How the hobby has changed!

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#1
I was rummaging through old copies of Model Railroading that I hadn't thrown out, and found one from October 1974! One article was on how to build a complicated steam loco boiler using styrene sheet. It involved cutting and wrapping various pieces to get the shape. The finished product was quite nice, though nothing was mentioned about adding weight inside the boiler shell, nor anything other than a photo of the mechanism used. Of course, even back then, you could buy rtr steam locos from Mantua or Bowser, and for the wealthy, brass locos from Japan and Korea. I bought Mantua rtr's and kits and kitbashed a number of them, re-motoring and adding a lot of details. I made 2-10-2's and 2-10-4's out of Mantua Mikados, a 4-8-2 from a Mikado and a Pacific front end, and even a 4-8-4 from a pair of Pacifics, all approximating Burlington steamers. (For those who criticized the Manuta Mike boilers for being straight-topped, take a look at C.B.&Q. O-2 and O-3's and others, plus MoPac hogs!)

Today, if you can find them on ebay, Mantua locos are hard to come by. Most of the rtr steamers are Bachmann or a very few other manufacturers, and the costs are pretty hefty when you include DCC and sound.
The engines are pretty detailed, of course, which means you don't have to invest in a lot of brass details, but I see virtually no "Q" or C&S models, and if you want GN Belpaire fireboxes, you have to find a Pennsy and modify the tender.

But, then, everybody has no time or patience to kitbash much anymore. :(
 

montanan

Whiskey Merchant
#2
This is so true. Years ago model railroader had to be inventors along with having many other talents. I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to have operated on John Allens G&D a few times in the late 60's when I was stationed at Mare Island on instructor duty. I had seen so many articles on his layout and then to see it in person I was blown away.

Back then there was no internet, no on line retailers, no where as many items available beck then like we have now. If you wanted something that wasn't available, you made it yourself, be it a structure, locomotive or whatever.

I had a good friend who had a fantastic layout, which he started in the late 40's Most of the structures on the layout were scratch built. Many of the locomotives and much of the rolling stock was heavily modified to his taste as there were few kits years ago that would work for him. When he expanded his layout by building an addition to the original building, he stopped by one afternoon and gave me a scratch built turntable that came out of a town that had to be torn out to make room for the expansion. It was (still is) powered by a motor from an old player piano.

People back then really had to be creative with the lack of things that we take for granted today in the hobby.

I still operate DC only on my home layout because DCC wouldn't be of much use for me as my layout is built for switching and I rarely run more than one locomotive at a time. Saves me a lot of bucks by not having to get a DCC system and put decoders intpo over 30 locomotives. I also can do just fine without sound. I do have a few DCC locomotives with sound and after they're running for a while, thay can drive me crazy.

By the way, I really enjoy kit bashing and scratch building.
 
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#3
But, then, everybody has no time or patience to kitbash much anymore.
Well, one can state that as a bad thing where people just don't take the time to do those sorts of things, but in my case... Through the last 50 years I've accumulated hundreds - maybe even thousands of kits, parts for scratch building, and kit bashing. My list of to do craftsman kits and kit bashing projects is easily in the 100s of things. I would still love to do most of them.

Side Story --- Found a box of an Athearn F7 that in 1984 I was going to make into a special shopped Santa Fe F3. Spent maybe 40 hours on it, filling in the gaping front windows, re cutting the side grills, filing off the roof beveled roof vents for Diesel Associates straight sides roof vents, etc. before it got put a side. Few years later the Highliner shells come out and all that work could be replace with a (at the time) $40 shell. So I spent 40 hours x salary of the time $22 hour = $880 working on that shell for a much lesser quality than the Highliner. Sigh. Wish I had that time back.

Now, back to the main story, I have all these projects lined up and realize even if I retired today and did nothing else but work on them, AND could do one a week, it would take longer than I have to live to get them done. If I ever want anything close to a semi-complete working layout such that I can at least run a train before I die, I really and literally don't have "time" for the kit bashing I had planned.
 
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NP2626

Active Member
#4
I love building kits, scratch building and kit bashing and find time to do it, as that is what I like to do in model railroading. My layout maybe has 60% of the scenery good enough and I could and do add scenery when the mood strikes. I also do some operation and running of trains. I'm having fun; but, do regret the loss of Branchline Blue Print and those types of kits and refuse to pay more than around $18.00 for any freight car kit (except wood caboose kits)! You guys who whine about not having the time, can have all the RTR stuff and pay $30-$50.00 a piece for them!
 

