Ignorance of Model Railroad History

YoHo Jun 19, 2013

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  1. PGE-N°2

    PGE-N°2 TrainBoard Member

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    I'll agree with that: As an editor, Tony really was able to pick out interesting content from contributors. It just felt that when he did project articles that they seemed to be largely saying the same thing, and just framing it in with a different 'new' project layout and accompanying photos.
     
  2. NYW&B

    NYW&B Guest

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    This has been an interesting thread and one whose general conclusions I find myself in agreement with overall. A great deal of valuable knowledge was imparted by the magazines in the past that is unknown to today's newcomers and, unfortunately, MR today isn't playing much of a valuable role in the hobby like it once did, largely I feel because of its writers and writings.

    While I will agree that Soeborg is among today's most accomplished realistic layout/diorama builders, I must take exception to regarding either Kawala, Grivino, or in fact anyone else on the staff of MR these days, outside of David Popp, as being any sort of accomplished and influential hobbyist. Popp certainly exhibits modeling talent, but other than having become video personalities (and that only through the talents of Popp!) the other two show me nothing. Nor can I name anyone else on the current editorial staff that does. MR's last two editors haven't even been actual model railroaders. Rather they have simply been tin-plate enthusiasts that were transferred over from Classic Toy Trains.

    Now, of course, there were some superficial modeling idols in the hobby's past as well, but their presences were made to appear vanishingly small by the host of truly talented persons who wrote for the magazines. MR's staff for decades included a stable of all-time hobby greats as regular members, plus a host of contributing talent. But that era pretty much ended with the big editorial shakeup MR underwent about a dozen years ago that saw the replacement of actually talented hobbyists-writers seemingly with journalism majors that happened to have some familiarity with model railroading. Even the broad spectrum of truly clever contributing authors shrank to a select few as compared with former times.

    I think that most here would agree that in the past one looked to the pages of MR to see the latest cutting-edge advances in modeling techniques and endless new and clever ideas for layout projects. Now it was become a source of rehashing old and often outmoded techniques and any semblance of a leadership role has been lost, except maybe for newcomers who don't know any better.

    NYW&B
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 22, 2013
  3. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Speaking of outmoded, has been their insisting upon using terminology which is past tense. This has turned off a bunch of folks. I am referencing the evolution from using HOn2&1/2 and On2&1/2, which the majority by far of us have been stating as HOn30 and On30 for many years. Yes. It is technically saying the same. The latter is a little more compact to write, and a few letters less to emit when speaking. Times have changed, and this is a very simple thing, but they stick to the archaic while other publications have moved ahead. Which doing so just makes them look far out of step. A lot of On30 folks have shifted towards Carstens, (which now has the growing in popularity On30 Annual), just from this one little thing.
     
  4. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    I thought On30 explicitly referred to not quite scale runs on HO track where as 2, 2 1/2 and 3 referred to fully scale.
     
  5. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Simply stated, 2= 24" gauge; 2&1/2= 30" gauge; 3= 36" gauge.

    A different way of seeing it. HOn2 and HOn30 essentially use the same motive power and rolling stock. One is those who wish to be totally protypical and hand lay, the other is just adapting track which was readily available, past, such as N scale. Since then, there is HOn30 track with correct ties available. HOn30 is far more in use than HOn2.
     
  6. RailMix

    RailMix TrainBoard Member

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    Hmmm..

    I didn't anticipate ruffling feathers with my comments...

    NWY&B Wrote:
    "While I will agree that Soeborg is among today's most accomplished realistic layout/diorama builders, I must take exception to regarding either Kawala, Grivino, or in fact anyone else on the staff of MR these days, outside of
    David Popp, as being any sort of accomplished and influential hobbyist. Popp certainly exhibits modeling talent, but other than having become video personalities (and that only through the talents of Popp!) the other two show me nothing. Nor can I name anyone else on the current editorial staff that does. MR's last two editors haven't even been actual model railroaders. Rather they have simply been tin-plate enthusiasts that were transferred over from Classic Toy Trains."

    PGE N 2 Wrote:
    "I'll agree with that: As an editor, Tony really was able to pick out interesting content from contributors. It just felt that when he did project articles that they seemed to be largely saying the same thing, and just framing it in with a different 'new' project layout and accompanying photos."

