Model Railroading

The History Of Model Railroading

Over a century ago, the first train was assembled. Model railroading has become much more then child’s play. Collectors are serious about this hobby so much so that the art of collecting has been passed on from generation to generation. It is not uncommon for someone today to have in their possession a model railroading train set older then them.

The first wooden and metal floor toy train was made in the 1860s. By the 1890s, a series of wind-up and electronic-powered train sets were designed. In 1901, Lionel built an electronic train set for their store display that had the “WOW-factor” and amazed even the heart of an adult. It was on every young boys Christmas list that year. Lionel is today still one of the number one model railroad developers.

From the early 1900s to the 1970s, the popularity of electronic train sets grew. Lionel’s Standard Gauge Tinplate Commodore Vanderbilt was the first streamlined locomotive released 1934 in America and became the prototype for the first toy train. The design included a true-life sound system that imitated the big rigs and increased the level of excitement in owning such a grand train set. Lionel’s Union Pacific Veranda Turbine diesel-turbine power train set was different than most train sets. It was one of the first that could be disassembled and reassembled.

Model railroading is a hobby that evolved from wood to electric; from scale model railroading to toy trains; from HO trains to N scale trains and then Z scale which is even smaller in size. By the 1980s, the digital control systems were developed and were popular among Baby Boomers.

Some toy train sets are worth thousands, while others carry no significant value other then sentiment. This is a hobby for the “little boy” in every man. It isn’t so much the value of the item that draws collectors as it is the ownership.

Now in 2021, the model railroading hobby has grown beyond all expectations of our ancestors. There are well over 500,000 participants in model railroading hobby clubs across the nation: United States, Canada, Australia, England, Japan, and Germany. From those who craft to those who collect, the model railroading hobby keeps on growing.