Do you see interest in model trains growing or dying?

Discuss model railway topics and news that do not fit into other sections.
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PinkNosedPenguin
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Re: Do you see interest in model trains growing or dying?

Postby PinkNosedPenguin » Thu Apr 16, 2015 10:12 pm

Having only returned to the hobby recently, I see it as having a very healthy future. The number of new models being brought out by the main manufacturers each month seems to be growing, and so is the quality. As someone mentioned above, I do think that British outline models suffer from a lack of quality-control meaning you can't just assume that a new individual loco for example will run perfectly (esp. in N gauge :twisted:) but that is partly due to keeping costs down here in the UK - an exchange usually yields a better example. When I compare costs with in my youth when I previously dabbled in model railways I think they are no more expensive now but of much higher quality (again, esp. in N gauge). There are now usually about 4 different model railway magazines in W H Smiths for cheapskates like me to browse of a lunchtime out the office :lol: rather than just Railway Modeller from my youth. All of this is evidence of a growing hobby not a dying one. I also agree with b308 that we don't need to worry about lack of youngsters taking it up - it will always be an older mans hobby I think (although of course we all welcome youngsters and ladies amongst us :D) - so most people joining the hobby will probably do so in middle age or later. Lets be positive :D - I think we have reason to be.

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PanzerJohn
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Re: Do you see interest in model trains growing or dying?

Postby PanzerJohn » Thu Apr 16, 2015 10:34 pm

Having only come to the hobby a couple of years ago it's surprised me just how big the model and heritage railway scene is. Many events all over the county all year round and always very well attended. But the demographics are worrying, the majority are of a certain age, very small percentage are much under 50, without a much larger influx of youngsters things do not bode well.Plus that it's a rather expensive hobby, and getting even more so.

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Boxcar Willie
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Re: Do you see interest in model trains growing or dying?

Postby Boxcar Willie » Sat Apr 18, 2015 12:44 pm

Judging by the growing membership of my local club I'd have to say that the hobby is going from strength to strength - one worrying thing is the fact that at 53 I'm one of the younger members. We don't accept members under 18 unless they're accompanied by a parent or guardian - otherwise each and every member of the club would have to be vetted by the police. This is something that none of us would have a problem with but the current arrangement works well and we have a few (not enough IMHO) new members coming up through the ranks.

Looking at the vast amount of stuff available to the hobby as compared to even ten years ago we're in a strong position; the trouble is that the sheer quality can sometimes be a shortcut to an "instant layout" where ready to plant buildings take the place of scratch built structures and the satisfaction to be gained from building them. To me that's what the hobby is all about - building stuff. We have several master modellers in the club and their work never ceases to amaze me - I myself am content to get old Hornby stuff and restore it to working order or detail it up a bit.

Airfix kits are back too - another hobby that seemed to have all but died but which has made something of a comeback during the recession. I wonder if during times of financial uncertainty people turn to more creative and less expensive interests.

That said, our local model shop has just announced its closure - the trend of model shopping online is taking its toll on small businesses and it's a pity. There's nothing to beat Saturday mornings in a model shop talking to fellow modellers and picking up a few bits and pieces to while away an evening. Online shops are so impersonal - and a hell of a lot more expensive when you consider adding postage and packaging to your purchase.

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kiwitram
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Re: Do you see interest in model trains growing or dying?

Postby kiwitram » Sat Apr 18, 2015 4:30 pm

The area of Leeds where I live is seriously lax in interest from what I've seen;

my nearest model shop(s) are in Wakefield, the other side of Leeds, or Monk Bar Model Shop, although I can visit the excellently stocked though completely overpriced Frizinghall or Keighley shops in Bradford when I see my boyfriend.

In terms of interest itself, I was mocked most horribly in school for being, as my nickname has continued into college, 'a real life Roy Cropper in Hayley's body' (I found the irony in my being trans and having the railway bug most amusing.)

I only know of two modelling groups or circles, those being the Leeds and Wakefield groups, respectively, however, there is also the Garforth Railway Circle, but this focuses on real life railways and I've found the notion of meeting men easily thirty years my senior somewhat intimidating.

Overall I'd say that interest is decreasing to some degree, but then again, I do see an increased number of children and young adults in the shops and at preserved railways- and thank God there are more girls becoming interested in the hobby. No longer will I be wrestled away from stalls by rude, arrogant old men at model shows who have clearly never heard of the phrase ''Ladies first''*.

*Note, I'm not fond of 'ladies first', I just love to mock some traditional values.

edgehillroad
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Re: Do you see interest in model trains growing or dying?

Postby edgehillroad » Sat Apr 18, 2015 8:52 pm

In our city of Brisbane Australia there is only one real model railway shop but they seem to sell mostly American models, there are a couple that shut shops and went online but they are a waste of time as they still want high street prices for online stock, we have a couple of hobby shops that sell British model railway stuff but there are so many people with their finger in the pie that the items become way overpriced.
Online may be impersonal but they are the backbone of model train sales in Oz, if it wasn't for some of the online retailers in the UK and USA the hobby in this country would suffer, having said that the hobby seems to be growing all the time, two new clubs started near to where I live in the past 4 or 5 years and more people visiting exhibitions. things are looking pretty good.
Cheers
David.

b308
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Re: Do you see interest in model trains growing or dying?

