Normally, I’d be welcoming you to this year’s issue, and as this is the fifteenth issue of the On30 Annual, that would be a big deal. But these aren’t normal times, are they? As I write this, I am “sheltered in place” as I suspect many of you are or were. Hopefully, by this summer, the COVID-19 crisis is over and life is returning somewhat to normal. But who knows at this point and what is “normal” anyway?
For me, working out of my home is normal, and I’ve been doing it since the 2008 issue. White River Productions is well-suited for the current situation, as we are “socially distanced” across about a dozen states. So while other companies are scrambling to figure out how to conduct business, we just cruised along as normal, which is great for you, the readers. Likely you have had thoughts of uncertainty, fear, and perhaps even panic as world events unfolded. I did too, but the experience of the 9/11 attacks showed me the best thing I could do for myself and my fellow modelers is do what I always do: Talk to authors and advertisers, grind away at editing and layout, and put out the magazine on time.
Would it surprise you to learn that all the model companies that I’ve been talking to, before some of them were closed as “non-essential,” were doing a booming business? It shouldn’t and in case it does, here is a quick model railroading history lesson.
The first issue of The Model Craftsman, (which evolved into Railroad Model Craftsman) came out in March 1933. A.C. Kalmbach started Model Railroader in 1934. So the two longest-lived publications devoted to modeling started in the depths of the Great Depression, as did any number of other either long term or still in business firms like Walthers.
Yes, times were hard in the 1930s and yes, there was much uncertainty, including the gathering clouds of war, but people pursued their hobbies, and their hobbies helped them through tough times. In the years since, the world has had many highs and many lows, but model railroading has always, if you’ll pardon the pun, chugged along as both a hobby and a business. In fact, it is the tough times that have given us some of our best and most innovative hobby products and companies, as talented and creative people, under- or unemployed turned to the hobby as a way to supplement their income. And when times got good, these same folks would sometimes be pulled back out of the business.
I’ve noted on social media many of our fellow modelers are using the forced home time to engage or reengage with modeling, and I applaud that. Most of us have a closet full of kits waiting to be built “someday.” I’d submit that this period is that day. Turn off the sky-is-falling news and restrict social media, except to share what you are building! You’ll be happier and healthier for it and like modelers before, it will help you get through these tough times.
It is not a question of if this will end, because it will. It is only a question of when and how our focus and behaviors are changed because of it. I hope this time serves to strengthen our bonds with family and friends and helps us reexamine both our priorities and the things we spend our time on. Hopefully you come to the conclusion that I did after our last national emergency; that modeling is important. It is good for us on many levels and it is good for our community. If we took the camaraderie, the helpfulness and openness seen in any modeling group on a daily basis out into the world, the world would be a better place very quickly.
Stay well, stay safe, take care of one another, and build some cool models as we look forward to the next fifteen years of bringing you the On30 Annual!
—Chris Lane, Editor, On30 Annual