The world runs on rails and has since the 1800s. The first successful steam locomotive was developed in Great Britain. Today in countries all over the world, people and materials are transported quickly within and between countries. The train, not airplanes, brought about the world-wide need for standardized time zones.
The fascination with trains quickly grew and provided an excuse for model train sets. The first train sets that were mass produced appeared on the market as early as 1891 in Germany and quickly spread to other countries. As the train industry advanced so did the want for small scale models. Model train sets were on their way to becoming one of the most popular hobbies in the world.
Model trains started as a toy for boys that only wealthy families could afford. As technology advanced, model trains became affordable to the masses. Today though, railway modeling or model railroading (name various by country) is a family hobby. As soon as the youngest family member becomes mesmerized watching the train move over the oval or circle track, the privilege to be called a model railroader or modeler is theirs. The hobby of model railroading truly is for all ages.
Hobbyists have free-rein on how much money, time, and energy they decide to devote. Creativity is endless. When time is a concern and immediate enjoyment is the goal, many purchase inexpensive generic packaged sets. Others prefer to build or buy exact replicas of train cars and layouts (landscape) of real locations and periods of time. Still others let their imagination go wild and create a fantasy model train, and a fantasy layout taking place in a fantasy time period of the past or future.
The International Model Train Club has members in over 23 countries and on all seven continents. What a diversity of cultures! In the United States at least 36 of the 50 states have one or more model train clubs. There are conventions and rail-fan trips devoted to model railroad enthusiasts. Joining a club can give you an excuse to travel and it is a great way to make new friends. People from all backgrounds are drawn to this hobby. It attracted Winston Churchill, Walt Disney, Tom Hanks, Michael Jordan, Ed Dougherty, and others. The one thing that brings them together is the fun of building and watching model trains.
The love people have for trains can be seen in restaurants throughout the world. Many have model trains on display protected under glass. Some have trains running across a ledge to entertain their customers. Others have ingeniously devised a system where the train delivers the food to the table.
There are train-themed craft breweries, many located in former railway stations or depots. The theme carries over to the names of their personal brews. For example, there is the Boxcar Brown Ale, the Rail Spike IPA, the Station Master Wheat Ale, the Switchman’s Stash IPL, the Pullman Porter, the Rail Hopper IPA, and the Coal Train American Stout.
Looks like model railroading is here to stay!