Monday, December 23, 2019

Farewell Railway Magazine Guide to Modelling

Just before Christmas, some sad news - The Railway Magazine Guide to Modelling is to close after three years.

According to the letter sent to advertisers and distributors:

Unfortunately, this current January edition of the Railway Magazine Guide to Modelling will be the last, as the title can no longer sustain itself as a free newspaper.

You might think I'd be pleased to see a rival publication go under, but I'm not. I wrote for the magazine several times in my pre-BRM days and always found them very pleasant to deal with. They paid up quickly for a start, always something to warm the cockles of a freelancers heart.

I also got my first full cover photo back in April 2017 with them, the issue is framed on my office wall.

I didn't see the RMMGtM as a direct competitor. To quote the letter again:

We always saw the Railway Magazine Guide to Modelling as a first step publication, helping push enthusiasts to other established title, including our own monthly publications - including The Railway Magazine, Rail Express and Heritage Railway. So although this particular publication will sadly no longer be produced, we hope some of the readers will have been bitten by the railways and modelling bug, and continue to read some of our great content in those other titles. 

That's fair enough. The content was far more human interest than mainstream magazines. You didn't get extensive step-by-step pieces of the sort I write. They had the short of readable but light articles that you might enjoy while waiting for a train instead. If you had discovered your local model shop thanks to the GMRC, picking up a free copy of this would be a nice gentle introduction to railway modelling.

While I'm sure there will be plenty of people trying to work out what this means for the hobby (and deciding it means doom) I don't think it tells us much. The readers didn't desert the magazine, which was given away free after all, so you can't tell if the content appealed or not. Nor if the number of readers was falling as the hobby goes down the tubes and all the modellers die of old age as many delight in telling us is happening.

If there is a conclusion to be drawn it's that advertisers expect a return on their investment. Adverts should drive sales and maybe selling mainly to people who are only reading a mag because it's free means your ad is being seen by people who simply don't want to spend any money. I know that it's a very different situation with Garden Rail fortunately!

So, farewell to a brave experiment that will join a host of other long-gone model railway magazines (MORILL,, Practical Model Railways, Scale Trains etc.) into model railway folklore.

There are many local model shops who will miss this mag as it drew people in to pick up their copy, but how many of them were just hanging around and not putting their hands in their pockets? I know my local shop has a few of those...

1 comment:

Huw Griffiths said...

"I didn't see ... as a direct competitor."

An interesting point - which could legitimately be seen from a number of angles.

Perhaps the most obvious is that this magazine would probably not be the place to look for "how to" articles on (eg.) kitbashing pioneer railbuses. After all, "hardcore" modellers were unlikely to have been the publisher's target market.

Then we come to the more "mainstream" model railway magazines - those targeted at "the average enthusiast" (or not, as the case may be). How many of these are really direct competitors?

In fact, how many of these even run comparable articles, on similar themes, pitched at the same level?

To some people, this might sound like a crazy question - but is it?

Let's start with Model Railway Journal. I could imagine a typical reader being an experienced modelmaker, who might not be afraid of producing even some of the parts they use to build their models, using sheet metal and headstock, plus a load of hand tools most of us mere mortals have never heard of.

On the face of it, MRJ appears to be aimed at a very skilled, niche market - but I suspect that many of us "lesser" modellers have probably bought copies of one or two issues most years, if we find articles that interest us.

Now let's turn to more mainstream magazines - such as Railway Modeller, Model Rail, Hornby Magazine, or British Railway Modelling. Surely these are all in direct competition with each other?

Not so fast. Many of their articles are about different topics, or pitched at different levels - which could make a reasonable impartial observer suspect that they might not actually be targeted at exactly the same readers.

Anyway, you only need to look at the magazines section of sites like Ramsey to see that a number of people routinely read more than one of these publications.

Again, many of us buy individual copies of specific issues of these magazines, based on the articles within them.

OK - I know some people have subscriptions to one or more of these magazines - but many of us would take a lot of persuading to commit to any magazine in this way.