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Keeping my son interested

  • My son who is 9 and I are going to start the wonderful hobby of model railroading this weekend. I have posted in other forums about what to look for and how to start. We are going to start very small. 4' x 8' HO scale.

    My question: My son will become bored with this since we are starting slow. We will be building on scenery as we go along but what will keep him interested while we slowly build? He likes to do something besides watch the train go around in circles. Is there away to interact with cars or cranes or something while we build on scenery? Any ideas?

    thank you.
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  • Dear rcar,

    My sons are 7 & 10 and they have a lot of fun with our small layout. They like to drive their "hot wheels" type cars on roads, operate their "Cranky the Crane" from Bachmann to load and unload trains, etc.

    My 10 year old also adds, "let him help with the scenery and let him run it as soon as the track is set up"

    I've let both my sons "play" with the layout, even if it means reattaching wires, resetting tracks, occasional damage to scenery and buildings, etc. Best to remember that the play value of this layout is in the playing, not standing back and looking at a fine scale diaroma (I get a little frustrated, but they are happy to play and play for hours even if I need to reinvest my time in "fixing" stuff).

    Here is a link to photos of our layout (when we cleaned it up for the photos, it is usually a little more messy):

    Hope this helps
  • Thanks paulsaftey, I agree, let the kids have fun. My son was busy today making lego bridges and tunnels over the track. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. Got to love the imagination.
  • Your response reminded me of something I read when starting our layout - kids really love it when the train disappears thru tunnels, and they love to see them go through truss bridges (the train flashing by through the girders, etc. makes it look like it is going really fast, etc.).

    We included a tunnel and a bridge on the layout for those reasons, and these are two of the favorite areas to run (or push) the trains.

    Also, TYCO used to make action cars - mostly found on EBAY from time to time - box cars that spit out boxes, search light cars, etc.[:p]

    I've often thought that while a little "corny" for a "grown up" layout, these would be great for a kids layout and a lot of fun to operate with a bunch of big push buttons along the edge of the layout......[?]

    Good Luck![:)]
  • QUOTE: Originally posted by rcar

    My question: My son will become bored with this since we are starting slow. We will be building on scenery as we go along but what will keep him interested while we slowly build? He likes to do something besides watch the train go around in circles. Is there away to interact with cars or cranes or something while we build on scenery? Any ideas?

    I'd take him railfanning and read MR and the Walther's catalog with him. The dreaming and planning are half the fun. Give the RR a theme and set it up for operation to make it interesting. Decide on a favorite prototype with him involved and then model that railroad. Go to trainshows and watch train videos with him. Set aside a night (or nights) each week to run trains when the RR is operational so he'll have something to look forward to.
  • Tough question - I have two nephews who do trains. My brother builds cars with them, and isn't critical about the glue smears. So they enjoy it. And if stuff breaks off during handling on 'pre-built' cars he doesn't fuss them. I don't think the manufacturers for the most part encourage kids to be involved. Many kits are too detailed (too many small and 'picky' parts and precision drilling) for a kid (and maybe some adults, including me)to assemble, or they come pre-built and loaded with detail, because that's what adult buyers want. Part of the fun of trains is building the stuff, sticking it on the track and running it. There's not much satisfaction in ready-made.

    I don't think the problem is confined to model railroads. It's just a general cultural decline in an interest in building things which take time. In the town close to me, with a population of about 100,000, there is one 'real' music store (with sheet music, instruments, guitar strings, etc), one store which as part of its inventory, has paints and a limited selection of plastic models (not including Walmart, which doesn't count), and one store which offers a limited selection of darkroom supplies for photography. On the other hand there are 10 stores which offer computer games and a dozen computer stores. Pretty big competion for model railroading.

  • When my boys were about that age- I build them (I really mean us) an HO layout-my thought/design/goal was a inexpensive Lionel O gauage Toy Train of my childhood-lots of log drops/flashing crossing guards/milk jug movers/working coal tripple (what's coal Dad?) etc-ie things for the kids to do and don't worry too much about scale/realism-let's face it Lionel never did-I also put an "HO" (1/64th actually but close enough) road race track in the layout-made buliding/scenes from their favorite cartoons/ video/game etc. Like most kids, they lost interest in a year or two-its hard to compete with video games. But so did we as kids, our Lionel layout was put away and the 4 x 8 sheet of plywood repainted into a Ping Pong table-but to this day, I can close my eyes and see that layout! and I still have the trains. Do it- keep it basic and understand kids will be kids and drift off to something new but they will remember the layout and the time you spent together.
  • when westley was almost 7, i got him a trainset and a bunch of extra track for christmas. it started on the floor, and developed from there as needed. we got about six years in before he got a paintball gun and joined the militia.

    the predominate attitude i kept was it was his trainset, and he was the "ideaman", and it was my job to help expedite some of those ideas. everything ended up broken eventually, and we made repairs together. so far, so good.

  • I have a 3 yo daughter who loves trains.

    Granted she's 3, but I've also wondered the best way to keep her "interested". I know that school and boys will come to the forefront.

    I had thought, if I get my layout started and "help" her with hers, but always working on mine ('cause I don't think they're ever done), it would still draw some attraction. Along with watching, from several family members' yards, I thought this would keep her (and siblings, grandkids ??) interested without being "pushy" by trying to keep them interested in my thing, and let them learn their own.

    Pac NW BNSF
    Pac NW BNSF dsb77
  • My boy is just turning 2 and is the reason I have dusted-off my old Lionel sets. We live near some tracks and he has become obsessed with the sound of "choo-choos". I bought some FastTrack as the old track was pathetically pitted and dirty , but the engines run fine now that I am cleaning them and such. To think I almost sold them on eBay this year! For now , he loves it and it is wonderful to share in his excitement. Although I am sure he will be off to other things soon, I am sure it will register with him and he will come back to it as he grows, just like I did.

    One thing I have noticed since getting the set working is the memories of my father it has brought back. He passed away earlier this year and they are great memories to have stirred. Resurrecting a childhood hobby that still works for me as an adult is proving to be great fun. The smell of the smoke, the smell of the engines, etc. Hopefully it will make the same mark on my boy and perhaps provide some fond memories for him in the future.

  • Some quick and easy steps you need to know.
    Step 2: Just as they start to get bored with it get them some switches, track, scenery etc
    Step 3: Give them some more scenery, trains rolling stock, etc (and some operating scenery ie load dumper, operating level crossing
    Step 4: if intrest continues you can pin it on a board and keep adding. it is muck easier to pin it down when mostly complete rather than your first oval. a figure 8 set is better though, if it has a "over and under bridge. it also has more track.
  • Make a train operation schedule and loading and unloading times that is fun and interresting.
    I like NS but CSX has the B&O.