Category Archives: Hobby Info

2018 NMRA National Train Show

Walthers NMRA 2018

Walthers will be exhibiting at the National Model Railroad Association Inc. National Train Show between August 10th and the close of the show on August 12th.

The National Train Show, established in 1988 by NMRA, is celebrating its 30th year as a nationally sponsored combined industry trade show and public train show to promote the hobby of model railroading.  This year’s show is taking place in Kansas City, MO, and will feature “Ask The Collectibles” Appraiser, LEGO® mini land, a children’s play area, and free Thomas train rides, in addition to many exhibitors and manufacturers.

If you’ll be in attendance, please stop by and check us out at booth #1606, we’d love to see you!  If you’re not able to visit you can still see all the new products and several new announcements on display at the Walthers booth by watching our Facebook Live stream the morning of Friday, August 10th at 8:30a.m. CDT, and by checking out our Instagram.

Founded in 1935, NMRA currently has over 18,000 members and serves 19 Regions which cover the United States, Australasia, Canada, the British Isles and Europe.

#WalthersTrains #WalthersNMRA

Give a young person a gift that will last a lifetime by introducing them to model trains.

Model Trains

We here at Walthers believe model railroading is the world’s greatest hobby and we love to help bring others aboard. Model trains have been around for nearly 100 years and have seen changes that have taken the level of sophistication and accuracy to new heights never dreamed of before. What used to take many of hours of work can now be purchased off the shelf at your local hobby shop or ordered online from one of hundreds of different retailers.

Why so popular?

Model railroading has so many facets as a hobby. Engineering, electronics, sculpting, carpentry, history, teamwork, and exceptional creativity. This makes it very appealing to creative and intelligent people who love watching the giant machines roll down the tracks. They want to preserve the awe struck feeling they have every time a behemoth locomotives pulls its cars past. For some there is a specific place in time they wish to capture, for others its specific models of locomotives and cars…right down to the engine and car numbers. All over the country people have these same memories that they share with each other, building bonds that last a lifetime. For some people, they like to create the world in a way they would like to see it — a world of their own design.

Historical HO Scale Model Trains

Model trains preserve history

Real trains, like everything else in this technologically driven world, are changing very quickly. But for many modelers, preserving the past is a key part of their hobby fun; while an actual steam locomotive may have been scrapped decades ago, a three-dimensional working miniature becomes a snapshot in time like no other.

Why hobbies are so important to people

Hobbies are very important, because without them we live day-to-day habit-filled lives that don’t give us much escape. Hobbies, especially model trains, provide many positive experiences and effects:

  1. 1. Meeting new people
  2. 2. Experiencing new things
  3. 3. Building self-esteem and worth
  4. 4. Flexibility and creative satisfaction
  5. 5. Clearing your mind
  6. 6. Having something to look forward to
  7. 7. Setting and accomplishing goals

Model Railroading is a great hobby because it will give you an opportunity to relax and build skills at the same time while expressing yourself in fantastic ways.

Father and sons working on a model train layout

Share the love for model trains

Connecting with family is also much easier when common interests are shared and enjoyed. Model trains appeal to curious young people who enjoy solving problems, and have an eye for detail and like to challenge themselves to acquire new skills and learn new things.

Imagine how much fun it can be to enlist and receive help from a young person on a part of your layout or a kit project. Nearly every skill that can help young people develop can be found working with model trains.

Toddler boy playing with thomas model train

A great way to start

Simply throwing young people at an existing layout can be stressful for everyone involved — kids are inclined to touch things – as are a lot of adults. Instead of using your prized models, make the investment in some basic equipment everyone can share. A few minutes spent learning how to handle and operate less fragile cars and locos now can really pay off down the tracks, opening the doors to helping them start their own model railroad. So, where should you begin?

First buy a set, you can find hundreds of train sets on walthers.com.

Expand the basic track from just an oval to something a little bigger by adding a track expansion set.

Take a couple of hours and build a model railroad layout base with grass mat together, or buy a kit like this one from Woodland Scenics.

