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My oldest son & I use to compete & run slot cars for about 9 years from when he was 5 till 14. We even ran in 3, 6 hour endurance races (2 hours in total darkness) & won the first time. That was our thing, more than the trains, which were always around. My kids all took a crack at building models, cars, tanks, planes, ships, etc. They have no interest in that now. We played baseball, football, hockey & soccer together. Even my daughter! My point, little to none of these things we do now, but we tried many things. All good memories. My grandsons are just getting into hockey & soccer. I'm only a spectator now, too many joint surgeries needed in the future.

There are many aspects of the toy train hobby, most of which help develop useable & creative skills. Scenery, model building, painting, electronics, designing. If it's really important that your kids or grandkids get involved in your beloved hobby, there are other areas they may find interesting & rewarding. You may hit a dead end, but who knows. Even most of us here get tired of running our trains around & around. Turn it into a game, a switching layout, or into a craft that may lead them into a future job direction.

@Richie C. posted:

I have four young grandchildren, two of whom are into trains and two of whom could care less despite all being exposed to the hobby in the same way - I don't fret about it - different strokes for different folks.

We live in a different world today where, at least here in the northeast, it's rare for kids to even see a real train in their day-to-day lives and they have so many more choices on how to spend their activity time than we ever did.

How many of us can be absolutely sure that, if we grew up today instead of decades ago, that we would have the same interest in trains and model railroads ?

I couldn't be sure, but then again by the time I was really aware of things, early 1970's, trains weren't a big thing in my life either. Sure, I saw the local shortline (that is still chugging along and actually flourishing) and did take the old DLW MU's into NYC (the green monsters we called them, wicker seats and all), but it was well past when railroads were king, it was already well into the era of the automobile and the plane.  I am not entirely sure that people get into trains because they are exposed to them, little kids love steam locomotives, even now when Steam has been gone for 60+ years.  Obviously seeing trains can fire the imagination, but kids even today more than a few kids gravitate towards trains if they are exposed even just to model trains *shrug*.

Obviously it is a debate point that cannot be proved either way, kind of like trying to prove God exists vs He doesn't (well, okay, Gene Shepherd's father may have won the debate, that "beer proves the existence of God, nothing that good happens by chance' *lol* [on the other hand I have drank beer that I would swear came from another place, nuff said *grin*).

For my family (daughter + grandkids), a fastrack layout is best, since we can just take everything out of the living room and let them design away. They absolutely love it. My plan was to build something kid-height in the basement, but it looks like we may be moving overseas, so for now I am collecting a pile of easily packed fastrack and just bring it out periodically. It will be hard to get new things though, overseas!

In my earlier post, I should have mentioned that all three of our daughters love trains, both my O gauge trains and real trains. They grew up before my layout was built, but we always had a Christmas layout and I also had a number of shelves displaying some of my engines. They also learned about my love of trains and the fact that my wife's grandfather was a cabooseman on the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Our girls also rode on several scenic railroads with my wife and me.  By far, their favorite was the Strasburg Railroad, which we rode on a number of occasions. While we were in Strasburg, we would also visit the Choo Choo Barn, the Strasburg Train Shop and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, and we stayed at the Red Caboose. Then we would travel to Hershey Park. We also visited Roadside America on a couple of occasions. On family trips we have taken over the years to locations like Flagstaff, Arizona, our daughters have been more than happy to do some train watching with us. Two of the three have also taken trips with us on AMTRAK.

Whenever our daughters visit our house, they and their families always spend some time in the train room, as they love the layout and are interested in what changes have been made to it and what new engines, passenger cars, freight cars and lit vehicles have been added. We always play a little game. I ask them to identify what is new, and they are very good at it!


Last edited by irish rifle

I have two grandsons that are here with Nana and Papa all the time. The youngest turns two this month, and the oldest turns four in October.

