Author Topic: Will model railroaders continue to further fragment?  (Read 4084 times)

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3rdrail

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Will model railroaders continue to further fragment?
« on: February 20, 2007, 11:45:15 AM »
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Some random thoughts from someone who has been a model railroader for roughly 57 years...

When I started scale model railroading (in HO) in 1953, there were basically two scales used by modelers, HO and O. The vast majority of modelers modeled contemporary railroads, what we now call the "transition era", although a few modeled "old time" railroads circa 1900. The only area where there was more variety than today was in couplers - there was no standard. I started with Mantua and switched to Kadee (pre-magnetic). Yes, the first Kadees were mechanically opened by a diamond shaped ramp.

As time has passed, railroading has evolved at a much faster pace than it did in the first half or the 20th centrury, in spite of the switch from steam to Diesel. For example in 1950, 15 percent of the boxcars were still only 36 feet long and a quarter were still partly wood sheathed. But, the 40 foot boxcar disappeared in a big hurry in the 1980's, and now the Class I's appear to have lost interest in "loose car" railroading. The result is that we have modelers fragmented almost by the decade, with modelers of each decade vying for the limited manfacturing capacity in each scale, of which there are now three major scales, with N added to the mix.

Add to the mix different sized rail and wheel flanges, plus conventional and electronic control systems, and it is a wonder that each individual market is large enough to support any manufacturing. Is it possible that model railroading may become so fragmented in the future that it will revert to its origins as a refuge for scratchbuilders and tinkerers?

What do y'all think??

Ed Kapuscinski

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Re: Will model railroaders continue to further fragment?
« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2007, 12:03:15 PM »
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Why don't you have a column in a major model publication?  ;D

Seriously, this is a really good point.

I guess the root of the issue is that as time goes on, there's simply MORE to model, but the population doesn't seem to be growing accordingly.

wm3798

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Re: Will model railroaders continue to further fragment?
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2007, 01:37:13 PM »
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In a way, the fragmentation is a good thing.  I think it's also symptomatic of the homogenization of the prototype.  While there are shortlines and regionals here and there to add some spice, the giant borgs have made railfanning generally dull.  Containers....Bathtub Hoppers....Containers....Bathtub Hoppers....Auto Racks...More containers...

And it doesn't change much regardless of where you go.  Upstate New York?  CSX and NS.  Atlanta, GA? CSX and NS.  Seattle?  BNSF and UP.  Wyoming?  BNSF and UP.  Yawn.

As modelers, we tend to gravitate to what interests us.  If you're not interested in solid blocks of the same type of cars, you're not going to model the current scene.  This opens up the entire spectrum of historical reference, as well as geographic location. 

While this presents a challenge to the manufacturers, I dare say the "order as you go" system of limited runs has done a good job of meeting the demand, particularly in N scale.  Somebody's gotta be buying the stuff, or they wouldn't keep making more!

The other side of the coin is that the broader the range of items available, the broader the interests are that get involved in the hobby.  The explosion of Garden Railroading is a good example of that, as are the Micro Village :-X items and fantasy paint schemes (much as we detest them, they add to the manufacturer's bottom line, making new projects possible for the rest of us.)

The fragmentation also provides opportunities for a lot of cross pollination.  I've had a G-scale garden layout for about 5 years now, and I'm gradually building a small collection of HO Ma & Pa equipment that might find its way onto a layout some day.  And look at the forums in which we participate.  I've been reading ScaleRailsOnline for a couple months, and it's got a lot of newbies, people from different areas, and a very wide range of interests.  That forum is broken down into a number of subsections under each scale, plus prototype, photography, and crew lounge type topics.  Maybe that's overkill, but it's also very easy to find a specific area to post a question, and to see what people are thinking about a variety of topics. 

There's been some consolidation recently in the industry, and that will likely continue.  So far it hasn't hurt us, except that new products seem to be hitting the shelves faster than we can afford to buy them...  But then again, with the fragmentation, we don't have to buy them all, so is that really a problem?

Okay, that was about 28 cents... 
Lee
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Lee Weldon www.wmrywesternlines.net

asciibaron

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Re: Will model railroaders continue to further fragment?
« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2007, 03:33:49 PM »
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the solution is the one that has been with the hobby since the first model - build it yourself.  i'm not waiting for Atlas to re-run a PRR painted GP-30 - i can just paint one up and have my needs met.  there are plenty of decals out there to do just about anything.  you can also kitbash yourself silly.  i have been a serious railroad modeler since 1983 and have done just about everything to recreate the prototype - the big shift in the hobby IMO is the desire to buy one's way to a layout without ever once doing anything more challeneging than write out a check or putting a loco on the tracks.

-Steve
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umtrr-author

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Re: Will model railroaders continue to further fragment?
« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2007, 03:35:21 PM »
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I'll be cheaper  :D.

Fragmentation and polarization, reflecting life at large.  

"Not only is my way better than yours, and you're an idiot for disagreeing with me, but I've talked to everyone I know and respect and they all agree with me."*

*Not necessarily my personal opinion.
 

