Model Railroader Mag. Inspiration or Intimidation? is a free Model Railroad Discussion Forum and photo gallery. We cover all scales and sizes of model railroads. Whether you're a master model railroader or just getting started, you'll find something of interest here.

Gary B

The Fox Valley Railroad
Hi guys. Just throwing this out for discussion.
Am I the only one that gets the latest MR issue and instead of being inspired to build layouts like it always features, feel depressed I know I never will. Do you look at $100 cabooses and think that even if you could afford it you will never dish out that kind of cash for one? Am I the only one who thinks that their operations articles are off the mark for most model rrs out there.
I'm not faulting them, and I do enjoy seeing what can be done, but I rather prefer it in the forum where I see what others are doing other than just top modelers. I'm interested in what you guys think.

D&J RailRoad

Professor of HO
I think it's a matter of finances to support a magazine worthy empire or layout. They certainly aren't going to feature a sheet of plywood with sectional track and snap switches sitting on saw horses. I think the real focus is that readers can take parts of what is presented and use it on their miniature world.


Beach Bum
I have been reading Model Railroader Magazine since the October 1961 issue. When I went through that magazine, I felt that I was in over my head, because the MR of that time was written for experienced model railroaders and not rookies. Fast forward 59 years to the February 2020 issue, and I felt it was the worst issue ever... I mean there was nothing there that really captured my interest, or required my time. No disrespect to Howard Zane, and his fantastic model railroad. He put in a lot of time, effort and money to accomplish what he did. I just really wasn't interested in reading about it. I mean, my whole house can fit in his layout room with space to spare. Not my cup of tea.

Of course, I have been modeling for approaching 6o years, with Marx and Lionel experience prior to that. I spent 42 years working in the Railroad Industry. Of course, I'm experienced and don't need beginner articles. But that's not the point. Normally, there is something in MR that arouses my interest, a better way of doing something...this issue had nothing. Possibly, the next will make up for the lack of content this month. Then again, the are breaking in another new editor, so he needs time to set his style.

i doubt that I would ever spend what Athearn is asking for a cabin car, lights, markers and sound not withstanding. I'll settle for a prototypically accurate caboose for under $50, with a DC/DCC compatable directional light board for markers. I use prototype operations, and try to be historically accurate, but I try not to get carried away, as I don't want to feel I'm back to work. The guy who is writing that operations article is a journalist / editor by trade, and is presenting his perception of how it's done. My results are different

I think one has to take things in perspective. As Ken stated, you glean what you can use from MR or RMC and go from there. There is never an expectation of the reader's replicating everything.


Burlington Bob

Well-Known Member
I approach it as something I COULD do.................given a lot, lot more time and money. And space. And help. If they just featured Average Joe and his 4x8 each month they would be out of business very quickly.

I know that I'll never have a layout that will be in Model Railroader, but I still drool over most of the work they feature. Sometimes, I think that they have a tendency to recycle some stuff a little too soon, but I'm not the only person reading it. I may know what a safety cab is, what a hump yard is and so on and so forth. But there is more than one or two (we hope!), that are reading it for the first time and are trying to decode the secret language we speak.

Like the old saying, you can't please all the people all the time, but I think that over all, they do a pretty decent job.


Well-Known Member
Staff member
I subscribed for 3 or 4 years in the nought-noughts. Was picking one up in a newsagent's got me interested again. Used to devour them cover to cover. Now I glance through the clubs issue, look at the pictures, read an article or two. Usually find something to interest. Used to like the late Andy Sperandeo's "The Operators" column.


Well-Known Member
I have a TON of past issues I've picked up over the years from very sources, There is a wealth of information in them. I started out trying to mark interesting items with little strips of yellow 'post-it note'. Finally decided I did not have enough room to store all those mags, nor enough time to get back to them. So then I started cutting out those article by pages to file away in categories. I still have two whole stacks of that material to file away. Of course a lot of that was begun back in MY pre-computer days.

