Monday, August 17, 2009
Who Needs Model Railroad Magazines?
The last few years have not been kind to the North American model railroad magazine industry—gone are Mainline Modeler, Rail Model Journal and Model Railroading. The only three left that appeal to all scales are Model Railroader, Railroad Model Craftsman and Canadian Railway Modeller. All three have experienced falling circulation in the past decade.
But who needs them, anyway? After all, we have the Web—anyone can publish anything (look at me). But I would argue there is still a special place for magazines, and it’s not just because you can’t take your computer into the bathroom.
In the world of academia, there are things called refereed journals. These are publications where articles are reviewed and evaluated by experts in the field before publication. This ensures that ideas and research described in an article are sound and of high quality.
Something like that occurs when articles are submitted to model railroad magazines. Experts—the editors, who are also model railroaders—evaluate the articles or photos to make sure they are worthy of publication.
For an author or photographer, being published in a model railroad magazine is a special experience. It means that your ideas or photos have been judged by others who are expert in the hobby and found worth sharing with others.
How do I know that being published in a magazine is special? Two ways: First, Although people usually share the good news that their article or photograph has been accepted by a model railroad publication, few (none?) give a shout out when they post something on a forum or Web page.
Second, I’ve experienced it myself, both in the model railroad world and in other publications. There’s no feeling like seeing your work on the printed page.
I also know what it is like on the other side; I am the very-part time Associate Editor of Canadian Railway Modeller. In this capacity, I help solicit and edit articles; I get a lot of satisfaction from working with authors—most of whom have never been published before—and helping them see their layout or model come to life in the pages of the magazine.
Of course, we now have Model Railroad Hobbyist “magazine,” a Web-only publication that seeks to bridge the gap between magazines printed on dead trees and the digital age. I like what I see so far, but I personally find it to be too long—I spend my working hours staring at a computer, and don’t have the patience to read 50-60 pages on the screen in my leisure hours.
Plus, you still can’t take it to the bathroom.