photo Troll-Bridge_zps3890f054.jpg
(They belong under bridges, but have NO place in this hobby)

Unfortunately, Trolls exist – and Jim Gore of Florida was recently on the receiving end of their wrath. His “crime”? He enjoys his hobby and built a layout.

Jim’s On30 Jemez and Rio Grande is featured in the December, 2014 issue of Model Railroader:

 photo JGore-ChiliLine_zpsbca4dd2b.jpg

As the MR article notes, Jim envisioned his layout as a freelanced branch line of a famous three-foot gauge railroad through New Mexico known as “The Chili Line” because many of the locals would hang bunches of hot peppers outside their houses to dry.

While enjoying dinner with Chris Abbott this week, I was distressed to learn that after Jim’s feature appeared, he received insulting emails and – worse – phone calls from idiots who complained that he did not model the Chili Line “correctly”. Chris learned about this from Jim himself – via the Model Rail Radio mailing list. Here’s Jim’s post to that list, in its entirety:

Dear All,

First, I want to thank so many of you who have said nice things about my layout feature in Model Railroader. Never intended that to be one of my goals in model railroading – it just happened because a friend of a friend talked with Lou Sassi who needed some place to visit in Florida during the winter.

I have always believed that this hobby of ours is exactly that … a hobby. It is something that gives us individual satisfaction and a certain amount of contentment. Ultimately, there is only one person that has to be satisfied, the owner of the model railroad; the rest being “gravy”.

It seems that my fictionalized railroad, as a branch-line of the Chili Lines, has sparked outright hatred and animosity among a group of prototype modelers, presumably who are strict Chili Line adherents. If you know any of these persons, can you tell them to stop sending me nasty emails and phone calls. Good gravy … it’s a hobby !!!!


To start, what a gentleman. I would’ve been much angrier. Jim: The Canadian in me feels compelled to apologize for the trolls. Nobody should have to put up with this type of abuse – for any reason, but especially not for a choice they’ve made in the hobby. Period.

I know that I have strong opinions on what constitutes a “successful” layout and when I share that philosophy on this blog and elsewhere, I know that not everybody agrees with me. I consider debate in the hobby to be a positive thing – and I’ve enjoyed the discussions that my posts have generated, even when we haven’t all seen eye to eye.

In three years of writing this blog, I’ve only ever had one person be a dunderhead. He’s been banned from commenting here – and I’m pleased to see that whenever he raises his head over the parapet to snipe at others (on newsgroups, other blogs and so on), he’s quickly and forcefully slapped.

With that one exception, the tone has always been civil and respectful. I’m grateful that I don’t have be heavy handed about policing this blog. Thank you – all of you – for that.

I know trolls exist in the hobby – and that it’s easy, with the pseudonyms and avatars of forums, to say things that we would never, ever say to another person’s face. But I can’t even begin to imagine what “right” somebody feels they have to directly attack another person for their approach to railway modelling.

The idea of emailing somebody to tell them they’re “doing it wrong” offends me.

The idea of phoning someone to deliver such abuse? Words fail me.

I have posted to the Model Railroader Facebook page to let the editorial team know that such abuse makes me angry, and that it should not be tolerated. I’ve encouraged MR to address this in a future issue – I think it’s an important editorial for editor Neil Besougloff to write. It’s disrespectful to hobbyists, and bad for the hobby as a whole.

What a great way to encourage people to never share their work with others.

What a great way to encourage people to abandon railway modelling in favour of a different hobby.

To those who engaged in this behaviour, I have three words:

“Well done, idiots.”

If you agree with me, I encourage you to get in touch with Model Railroader and let the editorial team know how you feel.

And you blog, or run a forum, or otherwise engage with the hobby community online, I encourage you to share information about this incident.

Together, maybe we can publicly shame the trolls and encourage them to go back under their bridges.

44 thoughts on “Trolls

    • Well sure, Don. And I bet that for every person who looked at Jim’s article and said, “Great job!’, an equal number said, “That’s not the layout I would build”. I expect the same thing would happen to any layout – including Tony Koester’s Nickel Plate layout, which is also featured in the December 2014 MR.
      What I find reprehensible, however, is that people would email or phone someone who has shared something very personal in the public realm to say, “You’re doing it wrong”. And I’m appalled that they would do so in terms that Jim has described with the terms “hatred”, “animosity” and “nasty”.
      Who would do that?
      There’s a word for that kind of person. It rhymes with “bass hat”.

      • …for every person who looked at Jim’s article and said, “Great job!’, an equal number said, “That’s not the layout I would build”

        It is possible to hold both of those views, indeed, that is surely the adult response when one has differing tastes, be they over standards, accuracy of gauge, or subject matter?

