I have a friend who is super into model trains and I always wondered what the appeal was. After talking to him and doing some digging I discovered some interesting things that I wanted to share with you.
The main appeal of model trains is their therapeutic value and other health benefits.
Keep reading and I’ll share 10 hidden benefits they provide, the most difficult part of starting a model train, and 4 similar hobbies that you may be interested in checking out.
Why Build a Model Railroad?
1 -Therapy – According to my friend the largest reason to start a model railroad is its therapeutic value. When the world seems crazy it’s nice to escape into another world.
Some people escape the craziness of the world using video games, movies, or books but a model railroad is a little different because it’s more hands-on.
If designing and operating a model train helps you forget about your troubles for “at least” a little bit of time, then it could be worth it.
Plus, as the world seems more complicated doing something that is more simple, that you DO have control over can help with stress. Since too much stress is a “real” problem reducing it can be VERY helpful.
2 – Can be done with others – Another really cool thing about a model railroad is that it can be done with someone else.
Maybe you’re a father or grandfather you can easily do this with your son, grandson, girlfriend, mom, dad, or even friend.
Growing a model rail train can help people bond, grow social skills and get a form of comradery that helps relationships.
Plus, it’s just cool to get into something different and invite someone else. Oh, and if you want to build one solo then you can do that as well.
3 – Education – Another nifty thing about a model railroad is you can learn a lot and it doesn’t matter how old you are.
For starters, there are problem-solving skills that can be developed. Planning the track, getting the material, electricity, figuring out landscapes, and overcoming challenges can be very empowering, plus building confidence, no matter what age someone is.
Being detail-oriented is another skill that is developed with a model railroad. Developing patience, creativity, and using your hands can be improved.
Oh, and who can forget about engineering, science, and electrical skills that can be developed
4 – Fun – There is a term I really like called “flow.” This means time passes by VERY quickly because you are into something. Have you ever experienced this “flow” when you’re really into something and the next thing you know ‘hours” have passed when you thought it was minutes? It’s a REALLY cool experience!
When you build a model railroad this flow can happen and you lose all track of time. Plus, as a bonus, you can feel good because you can physically see what you have accomplished.
Plus, how cool is it going to be when your vision comes to life?
5 – Creativity and Imagination – Being creative is another very large benefit to a model railroad. You can make the railroad “any” way you like.
Sure, you can get ideas from MANY other sources, but the ultimate say is yours. You can design your model train to go “any” path you want, with an endless amount of landscapes and options.
If you want a train that travels through ALL 4 seasons you can make it happen. You want the landscapes to be country, forest, city or mountains you have the power to create them!
6 – Bragging Rights – Another huge benefit is you can show off your model railroad to family members, friends, and anyone. Heck, you can take pictures of it and show it to social media sites.
You can do something similar with a video game, but it isn’t the same as something tangible. Plus, it’s just cool to get into something MOST people are not. It can make you different, unique and that is a good thing.
7 – Combination of things – The interesting thing about a railroad is it combines painting, technology, history, transportation, landscapes and what makes the world go round.
As I’m writing this article I’m in the middle of reading the book Atlas Shrugged and it’s true that trains “really” help civilization advance. Imagine a world where trains never existed.
In the U.S. 40% of long-distance freight alone is moved on trains.
I’m not sure I know of a hobby that combines SO many different elements in such a small space.
8- Nostalgia – Some people have fond memories of building a model railroad when they were a kid. Bringing some of these happy memories back is part of the appeal of a model railroad.
The nostalgia can also transport them to a time when the world was simple without social media and all the craziness of the world.
Who can forget about “transporting” someone back in time to when they were a kid and didn’t have to worry about bills and responsibilities right?
9- It’s NOT easy! – Building a model railroad can be as easy or as difficult as you want it to be. Due to moving parts, electricity, landscapes, and ALL the options, it can take patience that some people have and others don’t.
It’s not like everyone can brag they built a model railroad right?
10 – Branding of the hobby – Model railroads have a legendary brand when it comes to hobbies. The history of the train has its roots in ancient roman times when they used tracks to move heavy things.
It wasn’t until 1804 when a British engineer Richard Trevithick created the first full-scale working railway steam locomotive. It was the railroad that created many towns during the wild west of the U.S.
The first miniature train wasn’t created until the 1830s in Germany. In the 1950s the model railroad “really” exploded as more people moved to the suburbs and had more space.
Some people got into the hobby when they were children receiving a starter kit that runs around a Christmas tree.
As some adults grow up these happy memories and engraved and looking to rekindle the magic they start to get into the hobby of building a model railroad. Some people are “embarrassed” by this hobby and so it’s unknown how popular it really is.
Even Tom Hanks the actor, loves model railroads, and why he choose to do the Polar Express movie. Some people (the courageous ones) admit to their love of model railroads and have formed clans or groups.
11 – Health Benefits – Another benefit has to do with health. According to this source HERE, it brings physical benefits and cognitive skills.
If someone has dementia the railroad can have a profound impact says Nancy Bowers who is a therapeutic specialist.
Most importantly it can enhance well-being and that is especially important in these crazy times we live in.
What’s the Hardest Part of Starting a Model Railroad?
The hardest part of starting a model railroad is finding space, money, and time. The time part isn’t too bad because even if you have a tiny amount of time every week you can make it happen.
The MOST important thing is you need a dedicated space to build a model railroad and high-traffic areas like a living room might not work.
Some people start with a small coffee table and others start with a huge basement or empty garage to work in.
Having a dedicated place in mind before you start is going to help. The next thing to think about is the size of the train. There are TONS of different sizes, but below are a few popular ones.
- O size – got popular after WW2 and is a large model.
- HO scale – Is medium-sized.
- N scale – Is smaller in size.
Before your head blows up and you get “paralysis analysis,” this is where there are too many choices and you end up doing nothing, the first step is figuring out a space to build this model train.
Step 2 is coming up with a plan or blueprint.
The plan or blueprint “really” is everything I recommend checking this out HERE, which can help you come up with a layout or a “gameplan” that you can follow.
Plus, you are automatically networked with other railroad enthusiasts so you discover the best places to go for equipment, get the best prices and figure out how much of a budget you will need.
Most importantly it talks about landscapes everything from waterfalls to Buildings and even mountains to really bring the world into reality. Plus, a lot more such as tips and planning out the tracks.
You can learn more about coming up with this plan by clicking on the link HERE.
If you don’t have the space or money to build a model railroad another idea that I got into was puzzles. Sure, puzzles are not as sexy as a moving train, but the cool thing is you can still frame the puzzle, it takes MUCH less space and money plus you can still do it with someone.
Here is a recent puzzle I accomplished that was 1,000 pieces and took “a lot” of time. You can see how I framed it, and maybe it will give you an idea.
Some of these puzzles HERE are very crazy.
Another really interesting idea when it comes to a hobby where you can actually EARN money is candle making which I wrote a blog piece HERE about.
Finally, the least sexy of ALL hobbies and businesses, but might have the greatest potential is this one HERE. Check it out, crazy idea but you would be surprised how much potential it could have.
I hope this blog post on the appeal is with model railroads was helpful. Bye for now.