My introduction to model railroading was via the August ’73 issue of Model Railroader magazine. That issue set the hook. I don’t buy the magazine as much as I used to, so I thought I could just saunter down to my local bookstore anytime this month to pick up a copy of the August 2013 issue. No such luck. Every bookstore and hobby shop where I’d usually find it only had September issues, and any leftover August issues had all been sent back to wherever they came from.
There’s a slightly run-down smoke shop a few blocks from our house that I hadn’t been to in a few years that sold some magazines, so as a last ditch attempt I decided to walk over there since it’s summer and the weather is great. Bingo. He had a few June, July and August issues on his shelf. Prize in hand, I headed back home. The irony in all this for me was that back in ’73, I had to walk everywhere I wanted to go, and I bought my MRs at a smoke shop just a few blocks from my parent’s house since there weren’t any nearby hobby shops or other stores that sold model train magazines of any type.
To say that the magazine has changed a lot in 40 years is merely stating the obvious, but, interestingly, just as there was in the ’73 issue, there is an article in the 2013 one on how to scratch-build a simple HO-scale structure: an old-time water tower in the 2013 issue; in the ’73 issue it was E. L. Moore’s Bunn’s feed and seed.
I must admit though that I like the cover of the ’73 issue better. I’m always impressed that often the covers from issues in the ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s had just a carefully composed picture supplemented with a few words to highlight what could be found inside. Modern day covers certainly explain the contents better at a glance, but they seem less striking than their predecessors. Then again, I don’t work in the magazine business, so I don’t have any insight into what sells in today’s market.
Although I haunted many smoke shops in my youth, I’ve never smoked. Back then those places sold a lot more than just cigars and cigarettes. Amongst all the other stuff for sale, the two near my parent’s house had what seemed like to the youthful me large selections of plastic model kits and hobby magazines, so they were stand-ins for more reputable hobby shops :-)