Add some landscaping or points of interest.

Add some structures using kits or pre-built buildings.

From there, the sky is the limit. As young people grow their interest in model trains will grow as well and before you know it they’ll be teaching you things!

More information

The places to find model railroad information are abundant with programs across the country designed to help get young people into the hobby. There are also programs and websites to help kids who are already engaged in the hobby. Model railroad museums around the country are great places for young people to really get a look at mature layouts.  Milwaukee’s Trainfest and other model train shows have programs that help young people get involved. Each year young people absolutely love the layouts at model train shows. Online articles like this one and several forums are also great places to find information to bring young people into the hobby of model trains. More and more social media content around the hobby is being developed as well as video.

Walthers is leading the efforts to bring younger people into model trains. If you have ideas that you’d like to share with us on how to find success while getting young people involved in the hobby or if you are currently helping to pass along your love of model trains, send us your thoughts to growthehobby@walthers.com

We love hearing from and learning from you! Some of your ideas may be featured in future blog posts or features here at Walthers. We are committed to this cause, and know that some of the very best ideas come from you!

10 Reasons to Visit your Local Hobby Shop

Walthers Cornerstone® Hobby Shop Kit

Whether you’re just getting started with a new train set, or you’re a longtime modeler, visiting your local hobby shop (if you have one) can be a fun and inspirational learning experience.

 

  1. Inspiration

If you’re thinking of expanding or adding to your new train set, you may not know where to start or what’s available on the market. A good way to get inspired is to visit your local hobby shop to see what types of products they carry and how they’re displayed. Often times, the store will have a variety of layouts and themes on display.

Take your time and notice the details and different components of the display. Seeing all the elements together as a cohesive system can put things into perspective. It can be hard to see the big picture while looking at products online. Acquaint yourself with the different brands, trains, accessories, tools, and controls, as well as any reference books. Even if you don’t make a purchase your first time into the shop, you’ll leave with a better understanding of the hobby than when you came in.

For longtime modelers, you may be experiencing a plateau with your layout and need a catalyst for change. When was the last time you went to a hobby shop that isn’t your regular, go-to store? Take a look at our store locator (link), and dedicate an afternoon to visiting a new shop. A new shop means new layouts, new staff, and possibly different products. Seeing these things in a different light may inspire you to try something new, or give you new ideas.

 

  1. Begin with the basics

After visiting a hobby shop for the first time, you may be overwhelmed by the amount of products and accessories it took to create the in-store train layouts. Understand these types of layouts take a very long time to build. Talk with the staff on what they recommend for someone just starting out. They’ll be able to show you the basic building blocks of any model layout (track, freight and passenger cars, buildings) and walk you through the pros and cons of various aspects of model railroading. By starting with the basics, and building step by step, you’re more likely to finish all of your necessary components, rather than starting and abandoning ambitious projects.

 

  1. See products before you buy

If you’re just starting out as a model railroader, you may have a lot of questions or lack direction for your layout. Sure, you know that N and HO scale are different sizes, but what does that size difference look like? Do you want DC or DCC? Should you buy Code83 or Code100 track? The benefit of going into your local hobby shop is seeing the products firsthand. Sometimes the actual packaging conveys more information than you might see in ads or on the internet, and you’ll be able to view the product in different angles versus one picture online, or no pictures at all. In certain circumstances, your hobby shop may be willing to let you demo a product that you’re interested in! Being able to physically touch, see, and hear the different components allows you to make a well-informed purchase, and can save you from buyer’s remorse down the road.

 

  1. Compare similar products

Multiple manufacturers may offer similar trains, vehicles, figures, and scenery materials. Small details can be the deciding factor in the products that you purchase, especially amongst similar items. Often times, pictures on the internet cannot accurately depict the exact color, emphasize minuscule details, or give you that sense of assurance that seeing something in person provides. If you’re deciding between two similar products, make a visit to your local hobby shop. Chances are, you’ll be able to quickly tell which model is best for you.

