Model Railroading – A Niche Hobby for Adults


Even though the hobby isn’t as strong as it used to be, there’s no denying the fact that those into model railroading are still as passionate as they’ve ever been. Model railroads were a mainstay of the mid-20th-century, with little model trains circling family trees and detailed railways running in basements around the country. Model railroading has become more of a niche hobby for adults in the 21st century, as young people these days need something more stimulating.

While younger people have turned to video games and mobile devices for the fast feedback they need, serious model railroading buffs are as enthusiastic as ever – and love to share that enthusiasm with anyone who will listen. The community is still vibrant and always looking for new members.

Who Are Model Railroad Enthusiasts?

Model railways are considered a mostly male adult hobby, with most enthusiasts being men with the money and space to support a sprawling model layout. Most people love to showcase their constructions, while others like to keep it on the down-low. Displays come in all shapes and sizes, including massive towns in warehouses featuring not just miniature railways, but also miniature buildings and baseball parks that come alive at the flick of a switch.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. There are still many female and young enthusiasts. The internet is filled with enthusiasts of all ages and genders. It is this sense of community that brings everyone together to share in this amazing hobby. If anything, some are worried the hobby is too adult-orientated and that there aren’t enough young people to keep the hobby going in the future. The lack of young blood in the community is a serious concern for many, who are always looking for new ways to pass the hobby on to the next generation.

Why Do People Run Model Railroads?

The short and simple answer as to why people build model railways is the same answer you’d get with any hobby – it’s a lot of fun. Other reasons people enjoy this hobby include;

  1. Family-Oriented

Building a model railroad is something the whole family can enjoy and get in on. If you have a kid who loves trains, why not introduce them to the hobby and join them in it? Building a mini railroad can be shared across the whole family. The parents can take care of one part of things while the kids work on another. Combine the creative skills of a child with the technical skills of an adult to create something unique and special. This is a hobby that lasts a lifetime, as many adults involved now started when they were kids.

  1. Educational

Telling your kids model railroading is educational could spoil their fun, but it is. There’s a lot you can learn from this hobby, including history – both of railroads and the world. Railroads are a reflection of the time they operated in, and these times are also a reflection of the railroads that were possible then. Building models leads to learning more about the trains and settings of the era. Railroads have always been an important part of the industry and history of countries around the world.

Railroads are also a great way to learn about carpentry and develop basic electrical skills. You’ll soon come to grips with sawing wood and stripping wire as these are essential elements in building a model railroad. These skills aren’t as difficult as they seem, and you’ll pick them up in no time.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for what model railroading can teach you and your kids. You’ll learn more about how to research, artistic techniques, develop logical thought and planning skills, spatial visualization, and basic engineering skills.

  1. The Social Side

The social aspects of building a model railroad can’t be overlooked. This is a social hobby where you can – and will – meet new people. There are plenty of associations and clubs to join, such as the NMRA. These clubs give you the chance to teach and learn new skills, swap stories, and work together to build a model railroad. You can also participate in contests or conventions. You’ll no doubt meet plenty of people you never would have otherwise. Model railways appeal to people from all walks of life. You’ll find doctors, engineers, lawyers, mechanics, artists, athletes, politicians, and even rock stars. Rod Stewart is a well-known model railway enthusiast and he isn’t the only celebrity to get in on the fun.

  1. Patience Makes Perfect

One problem with modern society is that we’re trapped in an “instant gratification” culture. Building a modern railway takes time and patience. This isn’t a hobby for people who need instant gratification. However, it doesn’t take as long as you might think.

You can have a basic railway up and running in no time. From there, you can spend more time adding new things here and there, expanding your horizons, and making something special. These are skills you develop and practice over years. As you continue to develop your skills, you’ll look back on your earlier projects and see ways you can keep improving them. What you did a few years ago will seem barely acceptable to what you can do now.

Model railway building isn’t instant gratification, but it does provide years of constant learning and improvement. You’ll come to understand that true gratification comes not from instant success, but from the hard work that goes into a long journey.

  1. It’s Not Just For Men

The idea that model railroading is just for old men is outdated. We’re living in the 21st-century now, and those stereotypes are just about gone. The NMRA holds regular “build a kit” clinics aimed at young people and their parents. The idea behind the clinic is to show people that it’s not as difficult as they expect to get started. Around a third of attendees are young girls and older women. You don’t need to be a guy – and you definitely don’t need to be an old man – to get into the hobby.

Get Started With Your Model Railroad

If you like the sound of model railroads and are interested in building your own, check out the kits and buildings that has to offer. It’s a great place to get started with the beginnings of your grand model railway.

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