Inadequate obituary in MR

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Mike R, Aug 21, 2004.

  1. Mike R

    Mike R Member

    My October MR has arrived. I believe the VERY brief obituary for the late, great John Armstrong, is totally inadequate for a man of his stature in our hobby.
    Were Al Kalmbach and Linn Westcott around, this insult to a prolific MR author, and true legend would not have been permitted. MR management...Shame on you all !
  2. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Mike,Sorry but a lot of todays advance modelers doesn't think John was all that great.His layout designs was from a by gone era and not up todays advanced layout designs.. :( They feel that there are others far superior in layout designs suited more for todays modelers(whatever that means :confused: ) then John.So,MR keeping up with the "todays" modelers and promoting such advanced ideas more then likely give John a short obituary for that reason.I think were Al Kalmbach and Linn Westcott around it would have been the same seeing how advanced the hobby has become over the last few years.. :(
    But I dissent..I feel that John's layout designs played a factor in todays advanced layout designs even though I didn't always agree with his layout designs no more then I do another well known upstart layout designer found in the pages of MR.
    Now Frank Ellison was far superior in his layout ideas then John seeing that Frank promoted the idea of staging yards which has almost become a standard in todays layout designs.
    Now to short change John's obituary was wrong of MR..They should have more respect for a man that wrote layout books and had several articles in MR.. :(
  3. "Advanced?"

    I've looked at several Armstrong layouts, all of which seem to be classic to me.

    A good model railroad design is a good model railroad design, whether it's from 1939 or 2004. Whether is uses 'advanced' techniques, or its a simple oval made from sectional track.

    Armstrong was one of the most important model railroaders of the 20th century. The idea of giving him short shrift in Model Railroader is really quite sad.
  4. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    He was from an era in the hobby the few who participate in it today grew up in or recognize. Westcott, Allen, Ellison, McClanahan, Armstrong...all were from a time when "ready to run" still required extensive tinkering and dyed sawdust and lichen were the ground foam of their day. There was a seriousness to their hobby that also had a measure of whimsy and fantasy. Unfortunately, that is sadly losing out to the overwhelming availability of so many prototypically accurate details and products that meet the needs of today's "plunk, plug and play" hobbiest. One of the things I appreciate about The Gauge is it's unwitting ability to bring the two worlds together, hopefully to the benefit of both.

    As one whose modeling hopefully reflects that faraway time and place and it's founders, a toast as the torch gets passed on to the next generation. It's now your's to run with or drop...

    Attached Files:

  5. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    I guess I would have expected a one or two page retrospective of Armstrong's work as a tribute. Maybe MR is planning something like that for the future?
  6. trainbud

    trainbud New Member

    Shaygetz, I agree with your evaluation. Today's modelers don't have that 'core' group of modelers and authors to learn from. Where can they go?
    Westcott, Ellison, ARMSTRONG......
    While Armstrong may not have been as well known, his design approach of 'givens and druthers' is exceptionally useful ~ but do today's new modelers know of that formula? Why do you think there are so many who have problems with 'disappointing results' when they try to design their own? Armstrong's efforts will remain classic merely because the thought process is explained.
    John Armstrong will remain 'good reading' because the basics are taught. He didn't merely say, 'this is what *I* did; good luck with yours'. His gentle humor and ability to encapsulate good railroading practices, along with making the reader think about his own 'givens and druthers', will keep him at the forefront of model railroading.

    Don't believe me? Pick up a copy of 'Six HO Railroads You Can Build'. And really read it, not merely check out the designs and illustrations. That's one book that is a virtual primer for anyone who wants to build their own.

    Does anyone know if Ellison and Armstrong were friends? Did Armstrong help Ellison design the Delta Lines?

