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Hi all, when youngsters and maybe not so youngsters come visit your layouts what souvenirs do you offer them? I used to have a box of train engineer caps to give out but I ran out of that supply. Should I buy more engineer caps or is there something more appropriate to offer? Also if engineer caps are still the go-to gift for little visitors then who makes quality ones and where should I get them from?


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One of my good friends has a contest with regard to his layout. He hands out a short questionnaire that asks visitors to find  certain events shown on his layout;

like what is the color of the car in the street accident, what is the name of the bakery; or how many passenger cars are silver?; How may people are in the brick store(s); how may socks are hanging on laundry lines ( like kids know what a laundry line is).

The winner get a cap. Cuts way down on the caps you need.

Right you are - who can hear anything with 6 trains running in a crowded space? I have used the 'can you find' idea for years, and I give them a page of things to find (or count).  For the young ones it is a challenge because many of my themes are TV or Movie related (Find Odd Job from 007 Goldfinger, the limo from the Godfather; Sanford and Son, the hot chick in the T-bird from American Graffiti etc), but they love counting cows and horses and pick-up trucks and taxi cabs... and they always search hard for the owl and eagle, Batman's cave or the Lost Dutchman mine.  Pure fun - prizes are generally a hot-wheels car, an engineer hat or a choo-choo whistle...whatever I happen to have at the time (or not).   The set up is fluid, things change every year, but the track remains screwed down.

I offer them one (or several) model railroad magazines. I try to keep special ones that have articles or advertising that I want to hang onto, but that leaves hundreds that I can spare. If nothing else it gives them something new to read and it's possible they may even get their start in our hobby with that printed introduction.


Lots of interesting answers here. If it was a club layout I might give the kids a finders guide. There isn’t enough interesting tings to find on my small basement pike, just a few trains running and some old tin buildings. I would never give any sort of test to any kid. Kids today are already over-tested with every form of for-profit standardized testing known to man. Let kids be kids. I got a good chuckle about the plastic whistles. I can just see those kids blowing those whistles all the way home in the car. Oh how those parents must hate you after that. Thanks for the suggestion of the caps but the Christian verbiage definitely would be a major problem with both myself and more-so my wife. I’ll keep on looking. I think for the age most of the visitors to my layout will be, adult sized caps will be appropriate. I’ll keep looking. I have never had a visitor that had 0 gauge trains, or any trains for that matter. Most folks think they are fun to look at but the parents’ reaction is usually “put it out of your mind”.

At the Austin Tinplate Trackers holiday layout we give out the little Brachs candy canes and they can do a scavenger hunt to find things in the layout. Like how many German Shepherds can you find in the city (Menards buildings all have the dog.)

We were also given 2 large boxes of paper engineer hats from Lionel and Amtrak several years ago. We also put out old magazines and catalogs for people to take as well.

In 2019 we had well over 20,000 visitors to our layout in a 6 week period from Thanksgiving to New Years. That is a lot of candy canes!

I prepared two info handouts about the layout at Mottler Station. Visitors can take them from a rack for information.  The two items are attached -- they are FAQs for interested visitors.

Many hobbyists have offered visiting kids a "Scavenger Hunt" sheet based on items on the layout, and I prepared one too.  I change it from time to time. The prize for completing the sheet is a bag of M&Ms -- a subtle mental link to my name (Mike Mottler).  Previously, I presented the paper engineer's hat to kids; but they preferred the M&Ms. I never had a negative reaction to "testing" kids with the Scavenger Hunt.

Mike Mottler     LCCA 12394


This is non-religious and might be more helpful:


(it’s actually a page with a lot of Operation Lifesaver swag on it, because their menu wasn’t turning up the good kid stuff.) Keychains, whistles, coloring books and’s a nice assortment. Their shipping is expensive, but if you need a lot of product for a club event or whatever, the prices are so low it may even out.

This may come off the wrong way being typed vs spoken but I never gave out anything and kids still came over every year when I had my old layout (with ones in the neighborhood visiting multiple times).   Probably because I let each and everyone operate the trains and accessories (that's the real gift).  In fact, that's the reason I initially got DCS - much easier to teach a young kid to press a certain colored button for a desired response or just scroll to a certain name/number for an accessory or engine (not a comment on DCS vs TMCC). 


Last edited by Greg Houser
@Power Poynt posted:

I make sets of custom "tickets" that I give visitors upon entry. Before I start up the trains I walk around saying "tickets! tickets please" and use an antique ticket puncher and punch all of their tickets based on the date. I change up the ticket design each year so it is sort of a limited edition souvenir


Power Poynt - If you could punch tickets like Tom Hanks did in the Polar Express movie I'm sure THAT ticket - with a special word or message punched on it - is something that everyone would regard as a very special souvenir! 😜 👏

Wow, I’ve never given anyone gifts, however my gift is a free show, trains running, allowing the youngsters to run trains with the cab 2 remotes, (legacy system)  push the accessory buttons, answering questions about the control systems, making up trains, uncoupling the trains, changing the motive power, diesel to steam, playing with the turntable, and just having fun. Giving gifts like train magazines sounds great, I could do that. My layout is featured on our local cable network, CDE Lightband, also on the NPT TV Tennessee Crossroads, and many folks that know me are always coming to see the trains. It’s lots of fun to have visitors, and everyone here on the OGR Forum is invited. Rich Melvin was here several years ago and my layout was featured on OGR THE VIDEO, #10. There’s no fee to see the trains, so come to Tennessee and your welcome to visit me. Happy Railroading Everyone

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