A model train show is a great way for me to meet and greet potential customers. I regularly participate as a vendor at model train shows, and, chances are, if you’re reading this, you’ve probably been to a model train show or two yourself.
You probably also know people who are not into railroading like you are. They probably have some wrong-headed notion of what we’re all about, based upon some strange uncle they may have had who seemed to live in his basement watching trains go round and round. If you really want to amaze one of your acquaintances who get a glazed look in their eyes when you talk about trains, drag them to a model train show so they can see for themselves the incredible diversity, not only in the participants, but also what is being offered. I’ve been around awhile, and I’m still amazed by at least a couple of things each time I go to a model train show.
Amazing variety of “stuff” at a model train show
OK, so we’ve got “electric” trains. Think of all the many different gauges. You can have an elaborate layout that fills your basement, or fits in a briefcase. There are also huge differences in quality (and cost), from the basic set that runs under the Christmas tree to individual highly detailed locomotives costing thousands of dollars.
Maybe you’re into modeling a world for your trains to run in. You’ll need everything: houses, barns, fire stations, fire hydrants, no parking signs, telephone poles, dogs (all breeds), cats, birds, cows, people, cars, grass, rocks, water, drive-in movies, garbage cans…well, the list goes on. At a model train show, you can buy many of these things ready-made, in various sizes and quality. Or you can buy kits, or parts to make them. Or you can buy the materials to make the parts, so you can make the object. You get the idea.
A model train show offers much more than trains!
Moving away from model railroading, we are also interested in collecting things, like dining car china, timetables, maps, conductor’s punches, bells, whistles, locks, railroad watches, lanterns, tickets, calendars, paintings, photographs, engineering plans, printed items such as napkins, towels, pillow cases, matchbooks, stationary, waybills, pens, pencils, glassware, advertisements, etc.
Yard Goat Images creates and sells DVDs. There are lots of DVDs for sale here at a model train show too. Railroad DVD subjects include many about modern-day freight parades past a particular location, or about a segment of a railroad, or in a part of a city or state. Some DVDs focus on a particular type of diesel engine, or diesel engines from a particular manufacturer, or diesel engines of a particular railroad. Other DVDs are made for casual railfans who are interested in railroading but not in any particular part of it. Another segment of the DVD industry presents programs originally
shot in 16 mm by railfans who came before us, or sometimes professionally by photographers employed by the railroads, or by railroad film icons such as Emery Gulash. And then of course, there’s good old Yard Goat Images, specializing in present-day steam engines performing on mainline excursions, special events, and museum operations.
Who goes to a model train show?
Let’s move on to the people who attend rail shows. I think they are some of the most interesting and genuinely friendly people on earth. First, there are the little kids, many in strollers who are way too young to understand much about trains, but are mesmerized by watching the TV screen with a steam locomotive or a model train going around a loop. They are there with Mom & Dad or the grandparents. If they come with the grandparents, they each get one of those wooden train whistles to take home to entertain Mom & Dad. Many of these kids are tomorrow’s “us”. Many of “us” got trains into our blood by being mesmerized somewhere, somehow… and here we are. If you want to see our railroad heritage preserved after we’re all long gone, then “Thomas” should be your friend, too.
I’m always very excited to see the “Mod” displays, where each modeler is responsible for a section of trackage and scenery. At events like model train shows, the modular units are all hooked together and trains roll.
The part that excites me is seeing all the teenage and young adult club members who are among this segment of rail enthusiasts. They’re using the high tech knowledge they grew up with and applying it to our “electric” trains, resulting in far more realistic operation.
I enjoy watching some of the seasoned hobbyists at the model train show. They know what they want and where to get it. They arrive early and head to the sellers they’re interested in, and make their purchases. If you’re selling something they’re not into, they barely glance as they hurry by. But afterward as they walk past with their packages, they might slow down, sometimes even get into a conversation. I enjoy this because I learn where they grew up, how they got interested in trains, what part of the hobby fascinates them, how much “stuff” they have, and some of their other interests. Many are current or former railroad employees, or the son or daughter of a rail worker. I found that many rail enthusiasts also have other passions, such as ham radio, old cars, steamships, airplanes, samurai swords, motorcycles, guns, computers, etc.
Well, I hope I haven’t offended anyone. I just think we are all lucky to have found one or two things about railroading to fall in love with, and make it a lifelong passion. Mine is steam….I love it.
It all seems to come together at a model train show!
Steve Mitchell, Yard Goat Images