Why is the hobby in trouble?

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NYW&B

Member
Truly amazing...here's a thread that has been circulating and been added to for better than four years and not one verifiable fact concerning the question at hand was presented! Just what is it about model railroaders in general that they: 1. Cannot (refuse to?) recognize how dramatically the hobby has contracted over the past 10-15 years, 2. Are incapable of researching the actual published data that will demonstrate what's going on, 3. Feel that baseless personal opinion trumps published facts...if those facts aren't to their liking, 4. That the only acceptable answer to this question absolutely must be favorable...else it's automatically untrue, or was posted by a troll? I see these characteristics exhibited on every single forum whenever this particular question arises. Kinda makes me wonder about my fellow hobbyists.

NYW&B
 

Rybcon

Member
I think part of the reason for the decline is the kids today expect instant gratification. Wait for a letter? Texting. Interaction? Texting. Play a game? Xbox or go online. Plus craftsmanship as a whole is declining.
 

blownoutcylinder

Active Member
Truly amazing...here's a thread that has been circulating and been added to for better than four years and not one verifiable fact concerning the question at hand was presented! Just what is it about model railroaders in general that they: 1. Cannot (refuse to?) recognize how dramatically the hobby has contracted over the past 10-15 years, 2. Are incapable of researching the actual published data that will demonstrate what's going on, 3. Feel that baseless personal opinion trumps published facts...if those facts aren't to their liking, 4. That the only acceptable answer to this question absolutely must be favorable...else it's automatically untrue, or was posted by a troll? I see these characteristics exhibited on every single forum whenever this particular question arises. Kinda makes me wonder about my fellow hobbyists.

NYW&B
I've given up on trying to figure hobbyists out. Heck. I've even seen some who would argue against the dang published data even IF it agreed with them.

I do think some of this may be due to our good old fashioned defense mechanism. If information comes along that challenges us we'll deny deny deny until it goes away. Sort of like the game of peek a boo. If I hide my face they won't see me.

Maybe if we stop and think about how to grow the hobby--yes, I said GROW the hobby---it might not be so much the threat it is made out to be. Get the craftsmanship back. Get the ideals that people reached for back. Get the dang challenges back.
 

nwdrummer379

Class of '11
As for saying there aren't too many kids with an interest in model railroading I would have to agree. I guess I'm one of those "cool" kids with alot of friends and yeah I play Xbox 360 and hang out with people. I even spend more time with friends than I do running trains in a circle (which still amuses me!) :D Until I build an L shape this spring...anyway I will always be in the hobby and I will have plenty of time for it when I'm out of high school, maybe... But either way I'll always have a heart for it. Not like too many other kids.

O&SE
 

tankist

Active Member
Yes, indeed. I bothered to reseach the actual circumstances involved, rather that simply sit around and endlessly speculate.

NYW&B
i scrolled several pages back and i probably missed the post where you summarised your findings. can you please repost?
 

eTraxx

Member
I think part of the reason for the decline is the kids today expect instant gratification. Wait for a letter? Texting. Interaction? Texting. Play a game? Xbox or go online. Plus craftsmanship as a whole is declining.
Agree. It's not just model railroading. I was at a hobby shop the other day (not MRR but a 'generic' hobby shop) and stopped to look at the model car kits (wanted to 'do' my 350Z in 1/25 scale). The majority the 'kits' are some version of snap-to-gather. Pre-painted .. pre-this .. pre-that. A person that will spend time running spark plug wires for the engine of his model car is the same sort that will spend hours scratch building a 'whatisit' for a model railroad. Creativity may be something that you are born with and not taught .. but it sure as heck can be 'fed'. Shake together 'kits' seems to me .. are very stale fare .. and much less likely to feed interest in such hobbies.
 

NYW&B

Member
This is something you'll share? Or is it in a past post?
Yes, indeed. I bothered to reseach the actual circumstances involved, rather that simply sit around and endlessly speculate.

NYW&B
It is a widely acknowledged fact that all traditional hobbies are today in decline. This is especially true of those which are time consuming and require craftsmanship. An interesting point I read on-line a year or two ago and wish I had retained the citation for, posted the hobby interests of some 3,000 students at a west coast university. The item cited a long list of personal interests but out of those 3,000 young adults polled, not even one was a model railroader. Likewise, on another forum in just the past few days, several high school students have mentioned that they are apparently the sole individual in their student body interested in trains. Simply put, times have changed and the interests of youths have moved on.

