Model Railroader. then and now

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by trainworm, Dec 28, 2003.

  1. trainworm

    trainworm Member

    there seem to be quite a few discussions that come up about weither MR was better back a few years ago, or is better now. or weither there are more ads and less content now as opposed to then. well, since i have no life whatsoever, i did some searching and some calculations.

    i picked a random month of MR, in this case, July. one issue from 1983 and one from 2003.

    first, the number of full page ads or pages completely covered with ads: 1983 - 45. 2003 - 33

    total ads: 1983 - 231. 2003 - 190

    pages completely covered with content and no ads. this includes the classifieds and the dealer directory: 1983 - 59. 2003 - 66.

    total pages: 1983 - 148. 2003 - 140

    pages of classifides: 1983 - 3 1/2. 2003 - 5 partial pages, shared with ads.

    dealer directory pages: 1983 - 9 1/2. 2003 - 7 1/2.

    total numbers of advertisers (listed in ad index): 1983 - 199. 2003 - 175.

    and last, the contents of the magazines and number of pages and photos/diagrams for each.
    Superdetailing a pacific coast shay: 8, 29
    conrail track scale and switchmans shanty (structure drawings): 2, 12
    zero 1 for N scale (hornbys command control): 4, 12
    Fred Gills diamond valley line (layout feature): 5, 7
    Oscar Neuberts O scale SP F7 a and B units (model of the month):1, 1
    Seaboard Coast Lines BQ23-7 (locomotive drawings):4, 13
    a USRA Mikado in brass Pt 6 (scratchbuilding a brass steamer): 4 2/3, 12
    the delaware and lehigh rr (layout planning feature): 2, 3
    when is a rock mold not a rock mold? (using plastic fishing worms to make rock molds): 1 1/3, 4
    repowering mantuas camelback mikado: 1 1/3, 4
    improving the looks of your iron ore jimmies: 2, 5
    48 star flags: 2/3 (little photos of flags you can cut out and use)
    all aboard: scratchbuilding your first wood structure: 3, 12
    the sierrs silverton rr (layout feature: 2, 4

    Departments: off the train wire, railway post office, schedules, trade topics, hobbyshop window, at the throttle, trackside photos(4 photos), all aboard, club news, cartoons(2), bull session, railroaders library, paint shop, MR clinic, index of advertisers

    Converting a big layout to DCC: 5, 5
    Heart of a community (a small town depot you can model): 3, 10
    the lost art of soldering: 4, 6
    a model railroad work of art (building the chicago MSI layout): 7, 9
    driving the golden spike (high tech diorama): 4, 7
    David Haines Raton pass layout : 9, 10
    Modeling a creek: 3, 8
    8 tips for better passenger cars: 4, 13
    realistic stainless steel: 2, 6
    the crystal river district (ho, hon3 track plan): 3, 4

    Departments: at the throttle, railway post office, product reviews, MR news, workshop, back to basics, trackside photos(6 photos), workin on the railroad, trains of thought, dcc corner, prototype info, coming events and club memberships, cartoon, index of advertisers, editorial flashback

    well, there you go. if you havent fallen asleep by the end of this post, maybe you found new fuel for your arguments, or maybe you were proven wrong.

    one thing i get from this, the articles were much more technical and in depth back in 1983.
  2. Raildog

    Raildog Member

    MR then and now.

    Interesting post, Mr worm. Since I have quite a bit of time on my hands also. (I'm a cab driver) I get to do a lot of reading. I recently pulled out my collection of old MR's and figured I would do a little reasearch myself.

    "The Model Railroader" Vol.10 No.12 December 1943
    Total Pages: 45
    Total advertisers: 34
    Total full page ads: 5 (Lionel, Varney, Polk Hobbies, Mantua and Walthers.)
    Classified Ads: 1 1/2 pages (8 - HO, 15 - O, 5 - OO, wanted - 23)
    Dealer Directory: 64 (Some still in business!)

