Model Railroading & MR

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by eatst14, Feb 7, 2003.

  1. eatst14

    eatst14 Member

    Is Model railroading getting away from supplying quality track plans with lots of operational interest? In the March issue, on pgs 97-9, there are two separate plans to model the Virginian within a "small" area. One for HO and one for N.

    Looking at these two designs there really isn't much to them, mostly they just go around and around, and even the "fiddle" yard is hidden on the HO version.

    Although I too appreciate lots of staging, and suggested industries, I think both of these designs are lacking in good old fashion switching opportunities. It seems to me that since this new guy, Terry Thompson, came to be Editor of MR after coming from one of MR's other mag: Large-Scale railroading I think it is, that the emphasis has switched form building convenient, sometimes small, but operationally interesting layouts, to huge scenes, with only the ability to go around and around in circles, give the area consumed by the layout.

    Mr. Thompson, also has been pushing DCC, and in this Issue He pushes it big, suggesting that over 20% of the market now uses DCC, which I find hard to believe. I do intend to switch to DCC, once I see that it has become more affordable. This month's article "getting started in DCC for under $500", is ridiculous! Very little is said about the current systems out there, and if the manufacturers think that every model railroader can just drop $500 on a DCC system they must be crazy!

    For $500 I can buy a very nice TV, a nice Couch, save that money and put it towards buying a new car, or put it towards my car payment etc....

    I think that many of the people running this industry forget that it is a hobby....HOBBY. Yes means our lives should not revolve around model railroading because it is a H..O..B..B..Y.

    Ok now I'm on a role, I’m going to attack the WORLD"S GREATEST HOBBY CAMPAIGN......Not very many of those of us out there involved in this campaign care one iota about the Kids were are supposed to be bringing into this hobby. We care about insuring that in 20 years we will still be able to buy engines and rolling stock etc...This campaign is aimed at trying to persuade the youth that Trains are HIP! Its a Sales pitch. The other major reason is for the collector, who wants to make sure that his prized MIRCO_TRAIN fleet will sell for 4 times as much as he bought it in 20 years.

    People, why are we so concerned that kids are spending more time playing on the computer than on trains...If the child likes Playing on his computer more than playing with a be it. Maybe one day they will see how much fun it is, but to label Model railroading the worlds greatest is ludicrous. That is like slapping a gaurantee on an "a seen on TV iteam" only to get it home and see it does not works, which is what happens when parents buy their kids "train sets." This sales campaign, and thats all it is people, reminds me of JOE Camel, or Pepsi.. all bombarding our youth with images and trying to convince them that theirs is the best. Only with this, the manufacturers are using us..the model railroaders, to do the advertising, cause GOD forbid they should do it themselves. And yes I do know it was MR that started the campaign not the manufacturers, but please....

    Ok I’m done for now...Putting on my FLAME-proof jacket, shoes, gloves, and helmet. Standing behind the flame retardant 4 ft thick brick wall, with a bucket of water handy and a fire extinguisher...opps almost forgot the marsmellows!

  2. jwmurrayjr

    jwmurrayjr Member


    You are probably "right-on" with some of your comments. Business is generally (and that's a little weak) about money and that distracts a lot of folks from the good things that businesses can do.

    As far as getting into DCC, you can get a very good "entry-level" system (you may never need another - "never" is so final isn't it?) for well under $200 ($160 for the Digitrax Zypher, $120 for the Atlas Commander).

    Now there are a lot of other things you can buy for $200, or less, but to anyone who is going to run toy trains, this could be the best $200 they could ever[i/] invest in their layout .

    And as I think of the things that most folks will spend $200 on (20 lunches, eating out 5-10 times, the Morning Times, $10 DVDs, 2 Starbucks coffees a week, one movie for two,a month, a Coke a day, 1 locomotive...) I think that most model railroaders can "afford" DCC if they can afford modeling at all.
  3. csxnscale

    csxnscale Member

    I agree $160 for the Zephyr, but I have 15 locs that need a decoder at lets say $30 this means another $450.
    You can by a lot for $610 I think.

