there is an economic "down-turn", one of the first belt tightening moves are
people cutting back on their hobbies in favor of covering mounting bills. With
the generally higher costs of the riding-scale railroading hobby to begin with,
it is not hard to predict there will be cutbacks by most in the hobby, some
I have already heard from several in the hobby
about some necessary cutbacks they have to make, with number one being trips to
the railroad. Some are trying to sell equipment but are having difficulty
getting much interest at a fair price; money is tight with almost everyone. The
upside is if you can afford it, there will be some great deals available on
How has the 2008 U.S. economic turmoil affected
you and your riding-scale hobby?
Can you still afford regular trips to your
local railroad? While most in the hobby are still going to their local railroad
as much as before, about 30% have actually had to cut back on going, some have
cut back drastically. This may in part be attributable to the fact that in this
hobby not everyone lives local, say within 30-45 minutes of the track. Things
are better with gas down about 50% from its high point but when it was at the
peak, we saw fewer at the tracks on weekends. Gas cost, however, was only one
factor, a lot of people active in the hobby are living on retirement income
tied up in the stock market. When their portfolios devalued, so did their
day-to-day living means.
When it comes to traveling to ‘other
railroads’, only about 44% of us are still traveling as much as we would
like to. Traveling to distant railroads usually includes lodging and eating
out, above the cost of fuel to get there and back. Many people reported that
they did cancel planned trips due mostly to the fuel costs. People are
traveling fewer times and to make the best of it, planning on visiting more
than one railroad or other attractions on the trip. We did have the fortunate
few reporting that they have increased their travel adventures, so it is not
all disheartening news.
It is, at least for now, a buyer’s market,
especially on used equipment and many hobbyists are planning to take advantage
of the situation. While dealers selling new equipment have to adjust prices to
match raw material and operating costs, about 7% of the hobbyists needing to
raise cash to make ends meet, are accepting below market offers. Most
manufactures of riding scale equipment are very small operations and we may see
the closure of some small business enterprises before we are into recovery.
Luckily, for the hobby itself, only 7% of
respondents feel they may have to find a more affordable hobby; many of the
same 7% are also considering selling some items to make ends meet. Just over
half of the total respondents say they can stay with no change in going to the
railroad, running or buying additional equipment.
The cost of fuel to actually operate your
trains has only affected 15% of us; getting to the railroad in your vehicle
usually costs more than running around the track. Those who were cutting back
on running were also, for the most part, the same people that had to cut back
on visiting their own railroad as well as other railroads. It is interesting to
see that 23% of those responding reported using battery power vs. any type of
Several railroad owners reported independently
that they have had to cut back on construction on their railroads for now. The
cost of wood for ties has increased a lot in the past few years but the cost of
gravel for ballast has doubled recently in some areas, primarily due to the
cost to process and transport it. Other material costs have risen more rapidly
in the past year and some will just have to wait for costs to become reasonable
before resuming construction.
So how have people adapted?
Possibly the most positive thing that has come
out of this experience is for the people making purchases of used equipment.
That said, it is sad that others have to part with their trains without
upgrading as most desire to do.
There are some more cost saving options that
several people have adopted. Building your own trains is a good option for
saving money if you have the resources to do so. However, there are some
reports of higher raw material costs that have even caused cutbacks for that
option for now. Storing trains at the railroad has become an attractive option
for many. When traveling they are considering camping, mostly in RV’s rather
than staying in motels. Potluck or brown bagging rather than eating out meals
works well. Even an old fashion hot dog cook out is an affordable and fun way
to gather and socialize on a budget while enjoying our trains.
As mentioned, for most clubs, a lot of their
members live more than 30-45 minutes away. Some of the retired members, which
is actually most of the more active members, may find the option of going to
the railroad with an RV and staying a few days at a time more worthwhile.
Several railroads now provide 30amp RV service to accommodate overnight visits.
Even in a pop-up, you can have heat, air conditioning, TV, microwave, toaster,
enough to make it comfortable for a few days at a time.