Railroad Model Coyote

 photo RailroadModelCoyote_zps20b77e5c.jpg
(RMC has run off the cliff, as Carstens shuts off the lights today)

From the Railroad Model Craftsman Facebook page:

It is with regret that Carstens Publicatons, Inc. will be closing permanently at close of business on Friday, August 22, 2014. Carstens Publications, Inc. has been a leading publisher of leading hobby magazines for over 50 years. Unfortunately the current economic climate has placed us in this position. Discussion is continuing with several parties who expressed desire to take on the continuance of the magazines. At this point there is still hope that all three titles will remain in existence. But I can offer no guarantees. We thank you for your patronage over the years, and wish you the best of luck in your endeavors.
–Henry R. Carstens, President
Carstens Publications, Inc.

A huge shout-out to the editors and authors of RMC, who created such a wonderful magazine. You will be missed. Back in 2002, you were a friendly place for a new author to find a home and you gave me remarkable freedom to develop my voice. In the process, I developed many great friendships in the hobby that will outlive the publication. I’m grateful for that.

I published several dozen features, book reviews, and product reviews in RMC over a decade or so of contributing to the magazine – right up until Henry stopped paying the authors. I would’ve submitted more just to help out the editorial staff, but I am a professional writer and it was a business relationship.

I don’t hold with the “current economic climate” argument, however. I think Henry would be better off blaming the “current technology climate”. All magazines – including those serving our hobby – have had to adapt to this.

As an example, look at the “other” print-based, general interest publication about North American railroading: Model Railroader has done well, I think, offering digital editions and creating an online presence for its readers. More recently, MR has introduced MR Video Plus, which I think is being tested as a path to migrate all subscribers to as younger modellers look for online, video-based sources of information. It certainly makes sense: This is a visual hobby with models that move, and video is better than print in showing how-to techniques – from benchwork to operation.

Even more significantly, the current digital climate allowed Joe Fugate to create Model Railroad Hobbyist – a digital-only magazine 100 percent supported by advertising. Joe has built this up from nothing into a leading magazine with a huge following. MRH has its own video offering through a partnership with Barry Silverthorn at TrainMasters TV and I expect we’ll see more cross-pollination of content from Joe and Barry as this relationship matures.

I think it’s telling that as Henry alienated RMC authors, many of them fled to MRH where they are now regular contributors. (Including me: I’ve contributed to MRH and overall, I am impressed by the experience so I expect I’ll contribute more. I’m also working on a video series with Barry about building modules, as I’ve noted on this blog.)

Perhaps, as Henry suggests in his Facebook announcement, another publisher will pick up the RMC title – although based on the stories about unfulfilled subscriptions and unpaid authors, the financial troubles have persisted at Carstens for years and at this point it might be wiser to simply start a new magazine if one were so inclined.

What would be attractive in an RMC purchase, assuming it’s still intact, is the incredible back catalogue – eight decades at last count! Hopefully, this will be saved and shared in an electronic format, either online (as TrainLife has done with other titles) or in DVD form (as Kalmbach has done with Model Railroader and Trains magazines). It would be a shame to see so much knowledge disappear from our hobby.

We can – and probably will – debate the causes of RMC’s troubles for years to come. (Hopefully not on this blog! If you’re looking for a place to join the discussion, I suggest this thread on the Model Railroad Hobbyist forum as opposed to here.)

For my part, I’m going to raise an adult beverage to the editors and the other people who supported them and allowed them to put out a great publication under the most trying of circumstances.

My thoughts go out to everyone involved. It’s not a surprise, but it’s a sad day in the hobby nonetheless.

PS: There’s no truth to the rumour that the photos of my Port Rowan layout, which appeared in the June 2014 Editor’s Notebook, were the final nail in the coffin.

20 thoughts on “Railroad Model Coyote

  1. A sad day for the hobby, whatever the reasons for the end might truly be. I traipsed out to the garage last night when news first hit, grabbed the 1977-1979 issues, and fell asleep with an RMC in hand. The three greatest years of any published model railroad magazine, ever. IMHO.

  2. This is monumental! I have followed RMC since first becoming interested in model trains at age 11, about 1963. Though not a subscriber, I’ve also accumulated many back issues from before that. It’s like being told Santa Claus has died. Yikes!

