I like model trains, do you like model trains?

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Pacific Historian
Jun 4, 2005
Orange County, CA
"Potter" puts model trains back on track - Yahoo! News

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sales of model trains are picking up steam again thanks to deals linking them to the "
Harry Potter" and "The Polar Express" movies, along with a new approach to marketing the old-fashioned toys.

Lionel, one of the big names in model trains in the 1950s, has watched as its business had to focus less on selling toys to kids than serving an older but much smaller hobbyist market. Folk-rock singer
Neil Young, 61, is so passionate about trains that he bought a fifth of the company in 1995.

Now, the company is bringing trains back to young people, and sales are up 40 percent in the last two years.

Lionel signed deals to bring out "Harry Potter" and "The Polar Express" trains, and filled shelves at department stores such as Macy's and Target, instead of just hobby shops.

"We're a resurgent brand based on nostalgic appeal," said Jerry Calabrese, chief executive of Lionel.

Last Christmas, the company advertised toy trains as the ultimate gift by setting up displays at Macy's Santaland and Grand Central Terminal in New York. Forty percent of Lionel's sales of $70 million in 2006 came during the Christmas season.

This sort of advertising is as much geared to children as it is to parents who remember Christmas train displays when they were young, said Andy Edleman, vice president of marketing for MTH Electric Trains.

MTH sells its trains with promotional DVDs and catalogs that portray parents and children enjoying trains together.

"We almost make them feel guilty," Edleman said, before adding that "people would prefer family participation and nostalgia" to things like Game Boys and PlayStations.

Companies such as Lionel and MTH also showcase their products at events like the World's Greatest Hobby on Tour. The show has attracted roughly 290,000 attendees in 11 cities since it was established in December 2004, said Dave Swanson, chairman of the tour.

At the show, children can play with Thomas the Tank Engine toys and ride giant trains while parents can run locomotives using wireless handheld devices.

"Our company and others are trying to infuse trains with as much technology as possible," Edleman said.

For example, in most MTH starter sets, a single handheld throttle allows users to command multiple engines and tracks.

Users can control the amount of smoke coming out of a locomotive and track the number of scale miles (km) a train has traveled. There is downloadable software to program new sounds and features into trains.


Mark Guiffre, 34, a member of the West Island Model Railroad Club in Long Island, N.Y., said that such technology had made model railroading better, partly because users can run trains and switch tracks just by punching a few buttons.

It's ideal for young people because they do not want to spend a lot of time assembling the train sets, said Brett Einhorn, 16, of West Babylon, N.Y.

"They just like to run them," he said.

The West Island club tries to bring in new members by holding several shows each November.

"Fathers bringing their kids to the club is the most important part of model railroading," Guiffre said.

Lionel's golden years lasted from the mid-1940s through the 1950s, according to "Toy Train Collecting and Operating," a book by train expert John Grams.

Sales started dropping in the 1960s because of company mismanagement and the decline of trains as a mode of transportation. In 1969, Lionel found a steady market in baby boomer collectors who fell in love with trains as children.

But these hobbyists aren't getting any younger.

"Our membership is getting about 10 months older on average per year," said Jeff Pape, 61, a member of the Columbia Gorge Model Railroad Club in Portland, Ore. "We're up against trends in culture. If you have a job, that job consumes you. There are less vacation hours, less ability to get a day off."

Kelly Shaw of Classic Toy Train magazine estimates that the average age of the publication's readership is 59.

Dick Christianson, managing editor of Model Railroader magazine, said the resurgence in trains would probably start up a whole new, younger generation of model railroaders.

"One day they'll remember they had a train as a kid and say, 'Hey, I wonder if Mom has that in her attic somewhere'," he said.
I always wanted that hole in the middle, but never got it. Talk about hours of fun though! Growing up near Milwaukee, they actually had a model train swap meet in those days, sponsored by Model Railroader magazine. I used to go and get stuff there all the time.
Evans, did you know that there are 4 to 5 model railroad swap meets in the Los Angeles area every year?

They even invite the local railroad clubs to set up their layouts and put on a show for everyone. Some of these layouts are HUGE!

I need to post my pictures from the last show I was at.
I need to take pics of my wifes uncles basement. His whole basement he has built into a landscape with running water and hills and roads and tunnels. He has about 10 different trains that run on it and even has a subway system that goes underground. It has cameras inside the tunnels and the subway system so he can control them underground and watch them from the camara. The Subways stations even have underground stops with passengers standing on the sides and sitting on benches. It is really neat.

He also has the whole train system set up to a computer so he can run them from his "Train Station". He can change the tracks and make them go and stop and everthing with the click of a mouse.

Next time I go and visit I will take some pics. The problem is, once he gets it going it takes hours to get out of the basement.
Deradler....GET US SOME PICS!!!!!!!!

That sounds like a great layout he has and I would love to see it.

It could be months before I go down there again, but I will get you some pics.

Its funny to watch the guy though. He puts on a train conductor outfit and hat and all and goes to town for hours with his trains.
When I was younger I had a some models of trains made myself ( Pt47 for instance) and I was given The PICO set at Christmas.As memory serves it was always a good fun to play with it. :D
Im into model trains as well. Im in a club and we are now finishing the scenery on our HO layout. The railroad that I model is Union Pacific.

Send me some pics of your club's layout.

I work with a couple of guys who model the UP for their HO club.
Had a small layout on a 4X8 sheet of plywood with an HO scale military train. Lionel engine, and cars that included the following:

Flatcar with US Army roadgrader
Flatcar with M4 Sherman tank
2 - false box cars with fold-down sides containing to two Flak 88s inside each one :cool:

Also had numerous HO (!/87th scale) military trucks, vehicles, tanks, tank transporters, Honest John missile launchers, you name it. Oh to be 8 again. I still have the train somewhere. Wish I had the vehicles. They were VERY expensive. A local hobby shop had a huge display case that must have had a couple of hundred different vehicles to choose from to compliment your trainset.
Adler....pics of your uncle in law's basement would be very nice to see.

Have you guys seen the prices of some of the RR stuff? I saw HO engines for $100.....$200.....and $300. FOR HO SCALE!!!! Wow. I guess I'll just have to admire other people's work. Too pricey for me.
There are some hand made "brass" HO scale steam locomotive's that go for $2000. And thats without paint!
And my point. $2k and you paint it. Not my kind of hobby.

That would be like collecting an authentic Colt Single Action and parkerizing it. Attack of the killer fromage!

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