Why the huge fluctuation in participation here at the Model Railroad Forums?

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Well-Known Member
I only joined here at the Model Railroad Forums in August of 2016, so am a relative newcomer. However, since I brought the internet into the home in 1996, I have participated in many different Model Railroading Forums. All of the time in 2016 and on through the spring of this year, participation here seemed to be very good, lots of action! However, during this past summer and continuing onto today, participation seems to be very slow and lack luster! In my first Model Train Car building Contest participation was fairly good. However, the one going on currently and ending the 1st of the year, 2018 is very poorly participated in!

Participation here seems to come in waves! O.K. I can accept that the Christmas season going on now, might effect participation. However, I don't recall it slowing down last year, like it has this year. Is the use of this forum subject to highs and lows as I perceive them?


BN Modeller
You're right Mark, I've noticed the same thing and I have to admit that I'm more of a lurker these days too.
I guess people get busy doing different things or their interests shift.
In my case it could be due to the whack I took to the noggin, or the layout being torn down for the possible house sale, or some bad experiences on feebay and amazon, or brain cancer taking one of my best buddies, also some house reno's gone awry... I guess I'm in a bit of a funk.
I could go on but that's a whole other topic.
I've been meaning to reply to a few threads but somehow just can't find the words. This reply took a lot of effort!
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Well-Known Member
Rico, Sorry to hear about life kicking your butt lately. I've had these types of situations, too. Loosing a buddy is always very difficult. I won't say that: "You will get over it", as the reality is you never do. However, you do learn to live with it! Best of luck and hope things get better quickly!


Whiskey Merchant
I have been with the forum since may of 2012 and have seen ups and downs with participation over the years. People have other things going on in their lives also. My wife and I attend numerous bowling tournaments not only here in Montana, but do travel to spots across the country for national tournaments. I also have other hobbies other than model railroading. I enjoy flying and also restore classic cars which takes time away from model railroading. Winter is here and I am sure that I'll also be up in the mountains snowmobiling.

I do try to keep up with the forum on Tap Talk, but hate trying to peck at a small screen and make posts.

I am sure that other members also have other things that keep them busy besides working on their trains.


Gandy Dancer
I visit the forum nearly every day, but don't always post. Without seeing the statistics on page hits, it's hard to know if there is a trend brewing. We can do only what we can to keep the site alive.


Well-Known Member
Rico, it sounds like you are in an extended funk. The several hits have left you flat, unmotivated, and the truth could be that you're a bit depressed and still grieving for the seriousness and long-term nature of the changes you're facing. It's hard to enjoy fun things when your life isn't much fun. I think that both time and some remedial effort on your part, those two working together, may have you feeling more in control once again, and with that comes hormonal changes that will begin to make you feel brighter. Being aware of your condition is the first step to beginning to repair whatever you can. I wouldn't beat myself up if it gets to that point, but do start to put some energy into improving whatever you can help. With that role, you'll begin to come around.

I think.........;)


Well-Known Member
I have visited several forums daily since January 2005 when I first found the MR forums over at Kalmbach. Each place has a discernible culture, to me. Each has a pace, and in each case, the pace varies seasonally and with no apparent relation to the time of year. I have seen this forum busier than most, but not since this summer. Three years ago this was one of the busiest. Trainboard seems to be perpetually slow. Nice solid folk though. Railroad Line is also slow, but the caliber of skills there, and the evidence posted, are astounding. If you want to know what's happening among the elite in the hobby, try an hour or three there one Sunday. Be sure to go into their photography forum and peruse the monthly themed threads.

I still drop into Atlas Rescue, Big Blue (the Gauge), and modeltrainforum.com (high concentration of Canadian members, perhaps it IS Canadian).

The fact is that those of us who provide the daily fodder for the more popular forums are few in number. We get bored, sick, turn to something else for a while, die, sell, move, blow up computers....the list is endless. As a population, we are losing ground to the years. My guess is the typical rail forum has a mean age of around 65, whereas it would have been closer to 50 fifteen years ago. Just as steam is losing ground over time, the age of the hobbyist is getting older, and the electronic devices and media favoured to pass time with our youth are of a different nature. Trains don't figure largely so much in people's lives, unless they are blocking traffic somewhere or burning tank cars. Or steering into young high schoolers walking along the tracks with their ear buds firmly planted.