How many of you are HAPPY with this new software that operates this forum site? I am, big thumbs up !

The software running this forum site now is SO GOOD!! Recently the search function brought me right to a subject I had posted back in 2018. In comparison the software over on the Model Railroader forum is so bad that the search function no longer works on it, the notification that someone has replied to a subject you are contributing to is no longer working, I am hassled constantly about photo inserts (they don't host them, but rather depend on a third part host)....etc etc. There are some good contributors over there, but the forum software is NOT doing them justice.


I love the magazine! I also get the Narrow Gauge and Shortline Gazette which I like even better. I agree that I don't care for the direction the hobby is headed: the high prices and pre-built, direction. However, I feel the magazines are simply showing the news in the hobby and what is becoming new and available. That the hobby is heading in a direction that I feel is detrimental (at least for me, anyway) would and should be reflected in the hobby press. As far as the layouts shown are concerned, some have been developed by highly skilled artists (Howard Zane for one). I think it is great to see what some people are capable of. However, the project railroads built by the people at the magazines are within the realm of almost everyone! So, I think Model Railroader does an excellent job of presenting the hobby.

I do not participate at the Model Railroader Forum; but, do subscribe to MRVP and the All Time Digital Archives

So, go ahead and "Rip Me A New One"!


Active Member
I visited a mr at a guys house that writes a column for a different mag. It filled his basement and was a nice layout. It got me wondering when did he spend time with his wife? A mr is fun but I value my wife and my relationship with her lots more than my choo choos in the basement. The grandkids come over and they play with Papas trains. So I will never have a magaine quality layout, but I don't really care either. So Model Railroader neither inspires me nor does it intimidate me.


I never built my layout with the intention of it needing to be a showcase for my wonderful skills as a model railroader (if I had any)! I live in a rural part of the country and so, very few people have actually seen my layout. I have been involved in this hobby for 31 years because I have enjoyed it! Do yourself a favor: If you feel that you need to build a show piece model railroad, to keep up with the Jones, think again as the fact is, most people will think of you as a nerd who plays with toy trains, therefore the "showcase" doesn't really exist! Do it because you like it, not because you want to be the next John Allen!

Gary B

The Fox Valley Railroad
Wow! A lot of responses and perspectives. Just what I was hoping for. Just to be clear, I do enjoy seeing the great layouts MR presents and the how to articles. Even though as a subscriber (my son keeps renewing me as a Christmas present) I rarely go on their site. I also realize they need articles for both beginners and experienced modelers. I do think there reader's photos should be on an actual layout, not a diorama out in the sun. Seems to give an unfair advantage, but then again it isn't a contest. They of course would not be doing their job if they didn't inform us about the new stuff on the market.
For me, I'll keep doing as I am - having fun! I guess part of that fan includes flipping through the pages of MR every month when it comes. Even if I get just a tiny depressed knowing I'll never be at that level.


Same Ol' Buzzard
Like others, I do not strive to have a MRR ready layout. I mostly look at layout articles and pictures to glean ideas that I can incorporate into my layout. I am a ruralist who rarely has visitors let alone fellow modelers so I have only myself and the grandkids to please. I also note that on many of the featured "large" layouts, the owner seems to have a whole list of friends who hepled them build their empires. I do not have that luxury.
Even though I am no longer in the market for new rolling stock, I do like to see what is available along with the (to me) outrageous prices. Hey, I might just purchase something. I also operate with DC only, so those DCC articles mean nothing to me. I also do not do steam or passenger traffic, but some of those photos and articles catch my attention. However I realize that they have to appeal to all modelers and also keep up with current trends.
I truly miss Andy as well. Tony and Pelle are getting boring lately.


Gandy Dancer
If you look at these huge, essentially complete layouts, you could feel overwhelmed. If you look at a contest winning model of an obscure whats-it, you could tell yourself, 'I'm never going to be able to do work like that'.

