Hobby Reality Check

Yesterday after work, I went up to Rochester to talk to the hobby shop guy. I took along a piece of track and a list of questions, expecting to find a knowledgeable person, a certain amount of stock of items I needed or similar items, and maybe even some other cool stuff to look at.

What I found was a very limited stock of EZ-Track and Lionel attached-roadbed track, a very few specific items, a dusty and sort of pathetically small collection of used track garbage and overpriced crummy secondhand models… And nothing I didn’t already know from the internet.

A good ‘small’ shopkeeper will greet you when you walk in, briefly tell you about anything special, ask if they can help you find something, help you if they can, and then leave you alone to browse if you say “just looking” or they can’t actually help. The first three things happened, but when I explained what I was there for, I was shown the EZ-Track wall. My questions about how to measure the code of a rail and identifying the “number” of my turnouts were met with blank looks and “Uh, we can order something for you…” (At which point they just showed me the Walther’s website, which I can do myself.) I got in to some detail about the wiring and stuff while I was explaining, and the most intelligent response I got from someone was in mentioning my brass track, “Oh! That’s the gold stuff. I think we have some.” And then we discovered the dusty box of crummy track. With like two really awful-condition turnouts and otherwise nothing even sort of interesting.

I asked about model kits and rolling stock and the guy said the people who order stuff are usually so particular that he just special orders it for them. Asked about acrylic paint for models and was shown a cardboard box full of old, separated, full-price paint bottles. I was rather disappointed, to say the least. Also took quite a lot longer than I’d anticipated to establish that I had a better clue about it than he did.

The one really interesting thing I learned is that the industry has very much turned to roadbed-attached track. This makes absolute sense to me, as it is sturdier, simpler, easier to make modular, electrically simpler… I’m actually not quite sure why the online community rejects it so thoroughly. Maybe because it’s too foreign and modern. After some well-done roadbed additions, I would think it would look basically identical.

So, anyway, that was an interesting educational experience for me, and a little bit of a reality check on the “real” popularity of my incredibly obscure hobby.

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