TaltosVT

New LEGO Train Magazine - A Proposal

94 posts in this topic

All,

I have a proposal that I'd like to run by the community.

Many of you know me as the last editor of RAILBRICKS, the magazine dedicated to LEGO railroading. For various reasons, RAILBRICKS has faded away. Much of this was due to me, personally, not having time to work on the magazine, but other factors were at play as well.

The past few months, I've been thinking a lot about the magazine. I really loved it, our readers, and the community it served. Several times I've consider resurrecting the magazine, but I knew that I could not, and can not do it using the model that we had previously used.

My proposal, simply, is to let RAILBRICKS stay in the past. Jeramy Spurgeon did an incredible job bringing it to life, and I'm proud that I had a part in extending his vision a few more years. It was awesome, but as hard as we tried, the small group that worked on it were not able to keep it going.

The next part of my proposal is to start again. A new magazine. A new website. A new name. And a new business model.

RAILBRICKS was run on an all-volunteer, no income model. Those who brought you the magazine dedicated their own time and money to keep it going, allowing it to be free for all of our readers. We relied on volunteer authors to provide us with content, with no reimbursement, to keep us going. We worked on it in our spare time, which sometimes meant not working on it. Unfortunately, this is not a sustainable business model, as much as we would all like it to be. Costs for website hosting, software, occasional mailings, and time need to be covered. If a major volunteer needs to drop out, and no one else is available to step up, those things are not covered, and a valuable resource goes away.

With a new magazine, I'd like to try an income and reimbursement model. That is, the magazine, as a business, would have money coming in as well as out, and authors and volunteers would be paid for their time. I don't envision this as a for-profit business, where the goal is to make money. Instead, I see it as a non-profit, where there is enough income to cover expenses, and the goal is to serve the LEGO train community. I'd also like to keep the focus on the magazine. With RAILBRICKS, I think we tried to take on too much with the website, forum, instructions repository and magazine. With a more limited focus, we can put our efforts into one place.

Now, I haven't formulated thoughts around details of how this would work. Generally, a subscription and/or advertising model would be needed. This is one area where I need to reach out to the community for your thoughts.

  1. Would you be receptive to the idea of an all new LEGO railroading magazine?

  2. Would you pay for a subscription to a LEGO railroading themed magazine?

  3. Would you buy advertising in a LEGO railroading themed magazine?

  4. Would you be interested in volunteering to work on such a magazine? Work areas involved include reporting on community events, interacting with authors, photographing exhibits, graphic design work, writing, website design, website administration, financial accounting, among others. Would being reimbursed for your time factor into your decision?

  5. Would you be interested in writing articles for such a magazine, provided you were reimbursed for your work? There are many free outlets available. What would be your best incentive for writing for a magazine?

Finally, I want to thank everyone who has ever been involved with RAILBRICKS in the past. It was awesome, and incredible. Without all of you, it wouldn't have lasted as long as it did. Specifically, I'll call out the last RAILBRICKS team: Steve Barile, Benn Coifman, Tim David, Didier Enjary, Steve Jackson, Cale Leiphart, Larry Pieniazek, Colin Redner, Anthony Sava, Jordan Schwarz, Jeramy Spurgeon, David Stannard and Ronald Vallenduuk.

If you're still with me, thanks for reading the long post. I'm really interested in everyone's thoughts, and excited to see what we might be able to do in the future for the community. If this idea doesn't take root, hopefully we can at least give RAILBRICKS some closure.

-Elroy Davis (TaltosVT)

Train addict & former editor of RAILBRICKS

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I'd consider subscribing to a Lego Train Magazine; but I feel since I have used Lego since I was a little kid and I have access to viewing MOC's online, a magazine would need something to make it special. I'd like to use the popular Model Railroader magazine as an example; Model Railroader doesn't focus entirely on showing "someone did this" and more on "this is how you can do it." If there was a Lego Train Magazine that showed "how to" with topics such as SNOT building methods, replicating prototypical equipment in Lego, decals, layout wiring, DCC in Lego trains, etc. it would be a great resource to the community (I feel Railbricks was at its most useful when it did that, and I will need to revisit the instructions online from Railbricks someday, I just know it!). But if the new magazine was just, "Here are photos of the MOC's you already saw online" then I don't know if it would give much new to the community.

