Finescale Railway Modelling Review

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(Even as North American hobby magazines struggle, a new magazine debuts in the UK. Click on the cover to visit the FRMR website)

Once again, our fellow modellers in the UK show me how it’s done – this time, in the publishing world, as Greystar Publications launches a brand new quarterly publication. As the name implies, this new effort focuses on finescale modelling – in other words, the UK equivalent of the philosophy that drives Proto:48, Proto:87, the RPM movement and other thoughtful modelling endeavours on this side of the pond.

Already, the Finescale Railway Modelling Review is being praised by those who care about these things (such as this post on the Albion Yard blog), with high hopes expressed for publisher/editor Bob Barlow and co-editor Tim Shackleton.

What’s remarkable is that the Finescale Railway Modelling Review is not the only UK magazine to focus on expert-level railway modelling – not by a long shot:

Greystar also publishes the Narrow Gauge and Industrial Railway Modelling Review – a quarterly which, as the name implies, explores the smaller stuff in exquisite detail. (I must admit I’ve never subscribed, mostly because my narrow gauge adventures have been more freelanced in nature. That said, I’ve just taken a one-year subscription to kick the narrow gauge tires.)

In addition, there’s my go-to magazine for inspiration – Model Railway Journal, published eight times per year. (It’s interesting to note that both Bob Barlow and Tim Shackleton have sat in the editor’s chair at MRJ.)

And those are just the ones of which I’m aware.

I find it interesting that the United Kingdom (2011 population: less than 64 million) can support at least two magazines devoted to finescale modelling, plus numerous other magazines that focus on niche interests (e.g.: Miniature Railway magazine, about commercial and garden railways built to ride-on sizes)… while here in North America (2014 US population: more than 318 million; 2014 Canada population: more than 35 million), finescale publications such as Mainline Modeler and Prototype Modeler are a distant memory. We’ve also lost the hard copy editions of the three terrific annuals produced by Westlake Publishing (although I do note that there’s a 2014 Narrow Gauge Annual available as a digital download). And Prototype Railroad Modeling from Speedwitch Media arrived with great promise in 2005 but lasted just two issues (although publisher Ted Culotta recently published a new book after several years, so the publisher is still active at least).

What’s still available? Well, the Railway Prototype Cyclopedia is a valuable resource at 28 volumes and growing. It does tend to focus on documenting prototype equipment to aid modellers, rather than features on models and model railways.

Other, smaller publications are digital only, and many of them struggle to support themselves. Even Railroad Model Craftsman, which picked up the RPM crowd when Mainline Modeler ceased publication, ran into well-publicized troubles earlier this year. (Fortunately, RMC was saved by white knight Kevin EuDaly and will continue to publish.)

But despite having a combined population of more than 353 million – more than five times the population of the UK – we seem unable, in North America, to float even a single magazine aimed at the expert modeller.

Yes, railways are more relevant to daily life in the UK than here in North America, so it’s safe to assume that a greater percentage of the UK’s general population is an enthusiast at some level or another. But even if the North American hobby, as a percentage of our total population, is just 20% that of the UK, the number of hobbyists would still be the same – and yet periodicals aimed at the top 5% of hobbyists (plus those who aspire to that level of excellence) seem doomed to sink.

And those of us looking for an antidote to the consumption-driven hobby of massive layouts and collections done to a “good enough” standard – an approach endorsed by most of the North American magazines – will continue to focus our attention and our magazine-buying dollars on that Green and Pleasant Land…

I’ve placed a one-year subscription to Finescale Railway Modelling Review: I look forward to my first issue.

44 thoughts on “Finescale Railway Modelling Review

  1. Hi Trevor, looks an interesting magazine. Re: your thoughts on the UK supporting more finescale magazines than North America, I think that this is because the approach to modelling is different, because of the smaller loading gauge and size of UK equipment almost all of the British scales have a compromise on track gauge ( except S ) where the closest commercial gauge was used. This seemed to spur a finescale movement for those that want to model the correct gauge e.g. OO to EM or protofour for scalefour; N to 2mm, O to scaleseven etc, also for for many years the standard of rtr models was poor, add to that the different approaches to layout size (also linked to house size and disposable income)

    Just a few thoughts


  2. Well said, Trevor. I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments on the subject of a finescale modelling scene here in North America. I find it interesting that we have superb models such as those that Bowser and Rapido Trains are releasing that are clearly responding to an increased demand for higher fidelity models. As exciting as these models are we also have a very strong community of people pining for a return of the Athearn blue box generic box car. Progress in the direction of “better” models seems largely triggered by a personal interest on behalf of the manufacturer instead. It’s limited to their favour instead of being a community-driven cultural shift. I believe this is why we are growing toward such a buy better models scene in North America instead of the make better models scene we crave.

    What I want is a 2mm Scale Association for the North American N scale modeller. I’m so envious of the way they advocate for the 2mm modeller both in coordinating demand for new products and working closely with manufacturers to ensure that the needs of the 2mm scale modeller are understood. I’m simply astounded at the vibrant 2mm scene and more than a little envious that we can’t respond with something similar. I love the way they support the 2mm scale modeller with workshops through the year and the way they invest in the future of modelling railways in this scale. Instead of just appreciating the work, they recognise barriers to the future of the scale and develop well-engineered solutions. A terrific example is track. If modellers were intimidated about building their track they might not start working in 2mm finescale. Instead of hoping the modellers would “come around” the Assocation developed a really decent track system – the success of this is easily measured on the exhibition room floor with more layouts and a large number that employ this system. This mindset carries forward. It seems like every time there’s a reason to not attempt modelling in this scale, there’s a response from the Association to aleviate that risk. They remain best-positioned since they’re really investing in their own future and instead of waiting for a community they’re building it. It’s really impressive. I want in.

    In past threads on the state of the hobby we’ve exchanged thoughts on the idea of railway modelling (modelling the railway and its environment) in contrast to models of individual trains. I think we’re making terrific progress on the latter but only just starting to explore the former; further we’re still a little reactive in that this development with manufacturer’s triggering the change.

    Back to the magazine though. I’ve ordered a trial copy but feel I’ll probably subscribe as well. What really caught my attention was the example of the impact social media had here. I discovered this magazine because a modeller and friend mentioned it on the Facebook group for the Model Rail Radio podcast. Not twenty-four hours later I’d visited the magazine’s website and ordered my issue. What an amazing time and powerful tool for communicating an idea – it’s exciting to be a part of how well it can all work.

  3. Trevor I htink the difference is the culture of model railroading in the UK vs North America. Over here we are bombarded from the start that unless your layout completely fills your basement you are not a worthy model railroader. This mantra has been often represented in most of the major publications.

    In the UK space seems to be at a premuim which “forces” the model railroader to build smaller layouts. Since the smaller layout can consume the same time constraints as a basement monster, the layout owner can concentrate on building models with more detail since he will not need as many to populate the layout.