    Build a small station.
    Plans for a troop sleeper.
    Illinois and Western RR layout tour. (O - gauge)
    Small bridge article.
    Space saving OO guage track plan (8'x9')
    Build a six-wheel switcher Part-3 (O - guage)
    A railway in England
    A river bank. by Frank Ellison
    Troop Sleeper plans.
    See them roll (An article by a guy named "Boomer Pete" describing an unheard of 72 car long O scale train running on the Colorado and Midland RR of the Denver society of model engineers)
    From the above article:
    "Follow this four-point maintainance program:
    1. Regular lubrication.
    2. Clean wheel treads and rail.
    3. Free-working couplers.
    4. Accurate, smooth track.
    -and you too can watch the high cars roll."
    As true today as it was 60 years ago!
    Trackside photos.
    Railway Post office.
    Along the Division. (?)

    All in all, I would say that MR follows the times. Today we need less craftsman type kits and articles for the mainstream, as we can buy items undreamed of in the bygone era.

    That's why MR's and Trains, RR Model Craftsman, Railroad, etc, etc are valuable research tools. I have hundreds of old issues and every one of them has something interesting to say.


  3. Re: MR then and now.

    Absolutely! Many of those old issues are a treasure trove of info. If you're a scratchbuilder or a "super-detailer," you can't beat those old magazines for information, drawings, and photos.

    I have kept all of my model RR magazines since the first one I ever bought. My wife sort of understands but still gives me strange looks when she catches me poring over some musty 30-year-old issue of RMC... :rolleyes: :D
  4. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    I love it but you two got way too much time on your go to your room and play with your trains:p ;) :D
  5. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    TW,You are correct..The MR of today is a far cry from the old MR and it doesn't seem to be getting any better.:( Some times I feel like I am buying a magazines of ads .:eek: Every basic how to article will be repeated like a rerun on TV..How many times do we need to be told how to clean track? How many times do we need to be told what tools we need in our tool box? Are we that lame brain that we forget each year how to clean track or anything else and they feel compel to do a rerun of those type of articles??
    Some times I wonder why I even bother buying MR. :confused:
  6. geep15

    geep15 New Member

    IIRC, the articles in MR (and even Trains) were wordier back then. The argument could be made that the magazines have been "dumbed down" over time. Personally, I think that Kalmbach is leaning on ads more & more- which makes sense, as advertisement equals revenue for any magazine.

    The Atlas forum has had a thread on MR's quality and ad quantity- it was one of the least-fiery threads on that forum.
  7. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    Brakie, it may seem counter-productive to repeat articles on track-cleaning, tools required etc., but the thing is some people have only just started in the hobby and this is their first time seeing those articles.

    MRR tries to cater to both the newbie and the experienced modeller, but I find they spread themselves too thin by taking this approach. Not enough step-by-step how-to for the newbie, too much repetition for the experienced modeller, and the editorial style is so, I don't know, glib.

    Lately, although I've only been in the hobby since May/02, I've often had the feeling that I've "outgrown" MRR. Like you Brakie I already find a lot of repetition. But I keep buying it - I guess I like all the pretty pictures!

    Also, as Casey says, you can be re-reading an old issue, and suddenly something you skipped over before becomes relevant. I love it when that happens.

  8. TinGoat

    TinGoat Ignorant know it all

    Dumbed Down...

    I absolutly agree.

    MR has been dumbed down.

    If you can find a copy of HO PRIMER model railroading for all by Linn Westcott (1962) and compare it to PRACTICAL GUIDE TO HO MODEL RAILROADING (1986). Both are from Kalmbach Publishing, but what a difference 25 years makes!

    The newer book talks about DCC and modern building materials, but without the depth and detail that the older book has.

    And, yes, there are constant re-runs. There is always the annual "how to clean track" articles and how to ballast. etc...

    But to be fair, these articles are for newbies, and if we want to hobby to grow, we have to keep that in mind...

    Just like the annual "features" that they have on the nightly news cast about Hallowe'en safety for kids and how not to burn your house down with too many lights and candles at Christmas. Some people need an annual reminder...