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I like the idea of a Lego model railway magazine I would buy/ subscribe to one.

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I'd consider subscribing to a Lego Train Magazine; but I feel since I have used Lego since I was a little kid and I have access to viewing MOC's online, a magazine would need something to make it special. I'd like to use the popular Model Railroader magazine as an example; Model Railroader doesn't focus entirely on showing "someone did this" and more on "this is how you can do it." If there was a Lego Train Magazine that showed "how to" with topics such as SNOT building methods, replicating prototypical equipment in Lego, decals, layout wiring, DCC in Lego trains, etc. it would be a great resource to the community (I feel Railbricks was at its most useful when it did that, and I will need to revisit the instructions online from Railbricks someday, I just know it!). But if the new magazine was just, "Here are photos of the MOC's you already saw online" then I don't know if it would give much new to the community.

Agree, foe me it's the how tos that are the best

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Would be happy to sub if the price was right. Assuming an digital model, I think $3-5USD an issue would be pretty fair. The downside being you would need a pretty decent subscriber base to really pay for anything, but to get an subscriber base you would need to keep the price low.

In this day and age, it's all about getting an following through releasing small amounts of free stuff, to get the hook in. Maybe starting a youtube channel and releasing some free videos to get an following, and advertising the magazine there?

I'm an photojournalist by trade, but am a terrible writer, would be happy to submit photos from local events etc, and maybe a few words that someone could turn into an article/story.

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Elroy Davis (TaltosVT),

I know that you wanted to start fresh but I am wondering if is it at all possible to re-use the name RAILBRICKS again? It is the name most are familiar with and it sets it apart from other model railroading magazines. (I am sure an added bonus would be that TLG is much more happy with people not using LEGO in titles.) So if this is possible, then you can trim back on all the other stuff and focus just on the magazine.

As someone who has participated in numerous train shows, having copies of a magazine that does what xboxtravis7992 suggested would be a great way to bridge people into the hobby. "Hey, well if you are interested in getting started, here is a magazine that..."

3D LEGO

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I would love subscribing to a Lego trains magazine, as I have been looking over Railbricks since the second issue. I would also love the instructions repository to continue: I have plenty of LDD files for build-able trains to help with this, but the problem is the instructions: I have the actual files, but no instruction guides. If someone can do the instructions I can provide the LDD files for them. I want them to be free to the public and not for-profit, as I've used techniques and ideas of other builders to make my models, such as expanding upon Zephyer1934's Constitution Train Chase instructions to make these fine locos (and more!):

24620425689_5b46aceaec_z.jpg

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Elroy Davis (TaltosVT),

I know that you wanted to start fresh but I am wondering if is it at all possible to re-use the name RAILBRICKS again? It is the name most are familiar with and it sets it apart from other model railroading magazines. (I am sure an added bonus would be that TLG is much more happy with people not using LEGO in titles.) So if this is possible, then you can trim back on all the other stuff and focus just on the magazine.

As someone who has participated in numerous train shows, having copies of a magazine that does what xboxtravis7992 suggested would be a great way to bridge people into the hobby. "Hey, well if you are interested in getting started, here is a magazine that..."

3D LEGO

I agree that it would be best to reuse the original name. Brickjournal successfully went from free to paid magazine (it seemed to be their business model because they went from one to the other seamlessly). I would be willing to pay a reasonable price for the new RailBricks and I would seriously consider participating in it if I have anything meaningful to contribute. When I made my instructions freely available on the RailBrick site it was a way to give back to the community for all the great time I had going through the magazine. I even intended to premier my later instructions in the pages of RailBrick but it folded before I could get to it. After that, just like Elroy (and so many others), life got in the way. I've been pretty quiet lately; most likely a renewed RailBrick would give me a kick in the pants and get the creative juices flowing again.