        Disagreement over choices is entirely natural in our hobby (after all, there are so many of them!), and can be the subject of passionate and rigorous debate. No need for it to be the object of anger and hatred, though.

  1. Trevor, all I can say is, wow! I knew there were such trolls in the hobby, but I did not know that they stooped that low. I go to quite a few conventions and meets where I hear “comments” from many people who feel that in one way or another a particular modeler or layout is “wrong” in the way it is being done. I know some of these experts well. I also know that most of the ones I know do not have a layout themselves. Makes me wonder how they became such experts. This post has given me some ideas for my next editorial. Thank you. Walt Huston Editor, N-Scale Magazine.

    • When I hear about things like this, Walt, I wonder why anybody shares their work at all.
      Can any of us imagine what the hobby would be like without people sharing – via magazines, forums, podcasts, blogs, videos, books and other media?
      I’m glad this has given you ideas for an editorial. Cheers!

    • Thank you Walt, I’m glad to hear that! I e-mailed MR yesterday and received a nice reply from Steven Otte that basically said to me, since it didn’t happen on their site, it’s hands off.

      That’s too bad, if someone is nice enough to let us visit, we should be good guests and act accordingly. It’s their layout and we should respect their choices.

  2. Hi! I was saddened to hear that yet trolling had occurred. Recent trolling, here in the UK, which was particularly vindictive, has led to police investigations and people being charge with a criminal offence which has lead to a term in jail. Some of the effect of rrolling has been much sadder than that for the families of the victim. I won’t go into details.

    I suspect that those who trolled Jim over his hypothetical Chilli Line branch have probably never picked up a pot of glue or a soldering iron and if they have why aren’t we reading about their modelling?



    • Hi John:
      I wondered that myself. But then I realized it doesn’t matter whether the trolls are stuck in the armchair or accomplished modellers. Building something – no matter how nicely it’s done – doesn’t give one licence to be rude.

  3. Hear, hear!

    I called attention to the article on a couple of On30 lists as there is animosity towards MR for using On21/2 versus On30 in the past. I am now a pariah for ruffling the feathers of a number of blowhards who have never shown any modeling skill.

    It was a good article about a nicely executed layout that fulfills the builder’s current goals. He even states that he has future plans. The response makes me wonder why I bother sometimes.

    • Hi Bill:
      Funny – I too noticed that the term “On30” was used in the story (with a reference to it also being known as “On2.5”).
      As you note, Jim’s layout has fulfilled his goals. That’s “doing it right” in my books.

  4. Over the years I’ve been involved with a number of modular groups, and every time I’ve gone to a show or a setup, there is always a little trepidation at how my work will be received by others. As the builder, I’m painfully aware of the shortcomings of my work and the compromises I’ve made, and it takes a degree of courage to offer this up for public consumption. Yes, it’s a hobby and we do this for fun, but it’s still a little nerve wracking.

    I fully believe that Jim Gore will have sweated bullets getting his layout ready for the visit from MR and in preparation for the unforgiving camera lens. The response from the minority is quite beyond comprehension, and is more of a comment on their character than Mr. Gore’s layout.

    Kudos to all who do offer up their work for our enjoyment and inspiration, it is part of what makes this a great hobby.


  5. I have heard nasty comments from On3 modellers towards those who model with On30. I have said that look at a layout at eye or near eye level from the side of the ROW and tell me which is which. If the model is well-done, you probably cannot tell the difference.

    I have to admit that I have caught myself “trolling” once or twice. I have a pet peave with layouts depicting early steam (prior to WWII) with headlights lit up during the day. Especially around the turn of the century 1900. I loved Paul Scole’s layout and modelling but bristled at the brightly-lit headlights in obvious daylight shots. Until Diesels took over, it was generally a “No-no” to waste energy and fuel to use the headlight in other than darkness or poor visibility.

    So, I stand chastened.


    • I don’t think it’s comparable to note to oneself, or even others, that a particular detail is wrong. That’s a far cry from what is being described here.

      Personally, I don’t even offer thoughts on corrections unless the builder seems to be looking for the information. Still, a polite “you know, they didn’t do that at the time” is reasonable. Abuse is not.

    • Hi Skip:
      As Pieter noted, I don’t think anybody would consider that trolling – not if you keep that opinion to yourself (or shared with friends), and not even if you point out the detail to a layout owner in the spirit of helpfulness. In fact, it’s that kind of constructive feedback that has helped me to make my Port Rowan layout better over the three years that I’ve been writing this blog.
      Where our opinions become trolling, however, is when we go from “constructive feedback” to “public bashing” or “invasion of privacy” – the latter being the case here. (There are actually stronger terms than “trolls” to describe this, but I couldn’t find suitable images to illustrate those on a G-rated blog!)

