Is the live steam hobby in decline?

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Steve Bratina
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Re: Is the live steam hobby in decline?

Post by Steve Bratina » Sat Feb 03, 2018 9:49 am

Yes, it is in decline but you have to be country specific to get a true answer. I could say that the tracks built in my area increased 100% also as I am building a track. Now, if the 100% increase was from 10 new tracks, that is big news but in my area, that is 1.
The idea of getting the young ones is nice too but I think getting a few 30 + year olds is better suited since they probably have settled in their life, have money to spend on the hobby (dues and such) and would become a long term asset to said club.
If the hobby is growing, there would be a great demand for products for the hobby. If it is holding its own, the suppliers are doing it for hobby also. I never heard in my lifetime of a supplier making a go of it so this hobby has been on simmer for a long time. The supply business always seemed to be a sideline. Other hobbies like RC cars and such have money making suppliers so those hobbies are growing at a good rate.
It is what it is. Enjoy it for what is is or what is left of it. When I go, there will be one hell of an auction. I only hope that all you guys will be around to enjoy my stuff. And remember, please bring cash.

steamingdon
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Re: Is the live steam hobby in decline?

Post by steamingdon » Sat Feb 03, 2018 10:13 am

And remember DILLY DILLY! :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
steamer

Harold_V
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Re: Is the live steam hobby in decline?

Post by Harold_V » Sat Feb 03, 2018 4:43 pm

I would propose to you that the steam hobby IS in decline. I expect that riding scale model railroading is not, and is holding its own. The hobby is slowly drifting away from steam, as the younger generations get involved. It is far less demanding of skills (which are no longer being taught), far less expensive, and much faster to build, so they can get out on the track. There is also not a problem in obtaining the necessary fuel (coal, for those who insist). Further, young folks do not have memories of steam locomotives in operation, thus they aren't as enamored by steam as others might be (like me).

H
Wise people talk because they have something to say. Fools talk because they have to say something.

GregE
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Re: Is the live steam hobby in decline?

Post by GregE » Sat Feb 03, 2018 8:13 pm

As yet another Gen X'er- I fully credit the internet and forums like this very one with helping me obtain the skills to successfully build a steam locomotive. I've never had a machine shop class- only 'Kozo U', and exploring precision machining on this forum and Youtube to expand my capabilities.
I concur with others above that the hobby will continue to look different, but still keep on steaming. We are working hard at the St.Croix to teach the kids about steam and let them run locomotives, though I think there is a gestation period until one gets older and more stable in life before having the time and funds to build something.
I'm excited for the future of the hobby as exemplified in 3D printing and various flavors of CNC, as well as the international connectedness of the internet that supplements the visceral thrill of running a live steam locomotive.
Greg Easter

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Bill Shields
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Re: Is the live steam hobby in decline?

Post by Bill Shields » Sat Feb 03, 2018 8:39 pm

Look around at the Steam Clubs...

In the early 1980's I was one of the youngest people at the club that was running a steamer that I had built (I was just around 30 at the time).

TODAY, I am STILL one of the younger people around the track running steamer(s) that I have built -> and I am carrying a Medicare card! Sure there are many young(er) people running steamers that they have bought or inherited....

Average age of steam loco building club members????

Charlie Purinton had some wisdom:

When he got started in the hobby, everyone KNEW how to do what was needed, but nobody has the $$$ to put together a good shop,...so he lived with a lathe, milling attachment and drill press + a lot of know how.,,,and built a dozen or so small locos.

TODAY (which was 15 years ago when he said this to me)...everyone has the $$$ to put together a shop, but very few people know what to do with it.

Having $$ to build a monster loco is another killer...and how many 30 year olds can cough up that wad of cash....which is why I am concentrating on the small stuff that you can build in a few years without mortgaging your house for machines and castings + transportation +....everything else.

The big concern (from my perspective) is that the number of people who have seen an operating steam loco is declining for the two obvious reasons -> and there isn't much we can do about that.

alco2350
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Re: Is the live steam hobby in decline?

Post by alco2350 » Sat Feb 03, 2018 11:36 pm

I'm 41, so fall well within the gen. X category. I've always had a strong love for all things railroad, both having worked in the engine shop of an all Alco road, and hogged for two short lines. It's only been recently that I could afford a small machine shop at home, or even consider building a live steamer.

In my opinion, it's personal interest, mechanical know-how, and lastly finances. I've come to realize that riding scale is right up there with private aviation, and boating - very expensive. When you're talking about over a grand for a set of K37 drawings, that's not exactly cheap, and not one scrap of swarf has been cut.

Having said all of that. I'm going to press on with my SR&RL No. 23, cost be damned. I only hope that I can spark some interest in my 16 year old son.

Britt Bettell

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318J
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Re: Is the live steam hobby in decline?

Post by 318J » Sat Feb 03, 2018 11:53 pm

I'm one of the youngest guys involved in many different communities that all ask the same question: Is our hobby decling? In every one (Authentic Civil War reenacting, historic railroad preservation, the trades, live steam, and on and on) they all complain of the same things: Rising age of membership, lack of youth involvement, technology, etc..