    And, maybe some people only clean their track once a year and need the reminder...
  9. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    That's what I notice the most, is the decline in material that is not beginner level. But I think it's good tohave a magazine that focuses on this level, and I think a subscription to MR for the first year as a beginner is very helpful. 2nd year, it's time to go on to RMC :D

    I buy them used at the LHS and try to get 50's, 60's and 70's issues. Not for the volume, rahter for the content. Of course, if I see any from the 40's or 30's issues, I grab them up, often tackling a fellow modeler and fighting over it. The old, old ones are just plain cool, and it's amazing how many methods were written about that we might think are more modern :D I just bought 60 new old issues yesterday.
  10. Bill Stone

    Bill Stone Member

    I don’t really mind the number of ads in the present MR and RMC. Many of the ads are interesting, it’s a way for manufacturers to get the word out, and a way for the publishers to make money. But, that said, they ARE making plenty from advertising. So much so that the cover prices of the magazines are totally without justification.

    Also, the number of ads can reflect outside influences. In that 1943 issue for example: a] there were not as many manufacturers then, and b] many who had been in the model business were doing war-related manufacturing.

    I agree that MRR has dumbed down. (RMC is probably a better magazine than it was as late as the 60's or 70's, when it seemed much more tinplate-oriented.) Kalmbach (were they to be candid) would justify the dumbing down by saying that the hobby itself has dumbed down. But I would argue with them that the magazines should lead not follow, and they should encourage modelers to do modeling, not just encourage them to run out and buy product.

    The amazing thing, in comparing the older MRRs (particularly prior to 1965 or so) to the present, is that with little attention to “graphic design” and usually no color photography, the typical older issue had much more of interest to the average model railroader than do the present issues. And an example of how much more people oriented they were then than now, is that the typical cover photo then pictured a person doing something with a model train. As wonderful and beautiful as the current crop of professional-level photography of professional-level models and layouts is, the old way really was more informative, more entertaining, and more personal.

  11. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    I sorta lost interest in MR a few years ago. Not because of its general content but because it offered little or nothing of interest to me in my sorta of "specialized" aera of model railroading. Back when I modeled a class I railroad I was an avid fan of MR although I disagreed with a lot of their editorial policy. I'll still get a copy off the newstand now and then if there is something of interest in a particular issue. But for now Narrow Gauge and Shortline Gazette is the only mag that I'm faithful to.
  12. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Model railroading has become somewhat of a niche hobby. We have a lot of general purpose hobby shops in this area, but few really carry model railroad stuff. Most carry some Bachmann toy train stuff, Lifelike, Model power, etc. but always just the cheap toy stuff. Talk to the owners or managers, and they tell you that Athearn is just way too expensive to stock, and they are talking about blue box, not Genesis. The hobby shop that I use, has a train dept. with knowledgeable personnel, and an RC car dept. The car dept is much busier. I think the model railroading magazines have also found niches. Model Railroader is basically for newbies to the hobby, and has gotten more so. They focus primarily on building a complete layout. Most of their how to articals are centered around building some sort of small home layout either in 4x8 or a small shelf layout. They do a few articals on kitbashing buildings to fit the current project railroad. RMC, Mainline Modeler, and Model Railroading all focus more on the modeling aspect with less focus on building a layout. Therefore, I think any of those magazines are better for the experienced modeler than Model Railroader. I browse Model Railroader at the hobby shop, but I only buy it if there is an artical that looks like something I might want to build. I model the Santa Fe in the 50's so I dropped all subscriptions to model railroading magazines except the quarterly War Bonnet from the Santa Fe Historical & Modeling Society.
  13. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    When I started buying MR (late 50s), they had a second magazine called Model Trains that was aimed at the beginner. This was fairly useful as they covered most of the stuff that MR does now, leaving MR to cover the heavy scratchbuilding and superdetailing.
    One of the first issues of MR that I had contained an article on a Branchline Bucket Coaling Station. Basically a shed with a crane. I still remember that to make the buckets you rolled a piece of brass around a pencil point and then sweat soldered that to the brass that was to be the bottom. It took me about 20 years to find out what sweat soldering was.
    Model Trains had a column called Inspection Pit where Linn Westcott would describe building some kits -- usually 4 to 6 in each issue. (I think it started as an add-on to a layout building series.) A typical month would probably run from an Athearn/Mantua/Varney car to possibly a lcomotive or an Ambroid craftsman car. The articles would cover car assembly, adding Kadees, and either fixing problems or adding details.
  14. mhdishere

    mhdishere Member

    I've subscribed to MR for almost 20 years (with a break in the early 90's when my main recreational activity was working late) and can definitely see a difference in the "craftsman"-type articles. On the other hand (where I have five fingers) back then there just weren't as many good-looking kits out there as there are today. I scratch-build now because I enjoy it and because I'm cheap, even back in the mid 80's you often had to scratch-build or kit-bash if you wanted just about any industry big enough to have rail service.

