there's a lack of interest. The hobby isn't that expensive to get involved with and once you've got that first locomotive, loop of track and controller you can do everything beyond that on a piece by piece basis and most of the pieces cost less than $20 new. And significantly less if you're bartering or buying second hand.
 

Frank

Active Member
You're absolutely right on that, most parents today don't spend or have time for their kids. It's much easier to give them a smart phone, computer or game console and tell them to go play.


Mark, as for blaming myself for hobby stores closing, absolutely not. I will not spend $100 more on a locomotive to encourage a brick and mortar store, I will buy what ever I need at the best price I can find. I know of two brick and mortar hobby shop that also sell on the internet and are doing very well. Yes they do have 2 set of prices and I will encourage the internet side of their business. If the other brick and mortar shop who are closing are not on the internet, that's their problem, they needed to adapt.


When it comes to money, it's all about the life style you want to live. In my line of work, if someone says I don't have any money, most of the time I find some by arranging their finances, then it's up to them to decide what they want to do. I also do lots of volunteer work helping people manage their finance and yes even welfare people, so I do have a very good knowledge about peoples money.
Given the option, I'd rather buy local, but the cost has to be at least somewhat reasonable. I'm lucky, the local train shop is pretty good, they've got magazines and the prices that I've seen seem to be at least somewhat competitive with what I see online. They're a bit of a drive and usually more expensive, but if we want to have shops we need to buy.

But, that being said, there is a point where the markup is so large that it's not worth it. I'm lucky that my "local" shop isn't like that, but I know that there's a lot of them that are expensive beyond what's justified.
 

chessie_system3

Well-Known Member
I think at the end of the day. With all the world has to offer with technology. I don't think there's much going for our hobby. Smartphones and hover boards....even drones now. That's naming just a few things out there. You have to want to do this hobby. If you don't want to do this then you aren't going to do it.

Justin
 

Y3a

Stuck in the 1930's
The advantage of propping up a local store is being able to GET THE STUFF YOU NEED TODAY, not wait for it to arrive in a few days. I do my house chores on week nights so I can play on the weekends. Needing something to complete a project TODAY requires a local source. I also meet folks who might also be a hobby geek like me.

I do indoor RC helicopters, Studio scale Sci-fi models, model railroading (trying to sell off everything now), Audio( big time), Collecting sci-fi stuff, and RC sailboats.

I used to work at a hobby shop for about 9 years and watched the kids getting more impatient, less skilled and more shallow. I saw parents doing their kids science fair projects and making the Pinewood Derby cars because they were unable to teach their kids to do it. I've seem parents attempting to by their kids RC airplanes when none of them knew how to fly one or build one. same for RC cars. I used to buy a model railroad kit and put it together at the store so the customers could grasp what was involved and how to use the products.
 




Affiliate Disclosure: We may receive a commision from some of the links and ads shown on this website (Learn More Here)


ModelRailroadForums.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

RailroadBookstore.com - An online railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used railroad books. Railroad pictorials, railroad history, steam locomotives, passenger trains, modern railroading. Hundreds of titles available, most at discount prices! We also have a video and children's book section.

ModelRailroadBookstore.com - An online model railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used books. Layout design, track plans, scenery and structure building, wiring, DCC, Tinplate, Toy Trains, Price Guides and more.

Top