Ruffle Thy Feathers - "The Hobby is Dying"

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.

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Re: Ruffle Thy Feathers - "The Hobby is Dying"

Postby CNJ999 » Sun Apr 24, 2016 12:00 am

riogrande wrote:
today's constant introduction of new models by a number of companies as evidence of the hobby's continuing health, interested me. It is an example of a very common mistake by today's hobbyists, particularly newer members without a truly long association with model railroading, of taking proliferation for product quantity.


"common mistakes" hmm.. Alluded to some of them as well in my earlier post without being so direct. Sure, you've been in the hobby since Dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Haven't most of us I wager being that the hobby and forums are mostly old men? ... and watching products come and go over the past 45 or 50 years? Me too - been there done that.

I personally think the market and many new products over the past 10-15 years are still notable and combined with other factors I mentioned earlier presents an argument that the death of our hobby may have been greatly exaggerated. Others have rightly pointed out that sales are migrating online and away from brick and mortar stores. People use the anecdotal evidence that shops are closing up all over and kids are playing video games instead of trains; what, that's all be going on through out the last 30-35 years since Atari and Commodore 64 were popular. People tend to bring to the table evidence that supports there side of things and we go back and forth with "my evidence trumps yours and visa versa until our foreheads are flat and we feel fully justified. I'll say this however, I don't think there is much "constructive" in trying to build a case for the hobby is dying unless people get some sort of grim satisfaction on being a bringer of gloom about the hobby. Okie dokie. If I'm wrong, I'd rather go out happier and enjoying my "false delusion" :P

As far as survey's go, I've seen some myself and it does seem to indicate that the popular time fames are, predictably, moving forward as the older generation age out. Steam/diesel transition era is slowly falling out of favor to be replaced by 1960's and 1970's, and of course, the last 20 years is getting ever more popular too.


Personally, I like dinosaurs. Hey, John Allen, among other hobbyists, had one or more on their layouts back in the day! To be included among these behemoths is in my honor!:wink: Jim goes on to imply that posts such as mine are stimulated by some sort of grim satisfaction at being a herald of gloom and doom about the hobby. Quite to the contrary, I regard my posts as totally neutral in their intent, offering nothing more or less than fully verifiable facts taken from the hobby's own journals time and again and offered simply for the purpose of enlightening those who have never examined the question in detail.. The question of the hobby's graying as a clear reflection of its ongoing dominance by aging Baby Boomers as derived from repeated surveys of MR's readership spanning 50+ years clearly illustrating it as the readership aged. Likewise, only a year or two ago that same publication reported once again that the predominantly favored era to model today is clearly the Transition Era of the late 1940's to the early 1950's...just as it has been for 50 years now! Sure there are folks that model more modern eras, why wouldn't there be after all these years? But the closer one moves toward the year 2015 the fewer these hobbyists become in their numbers, giving no indication of any mass shift in modeling eras with time. At the same time, since tens of millions of kids were a part of the great Lionel/Flyer boom of roughly the first two decades of the post-war years it is little wonder that these same individuals grew up with an exceptional interest in the hobby of model railroading, one which saw hobbyists swell in numbers in a few short years from perhaps 10 thousand to several hundred thousand! Lacking the unique circumstances of the Baby Boomer Generation how can one possibly assume the hobby can continue to flourish for decades to come as this base group decreases in size with the coming years? Virtually nothing that promoted broad interest in the hobby back in the 50's still exists today, so what is there to generate major "new blood" is the question that must be addressed.

Personally I do not fear acknowledging what history has to tell us about our hobby. But today I seem to be in the minority with this view and presenting facts is regarded by many of my fellow hobbyists as spreading baseless gloom and doom, or not being constructive about the hobby. History is what it is and the current situation is certainly not of my making. I don't like what history portends for the future of the hobby, but it is really self obvious where the hobby is going with the passage of time. Sorry folks.

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Re: Ruffle Thy Feathers - "The Hobby is Dying"

Postby riogrande » Mon Jun 20, 2016 7:17 am

today I seem to be in the minority with this view and presenting facts is regarded by many of my fellow hobbyists as spreading baseless gloom and doom, or not being constructive about the hobby. History is what it is and the current situation is certainly not of my making. I don't like what history portends for the future of the hobby, but it is really self obvious where the hobby is going with the passage of time. Sorry folks.

