I bought a copy of the latest British Railway Modelling Magazine (BRM) at Indigo here in Charlottetown today. Well, latest for us is actually the February issue. Frankly, the date on the cover just doesn’t matter as it’s a case of what’s inside that really matters.
It seems like a popular subject online and in conversation is that of model railway magazines and what they should or shouldn’t be. Often this conversation parallels the tired one bemoaning the future of the hobby. I don’t believe the hobby of model railways is dying. I’ve been around long enough to feel that it’s quite the opposite. New modellers continue to appear. We have more and more models than we’ve ever had and the quality is amazing. If we oldtimers are still here having suffered through Athean “blue box kits” and those terrible Bachmann train sets new modellers today should do just fine. Making new modellers, ones that will stick with the hobby, isn’t as simple as just selling them a bunch of trains and hoping that magically a model railway will appear in their homes overnight. No matter how much stuff you buy, eventually you need to hook it all together and assemble it into a something. This is where model railways really comes into its own as a hobby unlike many others, since even the most simplest interpretations of this will translate into building and expressing yourself through making something. Discovering a way to translate an imaginery scene into something that you can share is about the greatest gift this wonderful hobby can provide to those that give it a go.
So while we have this steady stream of new hobbyists armed with decent modellers I feel that perhaps many of these new modellers might not have the correct tools or have ever tried some of the basic skills that are required when building a model railway for the first time. Many have never cut lumber or soldered metal pieces together. I feel that’s in our ability to share and strengthen these skills that we grow the hobby. Many of us don’t have workshops at home and space in general may be at a premium. I’ve been nurturing a feeling that we need to introduce what the tools and techniques are, why we like them and use them and why they are currently working for us. With this in mind, I keep thinking that it might be so inspirational to see grand empires assembled in other modeller’s basements but worry that it might also be a little overwhelming if you’re trying to figure out where to start.
Leafing through the pages of the February BRM I kept catching myself thinking, excitedly, “Yes!! This is what we needed!” This particular issue held several articles devoted to making models. Each article included a sidebar that detailed what tools would be required and what extra tools might be useful if you had them (if not, that’s okay). They told you what you needed for materials and also some thoughts on complexity and length of time to complete. One shining example of this article describes how to build a OO scale coaling stage. In the coaling stage article, they even break down construction step-by-step and how long each stage should take to complete. The project was simple and used equally simple tools and materials. It wouldn’t cost much of anything to make and I can’t imagine anyone not able to make one on their own well within the two hours they predicted it would take you to build one at home. In the spirit of a co-operative approach to educating fellow modellers, I think it would be terrific if we could organise afternoon sessions where every modeller who attends builds one of these models. I don’t need one for my layout and especially not in OO scale, but the project just looked like so much fun to build I think I’ll build one just for the sheer joy of it.
Also included in this issue, as a special supplement, was a booklet guiding the modeller through each stage of constructing a first layout. They cover basic design, then an overview of each stage of construction. Their little branchline terminal station should be a succesful first layout and one that could actually be completed on a modest budget and by any modeller. While UK-themed, it could be modified to suite Canadian railways with some imagination.
As mentioned, the issue contains a number of how-to articles. What impressed me further still was how in the other content how the author’s each seemed to share a sense of what attracted them to what they built or what they were trying to share. I felt like so many of the contributors were talking not of the importance of re-creating models for what might suite an archival nature but instead as a worthwhile pursuit and means of expression. Often we get wrapped up in real railways part of the hobby and forget the simple pleasure that model railways bring. Sure I like real trains, but I was a model railroader first and it feels terrific to read a magazine that echoed my enthusiasm and wonder for this hobby.
Thanks. I’m looking forward to buying next month’s issue. Well done!
For more information on the magazine and this particular issue, here’s a link to their website and page: