Getting more people involved in the Model Train hobby

How to get more people involved ( interested ) in the Model Train hobby?

The fact is, model railroaders aren't getting any younger.  As a designer with 4 kids of my own, I get some great input.  "Model Trains are for old people to play with.  They are boring." A very common response.  The slow decline of the industry must place the blame at the feet of those of us who have maintained the status quo.

That is to say, we build a semi-realistic layout only to watch our train run around without purpose.  Kids at the shows are amazed for about two laps before their attention goes elsewhere.  Flashing lights will appease them, but just so far. How do you compete with iphones and playstation?

Kids want to be interactive!  Forward/Reverse, Fast/Slow just isn't cutting it for today's youth.  Kids are naturally competitive.  They compete on social media, Xbox and playstation as an example.  Building a decent layout requires patience and a lot of free time.  Those of us who were around during the Roman Empire, remember an event in Boy Scouts of the mini soapbox derby.  A small block of wood we would shape and design for speed.  Also the full scale soap box derby cars we actually drove!  As kids, we too wanted to be interactive.

This summer, we will show you a layout to fill those needs.

Stay tuned and check back often!


History of Electric Model Trains

Brief History of Model Railroad Trains - (electric)

1895: The represents the beginning of the production of electric toy trains in America. The Garlick electric loco was built in 1895 by Jehu Garlick and his associate, Harry Hathaway in Paterson, New Jersey. This may have been the first tinplate electric train manufactured. The black steeple cab locomotive resembles the B & O locomotive. The loco has a clear glass panel on one side in order to view the motor.  If you are hoping to add one of these to your collection, it likely will not happen.  Only one is known to still exist. Jehu Garlick 1895 electric locomotive Jehu Garlick 1895 electric locomotive

1896-97: Carlisle and Finch in the United States develops the first electric- powered trains that run on metal track for the marketplace.   Today, these are perhaps the most sought after models in the world. (for those who can afford it)1896 Carlisle and Finch 1896 Carlisle and Finch

1901:  Lionel invents its first electric powered train - Youthful inventor Joshua Lionel Cowen wasn't the first to manufacture toy trains. But his talents as an engineer and salesman soon put Lionel ahead of its competitors... READ MORE

Lionel's first trains

1930s:  More accurate model trains in O scale first and later HO scale, having more realistic in proportions and detail than "toy" trains, come into existence. They are primarily kits built by adults.  Hence the beginnings of "Model Railroad Hobbyist".

1934: First issue of Model Railroader magazine is published. View it here!

1942-45: World War II halts toy production, including production of electric train sets.  Much due to Government regulation demanding the use of factories and craftsmen in the war effort.  This also happened to Carlisle and Finch in the beginning of WW1

1950s: Toy trains are the no. 1 toys for boys.  Lionel becomes (for a time)  the biggest toy maker in the United States.

Mid-1950s: There is a clear split between scale model railroading for adults and toy trains sold to children. Plastic takes over as the primary material used to produce model trains.

1965: The introduction of N scale trains, about half the size of HO trains. This appealed to many due to space requirements.

1968: LGB of Germany introduces large scale or "G" scale trains, which today predominate in the hobby of garden railroading.  Here we notice the wide verities in space allocation by consumers.

1970s: Z scale, half again as small as N scale, is introduced by Marklin.  Leading many to wonder just how small model train can go.

1980s: Digital control systems and realistic sound-producing systems are developed.  Although such similar acting systems (less sophisticated and analog) were actually developed as far back as the 1940's.


In 1940, Lionel offered a new product called Magic Electrol, installed in a locomotive.

Inside every Lionel locomotive is a device called the E-Unit, that controlled direction. The E-Unit was described as a solenoid operated rotary sequence switch. The Magic Electrol was used to control the E-unit. This allowed you to run two locomotives in opposite directions on the same track. Remember, Lionel used alternating current, so there was no way to flip the polarity. Later use of DC was a real game changer.

2010:  Animated layouts like those created by *C&C Automations have peeked even more  interest in the younger generation. There are about over a half a million model railroaders and toy train hobbyists in the U.S. and Canada. Model trains are especially popular in England, Germany, Australia, and Japan. From around 2004, we have seen a greater interest in this hobby by younger people, both boys and for the first time girls.

At the time of this post, C&C Automations offer their services through exhibitors at model train shows and selected dealers.