Hobbies For Nerds In Their 50s – What Is Model Railroading?

They say that model railroading is the “world’s greatest hobby” but what is model railroading? Is it right for you? Are you thinking about adopting a new hobby in the new year? Maybe you got a model train set and are wondering what to do with it, are looking to expand a current collection, or are entirely new to the world and looking to get started. If so, then you’ve found yourself at the forefront of an interesting and exciting hobby packed full of possibilities. 

While the actual scope of model railroading in American culture might have changed and the hobby isn’t as widespread as it used to be, there are still plenty of people making model railroads – and those people are just as passionate as they’ve ever been. It wasn’t that long ago that model railroads were a facet of everyday life, with trains circling Christmas trees and running loops in basements and attics. The hobby is more niche these days and is more popular with older people, making it a common hobby for people over 50. Of course, younger people can – and do – get involved too. 

While younger people are more interested in the fast feedback and instant gratification they get from their phones and social media, model railroad aficionados understand that good things come to those who wait. They know their efforts pay off in big ways and model railroads are a delight to see when everything comes together smoothly. 

What is Model Railroading?

At the heart of it, building a model railroad is exactly what it sounds like. People take miniature trains and railways and combine them together to create a functional railroad. The hobby is a lot deeper than it sounds, however. This is a multifaceted craft. It takes a degree of electrical engineering, woodworking, and landscaping knowledge to make something truly special and unique. 

Finding the perfect model trains for your railway is another part of the hobby. Finding the right train can take some time as you track them down. It takes a lot of time and patience to put together a full model railway, which is the main appeal of the hobby. There’s nothing like the feeling you get when you stand back and run the railroad, seeing the fruits of your labor in action. Building a railway is long but rewarding. 

How much space you have often dictates the size of the finished railway. Some people stick to small and simple tracks, while others cover an entire warehouse floor with a full railroad. How far you take your railroad is up to you. 

Who is Building Model Railroads?

Model railroads are typically built and enjoyed by retired men who have enough money, space, and time to support their hobby and train layouts. Enthusiasts love showing off their constructions, but there are some exceptions. Some people like to keep theirs to themselves. The more space you have the bigger and more imaginative you can make the finished railway. Though some prefer to recreate real train routes and let that dictate what they build. 

The landscapes of the models are often as dazzling as the trains themselves. With plenty of baseball parks, carnivals, and other small buildings, you can really bring your model railway to life. With one little flick of a switch, you’ll bring everything to life with plenty of lights, sound effects, and other moving parts. It’s like looking down at a real railway in a real town. 

Why Do People Do It?

There are lots of reasons to get into model railroading. Some people do it for the simple love of trains. Others appreciate the hands-on aspect of building a railroad. There are many challenges to building one and it feels good to meet those challenges. There’s no doubt that this hobby is fulfilling. On the other hand, it takes time and isn’t an ideal choice for people who want instant gratification. 

Some people build railroads for the sole purpose of sharing them with others. Some do it to spend time with their family together. One father and son pair combined these by working on railroads together and then taking the finished project on tour to show off to children in hospital. 

Getting Started with Model Railroading

One of the best things about model railroading is how welcoming the community is. You’ll find that once you decide to get started, you’ll have no problem getting help. With websites, forums, videos, and more, everything you need to get started with the hobby is just a click or two away

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