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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Something to think about...

Yesterday I picked up my first issue of Logging, Mining & Industrial Annual.  While all of the articles were great, filled with information, photos, and models; I was a bit surprised at the editor's note on page 76.  To explain the issue as a whole, it seemed like the editor was badmouthing modelers and manufacturers about inaccuracies.  I can't explain the issue better than the man who wrote it himself, so here are some quotes:

"For every hobbyist with the curiosity and attention to detail of Jacq ________ and Marc _______ exist hundreds of lethargic, ignorant copycats."

"Over the past thirty years our hobby has become a caricature of itself; it is largely a pastime where a lazy majority collects (usually inexpensive) possessions, loses interest in them after a while, and moves onto something equally inane."

"Condemn pretenders who try to pass off caricature as accuracy and reveal Internet blowhards for what they are."
--Russ Reinberg, Westlake Publishing Company. 

My take on this:

It is these three quotes that trouble me the most.  To be called lazy, lethargic, ignorant, and a pretender is a slap in the face for anyone in any scale.  To me, the note seems to preach the idea that if one is not making a 100% effort towards accuracy then this person is merely playing with toys.  The article which this note is related to I had no issue with as it presented a common problem of having a difficult time finding information.  However this editor exploded a minor obstacle into a deep issue which seems to affect all hobbyists.

Rebuttal for first quote:
I personally believe the majority of hobbyists strive for some level of detail and accuracy, but few really manage to achieve a 100% accuracy simply because it is a very difficult goal to achieve.  I also believe that many of us do not directly copy other's work, but we certainly receive inspiration from it.  Much of my methods about building layouts stems from great sources as Model Railroader Magazine and carendt.com.  Am I copying others work?  No, but am I copying a system that has been proven, Yes.  But this has been done for ages and besides, there is not an infinite number of methods to constructing a railroad, so there must be overlap.

I can also say for certain that the majority of modeler's are not lethargic, and ignorant.  Most of us know full well that our models are to 100% accurate and we know it is nearly impossible to achieve that dream.  Case in point, our models are propelled by electricity running through an electric motor.  I'm quite sure our steam engines of the old days were not powered by such technology.  We all acknowledge our inaccuracies and so we cannot be ignorant.  The difference between the majority and the minority is that the majority accept these differences and move on to something more fun like running our creations and purchases.

Rebuttal for the second quote:

Are we lazy for buying products up to our budget ceiling?  I don't think so.  Although if I were to charge $20 a magazine I perhaps could collect the finer items of this hobby and ignore the every-mans' models.  It is important for some to know that not all of us are engineers, architects, and publishers, and this is coming from an engineering student.  What we buy is usually at or above our safe limit.  But modelers have always been and always will be masters at turning something generic into something extraordinary and worth looking twice at.  I have seen many amazing kitbashes and scratch-builts from many modelers and many of them, including a couple in this magazine, were built on a very low budget.

I myself buy many inexpensive items and then move on.  My parents would attest to this, as would my closet.  There are many modelers known as 'rubber-gaugers' who do not stick with one scale.  I myself am a rubber-gauger, I have built layouts in N, HO, On30, O27, and G scale and up until recently have often bounced between scales on an almost monthly basis.  What this note suggests is that I am lazy and can't decide a scale.  Only half of that is true, I work 50 hours a week and I' sure many others work just as hard if not harder to keep themselves afloat.  Again, if I were to start a publishing business I may not have to work as hard and could then devote more time to 'perfecting' my models.

Rebuttal for the third quote:
We are all pretenders, I often pretend my trains are real, and pretend that they are accomplishing something useful.  I pretend that the coal and lumber being hauled will be used for something, and I pretend that staging yards are the rest of the world.  So if everyone does that, is it an issue to pretend that a locomotive not 100% accurate could have existed?  Is it an issue if the floor plan to my building is a few feet off?  If one looks at this hobby as people doing what they love, then who really cares about the locomotive or the name of the town, or geographic location or how much detail, money, and time someone has invested.