  4. jwmurrayjr

    jwmurrayjr Member

    The new DH123 is $16 postpaid from Lithcfield Station. You're up to $400, total, if you do it all at once. We don't do much in this hobby "all at once" do we?

    I'm not saying everyone should have DCC. But for a modeler who really likes to run his trains and spends time and some money on the hobby, DCC is a great investment.

  5. csxnscale

    csxnscale Member

    Hey man I am not against DCC, not at all, but I was trying to say that not everyone can afford it.
    The $400 you calculated must be increased with 25% income taxes here in Belgium and for now I can not afford this for the hobby.
    I wish I could.

  6. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    The only reason (excluding inflation) that DCC isn't cheap is that there is a limited market for it....If every home had a model railroad instead of a TV set then the things would cost about as much as a VCR and a decoder would cost under 10 bucks and they'd crank the things out in China by the millions....Its just simple economics...there never will be enough demand to bring the cost down....As for me toggle switches and push buttons will do just fine.:D

    Model railroading, the world's greatest hobby? ....Sure it is!!! and so is amatuer radio, computers, sports and raising goldfish!!!:D and whatever a person wants to participate in as an avocation.:D There's always a bit of "hype" associated with anything enjoyable.:) :D If "they" make you feel left out of the fun that's part of the stratedgy to win you over so you'll spend 'yer bucks:D

    Now about those kids.....Quite frankly times have changed....In my youth trains and airplanes were the "techno" marvels....Now they are computers and space exploration..."Play" for children for the most part has always been an imitation of adult "work"...So they are going to imitate what they are most often exposed to. Seems to me that its up to Pop and Grandpa to expose them to something else besides their sticky fingers on a keyboard...who knows...there may be another John Allen out there!!!:D :D :D
  7. jwmurrayjr

    jwmurrayjr Member

    Paul and Vic,

    I agree that not everyone can afford DCC. I'm not sure I can afford model railroading sometimes. So I'm not trying to push DCC onto anyone who doesn't want it and especially anyone who can't afford it. (By the way, our "tax freedom day" was in May last year, Britain had theirs in June. :( )

    The good news is that it is getting less expensive quickly.

    And MR is a great hobby and it's the greatest for those who like it better that any other.:eek:

    I also like painting, music, fishing and other stuff. I'm not sure that I like MR the best.

    My grandkids love trains and they are little girls. Yuck!:p They are young (3, 6 & 10) and don't see anything special about computers. Just another appliance, like the TV. Maybe one of them will be a Joanna Allen. :) :p :D
  8. YakkoWarner

    YakkoWarner Member

    The interest of children will be peaked only by exposure to the hobby. I built my son a table for his wooden train track and brio stuff. after we created the ultimate track plan and glued it in place, he stopped playing with it. Most of his fun was in putting together a track. I sold the thing to one of my neighbors and went out and bought over 200 pieces of cheap wooden track. About once a week, we spend two hours putting together a layout (With the kid who's parents bought the glued together layout) in the living room and only run the train around the thing two times before it turns in to "The City Of Townsville" and needs to be defended (unsuccessfully, of course.) from monsters and rampaging T-Rexes. Then everything goes back into the box and we play computer games.

    One of the kids who comes over saw my layout and wanted to build one of his own. He is 12 and wanted HO instead of N. I gave him a bunch of old HO track and a piece of MDF and loaned him one of my "How to" books. A few months later he was completely done, didn't want to have anything to do with trains, seems that girls were much more interesting than he had thought. His sister though is now interested in the layout he started and is always comming by to ask for advice or help.

    You never know where interest is going to come from. We can't force anyone to enjoy our hobby. If you don't like the way MR is doing their articles, buy a different magazine. I personaly like a continuous run with a little switching, some people like a lot of switching and nothing else.