    Anyway, some thoughts....
    I found myself considering both reactions at length, and have to agree with both in certain respects. Probably the corporate environment at Kalmbach today is too polished to allow for a lot of creativity. I suspect that many of the old time authors would not gain the approval of those who run the magazine today. I would agree that MR is not the creative force that it was and definitely not the kind of magazine it was back in the day.

    However, my take is that there is still some redeeming value in the magazine. While I also have to agree about David Popp being the mentor, and about Grivno and Kawala being video personalities, I suspect there is a place for that in today's journalism. Is Grivno an inspired modeler? Doesn't appear to be, but is probably helping people get started in the hobby and appears to be decent at the basics based on what I have seen. Also, while I might be inclined to agree that Koester gets repetitive (like many people, he probably developed his favorite methods years ago) , I find his narrative on building his NKP layout useful- a lot of it relates well to modeling my part of Michigan.

    I had to ask myself if I still buy the magazine out of force of habit or because I actually find it useful, and found that, while it doesn't usually inspire the excitement that it did many years ago, I do still find some use in it and tend to buy it on a need to know (or want to know) basis.

    On the negative side, I would also have to point out that the magazine has reverted to being about the size it was when it was a buck and a half or so. Unfortunately, I think part of the problem is that MR reflects some negative changes in the hobby in general.

    The questions are, "Is it worth my while to buy it?" and "Am I better off without it?" The answer is going to be somewhat different for everyone.
     
  7. NYW&B

    NYW&B Guest

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    Tom brings an interesting concept to the discussion, one I often see voiced on other forums, that MR today serves the purpose of initiating newcomers into the hobby. I find such a current aim by MR both puzzling and perplexing in light of the hobby's history. Does it honestly make any sense?

    I find it singularly odd that during the 1950's and 60's, when the hobby was growing by leaps and bounds and seeing a constant flood of newbies, that MR consistantly published material almost exclusively aimed at the serious craftsman hobbyist, except in its December "Christmas" issue. These advanced articles served not only the crafstmen's desires, but also to challenge the newcomers to rapidly expand their expertise. However, today in an era that sees the numbers of newcomers shrinking steadily, MR has become increasingly simplistic with nearly all its content clearly aimed at the beginner. This, to my mind, is quite the opposite of what logic dictates in such a situation. Does it truly make sense to aim one's publication at a small and dwindling segment of the hobby with the expectation of circulation and fiscal success?

    I would add that from what I've read on many forums this dumbing-down approach to content has been looked upon mostly in an unfavorable light by a large segment of the traditional hobbyists. They have voiced this displeasure by not renewing their subscriptions to the magazine. Note that MR's circulation has declined by perhaps 3,000 to 5,000 readers, or even more, almost every year for the past decade now, the onset of this decline having occurred very abruptly. MR's circulation currently stands at around 60% of what it was in the mid 1990's (although certainly the decline due to change in content is not the only reason). Not a healthy situation considering that there has recently been instituted an e-magazine of similar size with much more sophisticated content and that is available for FREE!

    NYW&B
     
  8. Seanem44

    Seanem44 TrainBoard Member

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    I'm going to jump in on this conversation. I have collected British N Scale (Steam Era) for the past decade, and have a keen interest in British Railways since living their in the eighties when I was 5. (Army Brat). I swtiched back to model U.S. Freight, because I love it.

    Due to my collection of British Railway stock, and an attempt to model a station that never happened, I have ammassed a large collection of British Model Railway magazines. I still subscribe to them through the old iPhone. Hornby Magazine, British Railway Modeller, Model Rail, etc.

    In my opinion, their magazines are leaps and bounds better than ours. And for having such a small country, and smaller hobby base, each of the magazines are as good as each other. No slack in quality. I feel we have Model Railroader and thats it. Of course there are N-Scale and the other N scale magazine, but they are every other month and not as big.

    In addition, these british magazines also focus a lot on the history. They go into prototype, how the stock ran, how the coaches ran, how a station in somerset differs from one in York. For a small country, England has a really diverse railway history, and they revere their steam engines in much higher regard than we did, and even do now. That explains the naming of the classes.

    But back to the topic. I agree that MR has a lot to be left desired. And I think they have a lot to offer. Pelle Soeberg is a great contributer. I love his work and find his articles to be among the best MR has to offer. Of course I am only 32, so I am younger than a lot on this forum I suspect. And I agree that Pelle will be what my generation associates with modelling-wise.