    I still look forward to MR and RMC every month, I always find something useful, and I'll probably continue to subscribe. If I need detailed information that I can't find anywhere else I can usually find it on a forum, so everything's covered.

    As for "dumbing down", just about everything has. Back in the early 80's computer magazines assumed you could solder, ditto model train magazines.
  15. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    I was a subscriber to MR for years since I was about 13. I discontinued my subscription a few years ago when it seemed I was seeing a lot of repetition of intro articles and basic "how-to" information. That said, I notice really interesting articles and excellent layout pics from issue to issue so I haven't given up on MR, I just buy it at the newstand when I see one I really like.
  16. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    More thoughts:
    I think the major impression of MR now is that there are almost no shots of unfinished layouts except in construction articles. In one of my early MRs, there is a shot of John Allen's layout and you can see a hole for a turntable, ties leading up to it and the bare board under the yard. If you want shots like that today, you have to subscribe to the-gauge.
  17. belg

    belg Member

    Guys the unfortunate truth is that most magazines are falling in the same pit as MR,they have to sell more ad space just to keep up with rising costs. I totally agree with the dumbed down theory I was able to get my hands on some older MR's and the content is no longer geared toward the advanced modelers. Now that being said what other mag's do you read consistantly? I have gotten into N scale and got a subscription to model craftsman.
  18. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    After doing some thinking on this(very dangerous) I came to the conclusion that the only thing that keeps my interest up in MR is
    Tony Koester's "Train of Thought" column and very few articles.I do like the articles by Jim Six though..To bad they don't have more of Jim's type of articles..It would benefit the hobby as a whole imho.

    Now I don't really think they need to repeat the basic how to articles as that is covered each year by their beginners project layout articles anyway(not to mention their books that they always advertise in those articles) but,I suppose it does make good window dressing for MR to repeat the same basic how to articles after all it does seem to make the hobby look like its growing by leaps and bounds but,that is another subject altogether which I will not go into at this time.:D

    Food for thought:
    I fully agree that MR has in fact been dummied down over the years but sadly so has the hobby just look at all the RTR cars and engines we are seeing and now we are beginning to see more and more ready made buildings,advertisements for custom layouts and not to mention one can send his/her loco off in order to have a DCC decoder and perhaps sound added as well and perhaps to have it custom painted,decal and perhaps super detailed as well....:( Then in that light could we say that MR is just keeping up with the times?? :confused:
  19. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    That's the key, folks, find the one(s) that focus on what you like. I read Timber Times, NGSL, Finescale, and old back issues of MR, MRing, RMC, and others. Can't blame MR or others; they are a business and trying to do what sells. You can let them know what you would like to see (and would buy). I think MR has done a god job of reaching a wide group (often focusing on the beginners). In doing so, how could they not focus on the beginners, since we all tend to specialize sooner or later.

    Reading and dreaming is a big part of my hobby entertainment. So I try to read what I enjoy, as well as what I can learn from or save as reference. How could you not enjoy reading about how to make pnumatic switch machines to include building the vacumn motors outa wood (I think that was in a 40's MR) :D :D :D
  20. I've been in the hobby actively for about 5 years now, and just renewed my subscription to MR for 3 more years last month. Yeah, I whine about it from time to time, but ya know - I still think it's the best mag for the buck on model railroading.

    My subscription to Model Railroading has just expired this month and I do NOT intend to renew it. The reasons:

    (1) I just received the November issue in late December. They need to learn what it means to meet deadlines.
    (2) Content - all this year it seems like it's been sawmills and S-1's....sorry, I can only take so much of both, and I've OD'ed on both. Seems like they are doing more and more prototype info in the mag - if I want that, I'll go buy a prototype mag!

    I think I may try RMC again and see if they've got anything new going on. Good reason to hit the LHS this afternoon!

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