Best Minneapolis Area Train Shop?

TexasSP posted:

I hobby shop the size of an old bowling alley, sounds fun and dangerous........

About half of the space is devoted to trains, all scales. Three rail is about a quarter of the train space. Personally, I ignore the trains, as they don't really excite me. Very little three rail scale stuff, contrary to what the name would imply. I go there for paint and sundry items.

Maybe the coolest and most unique things at Scale Model is way in the back. You have to go through the door by the magazine rack, and to the right, there's another door. It's only active on the weekends, but you can still see in even when it's dark. SLOT CARS! They have a couple big tracks, and you can rent cars and track time when it's open. Good idea to call first.

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From a three rail perspective, maybe the most interesting place in town is Steve's Train City in Hopkins, a western suburb of Minneapolis.

The problem is three fold, first you have to find his hole in the wall location. I went to high school in Hopkins, and know the downtown fairly well. I had trouble finding it the first time. It's around the back of the building that has its front on Main Street.

Next, you have to figure out his hours and catch him.

Finally, he has a lot of stuff in store rooms, not on display. He's kind of shifted over the years, from a standard retail model, to doing more train shows.  He knows what he has, and even where it is, but you have to get past his somewhat gruff exterior. I've known him for years, and he's a good guy.

Welcome to the year 2018. When I lived in the Twin Cities metro area in the 1980s, there were roughly a dozen shops. They dwindled with the times. Gone are Woodcraft Hobby (both in Minneapolis on Lake Street and in the Har Mar Mall), Osseo Sports & Train World (which stocked postwar trains), Hobby Depot, University Hobby, Tinkerbell in Wayzata and others in Eagan and Hopkins that I can no longer remember by name. That’s not counting Kay-Bee Toy & Hobby, the chain that then became just Kay-Bee Toys, then KB Toys and then nothing.

But what remain are sizable shops.

When I worked at Hub from 1988 to 1996, it had three stores, and my store in Richfield was about 5,000 square feet. Today, the Richfield store consists of about 14,300 square feet of floor space, plus a shipping and receiving/office/breakroom area that brings its leased space close to 20,000 square feet. Hub also has a Little Canada store (a suburb north of St. Paul) of about 12,500 square feet. Despite what Matt says, the train department isn’t at all small — roughly 2,000 square feet. Some 3-rail, but not a lot. You have to see the general department near the front of the store. It’s huge!

Scale Model Supplies fills an old basement bowling alley. I estimate the square footage at about 11,000 square feet, with a lot of trains. The store also leased space on the main floor to the rear of the building years ago, but I’m not sure that’s the case now.

I have never been to Steve’s Train City, but, if I recall correctly, it was a K-Line superstore prior to 2008, so toy trains were part of its specialty.

But the Twin Cities isn’t known for its selection of 3-rail trains. What you’ll find at Hub in Richfield and SMS in St. Paul are stuff you’ll find anywhere.

Still, all three shops are worth a visit. You really can’t expect to find more than that, and often less, in any metro area these days in the U.S.

Jim R. 

breezinup posted:

I am planning to be in the Cities in September. Might have carved out some time to check out something worthwhile in the area, but this sounds like extremely slim pickings. 

Drop me an email if you'd like to visit my layout. I also have a number of other train related suggestions for this area. I will be out of town at the end of September, if all goes according to plan, but if you are visiting before 20th, I can make it work.

MLindberg - Choo Choo Bob's is OK. MTH primarily, but if your son is a fan of the show, then you should probably hit it. Scale Model is only a few miles away. My invitation to visit my layout is also open to you. Click on the follow the progress in my signature to see some pictures.

 

I didn’t say the train department at hi is small, I said the train staff is lacking. The train department at both stores is decent, much better at the Richfield location but it’s nothing special.

MTH Authorized Service Tech

President Chief Operations Officer, The Lenny Lines

 

I love my trains!!!

 

http://www.netanimations.net/Moving-picture-steam-locomotive-running-animated-gif.gif

Matt Makens posted:

I didn’t say the train department at hi is small, I said the train staff is lacking. The train department at both stores is decent, much better at the Richfield location but it’s nothing special.

I realize that. I just wanted to clarify that the store, as a whole, is worth a visit.

I also agree that there are no 3-rail experts at Hub, though Harry isn’t exactly uninformed given his decades in the business, including his role as train department manager before he went part time and Nick took over. I don’t know Nick all that well — I have only met him twice — but he seems personable enough, though obviously has little exposure to American 3-rail’s past given his British background.

Too bad you aren’t part of the mix any longer, Matt. They could use your dynamic.

Scale Model Supplies has had to make adjustments recently to stay in business. I hope it all works out in the long term. That store offers some traditional hobby supplies like few do in the country.

I do wonder why 3-rail and O scale is so underwhelming in the Twin Cities, which has a substantial metro area (3.6 million people). I still remember the 3-rail O gauge layout I saw at the Minnesota State Fair in 1974 and the fascination it elicited in me in those years when I was an HO guy. And the 2-rail Twin City Model Railroad Museum and club still exists. Not the mention Elliot’s short-lived enterTRAINment at the Mall of America in 1992-93 and his current club-sized home layout in Stillwater.

Jim R. 

Mallard4468 posted:

If you're driving through Wisconsin on the way, I found Model Train Classics in Eau Claire to be interesting - lots of British stuff that you don't see elsewhere.  It's about 2 hours from The Cities along I-94.

I suppose it's worth a quick stop, but don't to too far out of the way for it. I did just that 2 weeks ago. I wouldn't do it again. I'm into postwar. They have a  Canadian Pacific set for $9,0000!  I realize it's a higher dollar set, but that's pricing in a different galaxy. They had a  B&O F3 AB engine set in crappy condition for a million dollars too. But yes,  it's a place to stop. 

Just my 2 cents

Jim R. posted:

I do wonder why 3-rail and O scale is so underwhelming in the Twin Cities, which has a substantial metro area (3.6 million people).

Sadly, it's the same in Dallas Ft. Worth, and Kansas City, and a lot more than that.

It makes it impossible to buy and know what you're getting, because there is nowhere at all to see any of the new stuff. Get something that doesn't meet expections? Your only choices are to keep it and bemoan your $500 (or whatever) mistake, or sell it at a sizeable loss. This has problem has cost me a lot of money in recent  years!

Nor is there any dealer to buy from and then return it to in case of a defective item. Other alternatives are a lot more hassle.

Item reviews on the Forum have become essential, but of course only a fraction of the stuff coming out gets reviewed.

Jim R. posted:

Gone are Woodcraft Hobby .....

Lots of memories there. Growing up in the Twin Cities area, I remember Woodcraft being around a long (long) time. Back in the 60's, they even had a regular Saturday afternoon TV hobby show that I often watched. Life before the age of electronics!

I think we'd be better off if more kids today had hobbies, but that's another story.

I left hub cuz they wouldn’t give me more hours and Nick is more interested in talking to people than selling trains. He knows HO ok but he’s cheap and has no real exposure to anything more than Athearn Blue Box. I’ve had numerous discussion with irate customers because somebody took their special order out of the box and played with it. They did it to me once too. Harry prefers that you not talk to him but he does know some stuff. None of them know trains and none of them are active hobbyists so they are lacking in experience and knowledge. 

MTH Authorized Service Tech

President Chief Operations Officer, The Lenny Lines

 

I love my trains!!!

 

http://www.netanimations.net/Moving-picture-steam-locomotive-running-animated-gif.gif

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