Is time our hobby’s real enemy?

Posted by Bob Keller
on Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Forget video games. Is this the face of model railroading's real enemy?

Back in caveman days most of our gear was partially home brew. Buy a kit with some of the components and then spend a year putting it all together!

Opening the box and setting something on a train table: The way to go or is it a case of 'no pain, no gain?'

Personally, I like 'out of the box.'

What is the greatest foe to the hobby of model railroading?

 High prices?

 Video games?

 Young people who don’t know what’s good for them?

 Nope. To me, the biggest enemy to model railroading is time.

 But it isn’t just model railroading. Traditional hobbies, traditional print publishing, and even traditional television are reeling from systematic change that nobody really understands or knows how to counter (if it is preventable). Everyone is too busy today. I mean, how many folks have you known who have retired and some time later comment they are busier than when they were working?

 This came to me when I answered a survey in a Facebook group dedicated to a particular TV show. Ratings were uncomfortably low for and show that had been the most popular on that cable channel last year. The ratings were the traditional Neilson method.

 The survey asked how the group members viewed the show. The results were very interesting.

 Of 340 replies, roughly 42%-percent said they recorded it to watch later.

 38% watched it “live.”

 20% used Netflix or a streaming service.

 So 62% of their viewers did not sit down to watch the show when it was broadcast as scheduled, they watched it when they wanted to watch it. A comment seen frequently was “Who has the time to what it on that night/that time?” So if people are too busy to block time on a certain night for a TV show they are invested in, what other inferences might we draw for our hobby?

 You can model a railroad at whatever level you want. Some hobbyists spend years getting the scenery right, others slap down some paint and cork roadbed and get to it.  So the more intimidating a hobby appears, it will probably get scratched off the checklist of things to do. Getting started quick may have more appeal than the prospect of spending years to get the color of your trees right.

 For years the two rail crowd (no, not you Flyer guys, you know who I mean) seemed to be amused that our avocation was more an out-of-the-box hobby.

I knew a fellow in Seattle who was an HO operator. His layout was simply a very large oval. He had one locomotive, I believe it was a Missabe 2-8-8-4, 100 ore cars, and a caboose. No decoration, no stations, not even a watering tower. Just sectional track on cork roadbed.

 I asked him if he got a discount on ordering 100 ore cars. He laughed and said he bought them in small batches “It took years because I made each of them from a kit!”

 He was rightfully proud and it was quite a skillful accomplishment, but I thought he was totally crazy to have put that much time into assembling 100 cars by hand. For me, running the trains sooner was more important than even trying to complete a museum grade layout – or hand cobble a specific train yourself.

 Opening a package and setting something in a town, or on a track, is a time saver indeed. If the standard in model railroading was assembling your own rolling stock, I’d have stuck with collecting British coronation tea cups and plates!

I’ve assembled quite a few structure kits, Lionel, Marx, K-Line, Woodland Scenics, the old W. K. Walthers line, and my favorite, the Design Preservation Models (DPM) panel system. They were fine and I enjoyed the process, but if I needed to build everything from a kit, I’d be modeling the desert division of the New York Central. It would all be flat and sand colored.

As it is, I’m backlogged on projects I want to do because all that darned mowing, snow blowing, laundry and other tasks keep getting in the way.

So let me ask our readers: Do you think the amount of time needed to do model railroading to YOUR standards, not necessarily what you see in a magazine, is excessive or not?

And if it causes a time crunch, how do you cut corners to get mowing, chores, work, kid’s soccer, and an assorted list of honey-do’s AND your train hobby to co-exist peacefully?

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