Model magazines

In a galaxy far, far away there is a model world that leaves behind the cares of the real world. And there are magazines too. Alan Geere gets down amongst the little people.

By Alan Geere

Model magazines

Airfix Model World

What’s it about: ‘The Official Airfix Modelling Magazine’ – embedded in website title.

Vital statistics: December 2018 issue: 100 pages of 295mm x 210mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, stitched. £4.60 cover price. Combined ABC of 13,149 (Jan-Dec 2017). Published monthly by Key Publishing in Stamford, Lincs.

Cover: Large picture of a model aeroplane, two smaller planes and a missile launcher. Six coverlines and a large masthead featuring that unmistakeable Airfix logo.

Content: A welcome from editor Stu, complete with signature, followed by a well-illustrated contents spread. Four pages of ‘news bulletin’, diary dates and into the first ‘build’ – eight lavishly illustrated how-to pages on a jet aeroplane – followed by an insightful ‘In focus’ on the real life of the model. Figures, helicopter, planes and even a missile launcher are featured in the ‘builds’. All wrapped up by ‘On the shelf’, a must-read reviews-cum-classified section. This issue came in a poly bag with a calendar featuring planes, tanks and automobiles.

Digital: The promoted website – – takes browsers off to a Key Publishing site where much of the content is a tantalising glimpse at what’s in the mag with every option to subscribe for the full details. A miserable 160 followers on Twitter but a more respectable 12,381 likes on Facebook. Link to ‘download digital edition’ lands reader at

What they say: “Applicants will be invited for interview based on merit” – good news for anyone wanting to respond to the ad for ‘Advertisement Manager’.

Verdict: With excellent detailed photography throughout, on-message and on-trend advertising and a range of enterprising projects, this is an enthusiastic magazine for enthusiasts. Plenty for the armchair modeller to look at and read while the practitioners won’t be disappointed either.

Continental Modeller

What’s it about: ‘Featuring railways from around the world each month’ – strapline under masthead.

Vital statistics: December 2018 issue: 116 pages of 300mm x 225mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. £4.95 cover price. Publisher states circulation is 5,000. Published monthly by Peco Publications in Seaton, Devon.

Cover: Four pictures with companion coverlines emphasising the continental approach from France, Italy and Germany. Big, shadow-tinted masthead and a daintily placed barcode.

Content: Two well-illustrated contents pages, which confusingly for the first-time reader point to a start on page 850. The advertising section, which is wrapped on the outside has its own numbering sequence each month – 1-36 in this issue – while the editorial section in the middle starts with the January issue, multiplies up throughout the year and totals with the December issue. This dates back to a time when many readers would keep the editorial sections in an annual binder that the publisher supplied. Models galore from around the world, not just Europe, while news and reviews complete the package.

Digital: The promoted website pings visitors into the proprietor’s main site which sells model railway equipment. Burrow through to a page devoted to the magazine where there is a description of what is in the mag plus subscription and contact info. Facebook link goes to ‘Model Railways’ (4k likes) and Twitter to the railway track manufacturing side of the business (5,622 followers).

What they say: “Although the history of the company is of considerable interest, the present management do not dwell over the past but use the knowledge as important inspiration for the development of the future” – philosophical musings from the publisher in ‘About us’ on the website.

Verdict: This stylish offering has just celebrated its 40th birthday and it’s not difficult to see why it successfully keeps up with the times. Precisely put together with at times sumptuous photography, it is a transport of delight to far away, but very small, places.

Engineering in Miniature

What’s it about: ‘The magazine for model engineers’ – strapline above masthead.

Vital statistics: December 2018 issue: 52 pages of 295mm x 210mm. Quality gloss paper, self cover, stitched. £3.99 cover price. Publisher reports a combined sale of 2,128, with 166 from digital. Published monthly by Warners in Lincolnshire although a lot of the work is done by editor Andrew Charman at home in Powys.

Cover: Strangely blurry masthead that is difficult to make out, big picture of a model train, which we later learn some enthusiasts thought was “too shiny”, another smaller image and five coverlines.

Content: A perfunctory list of contents and editorial on page 3 is followed by four pages of ads before the action starts with an excellent five-page show report. A construction project – “Martin flanges the tubeplates”, tips for model engineers, a useful workshop section on choosing a first lathe, letters and club news are all artfully arranged amongst a very healthy consignment of ads.

Digital: The advertised website url takes readers to a page hanging off Warners’ ‘World of Railways’ which has no meaningful content beyond subscription info. Click through to Facebook with just 180 likes, and YouTube but no Twitter although editor Andrew Charman is visible, with 1,700 followers.

What they say: “Another big name from my formative years in motor sport passes on - RIP Guy Edwards” – editor Andrew Charman on Twitter. [Editor’s note: at the time of posting, Guy Edwards was aged 75, alive and well, living in Ireland.]