CNJ999


What is the most obvious is each side believes "facts' & "history" support their view and neither will convince the other to flip sides. I am ok with that and recognize we will need to agree to disagree.

I'll just end my part in this thread by recalling that Harry Wong remarked a few months back over at TrainOrders - ""Model Railroading is insanely good these days!!!" For my part, I agree!

Cheers.
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Re: Ruffle Thy Feathers - "The Hobby is Dying"

Postby FLRailFan1 » Sat Jun 25, 2016 5:20 pm

I don't think the hobby is dying. I think if model railroad clubs has youth divisions, clubs will thrive. I would join a local club here, but youths (and after 11 hours of work, I want to be with my boys) aren't welcome. The club is mostly older people, yet kids do have ideas.

I bet Amherst Show had lots of kids excited about model trains...am I correct?
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Re: Ruffle Thy Feathers - "The Hobby is Dying"

Postby CNJ999 » Mon Jul 04, 2016 10:47 am

Yes, FLRailFan1, one does see a fair number of "kids" at the big Amherst show. However...most of these are relatively young children brought there (A) through their father's interest in scale model railroading, or tin-plate trains, not specifically the youngster's growing intrest in same, or (B) as just part of a simple family weekend outing to see something unusual/different. In fact, many attendees at Amherst have complained about the families' baby carriages blocking up the aisles in recent years. As to the number of teens in attendence who are actually model railroaders, this is really quite small by percentage relative to adults at or over middle age.

Even more striking has been the attendence make-up of folks at the last few NMRA Regional Conventions that I attended in recent years. In circulating about the large exhibit halls I've paid attention to the faces I saw and hardly noted anyone under 50 years of age. It truly had the overall appearance of a senior citizens' convention!

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Re: Ruffle Thy Feathers - "The Hobby is Dying"

Postby Bigt » Wed Jul 06, 2016 12:55 pm

I believe the majority of "the young folks" are no longer interested in model railroading. In my
generation (I'm 56), kids growing up wanted to be policemen, firemen, and yes, train engineers.
The railroads themselves helped foster the latter. When was the last time you saw a railroad do
anything to interest anyone in their business? And, back then, every little boy had a train set
early on that helped grow the interest. They might even had a family member or neighbor who
worked for the railroad, or, had a layout. Not now. Today, kids are only interested in things that
have a keyboard and a screen to view the latest nitwit technology / trend.
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Re: Ruffle Thy Feathers - "The Hobby is Dying"

Postby Engineer Spike » Fri Jul 08, 2016 12:19 am

The Internet, as mentioned has made a large impact. The local hobby shops are gone, and replaced by on line dealers. Without the costs of owning, or renting a building, they can have larger invantories. The market is worldwide, and reachable by anyone with a connection. The distribution can be anywhere the USPS, UPS, or FedEx can deliver.

The manufacturers use market differentiation marketing methods. Look at how Bowser has gone into its line of big Alcos, or a Canadian version of the ubiquitous SD40-2. Even Athearn has gone to smaller runs of more exotic models, like the SD39, and 45P. They also have done the GP7 with head end lighting boxes. This may have to do with the lack of kitbashers. I think that this has to do with people having less free time. Employers expect more than 9-5 now days. Benefits are so expensive, that every employee is utilized to the max.

A friend who was a model manufacturer once described MR as a Better Homes and Gardens of model railroading. It shows off these dream layouts. There have not been any actual how to articles in years. To fill this void, there are thousands of modeling forums. Many specialize in a particular area, like DCC, super detailing, or even proto freelance. I'm a member of several of these.

I don't think all is lost. If so, then Horizon wouldn't have bought Athearn. Athearn, Atlas, and Bachmann would have long ago diversified into other ventures. My club has its share of retirees, but also has some teens. Several of us with sons bring them. My son is starting to get into modeling. With a good stash of blue box car kits, he is learning. If he keeps it up, he may soon detail up some engines.
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Re: Ruffle Thy Feathers - "The Hobby is Dying"

Postby CNJ999 » Tue Oct 11, 2016 9:54 am

Revisiting this thread I can report that another verifiable indicator of the hobby's current situation regarding failing participation numbers among younger individuals has just come to my attention.

