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In the Houston area, there are 3 that I'm aware of;

1. Papa Bens in the Meyerland area.

2. G&G Model Shop, in the West University area.

3. Trains, in the Spring area.

I've only been to Papa Bens, he has a good selection and is helpful.  The prices are okay.  I've not been to G&G.  I've heard about Trains from a friend.  His review after visiting the place was like many online reviews, the place appears to be quite disorganized, but people keep coming back.

Back in the 80s/90s I used to go to JR's Hobby, but it is gone.

Last edited by texgeekboy

I remember years ago when speaking to Mr. Boyle at OGR concerning advertising,  if I recall accurately, he shared with me the concentration of subscribers back then here in the Northeast US.

Another thing that drove RR interest was the generational RR employment of many families in this part of the country.  RR identity also drives affinity down through the years which in turn can express its self in model train purchases,

Of course there is population density to also consider.  At one time  in the 1960's billboards in Cleveland Ohio stated that 50% of the US population was within 500 miles of Cleveland Ohio.

I would venture to say that there is a local or regional train show frequently in our tri-state area.  Almost every week end in the fourth quarter.

Many times there is a line at checkout in Nick Smith.

Another fantastic shop is Hennings.  About an hour from me.   Unbelievable stock of parts, plus their knowledge and ability to fix anything.   You can ask for almost any part from their hundreds of drawers and the response may be something like, " Which version do you need?  Right hand or left hand?  Prewar or post was?  Command or conventional, etc, etc,..."

.The place is absolutely a gem !!  Decent pleasant folks.

You are right John,  we are totally spoiled here.

@Landsteiner posted:

" Despatch Junction, and Dan's Crafts and Things"

A bit further down the road is the home of Gargraves Track (North Rose, NY) and Gardner the Train Doctor.  There are also several hobby shops in Buffalo (about 60-70 miles to the west) and Syracuse (to the east) that specialize in O gauge trains.  Western and Central NY upstate is in pretty good shape hobby shop-wise, even if the number of remaining shops is small.

Gardner the Train Doctor and Jr Junction Train & Hobby (us) in Syracuse is alive and well.  I don't think there are any other stores in all of upstate NY sells a full selection of new O gauge trains.  I know we serve customers from northern, southern, western and the Mohawk Valley in our Central New York "destination location".  Our internet sales are strong too, which quite frankly is the only way to stay in business in this era.

Back in the 70's, 80's,90's and early 2000's we had about 6 different train/hobby stores within 20 minutes of my home in South Jersey.  Now we have one, Triple A hobbies in Magnolia, which today is kind of light for model trains but much heavier in the plastic model area and other hobby supplies.   The two closest train stores are located in Trenton, New Jersey about an hour's ride north of here and Galloway township about a 45 minute drive from my home.   Of course,  there is also Nicholas Smith's in Broomall, Pa. which is also about an hour's drive.  Obviously we are faring somewhat better than some other posters on this thread but it certainly isn't as good as it used to be especially when it comes to hanging out at your local store and swapping stories with the proprietor and your train buddies.  

Here in the REAL southern NJ on the west side we had several. Bridgeton - Walnut Street Hobbies closed years ago along with the two that were in Vineland. Actually , the one on Weymouth Rd sold out to Alloway Trains and Things which closed 2 year ago and took down a layout that was fabulous. It was in O Gauge Railroading Magazine too I believe. Now we have Nicholas Smith in Broomall Pa, Just Trains in DE, Holly Beach Hobbies in Wildwood.  I saw future back in this forum that someone listed Trains and Toys in Claymont DE but never been there, Also listed The Lionel Store in St Georges DE but also never been there. I know there are some more in central Jersey also. We are definitely in the hot zone for hobby shops but they are getting fewer and fewer. If they do not have a web presence then they do not last long. And as mentioned there is Hennings and a couple others in Philly area.

Big kid,

Stopped going there a long time ago. Bid store, lots of products but way over priced and its a 50 mile ride. I’d rather spend mt time searching for newer items from the dealers on the form. They do have a large selection of post-war products but I find those to be expensive as well.

Nice folks but not worth the ride bless you want to see the layouts which are very, very nice.

With a job that ricosheted me around the Midwest and west (sadly, l have made it to few of the NE shops, then or now,) l managed to visit, once, several of those listed above, such  as Seymour, Indiana, but many more that no longer exist. It is very difficult to get even supplies but has been for a while, and even an internet supplier of modeling materials l bought from has vanished.   I have laughed at how others described the similar greeting attitude they received, "Don't bother me, l am busy ignoring potential customers." But l also have heard from a long time area train show dealer who tried to open a shop, and have it staffed while he worked a paying job.  COVID staffing problems are not new.  Guess now?

Iron Horse was a great shop.  When I got back into the hobby, I would make a trip there two or three times a year, looking for NOS and whatever struck my fancy.  Later, those trips would be made to Imperial Trains (moved) and Mercer Junction (now just a fond memory).  Now those train shop day trips are spent going to Hobby Express in Cranberry, Chippers Trains & Collectibles in Washington, PA (in Washington Crown Center Mall), Patrick's Trains in Wheeling, WV, and T and K Train & Hobby in Bridgeport, OH.  The last three can easily be visited in one trip with proper planning.

