Friday, 9 December 2011
Forums, the web, mags and green nonsense.
The internet came along and changed everything, with all age-groups embracing the possibilities it bought. There can be few things in western society that the internet has not infiltrated, whether it’s shopping, banking, watching tv, gaming, research or simply uploading photos of drunken parties onto social media sites.
For me, internet hobby-forums are a great way to see what other model makers are up, what’s hot and what’s not. It’s also a great social tool for like-minded nutters like me, and since re-joining this hobby a decade or so ago. I imagine that 95% of all the modellers I now know in the real world I had first contact with via the internet. 15 years ago, such was looked at as being slightly odd, possibly because in those days those ‘online’ were frequently socially challenged computer types – not always though, but mostly! Mix that up with toy trains and you really were entering Jimmy-no-Mates land, that underworld of smelly types in sheds, multi-coloured biros, bad breath, GWR green enamel under the finger nails, infrequent changes of underwear, a bath tub full of Lima boxes and overly well organised tidy notebooks.
We all know this hobby doesn’t have the best of image, but interestingly the guys doing the really great model making are sound upstanding members of society, not the odd-balls often seen trolling around shows with that fruity-aroma in tow (they’re mostly collectors I gather). The smart ones tend to keep their passion private and away from their professional lives where they could be ridiculed unless they have the character to carry it off of course!
Like many hobbyists I'm not in a local railway club, possibly because what I see in the clubroom around the corner doesn't really inspire me, so would rather spend time working on my own projects. And anyway, when it comes to toy trains, I’m a bit of a control freak and would almost certainly snap at those who don’t know which end of the tube the glue comes out of (as it ends up all over my latest wagon). Luckily several times a month I get to travel the country to see other modeller's layouts up close through a lens (and over several cups of tea), so that takes care of my yearning to see other people's fabulous modelling first hand, but without having to share glue with people who stick their fingers together.
Traditionally the printed hobby-magazine prior to the web was the only platform to share modelling with a greater audience beyond that of a club open day or exhibition. But now, the internet, or more specifically forums are changing the way that magazines used to work, in the future magazines will probably have less emphasis on breaking news to become of more of a showcase for classy layouts and modelling professionally photographed, written and presented. I might be wrong of course, but with the ability of the internet to transmit breaking news globally at an instant, manufacturers clamouring for pole position increasingly will rely on the web as the first port of call to introduce their new wares.
Some will say that the bell tolls warning the end of traditional paper media, but I think that there will always be a demand for something that doesn't need batteries. For many, large volumes of text are easier to read printed on paper than on a computer screen - though maybe that's just me? When photography was invented they said that painting was dead, when TV was invented they said that film was dead. Nonsense of course!
But I do think with all these extra ways to get our fix (or is it distraction?) less model making takes place these days because there still are only 24 hours in the day, the likes of Hornby & Bachmann know this of course, and will happily swap some of your salary for an increasing arsenal of ready-made bits and pieces to save the modeller time ultimately turning us all into collectors.
In this increasingly ‘green’ society we live in, I always find it fascinating that we have a hunger for electricity that is far greater now that it was just a decade ago. When you’ve finished reading your paper book or magazine you can recycle it into egg cartons or newspaper and a new tree can be grown. On the other hand electronic display devices are costly to make, use many toxic materials, cannot really be recycled to any real degree and require bigger and bigger power stations to produce all the electricity to manufacture and power the devices.
Rounding up on a positive note, we have more choice than ever before with electronic and printed media living side by side, with some model railway magazines unlike their other paper stable mates covering other subjects are actually increasing their sales! Of course there will always be those that favour one media form over another, so now there is something for everyone which is always a good thing. Me? I love the web for its immediacy in getting information across and being able to communicate and share the hobby with like-minded souls, but nothing will beat the proper printed page to appreciate a good model railway properly photographed, short of seeing it for real of course, but I would say that wouldn’t I?