Like I noted during my on-going quest for Lion Knights’ castle, one of the greatest things about modern LEGO building and the AFOL hobby are the vast Internet resources available these days. There was nothing like it helping me out as a child in the 1980s, trying to finish some difficult MOC or maybe a replica from a catalog picture. Now everything’s plentiful: brick databases, online marketplaces, downloadable catalogs and instructions, 3D modeling, community forums and what have you. You could probably have a perfectly acceptable LEGO hobby without ever leaving your computer screen or touching a studded plastic brick in your life (well, the LEGO Group might disagree with that one).
One of the first sites that almost lured me into AFOLdom some years ago was Railbricks, a community and a professional quality magazine dedicated to LEGO Trains of all kinds. I remember spending several evenings there the previous decade, going through the commentary and photography of amazing brick-built model railways. As it turns out, it wasn’t LEGO Trains that finally lured me back to LEGO (it was Castle), but I’m here now. One of the first things I did once I decided on my new project was to connect to Railbricks and check out the latest issue of their beautiful magazine. Interestingly enough, the editor was pondering “dark ages” related to the miniature railroad hobby (page 4):
“One of my favorite pastimes is flipping through old model-railroading magazines. The oldest magazines in my collection are from the late 1960s. Combining those magazines with the ones that I subscribe to today, I have a fairly decent span of time, and a lot of articles, to review. One trend seems to be consistent. Paraphrasing the more alarmist views, it goes something like this: “We’re old and dying off! How do we keep the hobby going? We need to reach out to the youth!” … Instead, it seems, the model-railroading hobby has a “dark ages” trend, similar to the LEGO hobby, with modelers emerging in their later years.”
I have been discussing the dark ages effect plenty here myself (see also this and this) and the editorial was thought-provoking. As someone who grew up with both his father’s LEGO and model-railroads, as well as his own plentiful later additions, I can certainly see how both hobbies would be susceptible to the effect of dark ages. In fact, some of the boxes housing my old LEGO also have 1960s and 1980s Märklin railways inside. A local store brought Märklin to their selection a year back (otherwise model-railroads have been harder to come by lately) and I have been eyeing them lustfully. Yes, definitely I can see the parallels.
So, do check out Railbricks if you haven’t already. I will certainly be keeping an eye on that site as my quest for Inter-City train progresses. Meanwhile, back on Eurobricks, I have set up a thread for this, my latest project.