In the October 2016 issue of the Model Railroad Hobbyist on-line magazine (readership somewhat over 50,000) an editorial addressing its readership's breakdown paints a rather bleak picture for the hobby in the future. Their readership's age figures break down as follows:

under 20 - 0.25%
20-29 ---- 0.53
30-39 ---- 2.95
40-49 ---- 7.96
50-59 --- 21.10
60-69 --- 38.28
70-79 --- 25.95
80+ ------ 2.98%

It seems the publications' readers age 80 or older are nearly equal to the number to all those under 39! Likewise, MRH's editorial indicated an overall average age of 64 years for its readership...and this is with a widely circulated electronic hobby magazine that one might anticipate would appeal most to today's younger hobbyists!

The analysis likewise supports my earlier contention posted to this thread that today's hobbyists are mostly from the Baby Boomer generation that was intimately familiar with having Lionel or American Flyer trains circling their Christmas Trees in the 1950's and 60's. Once that tradition died away as a source for scale model railroader recruitment the hobby's longevity grew ever more endangered. When Baby Boomers numbers dwindle in coming years it would seem highly likely that the hobby will slip back to the status and numbers it held just prior to WWII when hobbyists amounted to a mere 10,000 to 15,000 individuals.

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Re: Ruffle Thy Feathers - "The Hobby is Dying"

Postby ApproachMedium » Thu Oct 13, 2016 9:20 am

Ugh more baloney. Let me tell you, just because people arent reading a magazine does not mean they are not in to the hobby. Me and many friends in my age group are too busy working out butts off to read any damn magazines. When I do have time to do train stuff, im doing it. Im not having my nose in books. Most of my information anymore can be fed via facebook and brand groups. Maybe they should do a Facebook survey in all of these modeling or railroad hobby groups for age? Youll find some are LOADED with minors!

If you notice all of them numbers are more or less past retirement ages. If you are retired, you probably have more time to read magazines. Im 31, I work 10-12 hours a day for a railroad.
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Re: Ruffle Thy Feathers - "The Hobby is Dying"

Postby CNJ999 » Thu Oct 13, 2016 11:01 am

An interesting outlook, Approachmedium, but nothing more than just personal opinion on your part...the sort of totally unsupported response I pointed out way up-stream as being typical of the sort of baseless posts I see time and again appear in support of a healthy hobby status when the subject of its decline is brought up.

Quite honestly, personal opinion fails to carry weight when it's weighed against published facts from a number of reputable sources within the hobby itself, all of which point exactly in the opposite direction. One can bluster all one wants that there is some huge but totally invisible army of model railroaders, particularly younger ones, who avoid any interaction with the hobby community at large, but this is hardly realistic, or evidenced. If such truly existed hobby manufacturers would be flourishing, not dwindling to a scattering of largely cottage industries outside of a couple of top dogs...and all basically relying on just a single factory in China to produce their wares, which are generated only in limited runs.

The hobby is what it is today and honestly only a shadow of what it once was in general popularity. All the things that originally generated public interest in it are gone from the scene today and any neutral observer would see this in a moment. Model railroading is a hobby of the Baby Boomer generation, plus a few younger stragglers, that is a simple fact. I'm far from being happy about all this, but I do accept the reality of the situation and go on with my own modeling.

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Re: Ruffle Thy Feathers - "The Hobby is Dying"

Postby gp80mac » Sat Nov 12, 2016 5:10 pm

CNJ999 wrote:The hobby is what it is today and honestly only a shadow of what it once was in general popularity. All the things that originally generated public interest in it are gone from the scene today and any neutral observer would see this in a moment. Model railroading is a hobby of the Baby Boomer generation, plus a few younger stragglers, that is a simple fact. I'm far from being happy about all this, but I do accept the reality of the situation and go on with my own modeling.

CNJ999


So? Why get upset about it? As long as there's trains running around, I think you will see some sort of model RR hobby existing. Will the hobby shrink? Sure - but that's true with many (I dare say most) hobbies. Hobbies are a way to spend money and spare time - and who the hell has either of those anymore?

