David, and Bob; ongoing observation
This inquiry has brought to mind, an observation, actually a continuous observation, that the part of the model railroading, called anything from "G Scale, G Gauge, #1 Gauge, etc, right through to Garden Railroading, and even the general term LARGE SCALE…even LGB Scale; has been rather trendy.
Large scale has been around much longer than when LGB became involved, and was a very small part of the hobby, until it was promoted by LGB, and spread out almost world wide, and as it grew it attracted a rather broadly diverse interest group, but few of them were what are known as true MODEL railroaders. A great number were basically collectors, ex Lionel types, “Animation in the garden” and sometimes called “Social Railroaders”. None of these descriptions are meant, in any way to insult anyone. All are free to enjoy a hobby or interest of some kind in a way best suited to their enjoyment in life.
Interest in the “Large Scale” part of the hobby, over the last 5 years has rather quickly declined, forcing manufacturers to fail (Aristo), or cut back production. Some have just closed up shop. Hobby Shops; those that still exist, found a dwindling supply, or lack of demand for LS equipment…then along came the pandemic…
Why did interest in the LS part of the hobby dwindle…?
Lots of observations come to mind, that support what has happened.
A_W_N_U_T_S was a light hearted, good natured way of looking at the hobby. It helped to try to influence people to not take themselves, and their hobby too seriously. It meant to bring cheer and a bit more FUN into all our lives. It did a rather good job, I think.
Too many people who were drawn into the LS hobby were older, retired people, reignited into the hobby, partly as automation in a small garden, or trying to interest grand children into a hobby they always wanted in their own youth, but not looking at it as their hobby, to actually share with children and young adults whose interests were easily governed by peer pressure, or lack of true support from busy parents with no time for hobbies.
“Social Railroaders” just watched trains running in circles while enjoying beverages, food and conversations, but with little interest in the hobby of “RAILROADING”, based on the interest in modelling parts of the rail transportation industry; soon got bored, and moved off to senior homes, condominiums, or apartments, where LS was too large to accommodate much more than a 2 foot loop around a plastic Christmas tree.
Large Scale train clubs are another area, of debate. Again, there are few of them that still are greatly active, even out of doors they are very concerned with the pandemic, and rightly so. Indoor clubs were worse hit…but being members of a club, greatly influences what you can or cannot do to really satisfy everyone’s full interest, past the basic a track that you can run around Giant/Large/Moderate, small loops or a series of loops of different size…always in the same direction, mind…usually based on powered track, or very strictly live steam. The only possible move towards “Modelling” the operation of a railroad" would be of “Long Unit Trains” or possibly “Long Distance passenger trains” which for all intents a purposes, can be represented by any LARGE loop that provides continuous running. This is without even trying to model what happens to a train of cars when it gets to the end of its run…they don’t just put the cars back into their boxes, and run off home for dinner…!!!
Clubs often exist as providers of “Display Layouts” to attract people to bring their children out for a “Day at the museum, or with Thomas”, but generally fail to attract many to the hobby, due to peer/parental pressure towards Sports of Competitive activities, which are not likely to become lifetime hobbies, as was Model Railroading in past generations. The most common question asked by children these days of what they observe is “What else does it do” after watching a train of any scale, continuously running in circles…you know then that you have lost their interest.
Yes, there still is, and always will be stories of SUCCESS. Children, young adults, adults and retired people enjoying Large Scale Model Railroading. But…we have to progress past the stage of a life of just "Running in circles, on or off the track…! " We have to put a bit more “Modelling” into “Large Scale”…don’t let yourself, or your club limit the knowledge of RAILROADING, past and present…do research, educate your members about what RAILROADING is all about…and help educate the children and young adults how TRAINS effect their lives every day, whether they see them or not…that’s what might help to start the hobby of MODEL RAILROADING in any scale back into good health…throw in a bit of the style of A-W-N-U-T-S, to keep fun in it…Safety, can also be part of the education…anywhere near or on railroad tracks/crossings…is VERY IMPORTANT.
If anyone has avoided being bored by my long spiel…Pleas read on just a bit more…
No-one should take offence from my observations, or suggestions…I’m sure many will find fault with much of what I have written.
I only hope I have opened up a GOOD conversation working towards promoting new ideas on how to revive OUR hobby, for everyone to enjoy it; each in their own way, and to keep it alive for others to enjoy, as WE ALL try to introduce them to a great hobby.