Postby b308 » Sat Apr 18, 2015 8:55 pm

The number of model shops decreasing does not mean that interest is waning, it just reflects the increase in use of the internet.

ParkeNd
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Re: Do you see interest in model trains growing or dying?

Postby ParkeNd » Sat Apr 18, 2015 11:04 pm

b308 wrote:The number of model shops decreasing does not mean that interest is waning, it just reflects the increase in use of the internet.


I think the two posts above from edhehillroad and kiwitram have expressed realistic opinions. Try as I might I cannot see the link between the dramatic demise of model train shops, and the idea that people prefer to buy on the internet rather than in a shop. Nor can I see the link between Heritage Railways and the desire to build a model railway layout - merely the desire to go and see and ride on more Heritage Railways.

In many cases the premises that sold model railways are still there but now sell other products predominately such as radio controlled cars which fill most of the shop. For my other hobbies I can still buy cameras and lenses, and bikes and bike accessories and clothes from shops - so I do because it is a much more satisfying and successful process. But it is no longer practical to buy model train supplies so freely - so I am forced into using the internet. Whilst independent bike and camera retailers have declined (probably due to the inventory cost of stock), the chain retail shops thrive because the markets for the products are increasing as shown by industry reporting. Those hobbies are shown to be expanding.

We still have a hobby with a body of people practicing it, but will it extend into the future by Jingoistic responses alone? In my view we actually have to take active steps to prevent it declining whilst we still can. :wink:

shaunster
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Re: Do you see interest in model trains growing or dying?

Postby shaunster » Sun Apr 19, 2015 7:30 am

Probably it is simply down to money. Bricks and mortar model shops are very expensive when compared to the online companies. I won't pay the difference myself. My nearest decent shop is probably gaugemaster in arundel, all their items are expensive so I dont visit very often and I have bought nearly everything for my layout online as I expect many other people do now. I have saved hundreds buying online rather than buying it in a proper shop.

b308
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Re: Do you see interest in model trains growing or dying?

Postby b308 » Sun Apr 19, 2015 9:08 am

I stand by my statement. This discussion has been taking place as long as I've been modelling railways, well over 50 years ago! I was a "committee member" of the Preston and District MRC in the 70s and we were discussing then how we could keep the club going and get more interest from younger people. The Club is still thriving...

Those model railway shops that are good will continue to thrive, those that aren't won't, that's just a fact of life. However to blame the lower number of model shops on some sort of invisible decline in railway modellers (who judges that, btw, where are the statistics to prove it?!) is wrong without looking at other possible causes and I'd say that the rise of the Internet has had much more impact on shop numbers than any reduction of modellers, real or imagined.

Going back to shop numbers, in my time in Preston there was one model railway shop and one other general toy shop that sold some MR stuff, that is still the same, though the shops have changed. Where I live now I now have a MR shop in my home town and several others (one of whom changed hands recently still going)... Now there's the rub, MR shops are not big money spinners and need to be mainly debt-free to make any money, so the people that tend to run them tend to do so for the love of modelling, not something many people will consider doing these days... Another reason for there being less are Box Shifters and Toy Fairs will have had some impact on them as well and were not around in the olden days (Beatties being the only one I could think of from the 60s/early 70s)...

Like the rest of us I've no concrete proof of that but what I can say is that just by looking at the number of exhibitions there are far more now than when I was a kid... Added to that the number of magazines (there were two, at times three back in the 60s and 70s) around would indicate a healthy hobby...

I see no reduction in numbers of Railway Modellers, though I agree that a large percentage are in the 50+ age group (but again that's always been the case) and I'd challenge those who say that ours is a declining hobby to prove to me with the figures...
Last edited by b308 on Sun Apr 19, 2015 9:13 am, edited 1 time in total.

senorsenales
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Re: Do you see interest in model trains growing or dying?

Postby senorsenales » Sun Apr 19, 2015 9:12 am

It is down to money, and how much anybody has left over to spend on their hobby every month. Being part of the grey economy all my major expenses are taken care of so I do have some money left over to spend as I please. Not the same in many cases I suspect.

Things are still tight, regardless of what we are told politically, and at the last two shows I have been to traders I have been chatting to say nobody is buying, and that includes the second-hand market.

Is the hobby dying? - I don't think so, just a different take on it. Some of our newer members bring modern technology with them and leave the likes of me truly in the dark. They are modelling, and building, but it just seems different somehow.

We are not alone, the model engineering side of the railway hobby seems to be struggling as well with an ever aging membership, and the skills are not being passed on because the younger element can't afford the machinery required, and/or the time to devote five years to building a loco.

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Re: Do you see interest in model trains growing or dying?

Postby b308 » Sun Apr 19, 2015 9:26 am

senorsenales wrote:We are not alone, the model engineering side of the railway hobby seems to be struggling as well with an ever aging membership, and the skills are not being passed on because the younger element can't afford the machinery required, and/or the time to devote five years to building a loco.


