Thoughts on the new RMC and FRMR

While the hobby publishing industry continues to exist in a state of flux, there’s good news in the form of two magazines – one rescued from oblivion, the other brand new.

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(The new RMC: Much-needed improvements)

I’ve now had a chance to do a couple of read-throughs of the January, 2015 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman magazine. And in general, I like what I see.

There’s no question that the design is superior to the old magazine, with: larger, glossy pages; cleaner layout; more readable fonts; better graphics; and improved colour.

As for content, the first issue of the “new” RMC has four features – which may sound light, but they’re all fairly long. For example, editor Stephen Priest has devoted nine pages for a diesel painting and weathering article (by Efram Ellenbogen). Even with the more relaxed text, that’s a meaty article.

I like that: I would frankly prefer to see fewer articles in each issu, with more depth to each article, instead of a larger number of shorter features (as some other popular magazines have done). Over time, consistent presentation of meatier features will create a powerful title for craftsman modellers.

I’m also encouraged by Stephen’s first editorial, in which he lays out his plans for the magazine. Stephen’s saying the right things, to my mind. For example:

“Our focus will be on the craftsman: a person who makes beautiful objects by hand: a person who is very skilled at doing something.”

“RMC will concentrate on articles and features that support learning and sharing myriad model-building skills.”

At my stage in the hobby, exposure to new techniques and skills is exactly what I want – and need – from a hobby publication.

Finally (and this relates to yesterday’s post about focus), I’ve heard privately from a few friends and fellow RMC authors who have reported that the new owners are once again paying for features – and paying promptly. I’m also told that problems with subscriptions purchased from the previous owners but never fulfilled are now being resolved.

Fulfilling subscriptions and paying the authors (if payment has been promised as part of the author-magazine relationship) are two essential steps for running a successful publication. I know for a fact that the previous publisher’s reluctance to pay made it difficult for the editorial team to attract and retain contributors.

Some big names and accomplished modellers in the hobby – exactly the types that RMC needed to provide content – were burned and refused to write for RMC under the former publisher. Others, hearing the tales of non-payment, shied away from submitting their work.

Resolving this issue was critical – and it appears to be fixed. Hopefully, former authors and those who considered it but did not contribute will give the new RMC a chance. I know I will, as soon as I have a project worthy of print.

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(Techniques, presented well)

I’ve also had a chance to read not one, but two issues of Finescale Railway Modelling Review – the new craftsman magazine out of the UK. This magazine was announced back in September, and I immediately took a one-year trial subscription. I’m very glad I did.

(I should mention that my first issue did not show up in a timely manner. I emailed the publisher and learned that my subscription had fallen into a computer-glick black hole. That said, the publisher apologized and extended my subscription by one issue to compensate me for my inconvenience: a class act!)

FSMR appears to fall somewhere between the very high-end craftsmanship typically presented in Model Railway Journal, and the bog-standard ready-to-run layouts and simple projects often featured in more general interest UK magazines.

And that’s a neat place to be. For example, in the first two issues I’ve read articles about: retrofitting finer-scale wheels to an RTR steam locomotive; working with white metal kits, including soldering techniques; weathering locomotives and rolling stock; scratch-building brick structures; scratch-building gas pipe fittings; and more.

The content is UK-focused, but techniques tend to be universal and as a Canadian who has been exposed to British railway modelling all his life I’m well-versed in terms like “splashers” and “tumblehome”.

The design of this magazine is exquisite, which is no surprise since the presentation is done by Roy C. Link. I have several of the books designed and published by Roy – including the now out-of-print book on the Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway – and they are, to my mind, the gold standard of railway publishing.

With these two publications to look forward to, 2015 is looking like a great year to be in the hobby.

9 thoughts on “Thoughts on the new RMC and FRMR

  1. Trevor,
    I find it interesting that two of the three “main” North American model railroad magazines (RMC and MRH) proclaim their focus to be the humans behind the modeling. I think the editorial staffs in both efforts have found a much better focus for their efforts. It seems in the “old days” the staff of the other publication was much more focused on the modelers rather than repeating the basic processes so repetitively.

    • Hi Don:
      You’re right. And that’s an interesting article, because the engine house is a diorama built specifically to enable that type of photography. It was built as a shadowbox – one side open for the camera, with a light box fitted to the roof. Lights were then positioned to create the mood – for example, small lights were pointed down the smoke hoods.
      There’s another article on diorama photography in which the modeller/author achieves some great results with an iPhone camera.
      I hope FSMR continues to publish model photography features. It’s a nice addition to the body of knowledge…

  2. Trevor

    The “new” RMC is a step in the right direction. My electronic version and lack of retailers don’t allow me to appreciate the physical properties.
    With few exceptions, RMC was a collection of superficial articles that sometimes yield a novel technique. I had submitted a large article once at the request of the editor. It sat on his desk for a while. In the interim, I read about the author payment issues and decided to withdraw the material.
    Model builders are becoming a rara avis. Maybe RMC can revive the interest.
    I wish the magazine well and will try to support them.

    Gene Deimling

  3. The latest RMC has a wonderful set of scale drawings, something rarely seen in recent years (MR gave up printing drawings years ago, claiming nobody used them anymore and they were too expensive to produce). The RMC locomotive subject is of no interest to me a narrow gauge modeler, but the art is great to admire.


  4. I’m really pleased thus far with the new RMC. And I appreciate that the new owners made the decision to pay former debt and honor existing subscriptions (I had just entered a multi-year renewal a few months before the demise of the magazine). Early indications are that the magazine will be a class act.


  5. I’m pretty impressed with the new RMC and I think the WRP/PRP bunch are great people with a lot of integrity, so I’m very optimistic. I also like the fewer but deeper feature article philosophy.

    I’m a little sad to see that that in their consolidation of the their RailFan portfolio they chose to fold RailRoad Illustrated into RF&RR but I can’t blame them — they end up with a stronger position against Trains.

    • We’ll see, Todd…
      The biggest hurdle with “prototype to model” articles is getting photos to illustrate the feature. I either need to take them myself, or acquire rights (and if the latter, the photos have to be of sufficient quality for publication). But if I get the opportunity to shoot a prototype that would be suitable for modelling, then it would be a natural subject for an article.

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