Ignorance of Model Railroad History

YoHo Jun 19, 2013

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  1. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    So, my club hosted a gentleman who was a former SP/UP dispatcher and an expert on Model Railroading Operations. He presented a short clinic on Operations basics for the club. He handed out various materials he had used at other clubs and timetables for model railroads he's operated. Some of those model railroads having been featured in the hobby press.

    At one point he asked how many people knew who Tony Koester was.

    Exactly one person besides myself raised their hand.

    I was floored. Tony Koester, love him or hate him (and I've found many that don't care for his writing style or modelling thoughts) is someone who everyone who has been modelling for some time should have encountered and someone that those new to the hobby should be exposed to. Like John Allen, Allen McClelland, Lynn Wescott and many others.

    These are people who have influenced the hobby in so many ways. It kind of bothers me that people don't seek out or get much of a history lesson. Especially on the Internet.

    Model Railroad Hobbyist does a passable job of referencing back to the stalwarts, but on most sites, the attitude is "We don't need no stinking EXPERTS!" As if somehow having people who have put in significant effort into the hobby as a whole have nothing to teach.


    MR and others haven't helped. With the exception of Tony Koester himself and to a lesser extent the team at MRH, there is very little actual writing about the hobby any more. Perhaps there is some in the various NMRA publications, though in my experience, not much.

    I miss the more in depth and theoretical articles that one could read on Model Railroading. I feel like the hobby has been done a disservice by their loss and I feel like every time someone dismisses the work of those past, it undermines the richness of the hobby...and leaves less room for our modern authors to branch out.
     
  2. Randy Stahl

    Randy Stahl TrainBoard Supporter

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    I agree to a point , While I know who Tony Koester is I also know many other long past Model experts.

    I have found and I'm certain you must agree that there are experts here on train board. One of the more attractive aspects of train board is the mixture of older expert modelers and older experienced modelers. I have not seen to any extent the experts looking down their noses at the younger crowd.

    I admit I have been a MR magazine reader for nearly 40 years , some of those years I was even a subscriber. Usually I buy them off the newsstand. I can never forget the friends I made over the years in this hobby , I think it was John Page that wrote a column years ago called "looking back" What I always got out of his writings was the necessity of model railroad fellowship. These days we have the ability to culture friendships in this hobby using the internet.. the sad part is the people who neglect to build relationships with other modelers when it is much easier now than it ever was....

    Randy
     
  3. r_i_straw

    r_i_straw Staff Member

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    I have cut back on my modeling quite a bit lately but still value the network of friends I have made over the years. I still drag out my NTRAK modules out a few times a year to set up with other folks and just have fun running trains. Each summer I make a point to attend a train show in San Antonio where the local NTRAK group along with groups from Houston, Austin, Dallas and a few other places get together and have a layout. We trade tips, advice and just general BS but always have a good time. We try to all meet at a local restaurant for a meal on Saturday night to trade lies and just hang out. Same thing with the Oklahoma City train show in December. The social aspect complements the modeling in my experience.
     
  4. r_i_straw

    r_i_straw Staff Member

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    Having trouble editing this morning so will just add a post. On the "History" aspect, I forgot to add that when new folks join the various clubs, they get an education on the history from the old timers at these shows by asking questions or just listening in. There is always a lot of information available from the various sources in literature or on line but the personal contact seems to make it more relevant.
     
  5. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    Yes, though I think there is a certain additional value to those Published or those well known across the entire Model Railroading community

    Yes, not only that, but we have now and have had a few "experts" that have published and not just onto webpages. That is invaluable, however what those experts don't do, what this website doesn't promote is the kind of ...philosophical discussion on the nature of model railroading that some of the older leaders engendered.

    The rule of this web site sometimes seems to be "when in doubt, rule #1." and rule number one is important, but rule number one is also boring and kills conversation.

    Example: defining different styles of layouts. A thread about this eventually, often early, leads to someone posting rule #1 at which point, further discussion tapers off. Posting rule number 1 in essence suggests that everything is equally valid and therefore there is no value in the discussion.

    and so we are left with articles in MR about how to assemble purchased abutments and other simple tasks. We reduce this forum to a manufacturer complaint forum with the occasional photo or layout design question.
    The value is ONLY the fellowship. Rather than fellowship being a part, but not the extent of the value.
    I loved John Page's column.
    I miss Looking back. MR's website had some Videos where Jim Heidgar would tell stories of MR in the 70s. That was always interesting too. But I miss the theory of model railroading.

    And before it gets mentioned. I post replies and threads trying to get at the theory of model railroading while trying not to alienate people. There seems to be a lack of interest. I find that disappointing.

