Re: Future of Model Railroading

Malcolm H. Houck

There may be a future for our hobby but what will it be?

First come the (full sized) trains.............then the fascination, and
maybe after that the modeling.

The trouble is that there are fewer and fewer branch lines which once served
every town, with sidings for multiple consignees...........small retail
lumber yards (now served by trucks if they haven't been put out of business by
the "Big Box" stores), coal yards (all gone, of course and displaced by oil
dealers, once served by rail and now by trucks)..........and even the grocery
stores and hardware stores received goods by rail.

That was the "retail" business of the rail lines, which drove them to near
disaster. Now the rails are in the "wholesale" (transportation)
business...........containers, containers containers..........and bulk commodities, with
fewer and fewer "retail" runs. Oh, sure.........the shortlines have absorbed
the branch line shed by the trunk carriers, but the point is that the daily
switch runs, locals, way freights and "pick-ups" are largely gone and with them
the daily contact with the trains that once was. It's harder to introduce the
interest when the subject matter is harder to find.

We.............the collective "we" don't travel by trains nearly as much as
once before and that too represents a lesser contact. A youthful recollection
of travel from New England to the Midwest in a roomette car is still vivid,
and after decades have passed.

Yet, they (trains) are still working, moving machines which as its own
attraction. While steam engines (once characterized as the "most human of all
machines........") are gone from the everyday, they can still be seen in more and
more typical settings on operating museums. It surely takes but a single
ride or visit to perhaps create another railfan...........and then maybe a
modeler who can, by miniature bring home and revisit that stunning memory.
Diesels, to some, have similar attraction...........and if they can attract a newer
modeler, then all the better.

New offerings from manufactures have preserved and enhanced the hobby, in my
opinion. The simple reason is that all of this "new" stuff
runs and it really does work. While this list is populated by builders (and
kit builders and the "resinators"), the overall age of the list population is
such that all of us can remember building (trying to build) early kits, many
of which were dreadful even for a modeler with some acquired skill and
workshop capability.

Nothing, I think can discourage and drive from any hobby or pursuit poor
results.........or poor products. I grew up with only the pot metal steam engine
kits and, aside from minimal painting skills (no airbrush) it was struggle to
get the final product to run (all other variables of things like fiber tie
strip track and switches that were troublesome at best aside). Frequent
magazine articles continually addressed the problems of side rod bind and gear
noise..........all with uncertain results and often representing insoluble

I have no such troubles since I'm primarily an engine builder, but for those
who aren't the offerings of Broadway and MTH run right out of the box.
This's to the greater benefit of the hobby so far as newer enthusiasts don't run
aground on the shoal or poorly running equipment. That may seem to "we"
modelers and builders as instant gratification...........but it's unfortunately(?)
the way things are.

So, at long wind, on the [steam era freight car -- to keep to topic]"kits"
which are another manifestation of the need for instant
gratification..........but the "ready to roll" cars DO work...........and the historic "coupler
conspiracy" troubles of matching dummy, Baker, Mantua, Roundhouse or X-2f
couplers is past with the industry "standardization with Kadee compatibles.

I still build kits and bash them too, but in the sense of preserving some
future....and introducing newer modelers to the hobby the ready to run --
ready to roll products DO serve a purpose. If those are what keep the
manufacturers in the business then "we" shouldn't complain. It seems that with resin
kits [continually improving]and some higher quality injection molded kits there
will always be some kits.....though kits may not be the norm or the larger
part of products to select from.


Mal Houck
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