Just East of Pittsburgh, we are still fortunate to have a number of train shops to choose from, including Niedzalkoski's Train Shop in Jeannette, Len's Train Shop & Custom Diecasts in Irwin (rural Irwin address, not in the town itself), and Brady's Train Shop in Greensburg.  We had a fourth, Dick's Train House in Jeannette, but unfortunately, the owner passed away a couple of weeks ago.

Andy

Surprised no one has mentioned that just 10 miles north of Pittsburgh is C.T. McCormick Hardware in Zelienople. C.T. has mostly retired, and it's a real hardware store, but his son Jeff sells a lot of trains from the front of the store!

When we moved to Central PA in 1999, the area was swimming with train stores.  I've crossed out the ones that are gone:

  • Maxwell's Trains - Harrisburg
  • The Train Shop? - Palmyra
  • Draud's Derailment - Lebanon
  • Blue Mountain Hobbies - Annville
  • Barry's Trains - Elizabethtown
  • Cool Trains - Salunga
  • Hobbytown - Harrisburg
  • The Station - New Cumberland

Back in the Pittsburgh area, the biggest and best train store is undoubtedly Hobby Express in Cranberry Township.  (And I'm not saying that just because I used to work there).  It has a very large selection of Lionel and MTH locomotives, freight cars, track, transformers, and scenery products.  They repair trains as well, and the staff is very knowledgeable and helpful.

George

@PRRrat posted:

Surprised no one has mentioned that just 10 miles north of Pittsburgh is C.T. McCormick Hardware in Zelienople. C.T. has mostly retired, and it's a real hardware store, but his son Jeff sells a lot of trains from the front of the store!

Yeah, I missed a few.  C.T. McCormick was always combined with trips to Mercer Junction and Hobby Express.  Another still-active shop in that area is the Underground Railroad Shoppe in New Castle (definitely worth visiting).

Also forgot to mention one of the best day-trip-from-Pittsburgh train shops that is also a fond memory -- Jim's Train Shop in Homer City, PA.

Andy

Hobby Express's website doesn't even mention trains.

Hmm.  I'll mention that to them.  But they do have trains, track, accessories, scenery, and just about everything else you might need.  Take a look.

Here are photos of the Hobby Express train section (not all of it) in the store.  It's about 35% of the store.  They carry O, HO, N, some S, and some G scale items.  For O-gaugers, they carry a wide variety of locomotives (Lionel, MTH, Atlas, Williams), track (Lionel, MTH, Atlas, GarGraves), transformers and power supplies, command components (DCS, Legacy, TMCC), starter sets, scenery items (Woodland Scenics, Scenic Express, others), and buildings (pre-built and kits).  They also carry lots of wire, smoke fluid, and accessories of various types.  And they have people who know how to advise you on their use.

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See what I mean? 

George

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Last edited by G3750

Hobby stores have been closing since at least the 1960s.  Living in the sticks 25 miles from a hobby shop, I did my share by buying balsa from Sig and airplane dope by mail also.  First it was TV getting peoples spare time, now is the machines.  We are all members of a dying bred, hobbyists.

The one good sized hobby store here in Baton Rouge, LA is hanging on with remote controlled cars being the most active at the store.  A great train store, Electric Train Depot, with a couple nice layouts is 30 miles away in Ponchatoula, LA and only open on Saturdays.

Charlie

Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Here's the most bizarre story of how a hobby shop recently got a new lease on life.

Tech-Toys is a hobby shop in a strip mall on Route 46 in Parsippany, N.J. If you blinked when you drove by, you'd miss it. It was just another shop in one of the area's many strip malls.

About a year ago, Progressive Insurance filmed a couple of TV commercials in that strip mall, showing the front of the store and the Tech-Toys sign. Once the commercials started airing, the place became very, very popular.  (Link to news story below).

P.S.  Tech-Toys is an authorized Lionel dealer, although I don't know if the shop carries much Lionel inventory.

https://www.roi-nj.com/2021/03...ational-ad-campaign/

Like most stores, between Amazon and Walmart, they have been squeezed out. I would have never thought I would miss radio shack so much. Ah, gone are the days of the enjoyable hunt, scrolling through the yellow pages finding a list of stores specializing in your need then going to each one to find the best price and or product.

HobbyTown USA is the last man standing locally, there is HobbyLobby, but they don't really have things for the electronic hobbies I am into. We do have some boutique shops in Downtown Fredericksburg that carry train sets but they don't specialize in it. And a few sprinkled throughout the nearby reagion. I do my best to support the local stores, most of my RC purchases are done at Hobbytown. But for these trains, I don't think I can now.

