Will Train Shows Make a Comeback?

brian Nov 5, 2005

  1. Thieu

    Thieu TrainBoard Member

    We have 3 large train shows in Holland. Two very large shows: Rail has a lot of quality layouts, Eurospoor has many average layouts and a lot of shops and second hand trains. The third is a small show, but cosy and very friendly for kids.

    And we have the National Model Railroad Days, when the clubs open their doors to the public. Our club showed its layout in a school, together with other clubs. Admission was for free, and mor than a thousand people visited the school. The large shows have about 30.000 to 50.000 visitors in a weekend, but are pretty expensive (about € 15,00 for an adult).

    Each two months we have a large sale show with two large halls full of (second hand) trains. Unfortunately for me, only one table with American N scale...
  2. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Sure wish we had something like this in the USA. What a boost it could give the hobby. Unfortunately, we have so many sports, and other hobbies......


    Boxcab E50
  3. Traindork

    Traindork TrainBoard Member

    The show put on by the local club, the San Jacinto Model RR club, is a great show, and I look forward to attending it every year.
    The GATS show, on the other had, in the past few years has been maybe 40% trains and 60% Hot Wheels, Beanie Babies, and other non-train stuff. And most of the train stuff is the same old crap.
  4. DocGeoff

    DocGeoff E-Mail Bounces

    I got into the hobby via a train show in Kansas City. I had prowled the LHS's, but seeing the layouts, all the goodies available that I had never seen elsewhere, I was hooked. A couple of years later I was thinking of claiming one particular vendor on my income tax as a dependent. When I moved and decided to build a new, larger layout that vendor met me at 10:00 PM in route with what I needed when I arrived at my new location. That started in 1989 and I am still doing business with the same vendor and plan on traveling to Houston in January to help him work the train show.
    I wish the shows were what they used to be even a few years ago, but then, since I am getting older I wish several things were like they used to be.
  5. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

    GATS has dropped a lot of the smaller venues as well as dividing the market with CIA [aka Greenberg Shows]. The smaller shows seem to do okay. I attended a show in Bedford, PA in September that was a bit unusual. First it was an all N scale show and it featured layouts not venders. There were some venders on the sides of the building but the layouts commanded the middle. Seems to have been a hit as they are getting a larger building for next year.
  6. engineer bill

    engineer bill TrainBoard Supporter

    I like going to the BIG train shows to see the lay outs (all scales) but seldom do I buy, unless I see something I just cant live without or one of our train board friends are selling (good deals). My real joy is when a local train swap meet or brick & motor is on. In So Cal we are very lucky to have some really good ones, Belmont Shores & Train Quest will be comming up shortly and you can be sure I will be parting with some hard earned ones at them [​IMG]
  7. cripp12

    cripp12 TrainBoard Member

    About 6 years ago I went to my first show and I got interested in the hobby. There were a lot of layouts on display. The last few I have gone to the layouts have declined. Is this an indication of interest?
  8. Scott R. Vantine

    Scott R. Vantine TrainBoard Supporter

    Went to the Central New York NRHS Railfair this weekend. I can't say that it was a bad show, just that it was mainly the items that have been around for the last few years. No new stuff. [​IMG] I spent $6.00 to get in and bought two $3.00 items from the tool guy. Not to bash the layouts but all have been there before and exept for a little work here and there nothing changes. :rolleyes:

    I for one love the trainshows and hope that they will make a comeback. If this hobby goes totally over to internet transactions then when would we get together with the people that we have met through the trainshows [​IMG]

    This show had been an amazing show in the past with new and upcoming items. This year about a third of the usual venders were not present.

    I guess the bottom line is I hope for a better show next November! [​IMG]
  9. My wife and I have been participating in various train shows for several years displaying our layout and doing "how to" clinics. While we are based in Southern California, we have traveled all over the country to participate in these shows.

    I have witnessed the changes and have the following comments:

    Great Western and Atlantic Train Show (GWATS) [formally GATS]: It seems that publicity was often lacking which means reduced attendance and therefore reduced sales for vendors. Considering the cost it takes for a vendor to break even much less make money, which is why they are there, their return declined to where it was not worth the effort or expense to attend. What is left are the vendors who can operate on a low margin, which is generally the vendors with low overhead expenses or the "flee market" type vendors.

    In 2006, their schedule has been reduced, and many on the west coast are now one day shows. These one day shows are not attractive to high end vendors or layouts such as mine. It takes us 5 hours to set up and 3 1/2 hours to tear down. That means our day would be from 5 am to 8:30 pm - too long for a single day, considering we also have to travel to and from the show location.

    GWATS is also slow on responding to e-mails. In the 2006 Exhibitor Agreement it says that the exhibitors are responsible for their own security. I sent a message to GWATS asking if that applied only to the show times, or at night when no one is there. I sent the e-mail on 23 October 2005 and so far no response.

