Is the live steam hobby in decline?

This forum is dedicated to the Live Steam Hobbyist Community.

Moderators: Harold_V, WJH, cbrew

sncf141r
Posts: 167
Joined: Mon Jan 06, 2003 10:06 am
Location: Canada

Re: Is the live steam hobby in decline?

Post by sncf141r » Mon Feb 05, 2018 10:28 am

I'd agree with the youngsters posting above - the hobby is changing, and lots of "kids" get it.

Questions for us oldsters:

1) Does our club web site work on mobile devices. (my club? nope) How many people under the age of 50 use anything that'll display flash content?? Facebook presence? "No way! that's the spawn of the devil!!" a club email address, same thing. Oh well, can't fight 'em - life's too short.

2) Meetings. Is it a sit around and snore-fest? You think kids want to sit around and drone on endlessly and snooze? Nope. (our club fails there, too). Do people bring out projects and talk about them? Didn't think so.

3) Talking to visitors. If your club grounds are open to the public, how many (what percentage) of club members are there to interface with the public? None?? You need someone explaining and just welcoming visitors. How are you going to get visitors to join if there is no feeling of being wanted? (I fail here, because I really have not been to my home club's track in a couple of years; maybe this summer I'll go more often, maybe not, as there are other things to do)

4) Encouragement of diverse projects. This is a biggie:

If it is not your scale and prototype, do you ask questions and interact with the builder, or do you just walk on by? Maybe that person who created the IC engine with solenoid controls for EVERYTHING is pretty bright; you never know. I asked questions, and was blown away by the knowledge and depth of the answers, I could have walked on past as "IC engines are not my thing"

My club - brought out an almost complete 3-1/2" gauge locomotive, where almost everything, down to the nuts and bolts was made, not purchased. Lots of work. What verbal feedback did I get from a club member? "You made it too small!!!" That's it. No "nice work, how did you do XXX??" Sure, maybe he was joking, maybe I need to develop a thicker skin, but the chance that I'll actually bring it out to steam at our track is less now, as my enthusiasm was brushed off. Why would I bother? It might just sit on a shelf in the living room.

5) "but, kids don't know what steam is" - I was born after the last steam train ran around here, and I still like steam, a son-in-law who is a mechanical engineer is very inquisitive, and an avid wood-worker/carver with hand tools, so why would not "kids" be interested???

How many of us are guilty of some of the above?

Pontiacguy1
Posts: 847
Joined: Thu Apr 26, 2012 10:15 am
Location: Tennessee, USA

Re: Is the live steam hobby in decline?

Post by Pontiacguy1 » Mon Feb 05, 2018 11:49 am

By definition, smaller numbers cited in some of the previous posts= a decline! All I know is that when we have work days and fun run days at our club track, the majority of those who show up are in their 60s and older. We have a few in their 30s and 40s, but when you go to a work day, the majority of the people that are actually doing the work of maintaining the track are retirees. To me, that means that in the future, a lot of clubs are going to have to pare back their track size and activities so that a smaller group can maintain it reasonably well. Trying to maintain a track of 12,000+ feet is a daunting task when most members won't show up to a work day, or can't get down on the ground and actually work on track.
Basically, I think that we (the hobby) will slowly digress back to the size we were in the mid-to-late 1970s maybe early 1980's. Smaller tracks, and fewer clubs, but the average member is more active than the average member of today. I personally think that's where we are headed with all the issues that have already been cited.

JohnK
Posts: 203
Joined: Mon Aug 15, 2005 11:13 am
Location: Beverly-by-the-Boston & Maine, MA
Contact:

Re: Is the live steam hobby in decline?

Post by JohnK » Mon Feb 05, 2018 4:37 pm

If there's a decline, I'm not participating in it :mrgreen:

Steve Bratina
Posts: 946
Joined: Tue Jan 16, 2007 9:39 pm
Location: Cambridge Ontario

Re: Is the live steam hobby in decline?

Post by Steve Bratina » Tue Feb 06, 2018 10:45 am

Lots of interesting points made here. How about if we all get together at the NJLS spring meet and hash this out one evening. Discussing it on a site does little so positive action must be taken. When there was only one track to visit, the attendance was terrific. Now with clubs everywhere, we have thinned out the herd and maybe that too makes it look like we are declining.
If we all get together at one location each year, a major meet if you will, the "younger" crowd will see greater numbers of steamers to talk to instead of the same old same old at the dusty club they belong to. Also, it would be a good opportunity for suppliers to actually bring out their wares so steamers can do the touchy freely thing. Good opportunity for a terrific swap meet too.
Dave Sclavi actually mentioned this to me years ago and I think it is time to give it a try. All the clubs can have their regular spring and summer meets but each year, choose a club in each time zone to host THE BIG MEET, not just one meet for the whole continent. It also gives each club an opportunity to generate good funds every few years. Makes planning on where to go "this year" easier too.

shild
Posts: 87
Joined: Mon Jan 22, 2018 11:58 pm

Re: Is the live steam hobby in decline?

