From the Model Railroad Hobbyist forum….
From the NMRA Bulletin:
Did you notice that the 2017 Walthers catalog combines HO-N-Z in one volume? Some may celebrate this as it presents more scale options, but this also is another example of the contraction of the hobby. There simply is not enough product to justify two catalogs, as in past years. Walthers, like Caboose, is a seminal part of the hobby industry and while far from closing, is an example of changes in the industry.
The future of Walthers, Caboose-style shops, and the NMRA resides in your hands. For every product you buy online to save a dollar, you contribute to the Caboose closing or the Walthers contraction. For every new member you ignore at an event or fail to make welcome, you doom the NMRA. In reality, the answer to the contracting hobby lies with us all.
And a very sensible reply:
I find your commentary from the latest bulletin troubling. Not because of the closure of Caboose Hobbies, but your continued insistence that the hobby is in a state of contraction using the evidence of Caboose closing and Walthers’ catalogs becoming one. This is looking at a few facts and making broad assumptions of them without really looking at many other facts out there. Caboose closing and Walthers’ catalogs is not a sign of the hobby dying – it is a sign, like the world at large, that things are changing. It is very frustrating when people in your position in the hobby paint it as dying because of change, but fail to acknowledge or understand that change, perhaps, is renewal, not death. Is the hobby of the 50s and 60s dying? Yes, indeed. Is the hobby of model railroading dying? Absolutely not!
In fact, there are many signs that we are in a new era of growth for the hobby. The current range of products has never been of higher quality, and a broad range of affordable options are still out there for those entering the hobby. The options available to modelers is second to none in terms of how they want to enjoy the hobby – scratch building, kits, or built-ups. The real problem is, this is seen by many of the old guard as a negative, because it isn’t “as it used to be.” Everything in the world is changing, so why would model railroading expect to be static? And in fact, if it doesn’t change, I would say THAT is the bigger concern, because failing to change (like so many in the hobby) is what will kill businesses. Just ask Kodak or Polaroid or Tower Records or Montgomery Ward or Woolworth’s.
In reality, I feel that the most damage done to this hobby is done by it’s leaders who continually trumpet it’s death and make statements, such as you made in a newspaper article in the past year that suggested young people are only interested in their phones. THAT is the kind of nonsense generalization that will drive young people from the hobby. In fact, there are probably the same proportion of young people in the hobby today than there were decades ago, but they enter the hobby differently. But this is not understood by leaders, such as yourself, and through this lack of understanding, you inadvertently do damage to the hobby you are trying to protect.
The real issue, I believe, for the NMRA is it’s shrinking base of members. Let’s be clear – this is mostly an NMRA problem, not a hobby problem. Why is the NMRA membership sinking? In many ways it’s because of these out-of-touch comments by it’s leadership. Who wants to join an association that openly generalizes about young people and their cellphone addictions? Or one that suggests internet shopping is bad for the hobby? The failure of the NMRA is it’s failure to change with the world and understand the world it operates in. But that doesn’t seem to be understood – it’s simply blamed on the internet and young people that only care about their cell phones, which are both patently false.
I hope the NMRA will succeed for the long term, because I believe the hobby is better with it than without it, but there needs to be a sea change in how the NMRA leadership views the world in which we live and the way the hobby is evolving.
We have the same issues in the UK, and for ESNG. How do we evolve and keep the hobby alive? I’m sure not by harking back to the ‘good old days’.