Wednesday, November 1, 2006 at 9:23 pm

The Sociology of Model Railroading

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The Sociology of Model Railroading is a long, must-read essay by John Bruce; I linked to it on my personal blog more than two years ago and first read it earlier than that. It’s a critical look at the hobby in all its aspects: swap meets, online forums, clubs (including the NMRA) and historical societies, model manufacturers and — most critically — the magazines.

Because Bruce does not pull his punches, it’s also a controversial essay that has as many detractors as fans. The hobby smarts, here and there, but my impression is that Bruce is neither grossly inaccurate nor unfair. Because model railroading is not my only hobby (my primary hobbyist identification is as a reptile enthusiast) I see a lot of parallels between the human behaviour Bruce describes and what I’ve observed in other hobbies: it’s not a surprise, for example, that volunteers and online forum denizens are driven by ego and the need to defend their self-importance. Nor is the gossip about the magazines a surprise to me, as someone who once worked for a newspaper that had a shaky, at times hostile relationship with its readers. Model railroaders are a microcosm; they’re quirky, but they’re people.

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