You will find that, if you polled the membership for an entire month, you'd find only 40? regular posters from day-to-day. Those few will generate 85% or more of all posts daily. The rest are shared among newbies, especially near Christmas and the New Year, and the odd guy who needs an idea or some advice about something. All forums seem to go this way over time. The hobby is populated with old geezers who don't spend time at a computer, who don't need/want a smart phone or tablet, who have aging cars needing some tinkering, aging homes needing upkeep prior to the couple needing to sell, and other ways of using their waking hours, plus whatever hobbies they have. So, the representation of your typical hobbyist is only somewhat approximated by the few regular posters you'll find at any one forum on any day you choose to do the looking.
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Whiskey Merchant
Crandell, I also belong to other model railroad forums and this one is by far the best. You mentioned the Model train Forum. I seems to have been taken over by O scale (tinplate) a little over a year ago when an O scale forum folded. The Trainboard is alright and seems to be centered a bit more towards N scale. The Atlas Rescue forum seems a bit snooty to me. I do know some of the Big Blue members from the old Whistlepost which folded when the web master suffered a fatal heart attack.

I guess that I am one of the old geezers Old.gif who don't entertain themselves with a computer or electronic games. I do have to sit in front of a computer all day for work, where I make the biggest majority of posts. My computer at home is normally turned off so I do keep up using TapTalk, but don't post much on the phone.

You mentioned working on old homes. Yuk. We built our home 40 years ago and over the last three years totally renovated the main living area, gutting and rebuilding 2 bathrooms, upgraded the kitchen, replaced all of the flooring in the house, rebuilt and staind the front and back porch plus had a new roof put on the house. Glad that's over so now we can spend some time traveling, just for the sake of traveling.

There isn't as many young people in the hobby as there was years ago I imagine because of al of the video game that they always seem to have in hand. The majority of the members of the model railroad club I go to are also older people, but there are a few that aren't ready for Social Security yet.

new guy

Active Member
I been quite down with SHINGLES since July so that's why my MRR activity has been nearly non existent, thought about chukking it completely, selling off everything and buying a new scooter.
This forum was my "starter" forum when I re-entered the hobby in 2016. I had a lot of help from regular forum contributors like @bnsf971, @montanan, and others, for all of my newbie questions (since then, I've acquired multiple DCC systems, a dedicated PC-control railroad system, and something like 50 N-scale locos), but have frequented here less often due to the low activity. Now, I mainly hang out at an N-scale specific forum (nscale.net) which is both very active, and scale-specific. I often visit MRH's forum since that one's pretty active, too. I also just signed up at Trainboard since they had a pretty good Kato Unitrack thread and seem to be a very friendly crowd.

I also bought a Model Railroader Magazine all-access pass last summer for $99 (highly recommended!), in lieu of renewing my $9.99/month Texture subscription, and really enjoy perusing MR's 83-year digital online archive on my iPad (however, for whatever reason, I rarely visit MR's forums).
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Well-Known Member
Staff member
I agree with Mark, the amount of actual participation by members fluctuates a lot. When I first joined, you couldn't keep up with the number of posts there were so many. Now, your lucky to see half a dozen or so at any given time and the vast majority of people looking at the forums are visitors.

As has been said though, the summer months draw people to other interests and activities, some members have personal issues that prevent them from participating, the membership is an aging one and (possibly) resulting in a decline in "actual membership" numbers as opposed to those listed. People simply have "real lives" that they put first to their "hobby life". There are all manner of reasons for a decline in membership participation.

I too am a member of other forums, notably the nscale forums for obvious reasons. That forum is far far busier than here and has been for some months. Why does one forum attract more activity than another ... could be a variety of reasons.


Well-Known Member
A lot of really good opinions on what is going on. I think that per selector, there are likely a small number of "Fixtures", those of us who actively participate here. Whether the downward turn happening now is due to us dying off, seems doubtful to me. Whatever it is, is probably unknowable to us, the participants.
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D&J RailRoad

Professor of HO
Probably just blame it on Trump.
I'm not here consistently due to training for seniors MMA bouts. When I win my match, I'm back on here. When I loose, I'm in the hospital for a day or too trying to remember who I am. :cool:
Actually, just as stated above, this isn't the foremost thing on most peoples minds.

