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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So... How do we attract beginner Garden Railroaders to the National Garden Railway Convention next year? There were a few at this year's convention held in Denver but we would like more, lots more when the Bay Area Garden Railway Society host the event in the San Francisco Bay Area next year.

We are planning on having three "tracks" of clinics... Live Steam, Landscape and Modeling which each track having multiple clinics covering topics from beginner to expert. We' d like to have more participants in the beginner clinics so I'd need to know which topics interest you the most. In "Live Steam" we will have clinics covering the history of Steam in the Garden plus clinics on how to get started in this aspect of the hobby, including firing up your first locomotive. The Landscape track will cover everything from Plant care and maintenance, led by Garden Railway's (and BAGRS member) Nancy Norris, to track work and ponds. The Modeling track will cover buildings, bridges, locomotives and much more.

We are also planning a series of speakers for each day covering prototype railroads and practices.

Now in case you hadn't heard, we've secured clinic rooms that have a capacity of over 150 people each and we would like to fill them each day. So what topics would beginner's like to hear and more importantly, what topics would bring them to the 2016 NGRC?

Russell Miller
NGRC 2016 Chairman
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I would have a topic on how to cost effectively get into the hobby. A lot of people I talk to have an interest but the two things holding them back are either space or cost. Space can be solved by switching to brands and track that can fit in to tighter spaces but the engines and rolling stock may not be everyone's cup of tea. I think the bigger crux for most is cost and folks don't realize that there are starter sets or you just buy a few pieces here and there and slowly build things up over time. Or that you look for deals at auction or join clubs for run time if you cannot build a layout right away but want to get into the hobby.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I would have a topic on how to cost effectively get into the hobby. A lot of people I talk to have an interest but the two things holding them back are either space or cost. Space can be solved by switching to brands and track that can fit in to tighter spaces but the engines and rolling stock may not be everyone's cup of tea. I think the bigger crux for most is cost and folks don't realize that there are starter sets or you just buy a few pieces here and there and slowly build things up over time. Or that you look for deals at auction or join clubs for run time if you cannot build a layout right away but want to get into the hobby.
Getting Started in Garden Railways will definitely be one of the clinic topics. I have first hand experience getting into the hobby as cheaply as possible. I was a member of the Bay Area Garden Railway Society for 2 years before I bought my first train. I always recommend joining your local club and experiencing the hobby before buying anything. Most of the locomotives and rolling stock I own were purchased second hand at the swap meet that BAGRS holds each year during their Annual Meeting. Track is also an issue but it seems as members of a club you always have access to left over or slightly used track at bargain prices. So first item on the agenda, Join your local club! You'll save more then the annual dues the first time you purchase something at a swap meet or club get together.
 

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That's an interesting question. Re space and cost issues: Track is easy, R1 and buy used track. Rolling stock used to be easy but its alot thinner field to choose from today. HLW is really the only truly afford entry level point with the Mack and minicars. Bachmann almost has a winner with the Lil Big Haulers but the toylike looks and stupid coupler heights are big negatives. Costs are the biggest elephant in the room. Who makes affordable starter sets these days? When a POS starter set in HO has doubled in price since 2004, $40 to over $80, large scale has gone completely insane. LGB starters are about $400 !!! Even Lil Big Hauler sets behind around $180 msrp. Looking around and being patient helps alot, Lil' sets for under $100 example. But these problems are huge hurtles for many. I don't know how to address this issue if mfrs don't soon step up to the plate.
 

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Getting Started in Garden Railways will definitely be one of the clinic topics. I have first hand experience getting into the hobby as cheaply as possible. I was a member of the Bay Area Garden Railway Society for 2 years before I bought my first train. I always recommend joining your local club and experiencing the hobby before buying anything. Most of the locomotives and rolling stock I own were purchased second hand at the swap meet that BAGRS holds each year during their Annual Meeting. Track is also an issue but it seems as members of a club you always have access to left over or slightly used track at bargain prices. So first item on the agenda, Join your local club! You'll save more then the annual dues the first time you purchase something at a swap meet or club get together.
I've gotta second that! I'm now a member of the Sacramento and Bay Area garden railway clubs, and I've gotten incredible deals from the swap meets at both. When you look at eBay it feels like large scale is unaffordable, but the clubs bring back the sanity.

