Among the public and private responses to my July 25, 2012 post about our new publication The Missing Conversation, I was accused of being pretentious, elitist and of taking away from other’s approach to having fun with their hobby.

Comments like these presuppose that this is a monolithic hobby with only one way to enjoy it. Further, it seems that now the only purpose behind this hobby is to have fun with fun being interpreted as some form of escapist recreation. My response is, what is fun?

In his editorial in the August issue, Joe Fugate, Publisher of Model Railroad Hobbyist wondered out loud whether prototype modelers with their more serious approach were spoiling the fun of the hobby for everyone else. He feels among other things, that our emphasis on accuracy in regard to individual details on both the model and the scene as a whole is too intimidating and daunting for casual hobbyists or novices to the hobby. He also feels we look down on other modelers who prefer a simpler approach. Model railroading would be much better off if we just lightened up and had fun like everyone else.

Hmm! Who gets to define what fun is in this hobby? A magazine (any magazine) or the individual modeler?  While I can’t and won’t deny that his assertions have some validity, because among modelers of all ranks and experience levels, there is no shortage  of people who find a smug satisfaction in putting others down as immature as that behavior is.

I’m not at all certain what he thought to accomplish with the tone of his editorial other than fuel the very fire of criticism he finds so offensive. Mr. Fugate and I likely agree that this is a hobby of personal choice, in that you get to practice it as you see fit. Others don’t have to agree with your tastes and you don’t have to agree with approaches that hold little or no interest for you. The final decision in all cases lies with the person. Can we agree that’s enough?

My problem with these types of editorials is the implied one size fits all aspect behind the word “should.” We should be having fun doing it this way or we should be doing it that way. My nonnegotiable position is this: Other people don’t get to make those choices for me any more than they want me making their choices. Is that fair enough for everyone?

While I have many times been equally guilty of poorly chosen words, there is simply no room for imposing a monolithic, only-one-way-to-do-the-hobby mindset on anyone, novice, veteran, freelancer or prototype modeler. The practice of model railroading is as individual as the person engaging in it. If I prefer a more serious and disciplined approach, how does that in any way hinder someone who doesn’t and vice versa? All the freelancers and other casual hobbyists in the world aren’t going to stop me from modeling a scene down to the last piece of flaking paint if that is how I want to spend my time and talents. Am I not having fun as I’ve  defined it for myself? In the view of many these days, apparently not. I respectfully disagree however, because I’m having a blast.

In this vein, our new publication The Missing Conversation is specifically written for modelers who enjoy the hobby as a way to practice a craft, develop skills and push their own personal limits to see what they can achieve. If this describes you, the inaugural issue will be on sale this Wednesday, August 1. We welcome you to come and join us on the journey.



  1. Ed Kozlowsky

    If I seemed to take issue with your stated opinions I apollogize. It’s extremely difficult to convey complete ideas with words alone. I’ve gotten in trouble more than once because of my odd sense of humor. Your pictures and words make it perfectly clear that you are having fun. I guess I missed the point that “The Missing Conversation” was to be a new Pub. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it as I have all your other books. In the mean time, I’m also having fun.

  2. mike

    Hi Ed,
    No apologies needed whatsoever. I’m as guilty as anyone in the hobby for using poorly chosen words and not expressing myself clearly. We are each entitled to have an opinion. What makes me angry and sad at the same time is the growing lack of tolerance for different viewpoints, both online and in print.

    The editorial in MRH served little purpose in bringing clarity and understanding to the issues raised. They are issues that need to be raised and addressed, but why do it in such a confrontational manner? Lest I get too self righteous, I’m as guilty of doing the same thing with my own soap box issues with the hobby. Maybe the best question to ask in these situations is, are we having a disagreement or a misunderstanding?

    Appreciate you commenting as always.

  3. downeast

    Hi Mike,
    I just saw the notice about the new publication, and here I am. As you know, I have joined the P48 ranks and I am having loads of fun as I work toward a new railroad. For me the design part is easy, as I am just copying the prototype, albeit truncated. No trackwork yet, although I have stocked all the supplies, just P48 conversion work. It is extremely time consuming to reach new higher goals, but definitely worth the effort. With so much work ahead, don’t expect much of any contribution to your musings from me, but I wanted you to know I am around.
    Ben Brown

  4. mike

    Hi Ben,

    Welcome abroad. Copying the prototype is probably the best layout planning tool around (in my view at least). Feel free to chime in when you can.