Some comments on old issues of MR

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by ezdays, Dec 28, 2005.

  1. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    We were having a discussion a few months ago on my recent trip on the Verde Valley Railroad out of Clarkdale, Arizona. Tyson mentioned the Southwest and Jerome RR series of articles by John Olson that ran in MR back in 1982. I expressed an interest in seeing how he handled this, and how true he remained to the actual area. Jim Currie was good enough to loan me the magazines that the series ran in. It was interesting not only to read the series, but also to see what else was in these magazines. I know a lot of you have old issues, but this was my first opportunity to look through some that were that old.

    Some interesting finds in these old issues of MR:

    • January 1982 – there was a tribute to founder Al Kalmbach, who passes away a few months earlier. This apparently was the first issue since then.
    • February issue had a speed calculating circuit using TTL logic. It is almost impossible to find TTL chips today and when you can, they are costly compared to other logic. The circuit used 21 IC chips for a simple on/off timer/counter; today’s technology could do it in just a few chips.
    • April actually featured a 4’ x 8’ N scale layout. I say that with tongue-in-cheek because it is rare to find any featured articles for N scale, even in recent issues.
    • All issues had listed many advertisers that no longer exist today and many that are still around.
    • There are a number of hobby shops listed in the Phoenix area that are no longer here. This area has grown by about two million people since 1982, but there are fewer hobby shops than before, a real shame.
    • One-year subscriptions to MR were $20, about half what it is today and the magazine had 20-30 more pages than today's.
    • N scale was available, but limited, as was S and Z. No ads for G, anywhere. Lots of HO, just like today, and lots of ads for Lionel.
    • Pricing seemed to be all over the map, making it hard to compare with today. A lot of stuff was much less (like kits and accessories), for the most part, 50% of today’s prices. You could buy rolling stock for only a buck or two. A few items were a bit more than today like some high-end locos.
    • One big difference: nobody had a web site. I guess in 1982, no one else did either.:D
    The series started in Feb. and ran about every other month in nine segments. I was interested in how John Olson did the scenery. He did replicate areas near Jerome and Clarkdale like I would expect to see, but took many liberties, which all modelers are entitled to do. Placing a wharf next to the Jerome mine was a bit far-out though,:rolleyes: and even he admitted to that. (Jerome is close to a mile high and on the side of a steep hill.) Verde Valley is also in what we refer to as the “high desert”, he had a “how-to” on making saguaro cacti, which doesn’t grow anywhere near there; a fact that probably only Arizona residents would know about.

    Thank you again Jim for your kind though.:thumb: Thanks to you I was able to visit a bit of the past and learn about different techniques, some that haven’t changed even today. I also know now why some people can sell their “vintage” loco for hundreds of dollars and have a smile on their face, since they probably only paid $30 for it 25 years ago.:rolleyes: I know, I know, it probably doesn’t run as good as today’s locos, but that’s not the point.:D
    If anyone else has any observations from older issues, please, feel free to post them here.:wave: :wave:
  2. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    I have also been looking through some old issues of MR. I havent intensively read that magazine since the late 1990s, so i can't really comment about what is in there these days. But in the 50s and early 60s layouts were usually tabletop design, all with looping tracks. The detail on layouts was not nearly what it is today - most I see had ballast and a few structures, and crude plaster terrain. Point-to point layouts and around the wall types seem to be mostly nonexistant back then. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, there were many kitbashing articles about converting one type of locomotive to another - chopping noses on GP9s, adding snowplows, turning GP40-2s into GP40s, etc. I wonder if there is as much kitbashing now.

  3. Dragon

    Dragon Member

    I'll second nachoman's comments.
    Once i got into model railroading, I made an effort to first look for copies of magazines that contained articles I was interested in (logging, articulated steam, etc.), then finally into fleshing out the years I had pieces of, and finally to "collecting" MR, RMC, and NGSL (the hardest to find old issues of).
    Going through the old issues, I'm constantly amazed at how much was done with so little. These people were making contest-winning models out of a crude initial offering and some bailing wire (it seemed).
    Layouts, even room sized layouts, were, as nachoman said, mostly of a "table-top" variety, with a few rare forays into full-blown scenery. But these people made do with weeds, sticks, and odd bits found around the house to create layouts more detailed than many I've seen today.
    And, I agree that the mr mags of today don't seem to focus on kitbashing/scratchbuilding as much as pushing the latest release from Bachmann, Lifelike, etc. Too often I pick up an issue with the hopes that their featured "kitbashed camelback" would have a detailed How-To, and instead it is just one picture and a vague description of what the creator did.

    Granted, there are usually some super-detail articles (mostly diesel, it seems), but not articles like "Take this GP9 and make a GP40".

