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.