Having recently come back to the hobby after a gap of ten years or so, am I alone in finding model railway magazines less useful than they used to be?
OK, there are some nice layout pics, but wouldn't a concentration on compact layouts be more useful for the majority of today's modellers. Otherwise magazines become little more than catalogues of box shifters, kit builders and painters.
There is very little in the way of prototype information. As we get further from the Golden Age, shouldn't there be more in the way of drawings - especially of infrastructure?
If any magazine editors read this, I give notice that I shall no longer subscribe to model railway magazines (via my newsagent), but only buy those that seem useful to me. Applying that criterion restrospectively would mean that I would have bought only one magazine this year.
Tim Christian said the following on 21/03/2006 11:32:
Have you tried *all* the magazines? My personal favourite list is RM, MR & MRJ, all of which I have on subscription. Occasionally I will look at BRM, but that seems pretty useless for 23 issues out of 24. There are others, such as MRM, but that subject area isn't really my scene.
Have you considered joining one of the specialist societies that covers your interests? Often their own magazines are very good, and in that context, I get Scalefour News, Mixed Traffic (the 3mm boys), the 2mm Scale Association magazine and the EMGS newsletters.
If I can't find lots to interest me in all that lot, then I need to take up a different hobby!
Tim Christian said the following on 21/03/2006 14:10:
That could be seen as a slightly odd comment from certain perspectives! A magazine is useful if it used to swat flies, but it is also useful if it provides something interesting to read.
The three magazines I subscribe to do all have plenty of prototype information. Not necessarily my chosen prototype, but it's still there nonetheless. There are also a lot of prototype magazines, as opposed to model magazines, that perhaps may be more appropriate.
The other possibility is that if you don't see the articles you want, then perhaps you could submit your own for publication. Magazine editors are always crying out for articles!
"Useful" is not a a description, it's an evaluation: what's useful to you may be a waste of paper and ink to someone else. Magazines research their markets carefully; the ones that don't or get it wrong don't last. The fact that magazines have changed in the ways you've mentioned merely means that most current modellers don't want to conduct the hobby the way you do. That's a fact of life, and you can't do much about it.
If you need more information about the Golden Age, then look for secondhand magazines and books that cover the relevant years/decades. There's a lot out there - many preservation societies offer such material in their shops. Visit with a camera, and take pictures of the Golden Age items on display. You might even join a couple societies, but be warned, helping out with a preservation society can seriously reduce model railway time. :-)
If you want more articles about building from scratch or modifying kits, well, editors can only publish what's written, and less and less of that is in fact written. I run a very small hobby shop, and even older modellers who grew up with kits and scratchbuilding now prefer ready to run models. The two main reasons: Time (it takes a lot of time to assemble a fleet of locos and wagons) and Skill (most of us are not capable of building to the quality that is now available.)
The only one I can get locally (in Poughkeepsie, NY) is BRM. I buy it anyway because I want the shop to keep carrying what few British magazines it does. Even though I would rather there were more meat in it.
They also carry Backtrack of all things, plus Railway Magazine.
I also get Railway Archive, MRJ and Great Western Journal on subscription from England.
I agree. I am a member or the Gauge O Guild And the Broad Gauge Society - both of which do excellent magazines for their members.
I think I agree with Tim. I've got a large collection of magazines dating back to 1957, when I started getting them in my teens. The magazines up to around the nineties I would consider as suitable for archiving since their content had items which could be of long term use - prototype plans of locos, rolling stock, buildings, track layouts, etc.; items of prototype interest angled at modellers, and specific modellers items like scratchbuilding of models , buildings and trackwork.
Over the past ten or so years, I've bought a few magazines but none of them came close to the standard of the earlier magazines in content. Prototype drawings are few, and construction articles seem to be based around specific kits. I took Model Rail on a regular basis for a few years, but found its content occasionally interesting, but seldom of use, either in the short term or in the longer term.
I suspect that part of the reason could well be costs. I had some correspondence with the editorial team at Model Rail over some locomotive drawings which appeared a year or so ago and which had a few glaring errors. It was admitted that the drawing had been done by a graphic designer on staff who did not have an appreciation of the finer details of steam locomotive design, since that's what their budget would stand. Engaging someone appropriate to do a 'proper' drawing would have cost too much - even a modeller with the drawing skills would be looking for a reasonable fee for several days work, if you take into account all the research necessary. Doing an item like the features on locomotives which Roy Dock did in Model Railways in the '70s would be out of the question - a good loco drawing (usually centre page fold out), a large selection of good photographs, Bernard Wright's descriptive sketches and a stack of prototypical information. I got the impression that most of the Model Rail editorial was provided by their own in-house staff which would keep their costs to a predictable level.
I suspect also that there are not the people around today who have a lot of information to hand and who are willing to provide it for publication at a relatively cheap rate - i.e. they had done all the research (and possibly drawings) for their own interests and were willing to allow them to be published at a rate which might have been lower than if the articles had been specially commissioned. Or it could be that these people, if they are around, find it better to use their information to write books since there seems to have been a growth in specialist railway books over the past two or three decades. Bob Essery and (the late) David Jenkinson are probably examples of this since they started writing articles in the Modeller in the mid-60s.
And a particular hobby horse of mine is that our magazines very rarely reflect the 'modern' scene in their detailed articles, and by 'modern', I mean from the 1950s onwards. You try and find good prototypical details about locos, rolling stock, etc., and you have to search hard for very little. I am looking for a good drawing, or prototype details, of a Class 20. I have some 4mm scale drawings from two books which of some use, but otherwise there is very little on a loco which has been around in large numbers for nearly fifty years.