    Model Train Expo: This is the same group that puts on the G Scale show on the Queen Mary in July of each year. We participated in the Model Train Expo show in January 2005, and were suppose to receive a monetrary compansation. To date, no payment has been received - they stiffed us.

    NMRA National Train Show: This show is usually in July or August of each year. This is a class show, put on by people who are well organized and know how to advertise and promote. They will run anywhere from 15 to 25 thousand people for a 2 1/2 day show.

    World's Greatest Hobby on Tour (WGH): This show is run by the previous owner of GATS. He also knows how to set-up, advertise, and promote a good show. We participated in the show in Long Beach this year and he ran about 22 or 23 thousand (if I recall correctly) through on a 2 day show. Compare this to the 1,200 to 2,000 (being generous) for a GATS show in the same area.

    I know there are many other shows out there which we have not participated in. I obviously am not qualified to comment on these. I leave that to others that have participated.

    I believe there is a market niche for train shows and as one source declines others will rise to replace them. Have faith.

  10. Alan

    Alan Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    I will be attending three train shows in the next four weekends [​IMG] Spalding, Wakefield and Warley.
  11. friscobob

    friscobob Staff Member

    Sure wish we had something like this in the USA. What a boost it could give the hobby. Unfortunately, we have so many sports, and other hobbies......


    Boxcab E50
    </font>[/QUOTE]Both the Ft. Worth and Plano shows also mention various model railroads, both club-operated and privately-owned, that are open to the public in the Metroplex. All scales, eras, gauges, etc., and I've yet to see a stinker in the bunch. One I liked was set in the early 1960s, HO scale, and featured passenger trains from MP, MKT, Frisco, and B&O. Scenery wasn't all finished, but what he had in finished scenery as well as mockups was awesome, as was the HO scale varnish.

    ANother was in Ft. Worth, and featured the Texas & Pacific main between Marshall and Ft. WOrth in the steam era (with some Swamp Holly Orange & black Geeps tossed in for good measure). Quite a few 2-10-4 Texas types on this layout.
  12. r_i_straw

    r_i_straw Mostly N Scale Staff Member

  13. mrhedley

    mrhedley TrainBoard Member

    Trainshows used to be a great way for modelers to promote our hobby to the general public. I say used to because it isn't working anymore. I attended the Central NY railfair this past weekend, and it was like being caught in a time warp. Many of the layouts and static displays are the same as they have been for the past 15 years. Since 15 years are my frame of reference, they could even be older. But the aging of the hobby is not the cause for their decline, it is the image that the train shows are projecting, and I believe that several of the images are negative.

    1. Old displays and modules. It isn't so much the age as it is the appearance. It's understandable that older modules are going to get a lot of abuse from the stress of lugging them from show to show, but many look like that's the only time that they get set up, and then mainly to run trains on them. As an element of our hobby, a good module is an artform, and is very bit as valuable as the trains running on them. They should reflect this.

    2. Rip off vendors. For every vendor who brings quality merchandise and prices it fairly there are at least two swindlers who are there simply to make a quick buck. There's the ones pushing Bachmann junk at list plus 10%. Or the ones that are trying to sell 30 year old Atlas C-liners and E-8's as valuable collector items. Of course they don't have a test track, so some poor sap won't know till he gets home that he just paid $35 dollars or more for a paper weight (and a lousy one at that). Worst of all are the "repackagers"; the ones who take the items they bought from a close out; like Bachmann vehicles or Life Like signals, repackage them in little bags or boxes at two to three times their list price. Of course most of us won't buy this stuff, but there are many families towing children who do. And why is it that all the respectable vendors have large signs and distribute business cards that advertise who they are, while the junk hucksters and repackagers are a deep dark secret.

    3. "Train" people. Sorry, this is going to rub some people the wrong way, but why do so many of us need to be total geeks? And why is it that the geekiest are always the ones that the TV news camera finds? You know what I mean, the one in bib overalls with over 200 pins, and a dirty engineers cap that they're worn every show for the last 20 years (and a few of them may not have been washed between shows either...). C'mon people! If we're going to connect with people to grow our hobby, we need to at least look a little more mainstream. Finally, these exhibitors need to be better ambassadors. I noticed many men wearing exhibitor badges crowding in front of young children and families to paw through items, or butt in where a vendor or exhibitor was trying to show or explain something to a potential customer or a child.

    I get the sense that the train shows have evolved mostly into a semi-private event for "insiders" to meet, show off their stuff, and play with their modules; or for others as purely a business. And if I feel that way as someone involved in the hobby, what must it seem like for an 'outsider'?

    Perhaps we need to think about that while we lament the shrinking numbers of new modelers.

    As Walt Kelly's Pogo once said "we have met the enemy, and he is us!".
  14. wig-wag-trains.com

    wig-wag-trains.com Advertiser

    Neither Greenberg nor GATS were bought out.
  15. slambo

    slambo TrainBoard Member

    Okay, I'm a little late to the conversation but...