    DCC? whatever, do it, don't do it. whatever. Have fun.

    HAVE FUN! (damnit!)
  9. jwmurrayjr

    jwmurrayjr Member

    Hey! What's this doing under "Track Planning"?

    I've been replying to my email subscription without even noticing where the post started. :confused:

    Your right! Let's all have fun and be thankful that we can.
    :) :D :eek: ;) :p

    Have a good weekend (and life),
  10. csxnscale

    csxnscale Member


    I am glad to hear your grandkids love trains.
    And I agree have fun with the trains thats all that counts.

  11. TR-Flyer

    TR-Flyer Member

    American Heritage Dictionary-
    Hobby: An, occupation, activity, or interest, as stamp-collecting or gardening, engaged in primarily for pleasure: a pastime.

    Based upon worldwide participation, i'll bet gardening is the "world's greatest hobby". However, i think the "WGH" campaign being put on by MR and their associates is a good thing. My only complaint is they don’t give my scale “1:64” much attention. Oh well, more for me. The hobby we focus on here at the gauge has a number of benefits that many of the newer kid interests don’t. One, it’s a three dimensional activity. I think this is important as a brain development tool and ties in well with sports and other “real world” activities in helping a child to understand “the way things work”.

    Two, it’s a hobby that moves at a slow pace. (Although Shamus and a couple of others here kinda weaken this assertion) This is a good thing for a child to learn. Not everything flows and is cut like a TV commercial or a music video (or movies for that matter, compare Moulin Rouge’s musical numbers to An American in Paris if you haven’t noticed this). Having a way to slow the pace down is a good life survival skill.

    Three, it makes you learn mechanical things like electricity, engines, motors, lighting levels, modeling, woodworking, etc, etc, etc. Some things it has in common with other media, The computer game “Railroad Tycoon” comes to mind. But the latter doesn’t deal with items one and two above. WGH? Maybe, maybe not. Great activity/hobby for “kids” of all ages, definitely. Might as well spread the word. The more folks buying the stuff, the greater variety we’ll all have.

    Round and round vs. switching vs point to point vs dioramas vs ???? How many like mushrooms on their pizza? Was surprised to find this thread under TPftF but thanks for waking me up this morning Ed.

  12. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I just thought I'd throw in my $.02. I used to subscribe to MR and MRC. I model Santa Fe in the 50's, and I belong to the Santa Fe Railway Modeling and Historical Society. I decided a few years ago to drop my subscription to all of the general interest magazines, and just continue with my membership in the Santa Fe society. I buy the other magazines when they have an artical that interests me. I realize that they have to appeal to a general readership and can't focus on "my railroad." I did buy the 2003 issue of the "Track Planning Annual" and I thought this one was the best one that they have done. I guess Tony Koester put out a challenge to design a layout that would be able to be folded up when not in use to occupy a 2'x3' bookcase. He got more track plans and concepts than he could use in one book. There are only a couple of basement sized layouts featured in the book, everything else is the bookcase sized switching layouts.
  13. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    Looking at MR now, as compared to the 60's 70's and even the 80' was better then, all around.
    WGH. More kids interested= more trainsets(and copies of Model Railroader) sold= BIG $s. Kids who don't have a basic interest in model building, aren't going to get into model railroads, and stay around. Look at the interest in trains. There are railfans, who's only interest is in prototype, and chasing trains, and taking photos of them. There are railfans who primarily just want to ride trains. There are those who only want to collect models of trains, and may never build a layout. There are those who would prefer to never go beyond toy trains, they just like to see them go round and round. There are those who build models of trains and aren't really interested in seeing them run, and there are those of us who build, run, chase, plan layouts, build layouts, and on, and on.
    DCC. I have stated before, if there will be multiple operators, or the layout is large and complex, then DCC would probably be the way to go. A small, single operator, home layout? Might not be cost effective, going to DCC. We, each of us, will spend whatever it takes to have what we want. If you don't want to spend the money, you probably don't really want the item.
    Fun. Is it fun? Is it enjoyable? Is it satisfying? then it's a hobby.
  14. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I am building a "L" shaped switching layout on top of a bookshelf in a spare bedroom. It will measure 7'x2' on one leg, and 9'x3' on the other leg. I don't think it would even be feasable to run more than one train at a time, and because of a bit of a cramped room, there won't be room for more than one operator to run it comfortably. I had two MRC 2400 throttles, so I bought the Aristo Craft radio control throttle. I haven't got my layout to the point of running trains, yet; but I used it to do some switching on our modular club layout when set up at the Santa Barbara GATS show, and it worked well. I think it is a good alternative to DCC on any sort of one man/one train only layout.
  15. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    I find MR mag to be often annoyingly glib - the articles seem to breeze over too many crucial details - and yet I buy it every month. It's good IMHO to have a slick colourful mag like this devoted to our hobby, and even with its various flaws I would miss it if it weren't around. Most of the criticism of the magazine comes from the fact that it is trying to be all things to all people - beginner to expert - and that's an unacheivable goal really.

