How To Start Your Own Model Railroad Club
Pretty much every hobby is more fun when you do it with other people. If you’re a fan of model trains, you might consider looking for model railroad clubs in your area. If there aren’t any, you can always establish a club yourself. Discover how to start your own model railroad club.
What Is a Model Railroad Club?
In general, a model railroad club is a meeting of people who are interested in the hobby, regardless of skill level. You join up with other model railroaders to talk about the hobby, share the work you’ve done, and learn different techniques from each other. Some clubs are huge organizations with officers and bylaws; others are informal gatherings where people just hang out and work on their trains and layouts together.
A Formal or Informal Organization
Many clubs start out as informal organizations led by whoever the most active members are. Basically, if you show up, you get a say in what happens at club meetings. A formal organization will have rules for meeting structure, who’s in charge, and how members can make changes to the club organization. Having a very informal gathering makes it easy for people to join, but it can mean a disorganized club. Alternatively, if you have too many rules, your club probably won’t get many members.
Regardless of which organization type you choose, there are a few things you should think about before starting your own model railroad club. These factors will set the tone of the club, so choose carefully based on the kind of environment you’re trying to create. Remember that not having a policy on these issues can leave you vulnerable to people abusing your leniency. From the start, you should have firm answers to the following questions:
- Will you allow kids?
- Who will provide refreshments?
- Will you allow smoking and drinking alcohol during meetings?
- How will you treat off-topic conversation? (politics, religion, etc.)
- What will your harassment policy entail?
What you do during club meetings will depend on who your members are and what kind of space you’re meeting in. For example, if the club meets at your home, you could turn one room into the train club room and have everyone work on a model railroad layout together. If you charge dues for your club, you may be able to rent space at a community center or a classroom after school.
Common activities for model railroad clubs include sharing news, building layouts, customizing trains, and planning trips to conventions. The main point is to do whatever you and your members think is fun!
If you’ve been into model trains for a while, you probably already know a few people in your area who would like to join your club. One easy way to find other members is to put up posters around town. Coffee shops often have notice boards where you can advertise clubs and events. Some universities and high schools will also allow you to post flyers, but you will need to check with administration first.
Using Social Media To Find Members
Social media is a huge help when it comes to starting local clubs. There are dedicated apps, like Meetup, that will allow you to set up a meeting page and chat with members. Or you can just make a group on Facebook. In fact, you could try both for a better chance of getting the word out to the right people.
Getting Local Publicity
Another way to find more members for your club is to talk to a local news station or school paper about the club. Sometimes, these organizations will promote your club as a community-building exercise; it’s even easier to do if you have a social media page to share.
Running an Online Club
If you don’t find people in your area to join your club, don’t lose heart. There are a lot of people online who are in the same boat. But thanks to video call technology, it’s never been easier to start a club on Discord or another chat platform. You can meet with model train enthusiasts all over the world through online video calls.
Having a strong club identity will encourage members to continue participating. It’s fun to belong to a group that has a clear purpose and plenty of ways to engage. For example, you might want to design a logo for your group to make it look official. Then, you can put your logo on social media, t-shirts, and club merch.
Easy Logo Design
Thankfully, you don’t need extensive graphic design skills to make a cool logo for your group. To find train-related clip art, you can go to sites that post royalty-free vector images. Make sure you download the images as PNG files so they don’t have a background—although you can find background removal tools online for free. Then, put your design together on Canva or Pixlr X, both of which are free online graphic editors.
Even if you’re running an informal club, you may want to pool some funds to buy things like snacks and drinks for the group. When you’re just starting out, you might have to provide these things yourself, but as time goes on you can ask the other members if they’re willing to contribute. As the organization gets bigger, you can set up a monthly dues system so that everyone pays a small fee to make drinks and snacks available.
If your club gets really big, you and the members could choose to contribute money to buy supplies. These supplies would belong to the club instead of certain members, making them available to everyone. The bigger your club, the more funds you could have to rent a meeting space, host events, and create large installations together.
Finding Supplies for Your Club
When you start your club, you may find yourself in a teaching position, showing others how to get started in the hobby. You can find all kinds of supplies at Midwest Model Railroad. We’re a model train store with a huge collection of train cars, locomotives, scenery pieces, electronic parts, power systems, controllers, and customization options for your trains.
We also sell learner kits to help people get started on model train basics. As a fun club activity, consider getting your members kits so everyone can learn how to make plaster rocks, pour resin, and create trees together. Need more ideas for your next club meeting? Just ask us! We’d love to help you support your local model train community.