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Tony Cook Of Model Railroad News

| April 2, 2014 0 Comments More

Tony Cook or Model Railroad NewsCan you give us a little history of Model Railroad News (MRN) magazine?

Model Railroad News has served the hobby for two decades. The magazine is unique in its new product orientation. Readers of this hobby magazine receive news and announcements on just released and coming new products in all popular scales of model railroading. Reviews focus upon new model offerings and present a wealth of information and many color images not found elsewhere.

In January of 2012, Model Railroad News (MRN) began a new chapter in its life under White River Productions. What, if any, changes to MRN have happened under White River?

The ownership change in 2012 has been very positive for Model Railroad News. In the White River family, Model Railroad News joined Passenger Train Journal, Railroads Illustrated, and other publications and books produced by our new owners Kevin and Nadean EuDaly. Being part of a family of railroad-related publications has allowed for a pooling of collective knowledge banks and benefited Model Railroad News content and made a better publication for our readers in my opinion.

My primary goal for the magazine, I’m now in my fourth year as editor, is to present content that our readers desire most. You’ll find new sections such as our Prototype Profile that provides background and history on equipment that has recently been introduced in the model railroad world. For example, when new HO-scale GE U25C models were announced, Model Railroad News was not only the first to present the news of the coming release, that same issue included a multi-page presentation on the prototype with images and information.

The recent additions of Prototype Profile, plus our hobby history section, From The Archive, have both been very well received and I feel enhance the magazine and deliver desired and often unique content. From The Archive, often tied to a current new product in some respect, presents historic models and includes fact and images. This feature receives a great amount of mail and is enjoyed by serious collectors and those who enjoy reminiscing with a bit of model railroad nostalgia. When Walthers debuted its new HO-scale Proto series Metroliners, the same issue that reviewed this new release presented the original HO- and N-scale Metroliners from Bachmann dating back to 1970.

Model Railroad News

In the Bar Mill’s O scale laser kit review from the March 2014 issue of MRN, the author gives some building, painting and finishing tips in addition to the actual review. I personally like this conversational tone, is this approach typical of MRN reviews?

I’m glad you noticed and appreciate this about Model Railroad News review style. Yes, in many ways our reviews are much like having a discussion with someone about a new structure kit or diesel or steam engine model. Our reviews have a great amount of knowledge and insight to share and it’s done in a personal way. Denis Dunning is the reviewer of the Bar Mills’ O-scale kit you referenced from our March edition. Mr. Dunning is a long-time model railroad guy. He served as editor for Railroad Modeler magazine in the 1970s. I am proud of all our great reviewers and feel each adds a great a deal to the final product each month.

With HO still the most popular scale out there, how do you decide how much coverage goes to the other scales?

This is always a challenge to determine the mix of scales in each issue. Model Railroad News provides product information on all popular scales from Z through G scales. Generally, the flow of new products guides the percentage mix of what scales are represented in each issue. However, I attempt to place enough of each scale to provide something of interest to everyone in each issue.

I see MRN now has a digital app over at the iTunes store, can you tell us about this?

Model Railroad News on iTunesApple’s Newstand is a popular location to find reading material for many and a cruise through the listings of periodicals demonstrates that a wide variety of digital magazines are offered. Model Railroad News joined Apple’s Newstand making the magazine available to those with iPads or via iTunes for your computer a couple years ago. This has been a fast growing segment of readers that are able to buy single issues or subscribe to the magazine digitally. The ability to receive Model Railroad News via digital delivery is especially appealing for our readers outside of the U.S.

With so much emphasis on digital material, how do you see the role of a hobby print magazine going forward?

I think it’s a popular statement to say that digital is the future. It may well be at some point, but if you look at the demographics of model railroading you’ll likely agree with me that print will continue to play a major role in delivering information. Model Railroad News has actually been expanding our print distribution in recent years. If you check your local Wal-Mart newsstand, you may now be able to find the magazine there. Our additional distribution in a major retailer like Wal-Mart benefits not only Model Railroad News, but the hobby in general providing it with enhanced exposure. Only a few weeks ago, I spoke with a new subscriber that came upon Model Railroad News at a Wal-Mart in Des Moines, Iowa. He’d never seen the magazine before and was thrilled to find this one-stop round up of new model railroad products.

As MRN’s Editor, do you see any trends in the hobby today, such as specific scales gaining in popularity?