My model archive goes back to 1948, and my prototype archive (originals) to the late 1800s. As far as modelling is concerned, the 'usefulness' or 'suitable for archiving' (a much better description) of magazines post 1995 or so is very low.
It is curious that drawings are so few and far between seeing that computer drawing packages make this so much easier. I use them to draw up a large proportion of my models, and to create assembly or drilling templates.
Having edited a magazine (not rail related) many years ago, I appreciate the reliance on submitted material to keep the ads apart. Since this material necessarily reflects the broad state of the hobby, perhaps we are mostly RTR buyers and kit bashers - though even building kits usually requires prototype information.
Having found at least one ally, I shall go into the loft and look through my archives, and save my money for s/h issues and useful books!
You do have a bit of a head start on me there. In 1957 I was... well, actually I wasn't for another 9 years, and it was another 15 years before I was buying magazines!!!
I guess this really comes down to individual tastes. I will occasionally rifle though a magazine looking for a specific article, only to emerge hours or days later having scanned through the last decade's worth! I think this is true of RM, where I think the standards now are pretty much as they were 25 years ago when I started buying it (apart from that interminable series on how to cut up an N-gauge wagon to make it look exactly the same as the one in the previous issue!) I also had a massive stack of magazines on other interests (no, not that sort of interest!), and in looking back through I decided they simply weren't worth keeping. Doing the same exercise on my model railway magazines resulted in me buying binders (with the exception of BRM). I will admit though that it was an article in BRM years ago that rekindled my interest in actually doing something about my model railway interest
- now that is a useful magazine, and I have kept it!
I think you are right in saying that MR is produced to a cost over accuracy. Series also seem to have a habit of disappearing - did Chris ever get his "Lion" finished???
I don't know about CAD packages being all that quick. :-) I was required to do a drawing of a Midland spinner for the front cover of the S Scale Model Railway Association handbook some years ago. I copied from Maskelyne's "Locomotives I have Known" and I had the basic drawing done in two or three days - loco only, no tender. But going over the drawing and fine tuning it to get it looking just right seemed to take ages - like getting the shape of the Johnson chimney with its tapers correct. I know that drawing spoked wheels can be a lot quicker - draw one spoke then create a circular array to draws the rest in less that a second - but drawing single lines can take just as long as by hand.
And with small scale drawings you sometimes have to take into account the resolution of your printer and which set of dots its going to jump to when it should be printing "in between" them. If you print out a small scale panelled coach drawing, you can sometimes see this effect in varying widths of panelling where the printer has rounded in an apparently 'random' manner and given thin or thick panels when they should all have been the same width. As printer heads get finer in their resolution, this problem diminishes, but the problem is still there. So with CAD you sometimes have to print out the drawing then check for such problems, then go back in and move a line by a minute fraction of an inch (or mm) so that its position rounds the other way to get things looking right.
Funny thing is - I remember the magazines in the 50s actually having quite a lot of content referring to the railways as they then were. You would get an article on the new BR Standard loco just arrived, and J.N.Maskeleyne was doing a regular column in the MRN which reflected as much on the then present day railways as the more historical railways.
I think it was from the mid-60s onwards, when the LMS Society started up and started writing articles and presenting drawings on the LMS that the magazines all seemed to start shifting their main interest to Grouping and pre-Grouping to the (almost) exclusion of anything up to date. And the advent of P4, Scale7, etc seemed to be tied in to the same eras :-)
Since you do in fact use CAD to draw up your models, etc, why not write an article? It would be both interesting and useful.
If you know what you are doing, sure, the computer can make some things easier. But if you are given a set or erection drawings and photographs and told to make a nice looking drawing of the Beasley and Stumpdown Light Railway's 0-2-2T, the computer will at best make it easier to delete mistakes and start over. It's not at all easy to interpret a drawing of a machine you don't understand.
For the average modeller, a scale drawing is just a pretty picture: you need quite a bit of knowledge and skill to convert the information in the drawing into parts ready for assembly. And as your comment shows, a large part of that interpretation will consist of making more drawings. H'm....
A lot of experts don't realise how much of what seems obvious to them is less clear than mud to the rest of us.
Could this be in part because drawings don't exist as they used to, even at the places they make 304.8 mm/ft scale trains? To a growing extent the real ones are all designed on computer, and so complete paper drawings of the sort we like aren't produced as such.
No doubt sooner or later someone will build a factory where you more or less load steel in one end, click a mouse button to activate the robots, and a new loco/multiple unit/tram comes out the other end of the plant.
A while ago I spoke to someone from a real railway magazine, and he said that modern train builders won't supply decent drawings to them as they either simply don't exist, or are "confidential".I guess getting a decent drawing done to order won't be cheap, either.
Or, indeed, push a button and have a model that is almost, but not entirely, the wrong shape come out at the other end.. Surely no-one would do that? I can think of two examples of wagons where the side elevation has been taken as the reference point, without apparent checks being made against photos or plans/end elevations. In one, the brake shoes come out of the secondary suspension hangers, instead of behing behind them and in line (approximately) with the wheels. In the other, which persisted for a very long time, the original drawing had obviously been printed back-to-front, as the brake levers were to the LHS of the V-hanger. I can also think of a book on modelling freight stock which has only one drawing of a prototype wagon, and that of one which is commercially available, despite there being numerous photos of the author's scratch-built models. Brian