    Because, in my experience, if you've been in this hobby long enough, you'll eventually want to branch out and I think that's easier to do when you have access to that kind of MR history.
     
  6. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Tony Koester? Many also do not know of Jim Hediger and his Ohio Southern. Or even John Allen, possibly the most widely known at one time model railroader. Frank Ellison, Whit Towers, and the list could get long here...

    The best experts are those who quietly go about enjoying this hobby. And step up gently, when someone seeks input.
     
  7. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    Best at what though?

    Best at helping a person with a particular question at a particular time. Most certainly. This website is excellent to that purpose. Answering a technical question about the how of model railroading.

    Best at getting people to ask questions about what can be done in Model Railroading in the first place? best at getting people to expand what we do in the hobby? Probably less so. Though not impossible.

    The why and what of model railroading, because at the end of the day, most new to the hobby will tire of running their Shinkansen and their ACe around in circles together and look to expand. Those that paved the way offer a lot to that segment, even if the silent experts are there prompting them as well.
     
  8. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    And let me be perfectly clear, I'm not suggesting that we don't have experts here or even people that could answer those questions. My lament was that we as a group have lost some of the leadership in those areas and new people to the hobby have lost some of the ability to reach back and directly see the contributions from the past. And that that is because of influences both passive and active.

    Even in the Mid 80s, I as a child had access via the printed page to people who had created some of the modelling concepts that we now take for granted even though they'd done so years before I was born.

    If the advice I got back then was "Rule #1 it's your railroad, do what you like." which is just about 90% of hobby advice now adays. I would not have the interest in the hobby I do now, because I would have had no incentive to investigate the possibilities.
     
  9. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Of course that is exactly what was I was saying.
     
  10. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    See to me, The technical support is important and I participate while I can, but it isn't interesting.


    Getting back to my original example. If you as a Model Railroader know who Tony Koester is, then, presuming you've raed a good chunk of his writing, that implies knowledge of all sorts of aspects of the hobby in particular operations. And on the flip side, if you have an interest in operations, then there is probably a good chance you've encountered Tony Koester.

    When the Magazines did a better job of discussing the hobby, when there was more meat on the bones, it was easy for a young person or new person to find those next steps.

    I feel this is less true today even with easier access to actual people in the hobby.

    And my biggest lament in the end isn't that old media has faded, but that now adays, it seems that people almost seek to revel in avoiding that kind of information. A large portion of people in this hobby seem to intentionally avoid learning from the past and in some cases, intentionally or not, stifle discussion.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 20, 2013
  11. ScaleCraft

    ScaleCraft TrainBoard Member

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    You know, Jim still works at Clambake...longest serving employee, if I recall.
    I talk to him on occasion, e-mail back and forth. He's a font of knowledge...when I run into something old and odd, sure enough, he sends a scan of the original advertisements from 1939.

    I've been published. Don't need it anymore. I prefer one-on-one help, but sometimes launch into a dissertation on various forums.
    Of course, in Half 0, nobody wants to hear about TruScale, Varney, English, Marn-0-Stats, DeVore, Baker....even Mantua.
    It's more fun being retired.
    Dave
     
  12. JB Stoker

    JB Stoker TrainBoard Member

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    Since everybody responding to this thread seems to be saying the same thing, I will play Devils Advocate and posit a different viewpoint.

    What if somebody got interested in Model Railroading today, had no knowledge of how and why things should be done on a layout, and had absolutely no knowledge of what had been done in the past? Being today, the first thing he would probably do is join a forum or two to ask questions and browse through what other modelers are doing. The knowledge base available just by searching these forums is far and away beyond what was dribbled out in every MR and other MRR mag ever printed. And, in addition to that, he can ask any question that arises, and in most cases receive a quick and accurate answer to his question. This was simply not possible in the past. Is it necessary to know all of the names of MRR heroes to be an accomplished MRRr, and more importantly, to enjoy the hobby?

    This is not me , by the way. I was an avid modeler and MRRr in my youth a few decades ago. The only person named in your list that I knew by name was John Allen. I suspect I had read things about or by the others in the only available medium back then though, which was of course the magazines, which I for one had as many as I could get my hands on back in the day and spent many hours flipping through the pages and circling things on my "wishlist" in the ads. Since getting interested in the hobby again a few months ago I have bought a couple MRs, and I can tell you for a fact that I am sorely disappointed at what that worthless rag has become. I don't see ever wasting another 6 pack's worth of $ on that mag EVER. MRC is quite a bit better, but compared to what is easily available online, I don't see myself getting a subscription to that either, I can satiate my thirst for MRR knowledge (and let's face it- advertisements too) online now for free anytime I want.
     
