WMRC Vice President wrote a poignant and thought provoking essay on the future of model railroading, which was published in the 2015 summer special edition of The Lantern, the official publication of the WMRC. We are posting it in its entirety.
By Dave Downie
One of the the things that I've been amazed at has been the pace of change in our hobby. Most of us got our start in the hobby many years ago when the pace of life and changes in technology were a lot slower. Looking back just over the last 2 decades, I'm amazed at how everything has changed. Some of these changes have been improvements while other changes, have not been for the best.
Who could have imagined the affect that technology would have on our hobby? The Internet has changed the way we communicate, conduct research and purchase supplies. This has had a serious affect on hobby shops and publishing companies to name just two examples. Another significant change has been the dramatic increase in the average age of model railroaders as the hobby fails to attract new participants.
Not everything that has taken place over the last 20 years has been negative. Far from it. Looking at the quality and variety of new products entering the marketplace, we could say that we are in the middle of the greatest period that the hobby has ever seen. Consider Digital Command Control (DCC), locomotives with sound, manufacturers like Rapido, Fast Tracks and others that supply products that we could only dream about 20 years ago.
The question that I ask is: What is Model Railroading's Future?
Because of the aging demographics, we may reach a point where it may not be financially feasible for retailers and manufacturers to remain in business if the market for model railroad supplies shrinks rather than grows.
The solution of course is to attract new people into the hobby. This is easier said than done. Research has shown that the hobby attracts fewer teenagers today and that many new model railroaders are now older than 30 who are now established with careers and families. Many of these people never had a train set as a kid and were raised in a generation with computers and video games. With the decrease in the number of hobby shops, the hobby's public exposure is decreasing, not increasing. This creates more challenges for the hobby.
So what can we do?
We need to ensure that the hobby gets exposure.
The WMRC is leading the way to promote the hobby and, as club members, we all have a role to play. The executive is committed to create a friendly and respectful environment where all people with an interest in the hobby can enjoy themselves while participating in club activities.
Our blog site has been up for less than 2 years and has had over 53,000 visits from people all over the world. This gives an insight to the club and the hobby that wasn't possible 20 years ago. We need to build on this exposure.
The clinics that are held at our monthly meetings need to cover all aspects of our wonderful hobby. Each member probably has a technique that they use to build models or their layout. Consider putting on a clinic. Your efforts will be appreciated.
We have a terrific location for our meetings in the basement of the Charleswood Legion. Invite a family member or friend to attend as a guest. We are not an elitist club, we are a friendly club.
The Gateway Western layout within the Winnipeg Railway Museum has created a great opportunity for the club because it will not only showcase the hobby and club to the museum's visitors but it allows members the opportunity to participate in the construction of the layout. What better way to contribute to the club's legacy by building something at the Gateway. Every Tuesday night the “work crew” is at the Gateway. Come on out and participate. What better way to learn than by participating. You will also make new friends. I should also tell you that the Gateway is now open for members to operate. Bring out some equipment and run some trains. Come on out on a Tuesday and learn the protocol to getting access to the layout.
WMRC club members participate in the Manitoba Mega Train Show, Doors Open Winnipeg, Railway Days at the Winnipeg Railway Museum and host our own WMRC Open House to promote the hobby. These are great opportunities to showcase our hobby. We ask all members to help out.
It is up to all of us to help promote our great hobby. The WMRC is 60 years old and we have a rich history. Our current members will have a tremendous impact on the club's future and the hobby's future in Winnipeg.
What can you do to help out?