    This is exactly what you are promoting with Port Rowan, the less is better concept. I think more people are/will be buying into this concept of building a managable layout they will enjoy rather that have the basement-full albatross around their neck. Perhaps with time we will see more publications catering to finer scale modelling. Until then we have to take inspiration from our UK cousins and folks like you.

    • Hi Bruce:
      Thanks for the kind words – much appreciated!
      I agree with you – we’re bombarded with the bigger-is-better message. But I’d also argue that there must be a lot of mediocre layouts in the UK as well – just smaller than the mediocre layouts in North America. But as I noted in my reply to Andrew’s comment on this post, my question is not “Why does it appear there are so many craftsmen in the UK vs North America?” but rather, “Why can’t a finescale magazine seem to make a go of it here?” Even if we have only 20% of the craftsmen that the UK hobby does, the numbers should be equal so the business case should be there.
      You’ll also note, however, that I haven’t proposed launching such a magazine – because the business case quite obviously isn’t there.
      Thus the questions: Why do the expert modellers in the UK support such an effort devoted to UK modelling? And why don’t the equivalent expert modellers in North America supported such an effort devoted to US/Canadian modelling?

  4. Hi Trevor,

    Thanks for bringing this magazine to our attention. I too will take a copy as soon as possible.

    You seem to be indicating here and in your other writings about elitism that there is a faction at the pinnacle of a meritorious hierarchy that is going un-served in North America. I’m not so sure about that. I don’t doubt that there are superb railway modellers with important findings to share but in my own personal experience I can count them on one hand, their models on two. Most of what passes for exceptional in North American model railroading circles is in fact not the work of the modeller. That this doesn’t register or matter to many serious modellers might be at the root of the problem when we consider why there are few true modelling magazines catering to this side of the pond.

    It is just my opinion but if you want to create a space to display top notch work you have to grow it from the bottom up with an emphasis on basic skills that in turn build confidence and daring. If that can not be done then there is little hope of an exceptional outcome.

    But beyond all of that you need modellers who actually WANT to model whether they are good at it or not. It seems simple and trite but how can we expect the exceptional when we dominate any and all discussions with cold rationalism. Do you remember Hundman’s editorial about one of the first HO Athearn Genesis boxcars? That it would be foolish and wasteful to model such a car because Athearn could not be beaten. In light of such defeatism we see the true measure of exceptional modelling 2004?North American style. In focusing on the model we forgo the modeller. It hasn’t gotten any better – just look at the state of RPM where the modeller is irrelevant and important decision making is pocket driven. Ever dare to ask why so few ALCo diesels get made? Answer: Cannon & Co. doesn’t make any SUPER detail parts for them!

    No, if things are to get better we need dreamers, we need doers and folk who can see past the most immediate limitations. What we have now is a modelling culture where a successful outcome can be bought, failure is avoided at all costs and where craft and ability are rendered meaningless. That don’t work.

    Andrew Hutchinson

    • Hi Andrew:
      Interesting thoughts – thanks for sharing them.
      My experience is different than yours. To cite one example, I have been to Railway Prototype Modellers meets and have friends who have been to many more than I have. These are growing in popularity, to the point where the largest attract a couple hundred people. And the work I see at such meets – in all scales – is exceptional. So too is the thinking behind the layouts that some people are building. I’m humbled by the quality of research that goes into some of these efforts – quality to rival the output of any post-graduate level historian or archaeologist.
      In some cases, modellers at RPM meets have built and finished a resin kit (and done a great job). It might be argued that they simply followed instructions to achieve a great result. But behind that modeller is a manufacturer – often a sole proprietor – who has done a fantastic job of creating the kit in the first place. In other cases, the modeller has extensively kit bashed available product, or fabricated their own components to enhance something available.
      I know several modellers who have taken the step from being a modeller to being a pattern-maker. I’m flattered that a number of them read this blog.
      Another route is becoming the ideas person who co-ordinates people who research, people who draw/design, people who photo etch, people who build patterns, people who cast resin, and so on. My friend Pierre Oliver is one such: He figures out what he needs to create a kit, then recruits talent to tackle various aspects of it – from drawing the artwork for photo etch, to finding the photo etcher, to creating the patterns and casting the components. He also goes digging for research to ensure the kits he markets are accurate. And he works with another talented person to create accurate lettering to go on the finished model.
      There are several examples in S scale, too – in fact, I wouldn’t be building this layout without them. Simon Parent worked with S Scale Loco and Supply to create the kits for my brass locomotives. Andy Malette created the CNR 8 hatch refrigerator cars, the CNR combine passenger cars, and other important pieces of rolling stock. Oliver Clubine and David Clubine commissioned the CNR Fowler patent boxcars and CNR vans (cabooses) that add essential character to my freight trains. And the list goes on.
      And I haven’t even touched narrow gauge. One look at the resources available to modellers of the D&RGW or the RGS makes it obvious that many, many people are doing exceptional work.
      I think the talent is there. The skills exhibited at RPM meets are the types of skills I see shared in the pages of a publication like Model Railway Journal. They’re also the skills that were shared in Mainline Modeler and Railroad Model Craftsman – but unlike MRJ, MM and RMC both floundered (and only RMC was saved).
      That’s the part I don’t understand. Are North American hobbyists, as a group, really that disinterested in the printed page? Have we embraced to online venues (including this blog) to the point where it’s impossible to sustain a magazine catering to the expert modeller (not elitist – just extremely good at what they do) and those (like me) who aspire to being a craftsman, regardless of whether I ever achieve it or how far short of that goal I fall?

      • Trevor,

        Thanks for your response.

        As noted, I don’t see the signs of exceptional modelling at RPM meets. It simply doesn’t line up with what I’ve experienced outside of the model railroad hobby. What I can not deny is the high level of research often present. You’re not kidding when you write that much of it rivals post graduate work. Taking it all in can be both daunting and inspirational.

        Now to your question:

        “Have we embraced to online venues (including this blog) to the point where it’s impossible to sustain a magazine catering to the expert modeller..”

        Honestly, beyond what I originally wrote, I don’t know. Using myself as an example of a consumer, MRJ is the only mag I take and it is of course a paper affair. The rest of my model railroad browsing is on-line and mostly blog-centric. But even that is (intentionally) fairly minimal. I prefer blogs over forums and lists mostly because they have an inherent theme and it is easier to understand the decision making process of the proprietor. You get that in print but it develops more slowly unless the author is a very frequent contributor.

        In my case that is not the whole story. Currently I’m getting better than 90% of my actual model railroad how-to info from outside model railroading. Some of that is in book form with the balance taken up by periodicals covering everyday tasks essential to achieving my modelling goals. None of what I am after is expert grade material, just practical building block stuff as it relates to tooling and metal working more generally.

        The upshot is that as a consumer of information I’m not that interested in a North American model railroad magazine because they don’t have the kind of information I am after. And this is why I see MRJ (and hopefully the new entry ) as slightly different to the North American examples – MRJ will do technical articles that move “out” of the hobby. In this instance I’m thinking of the pantograph article . In comparison I don’t believe anyone in North America has run a form tool article in my life time. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that wheels are pretty fundamental to railways so this comes as a pretty striking omission.