Knowing that both are really a bit too young for electric trains--not in terms of being to operate them, but in terms of giving them proper care during play--I bought them a Brio-type layout a year or so ago, and they spend a lot of time in our sunroom playing with those trains. When Lucas, the oldest, comes downstairs to Papa's office and train room area, he enjoys standing on a stool and watching trains run for a while, but not for a overly long time. That's okay as far as I am concerned, and I can only hope that, as he becomes older, he will want to more actively participate. If he does, that's great! If he doesn't, that's okay, too. I can encourage him, but I definitely will not go beyond just letting him see how much I enjoy the trains, and letting him run them when he wants to, or help with some layout scenery.

Not long ago, Luke came downstairs and said "Papa, I want to show you something." I followed him into the storage area of our basement and he went directly to a boxed set of O gauge Thomas trains that is on the fairly extensive line of train box storage shelves. He went directly to that set (he must have seen it at some time when he was in the basement with Nana) and said he wants me to set it up for him. I have a large assortment of O gauge Thomas, but he pointed out that particular starter set. I promised him I will do that very soon, and that promise will be fulfilled just as soon as I make the finished side of the basement a bit more "safe," not so much for the boys, but for our new pup who I also would like to have down here with me when I'm working. Obviously going to have to make sure nothing chewable is within reach.

I am planning to place a FasTrack layout on the floor in the open area around my main layout so it will be easy for Luke and his brother, Grant, to play with the trains while I am working. It will definitely have concurrent mainlines so they can race their Thomas, Percy, James, etc. trains.

These boys may or may not like trains all that much in their later years, but I'm sure they will remember Papa's love of trains long after I am gone. That, I think , will be just fine!

@Richie C. posted:
....How many of us can be absolutely sure that, if we grew up today instead of decades ago, that we would have the same interest in trains and model railroads ?

As others have stated, for today's kids it is not just being exposed to trains (real or model/toy), but that there are so many other hobbies/distractions out there then when I was a kid.  Back then model trains, slot cars, and control line airplanes were about it for powered toys.  Plus we had our wired, one line telephone for social media.  I will say that my much older brother, when forced to babysit, would take me to the UP or SP mainline to watch trains.  He definitely had the train gene.

For my Civil Air Patrol cadets we have sessions with radio control quadcopters, fixed wing aircraft, and to a lessor extend ground vehicles (we are AIR Force).  We have a whole program in rocketry that can lead to advanced qualification in National level model rocketry programs.  The Air Force is investing in teaching our cadets computer technology and cyber security.  And that doesn't even touch gaming or social media.  Maybe there is too much out there.

Anyway, forget the children.  They will enjoy your trains, or not.  I believe the hobby will continue if marketed correctly to adults because it is a great hobby for stay at home folks and especially retirement.  While there are some that may look down on our hobby, we just need to speak up more about it.  I find there are more folks out there that show interest then expected.


You hit it for me.  We had a 9 x 5 Marx layout of the floor at Christmas and tired of it at about 8.  My brother and I started building wooden and stick model planes, then move to U-control model flying into high school and got several neighbor hood kids into flying, even if it was 95 degrees and 20 mph wind blown in south Texas.  Then scratch building and model boats with gas motors and later a radio control boat with Tubes!  Then we built Heathkits stereos and my brother got into Ham radio through out his life time.  See, even then we were attracted to the modern stuff of the time and the more fun to operate (fly) things.  If only slot cars had come out then I would have gone into them.

So it is not too hard to see why an old form of transportation and slow moving hobby like model trains has a hard time competing, even with all the electronics, sound and more realism of today's modern trains.  I stuck to the portable layout, I built when my two kids were young, as a part time hobby.  The son, now an engineer and daughter enjoyed them then and to this day she is only one who can run the whole layout and shows some interest in seeing the layout an hour or so when her family comes to town.  None of the 7 grands, 10 to 18 now, care much or know how to run it.  But boy can they use those devices.

So we have to accept that model trains are our hobby and be glad the wife and family tolerate us and the trains!


Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Interests and hobbies are just the vehicle. It is the time together that counts. When I was a wee lad, my father wasn’t around much. He would disappear for months and sometimes years. When he was around he often went fishing. Did I like fishing? Nope, it was smelly, slimy, and often freezing cold. What I did love was that rare time I had to spend with my father. So maybe that is a little perspective from the other end of the equation.

