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Why Do Model Trains Appeal to So Many?

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Model trains appeal to so many for a multitude of different reasons. Those reasons are as diverse as the people who build model railroads. At its most basic level, a hobby is pursued simply because it is fun and enjoyable. But the love of model trains goes deeper than plain enjoyment.

Family Activity

Building model trains is a fun activity for anyone at any age. Photo by Minnesota From Scratch

One of the most appealing aspects of building model railroads is its ability to close generational gaps. Grandfathers, fathers, and mothers introduce younger boys and girls to their favorite pastime and suddenly share a common interest. Sometimes our fast-paced lifestyles can make it difficult to even share a family dinner, so engaging in a long-term family activity is a precious opportunity to spend quality time with one another. Everyone can find a particular job to do that interests him or her, working together to create something wonderful.

Learn New Skills

It takes time, research and attention to detail to create a realistic model train set.

Building a model railroad requires a broad range of skills, and there is much to learn for the novice hobbyist. Basic woodwork and carpentry, electrical wiring and long-term project planning are all necessary when building a model railroad, as well as problem-solving and research skills. Few activities offer the chance to develop such a variety of essential skills and make up a large part of the appeal for hobbyists of all ages.

Artistic Expression

Building a model railroad is like a big art project using a variety of different mediums.

Creativity and imagination is a must when building model railroads, even when re-creating actual geographic locations. Painting scenery and backdrops, weathering cars and creating landscape features all help define model railroad building as a 3-D art form. There is a deep satisfaction to be found in artistic expression, in 'making' things and creating something from nothing.

Long-Term Project

There's always something more to add!

Part of the attraction in building a model railroad lies in its continuously unfinished aspect. There is always something else to paint, something else to build or improve upon. The long-term nature of building a model railroad runs counter to the culture of instant gratification in our society. It teaches the value of a job well done, and a sense of deep gratification comes out of constantly improving something over months and even years of work. Just as you are never too young or too old to take up model railroad building as a hobby, you also never really reach "the end" of the project.

A Social Hobby

Large model railroad at festival in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Many people mistakenly believe that building model railroads is a solitary hobby, only for people who like to work alone. This is simply not true! There is a vibrant social life within the model railroad community, no matter where you live. Clubs and associations offer a great way to share stories, collect valuable tips, and build relationships with people who share your interests. People from all walks of life participate in competitions, conventions, and meetings, and the universal appeal of building model railroads means you are guaranteed to meet interesting folks.

Finally, perhaps the biggest reason building model railroads is such an enduring hobby - it's fun!

Click here to find everything you need to begin building your own model railroad.

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