Preparing Hot Spots, our next special issue, a question arises: How many places on our list have you visited?

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Tuesday, October 24, 2017

On Monday, the graphic artists who work on Trains and the editorial staff gathered in a ritual we call the “pin up.” It’s the one and only time when the entire feature well of a magazine is printed out and placed on the walls of a room. We lock ourselves in this chamber for an hour or so and review what we’re about to give you, the readers. We critique layouts, argue over headlines, adjust photos, and size up the timing and placement of stories. Sometimes we change the order of the stories in the interest of pacing and what we think is logical. It’s the chance to use the wisdom of the group to ferret out problems and seek absolute clarity for everyone who consumes our products.

The session this week was special – it was for our next special issue, Hot Spots, due out in early 2018. In magazine lingo we call one-offs like this SIPs, for special interest publications. That means it is a product that deviates from the usual role of a magazine – a smorgasbord of topics and treatments aimed at reaching the largest possible readership – and instead dills down on one topic, one theme. In this case, it’s great places to watch trains, the basics of being a fan, and advanced tutorials on reading signals (so that you know when trains are or are not coming) and train symbols (so you can figure out what train they’re referring to on the radio). The meat of this issue is the feature section about 75 places where you can visit famous locations, watch a lot of trains, or see them in scenic settings. The locations are coast-to-coast in the U.S. and Canada, and we all came away with the feeling that we’re providing a ton of great, useful info to both beginners and old pros about the train-watching hot spots in our amazing and diverse country. “I’d buy a copy,” said well traveled designer Drew Halverson, who hosts a show about railfanning called “Drew’s Trackside Adventures” on our sister web channel MR Video Plus. When I hear Drew say that, it gets my attention. And I agree. This is about the most useful 100 pages we’ve ever produced to help everyone and anyone who loves to watch and photograph trains gain more understanding and more enjoyment.

 As we were getting started with the pin up session, I remarked to the staff and graphic artists that I wonder if any of us have been to all of the 75 places we’ve listed. None of us think we have every last one, but I think most of us believe that as a group we’ve been to all 75 of our top places for watching trains. I would surely hope so. When the new issue is out in January, let us know how many of the places on our list that you’ve been to. I’d like to know. And have fun and be safe out there trackside!

 You can pre-order Hot spots at

 Check out Model Railroader Video Plus here:


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