Promoting the “Sharing Economy” of Model Railroading



The “sharing economy” might be something you haven’t heard of before. You’ve nonetheless likely experienced something like “…an economic model often defined as a peer-to-peer (P2P) based activity of acquiring, providing or sharing access to goods and services that are facilitated by a community based on-line platform.” (Google definition)   Except for the internet, that sounds a lot like good old fashioned sharing. Sometimes that sort of thing can be tough for kids to learn, but as we grow older it usually becomes obvious that helping others can pay big dividends. Model railroading is a great hobby made even better by connecting with others who share our interests. These relationships and interactions found in the working world form the basis of what model railroaders call operations. the engaging simulation in scale model form of what happens on the prototype. In effect, we share our interest in railroading by bringing the experience people had in working on it to life.

Railroads remain complicated, although they’ve lost their leading place in such human affairs to such things as nuclear physics, computational machinery, and, yes, the internet. A railroad still requires a a diverse and skillful workforce, everything from financiers, civil engineers, and muscled trackworkers to build it to yardmasters, crews, and clerks to operate it. Thus, it’s no surprise that modeling a railroad may include parts of all such occupations, plus additional artistic aspects involved with building models. It’s intimidating just thinking of where to start with one’s own railroad, even if it’s a fraction of the size of the prototype.

One could be lucky enough to get into this great hobby because of help from family or friends. Most of us have to look farther afield and then it’s quickly apparent there is an easily accessible national organization that modelers have been turning to for decades, the National Model Railroad Association. While the NMRA has a formal structure defined by legal documents like many such groups, for legal, financial, and and many other reasons, what it comes down to is encouraging us to share what we know with each other for the betterment of us all.

You might be surprised by the skills available among the Illinois Terminal Division’s modest number of members, something we are eager to share what we know about. If we can’t help with a specific need, consider that the NMRA Library and Archives gives you access to one the world’s largest collection of railroad books, pictures, and other research materials, plus hundreds of videos ranging from past national convention clinics to video productions from many commercial model railroad video  producers. You can find  a lengthy list of detailed member benefits at this link:

In many cases, though, advice, help or just finding someone with a common interest can be remarkably nearby. We have the beginnings of a small divisional library, plus many of us can be persuaded to loan an item from our personal libraries. The generosity of a former member provided us with an extensive collection of model railroad magazines dating back to the 1940s. Got a hole in your collection or need an old plan? Check with me and I might just have it, free for you to keep.

Tools are another place where members often help each other out.

For building skills, clinics were already mentioned as something members can consume, but clinics are also something any interested member can produce. New clinics are often the result of efforts members make toward their personal goals in the Achievement Program. The AP and its highest award, the Master Model Railroader is often misconceived as a contest. While contesting can be involved with earning the MMR, it’s an option, not a mandate.. What you really compete against in the AP  is yourself as you work to improve your modeling.

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to share is via the internet, since many people are on forums and, increasingly, social media. Here we now have a nearby spot that’s easy to use thanks to Allen’s efforts in setting up this blog. Especially if you’ve never posted to the web before, give it a try. The closest pic is probably already on your phone. Share it  with us and tell us more about it.

Trains are pretty popular subjects, but people go nuts over cats. If you can work a pic in combining both, go for it!