  13. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

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    The not so famous....others who've influenced each of us.

    There are many who've gone before us having mentored a youngster and helped him or her learn how to lay track, wire a railroad and operate trains. Little is known or heard of about these fine men and women...teachers, who didn't have a website and never published an article in a model railroad wig wag. Having never appeared at a train show or held a work shop.

    I personally don't know Tony Koester. Not sure I need to. Not to be interpreted, that he hasn't had any influence with regard to my modeling. I'm sure he has. I read everything I can get my hands on. As far as the wig wag MR, it's the early magazines from the late 40's, 50's through the 60's that influenced my model railroading. I haven't been happy with later issues.

    Looking back, the person of greatest influence during my youth, was one Harry Hunter. Guessing, none of you know him. Of great influence in my life, as I attempted to build my first (teaching) HO Scale train layout. Continuing to help me with other additions. Including grades and my first two level layout. Without his personal instruction, I 'd of given up on the hobby years ago.

    It is those who've quietly gone about helping others to achieve to their full potential. Those who mentored much and gave much. For me it's, Harry H., and others like him who have contributed much to assuring the promotion and continuance of the hobby. Many without recognition, a pat on the back or a thank-you.

    I don't need to throw out names of renown to impress anyone. Yes, I knew John Allen, talked to him as a kid on the phone and got to see his layout in person, at his invitation. He gave me some verbal advice and to this day he has influenced design and construction of my layouts. Carefully I say, that doesn't make me important or famous and I think John, would of told you the same thing. He, had friends he gave credits to. That's how it works.

    How about Irv Athearn, who I had the privilege of talking to over the phone? And the surprising phone calls from him asking me, me an insignificant kid, what I thought of a new locomotive.

    You need to know, it wasn't John Allen's layout that first inspired me. It was my Uncle's O scale layout that hooked me. I haven't stopped building or helping others build model railroads since then.

    I thank my family of rails for a perspective, that can't be erased, of the 1X1 foot scale. I've been accused of holding them out here a bit much. Some have said I have a distorted view of railroading or a negative perspective toward rail fans. That's ok, I don't mind. Might be true. Still, what a gift they gave me.

    It's my granddad and step great grandfather both engineers (hoggers) out of Barstow, Ca., that got me started in the hobby. They bought for me, my first train an American Flyer, S scale Passenger train. It reminded my great grandfather of the D&RGW Flyer that he fired and later hogged. I never had room to put it up and we all wised up as they both went in on my first HO scale train. Both of those men took time to show me how to make a switch move, make up a train, operate trains pulling up grades, slack and how it works (often called slinky by a bunch of dumb @##'s...grin) and how to stretch a train and keep it taut. I don't remember them ever using "Turnout," in reference to a switch. No turnout crews on the 1X1 foot scale. There's no circle of fame for them, in the ranks of model railroading.

    I say the following from the heart and who wouldn't. A mother who took the time to show a youngster how to make cheap scenery. Ok, it didn't last long and fell apart but what I learned, I will never forget. No claim to fame for her.

    A dad who raised me and taught me how to ride a bike, play baseball and football. He was a constant in my life and almost daily influenced my knowledge of railroading and his opinion toward rail fans. His favorite response while reading his MR or Trains Magazine, "They don't know anything about railroading". Sadly, I had to agree.

    The agent at the Hollister Depot, who was responsible for the SP local that came in to town. Chard Walker a Santa Fe agent located at the Summit, of Cajon Pass, Ca. Big John, a mechanic at the Barstow Santa Fe shops. Valued friendships.

    The employee at Muenzer's, a LHS and Cycle shop in Hollister, Ca. I won't forget Muenzer, himself who filled my orders or provided advice via the books available at the time. And, then there's those friends around us today. There influence is priceless.

    Are you getting my drift here? Sometimes it's the silent ones, the unknown that have had the greatest influence on our modeling experience. The ones who's voices we don't hear anymore. Sigh!

    Or do you? Every time I write a response, extending advice to a newbie. If you knew, you'd be able to pick out whose words I'm sharing with you. Through my words and the same with many of you who participate here on TB, we are hearing and they are still sharing their thoughts, advice and how to's.

    Ignorance may not be the culprit. I grew up through what many consider to be important history. I don't see it that way. You wouldn't believe the problems, lack of ready to run products (Or when we finally got some how toyish and poorly they ran) the expensive brass and how exclusive the hobby was to but a few. Today, we've never had it so good. Seriously!

    Don't forget to acknowledge or if possible say thank ........!