Post by shild » Tue Feb 06, 2018 11:57 am

Been away for a few days but really appreciate all the replies everyone! It's going to take me a while to digest all this!

shild
Posts: 87
Joined: Mon Jan 22, 2018 11:58 pm

Re: Is the live steam hobby in decline?

Post by shild » Tue Feb 06, 2018 12:16 pm

Pontiacguy1 wrote:
Mon Feb 05, 2018 11:49 am
By definition, smaller numbers cited in some of the previous posts= a decline! All I know is that when we have work days and fun run days at our club track, the majority of those who show up are in their 60s and older. We have a few in their 30s and 40s, but when you go to a work day, the majority of the people that are actually doing the work of maintaining the track are retirees. To me, that means that in the future, a lot of clubs are going to have to pare back their track size and activities so that a smaller group can maintain it reasonably well. Trying to maintain a track of 12,000+ feet is a daunting task when most members won't show up to a work day, or can't get down on the ground and actually work on track.
Basically, I think that we (the hobby) will slowly digress back to the size we were in the mid-to-late 1970s maybe early 1980's. Smaller tracks, and fewer clubs, but the average member is more active than the average member of today. I personally think that's where we are headed with all the issues that have already been cited.
Just what does the high maintenance consist of? I know that the spikes work loose and need to be tapped back in but not sure how often. Gave the guys at Waushakum a hand with that one day. What else does a track typically need often?

JohnK
Posts: 203
Joined: Mon Aug 15, 2005 11:13 am
Location: Beverly-by-the-Boston & Maine, MA
Contact:

Re: Is the live steam hobby in decline?

Post by JohnK » Tue Feb 06, 2018 12:48 pm

shild wrote:
Tue Feb 06, 2018 12:16 pm
Just what does the high maintenance consist of? I know that the spikes work loose and need to be tapped back in but not sure how often. Gave the guys at Waushakum a hand with that one day. What else does a track typically need often?
This is extreme for what happens to tracks, but: a hurricane some years back ripped apart & flipped our highline track into the neighbor's yard. Yet the tornado we had a couple years ago didn't affect it.

Others' mileage may vary.

Pontiacguy1
Posts: 847
Joined: Thu Apr 26, 2012 10:15 am
Location: Tennessee, USA

Re: Is the live steam hobby in decline?

Post by Pontiacguy1 » Tue Feb 06, 2018 3:55 pm

Most of us run 7 1/2" gauge with track laid directly on the ground (well, in ballast anyway). Ties tend to rot out after a number of years and must be replaced. You can replace them with plastic ties, but it costs more too. The aluminum rail does not last forever either, especially on a club track. It will wear in the curves and will then make the gauge wider in that curve. We found at our club, with all the heavy passenger trains that we run, that the outside rail would be worn out and needing replaced every 5 to 6 years on some of our curves. We switched to using steel rail on the outside of our curves to make this last longer. Bridges need to be re-worked occasionally, or maybe re-decked. Drainage pipes and ditches need to be cleaned out occasionally. Anything made from wood (embankments, ties, bridges, bents, tunnel entrances) will need to be replaced/rebuilt every 20 years or so at least. Track needs to be ballasted and leveled quite frequently. Tracks need to be weed sprayed at least 2 or 3 times per year. Tree limbs and branches and brush need to be trimmed to keep them away from the line. Then an occasional storm, flash flood, or wayward lawnmower will cause damage to a section of track that has to be ripped out and replaced. Maintaining a ground-line track is a very labor-intensive job. Most home tracks are fairly small compared to a club track, and the size limit is not always the limit of how much land you have. It is often the limit of what one person can reasonably keep maintained and in operating condition. If all you ever do is go to the meet, unload and run, then load up and go home, you have no idea how much work the faithful few put in to keep that track in operational shape. Fewer/Older track workers means that less track can be properly maintained.

I am sure that the smaller gauge elevated tracks are no joy to maintain either, although I have no experience with those.

I do agree that we HAVE indeed spread out in this hobby. that is both good and bad. Like I said earlier, we have grown a lot as a hobby in the past 40 years or so, and maybe we are now contracting somewhat. Back in the late 1990s and early 2000's, we would have 80 to 100 locomotives show up at our meets. Now we have about 60. A lot of the reason is that there are now 2 more clubs with their own tracks within a 4 hour drive from us. None of those were there during the above mentioned time. But also, at that time, we would have a work day and 20 people or more would show up for it. Now we have about 8 or 9. Maybe it's just participation in club activities... I dunno. I can only report what I'm seeing with my own two eyes. I'm hopeful, yet want to also be realistic.

elm53
Posts: 142
Joined: Fri Jan 02, 2009 6:51 pm
Location: worcester,ma

Re: Is the live steam hobby in decline?