Dan-147

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I would subscribe the magazine but my concern personally is the cost of the magazine and the quality of the magazine and if subscribing I could have the option of a digital or print copy. I would love to contribute but I am not sure what I could do for the magazine to be honest

Very Interested

-RailCo

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I would certainly be interested in subscribing, and once I get my tracks off the ground, advertising as well. I'd prefer print copies though, rather than strictly digital. And I'll echo some of the sentiments above; "how-to" is far more valuable and interesting than just pictures of MOCs. Show the MOCs, by all means, but tell me how to build that as well.

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Hi Elroy

Sorry to hear that - I would also like to subscribe to a LEGO train magazine.... And I would to contribute with articles as I have done a couple of times.. (But not enough I can read..,).

Henrik

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Elroy - A big thanks for your help in driving Railbricks, and promoting the Brick Railroad hobby in general. Sounds like a good idea and it should be possible for such a magazine to succeed. My 2 cents are that key will be the right marketing focus. Kalmbach breaks the larger hobby into makers & operators (Model RR), collectors (Classic Toy Trains), and general enthusiasts (Trains). Figure out the right balance of these and it should be a snap :-)

- BMW

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I would imagine there might be quite a few Bricklink stores that would love to have advertising space in an AFOL magazine.

--Tony

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...If there was a Lego Train Magazine that showed "how to" with topics such as SNOT building methods, replicating prototypical equipment in Lego, decals, layout wiring, DCC in Lego trains, etc. it would be a great resource to the community...

...I know that you wanted to start fresh but I am wondering if is it at all possible to re-use the name RAILBRICKS again? It is the name most are familiar with and it sets it apart from other model railroading magazines. (I am sure an added bonus would be that TLG is much more happy with people not using LEGO in titles.) So if this is possible, then you can trim back on all the other stuff and focus just on the magazine.

As someone who has participated in numerous train shows, having copies of a magazine that does what xboxtravis7992 suggested would be a great way to bridge people into the hobby. "Hey, well if you are interested in getting started, here is a magazine that..."

I agree with both xboxtravis and 3D LEGO that having articles predominantly on building techniques would be best because that adds real value to the community. It gives people a reason to buy it...to learn and become better builders. Also, RAILBRICKS is such a great name and people know that name too. When train enthusiasts see a display and want to get into Lego trains, there would be a great resource for them. Also, every so often, someone new plucks up the courage and asks for help in building, or for instructions, or for what set to buy. Restarting the magazine would but such a great help for them. Not that folks here on the forum won't help, but the help they need would be a lot more consolidated and easier to find. I fully support the idea, and would definitely subscribe. Maybe even contribute...

Other thoughts: I also agree that the old RAILBRICKS was trying to do too much with a MOC repository and instructions and whatever else. Focus on the reason it exists, (publishing articles) and once it's successful (sustainable) then diversify. I know having it in print would be awesome, but that is also really expensive along with postage. While it would be a great hand out at shows and events, maybe work out a distributor deal with those interested. Provide a printable version for distributors, and they bear the cost of printing but also the reward of selling at shows/events where they can mark up above their printing cost.

Just my $.02.

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The RAILBRICKS name and website are owned by someone else. I would assume Elroy wishes to start completely over because of the freedom that grants.

--Tony

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I would definitely pay for a Lego Railroader magazine. I very much understand Railbricks over extending itself. I think the best way to keep things simple is do a digital magazine, with just a digital repository of the issue. That way we can look at back issues for instructions, kills many birds with one stone. Although many people may want print, this would probably bankrupt you, unless you did a two tier pricing model where print people pay for their printing, i.e. $5 online subscription, $20 print subscription (to pay for high gloss, low volume print runs).

Also, I would contribute articles for free, especially since this would be a non-profit. I would focus on subscriptions and ads to generate the income and worry about hosting costs, etc. as your outflow.

Cheers!

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First, I'm super happy to hear that there is interest. I agree with, and would promote as best I can, all the suggestions for the type of content that would be included.