    And seeing the prices of the time (Rivarossi Big Boy for under $100?) makes my tight budget sick with envy! :)

    But old or not, they are still chock-full of useful information, and my "collection" will be retained until I can no longer model.
  4. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Regarding the question of kitbashing one locomotive from another, you aren't likely to see it in MR, but you may see such articles in RMC, Mainline Modeler, or Model Railroading. Model Railroader is much more aimed at the new modeler getting ready to build his/her first layout, than modelers looking for ideas to build something from scratch. Most kitbashing in Model Railroader now is restricted to buildings for project railroads. We have a lot more choices for diesel power today than we did in 1982, so there isn't as much need to kitbash, but if you model Santa Fe in the 1970's or 1980's and want to be prototypical, they didn't have any gp40-2s, and I think only 4 gp38's They had a hundred or more Gp39's. If you are going to run Gp39's on your railroad, you will have to kitbash. If you want to run a Santa Fe chop nose gp7 or 9, you will have to kitbash, nobody makes a Topeka cab.
  5. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    I myself prefer and seek out pre-1980 Model Railroader magazines. There was a hominess to the hobby that feels missing nowadaze. I don't know, maybe it's the "Trackside Photos" with the monster Atlas switch machines rising out of the terrain. Maybe it's the tune-up tips for open frame motors or flasher circuits that fill a boxcar. It certainly is those beautiful blue tone Pacific Fast Mail ads touting the lastest brass jewel fresh out of Japan. At least Athearn was affordable then and Life-Like couldn't be brought up in conversation without a chuckle. :thumb:
  6. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

    dipping back even further in time had the 1940's box out to look somthing up for someone reading through the 42,43,44 years there was some real great modeling done considering that it was in the war years when there was virtually no materials to be had . there were articles on how to make armatures for motors , on on making valve gear out of paperclips, using oil can to make locomotives. but out of that someone could make some thing like this.

    your welcome Don the reason i collected them was to share:)

    Attached Files:

  7. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I like to buy older magazines -- I moved a boxful out of my father's basement last week from the 60s.
    Now my problem: they're a bit musty. Also I see old mags at shows that are musty (at least by the time I get them home they are.) My wife insists they stay in the garage.
    Is they a way to de-must old paper?
  8. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    Great stuff, Jim...and that pic emphasizes my favorite pastime. Notice the derailed pilot truck in the pic...don't no why but I still hunt for those in every magazine I look thru. That's gotta drive the publisher nuts when those get by the editors. :thumb: Can you believe those guys would put their street addresses in there? :eek:

    As for the musty smell...Nirvana, man, Nirvana...right up there with my favorite cigar and older basswood kits ;)
  9. Glen Haasdyk

    Glen Haasdyk Active Member

    I too love those older magazines and to anyone who is wondering about John Olsen's project layout series in the 1982 MR, it was later compiled into a book entitled: Building a Railroad With Personality. It's out of print but I managed to find a copy on the 'net last year for about $15. it'sd a great series for both beginner and expert alike, especialy the chapters on scenery, buildings and rolling stock weathering.
  10. Zman

    Zman Member

    From my collection:

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  11. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    My first encounter with MR was as a kid in the seventies--my dad was a model railroader and bought them, and he had a few older model railroading books from the sixties. Each era in MR definitely has its own feel--there is a lot more on scratchbuilding and detailing the comparatively crude items available then! The sixties and seventies definitely focused more on kitbashing and superdetailing, as well as many changes to the ways people built layouts (less 4x8 loops, more around-the-wall point-to-point.)

    Articles on electronics and animation are definitely weird to read...big complex mechanical gizmos to create sounds or lighting or motion effects that we can duplicate with a $10 widget that fits in an N-scale boxcar nowadays, or things like computer-based train control plugged into a homebrewed 8-bit Apple II expansion card with lines and lines of BASIC code, typeset in that pseudo impact printer font.

    One other big change in focus between the Forties and Fifties (unfortunately I haven't seen any Thirties issues of MR, and darn few Forties--maybe at the next big swap meet...) and the present day is the shift from model railroading's focus on contemporary railroading to a more "nostalgia" based hobby. While many modelers do model the present day, that "transition era" was front-page news for modelers of the Forties and Fifties, many of us just don't want to leave that era, even if we never lived through it the first time!
  12. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Seeing those few issues from the 80's and hearing what you guys have been saying, kinda got my juices flowing for older issues. I've got quite a bit of N scale rolling stock and locos that I bought with two different layouts, both dating back to the mid-70's. It would be interesting to see some issues from that era and see what it was like in the MRR world back then. I've walked right by tables at swap meets that have old issues of MR magazines for sale, usually very cheap. I can't wait until the next meet to see if those guys are back.
  13. shortliner

    shortliner Member

    Don - the place to go is <> a nice guy and a pleasure to deal with. Take a look through the catalogue - I think you'll find enough there to get the juices under control - Ha' yersel' a grand Hogmanay wi' a wee dram!
    Shortliner(Jack)away up here in the Highlands
  14. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    :thumb: I have an early '80s issue telling of a fellow modeler's building of a computer controlled humpyard and switchlist generator. He said he'd like to do more but couldn't justify spending beyond the $4500 he spent to get 64K of memory. :eek: :D
  15. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way


    Thanks, he sure has a lot to offer. His price list also confirms that Jim Currie was right in saying that his old hard-bound issues were worth over $500 each. This guy's prices are a bit high compared to what I've seen at local shows. Their old issues ran from fifty cents to less than two bucks. I think I'll wait, there's a couple of shows in March.
    Yeah, isn't that something. A 128 meg USB "jumpdrive" is advertised in today's paper at under ten bucks.
  16. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Jetrock: I have a replica bound volume 1 of MR. If you're in the Toronto area, come over and I'll let you read it (under armed guard). Things were a lot more interesting, with strap metal track and 120V overhead wires. And people reporting doings on their pikes - accidents, heavy holiday traffic. A new locomotive was worth reporting in the national press.

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