  7. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Shaygetz,You summed it up nicely..Sadly todays newer modelers have no idea how great things truly are in the hobby or else they would not whine if a locomotive is not 110% correct..I have always suspect most could not build a Hobbytown of Boston,Varney or Penn-Line locomotive kit if they had to,after all many has problems with the simple Athearn kit-or so I have read on different forums..Yes we older modeler are a breed apart and can readily identify with
    Westcott, Allen, Ellison, McClanahan, Armstrong and the other older greats that lead the way through the early years..
    As for me,heck,I freely admit to being a dinosaur in the hobby that still uses the tried and proven ways and yet to use foam as a layout base or glue my track down..I still use spikes and the ballast glue will help hold my track in place.I went DCC but,from time wonder why when DC does the same job at fraction of the cost and even at that only 6 of my 104 locomotives is DCC/Sound equipped for home use.The others get used at the club which of course is DC and will probably remain so in the years to come as the majority of the members feel DCC is not worth the added costs..
    SS,You are probably among the very few younger modelers that feels that John's layout are classic..Most younger modelers look to the newer advanced layout designers.The day of the basic 4x8 oval with industrial sidings is ever so slowly fading from the hobby..Most of todays advanced modelers say no layout is better then a 4x8 with its train set design and curves..Some even thumb their noses at industrial switching layouts..Of course these modelers may never build that dream layout they plan and re-plan with every new layout method they read about..How sad!!
    SS you said:A good model railroad design is a good model railroad design, whether it's from 1939 or 2004. Whether is uses 'advanced' techniques, or its a simple oval made from sectional track.
    Sorry,That type of thinking is not up to todays advanced layout thinking. A 1939 layout will never fit into today modeling world no more then a sectional track layout does.You see both are relics of a by gone era and to be scorned according to advanced layout designers..No,realism in layout designs is now a key part of advanced layout designs not your basic loop de loop layout designs.Never mind if you don't have the basement needed for such a large layout or it may take years to build.Not to mention the research needed for such a prototypical correct layout
    set in the fall of 1977-what color was the tree leaves? Was that building there in the fall of 1977? Get the picture? And that my young friend is what the hobby is slowly coming to in layout designs by the main stream hobbiest lead by the likes of Tony Koester,Bill Darnaby and other such like advanced modelers and layout designers.Good,bad or ugly time will surely tell..
  8. Iron Goat

    Iron Goat Member

    Model railroaders not of that era (Kalmbach, Allen, Westcott, Ellison, and Armstrong) need to realize how "blessed" we all are today, in a time when just about everything a model RR'er could ask for, is available, and of much higher quality than anyone could have dreamed of just a few years ago.

    Take John Allen, for example... during the wartime shortages of WWII, when Allen could not find wheels for his baggage carts, he used clear, unexposed Kodak film and hand drew the hub, spokes, and wheel rim, cut it out and glued them in place. Anyone looking at his "close-up" photos in MR would never have guessed that the wheels were just "drawings" on celuloid. Allen, Armstrong, and the rest produced landmark achievements in our hobby. In their time, they were the pace-setters for the rest of us.

    When I see the awesome layouts that are possible today, I give full credit to the folks that have created them.... but I also know they have stood on the shoulders of "giants" to do so.

    High Greens and Clear Tracks....... Bob :thumb:
  9. Mike R

    Mike R Member

    Nice to see so much appreciation for the old timers, and how they created an element in which the hobby could develop and grow.
    As has been said here, all too often, there is scorn and derision for the old timers and their methods. This is frequent at the Atlas forum, where I no longer visit, and it is a bit too prevalent at the forums as well.
    I suppose the 'new breed' of modellers, who have no respect for the past, would also think Ghandi was an ineffective communicator because he had no cellphone.....or Edison was too slow a thinker because he had no laptop computer.
  10. N Gauger

    N Gauger 1:20.3 Train Addict

    You know - I think you guys kinda missed the point. :) I never knew of John Armstrong. I probably have seen is work, but I never really pay attention to names.... :(

    This thread, as a whole, "is" a fitting tribute to John Armstrong. You guys are teaching me about someone that was obviously looked up to, and was a great model railroader. Here's your chance!!!!! We're a "published" Bboard here on The web... Lets hear some more tributes!! :D :D :D
  11. DT1967

    DT1967 New Member

    It will be interesting if MR does a longer article on John Armstrong. MR may not have had enough time before the deadline to do an appropriate article. It's 8/21 and you have the october MR. I would guess the deadline was near the beginning to middle of July.