I’ll offer here just a couple of indicators that demonstrate the trends that have been and are taking place in regard to our hobby. There are quite a number of others, as well. I only ask that if you have countering data, or figures, that you provide them with where the source material is located, so others may examine it. And, please, don't just offer the usual “I think; I want to believe; I’ve heard somewhere” sort of responses.


For decades Model Railroader magazine conducted surveys of its readership at about 5 year intervals, generally publishing the full results in a subsequent editorial. These showed that prior WWII the hobby was very limited, amounting to no more than 16,000 individuals even as late as 1944. Nevertheless, their reported average age was 34 years, while noting that 11% were teenagers. Immediately following WWII interest in the hobby exploded and by 1950 the number of hobbyist was put at 100,000 , with 20% of them teenagers, and only a mere 5% of model railroaders being over 50!!!

As the BaBy Boomer generation blossoms, its interest in model trains is extraordinary and in the mid 1950’s Lionel claims that at least 25% of all households in the United States have their trains running in the home at Christmastime. At the same time, the average age for scale hobbyists reported in MR reaches an all-time low of 31 years.

As older Baby Boomers progressively graduate from their Lionels to scale model trains they continue to enter our hobby in droves. For them, real trains are an everyday experience in many of their lives and at Christmastime any department store of any real size (along with many other locations) have large, elaborate, mechanized layouts on display in their sidewalk windows and toy departments. This creates a unique nostalgia effect not shared by any previous, or subsequent, generation.

The advent of slot cars in the early 1960’s all but kills the link between most young children and tinplate Lionel, Flyer and Marx toy trains. However, those who were small children into the late 1950’s recall the exciting Lionel era and retain interest in trains as they grow into young adults. Thus, up until 1974 the influx of younger people continues to offset the aging of the first generation of hobbyists and the average age remains 33 years according to MR.

After this point, the fact that there was a major cutoff in interest in toy and model trains for children in the early 1960’s begins to factor in and the well of new young hobbyists begins to dry up such that the average age of hobbyists starts to rise. The cutoff is so dramatic that the reported age of MR’s readers begins growing by 3-4 for every 5 actual years that passes between surveys! The average reported age is 37 in 1979, 40 in 1984, 44 in 1989 and 47 by 1993. Nevertheless, hobbyist numbers continue to grow. Such a rapid and consistent advance in average age is a clear indicator that very little of the hobby’s new blood is from younger people and that the increase in total numbers reflects older adult males, who recall toy and model trains from their youth, returning to the hobby.

The MR published survey figures show a highly linear trend which if extrapolated from 1993 until today results in a likely average age for current hobbyists of 58 years. Interestingly, after 50 years of sharing its survey results with the readership, MR abruptly halts the practice, probably because it clearly indicates an unfavorable greying of the hobby. In fact, it appears overall interest in the hobby also peaked about the same time and MR readership reached its all-time high. Every year since, reported readership has steady fallen, with the decline having reached 75,000, or better than 30%, this year. The obvious implication is that the oldest Baby Boomer hobbyists are now withdrawing from the hobby, or passing on, and are not being replaced.

The simple fact is model railroading today is populated largely by Baby Boomers who recall with nostalgia their childhood association with toy and model trains in an era where real trains were beloved, toy trains were apparent almost everywhere at Christmastime and linked intimately with that grandest of all childhood days. It was also a time when both Lionel and Flyer had half hour Saturday morning model train shows on TV, when model railroading was looked upon as mainstream and not eccentric, and model railroading was listed as the second most popular adult hobby in the United States!


Now let’s look at the situation from the manufacturers’ side of things. For three quarters of a century the hobby’s manufactures felt that there was no need to widely advertise outside their existing market, indicating that demand equaled, or exceeded, their production ability. Fast forward to the last 5-7 years. Now we have “limited production runs” and The World’s Greatest Hobby road show program. The latter was initiated to promote public interest in the hobby, never before needed, at an initial cost of over one million dollars to its sponsors and probably significantly more now, since it’s been extended beyond its original intended lifespan.