It looks like every angle is getting covered, except why is grandpa playing with kids toys? To each his own. Fishing, building models, playing with trains or just throwing a ball around, it's all the same, as long as we are enjoying the time with the ones we love. We are hopefully building memories & a warm & fuzzy place in our hearts. Don't forget to take some pictures, they last longer.

WOW,  I never though this thread would generate so many responses.  Thank you everyone for sharing your very special stories and insight.   This is a tribute to the fact that you guys are a genuine loving and caring group.  I feel like I got to know each of you a little better.

The Big Disappointment is mostly in myself for not reading the writing on the wall that my grandsons had too many other interest to get involved with trains.

To answer Ironman1's  question;  "why is grandpa playing with kids toys"   The best answer I've seen is,  We have to get old but we don't have to grow up. 

To update on my original post,  my son had decided to keep the tables.


Our oldest daughter and her husband are driving to Tennessee. They stopped for dinner somewhere in West Virginia. I just got a text from her. She said that they were looking for a hotel to stay at tonight and the guy sitting next to them said don't go to a certain hotel because it's right on the railroad tracks. Her response to him was perfect: "That's where we need to be!" Tomorrow, they are going to ride the Western Maryland Scenic Train.

Good stuff!


While growing up in the late 50's early 60's, both my brother and I had our own Lionel layouts.  We each had one locomotive and a handful of cars and one accessory each.  They were seasonal from the day after Thanksgiving until we lost interest usually about mid January.  We had cousins and friends that had permanent layouts so trains were never totally out of sight.  Once in high school, our thoughts turned to cars and girls.  When I had a family of my own, my dad brought over my old Lionel train and the Christmas train tradition was renewed.  All three of my kids enjoyed helping to set up the train around the tree but it was never their thing.  Like many of you have already stated, video games seemed to occupy all of their free time.  If that's the case in your family as well, don't be discouraged.  My middle child seemed at times to be obsessed with gaming.  We made sure that he had other opportunities to explore but he always came back to his games.  Today he has dual majors in Computer Science and Mathematics and works as a Software Engineer.  After only four years, he's rapidly approaching the salary I was making as an Aerospace Engineer with 45 years of experience.  He and his brother still play games on-line together at least once a week.


Dear Alan Miller---I read with interest...and sadness... about your little grandson's interest in a particular Thomas set.  You kept on finding excuses to put off setting it up for him.  Al, when dealing with kids you have to "strike while the iron is hot".  Don't be surprised if the little guy doesn't remember his interest in your Thomas set. Now when your room is all set for your setting up the set for him and your dog he probably won't be interested but you will have a great place to set up a train.....if anyone still cares.   ODD-D

Hey Doug (boomer0622),

Don't be hard on yourself. It's pretty obvious, your headline hit a nerve with a lot of us. Most of us originally took it the wrong way, but it did open the door to many interesting opinions. It's natural to want to share something we are passionate about with a loved one, or even a casual acquaintance for that matter.

Even though it sounds like I run trains with my grandsons for hours on end, it's not actually so. Depending on time, we may only spend less than a half hour a visit. My grandsons love coming to Nan & Pops house because it's different from when they are home. As it should be. The boys also have expectations & an agenda with each visit. We do our best not to send them home disappointed. Parents tend to have more rules & restrictions than grandparents...period. Not to mention, both parents usually have full time jobs these days & are worn out by the evening. Myself being retired & since we don't see them every day, we squeeze in as much fun as possible for all of us. We may even be more careful in some ways. We'd hate to send them home injured, God forbid!

I'm arguably one of the youngest people on this forum (27 going on 28 in November), and I don't plan on having any children. Nonetheless, both online and in real life, I'm surrounded by dozens of friends (men, women, etc.) who share the same passion of trains as I do. Most of them are the same age as me, and most I've grown so close with I consider them family. They grew up with Thomas the Tank Engine in the 90's when he was at his peak, and I don't see that affection fading away from them even when most are avid gamers.
Regardless if they're your blood or not, I feel that there will be others around you that are just as much family and will carry on the magic of toy trains. I know when I have no more oxygen in my body that my trains will eventually end up in someone else's hands to continue the affection.