Post by elm53 » Wed Feb 07, 2018 2:19 pm

To Shild,at Waushakum's Norfolk St. Track ,we used spikes to hold down the rail. Since 1997, all track at Waushakum is screwed down to the ties. Wern was your last visit to WLS?...Just curious as your post made it sound you were just there.

Steve Alley
Posts: 193
Joined: Thu Dec 20, 2012 12:30 am

Re: Is the live steam hobby in decline?

Post by Steve Alley » Thu Feb 08, 2018 12:35 am

Allen Models as the owner I can tell you one thing.

I am growing and making money doing it. SO There.

Yes I have good months and bad weeks. But in general Allen Models is expanding, Keep stock level very good, Looking to increase prices not because I can or what to, but to keep expanding at a faster rate. I bought the company with the 6 Loco's that Gene had and Marty add one. at the end. I finish it and got it up and on the site. We are developing Three other Allen Models 1 1/2" scale engine. 2-4-0 (The Harpur) which will be out very soon, A new (Short American) will take one to two years to be complete. We are working over drawing as we speak. Many new casting to be develop on this engine and patterns. But the plans are 85 % done. Next is a ( 0-6-0 Switcher) but changes to a new cylinder pattern is be develop on this. Out side valve, Now the normal Allen cylinder is 3/8" inside center line of cylinder bore. This will be outside 3/8", Why for walcharts valve gear and others types. Just think of the kit bashing engines from this cylinder!

So is the hobby is dyeing, only in close eyes. I see and feel and sell more parts now, by 50% more. To Young Generation mostly. So maybe your guys are date yourself should look around and see. Especially when come the new younger generation. Your fathers and grandfathers did for you. Thank You next generation and I am here to help you.

We now have Build groups for each engine arriving all the time. We have this Home Shop Machinist to go to, Thank You THM. U-tube is out there, How to videos and more. Build groups also.

If there is a will there is a way. Young guys just follow your dream as I did at 40 years old. Now this year 60 and built or rebuilt 15 engines and wow it is fun. I myself, I am learn all the time. I have a mentor and Ken Schroeder is the best thing ever that happen to my life. Get together with some one that has built many engines and just hang on and lesson.

Equipment and tooling is the killer and space for these young folk. This is where you older club members that have time, experience, equipment, is needed to step in and make there mark. All needs Help out here, see what you have now and the people before you, Time to give back. Pick out new comer and make friends for the young one, but mostly offer you hand out and Your experience. This is all that is needed. After all some one help you to get you started. I see in the past the lack of help to new comers, this has change some. But more is needed to give back.

Now this covers the steam but not the electric and gas engine loco's. He is the rub. They buy, not so much build and I don't see much of them machining switch points, or out there making major growth to the hobby. Maybe this is were we went wrong.

Changes are coming, Steel Rail, not good. Just less maintenance and harder on cast wheels. But plastic ties are becoming cheaper to buy then wood. Last 5 time longer in rough conditions. I am not taking about this plastic recycle stuff, But Accu-Tie System from EP Plastic's. Yes I became the West Cost Distributor, but when you see a good thing, grab it. In the long run just maintenance its a barge. Besides its pre-gauge and holes drill for the screws. Clubs are moving fast to use these. I have been dealing with one club and they say its so fast and not anymore money than other plastic or good pressure treated wood.

OK Mom has always told me. (If you don't have something good to say, Don't say anything at all) Negative output has been said here. I was thinking just asking this sort of question was so bad, (Is Live Steam in Decline) But reading what most has said, I say right on!! Young guys rule!! Keep your head up because Allen Models is behind you. I am here to sell and support what I sell but I give out so much advise to my customers that I Can, But find less time to get my work done. I will always keep trying for the new builders and the repeat ones too.

Please keep our heads up and look around and open our eyes, Say What can I do today to help my club. To mostly welcome the new generation that has the bug, but don't know where to start or ask. Pass it forward.
Thank You

Steve Alley
P.S. I can't spell ether, And bad putting words together, Please forgive me.

Jerry_H
Posts: 214
Joined: Tue Feb 03, 2009 9:39 pm
Location: Central FL

Re: Is the live steam hobby in decline?

Post by Jerry_H » Thu Feb 08, 2018 1:15 am

Steve, don't worry about it. You get your point across very well.

Jerry
www.chaski.com

WJH
Posts: 1393
Joined: Sat Jan 16, 2010 9:29 pm
Location: Florida

Re: Is the live steam hobby in decline?

Post by WJH » Thu Feb 08, 2018 5:21 am

I just ordered a 12x36 lathe, upgrading my shop, for one purpose only... To build steam locomotives. I am 37 years old, and I cannot go in the garage without my three year old son wanting to do what daddy does, so I guess he will also be a part of the future. As long as we have great suppliers offering castings and parts, this hobby will be around.

Post Reply