As for the question, I don't know about beginners to large scale in general, but there were some great clinics at the NGRC in Denver for all skill levels it's just that the rooms were too small so many couldn't attend. I'm glad to hear we'll be in a bigger space next year.
 

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How about a clinic on using 3D printing for those hard-to-find replacement parts (at least). There's a good article in this month's Model Railroader on combining 3D with conventional scratch building techniques!
 

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I've seen some questions about wiring lately; maybe there could be a clinic on LED lighting for passenger cars, and something on track and accessory wiring. Maybe one for solar powered lighting for structures.

Dick's 3D printing idea is good too.
 

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If no one else volunteers, Russ, I could do a clinic on LED lighting, and perhaps one on 3D printing, as I've done some of each.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
If no one else volunteers, Russ, I could do a clinic on LED lighting, and perhaps one on 3D printing, as I've done some of each.
Dick,
That would be Great! I think I have the 3D printing clinics covered as we have quite a few members who own their own 3D printers and they have volunteered to hold some clinics. The LED Lighting would be good in our Modeling Clinic Room or our Landscape Room if its about lighting your pathways...

Speaking of which... It looks like we will have at least two layouts open at night showing off their lit buildings and layouts. Should be spectacular!

Email me...

Russ Miller
NGRC 2016 Chairman
 

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I hate to be a Debbie Downer (and my apologies for resurrecting an old thread), but the likelihood of my boyfriend and me spending close to $3000, and using a week of vacation time, to attend a convention is pretty close to nil. We've been running G Scale for about a year now and my boyfriend has had an indoor layout with N, HO and O Scale for five years so we're pretty much newcomers. We did go to the East Coast Train Show (large scale) in York, PA last year and had a wonderful time, but it was about a third the cost of going to the NGRC and half of that was spent on buying "stuff" at the show. $3K would get us a LOT of train and track. And I have to say that live steam, 3D printing and worrying over prototypical railroads and practices are not topics that we're immediately concerned about.

Things that do concern us are how do we keep our used trains running, considerations for getting that first track on the ground with an eye toward future expansion and adding sound to a DC engine. How do we add some basic buildings and scenery to our layout on the cheap without deciding later on that it looks too rinky dink and wanting to get rid of it. We participate in about five shows a year with our local club and those layouts are always plain DC, with our limited rolling stock we can't branch out just yet into DCC and/or battery operations.

What are the things you have to consider when selecting track and trains? We have a little 0-4-0 Porter with a bunch of HLW mini flat cars and logs that looks, and runs, good on our home layout with R1 curves. We also have a LGB ICE train with six cars that "will" run there but it does a lot better on the big 35' X 50' shared track with 15' curves that our club sets up at shows. How do you grow from one to the other and perhaps keep both of them incorporated in your layout?

Just my two cents and a couple thoughts...

Sophie
 

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Lots of good ideas above. But that can't be all of them.

Regarding space & cost issues for beginners to garden railroading. I can see why there is sticker shock for folks coming from HO. I used to run O scale and noticed at a train show last year that many of the O Lionel prices (including Fastrack) were roughly comparable to Bachmann, HLW, etc. for G.

At our small local train show we raffle off an HO starter set each year. $1 a chance as you come in the door. We make only a little money on it but you should see the eyes of a child whose parent or grand parent put in the winning ticket. Good PR and sometimes we even get the starter set donated. And a raffle for a typical starter set would encourage & interest beginners more than a raffle for a $2,000 steamer.

the other Rodney

PS - I won't be in California in 2016 but am planning on going to Tulsa in 2017!
 

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How to get beginners at the convention?

I don't know if you can get many beginners to attend the full week of activities. Most beginners would want to come on the public days. Put their toe in so to speak rather than jump in. So these suggestions are geared toward that end.

First, don't charge an entrance fee on public days like Denver did. I don't understand a cover charge to come in and buy stuff or learn about the hobby?

Free or validated parking.

Definitely like the train raffle idea presented.

Have as many displays running and could have a video running of the open house garden railways in the area (don't give addresses). Show on a large screen TV or projector. I think folks would get more interested once they see a complete layout vs boxes of cars and buildings, etc. that vendors are selling.

I've always thought the best way to get folks interested is to have a layout that does NOT say DON'T TOUCH. Let them touch, pickup, hookup and run the trains. Will stuff get broke? You bet. But consider it part of the cost of getting new railroaders.