As an 18 year old 'kid' involved in all of these: No it's not decling. It is evolving, it's refining, and even if we have a fraction of the involvement we do now in 10 or 20 years, it will be a much better hobby locomotive per locomotive and person per person. I like to think of it like making maple syrup, you start with a gallon of sap, and even though in the end you only have about a teaspoon of what you started with, it is of much better quality and value. (It also tastes much better!)

Those who care enough to build/buy a locomotive will master the needed skills and learn do it right, even if it takes a few attempts. I don't think we want those who don't. My first projects were/are complete junk (Those who follow the build on my 0-4-0, that tender tank will be scrapped and redone in the future). I'm sure all of your first few items were junk as well. What we did is we recognised it was junk, and moved on with the knowledge we gained from it to make something better.

I urge you to not look at the numbers. Look instead at the good qualites of the membership, the impacts new technologies are having, and you'll find live steam is becoming better, and much easier to get into.

The last thing I'll say is that nothing is a bigger help and source of motivation to a new guy than somebody who knows what they're doing reaching out to lend a hand, and checking in from time to time. Try to take that youthful enthusiasm and ignorance and curb it into something useful they can learn. There's way to many crotchety old naysayers out who look down their noses at us and shut us down to not do it. A lot of young guys out there may have something to offer back to you as well. I really enjoy the looks and comments I get when the older guys hear that I can't machine, I don't have a dedicated shop, I'm making slow progress, and on and on, but then find out I have x-ray certifications in MIG, TIG, and stick welding! I can't machine yet, but boy oh boy can I weld! The shakes of heads turn into "Really? Think you could help weld this for me?"
-Sam
Meramec Locomotive Company, SLFF Railroad
"Preserving the Past and Ensuring Our Future"
https://www.facebook.com/meramecloco

Moron
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Re: Is the live steam hobby in decline?

Post by Moron » Sun Feb 04, 2018 10:56 am

The live steam hobby is actually about to jump to the next era in my eyes. It is not in decline and far from dead. I’m 24 and there are a lot of other kids like me who are working on building their first steamer like myself. With the leaps in technologies such as water jet, CNC, 3D printing, etc, there is a bright future in the hobby. We all imbrace the “new school” but are currently learning the Old school way (and taking pride in it) we are paying more attention to scale and detail than ever before. Give it some time, but I’m the next 5-10 years I really do believe we will all see major jumps in this hobby. Stay positive and keep the steamers steamin

Steve Bratina
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Re: Is the live steam hobby in decline?

Post by Steve Bratina » Sun Feb 04, 2018 12:59 pm

With all these major jumps in the hobby, do any of the clubs see large jumps in the club workforce to maintain a club? Also, with all this engine building going on, let's hope the younger generation also join a club as a full member or associate. Along with track and all the niceties a club can provide, money is required to keep the niceties nice. Don't wait to finish the engine. Join today! Operators are standing by.

rkcarguy
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Re: Is the live steam hobby in decline?

Post by rkcarguy » Sun Feb 04, 2018 6:58 pm

Harold, you and I come from an area(Western Washington) intent on forcing all but the rich into little Chicken coup apartments. No garage or shop to build trains in, no land to run them on. It has been a never ending fight even as an upper-middle class guy to stay in a home here much less one on any sort of land. With the space available in other places, and new technology helping lower costs it should flourish as a whole.

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Roger Byrne
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Re: Is the live steam hobby in decline?

Post by Roger Byrne » Sun Feb 04, 2018 7:49 pm

One thing that does cause problems for some live steamers and the expansion of the hobby, is the problem with liability insurance. When the general public is not exposed to live steam railroading, it's difficult to recruit new people. When the places you run are private tracks, only the people already involved with the hobby, get a chance to experience it. Years ago I used to carry liability insurance and did for many years before the price went through the roof. After giving rides to the general public for many years, last year I decided to no longer take that risk.
Preserving Mechanical History for Future Generations Since 1965

Harold_V
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Re: Is the live steam hobby in decline?

Post by Harold_V » Mon Feb 05, 2018 4:36 am

rkcarguy wrote:
Sun Feb 04, 2018 6:58 pm
Harold, you and I come from an area(Western Washington) intent on forcing all but the rich into little Chicken coup apartments. No garage or shop to build trains in, no land to run them on. It has been a never ending fight even as an upper-middle class guy to stay in a home here much less one on any sort of land. With the space available in other places, and new technology helping lower costs it should flourish as a whole.
Heh!
I've been north, and I don't like it. Unlike your area, here, property is reasonable and they don't encourage condensed living. In fact, it's difficult to build on anything less than five acres, and they don't readily allow for subdividing. I expect that other counties in Washington are similar.

There's problems living here, though. Not unusual to have power out for a day or longer when those killer wind storms hit. We have to travel to make unusual purchases, as Lewis county is quite large, and sparsely populated. There's been considerable expansion (in town) in our shopping options, but now stores are closing. K Mart and Sears are both closing in the next couple months. I've learned to do a lot of shopping online and have things delivered. It's often cheaper than making the drive to town.

H
Wise people talk because they have something to say. Fools talk because they have to say something.

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