        Then again, I’ve been told that is what libraries are for.


        Andrew Hutchinson

  5. Wow, what a surprise in my blog stats to find a link to Trevor’s blog, one I’ve read from time to time together with OST, Mindheim and some other ‘foreigners’ :o)

    My blog is Albion Yard kindly highlighted by Trevor in his piece above, and yes I’m pretty enthusiastic about the new analogue entry to our UK toy train media.

    MRJ the precursor to FRMR was launched in the 80’s. It was a fresh approach into a market of three or four mainstream magazines. At the time they all covered finescale to a lesser degree, but MRJ made a ‘land grab’ for the top end and has in simple terms remained at the top of the tree.

    Over the years the mainstream magazines have gone towards the starter and trainset+ market, more noticeably so over the past five years too, leaving more land available at the finescale(FS) end. That’s meant that MRJ hasn’t captured the entire FS market, it’s a small publisher (8 per year), that knows and I think in the main, serves its market well.

    I’m no hair shirt fundamentalist, and like a good number of my UK colleagues felt there was space for a further FS publication in addition to Greystars Narrow Gauge & Industrial publication. Having had a couple of emails and spoken to Bob at Greystar over the past two days, it appears that the publication is hitting the mark, MRJ isn’t for everyone so there’s a natural market there as well as those like myself people who will take both.

    Finescale can be seen as elitist in the UK, I don’t have a problem with that in the right context. We all recognise Usain Bolt as an elite athlete at the top of his game, what’s wrong with a gifted modeller being seen and respected in the same light?

    Where we fall down is there is often reverse elitism applied where FS’ers are considered rivet counters etc etc, you’ll probably recognize that same effect where you are as well. Some FS’ers will play to that gallery too, forgetting that they too started somewhere lower down the order.

    Where the UK has an advantage with FS I think is its physical geography. It’s a relatively small island so if I want to drive from London to Newcastle it’s five hours and I’m there, at the other end of England. If I want to drive from Toronto to Vancouver, well, you get the picture. This means ‘we’ in the UK FS communities see each other around the show circuit which is arguably overcrowded in terms of events. This weekend I’ll be doing a 200 mile round trip to see an FS show, and I’ll meet and see plenty of inspiration.

    In your land mass, that will be much harder to achieve, my brother in KS tells me of long, long, trips to go to ‘neighbouring’ IPMS shows. With such a geographically close FS community, I feel the networks of modellers probably build easier, regardless of social media. An analogue publisher can research/gauge his FS market perhaps easier here because of that, by visiting a cross section of shows, a number of which are specific to gauge/scale or like our brilliant Aylesbury Railex which covers all bases annually, and importantly consistently.

    People like the editors of MRJ/FRMR will have the interest of that community in a very short space of time, the jungle telegraph works well, and whilst us ‘bloggers’ use the web, there’s still something more tangible to us maybe of holding a printed magazine in our hands.

    Perhaps it’s as simple as that. As active modellers we use our hands to make things, and holding a book or mag actually means ‘something’ to us that simply pressing the return key, scrolling, or opening a box, won’t satisfy.

    • Welcome aboard, Paul – thanks for taking the time to comment. (I’ve added a couple of links to your comment so other readers can quickly find your blog, Railex, etc.)
      This is the sort of insight I was hoping to read – I think what you’ve said about geography makes a lot of sense. North America does have some great RPM shows and other events that would appeal to finescale modellers. But for most of us, getting to them requires a full-day drive or a plane ticket. Splashing out on air fare and hotel accommodation takes a big bite out of one’s modelling budget, yet that’s the only way for many people to take part in an event catering to the more sophisticated hobbyists.
      This is a real “chicken or egg” situation, I guess: Bringing together like-minded hobbyists is something that a targeted publication can do. But as you’ve pointed out, to succeed with such a magazine requires being able to take the pulse of its audience on a regular basis – and that’s difficult when the audience is so far flung.
      I must admit I’ve only recently discovered your Albion Yard blog but I’m enjoying it and will be spending some time digging through the archives.

      • Thanks Trevor, from a background in Lo-Co airlines one thing that I know some modellers use is air travel. Knowing a date of a show allows an early booking discount making a trip, certainly within Europe an affordable day out. Yes, day! its that geography/speed/time thing again!

        Further to that with the availability of FS shows in the UK, and bearing in mind the contributors and writers to FS magazines are from the FS comunity as a whole, its easier for an UK editor to talent/article spot or tap the telegraph. The Can/US editor of either digital or analogue FS media will, I feel, be at a distinct disadvantage to his UK counterpart in that area.

  6. I enjoy this blog very much. I am a member of the H.O.M.E.S. Club in Hamilton (Robert Land School, Eva Rothwell Centre) are scratchbuilt by members of the club some of whom are MMR’s. Even one of mine is in a prominent place on the layout. What fun to do the research!
    Keep up with the blog and as I hear of more like this one I’ll join in the conversation

  7. If I may, I’d like to add a perspective from the other side of this issue. As some are aware, I produce a quarterly digital publication that focuses on finescale modeling and a thoughtful understanding of the choices you’re making with your craft.

    In reading through these initial comments, I see themes that I’ve routinely touched on with my blog and in TMC. Clearly there are many thoughtful modelers who’ve considered these matters deeply. These are discussions the need to take place and Trevor has provided wonderful opportunities to do so with his blog.

    I claim no expertise in these things, but from my experience in publishing and editing over the past seven years, I believe we’re dealing with deeply entrenched cultural attitudes in the North American hobby. Attitudes that trace their origins back decades.

    One doesn’t have to look far to see how profoundly influential publications like MR, RMC and now MRH have been in shaping the viewpoints of the general hobby population.

    Given the culture they’ve created, it strikes me as unrealistic to hope for any wholesale change in attitude. Any attempt to do so is a thankless, unwelcome task, one that only brings animosity from people who are perfectly content with their way of playing train.

    I surmise this indifference is why you don’t see more examples of outstanding work on the public forums run by these magazines. The work of modelers like Tom Mix (scratchbuilt brass steam in P48) is simply orders of magnitude removed from the general shake-the-box population. Such work is so far removed that the general hobbyist has no frame of reference for processing the amount of research, craftsmanship and effort involved in producing it.

    If there is any answer, I submit it will be up to the individual modeler to improve their lot. Even if the inspiration comes from seeing another’s work, the motivation must come from within. Venues like this are becoming the new training ground for modelers and the medium for the exchange of ideas between mentor and student.

    Consider what is happening here. Trevor has created a space to present his ideas and accomplishments. In doing so he has drawn an audience who appreciates what he’s doing; an audience that in turn talks to and encourages each other outside of this venue. I’ve come to know people like Simon and Chris via this blog and made friends I wouldn’t have otherwise.