Greg@mnrr

Section Hand
#5
The hobby sure has changed in the years that I've been modeling since my Lionel days as a kid in the mid-1950's.

Leaving the three rail Lionel set behind I entered the world of HO and Model Railroader magazines. John Allen and the others...WOW.

Just a few memories from the early days:

Fiber tie flex-track, locomotive rubber band drives, 4X8 plywood layout tops painted green, Blue Box kits under $2.00, my first locomotive a 0-6-0, manufacture unknown, Revell kits, Life Like kits, plastic trees and crude power packs.

We have it made with today's products and selection.

Greg
 

Y3a

Stuck in the 1930's
#6
I liked Model railroading when I got serious in the late 1980's. For me, I WANTED TO LEARN NEW SKILLS. I learned how to airbrush, decal, make molds and produce castings, and I learned how to build and detail Bowser steam engine kits. I joined the Norfolk and Western Historical Society, and picked an era and location. I bought a bunch of Powerhouse Y3's and added details, Grain of Dust bulbs and MV Lenses and scratch built several N&W prototype structures. In 2005 I had a house with a loft for a 17' x 20' area for a train layout. Between 2004 and 2007 I was sidetracked by gold digging GF, who I later told to leave. My loco's all needed lube and attention, and same for rolling stock. I did the DCC thing and was disappointed. I would have rather built structures and detailed loco's but found I was spending too much time wiring in decoders on Brass steam. I even miss building the Jordan vehicles. Now, Bowswer is gone, Champ Decals is gone, and so are many hobby shops. I'm selling everything off. Science Fiction modelling has become my new hobby with all the photo etched stuff, and aftermarket parts and some really spectacular large kits. When the bench work comes down I can display the Sci-Fi stuff in the loft. Such thing as a 1/350 Star Ship Enterprise, Lost in Space Derelict, and Star Wars AT-AT and TV Seaview. Larger scale kits of the Flying Sub, Jupiter 2, Chariot, Both movie and TV show Seaview's with interiors, and a 1/6th scale Lost in Space Robot. Times have changed.
 
#7
And it will change even more in the next 10 years with barriers to newcomers falling:

- Affordable custom printed rolling stock

- Dead rail locomotives with full control steam effects and sound in HO and N. No more track/turnout wiring and cleaning.

- Intelligent turnout and accessory control with small in unit power supplies.

And things we cannot yet even contemplate.

You may not like the way model railroading will evolve but be prepared for change.
 

NP2626

Active Member
#8
And it will change even more in the next 10 years with barriers to newcomers falling:
You may not like the way model railroading will evolve but be prepared for change.
Dah! So, your opinion is that there are barriers for newcomers? What barriers? I see it as you need absolutely no skills to get involved today, the hobby has been dumbed down to the point of the only thing needed is deep pockets to pay for all the do-dads, as most everything is done for you! It was the development of skills that attracted me to the hobby, not the other way around.

The future will be what it will be, whether the hobby lasts; or, not is out of my hands and I have no interest in things changing any more than they already have!
 
#9
But, then, everybody has no time or patience to kit bash much anymore.


Well, one can state that as a bad thing where people just don't take the time to do those sorts of things, but in my case... Through the last 50 years I've accumulated hundreds - maybe even thousands of kits, parts for scratch building, and kit bashing. My list of to do craftsman kits and kit bashing projects is easily in the 100s of things. I would still love to do most of them.

... I have all these projects lined up and realize even if I retired today and did nothing else but work on them, AND could do one a week, it would take longer than I have to live to get them done. If I ever want anything close to a semi-complete working layout such that I can at least run a train before I die, I really and literally don't have "time" for the kit bashing I had planned.
And there you have it - many are like you above, will never have the time for years until retirement. Yet some characterize the world of RTR as the domain of the lazy, the "instant gratification" and speak disparagingly of these impatient unskilled miscreants. I don't expect to retire for another 8-10 years or longer and yes, would like to work toward a semi-complete working layout.

You guys who whine about not having the time, can have all the RTR stuff and pay $30-$50.00 a piece for them!
And we quite happily do. When I'm retired - obviously things will change but I'm making hay while the sun shines. Anyway, this is a great hobby with room for all stripes - it's not a matter of moral good or evil to love kit building or love RTR trains. I read a lot of negative vibes about this kit vs. RTR topic and it's unnecessary. Sure I realize the hobby is made up with grumpy old men, and that's how many are - and it makes me grumpy to have to listen to negative stuff when really we have it better now than we ever have. There is a wider variety of choices now than we ever have had - yet still people aren't happy.