The big trends of recent times are increased detail (read “road specific releases”), fully assembled, and DCC-sound. A growing percentage of modelers now demand that models include all the bells and whistles and more items that were found on prototypes. When you look at releases of the past, where say one style diesel was made to fit all, and compare to today’s offerings there is a world of difference. This desire has driven manufacturers to increase quality and do more research on nearly everything produced.

Matching the desire for road specific detailing, modelers have embraced the ready to run release with strong support. While some hobbyists may lament the absence of kits, the vast majority of model railroaders want a fully assembled model to roll right out of the box.

The interest in DCC (Digital Command Control) and sound equipped models is certainly a driving force in the contemporary hobby scene too. There are some that have no interest or feel it’s too technical, but more and more modelers are seeing the wow factor and benefits of operating DCC and sound equipped models. The popularity of this emerging and evolving technology is apparent in its move from only high end releases down to more economical offerings. Recent Bachmann and Walthers HO-scale diesels with modest retails now include DCC decoders and sound as options.

This next question could fill a book, I realize, but what’s your general take on the state of model railroading today?

Where is our hobby heading? That’s a great question and hard to even attempt to answer. I grew up in the 1970s and then you had a wealth of entry level model trains that could be bought in a variety of places that today do not carry hobby products. As a collector of old model trains, I see many vintage items with price stickers from Sears, JCPenney, Kmart, Target, and other places that I wouldn’t begin to send someone to shop for model railroad supplies today.

While distribution in stores such as those mentioned does not exist today, the opportunities on the internet have brought the hobby to many more potential customers. Search model railroads on YouTube.com and you’ll see hobbyists sharing information on building layouts, what they think of new products, or simply showing off prized collections. These videos and the availability of model trains via online sellers are just two examples of the increased presence of the hobby that is now available at the click of a mouse. And websites like eBay.com make everyday a train swap meet that provides collectors with access and opportunities never available in the past for enjoying the hobby. I think these factors are all positives for the hobby industry. I receive letters from many that live in rural areas far from a local hobby shop that say buying online and reading Model Railroad News provides access for them that used to be limited to special trips made a few times per year to big city hobby dealers.

I know you run your own personal HO scale site, could you tell us about this?

One of my favorite parts of the hobby is collecting old model trains, primarily in HO-scale. I got serious in the late 1990s as eBay took off and began buying many of the old AHM, Bachmann, TYCO and other manufacturers’ releases from the 1960s and 1970s that I remembered as a kid. I began looking for a source to help me in determining what was made and when it was offered, but never found one. In 2000, I launched a website focusing upon TYCO’s 1970s to 1990s line. Feedback and requests and my own expanding interests led me to add more and more additional sites. Today, you’ll find links to all my various sites at: http://www.ho-scaletrains.net. The site provides images and information, plus downloadable vintage catalogs and advertisements for a wide variety of items made from the introduction of injection-molded plastic in the early 1950s to near contemporary times. From crude to classic, you are certain to find some fun stuff by surfing through my sites.

Last question: As we talked about earlier, the digital world is where so many people now find their entertainment. Is there anything we can (or should) actively do to get more people involved in the hobby of model railroading?

I think the technology such as DCC and its computer-related aspects open the hobby to new users that otherwise would maybe not get involved. Linking model railroading and this evolving new technology is important for growing the hobby. The tangible part of model railroading is a big benefit too. While video games are great and have huge popularity, the hands on entertainment of holding a well-detailed model, building a structure, or watching a model train operate bring a different pleasure that should be seen and experienced.

Supporting hobby shows and model layout displays are great ways to bring our great hobby to new people. During my tenure with Union Station Kansas City (www.unionstation.org), I helped make an 8,000 square foot Model Railroad Experience a reality. Kids of all ages are able to delight in multiple operating train layouts and see how neat the hobby can be for themselves. Every kid that goes through this exhibit is potential new model railroader, as could be their parents too! Many similar model railroad exhibits exist around the country. See what might be available in your area and what you might do to help support it. These types of venues are fantastic promotions for our hobby and the more people we bring to model railroading the better it is for everyone. The bigger the base of users, means more products and more companies will be available enhancing everyone’s hobby experience.

Article Links

Model Railroad News

Model Railroad News | Apple iTunes Apps

White River Productions

Tony Cook’s Personal HO Site

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