Food for thought

I brought a guy that was in the same PhD program I was in to see our club layout. He went on to become a pretty well known authority in English Composition, while I went on to build and lose my butt in the vitamin business.

Well, after oohing and ahhing for a hour or so while running a passenger train about the layout, he suggested that he thought it would be interesting to do an ethnographic study (where one participates in the culture) of model railroading. It seems that he found it interesting that grown men found it fun to recreate foregone cultures.

Besides, he would have to run trains to do it.
What a windbag. I have personal experience with John Bruce and I can't be bothered to talk to him again. I'm sure he'd have the same to say for me.
Very interesting, lots of behind the scenes stuff there. Must have taken me over an hour to read it all.
Railphotog said:
Very interesting, lots of behind the scenes stuff there. Must have taken me over an hour to read it all.

Don't know how you got through it. I felt the guy clearly had too much time on his hands. He may have been around the mark, but I got pretty darned bored.
This pretty much tells you what you need to know:

The Sociology of Model Railroading

Let me start by pointing out that I'm not a sociologist...

He starts the article by telling you how he's not qualified to talk about it, then goes on for umpteen paragraphs doing just that. While he's at it, he manages to insult or poke fun at just about everyone in the hobby, or so it seems from what little reading I did before I decided it wasn't worth the effort.
I like his take on some stuff, not on other opinions. His thought that selling old and out of date stuff at model railroad shows was detrimental to the hobby, something that I don't agree with, especially in our area.

When I first got back into the hobby that's about all that I bought. I didn't mind stripping and modifying old Athearn diesels that cost me under $20.00 each. We have several hobbyists in our area who buy collections to sell at our shows. Sometimes from modelers getting out the the hobby one way or another - by leaving or by dying. They usually have quite a range of items for sale and seem to be pretty busy; great for the newcomers. But our local area shows are few and far between, which may make a difference.

I was interested in his behind the scenes info on the staff changes over the years at MR and RMC, and his stating that hiring someone like Terry Thompson as MR editor wasn't a great idea because he has a PhD (as did Andy Sperandeo).

His opinion on the NMRA was right on in many ways. The idea that it is an 'ol boy clique whose executive and other higher ups are mostly interested in the meetings and social gatherings rather than in model railroading seemed accurate to me at times.

When I attended some regional conventions after I got back into the hobby, I expected to be in awe with all of these long time NMRA members. I was quite disappointed in their lack of doing much about modeling, there were very few entries in the model and photo contests, and many of the layouts we visited on the tours weren't all that inspiring.

Myself and a friend entered the model and photo contests, and it was intimidating for us - "little fish in a big pond". We cleaned up - won many of the contests we entered for the first time. So much for the "big pond".

Anyway I did find it a good read - especially liked his comment on Malcolm Furlow, as being a phoney!
LOL I have to thank everyone on the thread for the article report. I didn't get very far with the reading. Was a nice looking camper van in one photo other than that it wouldn't have received the little time I did spend on it. But now after reading the posts I just may go back and have a read.
Malcolm Furlow, as being a phoney!
indeed now. One of the best books I've ever purchased and I'll bet he thinks I've wasted my money.

Cheers :mad: Willis
Sorry folks I got down to the Rev Mikes and couldn't take any more of it. I don't know how you read it all, you're better men that I

Cheers Willis
This "treatise" was discussed on and forums ad nauseum over two years ago. Then Bob Miller, a preacher and one of the nicest men you'll ever meet, was trashed in it after whats his name, the author, and Bob clashed on the forums. the part about preachers was added after their clash.

While I was still at the university working, I printed a copy of this and asked the head of the sociology dept to read it. The man who read it has 2 PHDs, and an MD, but practices within the realm of the social aspects of morbidity and mortality, (sickness and death). The best thing he said to me about it was this guy created some toliet paper for anyone who wants it.
CBCNSfan said:
Sorry folks I got down to the Rev Mikes and couldn't take any more of it. I don't know how you read it all, you're better men that I

Cheers Willis
Thanks Willis! It took me 3 hours to read it, then again I read slowly word by word...
I read it primarily to understand the hobby. Needless to say I don't agree with everything said either. Too many points to rant about, but:

- Clergy? I for various reason's have been surrounded by clergy of various levels all my life and never found any problems. If my priest is a train modeler good for him!

- As for train show sellers who are unshaven and wear filthy clothes, what can you do about it? If I'm going to a model show, do I really need to shave? Maybe people will think I'm older and respect me more (I've been told I look in my late 20s sometimes, which is good because I'm only 18). Filfy clothes? To shows I wear railroad related clothing that I ussually ware around trains anyway, so they're bound to get dirty after 5smoking units pass by them! Don't have enough time to wash them, got to go railfanning again...

- Worthless junk, that section in my opinion is the best. First of all nothing is worthless, really. Even stocks of bankrupot companies aren't worthless. There's a lot of stuff sold at Model shows that is old and outdated, but it may be what you're looking for, and if the price is right, how would you complain. If its really worthless, the market wouldn't seel it! I guess it helps that some sellers really don't know how rare some of their stuff is. I think I mentioned this before, but I bought an Athearn F7A VIA, which hasn't been made for a couple years now for $25! There's no other place to get it from, you either have to buy an undec and repaint it, or buy a dummy which is still for sale and power it!