Yes, the hobby has changed, but in a good way. If you want the old stuff you assemble with a ball peen hammer and duck tape and bailing wire, that can often be found by the boat load at train shows, and Ebay too. No reason for anyone to miss the "good ol days" - the "good ol days" are now if you learn how to take advantage of it all.

Greg is right, we have it made. As Harry Wong said: the hobby is insanely good these days.
 
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JazzDad

Gandy Dancer
#10
...

Back then there was no internet, no on line retailers, no where as many items available beck then like we have now. If you wanted something that wasn't available, you made it yourself, be it a structure, locomotive or whatever.

...
Or you ordered it from a paper catalogue, like Hobbies for Men. You mailed off your check and waited 6 - 8 weeks for your stuff to arrive.
 

montanan

Whiskey Merchant
#11
I do believe that the hobby has changed for the better. I of course had some Lionel trains, but also had an HO layout set up in my dads shop. Tyco and Varney were the big names back then. I was happy with what I had and I had my uncles and cousins who worked for the railroad bring me back little treasures.

After I first got out of the service, I was stuck living in an apartment and didn't having has operated on John Allens G&D while I was in the service, I had to have some trains and built a small N scale layout that could be slid under a bed. When my daughter was born, we decided to move back to Montana and built our home, with a basement for a train layout. The N scale layout was expanded and I had over 11 scale miles of mainline. Unfortunately, back in the 70's, locomotives had a lot to be desired. The N scale was torn out and I started my HO layout. I can't get over how N scale is today compared to back then, day and night.

I can relate to what Iron Horseman went through build his Santa Fe F-3. In the late 70's and early 80's, there was almost nothing being offered in HO scale for the Northern Pacific that was correct. I ended up custom painting and detailing some NP locomotives. Lotsa time and money for detail parts and painting. Now at least there is soe power being offered for the Northern Pacific.

Today there is also a wealth of structure kits available. I had to scratch build a number of structures because back then there was not a lot available. Look at the choice we have in not only locomotives today, but also the rolling stock. Back in the 70's and 80's to get a highly detailed freight car, I was building Silver Streak kits. Athearn blue box and round house were the big sellers back then. I scarfed up on a lot of undecorated blue box kits and custom painted than for my freelance railroad.

Look at the locomotives we have today. I had to put lot of time and work into my old Athern locomotives back then to get them to even approach how well todays locos run. (I will say that I am really hauu with the Atlas Alco units that they brought out some time in the 90's with the Kato drive as they run as well as anything on the market today).

DCC. Who would have thought about that 25 years ago. Although I still operte DC only, I have operated on very large layouts with DCC control, and it would have been so difficult to try to operate large numbers of trains at the same time with out DCC.

I think we have it pretty darn good.
 

Selector

Active Member
#12
Constant change is what living is about. Automobiles look nothing like they did when I began my military career 40 years ago. Who knew what a back-up camera would be 40 years hence? When did the first pulley-enhanced bow appear? Who purchases land-line phones these days? Medicine has changed, dentistry has changed, your tax system has changed, even framing for houses and their cladding have changed over the years.

About the only way to look at change is philosophically. Some wise folks tell us that we should not purchase or avail ourselves of items that make our lives easier. They end up making us less capable. That's why some philosophers and engineers warn us off the use of GPS in our cars because they make our brains lazy, less critical and analytical, and make our travels less efficient, even more risky as a few have learned the hard way. Yet, our hobby is meant to be a diversion. Few in it actually earn a living from it. How we define pleasure in any one pursuit is open to highly subjective reasoning. I can understand the reasoning behind those who had to hoe their hobby rows building things from materials and who did this because they found it rewarding. I can understand those who merely like watching trains run in ovals one year and in a figure 8 the next. If they're enjoying what they do, then the hobby is fulfilling its promises to them. If they want more, they can always do it. If they want less, that too.

I will say that the locomotives I see today are a far cry from what was available to those who didn't want to build theirs from scratch 50 years ago when my brothers and I got our Marklin HO train set one Christmas. Today's are more refined, more detailed, more realistic, and operate more realistically, even to the extent of making tinny sounds (not tiny sounds, tinny sounds). You couldn't have two steamers sitting on a ready track on your DC layout with one of them stationary and the second backing to couple up so that both could lead a consist out onto the ruling grade...not on the same segment of powered rails you couldn't. DCC lets us do that. That's a change.

We have 3D computers that let us copy the best brass locomotives we can buy. Maybe piece-by-piece, but in time, an imaging system and metal stock in a computerized machine will let us build anything we want.

