Of grayheads and the future

nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Mon Jul 11 23:33:58 EDT 2005

Hopefully, the moderator will allow me a few words given that I spent last
week at the NMRA in Cincy.
I'd venture a guess (being born in 1962) that there just wasn't a heckuva
lot to do 50 years ago in most places other than look at trains. Lessee, no
TV, no video anything, aside from reading books, whittling, fishing, bobbing
for apples or any of the other things I've read about or heard from old
folks, I'd venture to say that kids then had far fewer choices in those
simpler times. That's not a bad thing, but it sure ain't today's reality,
wherein my 12 year old's done more than I did in my first 30 years.
That said, every time I go to a rail event, I'm struck by the advanced age
of the group. The world moves on, like it or not. One NMRA'er all but hugged
my son and exclaimed loudly "there's the future", during a layout tour. I'm
amazed at how my kids are invited to handle multi-thousand-dollar brass
engines on layout tours at the urging of owners worried about who'll carry
on the hobby when they're gone. Or worried about who'll keep the market
afloat for all the pricey junk we covet and hoard.
Oh yeah, I've run across at least two guys my age who swore off the N&WHS
after being shunned by the "real" railroaders for not having lived durng the
Golden Era or, worse yet, daring to dabble in, shriek, model trains. One
says he'll return to the group after the offenders have gone on to their
Great Reward. Odds are he may well win that waiting game.
Personally, I work with crotchety AARP'ers every day and deal with similar
customers every day, so it's not a big deal to me. But it is for some.

In a world of video games, organized sports and organized everything else,
fast Internet connections, online chat and 200-plus TV channels, kids -- and
adults have a lot more options these days.
How many even see trains in these days of air-conditioned subdivisions
sprouting up far from anything remotely urban, grimy or gritty?
That's exactly what the third owner of the legendary Henze's Hobby here in
St. Louis said as the last of the shelves were being carted off to scrap
after he closed the store; there was little demand for trains anymore, and
he never moved into the R/C cars or fantasy models that shrewder hobbyshop
owners have added to pay the bills.
Gents, if we don't expand the Big Tent (how's that for a political analogy),
our hobby may be extinct in 20 years. Personally, I'd like to see it carried
on to another generation that may come to love SD70MAC's or think of the
1950-built J as being as quaint a machine as a diamond-stacked 4-4-0...
My $.02

Andre Jackson and/or Lisa Burrows
Life is short; update your anti-virus software

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