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Why Women Hate Model Trains

Updated on May 29, 2013
Image credit: dmitrimaruta/123rf.com
Image credit: dmitrimaruta/123rf.com

We Don't!

This article is written by a woman friend who is very interested in the model train hobby and supplemented by myself, Grandpa Train of Tylers Trains. Here she speaks out for a large group of women and girls who have a real passion for model railroading.

A Natural Pairing

Women and model trains are a natural pairing. While it's probably true that there are fewer female model train hobbyists, there are certainly more of us than the community-at-large knows about. We don't always feel comfortable joining the model railway clubs. We aren't always counted. Here is a thread by Sage of the modelrailforum discussing this subject.

And celebrity women and model trains? Check this blog out by Anne Diamond.

A Train of Her Own

When the hobby first became popular, trains were for the boys (both big and small). Girls took a supportive role as they were invited to help create the layouts, load cargo and set the derailments back on track. They were seldom given a train to call their own.

In 1957, Lionel marketed a train that directly targeted girls. It consisted of a pink locomotive and tender with a string of cars available in pretty pastels. The campaign was intended to boost sales but the response was disappointing. Why?

It was assumed that girls were somehow different as consumers. Lionel ignored the fact that girls wanted realistic train models, too. When was the last time you saw a pink train engine running down your local neighborhood tracks? Some retailers resorted to painting the train sets black to move them off the shelves.

In The Real World

It took a few generations but today women hold jobs as yardmasters, trainmasters, brakemen and train engine machinists. The Association of American Railroads (AAR) proudly points to the talents of women like Heidi Kneip. Heidi is a train dispatcher for the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) of Omaha, Nebraska. UP is North America's largest freight-moving train network. She oversees the real-life movement of up to 50 trains simultaneously.

The AAR has also highlighted the talents of Anne Gill of Fort Worth's BNSF Railway. BNSF is the next largest railroad freight system in North America. Anne is the Director of Track Measurement. She's charged with preventing track-related derailments through the utilization of track geometry inspection cars. She's extremely proud of their impressive safety record.

Opening the Hornby Northumbrian train pack

Girl Power

Women are no more confused about scale and gauge than anyone else. In fact, maybe we're less perplexed by it all. The concepts are applied in all sorts of creative crafts. That lovely sweater that Grandma made for Christmas didn't have a life-sized deer on the front. It also didn't have one sleeve that was a foot longer than the other.

Women can showcase their many talents through model railroading. We can look at model train layouts as a chance to exhibit a variety of doll houses complete with dolls. In fact, we can build and display entire villages and cities. Check out this layout built by Chris and Andrea Butlin. We can select one theme and carry it through or meld a few time periods for added interest and a bigger challenge.

Building templates that can be printed out on stock paper make it possible to be historically accurate. We can photograph landmarks and commercial buildings and paste the pictures to the templates for realistic depictions. We can duplicate our own local main streets or our entire neighborhoods. More information to be had at this Beginners site, tylerstrains.com.

Some of us might be challenged by the electronics of model railroading. However, there are some excellent tutorials available to guide us through it. We should all welcome the opportunity to learn something new. It only seems intimidating until we understand it.

Check out the above video by Jenny Kirk for a girls perspective .

We Can Shine.

We aren't as enthused about setting up an expensive, labor-intensive, model train layout in the basement. The man-cave setting doesn't allow us to enjoy showcasing the results of our efforts.

Ray Howard's Model Railroad in a 30" X 40" Coffee Table
Ray Howard's Model Railroad in a 30" X 40" Coffee Table

Size Matters

The N or Z scale supports a broader display in a limited amount of space. All it takes is a niche in one corner of a room to shine a light on our creativity. Check out this Hub as well.

G-scale model trains are preferred when there's enough suitable outdoor property. Also referred to as garden-scale, they're about four times larger than HO and impressively realistic. The G-scale combines gardening, landscaping and lawn d├ęcor with model railroading for the most life-like experience imaginable.

G-scale modeling details are large enough for those who are visually impaired. Little tykes can securely grasp the cars with their tiny hands. It's much easier to handle larger pieces and everyone can work on the overall design and construction together.

The cars can run in any type of weather. Imagine your locomotive coming around the bend with steam puffing out of the smokestack after a snowfall. Picture the string of cars chugging through the rock garden, around the fish pond, under the waterfall and along the wall of your deck in the summer.

Although we love the smaller scales, the larger scale takes our love of trains out into the open to share with the world. Family, guests and passersby can all enjoy our passion right along with us. Ultimately, it's this opportunity to share the joy that makes women and model trains fit together so perfectly.

Here is another of Jenny's videos. Girls love Model Trains also ~ Enjoy!

Jenny Kirk's Signals

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