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Two recent events have come together to bring Amherst’s effort to attract younger model railroaders into sharper focus.

The first was the April 16 online symposium attended by about dozen model railroad organizations. The event was the start of a collaborative effort that we intend to expand across the model railroad hobby.

Somewhat by happenstance, a week later the Amherst Railway Society had an exhibit at the 75th Anniversary of the 2-foot gauge Edaville Railroad in Carver, Massachusetts. We had our Membership Display Layout at the event – essentially a modular layout with return loops at each end.

Edaville ran steam trains all weekend which drew a large crowd, including a lot of families with younger children.

Between the online symposium and the Edaville weekend, we came away with some interesting insights.

Kids are fascinated – parents, too

Kids are fascinated with model railroads. Anyone that thinks model railroading is dying is absolutely wrong. Put a throttle in a kid’s hands and they light right up. Parents are fascinated, too, because they see the effect trains have on their children.

We have an audience, both parents and kids. No doubt about it.

Understanding Sales 101

When we set up the Membership Display Layout, the people manning the layout are there to sell. Period. This isn’t a time to operate the layout, or fix broken coupler pockets. This is a time to get kids running trains, engage with the parents or grandparents, and promote membership in the Amherst Railway Society and interest in model railroading. That’s the job. And, we have to get good at it.

We have to get better at starting the conversations with parents and explaining the benefits of model railroading. We all have to understand the basics of Sales 101.

Collaboration

The things we are learning could benefit other model railroad organizations. And, I suspect other organizations are learning things that could help us. We need to work together – all of us are smarter than any one of us.

We need to initiate a collaborative effort to sell model railroading – manufacturers, clubs, vendors, everybody. The growth of video conferencing has made it infinitely easier to share ideas, successes, and how to do things. We need to take advantage of the technology.

A concept

We’ve sketched up a concept for attracting younger modelers. We are calling it KIDS On Track, and a rough idea for a logo is at the top of this article. The concept has two parts.

Part I is aimed at elementary school age children – get them running trains. Thomas, Lego, N-scale, HO-scale, doesn’t make any difference. Come up with ways to get throttles in kids’ hands and let them experience the pure joy of running trains.

Part II is aimed at middle school and high school student – this is STE(A)M education. Get them building modules, programming engines, adding scenery, and operating the layout. Come up with classroom and after-school programs that will engage kids in model railroading.

It’s a concept. It needs work, but it’s a start. And, you are going to be hearing more about it.

Model Railroad “Job Fair”

Another part of the KIDS On Track program will take place the weekend of August 6 & 7, 2022. The model railroad “Job Fair” will be set up in the concourse of Union Station in Springfield, Massachusetts.