    I urge thoughtful modelers to embrace this opportunity and to take the initiative in whatever manner they can to further those aspects of the craft that matter the most to them. The tools of communication are there and no one is stopping us but ourselves. No one gave me permission to publish TMC, I simply decided to do it because it mattered deeply to me. I did it because I was tired of complaining about a thing I had the power to do something about.

    The future of the craft is truly up to us.

    Mike Cougill

  8. Hi Trevor,

    While it’s been a few years since I commuted in the UK, and things may have changed, there was a very strong newsagent culture supported by rail commuters. I would often stop at WHSmith on my way through Paddington to look for the latest MRJ (8 times per year may as well be random). Around here, you find only a smattering of mainstream general interest magazines at the news kiosk in commuter stations. There just aren’t enough people making the silly commutes that there are in England. So, people in the UK are probably more likely to read magazines, and the ones they read are more varied because they have better shops.

    Now, what about Finescale? Here, I think we’re dealing partly with history. The evolution of the hobby in the UK lead to weird gauge – scale combinations. Once people woke up to this, they started to need to replace large parts of their models with aftermarket or scratchbuilt parts, and ultimately this lead, I believe, to finescale.

    The reverse explains the slow growth of finescale here in North America. HO is not fundamentally flawed in the way that OO is. O scale is, and I think we have early development of Proto:48 (compared with P:87, say) here in North America as a result. Now, I don’t think Proto:scale is a requirement for Finescale, but it is certainly an accelerant.

    You enlightened S scalers, of course, are just all naturally talented Finescalers, and obviously better looking than the rest of us too. 🙂

  9. Hi Trevor & Co,

    to add a little more information regarding differences on either side of the pond, over here where the sun rises earlier there is another part of the hobby which has been touched on but not mentioned properly: ie going to the shows and meets.

    To give a flavour of what is available in the UK take a look at

    which is just one of our on-line guides to shows.

    The population densities and transport links mean that a large percentage of the population are within a reasonable travelling distance (say 2 to 3 hours) and sharing car-rides is easy to arrange.

    As stated before, regular face to face meetings make a lot of things simpler and easier.


  10. I am , once again it seems, alone in being very disappointed with The above new magazine. There is little finescale in it, no scratchbuilding, no buildings. There is what might be for photographers, a useful article, but otherwise it’s finescale wheels in RTR stuff and kitbashing. It is what Shackleton started making MRJ look like when I gave up on that publication. Tim Shackleton, the man who told me over the ‘phone that “nobody makes anything any more” after asking me to write articles on river, roads and boats.
    Just because it is published by the same house as that which has taken over the Narrow Gauge Review, does not, by any means ensure it will be half as good….and it isn’t! I don’t mind that I spent 6 and a half of my English pounds on it as I like to have the first copies of new magazines. I STILL re-read my No. 0 MRJ, but I doubt I’ll ever open this poor effort again.

    • As the old saying goes, “Your milage may vary”. I have taken a four-issue subscription – sight unseen – because I think four issues will give me a fair assessment of the magazine’s intentions.

      Regardless, this is not the place to pass judgement on the value of a magazine. Each of us needs to make that assessment for ourselves. I had two purposes in highlighting the magazine on my blog:

      1 – To let others know it exists.

      2 – To explore the question of why the UK is viewed by publishers as an environment in which one can launch a new magazine that professes to be aimed at the expert modeller, while here in North America so many magazines are increasingly trying to the mass market.

      I welcome thoughts on that topic – but let’s please avoid debates about the merit of specific publishing efforts.

  11. The introduction of a new publication aimed at a smaller market is good news. It suggests an interest and willingness to participate in “finescale”. That speaks tons about UK modelers and the health of their cottage industry.
    A periodical needs to be fed. It needs ad revenue. Hopefully, the publishers have an adequate amount of each.
    The publishers who are now running with the Railroad Model Craftsman intend to recast it into a proper Mainline Modeler. They want to create a finescale magazine. This would a welcome move in my opinion.
    Finescale is one of those “elitist” phrases that used in the early days of 1/4″ARR. That usually provoked a response like “black smith”. The word is broad in scope somewhat vague. Each person will have a definition.


    • Hi Gene:
      That’s very good news about RMC – have you been talking with the new owners? Or where did this information come from?
      I’d love to see White River bring its lovely design work to RMC as well. I always loved RMC and even became a frequent contributor – but with a rethink of the page design, some better photo reproduction AND an emphasis on finescale modelling with a North American focus, it would be the perfect periodical for me.

  12. I’d like to see a merger of RMC and MM ideologies. I would support that type of publication (I am a long time subscriber to the NG&IRM Review) in any way that I could.

    I’m OK with the term “elitist” too. I don’t see anything wrong with trying hard to do a better job today than yesterday, whether it’s your career or your hobby. That a growing number of people have chosen to use “elitist” in the pejorative is disheartening. How can so many idolise a top athlete while vilifying a fine craftsman?

    When did “good enough” change from being the first hurdle into being the finish line?

  13. We talk a lot about the medium (magazine, blogs, forums, etc.) or the format -paper and/or pixels. I think both miss the mark, because as a reader, I’ve raised my hand and said: “inspire me.”

    I’m saying to the publishing industry of this hobby that I’m not a beginner. I know how to lay flextrack, I can build kits, I can take a stack of raw material and fabricate it into something credible. I’m fluent in the techniques. Inspire me, give me something to strive toward, give me a reason to do so. Help me stave off the boredom that comes from the constant repetition of stuff I already know and can do.

    Be my advocate as a reader. Help me lay out a path for growth. Someone commented earlier that we need dreamers and visionaries. I completely agree. We currently have the craft and the associated products today because at some point in the past, someone looked at the status quo and said: “what if we did it this way instead.”


    • Interesting thought, Mike. I’m still a fan of print for a couple of reasons:
      First, despite all the advances in online publications and digital downloads of e-zines, I think print still has a lot of impact on the hobby. Some modellers simply prefer print. I know from my own reading habits that I pick up and a print magazine far more times than than I do a digital magazine – even if they are different versions of the same issue.

      – When I get a new digital magazine, I scan through it, read the articles that catch my attention, then archive it and rarely look at it again.
      – When I get a new print magazine, I start with a similar process of scanning and reading… but then the magazine lies around on a table or desk, where I pick it up from time to time – for example, when I’m looking for something quick to read while eating lunch.

      Print is also a great medium for “discovery”. That sounds odd, given online tools such as Google. But with Google, I already know what I’m looking for. It’s very easy to filter one’s hobby (or one’s life) online, so that one only sees content that’s related to one’s interests.

      That’s fine – except for those times when I don’t know that I’m interested in something until I see it.

      Almost daily, my morning newspaper surprises me with articles on subjects I had no idea I would want to know more about. The same happens with hobby magazines – and for something as narrowly focussed as fine scale, that’s a valuable way to expose the philosophy to people who haven’t previously considered it.

