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This is what some of us do this for. Today my grandson and his friend came to visit and run trains. Both boys learned quickly how to operate the Legacy controller and how to keep smoke fluid in the engines.
I'm not sure who had more fun, the boys or old gramps.
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Obviously it is not for all kids. I am fortunate that my grandson at age 12 wants to be at this time, and electrical engineer. My panel need to be completely rewired and we are planning to do that together during the Xmas break. at his age, I had a deep, interest in my trains. My brother could have cared less. I wish I had more answers. I have this young man interested and I am going to do my best to teach him a few things.

Well my grandsons didn't exactly start out like this video, but giving them their very own set to play with (destroy) at least made for a fun time, albeit short-lived. This video is about 3 years old, but just on Thanksgiving Day, I was tickled to see they were setting this same set up for real for their 4 YO special needs cousin.

Warmed the cockles of my heart to see them doing that!!


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@Ken Wing posted:

The key question for the future of the hobby is, how do we ensure the boys had more fun? My sons are not interested. My 11-year-old grandson is not interested. I have two 7-week old grandsons. What do I do?

Patience, grasshopper!

IME, the first phase is just the excitement of it all, the movement and sounds and drama of it as a spectator. The noise and motion can sometimes be overly stimulating in an enjoyable way to the younger kids (or sometimes the very young can even be frightened, like my just over 1 y.o. granddaughter currently -- I suspect the 7-week olds are a bit young for much, and if you *do* show off the toys, keep the volume and scariness to a minimum! OTOH, I had to reign in my 6 and 4 y.o. grandsons from literally running around the layout, racing the trains, which was becoming dangerous for both trains and grandkids! I've focused lately on adding buttons for the grandkids to push, to give them a way to control sounds and animation on the layout while discouraging running in circles.

A bit older, and it is possible to involve them a bit more in controlling the layout and rolling stock (rerailing, throwing the turnouts, controlling the throttles with supervision, etc.). At some point, you can plan projects with them that invite the participation of the kids (putting together buildings, crafting scenery, etc.), and with any that show an interest, eventually you can get into the principles that underlie model railroading (magnetism, electricity/electronics, etc.).

The bottom line is that model railroading, like just about any human activity, may not be for everyone, so all you can do is figure out ways to show your own enthusiasm for the hobby, and find ways to invite them in! Good luck!

[Oh, and the granddaughter did just fine during a family visit to a train garden sponsored by a local club this week -- much better than her earlier reaction to my dark, scary and loud layout in our basement! ]

Baby steps Bill. Everyone has to start somewhere. Hopefully you've shown him that there's some fun hobbies out there. My train addiction started when I was very young. When my kids arrived, my daughter couldn't care, and my son, who loved Thomas the Tank Engine, was more interested in X-box and the Wii at the age that most of us were playing with trains.
So now I wait for grandchildren one day and hope for the best. If not, then I'm not gonna stress over it.


@WT.Co. posted:

I'm sad to say, the only thing my two sons care about is HOW MUCH they can get for them. Grandson only wants to hunt Deer. I guess at death I'll stop worrying about it, BUT till then hope????????

I had to giggle at this response. I'm sure this is the reality for some others as well. I believe one thing that got most of us hooked is because trains were everywhere. Depending on where you lived or frequented, as a young person, you couldn't get away from them. Modeling them was the next best thing and a lot of young people wanted that train even if it was just around the holiday season. Just like movie stars, athletes, etc. the trains were our "idols". Even many of the conversations we would hear may have included the railroad. Not to mention the father, grandfather, uncle, cousin on our mother's side, who actually worked for the railroad. The railroad had the limelight and this furthered our interest in it. Guess what, the movie stars, athletes, cars, etc. are still here but the trains, not so much. This is probably one of the top three reasons we all get sad when another railroad becomes a fallen flag. There simply aren't as many trains for the youngins to see. Add into the mix video games, cell phones, and all the other modern technology.

All is not lost, our enthusiasm will play a role in spreading the obsession and I also believe the online presence with YouTube, etc. will and has as well. The kids have to see it as being hip or cool at first then the rest will follow. In addition, blending new technologies into the hobby, such as using phones to control the trains. We have to meet them where they are. All in all we just have to continue to be creative in how we bring the hobby to the children. With all that is out there we inevitably will win some and lose some.


Unfortunately, not so much in my case.

I've got 4 grandsons, and only one, the intense, smart one, is interested.  The others are baffled by the levers, switches, and dials, even though they are older.  The interested kid pretty much mastered them after I showed him how to do it once or twice.  Then he wanted to run every engine I owned, so I was constantly putting stuff on and off of the tracks.

He lives way out in Colorado, though, and only visits once a year.  So, no way I can leave my layout to him.  :-(


I have three daughters, and none have really ever shown interest much.  My youngest could operate DCS just fine by age 7 and enjoyed it for a few years.  They just have other interests.  While my oldest two are old enough to have their own children, I don't really see any grandchildren in the near future.  One is married and the other engaged but they both say that children are something they want to put off until they are financially stable and more established in their careers.  I honestly see that as pretty smart.  However, they do enjoy the fact that their dad has a hobby he can fully engage with and that is good enough for me. 

