Demographics of The Pennsy Modeler

survey result

Every November, Keystone Crossings surveys HO scale modelers for their most desired Pennsy models. As part of the survey, respondents are asked to provide some demographic information. What follows is a summary of the demographic results.


The population of The Pennsy Modeler continues to age and, largely, without replacement. Nearly 75% of our respondents were age 50 or older. None were under age 20 and only 3% were in their twenties.

I've said it for years, to fierce backlash, that our hobby is dying. First, the youth of today are not interested in model railroading. Second, the hobby is too expensive to get into. I got into the hobby when Athearn blue box locomotives were in the $30-40 range. Compare that to today's prices! Granted, today's models are much better detailed and feature sound and DCC.

In my opinion, what makes today "the best time to model Pennsy" is that the 75% of our population can afford the hobby to the level required to support it. As our population ages and passes, per unit costs will soon exceed our capabilities (or willingness) to purchase.

The Model Railroad Hobbyist recently ran a survey of their own and their results are largely consistent with ours. Their results, published in their November 2016 issue, are included alongside our own.

Age Group Keystone Crossings
Model Railroad Hobbyist
19 and younger 0.00% 0.25%
20-29 3.23% 0.53%
30-39 10.75% 2.95%
40-49 12.9% 7.96%
50-59 23.66% 21.10%
60-69 38.71% 38.28%
70-79 10.75% 25.95%
80 and older 2.98%


66.67% of The Pennsy Modeler's are members of the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society.

Only 31.52% of The Pennsy Modeler's are members of the National Model Railroad Association.


We asked The Pennsy Modeler what forms of media they draw inspiration from; not one over another, but all forms. Not surprisingly, print media has been declining over the years. Magazines now rank fourth in popularity!

Web Sites 23.69%
eZines 22.31%
eMail Lists 21.21%
Print 20.94%
Social Sites 8.82%
Podcasts 3.03%

Primary Modeling Era

The steam to transition era continues to be the most popular among The Pennsy Modeler. The Model Railroad Hobbyist's recently survey also asked the question and the results were in their December 2016 issue. As their categories differed slightly, they are shown separately.

Keystone Crossings Survey Model Railroad Hobbyist Survey  
Pre-WWII (1939 and earlier) 11.83% Pre-1900 1.91%
1900-1919 - World War 1, USRA 2.25%
1920-1939 - Depression, big steam 7.13%
WWII (1940-1945) 4.3% 1940-1949 - World War II, birth of diesel 7.79%
Transition (1946-57) 55.91% 1950-1959 - Steam to diesel transition 35.92%
Late (1958-68) 19.35% 1960-1969 - Decline of passenger travel 8.36%
    1970-1979 - Birth of Amtrak, mergers 6.49%
    1980-1989 - Near contemporary, end of cabooses 6.11%
    1990-present - Contemporary 13.15%
Mix All Eras 8.6% No preference, I like them all 10.90%


Digital Command Control (DCC) is now 86.96% adopted by The Pennsy Modeler. DC is still in use by 10.87% and 2.17% indicated Other.

Of those using DCC, 54.88% use Digitrax, 34.15% NCE, 6.1% MRC, and 4.88% indicated Other for manufacturer.

Modeling Focus

We asked The Pennsy Modeler "what" they model. It's not surprising to see "main line" scenes without more participation, given the space requirements for four-track main lines!

Branch Line 28.57%
Harrisburg-Pittsburgh Main Line 20.88%
Lines West Main Line 8.79%
Washington-New York City Main Line 7.69%
Urban Setting 7.69%
Philadelphia-Harrisburg Main Line 4.40%
Freelance 21.98%

In Closing

In a future blog we will discuss the locomotive desires of The Pennsy Modeler, followed by a new, follow-up poll asking for the most desired ready-to-run freight car across all categories. Complete survey results have been sent to manufacturers; they will be released publicly shortly. Thank you if you participated in this year's survey!

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