But then, you might be a EMT, and think, 'I'll never be able to do brain surgery'. You answered your own question, Gary, when you said the key is having fun. Let the super-modellers inspire and challenge you, but don't be turned-off or depressed by your current abilities or the amount of time you can devote to your layout.


Whiskey Merchant
I have been reading MR since the 60's. Being in the Navy, there wasn't any room on a destroyer to have a layout and the magazine helped me stay in touch with the hobby. I think it has gone down hill in recent years, but this is my opinion on my likes and dislikes in the hobby. New there is a great deal of the magazine devoted to DCC in which I have no real interest and is a waste of newsprint to me.

I will admit that over the years I have been able to use a lot of information from MR and MRC and incorporate some of the ideas into my locomotives, rolling stock or layout. I do also like the layout feature with the track plan in the magazine.

I have learned a lot over the years both from MR and from the school of hard knocks, and could probably build a heck of a lot better layout than I have now, but at my age, I don't plan on starting over on another layout.

If it were to be gone today, I don;t think I would really miss it.


Section Hand
I will be in defense of Model Railroader magazine. I been a reader of the magazine since I was in high school in the early-60's and found the articles in MR to be an inspiration for me. I like reading about large layouts and have enjoyed visiting in person large home and club layouts in the Milwaukee area. There's no question that I would not enjoy a visit to Howard Zane's layout after reading about his large, supersized layout in Model Railroader.

Today's new products with their seemly sky high prices is true for a lot of hobbies and life in general. But, items at lower prices for hobby items can be found at swap meets, close outs and at sale prices. MR fills a need to keep us informed of the latest and greatest in the hobby. Advertising revenue keeps Model Railroader alive, no matter what the price of the items

Don't forgot about the "Time Value of Money" and how prices for items have changed relatively little over the years when inflation becomes a factor. A $15 Varney Dockside locomotive perhaps amounted to over 12 hours of work for a high school student in 1965 to earn enough money to purchased a Dockside. Now, how about that $100 caboose at today prices verses today's wages?

It also takes money to produce an issue of Model Railroader. Time is required to capture a layout in photos is taken up with set up time, takes and retakes until the photos are magazine quality. Usually taking days at a time. Most layouts need to be rearranged like movie sets before the filming starts. Read Playing with Trains by Sam Posey about his adventures in starting and building a model railroad layout that finally made it to the pages of Model Railroader and how his layout was filmed by Dave Frary. Camera angles are limited on a smaller home layouts making the layouts less attractive to do a feature article for any national magazine so fewer small layouts make into MR. Photos of smaller layouts and dioramas make to MR via the "Sidetrack Photos" section.

Time spent to maintain a large layout varies by layout. I talked to one nationally known railroader who has a basement sized layout and asked how he manages to keep his track clean and his reply was a simple, "I run trains." I can't imagine even with with the least amount of maintenance, how much time an owner of a large layout will spent on maintenance. It must take real dedication to own a large layout.

My modest 12x16 layout with never reach the size of Howard Zane's or even nearby John Tews' Timber River Railway. But, the hobby isn't all about constructing a huge layout. There's kit building, weathering, DCC installations, kit bashing, rail trips, collecting brass locomotives and visiting other layouts that all could be considered as hobbies within our hobby all without the need for a huge layout.

Yesterday, I spent over four hours merely working on re-lettering a SOO caboose with some minor weathering and running two Bachmann 70 tonners in a consist to break in the loco's drive mechanisms. No time was spent working on the layout. I had a very enjoyable day working on projects while listening to a train running on the layout.

Let's talk about John Allen's Gorre & Daphetid that remains an inspiration for many even today almost 50 years after it was destroyed by a fire. This layout appearing in most model railing magazine was the reason for me to get started HO model railroading after losing interest in a Lionel train layout that was setup on the living room carpet. I keep a December 1981 issue of Model Railroader with John Allen's Squaw Creek High Bridge on the cover near my computer for inspiration when my interest in model railroad wanes. Without MR, I would have not known about John Allen and his G&D railroad empire.