Offer free, or reduced, membership in any local club for first year - kind of try and then buy thing. Or could do a raffle for free membership.

Raffle a free garden railroad design by one of the local clubs. Sometimes folks can get overwhelmed but would be interested if they knew they could some beginner help. Design should meet their requirements for space, time period, and be able to start small and grow as time and budget allows.

A booth set up just to answer beginner questions by folks wanting to know more about the hobby, or G scale in general. Not related to any specific vendor.

Good food options, reasonably priced. Keeps people there longer :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I hate to be a Debbie Downer (and my apologies for resurrecting an old thread), but the likelihood of my boyfriend and me spending close to $3000, and using a week of vacation time, to attend a convention is pretty close to nil. We've been running G Scale for about a year now and my boyfriend has had an indoor layout with N, HO and O Scale for five years so we're pretty much newcomers. We did go to the East Coast Train Show (large scale) in York, PA last year and had a wonderful time, but it was about a third the cost of going to the NGRC and half of that was spent on buying "stuff" at the show. $3K would get us a LOT of train and track. And I have to say that live steam, 3D printing and worrying over prototypical railroads and practices are not topics that we're immediately concerned about.

Things that do concern us are how do we keep our used trains running, considerations for getting that first track on the ground with an eye toward future expansion and adding sound to a DC engine. How do we add some basic buildings and scenery to our layout on the cheap without deciding later on that it looks too rinky dink and wanting to get rid of it. We participate in about five shows a year with our local club and those layouts are always plain DC, with our limited rolling stock we can't branch out just yet into DCC and/or battery operations.

What are the things you have to consider when selecting track and trains? We have a little 0-4-0 Porter with a bunch of HLW mini flat cars and logs that looks, and runs, good on our home layout with R1 curves. We also have a LGB ICE train with six cars that "will" run there but it does a lot better on the big 35' X 50' shared track with 15' curves that our club sets up at shows. How do you grow from one to the other and perhaps keep both of them incorporated in your layout?

Just my two cents and a couple thoughts...

Sophie
Sophie,
I know that the ECLSTS is a nice established show. How many clinics do they hold that are not presented by vendors? How many layouts did you get to visit? We will have close to 80 layouts open during the entire convention. We have large layouts and small layouts to see, we have raised benchwork layouts and layouts that cover an entire backyard. You would be amazed at what you can learn seeing this much diversity. All of the questions you asked, and many more would be answered if you attended the 2016 NGRC. Yes, $3000 is a lot of money but you would be visiting the top tourist destination area in the world. And remember, you could easily save more than that from the knowledge you gain by not making costly mistakes.

We realize Live Steam is not everyone's cup of tea. It is a niche market now but is the fastest growing part of the large scale hobby. What is crazy is that it is also one of the oldest parts of the hobby. We want to demystify Live Steam and introduce it to the masses. BAGRS has one of the largest, if not THE largest, active Live Steam Groups in the country and we pride ourselves in spreading the joy of Live Steam. Our track is one of the key attractions at the large, original Maker Faire held every May in San Mateo, CA attend by over 140,000 people last year.

Russ Miller
NGRC 2016 Chairman
 

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There are 3 related but separate questions here: 1) what type of beginner are we trying to attract, 2) how to attract beginners to the 2016 NGRC show, 3) how to attract beginners to garden railroading.

Although I've been in garden railroading for about 5 years in some ways I'm still a beginner and have never attended a national convention. Convince me that there will be some value at a national convention ($3K worth for one trip? - add together all the expenses I've had for the hobby in the past 5 years and it would be less than $3K) that I can't get from a combination of attending much closer large multi-scale train shows along with belonging to the local garden railroad club. And I'd better not get started on the value to me of going to a high priced tourist destination for a railroad convention, since those are the places I usually go out of my way to avoid.

The other type of beginner is someone brand new to garden railroading. They may or may not already have an HO or other scale indoor railroad. Most garden railroaders that I know started out in another scale that they may still have. Let's make it as easy as possible for them to get started in garden railroading. Don't just show off fancy layouts, have a portion of the layout tour designated as "beginner" layouts to show how to get started. As suggested above, have a "hands on" layout at the convention where beginners can take the controls. We can't KEEP someone involved in garden railroading until after s/he first STARTS. How did each of you get started? Are those opportunities still available? I admit I'm biased towards battery power. Set the train on the track, plug in the battery, and go. Instant gratification! I find live steam interesting and sometimes like to watch others do it, but I don't know of a single person who started out with live steam as a beginner.

