I just returned from watching a large HO train layout complete with yards and interchanges with lots of cars and engines.  Layout is card operated with operators making up/breaking down trains for dispatching to next town(s).  Most of the operators I know from railfan, clubs, or train swap activities.  So stood/walked around, asked some questions (what do these card markings mean? is their order important? etc (answer: I'm busy, gotta get this train put together)). After about 15 minutes left as everybody was too busy doing their thing, checking cards, lists etc.

Which brings me to my topic. When newbies walks in to your basement small round and round,  or huge 10,000 square foot club layout, how are they treated? Do you welcome them, see what their interest are, familiarize them with the layout and control system.  If interested do you pair him/her up with another operator who is glad to show the newbie the ropes and maybe work with them making up a train, thus recruiting a new member?  Or do you just let them stand there, hoping they go away?  And they will, like I did, figuring this is "an old boys club" so newbies just "keepin da hands in de pockets and watch da blinkin lights".

I am sure replies will be all over the place.  But something to think about.

Original Post

I have done op sessions on several On30, HO and N scale layouts, a few of which have been in the model train mags.

Generally, a privately-owned layout should treat newbies well. That's always been my experience. The owners don't want the rep of being a jerk to new people, because it scares off people to share the layout with and in the end, they wouldn't run op sessions at all if they didn't want people to come.

Now, clubs? Totally different. I've gone to a few and have had the, "Hey,howyadoing,juststandinthecorner,anddon'tbugnobody" response. In fact, most treated me like that.

It's the primary reason why I don't take part in club stuff and never will. I've generally had a bad experience with most over the years, as my experience has been it's their club, you're intruding and they want to maintain the status quo.

I've had a similar experience with a garden railway club in my area.  Very cliquish.  I had alot to offer but would have had to jump through hoops to get recognized.  So like Lee, I operate my railway and if someone visits, I take the time to show them how everything works.  

I've had the good fortune of being invited to 4 HO layouts during open houses or operating sessions.  Let's just say my experience was pretty much the same as yours. Nice folks but just no people skills. I would call them rude if not for the fact they were clueless.  Having a son on the autistic spectrum their behavior seems to indicate they might be too and just not know (being over 50 in age it's quite possible it was never diagnosed).

I had a small 5x12x9 layout and my only real visitors were my son's classmates when he was younger. I'd always give them the remotes and show them how to use it.  Same for any adults who had an interest when they happened to be over.  

This is in quite contrast to the O gauge layouts I've had the privilege to visit.  Whether a private or club layout they ALWAYS are friendly and invite everyone to bring their own locos to run.  I'd find it hard to believe one would be invited to an O gauge operating session and not be included in the activities.

Perhaps its the toy like quality of our trains which we remember from around the Christmas trees of our youth - they just bring out the inner kid in all of us.



Member of the Brotherhood of the Crappy Basement Layout


Please check out the NJ HiRailers website for information about our club.  Our What's New page shows what we've been working on. While visiting the website check our Show Dates for a listing of all our public shows and be sure to visit our Club Store for unique items available for purchase to support our club and worthwhile charities!!

Image result for nj hirailers logo


Last edited by Greg Houser
rrman posted:

I just returned from watching a large HO train layout complete with yards and interchanges with lots of cars and engines. 


 You didn't mention whether this event was at a private layout or at a club.  In my area, serious operating sessions in my area at both clubs and private homes are by invitation only.  The only people present are experienced operators.  Of course, this leads to the question of how do new people gain experience so that they will be invited to participate.

In my area, both clubs and private layouts host training sessions for new people.  New people are paired with experienced operators during training.  All the aspects of running the layout are explained during training.  This is usually a very informal event.  The new person is encouraged to run trains and ask many questions.  Often one of the biggest challenges is learning the operating system and how to control the switches, etc.  For example, most the HO layouts in my area use NCE but one uses Digitrax.  It takes time to become familiar with a new system.  All the HO guys need to learn TMCC and DCS when we have operating sessions on the G&O.

It sounds to me as if you were at a serious operating session without having the benefit of training.  The person or persons who invited you to this event should have made sure that you were teamed up with an experienced operator who could have answered your questions and guided you through the operating session.  

It is my experience that most model railroaders are very friendly and are willing to answer questions.  Hosts of operating sessions or open houses need to ensure that visitors are well treated.  I hope that you have a better experience next time.

NH Joe

New Haven Joe, I think you nailed it.  This is a private home two level around the wall layout with yards spaced approximately 10 feet apart.  Apparently this an informal club that rotates among several layouts in the city area over course of year.  Which explains why they know just what to do and everything was so co ordinated.  That said, enlightened me as to why I was not invited to join in.  

Thank goodness I have my own "little" layout (which was a Reader Rails picture in run 286 page 18), where I can do some switching in small yards.  I am mostly a train runner, not so much into making up trains and figuring out how to get this car in front of other for set out at destination (I invoke the five finger switching method). 

Different strokes, different folks!

I have to say the NJ Highrailers are the benchmark for friendly.  Every visit there is a welcoming experience.  My other pleasant experience was probably over 20 years ago at the open house of a trolley layout.  The layout was built by the owner of Micromark, he handed everyone a DCC controller and let us have fun.  

I can see how you would come away with that impression under the circumstances. I've been in that situation a few times myself over the years.

If you walk in cold off the street to an established group session, don't expect too much, that's their "play time" and they take it seriously. My best advice in that situation is three things: show interest in what they are doing, be patient, and be persistent.

When you think you are ready to try and break the ice, stay away from the yard operators and dispatchers. Too busy! Pick someone doing a local freight and follow them, he will have lulls in activities, and will probably have some time to chat, and after a while may even let you help.

Private layouts are a little different. Typically, those are by invitation only. You are either invited by the host, or with an established crew member. In either case, you have an established  connection and will have a more "friendly" experience.

Elliot, yep wife and I were invited by the owner to come see, which was a short walk down the street.  People said hello how are you but then went right back to their "job", but no one said heres how the controller works, have fun running a train back and forth in a yard (and there were several sitting dead that weren't scheduled for activity,) and that was OK with us.

Really there were no hurt feelings here, but throwing this out in case you are part of a private/club group and an invited guest drops in, what image do you reflect to him/her. welcoming or go away?

At the TMB Train club on Lng Island we make a point of being VERY approachable. We greet people at the street (rain or shine) welcome them at the door and when our members operating session is over they are in the aisles for both crowd control and to answer questions. We wear a very distinguishable yellow shirt. If our newer members cant answer a question they simply refer someone over to a more seasoned  member. Its worked well for us in getting repeat  visitors and in attracting new members.We also have same approach when we take our modular layout out into the community and in a few hours we will be displaying at the Bellmore street fair which attracts 75-100,000 people in a weekend. Its all about being ambassadors of the hobby!!!

Maybe our club is just blessed.


Add Reply

OGR Publishing, Inc., 1310 Eastside Centre Ct, Suite 6, Mountain Home, AR 72653

Link copied to your clipboard.