If anything, I think we as a hobby are losing the collector/hoarder mentality that previous generations had. We all know that guy that has 4,000 engines and 15,000 railcars sitting on shelves unopened. But then again, who has the money, time, or space for that?

I think there's a movable-type printing club in my county. You think model RRers have it rough?
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Re: Ruffle Thy Feathers - "The Hobby is Dying"

Postby dedm30junk » Sun Nov 13, 2016 8:28 pm

What was the final turnout for TRAINFEST this past weekend.
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Re: Ruffle Thy Feathers - "The Hobby is Dying"

Postby CNJ999 » Fri Nov 18, 2016 9:26 am

gp80mac wrote:
CNJ999 wrote:The hobby is what it is today and honestly only a shadow of what it once was in general popularity. All the things that originally generated public interest in it are gone from the scene today and any neutral observer would see this in a moment. Model railroading is a hobby of the Baby Boomer generation, plus a few younger stragglers, that is a simple fact. I'm far from being happy about all this, but I do accept the reality of the situation and go on with my own modeling.

CNJ999


So? Why get upset about it? As long as there's trains running around, I think you will see some sort of model RR hobby existing. Will the hobby shrink? Sure - but that's true with many (I dare say most) hobbies. Hobbies are a way to spend money and spare time - and who the hell has either of those anymore?

If anything, I think we as a hobby are losing the collector/hoarder mentality that previous generations had. We all know that guy that has 4,000 engines and 15,000 railcars sitting on shelves unopened. But then again, who has the money, time, or space for that?

I think there's a movable-type printing club in my county. You think model RRers have it rough?



I fully concur, gp80mac, that there is no point in getting upset over the fact that the hobby is steadily shrinking, but at the same time I find it rather strange that hobbyists cannot accept that fact when every possible indicator points to that being the truth.

I would, however, disagree with the idea that the number of collectors/hoarders is declining. While rarely seeing the question of how many locos/cars individuals have, especially in contrast to the relative size of their layouts, on this forum over on the Model Railroader forum this topic comes up fairly often. What I've observed revealed therein is that most hobbyists have far far more of each than they could possibly ever utilize on their layouts. It is not the least unusual to see even those totally without any layout claiming 50 or more locomotives along with countless cars, supposedly hoarded against the day they say they will build their "empire" (but will likely die first!).

I full well believe that the shift of the hobby toward RTR over the past 15-20 years and away from actually assembling/building models, has dramatically increased rather than depleted the collector segment of the hobby. In the past It often took hours, days, sometime even weeks in the case of a craftsman kit, to build a single model. Now for most of us it is just a matter of buying it, opening the box and then moving on.

Incidentally, the claim that, "Hobbies are a way to spend money and spare time - and who the hell has either of those anymore?" honestly doesn't hold water. The relative price of model railroading items today, especially locomotives, can far exceed their cost relative to personal income in the past. Likewise, any "lack" of spare time for most of us is largely the result to today's life style, which wastes far more time on endless pointless things then ever before.

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Re: Ruffle Thy Feathers - "The Hobby is Dying"

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Fri Nov 18, 2016 10:21 am

Sort of anecdotal, but part of this discussion.

I have occasion to know Tony Koester's Sister (married to a former, but long time, client of mine). When I convened with them last month (at a restaurant in Michigan City featuring "tables with a view"), the point of "how do you know of my Brother" was raised.

Short of an outright lie, I had to say "through trains"; now I've been pinned as a railfan :P :P
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Re: Ruffle Thy Feathers - "The Hobby is Dying"

Postby ApproachMedium » Sat Nov 19, 2016 1:16 am

I have a model railroad collection, mostly PC era stuff, that I am selling for decased co worker who never got to build his empire. Buildings, track, cars, engines you name it. Totals out to about 40k worth of stuff, if I get what im asking which is reasonable. Never got to play with it. Now ive been selling it to people who do. Made a large chunk of change off one train show in roseland NJ a month ago.

Had various ages of modelers buying stuff from me, no issues laying out the cash.
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