A major roadblock for many beginners can be the cost of getting into garden railroading, especially if coming in from HO or an even smaller scale. I know of a few garden railroaders who had lots of money to drop on the hobby when it caught their interest. However, the vast majority started small as their budget/time/space allowed. What are ways we can show them an easy & affordable way to get started? Don't just raffle off a free garden railroad design, include a workday to help install it.

Another consideration is what age group are you targeting. In a perfect world we would get them hooked at a young age and keep them for 50 years or more. But what age groups have both the interest and the time/money/space for garden railroading? Someone sitting in an apartment with $$$ of college loans? A newlywed with a new house mortgage? Families with kids in middle school or high school sports? Empty nesters? Newly retired? Each of these age/income groups have different obstacles and demands on their time & money. Also, it's a natural tendency to associate with others our own age/income level, etc., but is that where the beginners will be coming from? Is your present age/income level the same as when you first wanted to get into garden railroading? Advertisements that would attract us "old fogeys" who are already in the hobby won't have the same impact on the beginners we should be trying to reach. How do these promotions need to be changed for an audience that is different from us?

For the 2016 NGRC show I would guess that most or all beginners will be from within a couple of hours drive so that is where pre-show advertising and outreach would have the most effect. Local clubs could have Spring/Summer open houses for exposure and as a build up to the NGRC. Offer to do a Show & Tell at a local HO club meeting. I know almost nothing about social media but that is another possibility. Also, make an effort to get members of your own extended family involved in the convention. Offer to put them up at your house if they'll travel in for a few days. If people that know you can't get interested in garden railroading, why should strangers?

Time to get off the soap box. If you managed to get through all of this, congratulations! I promise that if I add to this thread in the future, that it will be short, specific suggestions and that I will not go off on another rant.

the other Rodney
 

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For the 2016 NGRC show I would guess that most or all beginners will be from within a couple of hours drive so that is where pre-show advertising and outreach would have the most effect.
the other Rodney
I think this is the key point--and Sophie's earlier post reinforces it.

It's unreasonable to think that someone who is just considering a garden layout, or who is just starting in the hobby--for example with a starter set--is likely to travel hundreds or thousands of miles and pay for food and lodging for something they're not passionate about (yet).

I don't know exactly how you get curious locals to the show (Rodney's idea about trying to gin up interest by visiting local other-scale clubs might be one way) but those are your main audience for any beginner presentations. I agree that a focus on how to start in the hobby inexpensively would be good--I got my start with a $350 starter set that was a gift. I would never have spent that money on a "unknown" hobby myself. Also, presentations on how to do things like kitbashing garage-sale toys into something acceptable on a layout could help people thinking "I could never afford a set of $100 buildings" to think "hey, I can do that"

Keep in mind that younger folks (which is who everyone keeps saying the hobby needs to attract) are busy and have lots of other things (mortgage, school bills, kids' orthodontists bills) to spend their money on. I think that if we could show them that not only is the hobby fun and relaxing, but also can be done without a second mortgage, it would go a long way to getting them into it.

Just my $0.02
 

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How to get beginners at the convention?

I don't know if you can get many beginners to attend the full week of activities. Most beginners would want to come on the public days. Put their toe in so to speak rather than jump in. So these suggestions are geared toward that end.

First, don't charge an entrance fee on public days like Denver did. I don't understand a cover charge to come in and buy stuff or learn about the hobby?

Free or validated parking.

Definitely like the train raffle idea presented.

Have as many displays running and could have a video running of the open house garden railways in the area (don't give addresses). Show on a large screen TV or projector. I think folks would get more interested once they see a complete layout vs boxes of cars and buildings, etc. that vendors are selling.

I've always thought the best way to get folks interested is to have a layout that does NOT say DON'T TOUCH. Let them touch, pickup, hookup and run the trains. Will stuff get broke? You bet. But consider it part of the cost of getting new railroaders.

Offer free, or reduced, membership in any local club for first year - kind of try and then buy thing. Or could do a raffle for free membership.

Raffle a free garden railroad design by one of the local clubs. Sometimes folks can get overwhelmed but would be interested if they knew they could some beginner help. Design should meet their requirements for space, time period, and be able to start small and grow as time and budget allows.