      For example, how would somebody find out about Proto:48 online, if they didn’t know the term “Proto:48”? I found out about it years ago, when it was written up in Model Railroader. I certainly wasn’t looking for it – it found me instead, and changed the way I think about many things in the hobby, including how I approach my current work in S scale.

      I think a magazine can be a powerful marketing tool for expert-level modelling (regardless of scale or gauge). It’s something that someone can discover at a hobby shop, or a train show, or a convention. It’s something that those of us who believe in pushing ourselves to do better can share with others to encourage them to try as well. (That’s something that’s difficult to do with a digital publication – even one that isn’t locked with DRM software. I can – and do – give away old magazines to others so they can read them too. But that’s one magazine, with one reader at a time, and once I give it away I no longer have access to it. How do I give away an old digital publication, if it’s something that people are supposed to pay for? It’s morally wrong, given that the publication could be copied and shared an infinite number of times. MRH has solved this problem by being entirely advertiser supported, so it actually benefits MRH for the magazine to be shared digitally. But MRH is also a general interest publication, which attracts a lot of advertisers: a niche-market publication, even a digital one, would not be able to sustain itself on advertising alone – not if the publisher wants to pay for groceries.)

      The second thing is renumeration. I believe information has value and as a professional writer, I like being able to use my wordsmith’s skills to put food on the table. With magazines, that’s pretty straightforward – I submit an article, it’s published, I get paid. And people are willing to buy magazines – or DVDs, or other material goods – and pay a decent price for them. But online? We all know the term “Freetards”, but even those who are willing to pay for content are often hesitant to purchase something that seems so ephemeral.

      This blog is a case in point. Over the past three years, I’ve generated almost 900 posts and there have been more than 4,000 comments. We’ve had some great discussions. That said, this website costs me money for server space – and every time I publish something here I’m making it less likely I can publish the same material in a print magazine, so it’s costing me money. I used to write a lot for RMC – and, on average, I made a few thousand dollars per year out of that. I’d love to be able to charge a modest fee for hosting a blog like this one – say, 10 cents per post. But there’s no facility to do that, and even if there was, I’m betting that I would lose 95% of my readers – at which point, it would not be worth even 10 cents per post because we might as well be having an email discussion.

      I had the same problem with The Model Railway Show podcast – it cost money to produce and money for the server space to host it. Each show also required 10 hours of my time per month to research, interview, edit, distribute and promote. But – despite having a payment mechanism for other content (books, movies, music, apps) – Apple has not created a payment mechanism for podcasts delivered via iTunes, so I was forced to give away the results of my labours. Eventually, I could no longer justify the costs (both in terms of time and of money). Had I been able to charge for the shows – even, say, 50 cents each – the podcast would’ve moved from the “Labour of love” column to the “How I earn a living” column, and I’d probably still be creating new episodes. Or, perhaps not – because as soon as I tried to charge, I would’ve lost 95% of the audience that loved the show when it was “free”.

      I know many digital publishers who struggle with how to best convince people that it’s worth paying for their product. As an example, every time I’ve posted something to the MRH forums about the modules I’m building for TrainMasters TV, somebody complains about the fact they have to pay to watch TMTV. They compare TMTV to the free content they find on YouTube as if the two are interchangeable. They’re not yet thinking of TMTV as a fully-animated magazine, and yet many of the segments that Barry Silverthorn has produced are exactly that, or better. Let me offer an example:

      Earlier this year, a museum in North Carolina held a rail fan event called “Streamliners At Spencer” – at which more than two-dozen cab units (F-units, E-units, a PA, an FA, and so on – plus Norfolk and Western 4-8-4 611) were gathered tougher, all wearing vintage paint schemes. Here’s how various media covered it:

      Railfan and Railroad, June 2014 ($5.95): Four pages, plus an editorial. Fewer than a dozen images, including the cover photo.
      Trains Magazine, August 2014 ($6.99): Six pages. Fewer than a dozen images, including a thumbnail on the cover.
      Railroads Illustrated, August 2014 ($7.95): 18 pages, plus the cover. Approximately 30 images.
      TrainMastersTV, August 2014 ($5.99/mo if one buys it monthly, down to $2.99/mo for a three-year subscription): A three-part, 66-minute, professionally shot, scripted, narrated and presented documentary in which one gets to see and hear these vintage locomotives in action, hear the stories of the people involved (from restoration teams to rail fans at the event) – in their own words.

      Now, which of these gives the rail fan and modeller the best report on the event? From a print perspective, Railroads Illustrated wins, hands down (and that’s good news for Railfan and Railroad magazine, which has just been acquired by the Railroads Illustrated publisher). But it’s the most expensive option – and even its excellent coverage can’t hold a candle to what TrainMastersTV delivered to its subscribers. And yet, more people would buy a magazine than buy a streamed video service. (And if TMTV’s Streamliners at Spencer documentary is ever released as a DVD, people will buy that who would not watch it online. Because they’ll get a DVD.)

      I’m heartened to hear that White River Productions is ruminating about turning Railroad Model Craftsman magazine into a true craftsman-level magazine about railroad modelling. I will definitely continue my subscription, and – since I understand that White River actually pays for content – I will look for ways to contribute as an author (if my work is up to the standard they set for the new RMC).

      So, I definitely agree with what you’re saying – that as readers we want to be inspired. But I think – for the near term, anyway – that the medium still does matter – very much so!


  14. Hello All,

    Interesting discussion. I look forward to seeing what “Finescale Modeling Railway Review” is going to do and where it hopes to take their potential audience. Let me make a few quick comments and observations about the larger discussion Trevor has kindly initiated. Let me note my views will reflect those of a US modeler who models an American prototype in 1944 but reads a number of European model railroad magazines and blogs. I also spent part of 2013 building a fine scale O American Civil War portable layout that always excited and yet sometimes baffled many of the modelers who saw it.

    First it is very interesting that as Gene Deimling notes (!) the new version of “Railroad Model Craftsman” might be a craftsman type publication that replicates in part what Mainline Modeler tried to so. Having always been more a fan of the former than the latter it would nonetheless be a very useful addition to the US model railroad publication ecosystem. At the moment there are no mainstream publication catering solely to advanced RPM level modeling here in the United States. Ted Cullota’s magazine I would argue is such a publication as is the “Railroad Prototype Cyclopedia.” These might both be categorized as niche publications I suppose and are certainly of limited print runs because of market demand and are unknown to many in the hobby.

    My initial thought as a potential reader is that this new publication would be best served as a quarterly publication and not something that gets to the LHS every few weeks. A number of the railroad historical society publications that White River already produces are quarterly, where quality of content is seemingly a focus over quantity of issues produced per year. Let me note that some of the railroad historical societies produce e-zines that feature very high quality modeling and it goes without saying there are certainly enough talented people out there doing enough work to provide material for a publication with very high modeling standards. The “European approach’ to modeling and publishing – for lack of a better term but I think most reading this post will understand what I am trying to get at- to modeling and publishing (and here I am including our British and Canadian counterparts too for simplicity of argument) is something that the larger US model railroad community would do well to pay attention to if only to think about craft in a different way. The RPM crowd in the states has of course been embracing a fine scale approach for years but has unfortunately been unfairly stereotyped as antisocial rivet counters who bully newbies…something I still haven’t seen in person although that prejudicial view has only solidified and become even more widespread with the rise of the internet.