 

  1. See store displays

Manufacturers like to promote their products in stores via displays, models, and interactive tools. These allow you to compare products side-by-side, or see a range of compatible products. Your hobby shop may have scenery, hardware, vehicles, paints, adhesives and more displayed on special racks. In many cases, the racks have informative signs and graphics showing the basics of how the products work together. This can remove a lot of the guesswork for a new modeler, and make for an expedited shopping experience for more experienced modelers.

 

  1. Ask the experts

Most hobby shops employ modelers on their staff. Even if they don’t model trains, they may build military models, aircrafts, or vehicles. In such instances, they can usually answer questions about construction, painting, weathering, and scenery. By talking with an expert, you’ll be able to talk about what you are doing, and let them know any general products you’re interested in receiving a recommendation about. Your hobby shop should be willing to provide feedback and make recommendations — after all, they’re counting on you to return and become a lifelong customer.

 

  1. Books and DVDs

Are you a picture person? Imagine ordering a scenery how-to book online, only to find out that it’s completely text, or worse, receiving a DVD in a different language! Hobby shops aren’t libraries, but they should carry a number of model train books and DVD’s for you to browse. If you’re just starting in modeling, take time to flip through and choose some how-to books that fit your needs.

If you’re a seasoned modeler, or building a layout, books and DVDs about real railroads are great modeling reference. Not only can you see the train action on your favorite railroad, era or region, you can also look at features in the background for scenery and detailing ideas.

 

  1. A learning experience

Many great hobby shops foster the personal growth of their customers. It’s becoming more common for stores to host lectures and offer how-to classes on model railroading topics. Subjects can range from scenery, to DCC, to weathering and detailing. In addition, many shops sponsor or advertise local model railroad clubs and railroad events. Check out the bulletin board – you might find something you want to visit!

 

  1. Model railroading ideas sometimes come from other hobbies

 Don’t limit yourself by exclusively purchasing products made for model railroading. Yes, in general, those items are your safest bets, however, you could be missing out on nuggets of information for your layout. Full-line hobby shops often carry military, aircraft, vehicle, and other modeling supplies that can also be used for model train layouts. Craft supplies are also common in hobby stores.

Additionally, are there dioramas on display? Check them out, and if you see a scene or painting technique you can apply to your model railroad, ask how it was done. By expanding your product base, you’re tapping into numerous new, unique looks and techniques for your model train layouts.

 

  1. Meet other modelers

Model railroading can sometimes be a solitary and isolating hobby. Staying active in your community by visiting your local hobby shop can connect you with other model railroaders and hobbyists. Some hobby shops encourage camaraderie between its customers by running contests, hosting events, and even sponsoring a local model railroad club.

Often times, there will be a wide range of experience amongst your fellow shoppers, from novice to experts. Engaging with those on the same skill level as you serves as a way to gauge your progress and share similar experiences. Seasoned hobbyists can act as mentors, and are typically eager to give advice and guidance.

Even if you’ve been in the hobby for decades, sometimes a chat with someone new to the hobby can provide an insight you haven’t considered, and interacting with other modelers can revitalize your interest and reignite your passion for the hobby.

 

One thing is for sure, when you are visiting a local shop, look for Walthers products. Shops that carry the Walthers brand are good shops, and if they don’t they are missing an iconic brand that has led the industry for 85 years.

10 ways to prepare and maintain your holiday train

Many of us, even seasoned modelers, have trains we bring out only for the holidays. After all, what’s a Christmas tree without a holiday train running ’round it? It’s a tradition that can be traced back over 150 years. But, to make sure it keeps running reliably there are a few preparation steps you may consider to keep the fun rolling under the tree or for any temporary setup!

  1. Carefully unpack and inspect your train for any damage

Even the most rugged model train is subject to damage in storage. Its box may get kicked, dropped, wet or crushed and the train inside can be damaged, which is common. Check the couplers to see if they’re all there. Re-position dislodged wheel sets. If present, clean off smoke fluid that may have seeped out. Make sure to remove Styrofoam bubbles, paper scraps, foam rubber crumbs and anything else that may stick to your train or track.

