The question of growth is an interesting one. Looking at my own association, the OVGRS (www.ovgrs.org
), I see slearly some trends.
First we are an old group age wise. Many of us are retired and our average age may be something like the average age here on MLS or in model railroading in general. It is sad, but each year, someone seems to pass away ... and as a result, the number of those involved is reduced.
Second, it seems as though no one in our group really leaves the hobby. Over the years a very few have drifted away but the number is so small as to be insignificant.
And third, most importantly, the number of operators on hand for our saturday morning ops sessions has slowly grown ... as each year we seem to find (or are found by) at least one or two or three new players in the hobby.
The point that lownote made about startup cost is very real. In fact, most members of the OVGRS including yours truly, started and still model in another scale. But we entered large scale with a minimum investment because ... the OVGRS has the use of a club railroad even though that railroad is privately owned. To join the OVGRS you just show up - there is no initiation, no dues, no elections and no requirement to spend a penny. Most of our new members just came to operate and eventually bought and radio controlled their own loco (we have no track power). Only a few OVGRS members have ever laid any track of their own. In other words, the OVGRS has eliminated the requirement for the big capitol outlay to enter the hobby.
When I think back to my entry as a youngster into HO, it took an amzing amount of work to build a layout. Everything came in kits and was either assembled or scratch built. The railroad empire was not a running railroad so much as it was a model building hobby. If you wanted to operate a railroad, joining a club was the only answer as it provided the necessary capitol investment in terms of hours of assembly of the component parts - track, electricals, rolling stock, buildings and scenery. Of course, the move to rtr in HO during the 70s-80s eliminated the necessity for a club and very few new HO clubs have formed over the last 20 years (outside the modular arena).
But large scale has a need to make the huge capitol investment more palatable for newcomers. And here is the perfect role for a club. We have hit on the formulation by accident but it has worked well for us in the OVGRS. The two or three true large scalers in the Ottawa area have been joined by a couple of dozen small scalers or newcomers to model railroading who for the most part would never have looked at large scale. The OVGRS offers them an inexpensive place in which to participate in regular operating sessions on a club sized railroad and in return we gain the infectious enthusiasm of many newcomers to the hobby.
Once upon a time 15 years ago, the OVGRS participated in shows with a loop of track on a modular setup. The layout was popular with showgoers especially kids but we never got a single new member. That effort was discontinued ... the OVGRS does not participate in any shows and as an organization is simply a bunch of guys playing with large scale trains. But the current approach has yielded and continues to yield new members every year.
Regards .. Doug