    Now with respect to what we see in our hobby magazines…it often comes down to boundaries set by the editorial standards on the one hand and the cultural expectations of those in the hobby, ideas which have been touched upon by Trevor and many of the other commentators. When I identified the “good enough” approach as a form of metacraftsmanship in a recent blog post I wasn’t being rhetorically playful, I was serious. It is interesting where the bar stands today on craftsmanship in the hobby for many modelers especially considering the amazing detail available on many RTR cars and locomotives. This is reflected in the pages of both print and online mainstream model railroad publications here. As an American who has a very nice collection of “Narrow Gauge & Industrial Railway Modeling Review” on hand I am hopeful for what comes out of Kansas City in the future. Let me note I read “Narrow Gauge & Industrial Railway Modeling Review” both because I find the topic interesting but perhaps more importantly because of the level of craftsmanship involved. And here I refer to both the modeling within and the publication itself.

    In many ways this is all about expectation. I was having a serious discussion with a friend about the RMC situation a few weeks ago, a person who is a prolific model railroad modeler and author and was once a very active military modeler. I have been getting interesting in military modeling in the last few years, if perhaps only because of the techniques and high levels of craftsmanship apparent from looking at the “armor” magazines available at my LHS. I was soliciting his advice as to which military modeling magazines were the most useful to read. This evolved into a compare and contrast discussion about the two different hobby publication markets and the stylistic differences in content.

    I made the argument, which he eventually agreed with, that for various reasons, most model railroad publications in the US, with the exception of say “Narrow Gauge and Shortline Gazette” are not places anyone expects to see Proto 48/Proto 87 level detail. Most model railroaders either consciously or subconsciously just seem to embrace this craftsmanship divide in publications found at the hobby store. Amazingly detailed models will be found in page after page armor, aircraft, auto, and ship model magazines while model railroad magazines feature work that is of more varied quality. Here I am making generalizations but I think you see what I am saying.

    “Mainline Modeler” did cater to that market as did a few other short-lived publications back in the 1980s and 1990s but success seemed to be limited. Taking a step back one could argue that overall… model railroad magazines have sort of evolved away from a fine scale detail ethos in the last few decades, assuming one could argue that such an approach was ever there to begin with (I do think it was there in some fashion but was always very very limited). There are obvious reasons for the differences in how one approaches building a tank, ship or aircraft model and building a model railroad. The latter often involves a more multi-dimensional skill set including layout design, benchwork, electronics, scenery, signal systems, etc… which prevents or limits the ability to spend six months detailing single piece of rolling stock or even a small scenic area.

    There are of course model railroaders in the RPM section of the big tent who do spend months/occasionally years on a single boxcar or locomotive. That approach has just never really successfully found a publication niche/ market outside of Mainline Modeler. It may just be that here in the US modelers just expect to find a different level of craftsmanship in plastic model publications, different in kind than one finds in model railroad magazines. But there is no reason that needs to continue. RPM types and others need to help provide a market for a new publication to help try to change expectations of others in the hobby. Or perhaps more realistically at least just provide those of us in the minority with something new and nifty to read.

    I look forward to “Finescale Modeling Railway Review” and also to see what Kevin Eudaly comes up with. In addition I am hopeful some of the voices and philosophies of hobby craft that are present in these kinds of online discussions (also found at nifty blogs run by folks like Mike Cougill, Gene Deimling, and Riley Triggs among others) will also find a place of some kind –if only spirit- in these new publications.



    Gerard J. Fitzgerald
    Charlottesville, Virginia

    • Gerard,

      Would one be out of line in thinking that at a point in time years ago, a tipping point was reached in terms of where the amount/quality of detail in commercial products caught up with the craft ethic? In other words, when the quality of a majority of commercial products was relatively crude, much of the editorial focus was on how to make improvements to said products. When higher levels of detail became common, even expected, did the focus shift away from enhancing the qualities of individual models, to broader topics of layout designs, operations and other issues? Did the various editorial departments in Milwaukee and New Jersey and elsewhere capitalize on the shift, or essentially help create it?

      (Trevor, I apologize, I’m not trying to hijack this thread. Truly.)


      • Don’t apologize, Mike: This is a GREAT avenue of inquiry!

        I know from my personal journey in the hobby that back when RTR models were relatively crude (compared to today), I readily tackled craftsman-style detailing projects. Today, I’m more reluctant because I fear my “improvements” would look worse than if I’d just left the thing alone. It’s my “Hippocratic Oath” of kit bashing: “Do no harm”. It was easier when things were cruder because they already looked desperate for improvement. Scraping off cast-on grabs and replacing them with wire is a good example: even imperfectly done wire grabs looked better. Today, any grab that isn’t awesomely executed brings down the overall finish of the model.

        I’m enjoying this discussion. Keep it up! I have more thoughts to share later, (when I’m not typing on a smart phone).


  15. Me again, with a quick comment regarding part of the UK printed media format. At the finescale end whilst MRJ and NGI and FRMR carry advertising, the launch for them was a quality magazine, good writing/images/presentation into a market that wanted that material. The benefit of getting a interesting and appealing mag into the market via finescale exhibitions attended by the publisher means they can capture subscription sales at ‘point of sale’ Today at Scaleforum I bought FRMR and a subscription simultaneously. Wild Swan who publish MRJ launched the magazine in a similar style, and visit some finescale specific shows throughout the season (Sept through May). This allows them direct access to readers/subscribers and to a degree their contributor pool as well. As I mentioned earlier the compact Geography of the British Isles helps make this customer meet and greet easier than it would be in North America.
    I always liked RMC but haven’t seen a copy for many a year, if they are re-starting and can tap into CAN/US finescale modellers attending them, they may be able to build a subscriber pool that helps keep the cash flow stable in addition to adverts, assuming a similar business model would be accepted by the market place.

    • RMC’s previous editor, Bill Schaumburg, attended many RPM meets, shows, conventions and other such gatherings. One year, he told me, he spent 40 weekends on the road between events and photographing layouts. While the distances are greater here, it is possible to cover them. I would also argue that the greater distances involved should make a magazine even more attractive to the Expert Modellers (and those, like me, who aspire to become one) – because all of us can’t go to every RPM meet or other event where the experts gather. A magazine that brings that world to us instead? That would be inspirational – for me, anyway.
      More later – great discussion, everyone!

      • Hi Trevor;

        Bill Schaumburg is somewhat of a fixture at RPM meets, but as himself and gathering photos/notes for future publication. You can’t walk up to him and buy a copy of RMC or renew your subscription, which I think was the issue.