  1. Inspect and clean the track

As with the trains, track needs attention to ensure reliability. Inspect for missing joiners, broken clips on roadbed track, loose rails, bent rails and other defects and replace broken parts or sections. Clean the railheads – even though they may appear clean, they may have a thin film of corrosion or dirt (especially in high-humidity regions), and it’s easier to clean them before assembly than crawling under the tree! If you’re not sure which cleaner to use, here’s a link to a variety of cleaners for model trains.

  1. Clean and lube your locomotive

Take a closer look at the underside of your locomotive or trolley. Clean out visible dust, pet hair, carpet fibers, tinsel, glitter, tree skirting and lint. If you find fibers wrapped around exposed gearing or wheels and axles remove it with a toothpick, dental pick or small tweezers. Clean the wheel tread for electrical reliability. If your train has a smoke unit, make sure to inspect for fluid that has leeched out and clean it off. If you’re not sure what to use check out the cleaner link above for a few suggestions.

Sometimes, but seldom, locomotives need light lubrication. Plastic-compatible lubricants must always be used and they should be applied sparingly only to exposed gearing as noted in the lubrication instructions of your locomotive. One drop is normally enough, too much can cause electrical problems and can attract lint and dirt.

  1. Inspect your power pack

Safety is the most important thing to consider. Make sure all of the wires are in good condition with no fraying or missing insulation. If you find a problem you may need to replace the power pack or wires.

  1. Freight and passenger cars need love too

While rolling stock simply follows along, cars have their own maintenance needs. Check for fibers and debris on the wheels and axles and remove them as you would on a locomotive. If the cars are lighted you may want to clean the wheels the same as you might clean loco wheels.

  1. Test run

Before you set up your entire layout hook up your power pack to a couple of pieces of track and test run your locomotive and cars back and forth to make sure everything works. Check the couplers and make sure they stay together, if not then repair or replace. If you have a smoke unit, add fluid according to the manufacturers’ instructions.

  1. Clear the way

Setting up track is much easier with plenty of space to work. Many folks set up the track before setting up the tree, and some set everything up on a board. For best results choose a level, or near-level surface. Make sure to leave a few inches clearance above the train and any tree branches and ornaments. Keep tinsel (especially metal tinsel which can cause electrical shorts) far, far away. Also keep Christmas village buildings and scenery at least two inches away on either side.

  1. Set up your track and hook up your power pack

Roadbed-style track (with a simulated ballast base) can be set up on any surface including carpet with no bad effects on your trains. If you have conventional track (you can see through the spaces between the ties and rails) consider inserting wood, cardboard or even tape that’s wider than the track to provide a fiber-free surface. Just a single carpet or tree skirt fiber, or tinsel can ruin a locomotive if it gets caught in the mechanism. Here’s a hint for reliability: if you’re using conventional track try a piece of duct tape on the underside of six or eight ties at each track joint to hold the pieces together as the track moves under the weight of the passing trains.

  1. Get your trains on the line

When you’re satisfied with your track layout go ahead and put your trains on the track. If you find that the tree, buildings, presents or other decorations make rerailing the trains difficult consider a rerailer track (you may have one already) or rerailing tool. Here’s an assortment of rerailing tracks and tools.  Although there are many choices you may consider a ramp-style rerailer to help with rerailing cars in the limited confines of space under the tree.

  1. Run like Rudolph!

Crack open the throttle and let your trains run! For safety, keep an eye out for obstructions as presents get moved around and track shifts on soft surfaces.

The tradition of having a holiday train is one that still exists because it’s fun. Keeping those trains running takes a little bit of work and when done correctly can make the holiday train even more fun. If you’re considering a holiday train for the first time or giving one as a gift, consider starting with a train-set.

Holiday Gift Guide for Railroad Modelers

With the holidays upon us it’s time to start thinking about appropriate gifts. While it’s always the most fun to give a gift that will be appreciated, treasured or used regularly, gifts for model railroaders, or any hobbyist for that matter, can be tricky. If you’re not a train modeler or enthusiast it can be especially challenging, so if you would like to save a lot of time, consider a Walthers gift certificate, or to put more effort into the giving experience here are some tips to make gift giving for your favorite railroader a rewarding experience.