    Be cool.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 20, 2013
  14. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    He helped me out with some paperwork examples from his layout, may years ago.

    I'd suppose most who dwell or visit here don't even recognize some, if not all of those names. Some interesting histories amongst them!
     
  15. cnw mike

    cnw mike TrainBoard Member

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    It's funny you post this now, I've been thinking about this very same thing over the past week. The "human side" to model railroading. Model railroading philosophy. After all, it takes people to play with trains. I think this is because this hobby is populated mainly by people with strong interests in machines and technology, and unlike other artistic endeavors, there tends to be less introspection. This is unfortunate, because the enjoyment one gets out of the hobby isn't taken from what one does, but rather how one does it. Your attitude, in other words.
     
  16. cnw mike

    cnw mike TrainBoard Member

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    I personally feel John Armstrong has done more to kindle my interest in what is possible than any other single writer. That guy was always thinking.
     
  17. ScaleCraft

    ScaleCraft TrainBoard Member

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    And, just for histories sake, I have one of John Armstrong's tank cars. Neat to have it.
    Dave
     
  18. lars128

    lars128 TrainBoard Member

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    I consider myself one that is aware of many of the leaders of the hobby and I generally pay attention to who is writing a particular piece, usually reading their bio as well to see where they are from and what they do (interestingly, it seems that about 75% of the modelers out there are engineers). I can think of many specific modelers that have influenced me such as Ken Patterson, David Barrow, Jim Six and others.

    There are still very influential modelers out there that are writing about the hobby itself. I find David Barrow very interesting with his minimalist approach. What he is doing is something that many would have scoffed at a decade ago but now is a very compelling argument to focus on what truly interests the modeler, in his case operations. Probably who I feel is most influential to me at the moment is Lance Mindheim. In both his self-published books and blog (both outside the realm of the mainstream press) he does a great job of dissecting switching operations, breaking things down to such elements as unlocking gates and setting hand brakes on cars. The other thing that he excels at is making a modeler think about his available time, finances and desire before starting a layout. His overwhelming support of small, simple, achievable layouts was, to me, very refreshing after returning from a 10+ year hiatus, where all I saw were basement empires in railroad magazines of the 90's.

    The prevalence of blogs has obviously changed things as well. The fact that anyone can blog encourages many new and different ideas. Conversely, there are no editors that help condense things into the best work, thus not presenting the "cream of the crop" that magazines can do with a series of interesting pieces from one author. In addition, as the hobby matures, new advances will most likely be harder to come by. What started out as spaghetti bowl track arrangements on platforms has matured into walk around shelf layouts with foam construction and DCC. The John Armstrongs and John Allens picked the low hanging fruit if you will. It's not to say that we won't see new things, but they will become less obvious.

    As far as Tony Koester goes, Bill Darnaby..er..I mean..Tony Koester was nothing sort of a pioneer in the double deck, midwestern, single track layout that utilizes time table and train order operations.
     
  19. JB Stoker

    JB Stoker TrainBoard Member

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    [​IMG]

    Some Truescale I picked up in a nostalgia buy on Ebay recently. I saw these and I was instantly transported 40 years back in time, staring at the expensive brass locos in the display case at the hobby shop where they had a Truescale yard to display them on. I don't have a use for them of course- LOL. If anybody is interested in these , please let me know. I am going to put them back on Ebay in the not too distant future. Some of these switches have never been attached and have the boxes and instructions.I know if I break the lot up and sell them one at a time I can make a little profit, but if somebody here is interested in the lot I would be happy to just break even after having my little blast of nostalgia.
     
  20. SP&S #750

    SP&S #750 TrainBoard Member

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    I hope I don't make waves joining in this thread with my admitted naivety of this hobby, the whole reason I got into it was because of my Uncle's 4' x 8' that he bought BN stuff for. until my start in the hobby a year ago(in the recent april) I read MRR mag's, I'd never heard of john armstrong or Tony K and hadn't the slightest clue about Jim H. Now that I've heard of these fellows and have read of some of their work I think... I don't believe that the past of MRRing has changed my current views in the slightest. I'm moving from the MRR forums over here because I keep catching flak from members who refuse to show none of their work but are clairvoyant enough to judge mine harshly, that point aside I usually run my trains with simple conceptions of operations, scale speed, and historical relevance to which era/loco's I'm running. I feel I'm more affected by my fellow modelers whom I interact with here, MRR forums, youtube, Nscale.org, Nscale.org's FB page, and some MRR articles. Than I am by "major player modelers", that said those guys do put up great stuff(if I remember seeing it or if I do see it). there are a couple Fellows besides my uncle whom I will admit have had a profound effect on my modeling.
     
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