I've been in New York City for work most of this week, so haven't been able to provide any updates on the layout. However, I was able to visit a hobby shop here in the Big Apple and, as I know a lot of folks eventually visit here on business or pleasure, I thought I would share my tips and directions on how to find it!
First off, it appears that there is only one hobby shop, specifically focused on model trains, left in Manhattan. Not surprisingly, years ago there were a lot more. This is a somewhat sad aspect of our hobby in some ways, although considering how easy it is to find items on the internet, the changing demographics of this hobby, and other factors (some of which I'll touch on below), its not all that surprising.
Fiirst of all, the shop is called Red Caboose Hobby Shop. Apparantly there has been a hobby shop here for decades, so somewhat of a landmark in a way! If you search the web for hobby shops on Manhattan island, you'll also get results for another shop that was apparantly called Manhattan Trains and Hobby. However, this information, the the best of my knowledge, is out of date as it appears to no longer exist. The shop was apparantly located just across the street from where the Red Caboose is on 45th, but there is no longer a hobby shop at that address. Interestingly enough, the sandwich board outside the Red Caboose has the Mahattan shop's name on it, so perhaps the old shop closed and Red Caboose took some of their inventory (besides just the sign!).
The great thing for visitors to Manhattan/NewYork City is that this shop is a fairly easy walk from Times Square. And if you're not staying in the Times Square area, there are plenty of subway stops all around that make this shop within easy walking distance.
So how do you find it? First, use Bing maps. If you're starting in Times Square, head East on W 45th St. (Planet Hollywood is on the corner of W. 45th and Broadway), Then its basically two long Manhattan blocks to the stores.
Here's the view down 45th heading towards the hobby shop after you've left Times Square:
Keep on walking and almost two/thirds of the way down the block you'll see their sandwich board sign for the shop, which is just about the only indication you'll get for this place's existance:
You'll enter what appears to be the lobby to an apartment building (which I think it is) but you'll know that you're on the right track as there are now cases with model trains on the walls of this lobby, and of course a few encouraging signs not to give up and run away:
The lobby continues back a bit more until it ends, whereupon you'll find a sign and a staircase on the left that will take you to the basement where the shop is:
Once you start to descend the stairs, you'll know that you're still on the right path and extremely close as the landing below you shows you a huge case full of N Scale goodies.
Sorry, no shots of the interior of the shop out of respect to the owners, but what will you find? This shop is a bit of curio shop for model trains. All sorts of stuff, all over the place. Its wild. Very, very old school. It may remind you of your grandfather's garage -crammed with all sorts of trinkets. In terms of inventory, they seem to have a lot, but as its crammed into every nook and cranny of this basement shop you may be a bit overwhelmed!
What was kind of fun, is that their N Scale selection is pretty good, whcih surprised me. An interesting selection of a lot of older N Scale stuff from previous eras, including older Arnold/Rivarossi, Fleischmann and some Minitrix, with a decent share of European models, and mostly locomotives. There are even Japanese trains (all Kato from what I saw) on the shelves. All of the stock is in glass cases so you feel like your looking at old artifacts in some dusty old museum, which has its own kind of charm. And some of the stock looks like it goes back way into the 1960's! If you're looking for older US prototype N Scale stuff (like a Burilington Northern U50!!!) or a Conrail ED75 (I think it was an ED75, but very clearly a Japanese electric locomotive in Contrail colors!!!!) they have them! I almost picked them up just for the fun of it!
On the other hand, this is Manhattan and prices seemed to me to be a bit on the high side. The shop owner is a New Yorker, and I'm sure you could haggle a better price than the sticker (if there is one) on the item suggests.
Outside of N Scale, they also seem to have a decent selection of Marklin, HO, some O Guage, and lots of model kits --- both model railroading as well as military, sci-fi, and automotive, in addition to die-cast cars and such.
That's it for this little 'mini-travelog' on the last (?) remaining hobby shop in Manhattan. If you're in New York City, its probably worth a visit, but its not the type of shop that wives or significant others would like to visit, so perhaps if she (or the significant other) is at a matinee over on Broadway, you can steal away a couple of hours to rummage through this interesting place!
Again, there is another shop a few blocks away that may also be worth a visit, check out my review / description of this shop at this post.