This has developed into an interesting thread. However, Doug, I would suggest a different approach. They are both at a good age for them to be involved. My suggestion would be to let them design and define the layout. Visit a train station, train show, or open house. Leave your train magazines laying around or point out something of interest. This will help provide them with a conceptual understanding of the industry and the hobby. They can use a program to design the track plan and they are old enough to be shown how to do the wiring. Perhaps even use the bench work you have and have them reconfigure the area. At their ages we learned the fundamentals of electricity, carpentry, and creative design. I blew a few fuses but I survived, learned from it and moved on. You can also show them how to service the engines.
What I learned during those developmental years is still with me. Now instead of blowing fuses I occasionally trip a breaker. Plus, they will have the fond remembrance of what they learned from their granddad. And that they will carry forward.

This thread gave me a chuckle.  My 19 yr old son stopped being interested in trains around age 6.  Being autistic he has some unique areas of interest in which he has a high level of expertise.  One of these is collecting high-end action figures of the Godzilla monster-verse.   He teases me about playing with trains and I tease him about collecting dolls.  Fortunately, we have several common areas of interest and are quite close.   My old layout had a military scene - tanks, artillery, and infantry, etc.  I would be running trains to find a line of tanks running down main street, or an rifleman on a roof top, or a howitzer barrel sticking out of a tunnel.   His way of being creative and funny at the same time.   One time I found he had placed Godzilla and other monsters all over the downtown area and in the mountains.   In his own way he liked the layout - just not the trains so much.   His favorite Christmas movie is the Polar Express and he has told me that when he has a place of his own he will get a Polar Express set to run under the tree every year like I have now.    Of course, when that time comes I will give him the set I have now.

My point is that they may not be interested now, or in the way that you like, but in time may grow to have some appreciation for the hobby we enjoy.


Like some of the others, the title sort of made me go "say what??".

Parenting is not easy. It's certainly not for sissies. You try your best to instill in them a sense of values that will help make their life better, try to teach them the fundamentals of "life's economics*", introduce them to your interests, but most importantly, help them explore their own interests. All of this so they can grow into being their own personality.

* "Life's economics: Simply put: You must always make a profit. That is, do not consistently spend more than you make.

Trains didn't "take" with my daughter (our only child). No, horses were her thing. We did fly control line model airplanes together for a few years, but that too, faded away as dating boys became a priority.

When it was all said and done and she's now been out on her own for decades, she has her own interests and pursuits, and none of them are mine. That's okay. This is why the wife and I raised her: To be her own person.

However, she said she does love riding in trains. (I used to sneak her onboard with me at times for cab rides. Shame on me.) She's also ridden behind me in the passenger train (excursion) I used to regularly run and she loves the sensation of riding trains. (The swaying and rocking.) SO, there's that!

Bottom line: Raise them with the needed fundamentals, love them, and accept the very real possibility that they will not like the same things you like.


Last edited by laming

Lots of good replies here.

LEt me just add:  it is completely okay of our kids are not into trains at all, or at a level we may be.    Heck, I was typical of kids back in the 60s and 70s.   I loved the Lionel trains my dad setup every year.   I love building a good sized HO layout in our basement with him.

Then I turned 13-14 and I discovered girls and started playing organized baseball.  While the trains were still okay, they were extremely low on the priority list.

When I was 15, I joined my first rock band.   Fast forward 15 years when I was 30 and married, I dug out the old Lionel stuff, and started setting up a layout in our (wife and I) home.

Along came my daughter.   As she grew, she thought "daddy's trains were cool"   From about her age 7 until 10, we'd enjoy the trains together.  She helped "build" an add on section, and was overjoyed on Christmas when she opened up her new K-Line version Girl's train.  She'd spend hours of make-believe playing.