  16. Hi Mike (Trevor, and everyone else),

    First, let me say what a fantastic question! It is one I have been thinking about a great deal and will hopefully be addressed and maybe even answered-perhaps poorly- in future blog posts or maybe some academic articles. Second I am not sure if Trevor has a penalty box for hijacking threads but since he is exceedingly polite, even for a Canadian, we are probably safe… temporarily. So I’ll try to be brief for once.

    My “short” answer is… you are no doubt correct in describing what happened. As to why it turned out that way…that is of course much more complicated. I am starting to look at the model railroading history, and a number of other “male oriented” hobbies in the 1970s and 1980s from a more academic perspective. The short answer is “model railroading” writ large, even as the RPM movement was forming and growing in the 1970s, seemed to embrace that type of modeling in a limited way (with the NMRA apparently taking a much more negative approach to the RPM movement…an important story for another day) although there was seemingly more activity in layout design, operations, and the electronics behind train control (pre DCC) in the mainstream hobby press at the time. There seems to this observer to be multiple loci of evolutionary/revolutionary activity in the hobby during say 1970-1985 with a lot of intriguing overlap. If you pick up a random copy of MR from the 1980s you might find an article written by an engineer with a graduate degree in electrical engineering like Keith Gutierrez or Bruce Chubb…An article with complex circuit design as part of the how-to. There was certain a high level of sophistication in some pieces well beyond the capabilities of many modelers. Which is even amazing considering what MR is publishing today.

    In addition, in the back of my mind I see links growing through synergistic growth across other hobby boundaries… coming from both home computing and perhaps also more sophistication in war gaming and the D&D crowd. I often wonder if that made paper based operations seem more normal for some people? I also assume computers made it easier to print up waybills and start to “game” car movements that was technically easier to do/print/calculate but also more sophisticated than say what Frank Ellison, John Allen, etc… were doing 10-20 years earlier. The key may be which modelers were hanging out at the LHS and Radio Shack… for some of these cross-cultural currents.

    At the same time the resin kit market, even with the earlier models made of that weird darker resin, and the advanced kit bashing of Athearn, ProtoPower West kits, did not, for whatever reason, get many magazine staffs focused on super detailing or mainstream model railroaders..or so it seems. However, RMC, as we all know did embrace an RPM approach over the years, In addition “Prototype Modeler” was out for a number of years (a journal I need to learn more about) and some others but “Model Railroader” certainly remained focused on other topics normally layout based. That much of this is going on in HO goes without saying although O and N have important contributions too.

    And S of course-since this is Trevor’s blog-which I am taking down a rabbit hole.

    Overall yes, I think once a certain levels of detail was achievable in HO RTR, the focus shifted… there was a tipping point, but it never went in the direction of super detailed military modeling for a host of reasons. Although it certainly COULD have… it just did not. Niche publications like “Prototype Modeling” and “Mainline Modeler” focused on superdetailing and historical/prototype archive based research and captured small markets of serious folks but mainstream editors seemed to take a pass.

    I need to do more research (which I hope is not a bad answer).



    • Don’t worry at all about rabbit holes, Gerry! As I said, this is exactly the sort of discussion I hoped my post would generate. I feel privileged to be hosting this discussion on my blog and I hope others are enjoying it – and learning from it – as much as I am.

    • I think there is a key point here in comparing hobbies. If you look at the military and other plastic modeler publications you see very high levels of building and craftsmanship, but that is all there is to DO in those hobbies. Once the model or diorama is done, you just look at it.

      If you look at the wargamers whose models require handling in the usage that is the key point of their hobby, there is less of a fine scale mentality (although many do paint and even modify their miniatures to a high standard). Maybe the “tipping point” in our hobby (or the press representation of it) came when operations became a principle goal rather than building models.

      • Hi,

        I was probably more explicit in differentiating between model railroading and military/plastic modeling in my first response in this discussion but I believe we are in agreement. I certainly concur with your observation. There are more “dimensions” if you will to model railroading than say completing a single super detailed diorama of a tank in a snowy field or a plane on a runway or carrier deck. The railroad is expected to run in some capacity and perhaps might also operate… depending upon the interests and proclivities of the specific model railroader. Even if a person’s sole interest is in just building craftsman structure kits of the Sellios type, or resin rolling stock kits from manufactures like Sunshine or Speedwich, there is always a sort of unspoken, background expectation from others in the hobby that there will be some kind of layout in the future to house them…perhaps to give the models greater meaning or context. Who knows?

        The layout may be, for better or worse, our coin of the realm.

        I am not sure where the dividing line might be in modeling/operations in model railroading and in say for example military modeling. Perhaps the operations types who build “plywood pacifics’ and focus on waybills, car cards, scale clocks, and schedules in lieu of detailed scenery and a fleet of “perfect” RPM level cars would be similar in kind to those individual war gamers who live within a hexagonal world devoid of super detailed models and who chose to “game” specific battles and campaigns on paper mapboards, within gigantic dioramas, or on computer screens. These people stand in contrast with others, with whom I should note they probably share many common and overlapping interests, who choose instead to focus on super detailed models and dioramas worthy of prizes. Those two groups might even be in two separate hobbies altogether (?) with just a shared interest in military culture depending upon one’s perspective.

        In model railroading however there is an expectation you do a little bit of everything as best you can, with the skill set you have, which ultimately concludes with the construction of a layout. Which is where a fine scale approach can also make things very interesting. Even if you are not planning on building a layout or a module, and have no interest in doing so, some admit on occasion to having plans to do in order to save face. While once having completed or even dare say “finished” a layout was considered a major accomplishment- if not a time for celebration- there has been a shift in the last few years I think with regard to expectation (that word again) and a layout with operational capabilities (car cards, some sort of schedule, a V&O approach in some capacity) might now be considered to be a more mainstream goal.

        Which gets us back to Mike’s point about the availability of amazingly detailed RTR locos and cars and the opportunity to make more progress on layouts in a reasonable amount of time. This has resulted in moving the goal posts further downfield to continue to make things interesting, if not complicated.

        The current status within model railroading culture of younger modelers who “model” entirely on their computers is a new and intriguing twist on all of this. Breaking, not surprisingly, along generational lines, some see this new group as outliers while others see them as just approaching the hobby with a brand new and seemingly different toolkit.

        To get back to your original point…I do think that operations boom has been an important recent tipping point. The fact there are so many avenues of interest and forms of craft needed to build a functioning –but not necessarily “operational” layout- means that there have been a number of points of bifurcation in the hobby over time.

        Hopefully more on this on topic of layouts as a sort of coin of the realm next month in another guest blog post on Riley’s site. Hopefully Trevor or someone else won’t beat me to it.


  17. In all this discussion I have not seen mention of FInescale Railroader which evolved into 3 annual publications that just finished their publishing run. These magazines for years did have articles and models which I would consider fine scale but did not contain smaller scales (HO and smaller) due what appeared to be an editorial bias that it would be difficult to do fine scale work in smaller scales.
    What FSRR proved was that there is such a market in the North America and the modelers do exist and may still exist. My understanding is that they ceased publication not because of a lack of financial success but that the publisher wanted to focus his attentions elsewhere.
    All of the discussion which has gone one before is incomplete which taking in the contribution of FSRR and the various annuals.

