This hobby, like anything, changes with time. Fashions go in and out of style, same with music, movies, plays, art, cars, airplanes, and even trains! So how does one keep up with the times? Many start out the hobby with something basic, but modern. From there, a modeler can either stick with tradition, innovation, or take the best of both; whatever suits that person's needs. Unless whoever is reading this just came out of a coma, most of us have likely heard about some or all of the trends that I'm about to list. But it's still good to go over our latest fabs.
- Curves. This may not be new, but it is something that has been used a lot these last few years. The traditional layout was a sheet of plywood with corners. Though popular, adding curves to the bench work has become just as common. Since track and scenery flows and never has 90 degree angles, it makes sense to have everything else flow as well, and the bench work does just that. This softens the bench work's profile and also allows for wider isles at choke points and narrower isles where not many people need to pass.
- Valance Lighting. This is also not new, but much more common now than ever. Valance lighting follows the bench work fascia and evenly illuminates the layout. The front is also highlighted, allowing the trains to be seen better by viewers. This also has the added bonus of framing the layout so that pipes, wires, and emergency lights can be hidden from view, yet still be useful. Think of this as bench work for the ceiling.
- DCC. Still not new, but a definite trend. Digital command control is like model trains 2.0. DCC is able to control lights, sounds, speed, direction, and many other features of trains giving the modeler and extreme advantage for modeling. Most systems are not cheap, but are worth the price in almost every situation. The only thing DCC can't do is improve the experiences of one modeler running one engine. In that case, traditional DC power is still king.
- Portable bench work. With the nation's economy in the dumps lately, many people have had the displeasure of moving in order to find work. In the event that a modeler moves so often that he or she can't complete a display before needing to move; the modeler may find the term 'portable layout' a comforting phrase. Layouts that are able to travel must be light, compact, and use of space must be good. But, if a modeler can do all that, they will have a display that can go just about anywhere. Modular, sectional, collapsible, in in a console, many model railroads in recent times have been built for the road.