I have two daughters in their mid-30s. The older will throw you in the trash if you stand in one spot too long. The younger is extremely mechanical, owns a Model A doodlebug, and yes, always played with my train whenever I set it up. Guess who is going to be the benefactor when I kick the bucket??

When they were pre-teen, we would set it up every snowstorm, load the gondolas with fresh-baked brownies, and deliver them around the kitchen table. It was a ritual.

Then boys became the ritual. You know the rest!!

(although the younger still will still put together a small set with the grandsons, albeit on rare occasions)


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I received my first Lionel set in 1952 when I was four.  We have two boys, both married men now, who have always been "train guys".  I suspect they may be more engaged than their dad at this point.  Now, the next generation are getting involved, not all, but some, including some of the girls.  From my perspective the hobby will have some worthy custodians.

Start them young.  We have three year old twin grandchildren who love to operate both Lionchief and conventional trains.  Our youngest is 9 mos and he will sit and enjoy watching his dad run his trains for extended periods.  So fun to see.

Don M,

You're a good sport and a kind-heated soul! Yes, I, and probably most on this site were "Gerber babies". I got my first, very own calf, when I was 10. When I was 12, we were eating him!. Going for grain was always a fun thing for me as a lad because we would go to the Eastern States feed store and go right in the box cars to get it. The local ran into Danvers, MA back then, and Eastern States became Agway.. Did I ever ut a penny on the tracks?? Naw......not me!!!

That was about the age I got my first Lionel set, which I still have. My granddaughter is getting a ready-to-run set on the 9th so she can set up now under the tree before Christmas. My daughter will be happy to help. Pictures these days will be much easier!!!

@endless tracks - What a great story!  I never raised any animal (except a dog and a cat) but I imagine that its both challenging and yet rewarding. You obviously came from a farming/ ranching family and that is a great experience I am sure.  When I moved from the metropolitan East to the mid-west (courtesy of the US Air Force) I got the chance to see young people in the FFA competition and the pride they took in the animals they raised, it was really a new but neat experience for me.  

I hope your granddaughter and daughter enjoy the trains.  My sons' enjoyed simple train sets for awhile but it didn't stick past about age 11.  I got my first Lionel set when I was about 4 (1947) but I got interested in HO in the late 50's and sold most of my Lionel to purchase HO trains.  I still have the HO but have not touched it in decades.  In truth as I look back, I think I enjoyed working with my Dad and Granddad in the annual "lets set up the trains" task as much as running the trains.

Best of luck this Christmas in keeping folks interested in our hobby but most of all best wishes for a wonderful Holiday season with the family.



The best you can do is expose them to your model trains and let them see how excited you are about them.  It is then up to the child.

I have a son and daughter and now 7 grand children.  All were exposed to my trains and layout since birth.  Of the nine only my now adult daughter has shown much interest and she is the only one that can operate the layout.  My engineer son could care less.  They will go up to the train room over the Christmas holidays and watch me and my daughter operate trains for an hour of so just to humor me.

It is way harder to get youngsters interested in trains now verses the 1950s when model trains were Big and one of the few "technical" toys available.  A few years later slot cars came along to compete with trains.  There were other technical items like chemistry sets, erector sets, U control model planes, later 10 in one electronics sets from Allied Radio.   But today there are cell phones, video games, way more TVs and lots of other things that kids can like now.  Most do not require much in the way of building.

All you can do is let them know you like and enjoy the trains and see if any of the show an interest.



Thanks for the nice reply! See, I knew you were a kind-hearted soul!!

The farm experience was and is a truly great way to grow up, to learn how to work and how build things, repair things, and how to make-do. (Heavy on the make-do). When I got up in the late teens, early twenties, I'd had enough of the cows....being rebellious I suppose. I went to work in Boston for a contractor but only for 3 years. It was just long enough to experience some different things. Not as big as Metro East was  for you!!

My dad has saved his childhood Lionel set, which he got sometime around 1936. Rest his soul, he saved his childhood set, went off to serve his country, came home, married, bought the farm and in a short span, had 4 boys!! All that's left of his beloved train which he had put away for us are the red caboose and that transformer with the brass knob that moved across 5 or 6 contacts. I still have both. You see, your's truly, at about age 5, took his steam locomotive and couple cars out in the sand box to play!!!! He came home from work and I had been pushing around my consist in the sand. I know it really broke his heart to see that, thus it did not survive. I'm a little more diligent now....LOL.

I always marveled at HO sets, and sometimes, I wish I went that route but then I wouldn't be able to affix that red tin plate caboose that meant so much to the one who brought us, his progeny, to trains,

Wishing you and your a Happy and Blessed Holiday season!!


Yes, Grandkids! We have three and the the 11 year old is still able to do the setup and fixing of the "Carpet Grand Layout". The 8 year old is pictured in my avatar and now takes up alot more floor space. They all are into the techie stuff but with a trains sounds app they take turns running the sounds while the other runs the train. I am lucky, they help the chores, feed chickens and collect eggs, feed barn cats (but not tooo much or they quit mousing,) drive the atv, help mow the grass and tend to other chores.

I can feel that i am losing my Granpa"Magic Dust". For now, Ill enjoy the day!



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