Tony answered the main question on folks minds:

The RAILBRICKS name and website are owned by someone else. I would assume Elroy wishes to start completely over because of the freedom that grants.

--Tony

Ideally, I would love to use the already known RAILBRICKS name, but it's not mine to use. I did pursue taking over and/or purchasing the name and assets, so rest assured that avenue has been explored. I completely understand and respect the owner's wishes on this point. Starting new gives us more leeway to run the organization as a business, and puts us in a better position to pass that business along to others if a major partner needs to move onto other projects.

As for print vs. digital, I'd love to do it in a print format. The downside to that is that we'd need a minimum number printed, which would then need to be sold in order to pay for themselves. This may not be achievable with a small readership. I'm definitely open to looking into it more though.

Please keep the comments coming! There's a lot to think about.

-Elroy

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I'd definitely pay a couple bucks per issue. If you set it up in such a way that I had to pay every time, I probably would not bother because of the hassle. However if you did a yearly subscription, I would be more likely to buy in (less hassle).

I work in the printing industry and I know there are places out there that can do super short runs on digital presses. There are also websites that you can order prints 1 at a time (they probably use digital presses too). No idea on costs though.

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I would be interested as well in a subscription and could provide some volunteer resources.

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Well an effort could be made to sell at hobby shops and train shows. I know most train shows have at least one LUG on display, so selling Lego related stuff could be possible.

Hobby shops might be trickier, since most of their focus is on "scale modeling", HO, O, and N stuff. Still many hobby shops are looking for ways to interest children (in the late 90's the "Train Shoppe" my local shop was the place were my parents bought me Thomas stuff); so a Lego magazine might I terest them two fold 1) child friendly, 2) articles of interest for the adult modeler. From my experience, although most "scale modelers" view Lego as a toy train, they often enjoy seeing the builds.

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While I would agree many traditional scale modelers view LEGO as a toy, and they do, I've been amazed at how many traditional modelers I've met in the past two-three years that are actively TRYING to get into LEGO trains, and for whatever reason are struggling. I would wager because the two mediums are so different.

A LEGO train magazine that, in part, focuses not only on how to build certain models, but how to go about modeling anything in the same way traditional model Railroad magazines go about it might help break into that demographic.

Not just "lets build a signal" or "let's reverse engineer a locomotive", but also articles on weathering (even adding weathering to official sets) and building large complete bignettes (maxi-steps, not detailed).

--Tony

Edited by SavaTheAggie

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While I would agree many traditional scale modelers view LEGO as a toy, and they do, I've been amazed at how many traditional modelers I've met in the past two-three years that are actively TRYING to get into LEGO trains, and for whatever reason are struggling. I would wager because the two mediums are so different.

A LEGO train magazine that, in part, focuses not only on how to build certain models, but how to go about modeling anything in the same way traditional model Railroad magazines go about it might help break into that demographic.

Not just "lets build a signal" or "let's reverse engineer a locomotive", but also articles on weathering (even adding weathering to official sets) and building large complete bignettes (maxi-steps, not detailed).

--Tony

I agree with you, and also maybe how to do scenery, and if it was possible do like Model Railroader does and do a project layout where each month or issue has an issue about creating a part of this layout. Maybe such as building a small station, or how to do scenery. I would be more than happy to volunteer my time to help with the magazine.

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I would consider contacting our "former" fellow Kim at LEGO for possible support. With a lot of content (which as already there) and some selected news (+ regular issues of magazine) it could become registered as "online" community", some of which LEGO nicely supports. Ok, it's "just" LEGO sets (no money could be given) and there need to be reviews, but we are all LEGO fans, so its all we need as incentive. I believe that hispabricks has something similar, with only difference that they cover very wide range of themes, so its easier to pick and use stuff from support package. For "specialized" sites support type could be adjusted, but main condition is still that site needs to be "influential" and "widely recignizable" (both of which RB is).

Just my 2c.

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Hi,

Sounds interesting. Maybe start it digitally as a site?

If needed, I have hosting paid for the next 3 years, so let me know if you need hosting (at Dreamhost.com)

I might be able to contribute as well.

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