Verdict: This is a serious offering not for the faint-hearted. Clearly knows its topic, and readers, inside out and aims high at the expert market. A bit clunky and old-fashioned – the magazine, not the readers – but has enough content, both editorial and advertising, to keep everyone happy.

Model Boats

What’s it about: ‘No 1 for Sail & Scale’ – corner flash along with the date.

Vital statistics: December 2018 issue: 84 pages of 295mm x 210mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, stitched. £5.40 cover price. Media pack on website, from 2015, claims a monthly circulation of 16,000. Published monthly by mytimemedia in Edenbridge, Kent.

Cover: Big picture of a 19th century steam tugboat model, three other smaller images, four coverlines and the rather enigmatic strapline ‘Packed with a great range of articles’, as if it wouldn’t be…

Content: Well illustrated contents spread and editorial which starts, “I sit here chuckling to myself…” giving readers an idea of the general tone. Top of the page flashes – scratch build, steam basics, vintage corner, gallery, scale build, readers’ models, small scale, show report – are handy signposts while Test Bench is an engaging reviews section.

Digital: Clear promotion to a busy, but not cluttered, website which reprints some of the key pages from the magazine. Readers photo albums, a well-populated forum and supplier info make for a useful companion to the magazine. Links to Facebook (1,900 likes) and Twitter (1,850 followers) but no posts for more than a year.

What they say: “It is important that the material is well presented, lucid and free from obvious spelling errors” – editor Martyn Chorlton laying down the law to potential website contributors.

Verdict: Some may raise a value-for-money eyebrow at £5.40 for 84 pages but for the serious enthusiast – ‘The world's leading model boat magazine’ is probably no idle boast on the website – this has got to be the place to be. Generous editorial features and lots of ads, some of them nearly unreadable in millipoint, make this well worth the outlay.

Model Rail

What’s it about: ‘The UK's most exciting model railway magazine’ – explainer on Twitter page.

Vital statistics: December 2018 issue: 156 pages of 295mm x 210mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. £4.30 cover price. Combined ABC of 24,716 (Jan-Dec 2017). Published monthly by Bauer in Peterborough.

Cover: Big picture of a steam train at a mountainside station – Pen Y Bryn in north Wales, we later learn – and a sizeable coverline in the sky that has no connection. No less than 15 mini coverlines and one more small picture, an action shot of painting a stream.

Content: ‘Welcome’ followed by a contents spread divided into neatly colour-coded sections. Newsy items in ‘Opening the box’, two opinion columns then into the first major feature, a ‘layout’ of Bromsgrove. Workbench is 31 pages of ‘projects, advice and tips’ and more layouts, supplemented by a healthy reviews section.

Digital: A neatly constructed website has enough content to keep browsers happy without stopping them from buying the magazine. Also sign up for the newsletter or download a mini-mag. Easy links to Twitter, with 6,452 followers and Facebook (10,950 likes) as well as a YouTube channel.

What they say: “Ben is a seriously talented modeller and ‘N’ gauge expert.” – profile of BBC news correspondent Ben Ando, who moonlights as a contributor.

Verdict: So lavishly illustrated, it’s sometimes easy to forget these are even models, and weighing in at 156 pages, this is a beast of a modelling mag. Comfortable with its target market and displaying a detailed approach, this is showing how well-produced niche product titles are always going to be a winner.

Toy Soldier Collector International

What’s it about: ‘We’re as serious about collecting as you are’ – enigmatic sticker-style words next to masthead.

Vital statistics: December / January 2019 issue: 76 pages of 295mm x 210mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, stitched. £4.75 cover price. Publisher reports a combined circulation of 8,000. Published monthly by Guideline in Dunstable, Beds.

Cover: Four knights on horseback riding out of the page, four other small images, seven coverlines and a masthead which looks rather uncomfortable among all the clutter.

Content: A rather spare page of contents plus editor’s golden words which start, “Last issue I waffled on about…”. First project is a 19th century coaching scene made out of a dishwasher tablets box followed by reviews of new releases. Two suppliers are profiled plus other pieces include a lavishly illustrated six-page feature on an Australian diorama. ‘Final word’ bookends the editor’s opening comments.

Digital: A neat-looking website with moving images has a 38-page sample issue and an opportunity to buy back copies as well as a subscription. Facebook link goes to Scale Aircraft Modelling (nearly 70k likes) and Twitter to the publisher’s corporate page (just 918 followers).

What they say: “We are returning to our roots with our magazines … We have listened to what people have said to us. WE ASKED, WE LISTENED, WE'VE IMPROVED” – publisher gets a bit shouty on the website.

Verdict: Lots to enjoy about this bright publication, which more than lives up to its ‘International’ billing, not least through some of the advertising. Covering developments in ‘metal, plastics, castings’, the enthusiast will find plenty to savour and enough to whet the appetite for future projects.

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