  6. I cannot believe that some would expend the time and effort to look up this gentleman’s phone number and call him to complain. Maybe it’s jealousy over their seeing HIS layout in MR, when they really have a better layout (in their own minds). It seems to me that those modellers like you who model lesser-known rail lines have an advantage in that there are not so many “experts” willing to do all this to “correct” you .

    “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.”–George Carlin.

  7. It’s unfortunate that Jim was criticized like he was but it doesn’t surprise me. One only has to attend a local meet to quickly discover quite a few so called “experts” who love nothing more than sitting around complaining about the modelers who actually model. I’ve learned to ignore those people.

    I don’t think it’s going to change (i.e. human nature) but I applaud Trevor and anyone else who voices opposition to such insensitivity. I haven’t seen Jim’s article, but from the photo shown on this post it looks to me like he’s a fantastic modeler who deserves positive recognition.

  8. This beggars belief. I’ve had some shindigs with some people on UK forums, because I like to speak the truth…about magazines etc., not people, but I know that these people have carried on having a go, calling me names, calling my abilities into question (even though I won my first prize for model railway items when I was 14, 48 years ago and have been a professional modelmaker for 44 years.
    Since I know I am right and they are fools, I really can’t get upset about it.
    I was actually issued with a death threat by an American redkneck because he wouldn’t accept that we were talking about a European Ford Galaxy SUV and not an American Galaxie gas guzzler. He actually claimed to already know where I live! But, once again, I felt good by telling him I’d blow his brains out before he could load his gun, as an RAF marksman. That seemed to shut him up. Damned fool. I don’t even possess a gun. We’re not allowed to in England. And my marksmanship badges were gained at an RAF base when I was in the Air Cadets. But I figured he was so stupid he’d be impressed by my swagger and Good Grief, he was! You just do your own thing. The layout in that picture looks just fine to me.

  9. Well said Trevor.
    I was shocked, but not surprised (sadly) when Jim related this story.

    I don’t know if it’s the time change, the time of year, the weather or what … but everyone just seems ticked off a little more than usual lately.
    Every needs to chill out and remember TJLFT.


  10. In Sam Posey’s book, “Playing with Trains”, Sam recounts the stories of certain Dallas-area modelers going to Malcolm Furlow’s house on Saturday mornings (uninvited, of course) to tell him how he “was doing it wrong.” This was in the late 1980s. Apparently this trolling thing isn’t new…

    • Malcolm quit writing for the model press on account of the critics. Now his western art is collected from New Mexico to Montana, and I doubt that he misses the model railroad critics at all.

      • I’ve never cared much for Malcolm Furlow’s work. Just not my cup of tea. A little to fanciful, but there’s no denying his extraordinary talent, and his San Juan Central was great.

        That’s too bad about his quitting writing because of the harsh criticism. Seems that this has been a part of the hobby for way too long. I recall a story where, I think, RMC published a John Allen article and MR got nasty letters about too much John Allen. Too bad those people didn’t submit an article about *their* wonderful masterpiece instead!

      • Out of the frying pan, into the fire. There are critics everywhere…some people call themselves “foodies” after watching hells kitchen. Lets face it, those on the cutting edge of their art are always ridiculed by the wannabe’s.

  11. I cant say im surprised. I belonged to a few narrow gauge groups/ blogs. When I mentioned I model Modern Narrow Gauge I was snubbed by the narrow gauge community. I mentioned two names and the insult quickly ended, Bob Hayden and Dave Frary. Of course most will recognize them as the builders of the Carrabasett and Dead River.
    But to actually go looking for and finding someone’s phone number just to call is way over the top. I have forwarded this post to every modeler I know. It shows exactly what I’ve been saying for a long time. Its so easy to attack someone when you don’t have to look into their eyes. So sad.

  12. Thanks for an awful post Trevor. Great that you bring this subject up, but awful that such skuzz balls exist. I may or may not agree with what a particular model railroader does, but there’s no reason not to be civil about it, at least agree to disagree. Likewise, I can see constructive criticism, if appropriate and done in a positive manner, but to bash like that is ridiculous and unacceptable.

    Thank you again for posting this.