  3. I should stress, too, that my comments apply particularly to general interest hobby publications.
    I see a thriving community of publications serving the hobby with a very narrow focus – whether that focus is scale, theme, era, gauge, a particular railway or set of railways, or a particular philosophy towards railways and modelling them.
    Associations and SIGs are publishing great material. To name a few examples, I am always impressed by the content of the Journal (Layout Design SIG), the Dispatcher’s Office (Operations SIG) and 16mm Today (from the Association of 16mm Narrow Gauge Modellers).
    So too are smaller publishers who have identified small but loyal readership bases – like The Missing Conversation (OST Publications), Model Railway Journal (Wild Swan Publications) Narrow Gauge and Industrial Review (RCL Publications) and the Narrow Gauge and Short Line Gazette (Benchmark Publications).
    All of these are excellent reads and all are insulated from the problems that beset RMC. Some do well because they are digital-only publications. But even those with print editions (even without a digital option) do well because they serve an audience of hand-raisers – people who have clearly identified their interests in the hobby and have sought out sources of information to support those.

  4. I am sorry to see RMC and Carstens fold up. Their narrow gauge annuals were something I looked forward to every year as well. RMC was a good “craftsman” magazine, and provided a lot of prototype info as well. Where I think they fell short was in readership communication and service, at least in the last 4 or 5 years. It’s sad to see them go.

    Phil Gliebe

  5. Just wondered if I’ll get my money back. My subscription was to run out with the September issue. I got June on August 1 so am missing July , August and now most likely September (about $12)

    • I don’t know, John. I’m not an employee – just a regular reader and onetime author. You will have to watch for updates on any sale of the title and talk to the new owners, I guess.

    • This is like when Mainline Modeler went under. I had just renewed my subscription two months beforehand and there was no refund, no communication about how to get a refund. I’ll bet that your money is gone. I would like to be wrong about that, but only time will tell.

      It is a shame to loose such a good magazine.


  6. RMC has given us so much over the years. But to blame its demise on any one causal factor is simplistic. Digital media is one factor, as is the shift from general interest publications to specific ones. Even your blog is evidence of the trend towards more specific interests in the model rail hobby. Then there is the 2008 recession that the US has still not recovered from. This is proven by US manufacturers’ recent interest in offering HO and N scale RTR models of Canadian prototypes that they seemed not to care to produce before the recession.

    It’s interesting how the UK, with a population of 60 million has four general interest model rail magazines, while the US with 300 million population has one print and one online. But two of the UK magazines are owned by Peco and Hornby, while a third is owned by a major magazine publishing firm.

    The future? Who knows? But I will miss RMC.

  7. Gee, how sad. My first exposure to model railroading came with the August 1980 RMC. For a young teen I remember being amazed with the realism of the modeling and so began my love of this hobby.

    It seemed to me that RMC did a better job of covering Canadian material and often their stories, like the prototype to trackplan articles, were detailed and offered good reading value. MR tends to be all photos and superficial commentary, but visually it’s so much more appealing. Would it kill RMC to have printed a colour trackplan? Like the small town bookstore where I bought my first RMC magazine, I see more victims of modern tastes and technology. MR magazine is so skinny and their heavy-handed access to online content gave me the excuse I needed to drop my subscription. Still it’s sad to see RMC go, and like you I’d be happy to buy their library in the form of a DVD. I’m grabbing a Glayva!

  8. RMC has held my hand and led me to greater things since the mid 50s, I am going to miss it. I always found answers to modeling questions in the pages of RMC. Thanks for all the help, assistance and joy over those intervening year.


  9. I dropped my MR subscription years ago due to their attitude toward the minority scales. I kept RMC because they were a “folksy” publication with more useful content for me. I jumped at the opportunity to be a member of the advisory board for N-Scale magazine many years ago as it was coming of age. Eight years ago I began editing the magazine and have enjoyed the experience ever since. It’s not about the money as I do the editing for free. N-Scale Magazine is one of those niche publications that is growing. Sad to see RMC go by the wayside, but maybe it will send some additional authors my way.

  10. I will miss RMC and hope someone (perhaps White River/Paired Rails?) will pick at least some of it up. I could see something similar with their recent acquisition of TRP: CTC/RI, TRP, Railfan. The Priests are energetic and produce a good product.

    As I’ve written before RMC was a good place for a thoughtful well researched article, such as Trevor’s.

