November is National Model Railroad Month



Great hobby for kids and adults alike

Model trains are a great hobby for kids and adults alike


Model trains are such a great hobby. They come in all sizes. All price ranges. And over the years, it makes a great present that you can keeping adding on to.

There are many ways to creatively set them up.  And as a hobby, it can help your kids learn to plan, organize, set goals, follow directions, make decisions, and develop solutions to increasingly complex problems. Gives them the opportunity to excel at something unique and fun without the pressures of school. Kids can relax, explore, and build self-confidence.

Family fun on the railroad

Because we are so close to Metro-North, we can ride just a few stations or go down to Grand Central Station in New York City. Riding on a full-size train is fun for the whole family and will surely delight everyone. The kids can take photos of the landscape as it wizzes by. They get a chance to see lots of bridges, West Point and the marshlands along the way.

There are several railroad museums in the region that are easy to get to. Sorry to say that most are closed right now but keep them on your list. Besides the three I mention below do an online search for Alliance of Railway Museums and Tourist Railroads for an expanded list.

You will be able to take exciting photos to cherish and send to the family far away. Another great thing about model railways is that they recreate history and illustrate what daily life was like in different time periods and cultures. Trains transported goods and people which helped our country to grow and prosper. There is something for everyone to learn and enjoy.

The Danbury Railway Museum
120 White St, Danbury, CT 06810
203-778-8337
The Danbury Railway Museum, opened in 1916, (which unfortunately is closed as of this writing due to Covid-19) is one of the few museums open year round, and from April to November you can ride The Railyard Local. After your ride you can tour the rest of the Railyard and see the now over 60 pieces of equipment on property.

Whippany Railway Museum
Railroad Plaza, Whippany, NJ 07981
973-887-8177
The Whippany Railway Museum is a railway museum and excursion train ride located in the Whippany section of Hanover Township in Morris County, NJ. Open from April through October.

Empire State Railway Museum
70 Lower, High St, Phoenicia, NY 12464
845-688-7501
Established in 1960, the Empire State Railway Museum is a non-profit railroad museum currently located in the historic Ulster & Delaware Phoenicia Railroad Station, Phoenicia, New York. The station was built in 1899 by the U&D and is one of the few surviving examples left along the line.

A little history

Trains and railroads played a major part in shaping our country starting in the 1800’s. In 1869 the first transcontinental freight train left from San Francisco and traveled across the country to the east coast. People were able to ride from California to New York in about a week by train. There is so much to learn about trains, from early horse-drawn versions to wood-fired, coal, steam, electric powered and even computer driven engines, railroading is a fascinating subject.

Early model railroad toys

Brass and tin trains that could be pushed along a track were made by German crafters in the 1830’s. The first self-propelled model train was made in 1856, in Connecticut, by George Brown & Company. Powered by clockwork mechanisms, tin trains and many other toys including boats, carriages and fire engines were made by the company. Production of steam engines started in 1871. Lots of other inventors here and abroad started engineering toy train sets. Development, availability, popularity and affordability of toy trains continued and by the 1950’s most people owned or knew someone with a model train set.

Interesting Opportunities

Encourage enthusiasm for trains by setting up a toy railroad, watching train themed movies, reading fiction and non-fiction books about trains, building a model railway, going to train collector shows, joining a model railroad club, and reading train magazines. Museums, toy stores, discount, consignment, hobby and online retailers sell trains and model railroad kits. The whole family can get involved.

Learning, STEM and Careers

Kids can learn about history, geography, STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), and more from exploring trains and railways. Interesting hobbies may lead to a lifetime of learning, fun and relationship building with other enthusiasts. Childhood interests influence career choices later on, maybe your child will become a mechanical engineer or

Cool Facts

1. Trains are more environmentally friendly when compared to many other forms of travel.

2. The actual contact area between the steel train wheels and the steel track is about the size of a dime, thus there is very little resistance, making trains an efficient way to transport heavy goods.

3. Freight trains carry 40% of the world’s cargo.

4. The Seikan Tunnel in Japan is the longest train tunnel in the world. It is 33.46 miles in length.

5. The French TGV bullet train holds the speed record of 574km per hour (357 miles per hour). It braked for 16 kilometers (9 miles) to come to a stop.


Popular Children’s Train Books - Fiction

  • The Little Engine That Could, by Watty Piper
  • Locomotive, by Brian Floca
  • Freight Train, by Donald Crews
  • The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg
  • The Little Red Caboose, by Marian Potter
  • Thomas The Tank Engine Story Collection, by Rev. W. Awdry

Non-fiction Train Books for Children

  • On A Train, by Robert M. Hamilton
  • Freight Trains In Action, by Adele D. Richardson
  • Trains, by Susan E. Goodman

Model Railroad Books

  • The Wonderful World of Model Trains: A Beginner’s Guide To Building Your Own Model Railways and Creating Stunning Sceneries & Layouts, by David B. Brokar
  • Building A Model Railroad Step By Step, David Popp
  • Realistic Model Railroad Design: Your Step-By-Step Guide To Creating A Unique Operating Layout, by Tony Koester

Websites

www.american-rails.com – lists railroad museums, industry and engine history, current information and infrastructure, blog 

wgh.trains.com/ – getting started, finding model train clubs, model railroads, hobby shops, attractions, shows and meets

www.nmra.org – guide for beginners, educational, national, regional, local memberships, conventions, shows

Sarah Yale is a freelance writer and the mother of two children who love model railroading and vintage trains, who are now studying engineering in college.



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