The On-Line Magazine of Rideable Model Railroading


© January 5, 2008  

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Riding Scale Railroading, Two Views
Part III, Your Impressions

Three generations of a family enjoy a trip on the railroad with other friends.

Written by Rick Henderson and you, our web visitors

(continued from Part II, Riding Scale Railroading, Today )

Analysis of the survey responses to parts one and two of “Riding Scale Railroading” reveals many hobbyists have put a lot of thought into this important subject. Overall, it is anticipated that the hobby will survive; however, some necessary changes will occur.

Many recognize that today’s youth are our future and that we most often recruit new members through public exposure, but what is the best way to achieve this? We need to mentor all new to the hobby and integrate everyone into the group in a positive fashion to encourage their continuing with the hobby.

Live steam will survive. The survey shows that 45% feel operating live steamers is going to be on the decline, while 20% enthusiastically want to see it grow in popularity. From the additional comments, while many want to see live steam survive, the reality of cost, availability and experience seem to be the major factors that will steer the course of the future of live steam to a siding less used, but still active.

Only 14% feel the overall hobby will shrink in size while 86% feel that it will survive or grow. This was an important question because it shows enough people are willing to put forth the extra effort to make it happen. It also shows vendors that there will be an expanding customer base for the promotion of their product lines.

In the future, only 44% of you would want to belong to a club that allows public riders; however, when the question on liability is introduced, it drops to only 24% who welcome the idea of public riders. It seems that being part of a club or group working with a private owner without public access is a very desirable way to enjoy the hobby with less fear of litigation.

Only a hopeful 11% feel the hobby will expand enough to bring the costs down while 35% feel the cost to participate will become out of their reach. This is a point vendors should consider; we know there is enough interest to grow; now can vendors afford to make available a wider selection of products at more affordable prices to more of the increasing number of riding scale hobbyists?

In reality, other than membership dues, most people should be able to enjoy the hobby without having to own equipment. Very few groups require actual equipment ownership to participate and welcome people interested in participating in the building and maintaining of the railroads.

While most of us would like to take everyone for a ride to show off our trains and railroads to encourage growth in the hobby, the genuine fear of litigation has many hobbyists shying away from non-member public riders. As mentioned above, the final question on liability seems to override the previous responses of many on public ridership. A fully 20% changed their feelings from invite everyone to requiring membership to ride when the question of liability is included. The bottom line is 46% felt a membership of some sort should be required of all riders to reduce our exposure to unwarranted law suits.

While clubs on public land are usually required to carry the public, perhaps the ideal situation, when considering the liability and litigation, is a private or club owned railroad on private land, where only visitors that are truly interested in learning about the hobby are encouraged and welcomed. In this case however, members will have to go out and carefully recruit members and not depend on word-of-mouth for growth.

Passing on steam operation experience is important for our future.



Additional Comments from Readers

The additional comments provide by many respondents included some very insightful views, many of which will be shared here. Many had the same general views so not all are listed and some were necessarily abbreviated due to length. Few had names so we will credit all to “survey respondents”.

On Steamers:

 “The era of live steam is passing with new people less mechanically inclined.”

“Diesels” are taking over the hobby, but are also keeping it going.”

“The young need to learn about steam; however, issues of liability prevent some from taking the risk to teach them.”

“Non-steam motive power has boosted the number of people active in the hobby.”

“We need to attract more individuals who can “do” things; those who actually know steam.”

“I would love to have a steam locomotive but in order to do so it would take years to pay for.”

“I think that there will be more young people interested in steam just from curiosity. The key is for those with the steam locomotives to share their experience in an open and non-threatening way so others can learn.”

“As one of the young guns in the hobby, it's a growing concern that I'm the only regular person on the steam roster under the age of 40. The average age of our steam engineers is a little under 60.”

“Many young people will never experience the awe inspiring experience of seeing full size steam. Young people today quite often "cop out" for diesels or battery electric locomotives.”

“Live steam is one of the few hands on technical training grounds left. It keeps you going, makes you think and there is a lot of information transfer at a meet about EVERYTHING.”

“Steam is, was, and always will be KING! I HATE diesels with a passion!”

“As long as there are railroads that you can ride on the newer members and younger members will probably own a diesel loco.”