    MR needs to showcase more layouts of all sizes and on top of that, more modern layouts would be nice as well.
     
  9. Wojo

    Wojo TrainBoard Member

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    I started reading MR in 1961, and I frequently found the content a bit over my head initially. The redeeming factor was that MR had a sister publication, aimed at novices called "Model Trains". At some point, in 1962 or so MT was folded into MR. This was back when "Slot Car Racing" was supposed to replace Model Railroading, as an interest.
    In 1962, I started buying RMC. i found RMC more reader friendly than MR, for many years, possibly because RMC was more likely to feature articles dealing with railroads I was familiar with.

    Today, RMC continues to provide articles of interest to experienced modelers, while MR has become a publication aimed at beginners and RTR enthusiasts. Soeborg, is excellent at presenting a life like scene, using commercial products and innovative technique to replicate real life scenes. Beyond that, there is little for experienced modelers. On the other hand, there is a need for something that brings inexperienced modelers up to speed. MR appears to attempt to fill that niche. I occasionally pick up a MR at B&N, I no longer am a regular subscriber.

    Joe
     
  10. ScaleCraft

    ScaleCraft TrainBoard Member

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    I dropped my MR subscription winter of 75/76. While I do read them, I do so only when donated, latest one being April 2003.
    I have a bunch in the basement from before and up to that 75/76 date, all slowly being recycled.
    Dave
     
  11. JNXT 7707

    JNXT 7707 TrainBoard Member

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    This has been the case with me, which is why - even as a relative greenhorn - I advise newcomers to be flexible in their planning. Although I am predominantly interested in modeling L&N (why that is I cannot say for sure, other than the paint job of the L&N passenger train at the Railpark in Bowling Green really caught my imagination), I have branched out in areas that I little interest in a couple years ago. Amtrak? Are you kidding? But yes, those 'rainbow' consists sure are fascinating. And now, finally, I seem to be drawn towards the Penn Central & Conrail, the roads my dad worked for (including the NYC).
    But you know on a basic level, I think back on the railroad dreams I had as a little kid, poring over all the old catalogs, and it seems that the biggest draw to me is what interested me then and I never did, for one reason or another, get to explore: Passenger trains. Streamliners. Multiple-unit diesel consists pulling more than 5 cars and a caboose. And space to run them!
     
  12. JNXT 7707

    JNXT 7707 TrainBoard Member

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    And no, don't read MR. or any other magazine, other than the L&N Historical Society quarterly magazine.
    No more involved decision than having to choose where to send limited $$. And magazine subscriptions take too much from a tight railroad budget.
     
  13. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    A lot of folks cannot grasp such a situation. I certainly understand.
     
  14. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    Which is probably half of why MRH is so popular.


    Anyway,
    Haven't had a chance to respond in a Meaty way, so I'll try to make up for it.

    In response to Rick's long and in some cases, quite illustrious list of influences and really hobby support group, I have relatively nothing.
    My dad was a really talented electrical engineer and had woodworking as a hobby. My mom was a bit of a Tomboy growing up and had American Flyer which got handed on to me.
    My dad had an interest in trains, but model railroading was really something for me that he helped with. Now, given his background, he was stupendous help, none better, but it wasn't "His thing."
    The only somewhat well known Hobbiest I know is Don Heimburger, who founded Heimburger House, publisher of S Gaugian and assorted Railroad/Railfan books, but when I say I know him, it is because his youngest daughter was in my sister's class and his eldest was 2 years younger than me and we went to the same church. So aside from the occasional question on TV Tube cleaner and it's uses on AF equipment, we didn't much talk. I spent more time talking to his daughters.....And I don't think that was a bad decision. :)

    I also am good family friends with famous Radio Broadcaster Bob Hale. Famous for being the Emcee in Clear Lake Iowa for the fateful final concert of the Big Bopper, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens.
    He is a life long railfan and amateur photographer and worked for the GN I think before Radio and so we often talk, but he isn't really an influence in the hobby.

    Beyond that there were 2 family friends, one in N-scale, but he was Armchair. The other into LGB, but also was rich beyond my imagination and so was also not an influence.

    All of that, beyond the name dropping was to say that the columns in MR and RMC were all I had to foster the specifics of model railroading.


