Saturday 27 February 2021

Saturday Ramble

I'm not a regular buyer of MRJ, I'll have a flick through in Smiths and only buy if there's something that catches my eye. This month I did due to Geoff Forster's O gauge piece and Stephen Hannington's article on SR electrics. I have come away in worried mode though.

Firstly the cover. I have been criticised for my cover choices; usually by the same person so I don't take any notice, but this is awful. I can see what they are trying to do, but on a cover? Most of the photo is heading toward black and it disappears next to all the other magazines on the shelf.
The inside gets worse. They've lost their office and appear to be working out of a lock up. This is unfortunate and could happen to anyone. They are are also 'not taking subscriptions over four months'. And, 'the publication date of MRJ 282 is not known'. This gives the same feeling as walking into a shop that has less stock than the last time you were there; you are waiting for the place to not be there at all next time. 
What happened to the great white hope of the 1980s? I've changed my view on MRJ in recent times - witness the chopping up of my collection a while back, but we do need it. It's a counterbalance to the young pretty ones. I don't know what the sales figures are, but it hangs around on the shelf for quite a while and  I'll wager that a good proportion of the run gets pulped: don't for a minute think that those nice people at Smiths send the unsold copies back. 
When it was first launched the other mags were terrified as it was aimed squarely at pushing things forward and very much not aimed at the average modeller. Now the roles are reversed and it's MRJ which looks tired and dated with an out -of-focus photo in each corner, and an over-abundance of text; still holding the etched kit  and a lathe as the pinnacle while the young pretty ones are at the cutting edge using new technologies and techniques. I know that the finescalers hang on to it and view it as some sort of religious text, but only sales will keep it viable and at the moment it's looking very much like the later days Scale Model Trains. This too had great constructional content by the likes of Vivien Thompson et al, but still folded. 
If if doesn't change it's spots I reckon two-five years tops, maybe just four months or maybe No 282 will never appear.



  1. With the pandemic I've not picked up a copy of MRJ in about a year given I've not seen one (no Smiths around these parts), and like you it doesn't appeal enough to subscribe. It's such a shame that we only ever got three issues of Finescale Railway Modelling Review, as I think given time to settle in that would have catered to a similar audience but had a much fresher and inviting look and feel to it. Of course us narrow gauge modellers are really spoilt by the REVIEW which will hopefully continue to be successful under it's new editor.

  2. Whenever I browsed MRJ in Smiths, it always terrified me. All that zealous precision. Way out of my league, as I practise railway modelling as an enjoyable pastime and not a faith. Guess I'm more of a Voie Libre person at heart. Still, sad to see it go nonetheless, if go it's about to.

  3. There is still some life left in MRJ yet, and the next issue No.282 was at the printers a week ago. As for the subscriptions only being available for four months at a time, I was told by one of the guest editors that they are not twenty one anymore:-) Yes I agree that some of the articles are over the top with zealous precision, and they frighten me as well. I also agree that the magazine has slipped a little over the years, but every issue can't be top draw. As for the finescalers hanging on to it, well I don't consider myself to be a member of that particular group, after all I have modelled in 'EM' rather than 'P4' and my latest '0' gauge layout uses a track gauge of 31.5mm rather than 33mm. So I consider myself to be an average modeller who is seeking to improve his modelling, MRJ helps me do that.


    1. Excellent news. The masthead comes across as very downbeat and I'd hate to see it disappear; worthy though it can be at times it's an important part of the set. it does need a brighten up though.

  4. 80s & 90s imho were the best issues, lost its spark since Messer's Barlow & Rice left and not Wild Swan anymore.

  5. Agreed. Guess it's rather like NG&IR was in the lean years when Roy Link wasn't editing it. These things matter. A bit like life!

  6. I rarely buy the MRJ. I did get this months like Chris to read Geoff Forster's piece. I find the quality of the modelling and attention to prototype fidelity on show really impressive. I can't achieve that myself, so respect. Though when brought together as a layout the whole tends to have an antiseptic museum like quality which is uninspiring.

    Real railways are dirty, even today, knocked about pieces of big engineering with many decades in fact well over a century of rough edges.

    And it strikes me that there are modellers out there (lots of them) that capture those aspects and spirit. Whilst rarely or ever straying from Peco and RTR.