What's the best Model RR magazine?

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I agree with bob. I was a faithful MR reader for the last decade, and then I picked up one of my favorite prototype's Historical Society (For me it;s the SPHTS) quarterly magazines, and was amazed at the level and quality of information about my favorite prototype. About a decade's worth of SP-themed layouts and articles featured in MR in ONE magazine!

Also, These forums are an excellent source for info, layout tours, the occasional review, and some fun people to talk to, and best of all, IT's Interactive! :)


Long Winded Old Fart
"Model Railroader" since 1961.

Use to get Mainline Modeler & Model Railroading, but they went out of business.
Still get Railroad Model Craftsman, but when My subscription runs out in 2008 I'm dropping them.


Coal Shoveler
I wrote this back in April '06. Since then, as was mentioned, MRding and Mainline Modeller have ceased publication. I've left them in place, for those who remember them, to give a bit of perspective to those magazines still existing.


Over the holidays, I managed to catch up on my reading of most of the model RR magazines I subscribe to. Which is a lot, since as I cycle through them and the railfan magazines, sometimes there could be 2-3 months worth of each magazine in the 'to be read' pile. Still, having gone through the pile of model RR ones, I thought it might be a good time to rate them; I think somebody asked about it once. So, from first to last, here are my rankings.

1. Railroad Model Craftsman (RMC). This is a Carstens publication. Overall, I rank it #1, equally suited for the beginner as well as intermediate modeller. Though I would shade it more for the intermediate. Articles include modelling, prototype, and layouts. Reviews are decent, usually done by a modeller and not necessarily the staff. Decent 'what's new' section.

The modelling articles tend to be more complete than what you find in the other magazines. Usually, these articles are by modellers. Some articles will run 4-5 pages, with plenty of detail, including a parts list. Perfect for those of us who aren't that skilled in kitbashing or scratchbuilding. The layout articles are OK, decent number of pictures, but the trackplan illustration can sometimes be spotty.

All in all, this magazine is a good value, I've actually seen in it Meijers (a midwest Big Box), and sometimes in Borders.

2. RailModel Journal (RMJ). This one is one step below RMC, and in my mind, tied with #3 below. But, RMJ gets the nod because it's publishing schedule is more reliable. Like all the other magazines, it has prototype, modelling, and layout articles, plus new stuff and reviews. However, these are more sparsely written. The editor, Bob Schleicher, likes layouts and prototype info, so, there is a fair amount of these. There are editors in the various modelling and prototype fields. He takes a lot of pictures of layouts, but the trackplan leaves a lot to be desired. Sometimes, it's a napkin sketch. But, he takes a lot of pictures, both in color and B&W! Currently, it seems he's visiting layouts that will be on the layout tours for the upcoming NMRA convention in Philly.

Prototype articles include things such as Diesels one detail at a time and various freight cars and containers, and such.

The printing isn't as slick, and production is at least a step below most magazines (as in, not that slick and glossy, but better than the weekend magazines). Some folks will also object to the editor's propensity to do rough sketches vs other magazine's slick graphics portrayals. But, it does get the message across. This is pretty much a hobby shop publication, you're not going to find this at a bookstore.

3. Model Railroading (MRding). This one is below RMJ solely because the editor, Randy Lee, has a tendency to get out of sync when the holidays come around. What that means is that they start coming late, and you get the Nov issue sometime in January. And then you're playing catch-up the rest of the year. As a side note, their cover date is up to date. But that's because Randy skipped 2 months.

This magazine is well-known for their multi-part articles such as the current SD45-2, EMD's Last Big Block SD, and the building of the Jersey Western, by Jim Mansfield. Jim's been doing a monthly article on this for at least 6 years.

They have layout articles as well, but they're a bit less detailed than the other magazines. Pictures are good, and the trackplan is decent.

This magazine's real strength is the modelling articles. Some of the projects are pretty detailed, and the pictures are very clear so you can actually follow what the author is doing. Finally, there is an ongoing series on DCC; it's basically an 'as it comes along' series in that there's an article when something warrants it.

4. Model Railroader (MR). I put it here mainly because it's still a decent magazine for the beginner. Say what you will about it, shallow articles, simplistic information. That's the stuff for the beginner. It's slick for a reason. I consider myself an intermediate, but I do like MR. My favorite is the track plans for the layouts. This is something of interest for me, though I wish there were more layout pictures.

5. Mainline Modeller (MM). I put this one #5 because it's audience is the intermediate to advanced modeller. Bob Hundman likes to scratchbuild, and this magazine is really not for the beginner. Though, if you want to aspire to higher skills, this magazine could motivate you. Though I do wonder how many folks would be patient enough to go through 29 photos on how to scratchbuild a tender (part 2 of 4).

Strengths include prototype buildings, locomotive drawings, and prototype locations with drawings. Text descriptions may be somewhat sparse, but it may be a personal preference. To me, this magazine is truly a niche magazine, it's not really for everybody.

Bonus. Model Railroad News (MRN). This really isn't your standard model RR magazine, it's really Consumer Reports for Model RR stuff (mainly locos and rolling stock). It covers HO and N, but also Garden Scale and a little bit of Z. Basically, it gets new stuff from the manufacturers, which are farmed out to the various reviewers on their staff (who are modellers), and they test them. So, the results they get should approximated what a run-of-the-mill modeller should see.

The other main part of the magazine is that they cover the new releases by a host of manufacturers. Not quite the same as how MRding does it, it's in a different format and a less wide base.

This magazine is tabloid sized, and written in an informal, folksy manner. Easy reading, but the info seems well worth the time.




Grandson of an ALCO Builder
I concur with Bob too.
It all depends on your area of interests, be it the prototype world/era and or specific RR etc.

I subscribe to the following since I am a UP guy...:eek: :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

The Streamliner (by UPHS. I have all issues since day 1):D

Diesel Era (currently completing my back issue library 4 more to go and I will have all since day 1):p

I do buy MR & TRP on occasions from BAM.

Then I buy lots of books from MorningSun and Withers publications.
Also books from Don Strack and other UP authors recomended by UPHS.

I am currently working on my steam book collection for UP from the UPHS site by Union Pacific Prototype Locomotive Photos From the James L. Ehernberger Collection...(http://www.uphs.org/PLPlist.htm) I have all but 7 books...:D
i like model railroader, i like this because it is full of information. The layout trackplans are very well drawn, that articles explain the stuff in detail, and its not that expensive.

Hope this helps


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