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
... All of the time in 2016 and on through the spring of this year, participation here seemed to be very good, lots of action! However, during this past summer and continuing onto today, participation seems to be very slow and lack luster!...Participation here seems to come in waves! O.K. I can accept that the Christmas season going on now, might effect participation. However, I don't recall it slowing down last year, like it has this year. Is the use of this forum subject to highs and lows as I perceive them?
I think there are both short and long cycles of forum participation. I also have several theories as to why this is and could probably write a book here that no one wants to read. So briefly.
1. There are several classes of posters. The prolific posters that will add new topics and also comment on just about any topic/thread every day. This is even if the comment is just "good job". All forums need a few of these types of members. Then there are the regular but less "every thread" type people who only post when they have what they consider something worth while to contribute. The forum needs bunches of these sorts of people. Then there are the regular readers but only post when they are serious or keenly interested about the topic (I would put Bob Fugate in this category). You know he is there but won't post unless it is something needed or special about photography. Then there are the flash in the pan type that are usually newbies that are prolific for a short period of time and then disappear. The board needs a good pool of all of these types to be healthy & sustainable. The other unnecessary classes have already been mentioned: the one time question people, the lurkers, the marketers, the trolls, the frivolous posters, etc. I've been trying to move myself more toward a prolific poster as JazzDad says "do what we can to keep the site alive". I've commented on lots of stuff I would have just read a couple years ago.
2. Seasonal and Life Situation variations. Stuff happens. Next five days I'm going to be so busy with the Christmas Forest I doubt I'll read let alone post. The board has a real struggle when all of the prolific posters have personal issues that keep them from posting at the same time period. Without at least a few prolific posters the board will die really quickly.
2a. Train burn out some people just tire of trains for a while and leave for a while and then come back for a while, or not. e.g. Space Mouse. I think he did three cycles over about 4 years.
3. Hobby Cycles Already mentioned in other posts. A long cycle thing. Participation will wax and wane with the eb and flow of the hobby itself.
4. Quality of Posts Almost hate to mention this one. If the posts are hard to read, hard to understand, or argumentative, the forum will loose participation. This is actually how I came to this forum. The MR forum for a while became very hostile toward anything that wasn't what a group (of about 30 members) considered the "right way" do to things. Everything to them became an argument. Heaven forbid someone should mention they were doing a 4x8! It was such that a new person could not ask a simple question without being told they were doing it wrong. So despite being one of the 10K posters over there, I bailed and came here. I've seen it here too. I consider the great Exodus of 2007 due to this issue. We lost many good people in that.
5. dynamicity of the board the forum board itself needs to be able to adjust and adapt to the long cycles. When it doesn't it can seem dead even though it is not chasing people away and not attracting new members.

These opinions are already longer than I wanted them to be... But did anyone notice a long cycle of decline starting June 2012 and accelerating in Nov 2014?
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Well-Known Member
Staff member

All good and valid points and worthy of a book :)

As for the decline during 2012 - 2014 I kind of recall it. Seems as though every couple of years it happens.
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Wombat, Horseman, Mark et all: I have been following this post from afar, and have 'till now, refrained from commenting. The participants here have all provided some good and valid points. I mainly participate in the "Coffee shop" forum, named after our late friend Jeffrey. It's like stopping at the local coffee shop, on the way to work, or the local watering hole, after work. Mostly for socialization. I try to remain quiet, when I'm in a crabby mood, or don't have anything to contribute. On the other hand, when I find something worthy of sharing, I generally upload it. Some days, I post once, some more than once, and some days, I don't post at all. Yes, even old retired folk, sometimes have busy schedules, while other days, I lurk because my schedule is open...that's just how it is.

Lately, I have been devoting time to actually working on or running my layout, and watching hockey. Some days, I just spend time with the wife, watching her favorite television shows.

Over all, I have noticed a decline in activity in the three forums I regularly lurk in, This one, Atlas rescue, and MR. Usually, the quiet is due to the lack of new things to disguss. These things happen, then all of a sudden, the forum gets real active.
I think it really does depend a great deal on the people. Some of us are working on layouts, but lack the funds necessary to do much at any given times and forget about coming online when we're not actively working on our project.

For me personally, I'll be back for a bit because I'm working on deciding what my 3'x2' track layout is going to look like. I'll probably be playing with that for a while away from the forum before I come back as I get to the next stage.

Realistically, this is a niche hobby and it's going to be more of a trick to get people coming with some consistency over time. Especially during the summer or holidays when people are likely to be doing other things.


Active Member
I've been spending time in the basement, trying to complete some of the projects I've posted here, but are far from being finished. Additionally, my wife and I are trying to get her Mother's house ready to sell, plus sell a deceased Uncle's coin collection, which is neither of our hobbies. Add work to the mix, and there's only so much time. I check things out a few times a week, and post if I think I have anything relevant to add to the thread.


Well-Known Member
Staff member
What might help bring this into perspective is to know how many "real members" we have. I started going through the membership (out of boredom) and found that 124 registered members out of the first 150 members listed had left less than 10 posts with the majority (didn't count them) having never posted anything. To me, they're NOT members. I also found that only 73 members, out of the first 1500 listed, had left 100 or more posts.

The forums claim to have 10177 members, which is phenomenal unless 9500 of them don't do anything.

What I am trying to say is this - IF all of those registered members were, even partially, active then I think there would be cause for concern in terms of a decline. But if the forums are only surviving on a "hand full" of those registered members then the fluctuations of activity are most likely understandable.


Well-Known Member
I know I haven't been the most consistent on here. Things in my life happen and my focus was elsewhere. I do try to stay in touch on here. I'm also a member of trainboard. They are more on N scale in which I model HO. So I'm nowhere near as active on there. I've noticed here as of late that some of the lurkers come out when a post is made that strikes their interest. Two popped up here in the past few days in the coffee shop.


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