As for "Internet Blowhards" I guess I myself am one too.  I post on a blog where there is a million errors I have not caught, or know exist. I post on a forum where I am often wrong, and other's are often very correct.  I am learning, and I often reflect what I have learned to others via a public forum or this website.  Do I know if I'm wrong?  Until someone points out otherwise I take what I have learned as being true and accurate.  Is that really a crime?  Is it also a crime to suggest a company that makes kits for buildings which are not 100% accurate as the basis for a project?  Lack of information is not lying, and lack of knowledge is not a crime.  It's ultimately up to the individual to make their own choices for buildings, trains, and everything else in this hobby.


Though I love the articles in this magazine, it is apparent to me that there exists a cultural fracture in this hobby between those that don't about the ultimate detail, and those that make 100% accuracy their main goal.  Guess which sect most hobbyists are in.  Most of us modelers do indeed strive for realism, but many of us follow the 'good enough' rule.  Knowing when to stop and have a good time is something that makes this hobby more enjoyable and relaxing. Finding that sweet-spot doesn't make me lazy, nor anyone else for that matter.  Acknowledging our errors and knowing that our models are not 100% accurate does not make us ignorant, it makes us human.  And our wallets do not reflect our spirit.  I've got $37 in cash right now, but I can't wait to get started on my next project, and will work well into the night to get it done.

If this is what this particular editor thinks, then that is fine with me.  But next time I would caution against publishing opinions on a very good, information filled magazine that anyone can buy.

if anyone else would like to comment or add to this, please do so in the comment box below.  I do warn though, if a comment is too abusive and not to the point, it will be removed.



  1. hi
    please give westlake publishing a break.it has always strived to publish inspiration and at the same time it is brutely honest.i think the hobby industry should be able to handle this.i was published in the latest copy-blue top salvage i dont build 100 percent accurate models but still fit in
    kind regards kim marsh

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Although you make a valid point, i respectfully must disagree in that West lake is being honest. I have seen many works, including yours that I have both enjoyed and learned from. However not once have I met someone who was lazy, ignorant, or lethargic. Such statements are a slap in the face to the general population of the hobby and it is something I will not stand for. if this is what you believe, then that is fine, but don't burden the rest of the world with such opinions. On the good side, West lake's articles, information, and photographs are great and must complement you because you did a great job on your project. However my point stands that modelers shouldn't be attacked for not meeting this magazine editor's high standards and I therefore will not cut any slack for Westlake until I see a retraction of statements made.

    2. Also, you may wish to check out freerails.com, an online forum. there you can see who else agrees with me that such statements are an insult and at a minimum could be stated more kindly. It's called 'An Editor's Note'

  2. James,

    I just joined the forum a few days ago, and "stumbled" across the topic. IMHO it is attitudes like this that actually can drive new comers out of the hobby. I was contest chairman of the SER for over 12 years, and have worked on several National contests as well. I have seen, in person, some of the most outstanding modeling in the entire country. But when I became chairman, we weren't getting many entries in contest, because of the "elitist" attitude many had come to perceive of the contests.

    That attitude was preventing many more modelers from entering their models into the contests. I spent over 4 years re-vamping the contests. I finally got rid of the attitude that was driving modelers away. It seemed that no one who entered the contest knew how the scores were achieved. I believe that I was the chairman, national or regional, to require the judges to write why the score was what it was(1982). I also required the judge to tell the modeler how to improve on his mistakes/errors. I also opened the room to anyone who wanted to see the process of judging, but if you were there when your model was judged, you couldn't speak to the judges, unless they asked you a question.

    The gist of it was that if you entered into the contest, you would know why you got the score, and how to improve on that model to get a better score. Any disparaging remarks to the modeler were banned. We started with, in 1975, 8 models in the contest room, By 1985, we had 50, and now we average about 50-60. We have had over 100 at times.

    You draw more bees with flowers, than you do with a stick. Treat a modeler with respect, and kindness, and you'll see your numbers grow. Treat them like the editor commented, and you'll soon be by yourself wondering what went wrong.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this.

    Carey Jenkins
    Cjcrescent on the forum.

    1. Thank you for your two cents. Just another example of what can happen if we merely begin acting in a more realistic manner. I can't imagine anyone joining a contest where they would be subject to straight criticism without any questions being answered. I'm glad to hear that at least in that contest, the idea of superiority was outcast.