“The steam segment of the hobby is in jeopardy because of a declining number of honest reliable steam locomotive builders and parts vendors. In addition, the nationwide decline in manufacturing has resulted in fewer people being trained as machinists and welders, two skills required for locomotive building.”

“Steam Locomotives should become cheaper because they're WAY out of my budget!”

“The demise of traditional engineering skills means that less people will be able to make their own steam locomotives and therefore costs will increase as people rely on specialist manufacturers.”

“I see our Steamer population dwindling with the age of our senior members. They also don't want to run their equipment for fear of lawsuits.”

On Public Riders:

“Would like to give public rides but the public is too eager to sue over minor issues.”

“We need to ride the public to survive with a layout.”

“Allow hauling public only on safe cars like a T-riding car.”

“Clubs may have to work with parks and ride public in order to find affordable location.”

“The biggest question is liability and avoiding being sued out of public parks.”

“I believe the private tracks are going to grow and public tracks to dwindle.”

“If we can't share our love of this hobby then lock the doors and become killjoy to all the kids of any age in this world!”

“Maintaining the distinction between giving a demonstration ride on scale model railroad, and amusement park rides, is seldom appreciated by the public”

“And if someone falls off the train, prepared to get sued, even if it was because of something they did.”

“With insurance costs and money happy attorneys ready to sue anytime they can find something to sue, I am sure that public participation will diminish”

“I feel that by allowing the public to attend with the proper rules and information on the hobby you will see a growing interest and increase in members at clubs.”

On Youth Involvement:

“Youth appear to be less interested.”

“Take time to get youth involved.”

“Keep trying to attract younger members to organizations.  It’s the only way they will survive.”

“Unless us older hats” make a good impression and actively seek younger members, what hope does our hobby have for the future?”

“We all must look at the liability issues but also remember the growth factor. Always encourage safe visits. Reach out to educate, indoctrinate,”

“There is a real need to bring young people into the hobby.  There also is a great need for more mentoring to attract and develop the next generation of large scale model railroaders.  The gas and electric products will get the kids interested, and when they see the live steamers, there will be interest in preserving the live steam engines too. ”

“I believe the earlier we can "indoctrinate" our children/grandchildren into the hobby the better.”

On Cost of Hobby:

“Liability (insurance) costs will impact the ability of clubs to survive.”

“I want to get into the hobby, unfortunately the costs are just out of reach for a mainly single income with a family.”

“The hobby will grow if it becomes more standardized and more suppliers become available.”

“I think that rising costs may hinder some from joining the hobby, especially the cost of steam locos.”

Other General Observations & Comments:

“We all need to remember the motto "each one - teach one" to ensure the hobby's future.”

“Hobby has great people but seems to be underground.”

“There are a few club members that make visitors without trains feel less welcome.”

“Clubs seem to have three types of members, those interested in giving public rides, those that don't work but have most of the opinions and those few that actually work at modeling.”

“I am running into an issue where the "old-timers" who are very experienced just don't seem really willing to help.”

 “The old "can do attitude,", of the 40s and 50s is gone!”

“Old timers should be more helpful to the newbie’s.”

“Mentorship is a vital key.”

“Those in the live steam hobby really dedicate themselves, even diesel.”

 “It only takes one member with a bad attitude to begin turning all visitors away. There goes future members and club growth.”

“Lawyers and ridiculous insurance premiums will eventually keep the public off our trains.”

“The future of the hobby is rosy.....if we can keep the lawyers and insurance company at arms length.”

“If I started all over again now I feel it maybe too costly.”

Too many sue happy people and the use of liability wavers has just about made me want to sell all my equipment and get out of this hobby.”

In Closing

It is fairly certain that ‘yes’, riding scale railroading will survive and even grow, a little different from the past, and with our evolving technology, likely still different in the future. We need to encourage growth by exposing the youth to the hobby while taking every precaution to ensure visiting riders have a safe environment to learn about the hobby and enjoy their ride. The reality of life is that we all pass on, so we need to share our knowledge with newcomers as they will be around to carry on for us.

Dedication ceremonies will continue to acknowledge major progress on railroads for many years to come.

Thank you all for you’re participation,
Rick Henderson

Written by Rick Henderson and you, our web visitors






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