Shrinking Model Railroader Magazine

Discussion related to everything about model railroading, from layout design and planning, to reviews of related model tools and equipment. Discussion includes O, S, HO, N and Z, as well as narrow gauge topics. Also includes discussion of traditional "toy train" and "collector" topics such as Lionel, American Flyer, Marx, and others. Also includes discussion of outdoor garden railways and live steamers.

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Shrinking Model Railroader Magazine

Postby CNJ999 » Sat Dec 09, 2017 5:38 pm

Model Railroader Magazine's circulation figures for 2017 are out in the January 2018 issue and indicate that MR took perhaps the most dramatic hit in readership numbers, percentage-wise, during 2017 as I've seen in quite some years. Average readership for the past year dropped to 100,313 (it peaked at 224,000 twenty years back), a nearly 15,000 drop from 2016! At the same time, the year's final issue garnered a reported circulation figure that fell below 100,000 for the first time in perhaps 35 or 40 years! Similarly, during the past year the magazine's Video Plus arm's saw subscription numbers show only weak growth. After nearly 15 years of very weak content MR has attempted to turn itself around and return to the sort of superior modeling material that kept it the hobby's premier publication decade after decade. But after two decades drifting that saw a steadily disappointed and declining readership I fear that this effort, initiated back in 2015-16, may prove to be too little coming too late.

I look back fondly on the era when we all couldn't wait to see the arrival of MR's December issue appear in our mailbox every year. It could always be counted on to be jam-packed with exciting ads for new products, new projects, or modeling techniques, along with often bringing the year's best layout articles and holiday-oriented photos...all crammed into 200+ pages! Boy, do I miss those golden days in the hobby!

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Re: Shrinking Model Railroader Magazine

Postby Roger Hensley » Sun Dec 10, 2017 7:49 am

Yes, the magazine has shrunk. But I must say that I enjoyed the January issue of MR more than anything in the last two years! I hope they keep it up!
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Re: Shrinking Model Railroader Magazine

Postby granton junction » Sun Dec 10, 2017 8:12 am

Years ago I always looked forward to MR and RMC. MR for me tho, and this is just personal, does not have the 'magic' that it once had. Same for Trains Mag. Too bad. I liked RMC even better, but it has been difficult for me to find it ever since Carstens went belly up. Can anybody speculate on the financial status of Kalmbach? I hope that they are not in a situation like Carstens was in.
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Re: Shrinking Model Railroader Magazine

Postby CNJ999 » Mon Dec 11, 2017 10:38 am

granton junction wrote:Years ago I always looked forward to MR and RMC. MR for me tho, and this is just personal, does not have the 'magic' that it once had. Same for Trains Mag. Too bad. I liked RMC even better, but it has been difficult for me to find it ever since Carstens went belly up. Can anybody speculate on the financial status of Kalmbach? I hope that they are not in a situation like Carstens was in.



I would have to say that given the extensive range of other publications it promotes, that Kalmbach itself is probably not in any immediate danger assuming other of its publications are not also in a similar situation. As I've voiced here previously, Kalmbach might well be in a financial position of supplement the finances necessary for the publication of MR through shifting profits from one or more of its various endeavors (note the ever increasing number of DVDs and "special" issues they are generating lately) . All things considered, MR was the magazine that started the company in the first place and I think they would do everything they could to keep it afloat.

That said, I would note that based on what I saw working nearly 20 years as a monthly columnist for another hobby magazine publisher, it would appear that a readership of around 50,000 is required to keep today's hobby magazines viable. Being a hobby composed largely of Baby Boomers, model railroading stands to face a progressive readership decline over the course of the next 10 years, or so. If MR's readership continues to shrink at the rate it has been doing since 2000 we may just might see just where the actual cutoff point in its viability is in coming years.

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Re: Shrinking Model Railroader Magazine

Postby Backshophoss » Mon Dec 11, 2017 7:21 pm

Both RMC and R&R were picked up from the Carsten's "remains",Should be available in the "Newsstand" section of Barnes and Nobles Bookstores
White River Productions is now the publisher of both.
Also Local Hobby Shops that are somewhat "rail centric"
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Re: Shrinking Model Railroader Magazine

Postby CNJ999 » Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:55 am

Having read the final pages of my January 2018 copy of MR just the other day brought to my attention what I consider a particularly uncharacteristic article that just might herald the direction MR might be considering turning to in the future in hopes of salvaging its declining popularity. Although pure speculation on my part at this point and perhaps no more than a coincidence, Tony Koester, MR's prototype-obsessed Trains of Thought columnist, unexpectedly seems to be implying that suddenly tin-plate and HighRail modeling are just as valid forms of the hobby as traditional scale modeling.