However, around 11 or 12, her interest began to wane, as did mine around that age.   She was always a very curious mind, and started getting into computers and early stage robotics thru school.  Her toys became the awesome Rok-n-Bok and K'Nex

She's now 27, a college graduate with a very successful career.   As a father I could not be more proud.  As Andre said above, we set her up and encouraged her to follow her own passions and hobbies.  She did.

It's okay she's not into trains.

My trains only come out during the Christmas holidays. It is tradition and as such everyone enjoys seeing them. When the kids were young they would play with them while they were up (for a couple of weeks) and then help me put them away. To this day my daughter says it really isn't Christmas without them. The novelty doesn't wear off as quickly when they only come out for a brief yearly visit!

I think everyone here agrees that our kids need to explore what interests them & whatever it happens to be, so be it. Most, if not all here, have embraced that & that doesn't make us love them any less. Trains are our thing. Almost everyone here has children or grandchildren that at one time found our hobby interesting, even if for a short period. Those are memories, everyone included, will be looked upon fondly, along with tons of other unrelated subjects.

This all started when Doug (boomer0622), expressed being disappointed that his grandkids were no longer into trains. They have chosen to keep the layout after all. As many have mentioned, there is more to playing with trains than just running them in a circle. Some of those other other activities, scenery etc. may draw them deeper into the hobby.

My grandkids (4 & 6 years old) have lately been into uncoupling the engine, parking it by the coaling tower & switching the cars (or shunting as they call it, taken from watching Thomas the Tank Engine). They still love running trains around the layout but the switching turned it into an interactive game. I throw the switches & uncouple the cars while they run the engine. Quite enjoyable.

The toy train hobby, model kit building, even slot cars aren't going away any time soon. Do a few searches on the internet and see. These hobbies may not be as popular as they were when we were kids, and may never overshadow video games. Who knows what the next big craze will be for kids 10-20 years from now.

My brother and I were the only two out of 13 grandkids that really inherited my grandpa's love for trains.  My cousins enjoy his G gauge stuff when it's set up, but we were the two that used to spend days at his house setting up and running trains while growing up (actually still do on occasion... ).  A couple of the great-grandkids took to the trains briefly but their interest seems to have moved on to "more current" toys and electronics.

My source of employment is as a mechanic working on the railroad equipment at a major historical museum here in the Detroit area.  Our shop is relatively accessible to visitors who can see what we're up to from behind safety fences.  Although a lot of people just passively look in, I've talked about trains with countless numbers of kids of all ages who still can't get enough of the railroad stuff both real and toy.  The internet and social media seems to do some good also as I've had some surprisingly intelligent conversations with kids and their families about railroad preservation projects and things of that nature that they read about online.

I wasn't going to post a reply but have to say that Andre and David's posts above pretty much capture what I was thinking when I saw this thread. My two boys (now adults) have had zero interest in trains. They were always curious about layout construction and waiting to see the finished product but that's about it. And that's fine with me. They had, and have, their own interests, direction, and priorities.

And I have to say that the thread title borders on being off putting. My opinion only. I have never felt the slightest bit of "disappointment" in them not participating in model trains.

My daughters also could take or leave the trains but I have found a growing community of next generation modelers over the past year. These young modelers and collectors are not very active here on the OGR but are very active on social media, Youtube, Discord and other applications. It has been encouraging to see and become part of the growing community that is and will continue to foster the hobby for years to come. It is an exciting time to be part of the Hobby for sure!

It is good for the Dad or adult to set up a train for Christmas time, etc. for small children, of say 4 to 8 or 9.  After that model trains are best for older kids if they have some Skin in the Game and have input and help in the setting up the layout on the floor or building a layout and detailing it.  For them to really get and keep up interest they need the desire to build and be a modeler of the layout to the best of their ability.  Many find just running trains, especially simple loops, results in boredom rather soon for most.

I don't believe Frank Sinatra got maximum long term enjoyment from his model train layout he paid others to design and build.  He did have fun bragging about it and showing it off.