    Move to Wisconsin! [​IMG] More seriously, though, I'm saddened to hear that shows in your area haven't fulfilled your expectations. :(

    If you can make it to Wisconsin, Trainfest is this weekend at the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds in Milwaukee. 200,000 square feet of layouts, vendors and displays, in conjunction with the MRIA show which makes this show basically a miniature National Train Show. I'll be there the entire weekend with the Capitol City "N"Gineers.

    Further down the calendar, in February the Mad City Model Railroad Show is now 90,000 square feet (we've added 20,000 square feet for this year's show). I'm on the Board of Directors for this show and I must say that we put in an incredible effort to make this a great show for everyone (and the waiting list of vendors and layouts attests to this) every year.
  16. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    From the Great Train Expo web site:

    "....Effective January 1, 2006 we will be absorbing Greenberg's Train, Toy & Hobby Shows. Former Greenberg dealers will see minimal change...."

    Boxcab E50
  17. beast5420

    beast5420 TrainBoard Member

    i have attended the GATS show in Tulsa the last 2 years and have seen quite a mix of vendors and layouts. there are some of the vendors i'll describe as hokey (this may not be entirely fair, but it is the impression i receive when walking through their booth) and the good. layout-wise, there is some of the same stuff, but there has been some changes ( i know of several with the n-scale layouts b/c i am part of ok nrail) most of the same modules, but with some re-worked, layouts ordered differently, etc. layout was pretty light i thought.

    now, in contrast, the okc train show in december (never been to it, b/c that's my wedding anniversary, which is another story :D , but the club is one of the groups putting it on). it fills a building at the state fair grounds and had around 15,000 people go through the front door. the layouts are typically different b/c there are clubs from at least 4 states with layouts or modules, plus more vendors than i know.

    so for the train shows, i think a lot of it depends upon locale, time of the year, and quality from the previous year to help maintain a vibrant train show. it is a lot of work, but if things start to taper off, its time to try something different to keep the hobby public and growing

    my 2¢
  18. sd90ns

    sd90ns TrainBoard Member

    In the past 3 years several shows I attended regularly have gone under. A couple of these were large, long running shows.

    There are probably a variety of reasons for this and the demise of any given show may rest upon a reason/s not applicable to any other shows failure.

    My own opinion is that much it has to do with the gradual decline of discretionary income, along with the inflation of travel costs.

    Are you going too spend $50 towards a new loco, or $50 just to drive to a show?

    People no longer have the $$$$$s too do both.
  19. DiezMon

    DiezMon TrainBoard Supporter

    Ah yes.. I remember it well... The events of this story are all true, you can ask my wife. [​IMG]

    I took her to the Nscale convention in St. Paul a few years back. I think it was partnered with another nat train show.. But anyway, with a wee bit of reluctance she agreed to come with me.

    We were about 10 minutes in the place when a guy comes along and walks right up to us. He says to me "Pardon me sir, may I compliment you on your choice of friends", while staring at her. taken aback, I just said "ok, move along now" like a joke. Now, it didn't bother me so much, but she was a little freaked out. I didn't help that the guy obviously hadn't washed in a few days, he stared as we walked away, and his CB&Q hat looked like it had gone through the tunnel at Shawshank ;)

    Then, after checking out a whole slew of 'layouts' in the form of tracks in a small circle, with trains moving at a scale speed of about 200+ mph.. little automatic crossing gates slamming up and down about every 3 seconds(Funny how those layouts that would be fun for the kids are always like 5' off the ground), we get to some cool looking N-scale layouts.

    We patiently wait for the short people, and kids to see..as we move forward to see the details. I'm a very polite watcher.. probably too polite LOL We get to the front of this layout. There's a nicely detailed engine sitting there on the siding, and I ask the guy behind the layout. "Nice detail on that engine, is that a GP9?" He ROLLS his eyes, and says "uh no. GP7" and promply turns and walks away. Ok now, WTH is with some people. SORRY I asked such a stupid question.. sheesh.. Amy looks at me, "nice" she says.

    Ok, on to another layout.. we're standing there, enjoying the scenery on this curve as some trains circle. Some guy nudges right in between us.. I mean a HARD nudge, and stands there. Amy says "excuse me" and he just looks at her then stares at the layout. Now the fun part.. suddenly, I can smell BEEE-OH. And oh, it's BAD.. what's worse is I could smell some kind of other food on top of it too. I glance around him to Amy, and she gives me the "holy sh*t, what IS that smell" look, and promptly exits..

    Yep, what was a great experience for my wife. Her first, and last, train show.

    And yes, I know this obviously doesn't represent everyone..but man, what an experience for someone who's never attended. :rolleyes:

    Now, if any of you reading this are saying "Hey, that was ME!"... :D

  20. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    I agree completely. That is the case at my home. It's also something a lot of people like to pretend is not happening.


    Boxcab E50

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