British Railway Modelling Magazine – well done!

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:



  1. Hi Chris:
    Great points.
    I think in general, the British magazines are ahead of the curve in terms of combining inspiration and practical knowledge. And the best modellers in the UK are doing amazing work, supported by a robust cottage industry of manufacturers who cater to those wishing to build, rather than buy, models.
    For example, I always get a charge out of the “Small Suppliers Forum” in Midel Railway Journal. This is a “new products” column that showcases innovative offerings, not new paint schemes on old products offered by a publication’s major advertisers. (You know who you are!)
    Here in North America, we’ve been seduced by beautiful RTR products – to the point where we’ve forgotten the pleasures of crafting our own models. I’m as guilty if that as the next person, but I’m taking great joy in scratch building a lot more than I have on any previous layout – from structures to trees.
    I like your idea of more instruction on tools. I’ve learned a lot from attending seminars at Lee Valley. The things I’ve built are not related to this hobby, but the skills acquired have been transferable.
    Just a few random thoughts over coffee…

    1. Good morning, Trevor. I agree with everything you are saying.

      With regard to the magazines, from the same issue of BRM I was reading yesterday was a great review of a new class 40 diesel. Like any magazine review the author praised the advances that had been made in this model compared to other manufacturer’s versions and even one Bachmann themselves had on offer prior to this new version. What I liked was how the author then went beyond what you could observe opening the box to providing information on the types of trains the prototype hauled and where and when it worked. It’s great to have a neat model, but I think it’s even better when you are able to put that wonderful model to work “correctly”. That’s another great step toward prototype modelling. What caught me off guard in the review was a criticism of Bachmann’s treatment of the truck sideframe castings. The author professionally voices his dissappointment that Bachmann did such a terrific job elsewhere and didn’t extend that work to the whole model. In all, this review was the big difference compared to a review in Model Railroader.

      All that information on ideas for how a model could be used “prototypically” reminded me of my old Marklin catalogues where they provided typical consists for each locomotive.

      Home Depot here in Charlottetown provide similar information sessions on how to do things like install flooring or apply furniture finishes. I’ve often thought that it might be worthwhile to try and organize similar sessions on how to assemble benchwork, etc. The tools are cool and it results in work to be proud of.

      Random thoughts over coffee? Well those are some of my favourite things and more than anything else, the essence of Prince Street. Speaking of coffee, I should put on another.

  2. Spot on, Chris! Top hole! Jolly good!

    Seriously, I enjoy looking at the Brit mags at Chapters. Their layouts seem so neat and tidy, compact and purposeful, to my eye. Signal boxes and high-level platforms and everything in its place. Plus, they’ve been at the train game for a long time. Almost enough to make me want to switch to British modelling. Almost.

    Enjoying a coffee break myself. Perhaps I should switch to tea, what?

    1. I think part of the draw toward the UK railway scene also stems from our shared interest in passenger operations. It’s so easy to come up with terrific layouts from Britain featuring passenger operations ranging from branch line services to mainline termini. It’s not hard to imagine some of them in Canadian guise with low level platforms where high ones were and perhaps AMT or GO services where British Rail trains were.

  3. Chris

    As the author of both the coaling stage and branch line layout articles in BRM, can I think you very much for your kind words!

    It’s really nice to know that someone else “gets it”. We need to encourage new modellers in to the hobby. Once they are in we need them doing more than simply buying shiny new boxes of trains. That way leads to poverty and boredom. However, once you start building a line for your new trains to run, the process becomes more involved. Put together something like the coal stage and you get a sense of achievement far greater than that from simply handing over a plastic card in a shop to add to the collection.

    All of us at BRM are here to support the modeller. The are always step-by-step articles and even if you don’t want to follow them to the letter, hopefully some will provide a bit of encouragement to have a go at something else.

    The layout, Edgeworth, has been a huge hit with visitors to model railway exhibitions. Lots of people have looked at it and decided that they could produce something similar. At 9ft long, it fits in a typically modest UK house. Building it would take most people around a year and cost about the same a good mobile phone. I can’t see any reason why it couldn’t be built as a Canadian prototype either.

    If anyone wants to know more – have a look at the thread on the magazine’s forum:

    Also, I always post details of each issue on my own blog:

    1. Good afternoon

      Thanks for the positive words. I think you’re doing terrific work and really providing a true investment into the very tools and enthusiasm that really grows the hobby. That’s terrific!

      I never realised (that’s me) the thread on the RMWeb forum covering Edgeworth. I’ve just finished reading through it and enjoyed following along. The finished layout is certainly achievable and yet provides the new modeller with something he could be truly proud of.

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