The Hobby Shop of today!

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Well-Known Member
We should probably keep in mind that On-Line hobby retailers likely have something to do with the demise of the Brick and Mortar traditional hobby shop!


Section Hand
Many of the surviving Brick and Mortar hobby shops are heading toward more and more on line sales, just like the retail shops found in today's shopping malls. I can name several railroad orientated hobby shops that I have experience with that offer great service both in person and on line.



Whiskey Merchant
Unfortunately, I have no hobby shops at all in my area. The closest is in Billings, 150 miles away. It is an all train hobby shop, but I am now to the point where what I need is detail items which they carry very little of and have to special order plus I would have to pay full retail.

Years ago there was a Hobby Town here, but they had almost nothing in the way of trains. Thankfully, internet retailers came on the scene and I have been able to move forward. No more room for structures and no more room for track. I have more than enough rolling stock, although I do have an occasional weak moment at our train show which is coming up at the end of the month, but I really find very little that I really need.

As Greg mentioned, many hobby shops are also heading more towards internet sales. He put me in touch with one in Milwaukee that was outstanding. I saved over $100 when I bought mt Walthers Mainline F-7, plus the owner programmed the units for me. Outsranding service. Louis also mentioned that MB Klein now has a very small retail area, although everything they have is available. I have called them for assistance in the past looking for an item and they were extremely helpful and were able to find what I needed.
A really good friend of mine used to own Baker's Hobby in St. Cloud, Minnesota. He sold it around ten years ago, the guy he sold it to, pretty much ran it into the ground, it was rescued and sold again, purchased by the "Hobby Town" Franchise. I visited this hobby shop about a month ago...[trimmed]
Down in the Twin Cities, have you made it to Scale Model Supplies in St. Paul? It's a huge place in a former bowling alley, half plastic kits, half trains. They have stuff that's been sitting there for 20+ years, including a large selection of Athearn blue box, pre-Walthers Proto's, and more. They've even got a bunch of unopened Athearn SE sets that I keep thinking of buying and selling somewhere....

When I get a chance, I'll try and respond to the rest of the discussion on the current state of hobby shops.


Well-Known Member
No I haven't, I try to stay away from the Cities, even though that is where I was born and raised. When I do go down there, I tend to stay around the Bloomington area.
I'm lucky in that there are a several local model railroad shops around. Granted, local for me is within an hour. But the shops are there for me. Three of them are really good. Two others, so-so.

Whenever I travel, I try to visit hobby shops where I go. In some places, the last hold out is all there is and it's in sad shape. I highly encourage people to take their copy of MRR or RMC with them when they travel. Plan a trip to the advertisers in the back of the magazine. Buy something.

Do I buy off Ebay or the internet? Yes, but I try to find ways to buy local first. When the Bachmann 4-6-2 K4S Streamlined came out, I found a deal and got my local hobby shop to match it.

If the local hobby shop is to be saved, it's up to us. Do your part.
As far as hobby shops go , where I live there are now none . All gone . Within my State , Tasmania , Australia there are only two of note now . McCanns in Hobart and Nick's Hobby Shop in Sorrell ..Nick's Hobby shop , I'm told now refuses to mail orders out .You must buy in store. I live three hours away so that rules them out now if that's correct . I've bought a few things from McCanns here and there and got some 40ft stack containers there about a year ago and some model cars for scenes . My nearest city is Launceston with a population of about 100,000 with not one single hobby shop although a couple of the toy shops carry a little bit of stuff . Birchalls carried a fair bit of train gear in it's heyday and as a kid I recall being in awe of some of the train sets. Later on plastic model kits for ships , planes , cars etc and also remote control gear . Totally gone now . Tiger Models and Hobbies were quite big and ran hobby events regularly for many years . Also gone completely now .

