A few weeks ago in the Scalefour Society web forum, there was an interesting debate around a member valuing his stock for his will, if just to give his family an idea of what to expect should anyone try to rip them off I suppose. There was all sorts of advice, guidance etc. but a point I made, which up until that instance had been overlooked, is that value is relative to the market, and as more and more modellers shuffle off this mortal coil, then there is going to be more and more stock around on that market with less and less people to buy it – to the point where things become valueless. That’s basic O level economics, he says using old currency for an old codger! A leading model railway magazine pointed out recently that two years ago they did an age demographic on their readership. The average age was 53. They have just done it again and this time round their average reader age is 55. Obviously there is very little new “young blood” coming into the hobby. My somewhat tongue in cheek thought in signing off of the posting I made on the S4 forum was that you may actually wish to sell your stock off now whilst it still has some value.
I suppose coupled with this is the perennial debate about passing on the baton to the younger generation, and responsibilities of modellers for keeping the hobby alive. Indeed this seems to have become something of a sacred cow in some circles particularly on certain web forums. Let’s take a step back though at this point. Who exactly said there is a responsibility to keep the hobby alive? – More importantly if they said it, what exactly are they doing about it? Statistics such as the Model Rail one, and the general observation of the age of the audience at shows clearly demonstrates one of three things, either they aren’t doing anything about it all, or what they are doing is ineffectual, but more than likely, it is that people under 40 (and increasing) are just not interested in railways at all. Personally I believe it’s the latter. There’s lots of reasons for that not, least I suppose is that train travel is now just another commodity to get you from A to B, the only time it raises any emotion is when your train is late or cancelled, which is hardly conducive to getting someone fascinated by railways. A few weeks ago we travelled down for a weekend in London, down on East Coast, and back on Virgin on the Sunday. Yes it was comfy and the service good (we went first class) but the journey was not what a rail journey used to be. Fast forward 4 weeks and we will be on a long haul to Shanghai for a 3 week trip round China (yes including rail travel) and I’m more looking forward to be shut in one of Qatar Airways pressurised cigar tubes for 18 hours or so than any of the rail journeys we just did.
So let’s kill a sacred cow. Does the hobby have a future – Trying desperately to be positive about it, I think a very, very qualified “possibly”, but if there is it will be very different to what we have now, for a start when all the middle / old aged blokes who are buying model railway equipment now disappear, who’s going to make the mass purchases now being made which sustain 4 manufacturers? Whose responsibility is it to ensure the future of the hobby? Well it’s not mine for a start, and I don’t think it’s yours unless you particularly want to embark on some full time crusade. Why? Because I do this in my spare time, it is for rest and recuperation from work and day to day life, it’s not a form of evangelism, nor is it way of life to me. When it becomes that, then for me the enjoyment gets sapped away and the whole point is lost. Perhaps it is those who have a financial interest in the hobby who should take the lead, after all I am just a consumer, it’s their livelihood.
Getting things back into perspective, there are far far more important things in life than toy trains. My stock may end up not being worth much when I turn up my toes, there may be no model railway exhibitions, no model railway clubs, but the ride will have been a good one, enjoy it whilst it lasts.