John

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Re: Will model railroaders continue to further fragment?
« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2007, 04:43:25 PM »
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the solution is the one that has been with the hobby since the first model - build it yourself.  i'm not waiting for Atlas to re-run a PRR painted GP-30 - i can just paint one up and have my needs met.  there are plenty of decals out there to do just about anything.  you can also kitbash yourself silly.  i have been a serious railroad modeler since 1983 and have done just about everything to recreate the prototype - the big shift in the hobby IMO is the desire to buy one's way to a layout without ever once doing anything more challeneging than write out a check or putting a loco on the tracks.

-Steve

Steve .. N will never be a scratchbuilder scale like HO, Z, or S ... the majority of people who run N are probably content to operate what they get, without having to modify or improve. Good enough is the SOP.

wcfn100

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Re: Will model railroaders continue to further fragment?
« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2007, 04:58:31 PM »
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Eventually everyone will get so tired of not having any cabooses* they will have to move their interest to the modern era. :P

*insert your car here
89' flats
60' flats
modern (60's) tank cars
cabooses
cabooses
cabooses


Jason

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Re: Will model railroaders continue to further fragment?
« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2007, 06:08:42 PM »
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As long as there are people with money to spend and time on their hands, the MRR market will do well no matter how fine you slice it.  Absent some catastrophic event that radically changes the global economic climate, it will be the same 50 years from now, except RRing 1955 style will be a historical curiosity just as RRing 1905 style is today.  Everyone who remembers it will be gone.  What will be the hot conversation topic in 2050 you ask?  (Forget for a moment that everyone will communcate via brain wave telepathy by then and conversation will be no longer necessary  ;))  It will be steam's last stand, Chinese style, circa 1980.

Steve

wes_sutton

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Re: Will model railroaders continue to further fragment?
« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2007, 06:09:28 PM »
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......the big shift in the hobby IMO is the desire to buy one's way to a layout without ever once doing anything more challeneging than write out a check or putting a loco on the tracks.

-Steve

And what's wrong with that? At least it provides economies of scale for the manufacturers and allows a lot more people to enjoy the hobby. My schedule doesn't allow time for 'modelling' as such - you know, kids, wife, work, voluntary work et al. I have enough challenges without adding more to the list.

For the last few decades the scope of the hobby has continued to expand at a fast pace without any noticeable downward trends and looks like continuing to do so. If only the manufacturers (PCM are you listening) would make some sensible choices in their product choice.

I am surprised that the Z-scalers haven't jumped in yet - evidence that choice and diversity will see the hobby continue to expand.

When all us old farts with disposable (and not so disposable) incomes finally head for the great freight yard in the sky, then we will see whether the next generation take up the challenge or model railroading fades away and dies?

Wes
« Last Edit: February 20, 2007, 06:14:36 PM by wes_sutton »

up1950s

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Re: Will model railroaders continue to further fragment?
« Reply #9 on: February 20, 2007, 10:32:44 PM »
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Well its kind of like rock n roll . Born in '46 , I was here from its inception . In the early years there was one rock n roll . Now their are many distinct styles with each having a following . As time goes on , that same trend will continue .

All the scales of railroading will trend that way , as will most all hobbies that have era specific models .

TiVoPrince

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Re: Will model railroaders continue to further fragment?
« Reply #10 on: February 20, 2007, 11:39:07 PM »
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Every day
there is more to model.  Even the past is more acessable since more photos and history appear online everyday.  Fracturing of interests is a natural thing when there are so many valid paths to follow. 

Fanatacisim is what we need to avoid.  Those who would insist that one brand of locomotives was better than all others or that there is only one true way of doing things.  There are many paths to Nirvana, each of us must find our own...
Support fine modeling

wes_sutton

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Re: Will model railroaders continue to further fragment?
« Reply #11 on: February 20, 2007, 11:59:31 PM »
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........ there is only one true way of doing things.  There are many paths to Nirvana, each of us must find our own...

Smells like Teen Spirit to me Grasshopper!  ;D

Wes

tokenbrit

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Re: Will model railroaders continue to further fragment?
« Reply #12 on: February 21, 2007, 12:22:16 AM »
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There are many Nirvanas - I fragment my time between a number of hobbies & interests, and don't limit myself to a particular era or decade in model railroading... If in doubt, see rule 1.

elogger

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Re: Will model railroaders continue to further fragment?
« Reply #13 on: February 21, 2007, 02:18:35 AM »
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nice topic...

i guess compared to most here i'm relatively new to the hobby, being active for almost two years now... i got into this as something to do while out of town for work and i thought at the time that the pinnacle of model railroading was to own a layout... well, that's since changed, right now i don't really care if i ever own a layout... in fact i think i only own three locos and two are dummies... i'd rather just weather stuff... i'm probably a pretty small fragment of the hobby, but i'm here!

i think this is indicative of how many different aspects to this hobby there are... i think there's just about something for everyones tastes...

John

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Re: Will model railroaders continue to further fragment?
« Reply #14 on: February 21, 2007, 07:58:20 AM »
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right now i don't really care if i ever own a layout... in fact i think i only own three locos and two are dummies... i'd rather just weather stuff... i'm probably a pretty small fragment of the hobby, but i'm here!

You and the famous author Tom Mann ...a fragment of two ..