Train Shows

Today I was discussing leg design for portable layouts with a few friends and one of them showed me a diagram of a very interesting design. One of the features of the leg assembly was an integral stanchion.

I don’t know why but this got me thinking about train shows. In particular, thinking about the various modular groups and train clubs that set up at the shows. Now I enjoy looking at the layouts and talking with the owners/operators but if you asked me two days later which groups were at the show, I could not tell you.

Last night I watched “The Apprentice” and one of the contestants was given the task of setting up a video game championship show.

Whenever a group of modelers discuss modules one of the areas that frequently come up is attracting young people to the groups. They want simple standards so that young people won’t feel intimidated. Side Note: Young people do not intimidate nearly as easily as some older people think they do. Just because you do not understand something does not mean that most kids wouldn’t understand it.

What do these two things have in common?

Young people.

Now train shows are where groups and clubs get to market their product to the general public. Marketing is a pretty foreign term to the average modeler. Even most of the vendors at a show, that should know better, think that marketing consists of throwing a bunch of boxes on a table.

Imagine for a moment a video game show where all of the vendors just toss stuff on a table to sell it. Imagine that all of the operators are standing behind their machines transfixed with operation and only looking up if someone asks a question. Get five or six guys running PlayStations and have them all huddled behind a row of machines all talking back in forth in techno-babble.

Do you see where I am going with this?

Get out from behind the layouts. Hand the controls to anyone that will take them. Talk to everyone. Give away flags, or balloons or towels, or pins, something with the name of your club on it. Print up a hundred or so COLOR brochures that MARKET your group/club/standard/whatever. Have noise, if your trains don’t make noise then put Graceland on the layout and have Elvis Presley playing in the background. Rent a laser projector and have your club name beamed on the wall. I’m not saying that your display has to look like a battle scene from Star Wars but I am saying that running your trains around, meeting up with buddies from other groups, and handing out a one page specification sheet for your standard is not the way to do it.

2 thoughts on “Train Shows

  1. Ron Wm. Hurlbut

    Hi Tom,

    Some good thoughts here…

    I usually greet people by saying “Hi, what would you like to know?” Then they will ask about the hand-laid track or how I cut the the styrofoam…

    I use a guest book at train shows and sent out e-mails to folks who sign…


    Happy Railroadin’

    The Tin Goat

    Ron Wm. Hurlbut (On30, Hn42 & UU)

    The West Toronto Junction

    Ontario, Dominion of Canada

  2. ChrisA

    Actively (and properly) marketing your club may be THE thing to do if you are looking to expand and “go big”. As secretary of the largest local club for a few years (~100-120 members) I can say that the LAST things we needed were more members. The desperate requirements were more ACTIVE members; people who put some effort into the club instead of sitting around waiting to be entertained. Even the modular factions within the club needed to be poked and prodded. They were (and largely still are) content to drag around 5-7 year old, unfinished bits of plywood or decrepit, second hand modules from long departed members to various shows. As with many organisations, 20% of the people (or less) did the vast majority of work; clinics, shows, newsletter (both printing & content), and so forth.

    Another local club had merely a dozen members but they were all active and enthusiastic. They dispensed with “business” meetings and their associated trappings. One person handled club funds and any administrative tasks. The agenda of a meeting consisted of verifying the dates for upcoming shows and determining who would attend. The rest of the time was spend on improving the modules. Had their choice of era and scale not differed so much from my own preferences, I would have sought membership.

    Current club activity consists of a handful of rebellious non-conformists looking to enjoy some interaction and operation via the medium of On30 modular construction. Each of us has tabled our inspirations and intents and are determining how we may integrate them into a relatively cohesive whole. Progress is slow but steady. We expect to have a small layout at the next “Christmas” train show. I find it much more satisfying to participate at this level than to be one of an undifferentiated crowd.


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