Internet/ EBAY/Amazon is purely and simply the reason . Retail that pay staff in smallish markets cannot compete . The only way I got into the hobby as I have is exactly for that reason too . My first foray was an N Scale Bachmann Thunder Valley set that cost me $80 ish . Soon after i bought a Rocky Mountain set to go along with it .Then I discovered HO and found my true scale . Also Bachmann allowed me into HO at a price I could afford . A lot criticise brands like Bachmann but if it wasn't for EBAY and Bachmann I would have missed out on this amazing hobby .

Now I have Athearn Genesis , Intermountain , Atlas , Broadway Limited , MTH and a Kato but also many Bachmann's . Hobby stores are a bit like petroleum powered cars . We'll always love them , remember them fondly but know that it's inevitable that they will be replaced over time .

I found this British video on the model rail pricing too . Curious to how North American hobby fans see this bloke's opinions .

... The core question on all this is what's best for the hobby in general I think .
If anything, online E stores are a boon to the modelers or potential modelers that live far from any brick and morter store. Or the ones busy with family, 2 jobs and precious little free time to even drive to a close by shop. But they have a smart phone and can order while at break or lunch time at work, or while rocking their baby to sleep. What is probably more troubling for even e stores are more and more manufactures are going to direct to customer sales. This can really undercut even the E stores. While its not wide spread yet, I see more of it each year. Most of my larger purchases have been at shows or online while on break at work. But with the downturn in the auto industry, we have having down weeks at my employer, so most of my buying has come to a screeching halt for now. Mike


Well-Known Member
A "Boon" to me means that whatever would be a "Boon", is so much better! Online hobby retailers, to me are not better, they just are how it is, now. I would much rather walk into a "Brick & Mortar" hobby shop, find what I need, purchase it and take it home and use it right now, as opposed to waiting for it to be shipped to me. The "Brick and Mortar" Hobby Shops could do something about their fall from grace, by having better inventories that attract customers to their doors! Don't tell me that due to modern business practices they can't function like this. This is how it was previous to Online stores! The Hobby Town in St. Cloud Minnesota, the imputious that started this thread, used to be a much better hobby shop than it is now, as it has selected a focus (Radio Control) like most of them have done and if the focus isn't your hobby, you are out!
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If the local hobby shop is to be saved, it's up to us. Do your part.
I would much rather walk into a "Brick & Mortar" hobby shop, find what I need, purchase it and take it home and use it right now, as opposed to waiting for it to be shipped to me.
No, it's not up to us to save the local hobby shop, we, (meaning the consumer), have no vested interest in saving someone else business.

LHS are no different than Sears. Sears collapsed, not because of Walmart or Amazon, Sears collapsed because they stopped providing quality merchandise to their customers at an acceptable price. Same thing happened to the LHS. Brick and Mortar stores theoretically, are locations where one can walk in, look around, actually touch/examine the merchandise, and buy it and take it home. When the LHS (or any other retailer), ceased doing this they lost their reason for existence. it's more than pricing, it's also product availability, and civility.

One of my experiences with my 'local' hobby shop . I was pretty keen to get hold of an Athearn SD 70 ACe model several years ago . I decided to call Tiger Models and Hobbies . I got a chap I'd never spoken to before and asked if they had anything in stock . He seemed interested to my request for info but told me that Athearn was limited for availability and that they mostly only handled cheaper stuff and beginner sets these days . I pressed him a bit and he looked up the specific info i wanted and got told this . They could get it in for me . Wait time was about four weeks and I'd need to pay a deposit up front . The quote was that the price for the sound equipped model was around $400 . I told him I'd think about it .
The next day after work I came home and got on the laptop . I had a quick search on EBAY within Australia and nothing was available other than pre used so I just typed in BNSF livery Athearn Genesis SD70 ACe in my search box and found an Adelaide online hobby shop site and contact details . I chose to ring them . The salesman I got was amazing . He gave me a full run down on how they operated too . They run a large retail store in Adelaide but they provide online sales as well like I'm sure many do now . They had three Athearn Genesis left in stock , two with sound and one without and the prices were great . Sound was $310 ..without sound $220 . I ended up buying all three for under $850 . Paid for them with Paypal and thanked the bloke for his help after he told me that the courier freight was included in the price . Was happy with that .
On the very next day I get home to find a card in my mailbox so I go to my local post office and sign for my new locomotives . All perfectly packed up and figured from about lunch time the day before to mid afternoon the next day around 27 hours it had taken to get my substantial purchase .