  13. Wow,

    Who has the time to troll and bash other people?…These individuals should just go back to the basement and build something in silence….when I started my blog earlier this year it was the first time I ever appeared on the internet, I’m not a facebook or twitter person. I have to many things to build and experiences to share with my son to devote time to. I always worried I would have to put up with dumb asses on the internet. So I just stayed away. Then I started reading some railroad blogs. I thought wow, look at all these people sharing and learning from each others experiences, maybe I should give it a try. So far comments have been great and i’m enjoying the blog world, but wow if someone sent me emails or phoned me to tell me I was doing a hobby wrong, I wouldn’t be the apologizing type of canadian, more the pull your sweater over your head an give you a knuckle sandwich type.


  14. I wholeheartedly agree Trevor. I can be one of the most dogmatic goobers when it comes to things I’m passionate about (ie Proto48 and 2-rail O, thank you very much Trevor, lol) That said, I would never say anything about how someone builds their model railroad, particularly when it is as well done as Jim’s work is. The fact is that he’s modeling in On30, so right off the bat, it isn’t 100% accurate, so, what difference does it make that other things are freelanced? Even with my desire to do Proto48, I truly appreciate well done 2-rail layouts … (I’m sorry, but 3-rail is difficult for me to stomach, no matter what, but I would NEVER email a person and say anything about what makes them happy …. Guess what? They have a layout, and I don’t, so I have nothing to say. It wouldn’t surprise me if these “trolls” don’t even have layouts, but have no problem critiquing someone else work when it doesn’t follow in line with what they think a chili line layout should be …. And as you say Trevor, to actually call someone on the phone and flame them, unbelievable … I was going to say “inconceivable” but I don’t think that word means what I think it means.

    It does sound like an interesting subject for an editorial, but since I don’t subscribe to MR anymore, they are unlikely to listen to me.

    Thanks for writing about this Trevor, bravo.

  15. This hobby is filled with its share of miserable curmudgeons. This is why I stopped frequenting forums and stick to blogs such as this one. But to go to the extent of tracking down someone’s phone number in order to express displeasure with their modelling efforts goes above and beyond trolling…it’s a sign of sickness brought on by a dangerous level of obsession not dissimilar to those who are too deeply into video games or their kids’ sporting endeavours. These are not normal, well-adjusted folks.


      • That’s probably the case, Pieter.

        I think we can do things to counter it, though. For example, moderators can ban group members who troll. Forum hosts can block them. And when we encounter unacceptable behaviour, we can make sure those moderators and hosts know about it – for example, through posts like this one.

        The message should be loud and clear: rudeness will not be tolerated. Nor will invasions of privacy!


  16. Really well said Trevor, and it really makes me call myself to task: have I ever done anything like what the trolls did? Have I ever implied a singular and snobby “right way” attitude and used a bully pulpit to advance such a premise? I hope not. It is so refreshing to see accomplished modellers coming forward in support of Jim and reminding us to chill out. Enjoy the hobby and let it be enjoyed.

    Thanks for the post.

    -Tim H (apologising for any misspelling, I’m using my iPod).

  17. Most of the modelers I know are basically Gentlemen and Ladies who understand that each layout serves the needs of the builder, not the idiot critic…

  18. I thought it was a good article and nice looking layout. It’s not what I would build but one of the great things about the hobby is that each of us can build the layout we’re interested in the space we have and then visit another layout and participate in the modelers vision. The trolls don’t have to visit and can keep their non-constructive comments to themselves. Very sad.

  19. Over 100 years ago, US President Roosevelt said this in a speech. Apparently trolls were a problem back then, too.
    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
    – Theodore Roosevelt

  20. A number of comments on this post note that Jim’s work is really nice. Yes – it is (and I’m told he’s working on a book about how he models structures with card stock and other things one might find at the art supply store).

    Keep in mind, however, that the quality of his work (or anybody’s) isn’t my point here. It doesn’t matter whether we like somebody’s modelling, or hate it. What matters is, it’s their hobby and they have a right to enjoy it without having their privacy invaded. Full stop.


  21. So much for “Model Railroading is Fun” or whatever the tag line MR uses is (it escapes me at this moment.

    Its attitudes like those that have gone after Jim that have kept me from joining clubs or groups or going to shows with my models. Fear of rejection and belittling because i am not a mad rivet counter, but someone whose main goal in the hobby is to have fun and model/build what interests me and to a level of detail/quality that makes me happy and proud of what i’ve accomplished.