    Philip Taylor
    Palmyra, VA

  18. Good conversation. I have long lamented the black hole North America is for Model Publications of all stripes. I’ve seen many come and go.

    At Micro-Trains Line we get most every mainstream pub that comes out including some of the “foreign” press and am constantly amazed at the quality and quantity of information and the professionalism within the pages.

    I know we are discussing GB pubs, but we also get two amazing magazines from Japan… full color, nicely bound and exhibits the health of the market there…. and like Great Britain noticeably smaller than the US.

    You can even see the difference in the page count between the remaining Kalmbach Pubs and any of its contemporaries off shore. I knew someday, Model Railroader would evolve along the same sad path as Fine Scale Modeler… one that offered plenty of solid modeling and follow along projects, degrading into one that feature a few personalities that show us again and again how to use our air brushes for the first time or assemble a Walthers kit or rebuild the same layout every year. Clearly they are trying to apply something of a shotgun approach and maybe that what is needed to draw new folks to the hobby… but for those of use who have progressed in our skills and outlook, it becomes pedestrian.

    I was heart broken when I found out about RMC going under… it was only a shadow of its former self but still had enough content and modeling information to make it something to look forward to. Thankfully there are plenty of on line magazines and now… podcasts that keep those of use who want to move beyond being beaten by advertisers or “modeled” down to to keep us interested.

    I have to admit.. .getting the British Press each month has made me rethink my priorities and subject matter. Doing a nice little Hault on an Exhibition style layout seems more attainable than many of the fantasy Mega layouts presented in domestic publications. Just because you have the space, doesn’t mean you have to fill it up… but that may be the American way we are struggling against… Expand at all costs 🙂

    But, as POGO said, “We have met the enemy and he is us” or something to that effect. Magazines live on contributions and if we want to continue to have a press presence here in the US then we have to contribute and contribute often. If we run into an Editorial wall, then we did our part and the blame falls from our shoulders.

    High tides raise all boats and all that.

  19. A very interesting thread!

    As I just have discovered it, some of the points I am about to make might already have been made as it was quite a lot to read and I might have missed something.

    But I do not think that anyone has pointed out what I suspect is a big difference between the UK and the US.

    Internet saturation happened a lot earlier in the US than the UK. And even today a magazine like the Model Railway Journal has no webpage or editorial email address.

    So US modelers have been using the net as a source for modeling information far longer than their UK colleagues, and this might have hurt US magazines in a way that will eventually hit the British magazines as well.

    But I really hope that history will prove me wrong, as I am a great fan of the British fine scale modeling magazines. I have a complete collection of MRJ (including issue 0) and I use them regularly for reference. Using the online index at I can find almost anything in the pages of the magazine.

    Best regards,
    HĂĄvard H

    • Hi

      Very interesting observation about internet use and saturation and what that might mean in different model railroading cultures within various countries. I do not know very much about the UK but what you argue sounds quite plausible and hopefully will not lead to the publishing situation we have here currently in the US. The one thing I would add is that there is a generational divide in the hobby in the USA where older modelers tend be offline much more than “younger” people and that can often be most readily seen in the local and regional machinations of the NMRA. And also in who reads the electronic magazine put out by the various railroad historical societies. I am sure the generational divide about internet use is an international phenomenon which varies in degree somewhat from place to place.

      Your comments also make me wonder about how this works in Japan a country I know has a very active model railroad culture although I know nothing about print publications there vs what happens online. Or for that matter how things stack up in Continental Europe and the Scandinavian countries on the print/online publishing phenomenon going forward.



      Gerard J. Fitzgerald
      Charlottesville, Virginia

    • “…a magazine like the Model Railway Journal has no webpage or editorial email address….”

      This is a matter of editorial choice/policy rather than lack of facilities or internet saturation. The magazine is reportedly produced by “old fashioned” methods without a computer in the process. This may be one of the reasons why the new magazine editors have launched their offering………….

      Trevor (and this blog) have a lot of connections to the UK scene.

      (Shropshire, UK)

  20. Well, I think that making such a editorial choice is not made in a social vacuum purely based on personal preferences.

    Wild Swan is maybe the most extreme case of internet resistance, but generally British MR manufacturers and publishers have been rather slow in getting online.

    But they are catching up, and the one of the most vital MR online communities today is RmWeb.

    • It’s certainly an interesting assertion, Haavard.

      I must respectfully disagree and deploy some statistics which paint a contrary picture.

      Internet penetration in the UK is actually higher than in the United States. The percentage of the population using the internet in Britain also overtook the US in 2003. While it is certainly true that internet adoption was earlier in the States, the UK has now had 11 years of higher internet saturation.

      You are right that many model railway producers and publishers in the UK have been very late to adopt ecommerce. As Tony has pointed out this is definitely a cultural choice on behalf of those organisations. The UK is actually the most developed online marketplace in the world:

      As other people have pointed out I think it is more likely that there are other factors at play.

      Railway enthusiasm is a more developed hobby / interest here than in many other countries (by no means all). My local newsagents carry more prototype railway titles than I can recall right now, but off the top of my head they stock: Traction, Rail Express, the Railway Magazine, Back Track, British Railways Illustrated, Railway Bylines, Modern Locomotives Illustrated, the Railway Magazine, Steam Days, Narrow Gauge World, Rail, Modern Railways, Railways Illustrated, Steam Railway, Heritage Railway, Locomotives International, Today’s Railways, Steam World… as well as foreign titles like Trains, Classic Trains, Today’s Railways Europe, etc. etc. The Model Railway Journal is stocked on the shelves of the major chains.

      This is not a specialist shop but a mainstream chain high street newsagent (Martins).

      The dreaded state of RTR models before the 90s and the OO gauge error has been well documented by others. This encouraged the development and growth of a ‘finescale’ movement locally.

      A quick glance at the mainstream model rail press in the UK will show anyone that this is by no means a picture of the entire hobby. The finescale movement is also derided by a vocal group within the UK hobby, much the same as I imagine it is in other countries.

      • I realise that I’ve not followed convention in signing my post – sorry, guys.

        This is a very interesting debate that Trevor has started.

        I have an interest in concepts of aliteracy and post-literacy, and my digging has uncovered another interesting nugget of statistical information.

        In 2012 in the US there were 292,014 new titles published.

        In 2012 in the UK there were 149,800 new titles published.

        More interesting when you consider that the population of the UK is around one fifth that of the US.

        There are some pretty interesting (and controversial) authors writing about the decline in literacy in our societies. Chris Hedges has written about “The End of Literacy”, although it is my opinion that he has a tendency toward hysteria and will definitely not be to everyone’s tastes politically.

        Anyway – interesting stuff, chaps, and I hope I’ve been able to contribute something.

        Kind regards,


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