    For every reader who clamours for more urban modeling, there is one clamouring for more mining, for everyone who wants more switching, there is someone who wants more continuous run. It's just the nature of the hobby.

    As far as the "World's Greatest Hobby" campaign, I'm a little uncomfortable with that. How can something that pretty much excludes (not deliberately but by its nature) the female half of the population call itself the greatest hobby in THE WORLD???? "Train Show - crafts for the ladies". It's a great hobby. But the greatest? Pure hype.

    And besides - that logo is sooooooooo lame. I would not be proud to display it anywhere. I think that's a part of the hobby that needs a real shake-up.

    I don't mean to knock DC here, and I applaud anyone who can figure it out, but I think that DCC, with it's growing capacity for "plug-and-play" will do more to make the hobby accessible, and thus attractive, to a wider group of people than any unsupportable claims of being the greatest.

    Rant mode off.
    :D Val
  16. mhdishere

    mhdishere Member

    I'm going to limit my reply to the first issue in the original thread, that of roundy-round track plans VS available switching. I've noticed that there are two kinds of track plans, for lack of better terms I'll refer to them as "operations oriented" and "railfan oriented". Operations oriented plans have lots of switching and operations interest. Railfan oriented plans appeal to the person who likes building or collected trains and wants to watch them run thru scenery. It depends on what you enjoy in the hobby, and there's plenty of room for both in our hobby. I personally would get bored watching a just run, but if that's what floats your boat then enjoy!
  17. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Comments from a newbie

    Since I've only been in the hobby a few months maybe I can give another propective. I first got inteested in the hobby when MR offered me a trial subscription almost a year ago. I canceled because I was exploring other things and thought that model railroading was going to be somewhat expensive. After determining that other "hobbies" like RC flying was way out of line cost-wise (not counting the license training):p, and RC boats was not an option here in the desert :rolleyes:, I took another look at this hobby and found it comparably reasonable to get into and it didn't require a license.:) I can thank MR Magazine for getting me interested.

    I've been buying copies of MR and several other magazines like N Scale and Model Railroading and recently re-subscribed to MR. I found the magazines dedicated to N scale had very good pictures but little else. Modle Railroading seemed to be a poor attempt to copy MR's style. MR has a lot to offer, is bigger, is monthly and has a lot of advertising. One thing that is important to me right now is finding what's available, where to buy it and who is competitivly priced. I got a lot of good links to web sites right from the ads. I've bought from three of MR's advertisers already, and one from a dealer that I got the link for here on The Gauge.

    Bottom line: I may wish that MR had more N scale content and more advertisers that carried more N scale products, but N scale was my choice, not theirs. Kalmbach makes up with a lot of support books, and there's the rub, more of my money goes to them that way as well. In my opinion, MR has more to offer than any other publication, so I will continue to subscribe until they no longer seem informative, or until something better comes along.

