Looking for a fun, engaging, and family-oriented hobby? One possibility is setting up your own home railroad with model scale trains. Itís definitely a step up from collecting Thomas the Tank Engine toys, which is where many families start with their lifelong passion for choo-choos. There are countless possibilities, from a modest circle track and single train, to an elaborate vista populated by homes, people, animals, and criss-crossing trains.
Itís easy to get started - it takes a single locomotive and a few pieces of track. Kids and adults both find it fascinating to watch trains toys traveling around, making that familiar clickety-clack. Creating your railroad is much more than just trains, and that is part of the universal appeal. If your children love horses, let them create a ranch populated with their favorite miniature horses. Build a town that looks just like your own neighborhood, and populate it with tiny versions of your friends and family. Or make a futuristic train world, with aliens and space ships too. The possibilities are endless.
While there is a definite financial outlay to buy the initial connecting pieces and model scale trains, these tend to be robust and long-lasting. The remainder of the landscape can be your own creation, using any materials at hand.
Model railroads offer a lot more than just trains. For a start, thereís the artistic aspect, whether your child likes to model with clay, build tiny houses out of toothpicks, or paint realistic trees. Every family member can contribute. And then there is the educational aspect.
Finding out about trains involves many different topics. Any vehicle enthusiast will enjoy learning about engineering and how trains move (as well as how your trains toys actually operate). There are steam trains, electric trains, coal-burning trains, and so on. Trains are also historically important, which can lead to conversations about immigration patterns, the settlement of new areas, and moving goods around. Trains are used around the world and can form the basis for looking at other countries and their transportation systems. All those geographic details that make the track interesting also introduce concepts like mountains and valleys, along with bridge construction and other practicalities.
Itís not all academic, of course. Building a model railroad involves some basic skills like hammering, sawing, and wiring. Kids love to build tiny things out of scraps of wood and other materials, which also helps develop their hand-eye coordination, imagination, and concentration. Then thereís detailed painting to be done - on a teeny-tiny scale. There is no end to what can be added, and many kids learn excellent researching skills while figuring out how to make a realistic coal mine or log cabin.
Before you envision being housebound with this hobby, consider the social possibilities. Not only are there many groups who communicate online and meet to share ideas and skills, but there are model contests and potential excursions. Some communities have larger scale trains that can carry passengers, often maintained by enthusiasts. Families enjoy trips to railroads of all sizes, from city subways to small-gauge railways, from San Francisco to Paris and Disneyland to Englandís Lake District. Youíll also meet plenty of interesting people, coming from every walk of life to share in the fun of model scale trains.
So if you are looking for something to keep the family entertained and off the couch, have a look at model trains toys. Youíll find yourself in good company; many well-known faces have also shared this interest - from Tom Hanks and Frank Sinatra to Bruce Springsteen and Joe DiMaggio.
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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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