Monday, September 8, 2014

Future of Model Railroading

What's the future of model railroading? That question gets asked frequently on model railroad forums.

Answers vary. Some people are optimistic: The hobby has never been better! Others are pessimistic: It's going to be gone in a generation.

Me? I'm somewhere in the middle. I don't think it will disappear, but I think it will change.

I am not given to making predictions, but here's a guess I will hazard: In the future, there won't be as many large home layouts. Instead, there will be more smaller switching layouts.

Why do I think this will happen? Two reasons.

First, people are more mobile today. They move a lot more. It's hard to build a big home layout if you expect to relocate frequently. A small switching layout could be taken on the moving truck, though.

Second, the prices. I was in hobby shop recently. I saw rolling stock that cost between $75 to $100 (Cdn) each. Many were between $30-$50. Locomotives? $200-$300 is normal.

Do I think people will stop buying rolling stock and locomotives at those prices? No. But they will buy fewer of them.

Which brings us back to switching layouts. A modeller could build a fine switching layout with one or two locomotives and 10-20 cars and have a great time. That's all he or she would need.

Between mobility and prices, I think that's where model railroading could go--smaller layouts and fewer locomotives and cars. That's my guess for the future of model railroading.

Photo above: The Gateway Central HO scale switching layout.


  1. I don't know about the layout size but the price of the hobby is definitely a turnoff. I really want / "need" more locos but the cost keeps me from buying them.

  2. Hi,

    one more thing that adds to your opinion: Modular railroads are becoming more and more popular. In Europe, Fremo is the driving force; in the US there are similar systems being developped. All these consist of individual modular pieces which are not only mobile for moves, but also for bringing them to meetings.

    In fact, all my model railroading equipment (industrial yard, track modules, cars, locomotives, infrastructure (i.e. digital command station and throttles, watches) is stored in shipping crates and always ready for the next meeting.

    These meetings add two aspects to model railroading which are not present in most home layouts: Operations and, more importantly, friendship with like-minded people. For me, most of the fun of going to Fremo meetings is having a great time with my friends AND with model railroads!