Model Railroader keeps my interest in model railroading fresh and like Chet I get ideas from reading MR and the featured layouts. I learn something new as I read each issue. The photography is above par and MR's product reviews very helpful. MR takes me on visits to these well done empires. Let's forget about the high prices of advertised rolling stock and locomotives and just read the articles and increase our knowledge of model railroading.

Keep my monthly issues coming.




The track plan for the Gorre & Daphetid by John Allen.-Greg

max diyer

Well-Known Member
I had a subscription for 20 years and really enjoyed it. Around the 18th year, an issue would arrive and would sit on my desk for 2, 3 or more days before I even looked at it. I don't know if there wasn't enough content that I was interested in or just got bored with it. So I dropped my subscription. The magazine rack at the grocery store carries Model Railroader and Model Railroad Craftsman and I usually leaf through them. If I see something interesting, I'll buy it, but that's not very often.

That being said, I want MR and others to always be available as I still enjoy them, but maybe not as much as I did 20 - 40 years ago.


New Member
I commend MR (and RMC) for their decades long promotion of the Model Railroad hobby. I purchase both intermittently at the magazine store and recently have purchased the digital MR pub. I would say to both mags. keep on doing what you're doing but perhaps add a little something to the "same old same old". e.g. "making 80' HO (and other scales also) passenger cars run as reliably as the old AHM/Athearn heavyweights...hmmmm),
repairing some of the more commonly encountered "failures" on (expensive) turntables (hmmm), DC power supplies, etc.), repairing
cracked axle gearing, effectively utilizing Ernst gear reduction kits, making free-rolling locomotives in all scales (not just O). I know that MR has
to be more than diplomatic when discussing equipment problems but if advice were offered in a positive mode I think vendors would be way better off than they might otherwise be. Modelers find out about equipment problems anyway and can be rather merciless in their critiques on the various forums. MR and RMC could take the lead in presenting constructivist critiques to the hobbyist and to the manufacturer's...a pressing need I think. I think we need this kind of leadership.

Burlington Bob

Well-Known Member
There are a lot of similarities to Greg and me. I bought my first MR with the Jan. 1970 issue, which featured John Allen's Gorre and Daphited RR. I don't know how many years went by before I finally figured out the play on the name of his railroad! I'm just a little slow! One of the models they reported on was an N scale MRC Alco FA1. Back then almost every piece of N scale equipment was crude at best by today's standards, but that didn't stop me. I soon learned what brands were good and which ones to avoid, much like today, although there are far fewer brands to avoid now.

redvdub1 makes some good points as well. Right now, I'm one who just buys the occasional issue since I let my subscription lapse a couple of years ago. But I do think seriously about signing up again, but still haven't taken the step. Soon though I think I will. I do hope they succeed, as I think they are an important part of getting new folks interested in the hobby.


Well-Known Member
My main issue with MR is that most of what they do is modern made from plastic, which I don't care for. I'm not really intimidated because of that.

Occasionally, they'll print something that catches my interest and that's why I continue to subscribe. The Howard Zane and John Allen articles in the latest issue (if I'm remembering the right magazine) are keepers. I don't keep much.


I admit to not reading the replies fully through because I get the point.. I too have a pile of MR and RMC mags which end around 10 years ago...
The thing I find is the recycling of techniques and methods has reached a saturation level. As far as they seemingly aiming toward the wealthier bunch, I believe is perhaps because it may be the last group they can easier sell to...Plus, these mags are desperately competing with what we're doing right here and now !!
I did start buying TRAINS mag as I was getting more info and better ideas reading about and looking at the 1:1 scale than from the hobby end mags..
I do neither now as I feel I've seen and heard enough, other than about some of the latest electronics. This end of the hobby is constantly widening..
But even this has little interest to me as all I really ever needed was a good DCC control (NCE PowerCab) and to know where the reverse loops are....

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