To begin with, make an effort to observe where your gift recipient’s interests lay within the hobby. Are they getting, or did they just get started with a train set? Do they only set up their train around the tree at Christmas? Do they have a small layout? Do they have a large model railroad empire? Is there a specific railroad, location or era (steam locos, diesel, modern/current era, somewhere in the middle) he or she is interested in? Do they only collect models? Finally, and this one is very important, what scale trains do they have interest in? Asking some questions upfront can go a long way towards holiday success.

Starting out – Holiday gifts for beginners

A train around the Christmas tree, winding its way through a Christmas village is a long standing tradition that dates back to the 1800s. It’s also a fun part of decorating a Christmas tree and it’s where many kids see their first toy train set! As a starting point for purchasing a train set check out the Walthers Holiday Gift Guide. This selection of kids’ sets, starter sets as well as train-only sets offers trains in all scales covering a variety of interests. Not sure of some of the features and benefits of the sets? Check out the Train Set advisor for some tips and information about train sets.

Train sets are also the most common way people get started in the hobby. They provide the basics – a train, track, power pack and perhaps some accessory buildings and scenery. Often, interest in model trains starts with toy trains at the holidays. Thinking of giving a train set as the beginning of a layout or long-term hobby? Make sure the train set is compatible with supporting products like extra locomotives, cars, track, buildings and scenery.

Does your railroader already have some trains?

Beginning hobbyists and those building their first layout are relatively easy to buy for since they don’t yet have a lot of materials for their railroads. They already have some trains or know they want something more than a starter set. Extra locos, cars, track, vehicles as well as scenery materials and other accessories are all fun gifts. If you’re looking for these add-ons, the MOST important thing is to find out the scale of trains they already have – trains of the wrong size simply won’t work.

Again, train-only sets are a great option since they provide extra locomotives and cars without the track. Another great choice for those who have interests beyond their train set is a how-to book about various modeling subjects. There is no end to the options for reading about trains.

Beyond beginners

So, your favorite modeler has been into trains for a while. Model railroaders who are past the beginning stage have already developed an interest in the hobby. Do they keep their trains set up all year long – a permanent layout? By now they know what they want or need. If not, are they in a train club that has a layout where they run their trains?

As far as gifts go, again, choosing the correct scale is very important. If they are already building a layout perhaps scenery, details and other accessories will be appreciated. Of course, more trains always make great model railroad gifts. Model railroaders in this group will also tend to be replicating railroads from specific parts of the country or even road names, locations, and periods in time.

Longtime modelers

Seasoned model railroaders typically know exactly what they need for their collection, layout or other railroad interest. Chances are they may have even refined their interests to a specific kind of train, era, location or railroad name. The train-only sets, Christmas-themed items and accessories are a whimsical way to give a dyed-in-the-wool model railroader a gift. If you know their specific railroad interests there are plenty of books about real railroads.

Not a modeler, just likes trains?

Anything train related is a sure bet for the train lover on your list. They enjoy real railroads, seasonal trains, railroad themes, history and motifs, but may not have model trains. Books, puzzles, calendars and more are shown on our Books, Videos and Railroadiana pages. Anything train related is a sure bet for the train lover on your list.

Something for everybody

Finally, there are some gifts that all train enthusiasts will like. The Walthers 2018 Reference Book is the source for all kinds of HO, N and Z Scale trains, buildings, vehicles and accessories. But, thousands of all-scale products such as adhesives, tools, scenery materials and scratch building supplies usable in any modeling scale as well as for some crafts and diorama projects are also shown. Still unsure of their interests? Walthers also offers gift certificates usable for anything we make or sell.

So you see, there are literally millions of options when buying for the model railroader on your list, visit your local hobby shop, go to a model railroad show, or walthers.com to buy the gift that makes their holiday special.