    Track planning for realistic operation is a classic regardless of your layout construction methods. I learned more reading that book than any other book about model railroading.

  12. cprtrain

    cprtrain New Member

    I agree that MR should publish a story to highlight John's accomplishments and contributions to the hobby.

    I met John at the 1981 NMRA National Convention in San Mateo. I told him that his book, "Trackplanning For Realistic Operation", was the best book that I had read on the subject of model railroading. I found him to be very humble and gracious.

    My belief is that John and Frank Ellison did more for the development of layout planning and model railroad operation in the period prior to 1975 than anyone else. Since then, we've enjoyed many others who came forward and as a result, now have the LDSIG and OPSIG which have moved layout design and operations to new highs.

    I feel honoured that I had a chance to meet John and I still believe that his book(s) have set a standard for the hobby.
  13. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    What is "todays" modeler our ever so wise Brakie (sarcasticaly) speaks of?

    Funny, what's new about our hobby? Look in the back issues. What aspect wasn't around in the 70's? Heck, most of it was around inthe 60's, 50's, even earlier. Only difference is you can buy it now instead of building it. More stuff available off the shelf. The hobby is the same. It's still sits on your shoulders. You can buy all the stuff you want, and if you don't have any immagination, it will look like a toy.

    MRRing has been left behind by technology. You might think we're high tech, but if you look at advancments in nearly everything else, you'll see MRRing has been left in the dust. A $30 VCR has more electronics in it than all MRR electronics combined. Surely you could fit all the different brands of DCC stuff on one IC smaller than your PC CPU chip.

    It's like boats, there was a time when ships were made of wood and men were made of steele.

    One of the best assets our hobby has is the old back issues. They teach us to think. Read em. :thumb:
  14. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Jon,If'n you haven't meet todays super modelers and advance layout designers you're better off....Trust me you don't really want to get to know 'em..These guys even give the rivet counters a hard time and that's saying something!!! :eek:

    The scariest part there is another group that scares the bejibbers out of me.I know a small group of the"Prototypical Correct Modelers" or PCMs for short as they call theirselves...They research each locomotive or car to see what condition it was in say in 1990 and model that engine or car right town to the dents,dings,weld spots and crack door glass in the locomotives..Their layout is 110% correct down to the license plates on the automobiles and trucks.
    I was invited to one of their regional meetings..I really felt out of place but,did enjoy looking at their excellent models.Their models look so real you could almost smell the hot oil and diesel fumes.I must admit these guys don't half step with their modeling.These guys even make the Prototype Modeler's Group look like amateurs IMHO.. :eek:
  15. Fred_M

    Fred_M Guest

    Maybe they thought you had promise Larry? I'm sorry MR didn't give John Armstrong his
    due. Model Railroading should be fun, it's a hobby. We all need to remember that. The
    guys Larry speak of probably get their joy from competing with each other more than
    actually modeling. Some like to arrange their RTR stuff on a shelf and call it a layout.
    Some people like to scenic using yard waste and cow dung. Some like to build tanks,
    cars, and starships, but we are all Modelers and for most of us it's a hobby. I found it's
    best not to criticizes anothers work because you can find someone else doing it better than
    you. John Armstrong wrote starter books to help new people get started before there was
    an internet. For that fact along my hats off to him. Some think these forums are the
    cutting edge of the hobby. Sorry, we are not. We are just a subgroup who love Model
    Railroaders and who use the computer. I was reminded of that the otherday when visiting
    a layout that put mine to shame. I made the comment of why the owner didn't join us at
    the gauge and share his marvelous work. He was embarrassed and amitted he didn't own
    a computer. Somewhere this guy had learned modeling. I looked around and noted he
    had lots of books written by such men as John Armstrong. I have a feeling them books
    will be around long after this forum is forgotten. That's John's legacy, he put the word to
    paper and now his memory will live on maybe forever. Fred
  16. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    Now THAT'S innovative modeling :eek: Start using that and yer missus will allow you to buy the latest Overland offering just to stop......say, maybe that ain't sucha bad idea. Ya know, there is that digital Marklin Big Boy I been eyeballin'.... :p ;) :D
  17. rcwatkins

