Friday, 9 December 2011

Forums, the web, mags and green nonsense.

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?


  1. I find it quite surprising that the model mags haven't embraced the web more. Read about it in the mag then visit the web site for more info and pics plus a video expanding the article. Of course a great many people do not have a good internet connection and quite a few have a very poor one, something that seems to escape a quite a lot of web site builders. What of Facebook I hear you cry? Just looked at Model Rail's page and it sports a spectacularly poor photo of the Hornby B1 and no video! Not everyone in the world has signed up for FB, certainly not those in the Third Age so all this will be lost on them. You are right chris, the printed page will last for a bit longer but is just me or are the font sizes getting smaller?

  2. The problem with the web is that people want everything for free. Paper based copy generally has to be paid for both at the point of sale and during the editorial process. However, some will swap quality for price and be happy to swim in a sea of rubbish with the hope of finding the odd nugget of gold rather than buy a magazine and get, if not gold, then at least precious metals on every page.

    Photography is a good example - when magazines do print reader supplied photos, they are often terrible. The rest of the readership want to see something good so the mag has to spend money sending out someone with a decent camera who knows how to use it.

    Online you get some truly terrible, out-of-focus stuff being touted as useful photos illustraiting builds when in truth they are of no real help to anyone. But then you get what you pay for...

  3. Neil, I agreed, the font sizes are definitely getting smaller especially when it is necessary to hold the mag at arm's length to be able to focus on the text!
    I suspect that if more content was on the web we would be required to pay for it. Our culture is that you don't pay for information on the web hence the mags need to charge us for paper copies to survive. Possibly this may change but not yet. There's something nice about just flicking through a mag or book.

  4. An interesting post. In the early days, much was made of the "paperless office"...
    What Phil says is depressingly true...the web model is seen as free content and "you get what you pays for". The flip side, and a positive one, is that these days there is a wonderful proliferation of blogs about modelmaking...some are a bit free-form and random perhaps, but most are fascinating. They also allow you to waffle on without the editorial "blue pencil", allowing the reader to edit for him or herself. I know it was probably garbage, but whenever I had my articles back from one particular magazine, I was often annoyed at some of the stuff they had pencilled out, rather destroying the meaning. Classic author's gripe, I know.

    Another thing about some folk at model railway shows...why do they think it is OK to fart loudly in public? No wonder our hobby has a bad press. A pity, because I have met so many wonderful people as a result of the hobby.

  5. Phil has it bang on, and British magazine publishers also have to contend with historically low prices at which they can sell their magazines, currently somewhere around £4. Try buying something like RM or MR in other railway modelling mad places like Germany or Japan and it will set you back 10-12 Euros or more. Way more than can simply be accounted for by the cost of living. At this low price point it is incredibly difficult to justify employing dedicated staff for a website, especially when all it is likely to do is draw revenue away from the product that actually pays the wages, the printed page.

    I believe there will always be a place for magazines. Even the big forums only see regular activity from a small number of their members, who disproportionately account for most of the postings. In reality, most people still like to receive their news in a digested form with cracking photography and expert analysis. Long may this continue.

  6. Great discussion point Chris. As good as forums are, I definitely think the web has a lot more to offer. I want to make it as easy as possible for modellers to share & discover great modelling inspiration.

    Here's a sneak peek!

  7. I think the age of modellers has a bearing on the subject too. While involved in railway modelling I never affiliated with a club, so only really socialised virtually with other modellers. In my current dabbling into model boats I have found the lack of a lake in my garden brings a necessity to be part of a group to use their water. I attended the boat club AGM along with my 73 year old Dad in the week and at 43 I was probably the youngest there, my Dad looked pretty spritely too!!! My Dad is a Silver surfer and runs a club blog and although its just passed its 10 thousandth hit, the general club membership still think a mouse only comes with fur.

    Don't get me wrong they were nice chaps, many who come from an era when if you wanted it, you made it, hence good modellers, but I would guess that the Model Boat magazine does a bit better than their web off-shoot.

    While the average age of the modelling community is high there will always be a place for the printed media. There will be those of an older age group that embrace the net. I bet if the average modeller was in the 25-30 bracket that magazines would have a much tougher time !!


  8. Having been away from the model world for over 20 years I decided that close to retirement that I would visit the attic and uncover what I had worked on. Well it inspired me to do something and to use a small room next to my office to build a railway that I could finish and operate. The inspiration that I drew upon had been through the excellent MRJ and the writings of Ian Rice and others of the same ilk.I had been working in EM and had a lot of kits and bits and pieces still around as I was to discover as I trawled through a number of boxes in the attic.

    I decided to continue with EM and have set myself very simple objectives and will have the track laid and running by the end of April (2012). Access to the net has been quite stunning and I tumbled across Chris Nevard's brillant site quite by chance. His work does inspire one and the level of detail is certainly something that I am working towards.

    I have also been amazed at the quality of RTR stock and recently bought a Bachmann DMU which is superb. it was easy to convert to EM and wi;; ne a pleasing addition to the layout once its running.
    The net of course allows you to view these products very close up and also get some consumer reviews.

    I too am a lone modeller and though I occasionally visit a local show, where there are always one or two excellent layouts, the majority leave me uninspired. Folks whom I have seen at my local model shop seem to be on a different planet and I acquire nearly all my stuff on line.

    I have no worries about friends or who ever knowing that I am building a model railway and I do have a wide range of interests and it is this that slows down my progress!

    Magazines are important and I do enjoy them rather than sitting infront of a screen. You cant always take your PC to the loo or wait for your I phone to fire up and I find a mag less of a strain to read, though the point made about type faces is certainly valid.

    But the internet is quite amazing and I will continue to use it and you come across so many inspirational examples of what you can do.

    So well done Chris. continue the good work!

  9. I do hope that the 'magazine' never becomes part of history. I enjoy nothing more than laying snugged up in bed with a 'mag' and a glass of Scottish Laughing Water on the bedside table.
    As the years advance the 'horizontal gavotte' becomes a more infrequent event so some other pre-somnulant is necessary. Sadly the 'mine-pies' age too, and I now need a hand-held magnifying glass to read the small print in the advertisments. A lap-top is too heavy to hold with one hand, after all......

    Best wishes,



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