A good point is uneducated customers. I've seen items on ebay for sale double and sometimes triple what they cost new from the Walthers catalog, that is rediculous. I found this to be the case with VIA passenger cars at the model show as well, most were 10-50% above the Walthers price, so I didn't nuy them.

Selling broken toys? Maybe I want to model a wreck or use parts that aren't broken. Why tear up and kitbash a perfectly good model is a broken one has what I need and once again at a good price? Maybe I need a broken hot wheels car as a gondola load.

Mail bombing? Ok I'm guily of that. If someone asks me for photos of gondola XYZ, but I have pictures of gondola XYY, I'll tell them about it. Then since they'd be intersted, I'll send them the full 2032x1524 version of gondola XYY, along with every other picture of it I have. Since they don't respond, I guess I get them bombed good. Real good.

Finally lame scenery. Maybe I'm a blind young modeler, but I have yet to see a layout that hasn't impressed me. If the layout is poor its because there hasn't been enough time to set it up properly or its the staging tracks. Plain and simply. As for rusty dinousars, that is just too funny. The closest thing I have is a "undec" nomadic man who is about 100m tall in HO scale. But he's a statue.

I personally think we need more local model shows and swap meets, as round here there's only one once a year.

I'm glad you enjoyed the article.
Not sure I understand that one, either, Willis. Okay, so he spent some time selling "southwestern" or "Indian" paintings on Canyon Road in Santa Fe along with every other artist in the Southwest US. I'll defiinitely call him a sellout for that...:p

But, other than that, I thought during his time at MR he was fulfilling the role he was intended to fill. He seemed to carry the torch of the fanciful John Allen style modeling, but he was a living author at the time when kids like me had never heard of John Allen except in letters to the editor. He didn't just build the narrow gauge stuff he's known for either. He also built the Carbondale Central project railroad - standard gauge modern era railroading in a small layout, and he built a pretty neat diorama of downtown Dallas featuring streetcars. His style was definitely cartoonish and over-the-top, but I had never seen anything like it before and I'll bet a few others felt the same way. After all, he was building project layouts for beginners.

So, anyway, John Bruce doesn't like Malcolm Furlow, and I understand there are many others who aren't into his "style" (it's not really my cup of tea either - I'm definitely a prototype geek). But the thing I don't get is the offense Bruce takes to the Mexican "bandito" shot. In fact, according to his treatise, his reaction to that photo was the catalyst for him to write it. So the question is, would he have the same reaction to a Civil War scene involving slaves? You could argue there is a historical context for each scene, and obviously slavery is reprehensible and not every Mexican dressed as a "bandito" is a criminal, but is it wrong to create the scene? What about a train robbery scene? As with everything else in his manifesto, I think he's simply reading too much into it.

At one point, Bruce says:

Olson had considerable talent, that he misused by not developing his own style with a greater sense of integrity.

Misused? Greater sense of integrity? Was John Olson's express goal to develop as an "original" artist and did he fail at that? Or, was he building model railroads for his own enjoyment? See, this is what makes me just want to throw it all out - these suppositions based on Bruce's own set of ideals that he determines success or failure for everyone else.

His manifesto reads like AM talk radio sounds... It can seem reasonable, but take his arguments head on and they're paper thin. Granted, he does make some solid observations here and there, but the conclusions he draws from them are too far fetched for me.

Now, if Furlow is a fraud for some other reason aside from hawking southwest themed paintings in Santa Fe, I'd be interested to hear it...
Guys,As far as the older stuff my question is:What does he mean by older stuff? A good friend of mine has 10 Hobbytown of Boston RS3s,6 Athearn GP7s with Hobbytown drives,2 Varney 4-6-0 and 4 Varney 2-8-0s. .You'll look in vain for any of the newer locomotives.They don't exist because he doesn't buy locomotives and hasn't since the 60s! When he goes to train shows he looks for the older stuff.
Sorry,that guy is way off base and fully believes everybody should think like he does.
As far as train show attendees and dealers not looking or smelling their best..Some of these guys drives for miles to get to a train show,dealers usually puts in 2-3 hours work setting up his tables and this is done usually in the heat which from my experiences can be set to high.The worst day I ever put in at a show was under a heater vent and the heater was really pumping out the heat.:eek: :mad:
I really don't know if the man knows what he's talking about or not since I'm new to the hobby myself. I do think he has a point though when speaking of train shows exhibiting what seems to be junk and non- hobby related items making a poor impression on the newcomer. The alternate view is that one persons junk is anothers treasure, I suppose. Still, when I attended my first show I came away with a poor view of the hobby if that was all it had to offer.
I guess I may be odd man out on this read. While most of what he said didn't make a lot of sense to me I did agree somewhat with his opinon of forum postings.

I agree SOME of the postings on ALL RR forums are pretty trashy.