    rcwatkins Member

    After all, I found out on the net first that John had died. I may/may not have seen his work, but even 4' by 8' with industrial sidings wouldn't work for me but his trackplans might. Why? For one thing, having prototypical perfection would be impossible for me, heck I can't even cut a sign right! :eek:
  18. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Brakie, take heart. I haven't meet the modeleres you refer to so maybe I can't understand where they're coming from. However, John Armstrong's planning concepts were not outdated. He drew plans for people of every experience level. So, maybe those super planners you know of weren't aware of all John's work. His Track Planning for Operation book is outstanding. I've seen plans he made for specific prototypes that were very faithful. He also made plans without any referance to a prototype whatsoever. This, in my opinion, makes him far more talented than those who sacrifice the ability to fit a bit more in in order to faithfully reproduce an exact trackage arraingement. I can certainly respect someone who builds a model railroad with the exact track arraingement of some town or such, but no great thought was needed to do so. A great deal of research, yes. And I suppose someone can present a case where a great deal of thought was required to do so. I don't mean to offend anyone. But John could design whatever a client wanted. He presented his methods of doing so. To my knowledge, they were his original ideas. Those ideas, no doubt, made planning more pleasurable for many, I know they did for me.
    What might make any of his work "outdated"? In the 50's "spaghetti bowl" plans were common. Sometime in the 70's (I'm guessing) linear planning became "the thing to do" I happen to agree, but Armstrong was there, he designed plenty of model railroads using that theory. So what, in the minds of those you refer to, leads to the conclusion he wasn't up with the times? Perhaps his 3rd rail O gauge line with scenery from "back then"? I'll admit I wasn't so impressed with his modeling, tho it was in fact very good for his time. The catch being for his time. His modeling could be looked at as behind the times, not his planning. And as others said, his sense of humor was wonderful. I enjoyed reading everything he wrote. Whether it fit my time period/location or not.
    I haven't seen Octobers MR yet, probably won't for another week or so. I'm surprised to hear they made short mention of his passing. As someone stated above, it may have to do with getting it added to the issue before press time. I find it hard to believe that they won't devote several pages to him in November. Heck, if for no other reason than it will sell mags. He was, no matter how many of todays modelers don't know it, an icon. I wish I had met him.

  19. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    John passed away on July 28th. If the October issue is out now less than one month later, that obit was the last thing put in the mag. Given the lead time to put together a monthly magazine, get it edited, proof read, printed, and mailed out, I'm surprised that they were able to put anything in about John's passing. I would expect that the November issue will have a more suitable tribute to John. If I tried to recount all that John has pioneered in model railroading over the years, I'm sure I would miss more than I would remember, but one thing that comes to mind is the "mushroom." Over the years the goal of any model railroader trying to model a class 1 railroad whether prototypical, or freelanced, has been to get as much railroad in their given space as possible. Does any design put more railroad in a given space than the "mushroom?"
  20. RailRon

    RailRon Active Member

    When I seriously started model railroading in the '60s I designed my first layout plans in the best spaghetti bowl fashion. Then I stumbled over Armstrongs track planning book - and only then I realized what a (model) RR really is and what you can do operation-wise.

    He was also the man who brought forward very basic concepts like the 'Armstrong squares' for easy track plan sketching, the 'Reverted loop' to enter a staging yard in a confined space and (Russ mentioned it) the "mushroom". He also advocated minimum standards in track layout for reliable operation (like curve easements, length of straight track between S-curves etc.) And since he designed all his plans for realistic operation, IMHO his ideas still aren't outdated at all.

    I agree with Russ that the short obituary in MR most probably was a last-minute-addition. And I sincerely hope that there will be some more appreciation about John Armstrong's work in the next issue.


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