Full Steam Ahead: Chester Model Centre Challenges Stereotypes and Commits to Supporting Model Train Enthusiasts of All Ages in Contrast to Dying Hobby Discourse
In the face of recent closures and concerns about an aging demographic of model train enthusiasts, Chester Model Centre boldly asserts its commitment to being an inclusive and supportive resource for the hobby.
Hatton’s Model Railways recently announced their closure after 75 years in operation and Warley National Model Railway Club announced cancellation of their annual exhibition at the NEC for the foreseeable future. Initial news coverage has echoed concerns about the greying community of model train enthusiasts, attributing these recent announcements to a lack of interest among the younger generation.
Contrary to this narrative, Paul Boyland, owner of Chester Model Centre says “There’s a thriving community of young enthusiasts eager to explore the world of model trains. Unfortunately, stereotypes persist and many clubs and societies restrict entry to over 18s. This creates a barrier for younger hobbyists to gain skills from those with more experience and to grow their enthusiasm for model trains.
We constantly encourage children and young people to take part, and certainly do not shun them. Young people are great at taking up challenges when they are given the opportunity. We’ve seen a huge influx of children and young people in our shop since we started trading in Chester thirteen years ago. You only have to come in on a weekend or during school holidays to see it yourself.
At Chester Model Centre, we believe it’s our responsibility to pass our skills and joy for model trains on to the younger generation. We acknowledge the changing dynamics of the hobby and the need for inclusivity. It’s disheartening to see the hobby labelled as a dying one when, in reality, it’s evolving, adapting and in fact, growing.”
Joining the chorus of optimism is Pete Waterman OBE, one of the most influential and prolific music moguls of a generation and a well-known champion of model trains. Waterman foresees a bright future saying, “The model train hobby is far from fading away. The Making Tracks model railway exhibition has taken place in four different formats over the past four years and has been instrumental in showcasing the vibrancy and potential of this hobby. We’ve seen incredible interest from children and young people, dispelling the myth that model trains are a dying pastime.
The future is bright for model trains. Exhibitions that are open to families are paving the way for a new era of enthusiasts. Children and young people are actively encouraged to interact with the trains, spend time with those of us who have spent decades honing our skills, and even drive the trains.
The hobby has never been as strong as it is now with interest from young people and lifelong enthusiasts. Fifty years ago there were only three major manufacturers of model trains, today there are six![i] Yet all you seem to hear is people going on about how the hobby is dying. It’s incredibly frustrating and inaccurate.”
The Making Tracks exhibition hosted this summer in Chester Cathedral saw over 54,000 people visit to the Cathedral and more than 4,500 children took their turn at the controls to drive trains around the 64ft x 14ft layout. The fourth and most recent Making Tracks exhibition took place at Blakemere Village during the festive season, with more than 6,000 visitors over just 10 days.
As we navigate into the future, Chester Model Centre remains committed to being a place for people to share their skills, be part of a community and source the items they need to continue their passion for the hobby.
Chester Model Centre also stocks diecast vehicles, wargaming supplies, plastic kits, tv and movie collectables, jigsaws, soldiers and more. See their full range of hobbies at www.chestermodelcentre.com
[i] Hornby Railways: Hornby is one of the oldest and most iconic model railway manufacturers globally. It was founded in 1901 by Frank Hornby. The company has a rich history and is known for its extensive range of model trains and accessories.
Bachmann Europe: established in England in 1989 with its initial product range, known as Branchline, which consisted of models produced using the moulds of the Palitoy ‘Mainline’ range. While the Bachmann brand itself is American, Bachmann Europe, the European arm of the company, is a significant player in the UK model railway market. They produce a wide range of models and accessories.
Dapol: Dapol is a model railway manufacturer based in Chirk, Wales. The company was founded in 1983 and has since become known for its N gauge and OO gauge models.
Heljan: Heljan is a Danish company that produces model railways and was established in 1957. While it originated in Denmark, it has a strong presence in the UK model railway scene.
Peco: Peco is a well-known British manufacturer of model railway accessories, including track, signals, and kits. The company was founded in 1946.
Accurascale: A relatively newer entrant, Accurascale, focuses on producing highly detailed models in OO gauge. The company started in 2018.
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