Now if one wants to extend the life of the hobby well into the future, shouldn’t such a program be aimed at bringing in young people? However, take a moment to look up and read WGH’s mission statement. Bringing youth into the hobby is what WGH’s is least concerned with. Their stated aim is, “To conduct a public relations effort coupled with advertising to our target group of men between the ages of 45 and 64.” And just who are these individuals? They are the Baby Boomers…most of whom just happen to currently be in their peak earning years! What a coincidence! That’s a target meant simply to increase sales of expensive items in the short term, not one with a real concern about the hobby’s longevity in my book.

NYW&B
 
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Gary B

The Fox Valley Railroad
I see the future of this hobby becoming a very small niche. (It really always has been a small niche) Fifty years from now (or will it be twenty?) The Boomers will be gone but the younger group will be much more inter-connected and self supporting. I say that since the larger manufactors we rely on will be gone. The art of cars from kits will be all but forgotten, but they will be crafting small scale (No pun intended) production runs of their handy work to provide to their fellow modelers. A lot of model railroadering will be V-scale. Virtual. Design, build and run your layout projected on the kitchen floor. Is this a bad thing? I think not. As long as there are railroads, people (boys) will play with toys and model representing them. Our current ones will be antiques and collectables, or in the trash. Their worth decided by a new generation. My $.02!
 

tankist

Active Member
that was an interesting read NY,
the hobby will change, but i don't think it will be in trouble. those who will want to model will find ways to do so. at the moment i'm in contact with russian MRR community and they face very hard hobby reality. they obviously most interested in modelling their own national railroad but no manufacturer makes those as the number of RR modellers over there is very low (and the incomes are not high). to resolve the situation, they cust their own bodies and detail parts for existing european and american made locos, either on individual level (i posted pictures of scratch built N scale Shell on bachmann frame some time ago) or at a times banding together and doing very limited production runs at great expense. while it means that they have significantly smaller collections of not as detailed rolling stock, they still enjoy MRRing. worst come to worst we will do something similar, although i don't expect it will ever get to that level.
 

Rybcon

Member
Thanks for the read.

Though I don't really see a big difference between your "fact" based article and the majority of posted "opinions" - less kids are getting involved.
 

Will_annand

Member
I blame Model Railroader Magazine.
Whether we like to admit it or not, MR is and always has been the standard bearer for Model Railroading.

If one went by the articles in Model Railroader, it would be perceived that this is an extremely expensive hobby, so most kids could not afford it.

When was the last time you read an article in Model Railroader about scenery or trees that talked about going out and getting free material and making it into scenery....

Lately all we get are "How to use Woodland Scenics products" articles.... Gone are the "crumple old newspapers and mix up watery glue and dip other newspapers into the glue and spread across the crumpled newspaper... when dry sprinkle on some coloured sawdust for ground cover..... cost less than a buck worth of glue and paint."

No, we get articles about Woodland Scenics foam risers and plaster cloth and then a
coating of Hydrocal for "realism" then use at least two colours of Woodland Scenics Turf held down by spraying woodland scenics Scenery Cement..... cost more than your allowance for a month kid."

No wonder kids look elsewhere.

I have held a clinic, and will again at a show in April, called "Scenery on a budget" which explains how you can make scenery from stuff you would normally throw away or stuff you can find after a trip to the local woods or park..
 

vato loco

Just a Foolish Saint!
Agree. It's not just model railroading. I was at a hobby shop the other day (not MRR but a 'generic' hobby shop) and stopped to look at the model car kits (wanted to 'do' my 350Z in 1/25 scale). The majority the 'kits' are some version of snap-to-gather. Pre-painted .. pre-this .. pre-that. A person that will spend time running spark plug wires for the engine of his model car is the same sort that will spend hours scratch building a 'whatisit' for a model railroad. Creativity may be something that you are born with and not taught .. but it sure as heck can be 'fed'. Shake together 'kits' seems to me .. are very stale fare .. and much less likely to feed interest in such hobbies.
eTraxx is that Electric Traxxis? RC'er:confused:;)If so, Me too... Got two E Rustypedes!
 

vato loco

Just a Foolish Saint!
Just another observation....but may be just may be....The drop in sales of MRR stuff or any other hobby for that matter is cause by more and more people that are getting into or are into multiple hobbies at the same time...limiting their spending on each hobby so they could afford the rest? it's just a thought???? I got several Hobbies myself going at the same time and I do flip my spending from one to another all the time.
 

Rybcon

Member
Another possibility is the wealth of information on the Internet. The magazine is no longer THE source, but A source.
 




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