It’s Not Your Grandfathers Model Train Hobby Anymore, See What’s New!

It’s Not Your Grandfathers Model Train Hobby Anymore, See What’s New!

Model trains have been popular since the turn of the century. While they first became popular as children’s toys, they quickly gained the interest of adults as well, who enjoyed putting together railroad tracks, trains and the surrounding scenery and operating the trains across the tracks. As more adults became interested, model train and accessory manufacturers responded by creating more and more detailed train sets.

Computers Caught the Interest of Young People

Over the years, however, an interesting thing happened. The children who loved the model train hobby in the 1960s, 60s and 70s grew up and continued to be interested. Their children who grew up in the 1980s and 90s, however, grew up in an era of electronic games and computers and they either didn’t develop an interest in model trains or lost interest in them. Soon, they became young adults who thought of model trains as a hobby for their grandfathers.

Today’s Modern Model Train Hobby

In the last decade, however, interest in the model train hobby has seen a real resurgence among both children and young adults. At our Ithaca hobby shop, we’re seeing grandparents and grandchildren shopping together for model trains and accessories. A large part of this is due to the recent changes in the industry. Today’s model train hobby is NOT one your grandfather would recognize. There have been technological advancements, changes in materials and design and a focus on making model trains more user friendly and modern. The response has been an increased interest that continues to grow.

Computer Tie-Ins

Lionel recognized the appeal of computer games early on, and rather than try to fight this, they created tie-ins. You can buy wonderful, scale-model train sets from Lionel, then get video games such as City Builder 3D or Battle Train, successfully tying model building and computer gaming together. It’s a great way to pique a gamer’s interest in model trains. Our hobby shop in Ithaca, like others around the globe, began stocking a variety of name brands in response to the renewed interest.

Digital Technology

The rise of digital technology has also shaped the model train industry in innumerable ways. In earlier decades, it often took years of practice before someone working with model trains could operate multiple trains on multiple tracks. Adding realistic features like lights and sound and controlling them properly could be complex and difficult to master, leading to frustration.

With digital technology, it’s a simple thing to add special effects like light and sound to your model train setup and operating a detailed and elaborate system of many trains and tracks can be done with a relatively simple computer program. You can easily download the JAVA Model  Railroad Interface, an open source program, and use it on your personal computer to control your model railroad.

Model Train Options

Another shift in model train design has been the increase in various scales of model trains available. At our hobby shop in Tompkins County you can find a wide range of trains by Lionel, Atlas and Bachmann in various scales created to meet the changing needs of model train lovers. You can find standardized scales ranging from 1:220 to 1:12 depending on whether you want a setup in your garden, living room or basement. Each scale has countless accessories and features you can learn more about by visiting our shop. We’ll be happy to introduce you to the amazing array of options available to today’s model train enthusiasts.