Article vs Blog vs other outlets

In response to my post earlier this week about my visit with Chris D’Amato from Railroad Model Craftsman magazine, a couple of readers expressed interest in seeing an article about my layout in the mainstream press.

I’ve thought about this and at some point, yes, I will write a feature for one of the print titles. I know there are many hobbyists out there who are not reading this blog. They may not be online at all. I would hope that those readers would enjoy such a feature.

I would also hope that such a feature encourages more people to visit Port Rowan in 1:64. From that perspective, an article in a traditional print magazine sure makes sense.

But I find it curious that a few of my current readers would welcome such a feature, when they’ve obviously already found my blog. I’m flattered that you want to see more – but a print article will barely scratch the surface of the information that’s posted here. After all, this blog currently comprises:

More than 790 posts
More than 3,200 comments (which, even assuming I answered every comment, is still 1,600 comments from readers)
Several hundred photos (I don’t have an exact count, but a quick glance at my photo gallery stats show it’s in the hundreds)

So, rather than assume – I’ll ask: What would you expect to see / read in an article for a print publication?

Keep in mind that many readers of a publication like Railroad Model Craftsman or Model Railroader will be completely unfamiliar with my layout, so overall the article would have to serve as an introduction to the prototype and my interpretation of it.

I’ve also submitted a few articles to Model Railroad Hobbyist, because I’m always impressed by the response when I post something to the MRH forums.

And I’ve done some work for The Missing Conversation by Mike Cougill – and will certainly do more. Mike and I are like-minded modellers. While he models in a different scale, a different era and a different theme, we agree that this hobby can be a vehicle through which to spend a lifetime learning about and practising craftsmanship – providing one approaches it with the proper attitude.

Finally, there’s video. I think the future of hobby publishing is in video. But that’s a topic for a future post.

For now – I’m open to thoughts about a print article. No promises that I’ll use any of the ideas generated – after all, it’s my layout, my writing and my photography so in the end I’ll do it my way. But if there’s something I haven’t thought of, I’d like to know about it.

Thanks in advance!

11 thoughts on “Article vs Blog vs other outlets

  1. I would love to see an article in the mainstream hobby media. I see it as an opportunity to show what can be done with S scale and with a minimalist track plan. Your layout is an inspiration for those of us who prefer a small layout instead of a basement empire, and I would love to see it shared with a wider audience. It is also making me start to question my choice of HO scale, and if I had to start over now I might well chose S after seeing what you’ve done.

    Basically, I take the fact that readers of your blog want to see an article sort of like a bunch of cheering friends. You’ve got a great thing here, and we’d love to see you share it with the world. We may not get anything additional out of it ourselves (though I rarely find anything you publish to be boring or uninformative), but we know it’s worth sharing.

  2. Hi Trevor,

    What to put into print? I think the main points would be about what’s different to “normal” mainstream modelling, but also highlight the similarities, so that people are inspired to try things out for themselves.

    Not being rude about it, but the approach to bench work is nothing out of the ordinary, and quality of workmanship aside, is something most modellers can and do achieve. That’s important: it’s achievable. Similarly, building track using FastTrack fixtures etc is something which can be done in any scale, and ditto the plain track being spiked and detailed with joint bars. That’s important: it is not scale-specific. The same applies to scenery and structures. Again, the quality of workmanship is of the highest order, but that is because you want it to be so for everything – and that consistency of standard is very important. The height of that standard reflects your own preferences.

    What’s different? Well, the design process: why and how and what you chose to model. The satisfaction that you and visitors derive from simply running the daily effort or a freight extra: 8 turnouts is plenty for interesting operation. The scale is different. But again, by making intelligent use of kits and RTR, and being prepared to use stand-ins as well as adding extra details, you have a varied equipment roster. Your approach to operation, with the slide-out drawers, dummy hoses and brake wheels, and working large scale switch-stands which are locked, adds another dimension to the operation. The biggest overall difference is the thoughtfulness (in all senses of the word) of your modelling, but also the exchanges on the blog.

    But to me, the stand out theme from the blog is that by concentrating on quality rather than quality, you are having as much fun as anyone in the hobby I have read about.

    Actually, more fun than anyone else.

    That’s my duo denari’s worth.


  3. Marshall,

    I strongly support an article in the “mainstream” press, if for other reason than you have put into practice your concept of an achievable layout, yet one that is fun to operate and very viewable. Those elements plus an enviable writing style make your site clearly one of my favorites. I personally feel RMC would be more adept at transmitting your views but MR would also be able to do the trick.