These are my observations and know many will not agree and that is fine.


I don't believe Frank Sinatra got maximum long term enjoyment from his model train layout he paid others to design and build.  He did have fun bragging about it and showing it off.

Having met and spoken with Frank Sinatra several times when I lived in Hawaii--mostly having chatted with him at a train store in Honolulu that was owned by one of his (and my) friends--I think he was far more involved with his trains than some might believe. He really knew his postwar Lionel stuff and could go on and on talking "trains."

We had a neighbor and her children and grandchildren (6, 5 and 3 years old) over last night to see the trains, they just left.

I pulled out all the stops, I ran the Thomas set, the 611 passenger train, the 765 freight train, the standard gauge work train with M&Ms in the dump car simultaneously, and had traincam running. I demonstrated and let the kids and adults try the TMCC gantry crane, Mth Firehouse, Gas station, Loading dock, K-line operating milk car, and operating boxcar. And let them try operating the trains conventionally, and with the IPhone and the Cab-2. Those kids were good with the tech.

It was all going on, and they loved it.

I was being barraged with a constant stream of questions and requests, but kept my composure.

It all worked, and nothing got broken: A Christmas miracle in August. :)

Now, I am exhausted.

Will these children ever become trainiacs like us, who knows? But, they will never forget last night. This morning I put a couple of recent train mags in their mailbox for the kids. They fly back to their home in England on Monday.


Events like mine and you building the layout may or may not plant the seed, only time will tell. But if the kids are never exposed to the trains, odds are they will never get it. Sometimes the interest is dormant until they have children of their own. You may get a call, “Was thinking of a train under the tree this year, still have that small layout and those trains?”

You have done all you can do.

Last edited by Craignor
@Odd-d posted:

Dear Alan Miller---I read with interest...and sadness... about your little grandson's interest in a particular Thomas set.  You kept on finding excuses to put off setting it up for him.

No need to be sad. My best little buddy, Lucas, already has several trains (Polar Express and others) that he enjoys operating on Papa's big layout, and those will also run on my Christmas layout if I ever get the darn thing completed. He also has had fun running one of my battery powered/radio controlled Large Scale trains outdoors. . . at least he (and I) did before the flowers my spouse planted grew so abundantly that they completely overhung/blocked the track. That small outdoor barrel layout will feature an artificial Christmas tree during the holiday season, and some other sort of greenery next spring, and Luke and I will have some fun plowing snow (or trying to) with my Aristo-Craft snow plow if/when we get some of the white stuff.

Having met and spoken with Frank Sinatra several times when I lived in Hawaii--mostly having chatted with him at a train store in Honolulu that was owned by one of his (and my) friends--I think he was far more involved with his trains than some might believe. He really knew his postwar Lionel stuff and could go on and on talking "trains."

Jeeez Allan. Why haven't i read about this in the magazine? It's the perfect subject of an article - "My Memories with Frank".  For us Ogauge Sinatra fans, it would be a real treat.

As for this thread, my kids are now in their 20s, focused on their careers, and have little interest in trains, but I'm confident that they will follow the same pattern like i did and circle back once they get established and into their first houses.  We had such great times together when they were young, pursuing this hobby (at their speed) and many other activities.  I was always impressed, though, by how much patience my older kid had with his little floor layout.   It wasn't uncommon for me to see him spend over 20 minutes placing one of his engines on the track, always refusing my help because he wanted to do it himself, just like Dad.  It took him a while but he always managed and then he would spend hours running that train at ungodly speeds, over his toys, through military/zombie apocalypse fantasies with his toy soldiers, and flying it off the rails into walls. I enjoyed sitting next to him so i could share his fun, but I made it a point to let him have his own trains to do as he wished and to never restrict his play (I just tried to provide fatherly advice so I wouldn't need to buy a new engine every week).  I think this more hands off approach helped keep him interested until the girl bug hit in his teens.  Here he is (at age 6) determined to get his diesel tracked and running -

No disappointments here, just really great memories and the hopes for more to come, along with future grandchildren to enjoy them with.


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