  18. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    I think Model Railroader is poopy. My 'script is thankfully almost out. It will be replaced with MRC, Model Railroad_ing_, or another fine publication better directed at my interests. I have only received on issue of NGSL and have read it more than the last 6 issues of MR. May I suggest you look for a publication that focuses on your interests?

    The other comment, on being the worlds greatest hobby, well that's a matter of opinion. And IMHO, it is the worlds greatest hobby. As a matter of fact, it is a multifaceted hobby and you can delve into whatever area interests you, and stay away from the rest. I look at model railroading like a big pie, with a lot of slices, and each one tastes different. Eat what you like. But if you eat them all, you'll get a stomach ache. I was going somewhere with this... anyway, you can do modeling, painting, electronics, research, authoring, photography, engineering, develoupment, programming, wood working, metal working, etc., etc., etc. And the slices can be broken down too, modeling 1800's, prewar, post war, 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's, rural, industrial, mining, logging, plantation, grain, milling, steam, diesel, mini scenes, shelf layouts, basement empires... And how about the learning? And helping others? What's not great about it? If there's something else you would lik eto do, just immagine it, dream it, design it and create it! And you know what's the very best thing... the people! :D :D :D
  19. TinGoat

    TinGoat Ignorant know it all


    I agree with all the above...

    As far as DCC goes. I think it is cheaper/easier for a newbie to get started with DCC because they can get it one piece at a time. Just factor in the cost of a decoder with each new loco.

    If you already have a layout and a fleet of locos then to switch from DC to DCC all at once can cost a fortune.

    I'd much rather watch trains than T.V. so I would be more inclined to spend the money on DCC than a Home Theatre System.

    Model Railroadin' involves so many different skills that to me it is the World's Greatest Hobby. It includes gardening skills too, for those with Garden Railroads. Or anyone who likes to make there own scenery from common plants...

    Like any hobby, it's the process that is important. For most of us, the joy is in the making, not the completion. No stamp or coin collection is ever complete, and no model should be either.

    As far as Model Railroader Magazine is concerned...

    I feel that it has been dumbed down over the years. I went on a marathon reading of the last 3-4 years of issues to catch up on what's been going on in the hobby, since I was away from it for 20 years. I also picked up one of the getting started books. Compairing the new material to some I still have from 20 years ago, it seems that things have been dumbed down. I think that this applies to most things in life.

    One other thing is... As with many other magazines, things become repetitive. The annual round-up of this, the annual building of the 4' x 8' starter layout... etc...

    Just like the subscription I had to Canadian Workshop magazine. If it's April, then it must be deck building time...

    It's interesting to see some new materials or techniques, but otherwise it becomes very repetitive. The most valuable part of magazines are the ads, product reviews and calendar of events.

    And the WGH campaign...

    Yes, the logo is lame.

    But it is getting people out of their basements and attics and making the hobby more accessable and visable.

    Sure, there is a profit factor for Kalmbach and the manufacturers. And a spin off benifit for the consumer too.

    More, better and cheaper products for the consumer makes this a win/win situation all around.

    There are some who would say that the big dude in the sky helps those who help themselves...

    As far as getting new blood into the hobby.... The more the merrier!!!

    I could go on and on and on.... But my soap box is starting to collapse under all this weight...
  20. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    Re: Comments from a newbie

    Although MR doesn't have a lot to offer me personally, it used to, and in defense of MR, I must admit they are doing SOMETHING right. They're big. And they are in every Walmart across the land, which none of the others are.

    I also have never had a complaint about the advertisements. Found a lot of deals there or off the websites advertised in MR. But, we must use caution, and not be lurred into a false sense of security just because they are listed in MR. Standard Hobby still advertises a $20 loco that turns into $26 as soon as you order it, and they don't tell you, and then they point at the "prices subject to change" clause, even though it's price changed Jan 1. Bad place, big ads.

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