Quite apart from the price , the quality of the service , speed of delivery and the friendly attitude it saved me a wasted trip to my 'local' that would have cost more and taken a whole lot longer . McCanns in Hobart though a while back had a decent range in some things and I spent about $130 on an assortment of 1:87 model cars and a few 40 ft containers ..EBAY mostly though and I have bought a set of double stack wellcars from the Adelaide store online too .
Reality is this.... Without online stores there would be a whole bunch of hobbyists like me that would have to accept limited choice and maybe quality or buy only when you visit the big smoke that still has some half decent model stores but with premium prices too I'm betting .
Online for me is the only choice . It's been 3-4 years now but this is the online (and retail) hobby store I bought my stuff from ..Orient Express Hobby Store ...Any Aussie forumers especially might enjoy checking out their online store via the link I posted below.. ...There is a release date estimation guide too for when new models will become available now that I haven't noticed before . My orders were done over the phone .
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Whiskey Merchant
Rodney, you probably found your go to hobby shop. It sopunds like my experience with the shop that I was recommended to in Milwaukee. I do agree with others who would rather go to a brick and mortar shop, but there are those of us who do not have any near us. I would much rather see the items in person, instead of looking at photos on the internet. When we go on road trips, I make it a point to try to find a good hobby shop even if I don't purchase anything. It's nice to see first hand what's new.
In my case there is no choice . Within my hometown of about 900-1000 people and even within the local municipality totalling about 6000 people there is nowhere that even closely resembles a hobby store of any level . As I said even our nearest city and my State's second largest city there is no dedicated hobby outlet any more . End of argument for me . It'd be amazing (and scary) to be able to visit a proper model rail store in person . That'd be a dream . Even with McCanns in Hobart and Nic's Hobby Store in Sorrell they are not outright model rail stores but carry a nice bit of model rail items amongst R/C , static model , games and such . IF I did have access to a great rail store the truly scary part would be "temptation" to want to buy so much..I'd be in heaven and hell at the same time deciding what to buy and what not to although I imagine that if you were living close by and could visit often this might be somewhat less an issue .. Moot point anyway cos here it'll never happen .


Well-Known Member
This thread was never a discussion about dedicated Model Railroading Hobby Shops. It was simply a discussion about good hobby shops, of which, back 20 to 30 years ago, there where plenty of. It appears to me that very, very few of today's hobby shops can hold a candle to what used to be. The hobby shops of today skim over the surface of most any of the hobbies: Radio Control, Model Railroading, Model Kits, etc., etc.; but, delve superficially into them. Once you get into a hobby and start needing the nuts and bolts necessary to being involved, you will have to find an online supplier for what you need. M.B. Klein/ModelTrainStuff is a great example of a hobby business catering to the deeper needs of Model Railroading enthusiasts. There are many others!

I have never been there; but, my guess is that Caboose Hobbies, out in the Denver Colorado area is as good at being a model railroading hobby shop as you can get, at least it was back before the original owner sold out. This thread was never about the fact that the model railroading hobby is changing! That fact is well understood by Your's Truly and most everyone else involved in this hobby! No, it is simply a reminisce about what is gone and the fact that it is gone, SUCKS!
I agree on the "sucks" part Mark! I am just old enough to remember how it once "was" and have seen it change before my eyes. But just as our way of life has changed, those changes are tricking down into the hobbies, for better or worse as they say. As long as we are having fun, thats whats important! Mike the Aspie is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to