A booth set up just to answer beginner questions by folks wanting to know more about the hobby, or G scale in general. Not related to any specific vendor.

Good food options, reasonably priced. Keeps people there longer :)
What he said ;-) I agree entirely. Especially the free club membership, or the layout advice, or the beginner booth. [Shades of Lucy: The Doctor is In].

You are unlikely to get new folk spending $3,000 just on the promise of saving future costly mistakes. C'mon Russell - did you ever plan to make a costly mistake ??
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
it's unreasonable to think that someone who is just considering a garden layout, or who is just starting in the hobby--for example with a starter set--is likely to travel hundreds or thousands of miles and pay for food and lodging for something they're not passionate about (yet).
Of course we don't expect people who aren't passionate about the hobby to attend. My first suggestion to newbies is to visit local layouts and general all scale train shows to see what is out there. After they show some interest, they should join their local club and soak up information before they commit to building a garden railroad. There is a ton of information that you can learn visiting local club layouts.

To me, beginners are someone in the hobby for only a few years and they are kind of stuck on what or where to go next. They need to expand their horizons and see what can be done. I remember going to my first Large Scale Train show, man I miss the Queen Mary, and finally seeing in person what I always wanted to do. From there I joined BAGRS and visited many layouts before I even purchased my first locomotive or even one foot of track. It was from BAGRS I learned about the National Convention and decided to attend my first back in 1998. I've attended maybe a half a dozen since and I learn many new things every time I go. Yes, they are expensive but there are ways to do them on the cheap. Heck, I have four kids and we live on a single income in the SF Bay Area... I think I'm an expert on being frugal.

I don't want anyone to attend who can't afford it, plain and simple. I just want to help people enjoy the hobby... Our hobby. Attending the NGRC is always an enjoyable event and we are pulling out all of the stops to make this the best one ever. We are selling tickets for things like the BBQ, Ice Cream Social and Banquet at or below cost. We have brought in Seven diverse operating layouts for the Exhibit Hall, including one that everyone can operate. And, if you take the plunge and buy your first Live Steam Locomotive, we will have people who will help you fire it up if you want and take you through every step of the way for successful operation.

If you make it to the convention, make the effort to find me and say hello. I always love to meet fellow MLSers. Again, I miss the Queen Mary show... but I digress... And if you can't make it, that's okay. We understand and we hope to see you at future conventions. And Rodney, sorry you can't make it to the Bay Area. I'm glad you're planning on attending the show in Tulsa, I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

Russ Miller
NGRC 2016 Chairman
BAGRS 2015 President
 

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I go to ALL the conventions west of Denver, and I've also been to Cincinnati and Kansas City. I'm looking forward to Tulsa, as that's a part of the country I've been through but not to! I am much more interested in the layouts and the clinics than the vendor hall. For too many reasons, the vendors are fewer and less interesting to me now. If we want younger garden railroaders, we should appeal to them by showing them the latest gadgets to use on our garden rrs, including LEDs, computer control, battery power, live steam, etc. At the same time, we need to recognize that smaller scale folks and gardeners are the low-hanging fruit we can capture.

Looking forward to this convention, and to the 17 SVGRS layouts to be open on July 11-13!
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Facebook Page is now up!

The NGRC 2016 Facebook page is now online. You can go directly to it by clicking NGRC2016 Facebook or by visiting the home page for the NGRC 2016 Website. We are in the process of compiling all of the clinics we have to offer and we will have them on the website soon.

We also have a total of 86 layouts on the tours as of today. We expect to lose a few and add a few but this is an amazing number of layouts to see.

Russ Miller
NGRC 2016 Chairman
#ngrc2016
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
The CLINIC page is now up! Expect some changes as we get closer to the event but as you can see, there is a wide range of clinics and speakers planned.



The NGRC 2016 Facebook page is now online. You can go directly to it by clicking NGRC2016 Facebook or by visiting the home page for the NGRC 2016 Website. We are in the process of compiling all of the clinics we have to offer and we will have them on the website soon.

We also have a total of 86 layouts on the tours as of today. We expect to lose a few and add a few but this is an amazing number of layouts to see.

Russ Miller
NGRC 2016 Chairman
#ngrc2016
Russ Miller
NGRC 2016 Chairman
#ngrc2016
 
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