I'd agree that if I was into model engineering I'd be worried about that, the smaller numbers taking Engineering up as a vocation is also worrying for the Country... But with model railways the demographic has always been skewed towards the older end of the age group so I don't see that as any issue or indication of the hobby declining, just one of "business as usual"...

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bike2steam
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Re: Do you see interest in model trains growing or dying?

Postby bike2steam » Sun Apr 19, 2015 9:36 am

senorsenales wrote:Things are still tight, regardless of what we are told politically, and at the last two shows I have been to traders I have been chatting to say nobody is buying, and that includes the second-hand market.


So right, - but it's not surprising when most traders ask higher prices than places like Hattons, and some s/h dealers are asking higher prices than what you can get them new from our friends in Liverpool !!!

And so right 'b308', as a Mechanical Engineer for over 30 years I've always been sad to see the state of the trade in this country - and it's treatment by the powers that be, no matter which political sphere. For a nation to thrive we must make our wealth, not just shift money from one place to another - but I mustn't go there, it just annoys me :( .

ParkeNd
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Re: Do you see interest in model trains growing or dying?

Postby ParkeNd » Sun Apr 19, 2015 10:29 am

There must be some model railway industry annual stats for the UK somewhere but I can't find them - only US market figures which show strong increases. However collectors purchases of huge quantities of locos which stay in boxes would probably mask the trend, one way or another, of people building layouts.

The poor stock levels of some type of goods in the UK seem to me to have given rise to the Internet rather than the other way around. I tried to buy a new electric shaver a few months back. Tried Boots, John Lewis, Curries/PC World - no luck. Had I been a lady planning to shave lady bits, the choice was enormous - but for men - nothing much at all. After a week of accumulating grey fluff there was only one course of action - Amazon next day. By contrast shop availability of flat screen TVs, laptop computers and iPads, cosmetics, white goods, vacuum cleaners, and cameras is immense. For specialist HiFi now you struggle to find any type of seller because people don't listen to music that way anymore - declining hobby.

For Internet sales of railway modeling items there are not really that many sources - once you have counted Hattons, Rails, Gaugemaster, Kernow, and Osbornes that's most of the volume I suspect. Where are the model railway or any type of model chains of the likes of Evans Cycles, Leisure Lakes, Cycle Surgery, Jessops, Calumet etc. ?

The size of layouts at exhibitions is contracting alarmingly as is trade support.

But the Jingoistic statements about how everything is going well and the future is looking good worry me. It would be more re-assuring if more manufacturers were coming into the market and shops were springing up in the High Street to meet the market requirement - certainly betting shops, pound shops, gold buyers, payday loan shops, and charity shops are being opened to meet their market needs. So shops still are an indicator of market trends.

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PinkNosedPenguin
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Re: Do you see interest in model trains growing or dying?

Postby PinkNosedPenguin » Sun Apr 19, 2015 11:04 am

Don't forget we are just coming out of a long and deep recession - something like model railways is going to take a big hit when money is tight. ParkeNd listed Jessops above - don't forget they went into administration a couple of years ago (our local shop closed, and has not re-opened under the new management). So I think all hobbies have a had a difficult time recently...
Anyway, I always try to be positive (a half-full kind of guy) whereas many (esp. older) people like to harp on about the 'good old days' of their youth when everything was cheaper, better and 'nicer'. Personally I still see a rosy future for the hobby and love shopping on the internet - I buy almost everything on the internet (I hate shops!) where I get a far larger variety and better prices :D. There seem to be a lot of very small model railway businesses, for whom the internet is their lifeline.

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Re: Do you see interest in model trains growing or dying?

Postby b308 » Sun Apr 19, 2015 11:26 am

I think it's worth pointing out that Model railways is a niche hobby, it is unfair to try to compare them with photography (which apart from having a good number of amateur photographers also has sales to the rest of us who just use cameras to record personal events - MR doesn't have those side sales) and cycling which again has a much bigger following. The number of box shifters is, I'd suggest, appropriate to the number of enthusiasts...

Talking of cycling, and thinking local, there have been two independent cycle shops closed in recent years in my local area with no replacements, does that mean that cycling is on a down-turn?!

Also something worth pointing out, in photography, cycling and shavers there's only a finite number of different models you can make without copying the other manufacturer, that's not the case in Model railways where the number of different locos is enormous... Look at the variety available now compared to the 60s and 70s...

Size of model railways getting smaller... I'd agree, but that shows a shift from large Victorian housing to modern small accommodation, together with a growth in smaller scales, back in the 50s the "standard" scale was O, then OO took off in the 60s and 70s as houses shrunk in size and now it's the turn of N and the dreaded shunting layout... Again I see no reason to read that the hobby is in decline because people decide to build smaller layouts for exhibition or home purposes... It's something that tends to be unique to the UK is "self contained" layouts, most of the rest of the world are big into modular layouts!



I think we are going round in circles, whilst the doom-mongers can give one reason to prove their views are correct those of us who are more up-beat can give an equal number of views to prove the opposite! (Sounds like the Election!) Only coming back in 10 years time to this thread will prove anything one way of the other, and probably not even then!! :)


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