I just went through the worst buying experience Ive had in quite sometime from a Lionel Dealer a couple of hours away. Would not replace my defective model, I was buying for my dad for fathers day, on my first request was told to contact Lionel and that I could find another dealer to spend my train dollars at. Went back and forth via email, since no one returned my call, with two different people that had very different attitudes on the matter. The owner was, well if I posted the emails, it would probably make you scratch your head.

I even bought another loco from them so I could get my Dad a train, for the day after Fathers Day. And still, met with extreme resistance to make things right on the first loco. Thankfully I paid with PayPal and was able to get my money back via dispute minus the $30 for the free shipping I got, if I were to take the word of the owner it would seem that PayPal fees are taking food off of his family's table. I was half expecting him to tell me his woes of the rent he has to pay for his store. I think this stores saving grace is probably the gentleman who seems to be spearheading the online sales.

I was seriously thinking about just ditching this train hobby after that experience. I'm trying to give myself a cooling off before deciding if I'm going to bother writing a review online, just in the interest of being fair and trying to help small business.

@Don Winslow posted:

Not much where I live in the San Francisco bay area. As a young man (16 years old) I worked at a great store in San Mateo called "Trains Nothing But Trains", but the owner Bart Austin passed away a number a years ago and the store did not survive long after his passing. We got a lot of hobby greats in there including John Allen and Neil Young, both of whom I met personally. Also, Bart had been friends with Gordon Varney (before my time).

Until recently we had Talbots which handled a fair amount of Lionel, but they closed shortly before the Covid shutdowns. I miss both stores and their employees greatly - I've lost count of the times Talbot's helped me out. I do think Talbot's "fibbed" once - they told my wife I had ordered something which I hadn't and she paid for it and brought it home. They were spot on, because I would have bought the item in a heartbeat and when my wife presented it to me at the end of a busy work day I was thrilled.

The Bay Area of California was once a hot bed of train stores.  (Much the same in SoCal, including San Diego, as well).

The ones in SanFran proper were always pricey - as in often "over-list".  Trains Nothing But Trains in San Mateo was an outstanding store with just about everything in/for O Gauge.  The owner was a bit grumpy, but that wasn't uncommon with train shops.  There was the Engine House in Sunnyvale, housed in old Quonset huts as I remember, that had more Lionel trains than I ever saw anywhere even to this day.  The owner?  Yep.  A qualified grump as well. 

My all-time Bay Area train shop was Schmidty's in Santa Clara.  The owner was a joyful guy, pleasant and knowledgeable.  He worked at the Sunnyvale Lockheed plant as his real job, and managed the train shop in the afternoons and on weekends.  He always had a pot of coffee for the trainheads and a deal for this young (at the time) operator/collector each time I walked in.  Hank Schmidt was the guy ... he introduced me to TCA and TTOS and was my sponsor for both organizations.  Hank passed in the late '70s.

There was also the Red Caboose (?) in Redwood City.  Interesting chap who ran/owned the store.

Hard to believe Talbot's closed - leaving almost nothing on the SF Peninsula.

All gone.  Sadly.

I am pretty lucky my local shop seems to be going strong but there seems to be less and less trains and more and more other hobby stuff.  They seem to have a lot of RC and those sections are taking over the train aisles.  But I am lucky within 30 minutes there are two other only train shops and one other good sized hobby shop with a lot of train stuff.

It's not a true hobby shop, but if you're looking for a place that's loaded with O Scale (new and used) equipment, and you're in Northwest Indiana, you need to visit the "I Love Toy Trains" in Michigan City.   It's owned by Tom McComas (TM Productions) who has produced almost every video on O Scale that I can find.  If you make the trip, stop by on a Saturday, and you might bump into Bob Phillips (aka the Lionel Whisperer), the star of the "You Can Do It" DVD series.  Most likely, he'll be at his bench repairing someone's postwar Lionel engine (but he'll always find the time to help you out with any questions).  This place is a true hidden gem.

I am pretty lucky my local shop seems to be going strong but there seems to be less and less trains and more and more other hobby stuff.  They seem to have a lot of RC and those sections are taking over the train aisles.  But I am lucky within 30 minutes there are two other only train shops and one other good sized hobby shop with a lot of train stuff.

You sir are spoiled!! :-)

With the P&D Hobby Shop closing in the Metro Detroit area by the end of this month, I can only say I have Great Lakes Toy & Hobby in Sterling Heights, Whistle Stop in St. Clair Shores, and a modest selection of antique stores left.

I'm just gobsmacked that although we have online shopping at our fingertips, we're also contributing to the downfall of physical stores. My siblings and I were at a family dinner in downtown Detroit to celebrate my great-grandparents 101st wedding anniversary, and my mother's cousin, Skip, showed me my great-granddad's journal from 1964. (Well, I got to share it from him to be honest.) Similar to the way we post things through social media and text messages, journals were a way of describing day-to-day activities; however, I only did journal entries for schoolwork, not to mention I briefly did a one-line journal essay about one of my trips in Torch Lake for myself, and I have a Mickey Mouse journal. But, I'm no big journalist.

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