Now about a year, or so ago, in a long thread here discussing the history of MR and its circulation, I pointed out that a major dichotomy in model railroading occurred during the mid-1950's. At the time MR's readership included a large contingent of Lionel/Flyer enthusiasts and the scale hobby was starting to see a decline in the manufacturing of quality items and their replacement with more crude examples of cars and items cheaper and better suited to the toy train hobby. After all, the 1950's were seeing the great peak in the popularity of toy trains across the USA. It was the introduction of Lionel's "Girl's Train in Fashion-Right Colors" that was perhaps the last straw, along with manufacturers like Varney, Mantua, et al, openly complaining in MR's Letters to the Editor column about the degrading of the scale hobby in favor of toy trains. The magazine's editor soon declared that, as he put it in a MR editorial, that the magazine was about and for the followers of the "Adult hobby of scale model railroading" and hereafter would address only that. Subsequently, toy trains, tin-plate, and HighRail articles, together with nearly all advertisements for same, were banished from the pages of MR for at least 30 years and even there-after an were extreme rarity. As I pointed out, the 1950's separation from tin-plate trains resulted in MR's circulation abruptly and dramatically dropping by about 50,000 readers!

Returning to my opening thought...was this just column's outlook just coincidence, or was Koester urged to write his January installment of Trains of Thought in a light that perhaps we should all be one big happy family once again? Could we see MR return to being largely scale, but partly tin-plate as it largely was back in the 1930's and 40's, re-instituted in hopes of luring back its long lost readership? And what impact would that move have on MR's sister publication, Classic Toy trains? Perhaps could this even be a first hint at the merging of the two publications being considered to save costs? Hmmm. :wink:

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Re: Shrinking Model Railroader Magazine

Postby CNJ999 » Tue Jan 09, 2018 4:53 pm

Hmmm, perhaps I wasn't all that far off the mark with my somewhat rather wild speculation voiced in my previous post about Model Railroader perhaps considering the re-appearance of articles concerning tin-plate toy trains in their pages after a lapse of over five decades. I note that this week's installment of Model Railroader's Video Plus e-mailed newsletter contains an introductory video regarding a Lionel-like, clearly very non-scale, about 5x9 O-gauge layout that the video's moderator indicates will appear serially in MR Video Plus and simultaneously in Classic Toy Trains magazine in coming months. No mention is made of including it in MR yet, however up until now I believe that MR Video Plus was exclusively about scale model trains, real railroads, and similar topics.

Nearly three generations ago MR dropped any regular coverage of tin-plate trains from its pages as being toxic for the scale hobby. If it should come to pass that MR will attempt to move toward re-integrating them back into its pages now, will the remaining members of the magazine's long-time readership really accept such a move? Watching for further such potential inferences in this direction could make the year 2018 a highly interesting one to see if such a shift in that direction is truly being contemplated. :wink:

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Re: Shrinking Model Railroader Magazine

Postby Bigt » Fri Feb 09, 2018 11:15 am

I am not sure just where the trouble lies with Model Railroader, or, Trains Magazine. I was a long time subscriber to both,
but, eventually dropped them both because of what I felt was a lack of content. When I would see the usual blurbs on the
cover telling of the articles inside, then only to find an "article" that contains only a handful of photos and captions.....well, to
me that is not an "article". I had always looked forward to the good informative articles once found in both of these magazines,
but, we no longer see that. I have more than once thought that David P. Morgan would be rolling in his grave if he could today
see what has happened to his beloved Trains Magazine! On the other hand, I have been a subscriber to Classic Trains since day one
and find it an enjoyable read each and every issue.
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Re: Shrinking Model Railroader Magazine

Postby JamesRR » Mon Feb 12, 2018 11:34 am

As a fan of passenger trains, I always found MR to be light on content that appealed to me. It's always steam and freight. Rail Model Craftsmen was usually more appealing.
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Re: Shrinking Model Railroader Magazine

Postby TCurtin » Sun Feb 18, 2018 3:33 pm

CNJ999 wrote:Tony Koester, MR's prototype-obsessed Trains of Thought columnist, unexpectedly seems to be implying that suddenly tin-plate and HighRail modeling are just as valid forms of the hobby as traditional scale modeling.


Ok, that's one thing that is happening.

Another is that MR recently appointed an editor who is a 2-rail O scale modeler.

Yet a third thing is something I have said at gatherings of O scale modelers [of which I am one]: something to the effect of "Nah, I don't real Model Railroader, it's all HO."

And a fourth thing is the drastic shrinkage in MR's readership point our in this thread.

Put those together and we might ---- MIGHT --- just be seeing the beginning of a strategy in the hallowed halls of MR to attract the O community. Who knows?

PS, a comment on Tony Koester's column about hi-rail modeling: I have been AMAZED to learn by how much the 3-rail hi-rail population outnumbers the 2-rail O scale population! Companies like Atlas O product their stuff both way, and I can tell you they sell a lot more 3-rail
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Re: Shrinking Model Railroader Magazine

Postby nyandw » Sun Apr 22, 2018 6:49 pm

Yes, interest and time spent reading MR has declined steadily. :-(
Model Railroad Hobbyist mag is a fine alternative: http://model-railroad-hobbyist.com/

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Re: Shrinking Model Railroader Magazine

Postby ConstanceR46 » Wed Apr 25, 2018 1:09 pm

real talk: who cares about being "toxic for the hobby". what's toxic is boomer elitists who gatekeep literal toy trains.
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