Remember Dick Tracy? My CDN$290 Samsung Gear S2 wristwatch lets me receive emails and text messages, and respond to them, even while my smart phone is in my jacket pocket. Let's see your $1200 Movado from 1995 do that.
 

wombat457

Well-Known Member
Staff member
#14
How the hobby has changed ... just like everything else over the past 20 or 30 or so years - change is inevitable and even predictable. Change, in my opinion, isn't really the issue. It is what motivates the change that is the issue. Like most things, most changes are motivated NOT for the purpose of improving something, making it better, more reliable or more accessible but for the financial gains for the company that makes the changes. What are regarded as "changes" are no more than a modification of what already exists though. A reinvention of the wheel so to speak.

Years, decades ago, you could walk into a Toy Shop (remember them?) and buy a "Train Set". Take it home, set it up and bingo, in essence you have a layout. Train sets still exist and serve as a good way for someone to become involved in the hobby, to obtain an introduction to it. Nothing has changed.

So, what's changed really? Basically nothing. Sure, things have been improved, expanded upon and added to, resulting in things becoming more expensive and requiring "deeper pockets", but they are still the same fundamental basic things from years ago - track, trains, scenery and power.

The only thing that has changed, other than cost, is how "complex" the hobby has become, or at least how complex it can become. If you stick with the basic Train Set out of the box option, it is only as complex as connecting clip together track and plugging in a power source. Anything beyond that becomes the prerogative of the individual and THAT does depend on the persons skills, enthusiasm for the hobby, their willingness and ability to learn and, obviously, the depth of his or her pockets.

Sure, models have been "improved" made more realistic and we now have a larger choice and; therefore, more options. They (models) now come in a variety of ways, pre built, kit form or materials that allow a person to build from the ground up. Bottom line though is those things have been around for years.

To be honest, IF there have been any real changes, it is the options given us to make the hobby as easy, or as complex, as we choose it to be. To make it as expensive, or as cheap (relatively speaking) as we choose it to be. It now permits someone with absolutely no skills to enjoy it, learn from it and expand upon it just as easily as it allows you to require a Doctorate in Electronics and Computers to achieve your dreams and aims.
 
#17
Let's not forget brass track.
That is only if one was in HO scale and way behind the times. N-scale has always been nickle-silver, and I've been using nickle-silver in HO scale since the days of the Atlas fiber ties. The funny thing to me is that most of the people in the "throw the brass away" camp were Jonny-come-latey's to nickel-silver in the mid 1980s. Where were they the previous 20 years?
 

montanan

Whiskey Merchant
#18
I did have some brass track in the 50's when I was a kid, but when I started a layout in N scale after getting out of the service, Iron Horseman is right, it was NS rail. When I dumped the N scale for HO I was hand laying code 70 rail, nickle sivler was all that was available.

How about Kadee couplers over the old horn hook couplers.
 
#19
How about Kadee couplers over the old horn hook couplers.
I would be right there with the same argument. Kadee couplers have been around the entire almost 55 years I've been modeling. The proliferation of Kadee clones, due to the patent expiring speaks to the longevity of the existence of the product. Once again it is the Jonny-come-lately folks to the Kadee camp that are the most vocal about how horrible those other couplers were/are.

To me the change is get great number of advancements within the Kadee line. The variations of short shanks, long shanks, overset, underset, whiskers, different boxes to mount the couplers in, more scale knuckles, etc. have been the valuable change in this realm. When I started there was only (in HO) the #4 through #9. I remember people ranting that they could make a #5 work for everything. Huge waste of time in my mind, when instead of all the filing, triming, and modifications, they could have just dropped in a different size.

I wonder how long before the great modeling masses discover the Sergent's couplers, and think they are the coolest "new" thing, despite being on the market for what almost 20 years now?
 

montanan

Whiskey Merchant
#20
The knuckle couplers unfortunately did not come with HO scale locomotives or rolling stock until maybe the last 15 years or so ago. It was the old horn hook. When I was in N scale, the first thing I did was to changer over the Kadees. When I started my current layout in HO scale now probably over 30 years ago, again, the first thing that was done was to install Kadee's. When Sargent couplers first came out I did see a few articles about it, but unfortunately they didn't get the exposure that I think they deserved.

I had thought about changing over to them, but by that time I had so many locomotives and pieces of rolling stock already Kadee equipped, I had to pass. I will have to give Kadee a lot of credit for making the many different couplers as the Horseman mentioned to fit just about any locomotive or piece of rolling stock. I am not a fan at all on the plastic knock offs that are now common place. I have friends with large layouts, which do have some pretty good grades like mine does and plastic couplers sometimes jut can't handle the weight on grades.
 



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