Friday, April 30, 2010

Model Railroader Magazine Curse?

The Roanoke & Southern: Victim of a curse?

Is there a Model Railroader curse?

That’s what some are wondering now that Jeff Kraker, owner of the Roanoke and Southern, has announced that he will dismantle his layout and start over in O scale. Check it out on Railroad Forums.

The specter of a “curse” was raised because Kraker’s layout was featured on the cover of Model Railroader magazine. It brings to mind the famed Sports Illustrated curse—the one that suggests that any athlete who is on the cover will subsequently suffer some kind of misfortune.

In the case of Model Railroader (or Railroad Model Craftsman or Canadian Railway Modeller, for that matter), the curse means that the modeler who is fortunate enough to have his or her layout featured in the magazine will soon be taking it down.

Like most curses, there is an element of truth to it.

Take the SI curse, for example. Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Eddie Matthews, the first person to ever appear on the cover of that magazine, in 1954, later broke his hand and missed seven games.

And now Jeff Kraker announces that his layout is coming down.

But, also like most curses, there is a more prosaic explanation to the Model Railroader “curse”—something I can attest to, since I am a very part-time editor of Canadian Railway Modeller.

It’s mostly about timing; most layout owners only submit articles when their model railroads are complete (or nearly so). By the time that occurs, after many years of work, the owner may well be ready to move on to a new challenge—like Kraker.

Unrelated to the “curse,” but in the same vein, people sometimes ask why it is that some layouts featured in model railroad magazines have been dismantled by the time an article about them is published.

Again, it’s mostly about timing; owners usually only submit articles when their layouts are done (or nearly so). Since magazines can have lead times of six months to a year (or more), by the time the article appears the layout could have been taken down.

Hmmm . . . since my layout has been featured in Railroad Model Craftsman (twice), in Canadian Railway Modeller several times (on various aspects), and an article about one of my scenery-making methods is slated to appear in Model Railroader this year, I wonder: Will the "curse" apply to the CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota Subdivision?

Read more about the "curse" and Doug Tagsold's old Denver & Front Range Western layout.


  1. Hi John, curse sufferer here. Seriously, I was thinking of a change around the time my Winnipeg Terminals was featured in CRM, and not long after the Vancouver Wharves renovation began. It was your suggestion that got me writing about my former layout, so I have to give you the credit for getting my article started and published. Now about the cheque, I know...ask Morgan.

  2. It sometimes makes you wonder if these guys have more money than sense. Literally thousands of dollars to build a model railroad, then suddenly, just tear it down? (scratches head) I don't get it.

    If it were a matter of age and needing to go to larger scale, it would make sense. All that said, it IS their railroad and they can do whatever they like.