    Keep up the good work

  4. Hi Trevor,
    I’d like to reflect on your question and final statement. As one who has been published a couple of times, belongs to several Internet groups, and has a personal blog, I have formed a decision about what works for me and why.
    I think that the best thing one can hope for with a printed article is to achieve an introductory highlight of your railroad. In order to do that you need to be able to write the article yourself. That probably goes without saying, but avoid the temptation to have someone else do it.
    We are an enthusiastic bunch here that inhabit your blog and we want the best for you in your presentation and look at that as an exciting chance to present the kind of modeling that you represent and also for your minority scale. That being said, once the article has been submitted and accepted, it is no longer in your control. The entire written portion may be edited to fit the available space. Worse, the editor may remove something you think is an important part of the message. Some of your best photos may be left out due to space requirements, or shrunk until useless. Again, once the article is purchased, it is no longer yours and the possibility exists that it may never see the light of day.
    I mentioned that I have been published before. Once was in a scale specific magazine by invitation. Overall I was pleased except they published too many photos and as a result reduced the size to which was hard to see. I had no control over that. The second time was in a major magazine almost by chance. I had volunteered to help a friend who was hosting a photographer-writer to document his HO railroad for the purpose of publication. After most of the day was spent and we were wrapping things up, the photographer asked me if I had a railroad. So, on his way out of town he asked if he could stop and see it. I agreed. When he saw it he got all excited, especially when he saw it was O and it was finished and was in a finished basement setting. (we O scalers have a reputation for unfinished layouts) He then took a few photos and submitted a request for an article. The request was granted and the article appeared within a year. Unfortunately it has been three years and my HO friend is still waiting. I feel badly about that because that was not the original intention. I merely mention it as a matter of loss of control. Of course my article was reworked to fit and the selection of photos was not what I would have chosen. I did rate five pages in what was considered an HO predominant magazine. The photographer spent all day during the photo shoot to take an amazing series of photos of the railroad. Because they were paid for by the magazine, I never saw them again.
    As I look at your closing statement I know that is what you want, but the reality is that it may not happen because you are working in ‘space’ that is not your own as opposed to your blog where you are the undisputed king. Looking over the options, I would recommend RMC as the best to work with to achieve your goals. You probably know that because you have already been there in a different scale.
    As for me, I am rapidly running out of lifetime and a hobby that has taken up much of that lifetime, but I have never been happier than to be able to have a blog and share my kind of railroading with a circle of friends.
    I wish you well in your article endeavor,

    • Hi Ben:
      Thanks for the insights. I’m actually very well published – more than 50 features, book and product reviews in RMC, plus a couple dozen pieces in MR, MR Planning, Garden Rail (UK), the Layout Design Journal, CN Lines and elsewhere. Plus, of course, my non-hobby publishing – I’ve filled a fair number of pages in technology/telecom trade publications. So I’m comfortable with the process.
      My comment was more a reminder that what I choose to submit will ultimately be my own – my request for input from readers was not to imply I’d be “writing by committee”.
      Great points you make, though – and very useful for anyone who had not had experience in dealing with the hobby press.

  5. Maybe your best article about Port Rowan for a major print magazine would “How (&why) this layout got finished”……… a starter…….with possible follow on articles like “Don’t artificially cram in stuff” and how to expand operations to realistically fill the time and space available and even the benefits of community research,

    just some thoughts,


  6. I think you philosophy behind the choices you made for your railroad are the most important things this includes simplicity instead of complexity and being a one man railroad that can hand a friend or two. A lot of model railroading is focused o the large about which is difficult to maintain, to run partly because you won’t often have enough people to operate fully. I think far more model railroaders would find a one man railroad would be easier to build, run maintain and would encourage more actual operation. the choice of the over all small size so as to not create the project that thwarts the person from even starting much less getting finished and enjoyed.

  7. Trevor
    The allure of glossy color pages of the print media is strong. It somehow ends up leaving me wanting more information, bigger photos and more of them. The constraints of magazines just don’t allow it.
    I think that you have documented your case for building the railway model in the scale of your choice. The simple prototype concept of Port Rowan caused me to change my view of building my own railroad. You have created a powerful argument for picking your prototype carefully and creating interest by adding prototypical operational features. Port Rowan is a far easier concept to wrap one’s head around than the usual basement full of track and R-T-R equipment.

    Blogs and e-magazines are the present and the future.


  8. Trevor,
    All the comments so far have been great. I say write whatever you feel like. Your such good writer, I’d read whatever you wrote. An intro to your layout and general modeling philosophy seems like an obvious topic, but really you could pick anything and maybe that’s it — that everything you do is done with intention, with care and with restraint — a unique perspective on what model railroading is about. That’s my two cents.

  9. Trevor,
    When I urged you to write an article, it wasn’t some much that I wanted more (which I do, but you do an excellent job of that on your blog), but more of ‘Wow, this is such a good thing, others should see that you can build an excellent representation of a prototype railway (or freelanced if one prefers) in a reasonable space and do it well too!’

    The only things that I would really encourage you to include would be a description of a ‘typical’ operating session so that people can see that it isn’t just a ‘pretty’ layout, but a working railway. I would also humbly suggest that, if allowed, include a link to your blog so that people can visit, see the wealth of information there (here) and perhaps, join in the journey.

    I personally would suggest Railroad Model Craftsman or Model Railroad Hobbyist for your article. I myself prefer the print media (RMC), but MRH, I believe, would be better able to show off the Port Rowan and your work. They would, I believe, be able to allow you more room and also include links to video(s), and perhaps (although I have no way of knowing) show off the Port Rowan to a wider audience.

    I am sorry that I’m late on this, but this is the first real chance I had to reply.


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