    My current projects are all over the spectrum, building models of the Toronto Railway Museum collection (through kits, kitbashing, repainting, 3D printing, you name it); i’ve just started a project to turn a small switching shelf i never finished and primarily use as a 3ft long test track in my apartment into a ficitious UK Colliery Railway shed/yard and am building 3 locomotive kits, two non-operative Dapols for effect and a working Andrew Barclay 0-4-0 model of NCB 22 at the Bowes Railway using a Resin body and Hornby Mechanism; a 3D model of a unique CNR Self Propelled Car and its trailers (whenever i can afford the printing!); and, researching the Hamilton and Northwestern between Georgetown and Barrie for a possible layout if i ever have a home to build it in!

    What’s the point of my list above, that these are the things that interest me and make this hobby fun. I don’t care what others think of my interests, but the abject terror in the back of my mind at going out and showing off my work only to have someone be critical and rude in the way people have been to Jim Gore keeps me from being involved in the social part of this hobby.

    Jim’s work looks great, and i’d be quite happy with myself if i had built it, no matter what some ignorant trolls say.


    • Stephen, don’t get discouraged. I think this kind of thing is still really pretty rare. Unless I’ve been especially lucky, I’ve shared photos on groups, had a couple of modest articles published and displayed models at the regional RPM meet and never encountered anything but reasonable responses. I think most of us stand to gain more from the social side than we can loose. Worse case, go back to lone wolf status if you do encounter a high level of rude people (or change the group/meet you go to).

  22. Trevor,

    Your post certainly struck a cord with the followers of your blog. I see trolls everyday on the internet and the majority of them are benign, but to go to the lengths that this/these person(s) have gone through to do this is just unfathomable.

    My dad’s best friend is a pretty well known railroad photographer and when I was in my teens I would work for him at train shows selling his photos and to watch people, whom we would now call trolls, argue with him about aspects of a photo that he took, developed and printed was mind boggling to me. I guess it got to him in some ways as he will not answer his phone unless he knows the number calling to keep the kooks from arguing with him or demanding things of him. I know it happens to others too.


  23. Trevor:

    I picked up MR at my local hobby shop the other day and saw the article on this very layout. I quickly realized the fellow modeled the Chili Line in his minds eye. Heck, I think we all do that to some degree. John Allen, who inspired me as a kid, certainly emphasized a bit more ‘art’ than ‘science’ in his modeling. And yet he pioneered so many, many ideas that now permeate the hobby. And he in turn influenced guys like Paul Scoles, John Olsen and Malcom Furlow, among others.

    I confess that On30 is not my cup of tea, though I agree with Skip, if someone does a fine job, at eye level it it looks good, who cares? And this fellow had a reasonably complete layout that is photo ready. Cheers to him. Let’s hope he inspires others–and other manufacturers–to offer models in narrow gauge. If I was starting the hobby today, I might have chosen ‘On3’ as On30 has become a large enough market that many manufacturers offer the models in both track gauges–the market is that large. As others mention, Hayden and Frary pioneered this concept with HOn30 years ago: I wonder if they got chided?

    I wonder if we have brought this upon ourselves fueled by the model press. No less than Tony Koester has long espoused prototype modeling and practices, including layout design elements. His layout is surely beautiful, and must be something to see in operation, but I doubt it departs from what was there in the Hoosier state in 1950-something. (I find it peculiar that Mr. Koester is authoring a book on narrow gauge modelling given his favor for flatland mainline modelling). Jack Burgess and his thoroughly researched Sierra layout is another example of a model railroad at the other end of the spectrum with a narrow focus on the prototype.

    I have read the press for years, and it has influenced my own recent modeling efforts. In fact, I have some small regrets that I did not follow my own prototype more closely. I delight and enjoy time spent researching the prototype and am always learning something. As in life, flexibility and compromise go a long way in modeling. It is supposed to be fun, after all.

    Keith Hayes
    Leadville in Sn3

  24. Keith, I noticed the same sort of response from the John Allen article. I was surprised as I also was a follower of “the Maestro” from the early days, and seeing negative comments on his work left me shaking my head. We seem to live in a rather strange time, IMHO, and folks seem to be supercrytical these days.

    Heck, if you wanted to nitpick John Allen, I don’t believe I ever saw a switch stand anywhere in the layout photos. A glaring error to me, but I would never have thought to criticise him. I still model freelance and enjoy coming up with tongue-in-cheek names, which is another things the modellers of today complain about. MR is supposed to fun.

    I used to live in Leadville …. would like to see a few pics of you layout.

    Skip Luke

  25. Skip:

    Check out Darel Leedy’s C&Sn3 blog. Darel has been kind enough to share some posts of my layout. I chose Leadville in part because so much of the narrow gauge parts still exist, my Great-Grandmother lived there, and no one else has modeled the area. I am always trying to learn and advance the hobby.

    Keith Hayes
    Leadville in Sn3

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