Model Rail Magazine

Cover of Model Rail 281

I just cancelled my subscription to the British Model Rail, magazine, number 281 should be the last I will get. I was reading it for more than a year, first buying it in the shop, I then took a subscription. At first, I thought it was really good value and the falling value of the pound certainly helped. But after a year, I feel like I’m always getting the same thing.

One core problem was that this is a British magazine and as such, extremely insular. Of course, French magazines concentrate on French Railways, and the German ones do the same, but there is usually one page or another to talk about neighbouring countries. And of course, trains cross borders regularly, wagons are interchanged, etc. In more than one year of reading Model Rail, I saw I think one article about the American locomotive Big Boy, and that was it.

Another problem is that British model trains do not use the H0 scale (1:87), but an older variant called OO which is basically the H0 gauge with the 1:76 scale. This means that products from all over the world (this includes the US) are not compatible. The interesting thing is that OO scale also existed in continental Europe, but was a temporary hack as it was difficult to scale down components.

Still, these two problems are not that serious, as many techniques and tricks work across scales, but it certainly means that products reviews for British exclusive models have no values for me. The thing is, the average issue of Model Rail contains one or two technical tricks and they are not that impressive, mostly a rerun of classics. Every issue, there a model is presented, they are beautiful, but usually not that original.

For a hobby that old, there is a lot going on in model railroading: 3D-printing, digital-control, laser cutting, electronic components that can be bought for cheap, or harvested from broken consumer products. French magazines have special issues explaining how to use lots of used items for modelling, the german ones on how to use natural products, hundreds of techniques where I though, ooh, I need to try that.

Do you think Model Rail would have an article on how to use old computer ribbon cables to make metal doors? Nope, you get advice on using used tea as ground cover, not a bad idea, mind-you, but not exactly a new idea. That is not to say that the magazine does not have anything modern, there was an impressive article on someone reconstructing some famous building I never heard of, with a computer. Was I impressed? Yes. Will I use any of the techniques describe there? Not really.

In short, while cheap, this magazine has just too little useful content if you are not an old school, British modeller…

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