    As to migrating to digital, it doesn’t work well for me. While there is excellent content on MRH (and I’m preparing some content for them) I’m not a huge fan of tablets or anything else with a touch screen so I don’t find it to be the best reading experience and when I sit down at the computer it’s to get something done, not read a magazine. I don’t find it very relaxing to scroll through 140 screens of a magazine so usually I just scan MRH and don’t go back. It is a great format for construction articles though, as they can run as many photos and diagrams as needed.

    As for MR videos, the format just doesn’t appeal to me. I’m the guy who reads the NY Times or Huff Post and skips the video and just reads the text. Waiting for the video to load, play the ad, and then wait for the speaker to tell the story at 140 words per minute takes forever. By the time I get to the end I’ve forgotten why I clicked on it in the first place. And then all the pauses for the endless run by! I can read a lot faster and move on to something else.

    I guess I’m just getting old and cantankerous. I’d rather have well-crafted and well edited words.

  11. Sad news. I have been reading RMC I had to deliver newspapers to pay for my hobby. I will miss the editorial style that, although not as polished as MR, didn’t give the impression that one’s wallet was the most important modelling tool.

    Must find a way to compensate for the loss of display function that online/tablet based publications suffer from. My June RMC just completed a three day canoe trip through over lakes, trails and beaver dams.

  12. I’m truly sorry to see any print magazine go out of business. I absolutely can not read magazines of any kind on line. I do subscribe to the MRH on-line mag but hardly ever read it. It is just not the same as a print magazine in your hands. I tried the MR on-line stuff and found it annoying and hard to work with. Not for me. Yes I am old, 70, and have been reading MR, RMC and the Gazette forever. It is too bad that all the print magazines have shrunk in size, even MR. I truly believe that the computer is the downfall of not only the magazines but the hobby as a whole. There are not many young people starting the hobby of trains any more. Most of the have never even seen one, let alone read a magazine about a hobby relating to them. There are no craftsman being developed either. Everything is done for them by computer and other electronic devices. Heaven help them if the power goes out for an extended period of time. What would they do without a hobby that can be worked even without electricity? Yes the demise of RMC is sad, but it is only the tip of the iceberg. I guess I’ll have to be content to re=read all my back copies of the printed magazines. Oh, I forgot to say that I have the MR DVDs of back issues and find them hard to navigate and read on the screen. I must be very, very old school. We can only hope that maybe White River Productions will pick up RMC like they did Model Railroad News. Anybody out there listening?

    • Hi Pete:

      I sympathize and I too prefer print to reading online, because I spend a lot of time online already. But you’ve also said:

      I truly believe that the computer is the downfall of not only the magazines but the hobby as a whole.

      I think the computer has actually done wonders for the hobby. To offer one small example, this blog is proof positive of that. In less than three years of blogging, I have learned so much about my prototype from this experience – stuff I might never have discovered in the pre-Internet age. I’ve made new friendships, renewed old ones and thoroughly enjoyed sharing my layout-building adventures – all of which has encouraged me to continue to work on the layout, even when I’ve run into challenges or been discouraged about something.

      So, no, I can’t agree with you on that point.

      I’d also argue that we’re seeing a new type of railway modeller emerging, thanks to the computer. Younger people are taking up the hobby – I see them online, on sites like TrainLife and the MRH Form. I see their videos on YouTube. They are acquiring stuff, and building layouts, and sharing their progress. While in sharing online they must risk criticism for their efforts from the trolls out there, they also receive lots of constructive advice and encouragement – often from other young modellers.

      This is something I definitely did not enjoy when I was that age. Instead, I learned to build by trial and error, with a couple of friends, and no clubs or mentors to support me. I did alright in the end – but I’m sure most of my fellow pre-teens and teen-agers who had model trains gave up on the hobby.

      The Internet is simply a tool, Pete. It’s no different than a hobby knife or a bottle of CA. What we do with it is what matters.


  13. well Paul, before you off the deep end about computers and electricity remember we are grown men playing with electric trains . Now for some of us, that was a big deal (electrification).

  14. My bride couldn’t read the computer screen because of the refresh rate and her brain. That makes it tough, good luck

  15. Such a shame to see not only RMC go, but also Railroad & Railfan too!
    The former was a favorite of mine in that it covered a lot of the more obscure.
    As for digital, I spend too much time on my iPad as it is…….

  16. Trainlife is currently having issues. It appears that have lost much of their database of scanned material and it is not available at this time. They are hoping they can recover the database but give no timeline at the moment.

    I would certainly like to see RMC in a DVD collection

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