    On Koester,
    well, as I said, many don't like his style, but we should clarify that Tony Koester is quite accomplished in the MR Hobby press and it's his role as Editor of RMC that really cemented his status. And in that role he certainly wasn't repetitive. As to his current column, he is a pure op-ed columnist. As far as I know, the only one MR has beyond the Editor in Chief column which is nothing more than a plug for what's in this issue anymore. Anyway, he's pure op-ed and focuses on his interests, so that means he's going to be repetitive. And that's as it should be. The problem in my mind isn't his repetitiveness. It's the fact that there aren't many voices out there any more with big platforms. Blogs are nice, but the audience is usually more limited. the MRH gang has some Op-Eds regularly though I think Tony does a much better job as a writer than they. Which isn't surprising since he is, by Vocation, a writer and editor.

    I preferred his column and articles on his Allegheny Midland to his current Straight Prototype Nickle Plate focus, but still, as often as not, he is worth reading.
     
  15. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    One quick note about Malcolm Furlow. I agree with the criticism put forth in this thread. He was a very very poor man's John Allen. He had a good eye for a comical or interesting scene, but he was no model railroader.
    Having said that, the San Juan Central cemented my interest in mountain/Western scenery more than anything else I had seen to that point. I would not be interested in the type of Scenery I'm interested were it not for him, even if John Allen could have taught me the same thing. I'm a vertical scenery man because of him.



    As for Model Railroader itself generally. I did not realize that there was a second publication that was folded into MR back in the day. That is good to know. I don't think that MR would be or was a lesser magazine, because of the new modeler content. in fact, even as a seasoned modeler, I looked forward to the project layout. I'm always impressed by what can be accomplished with the simple oval.

    Of course, in years past, MR has done more ambitious project layouts and I wish they'd do so again. They do have a couple of good columns like "The Operators" but really, in general, it has fallen off.

    While I was on break from running the club layout Saturday (County Fair) I picked up a copy of MR from Sept 1999. David Burrow was the cover story. and I saw all the columns like "Paint Shop" that I miss. The difference in overall content quality compared to today was marked and Today's does not hold up.

    Model Railroad Hobbyist The magazine, not the forum does fill in some of the gaps, but as a full service magazine, they also fall short. For example, I found their $500 layout contest, which I was quite excited about, to be an absolute dud. The resulting articles were short and didn't really develop the plans enough. The winning article didn't even actually build the layout to see if the plan was workable. I realize not everyone has $500 to toss around, but had I been MRH, I'd have bought the components of the plan and built it up.

    Not only would such an article really help new modelers, but I think that the clarity that a limited budget grants can allow creativity to become king.

    As I said before, I am a big fan of pointing new modelers to books. The one that really was my favorite was "Small Railroads you can model 1st ed."

    It's a Westcott era Kalmbach product. Some of the layouts would not fly in modern times, but the nature of the articles was what really helped.

    For example, the MRH layouts required that a portion of the budget be spent on rolling stock. Most picked modern Atlas engines and cars and a simple DC power pack. To the tune of around $200. But that's not interesting. I'd have rather seen a whole section on choosing RS for the layout described. And is a new modeler really going to have the Atlas unit? No discussion of more budget options? Or what about the modeler who got the trainset and wants to upgrade their existing investment.

    My point was that MRH dropped the ball in my mind on this and fails to address this aspect of the hobby. Though the articles it does have are usually much more in depth.

    I really wish that they had a stronger editorial staff and in fact had a "personality" the way MR did and does. In fact Joe Fugate himself could be that personality. He doesn't take that role though and, because it's all unpaid or low paid work, their turn over is pretty bad.
     
  16. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    One more frustrating note on MR and it's over-focus on new to the hobby simple concepts.

    The World's Greatest Hobby Organization is in part funded by Kalmbach and that organization puts out brochures covering the MR basics. They are available pretty much anywhere MR stuff is sold.

    Would it not be in MR's interest to let that organization and it's documentation handle the leadin to MR's more rich featureset?
     
  17. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    Has anyone here read "Playing with Trains?"


    A quote on Malcom Furlow v. tony Koester

     
  18. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

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    We aren't going to stir up the hornets nest.

    There are indeed many variables and levels of modeling that are perfectly acceptable. Each train layout whether it's of Toy Train in origin, Freelance or Proto-Freelance right on through to those dreaded NMRA Ninja's, Bolt and Nut counters to the Purest who operate absolute Prototypical Layout's... is all a part of the hobby.

