Are model scale trains toys or something more than that? Most of us typically think of model scale trains as the kind of toy that both children and adults can enjoy. But is it accurate to even call model trains toys? Calling them toys diminishes their value because it sounds like a frivolous pastime for children. But that perception might not be warranted.
Research has proven the cognitive benefits of play not only for youngsters but also for adults. We all benefit from play. Problem solving, creativity, socialization, and self esteem are just a few examples of what we gain from play. Calling scale model trains a hobby instead of toys may sound a bit more sophisticated, especially for adults who love building them.
The model railroading hobby grows with a person. There are lots of hobbyists who have spent decades perfecting their train sets, and even passed them down to the next generation. Perhaps they did not plan it that way from the start. Most beginners to this hobby start with a simple kit, which can be assembled relatively quickly. As the hobbyist matures and learns more about what is available, he gets the itch to upgrade components and add more track, locomotives, cars, structures and scenery. Hobbyists enjoy the challenge of seeking out more complex sets that require more skill. The only things holding most people back is time and money. Model scale trains require a commitment of both. Prices for model scale trains and components cover a wide range, from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. However, the benefits of the hobby can be enjoyed for many years and by people of all ages, so the costs associated are reasonable. In fact, if you’re not committed to it for the long haul this might not be the best place to spend your money. Serious model railroaders recognize these are not trains toys to be played with for a few months and then discarded. Model scale trains have tremendous sentimental value as beloved family heirlooms and as collectibles to be cherished for years.
Another benefit of owning model train sets is that hobbyists can learn patience and perseverance. Because of their small scale, they require lots of attention to detail, especially when constructing scenery. Following directions step by step, waiting for one step to be done well before moving on to another, can be a real test of patience. Furthermore, model trains are an outlet for creativity as hobbyists can design their own track layouts, structures and scenery. The goal is to make everything look as realistic as possible. The creative process provides lots of opportunities for hobbyists to develop greater visual spatial abilities and fine motor skills.
This might not be a selling point for some, but model railroading can even help with learning academic skills. Math is essential for figuring ratios of the different scales. For example, how large should the city hall and trees be to match a certain scale train? Engineering and physics come into play as you create bridges, tunnels, and wire the electrical devices. History and geography may be a factor if you choose to make your models historically accurate or if you choose to create a scale model of an actual location. This can be a great opportunity to apply school lessons in a fun environment.
The model scale train hobby doesn’t have to be a solitary pursuit. There are train clubs and contests, conventions and shows. Plus model trains are the kind of hobby that several generations can enjoy together. Each member of the family can contribute their own particular talents and abilities. In this way, the hobby transcends the project of building a model scale train and becomes a way to build great family traditions and closer relationships.
So, are scale model trains toys? Regardless of what you call them, it is clear they offer many valuable benefits and one of those benefits is serious fun!
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Joe Kanooga is a father of two kids, a successful business owner and the author of numerous articles about model scale trains. Click here to download our free trains toys guidebook filled with hobby tips, ideas and information.
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