Sunday, March 02, 2014

Model Railroader, June 1950

     Model Railroader, June 1950 I rescued this issue from the trash at the club. Apparently it was too out-of-date to interest the members. But it’s a fascinating look at the state of the hobby in 1950, by which time the post-war boom had prompted innovations that with surprisingly few additions and enhancements are still with us. The major change since then is the miniaturisation of electronics and the improvements in plastics, both accompanied by large reductions in costs. The price/quality ratio of model trains has improved by at least an order of magnitude.
Income has also improved since the 1950s and 60s, so that real prices are much lower than back then. For example, at minimum wage, I would have had to work about four hours to buy an Athearn boxcar kit. Now, an Accurail boxcar kit costs about 1½ hours. And it comes with metal wheels, a KD compatible coupler, and more and better details.
     Skills have also improved, for although there’s proportionally much less scratch-building and kit-building than there was back then, the quality is higher. The biggest visible change is in the look of the models and the layouts. Modellers these days expect scenic realism and take prototype fidelity for granted, so much so that they carp at minor discrepancies that wouldn’t have rated even a passing comment in 1950.
     The how-to articles took a lot for granted. An article on building a S scale hopper consists of two photos, one large and two small drawings, and text to fill up 5 columns of a two-page spread. It includes instructions such as “Spot and drill No. 67 holes for the grab-irons.” The drawing calls out the dimensions of the grab irons, but not their positions. A knowledgeable modeller might be able to place the grab irons correctly, but clearly accuracy was not a major concern.
     The lead article by Frank Ellison discusses where to locate industries. This and many others he wrote where gathered into a book in 1954. I still have my copy, much worn, and rebound to protect its precious pages. Ellison was a pioneer of operation. His articles did a lot to help modellers operate their trains in a railway-like manner. The second major article shows how to super-detail a Yard Bird switcher (made by John English). Lots of advice, and several photos from different angles with the details called out. The author has obviously taken care to research the details to be added, something that also helped improve modelling skills and raise the bar on prototype fidelity.
     Most of the articles are short, and consist essentially of collections of workshop tips. They show that at the time modellers wanted to know about ways of adapting whatever was available to make better models as cheaply as possible. Hobbies were still a somewhat suspect pastime. Improvements in leisure time and disposable income would eventually create the craft and hobby industry that we know today, but back then money and time was supposed to be used for more useful pursuits, such as renovating kitchens.
     I enjoyed re-reading this old magazine. ** to *** (2012)

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