    I say this carefully but straight forward and spot on. You show-up on my doorstep to argue with me the local posse will remove you for trespassing. Unless I invite you in... to and for a Open House Debate. Grin!
     
  19. Flashwave

    Flashwave TrainBoard Member

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    Read through this wonderful discussion, thought I'd through in my two cents.

    First off, I'm now working on a third attempt to model anything. Trying to cram enough of the stuff I want to model into somethign that will fit into the bed of my truck. Its a great feeling, not. Being new, younger generation of modeller (going by year of introduction and age) I know who Koester is, who Westcott was, McClelland, Fugate, I know the names, but their just editors now. the OP was about their philosophies that they fought long and hard to establish, the mushroom, a prototypical ops scheme, interactions with other railroads, those all are nice, but when's the last time yo heard about a mushroom plan? Koester's pushing ops still but of the old guard, who else is still fighting for anything? Ask a soldier today about Patton, and he can tell you about WWII, but it was past stuff, and the reprecussions are a natural thing for him in his life now. modern model railroaders if they knew the above names above or not, there's no context. Sure, you can say "These guys are the reason that a lot of 4x8s don't have loops anymore." but that's not really relatable.

    And that paragraph is probably clear as mud now... anyway, moving on.

    FOr me, the names and layouts that mean something are Soeburg, Midhelm, the Utah Belt, the Lower Level Lines, (That big donut layout surrounded by its own staging yard, that right there is what I want to base my masterpiece off of, a shortlne connected on one end to the rest of the world, watching big Class 1 trains loop while a Lone Geep does its work). I like Seeing when Pelle says "Yeah, this is a cheap kit," or :I found this building in the hobby shop and improved it." I've always liked the Stage set approach to modelling. I don't gave the patience yet for scratchbashing, everythign I've tried looks like I cut styrene, not a car side. And don't even bother lookign under the hoods of my SD90s, the speaker baffles would make a grown MMR run in terror. I really liked Soeburg's article in MR about the Asphault transload. It was basically a retelling of a 94 article, but in it he said "I scratchbuil this out of spare parts and sprue, but Plaststruct sells similar pieces." variety, the options, the acknowledgement that there are two ways to do it, that was nice. Really made me think about modelling one, but I have too many homage industries on my list as it is and only three modules to do it in...

    Speakingof Ops and scenery, I love these debstes because I;m in a bit of a unique position. I like ops. I like trying to lay out the scenery to make some sort of logical sense. And I like taking the scenery and the layout and trying to make some kind of protype out of it. I actually scanned the Indiana section of the SPV atlases and designed a routmap for the club layout. Why? Because I must be certifiably crazy, I dunno. The problemn is, the club is open. Any member with a key is perfectly allowed to come down anytime they want and run trains, or work on a project proving it is previously sanctioned by the Board. Traditional Operators like Koester, like SiGOPS, CIRROPS (Cemtral Indiana Railroad Operations) will tell you that cars CANNOT move between two ops sessions. Everything has to have a waybill, or a car card, or be tracked by a program like ShipIt! and that we either have to embrace being an Ops club or fudgedaboudit.

    Someone correct me, but I'm pretty sure between the time I get off work in a yard and the time I come back, most of the cars in that yard will be gone; replaced with new cars. So why can't a week or three of open running be treated as shuffling the deck? New Ops session, new car requests to be filled by cars wherever they happen to bea day or two before the session. (Locking own the layout the day or two beforehand is acceptable, but between monthly sessions is not) One of these days, I'm gonnaget the Clerk and Switchlist systme perfected and simplified, so that I can say "Nyah!" to the naysayers.
     
  20. Seanem44

    Seanem44 TrainBoard Member

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    The best layout is the one most likely to keep someone in the hobby. For some, it is a simple loop of kato unitrack with a train going around. Honestly, I set one like this up on my dining room table every now and them and somehow and mesmerized by watching such a simple thing.

    For others, it is a rivet-counting layout. And they are equally mesmerizing.

    I think in the day and age of Xbox, (something I own and spend my own late night hours on after the wife falls asleep) we must do as little as possible to discourage newcomers from entering or staying in the hobby. I think over the past decade, we have lost members, and not gained. Though the decrease in MR subscriptions can't totally be accounted for by a decrease in hobby interest, I am sure there is some correlation.
     
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