Model train mag reaches milestone

by Toshiki Makino

Kyodo

A monthly magazine for model railroad fans launched shortly after the end of World War II issued its 800th edition in January.

Overseeing the latest issue of Tetsudo Mokei Shumi (Hobby of Model Railroading), just as he did the very first issue in 1947, is Haruo Ishibashi, 84, who has been editor for almost seven decades.

“We didn’t expect the magazine to survive for such a long time as we are an extremely tiny publishing firm,” Ishibashi said.

The magazine, published by Tokyo-based Kigei Publishing Co., has been issued a total of 860 times, including special editions. The ultimate goal for many model train fans is to have their work appear in its pages.

Although the circulation of Tetsudo Mokei Shumi has declined to one-third of its peak of 30,000 copies in the 1970s, the number has stabilized in recent years.

“It means that there are still avid model railway fans across Japan,” Ishibashi said, but he doubts that circulation will ever recover its peak.

A native of Tokyo, Ishibashi published three different magazines about model railways, together with Kiyo Yamazaki, a well-known expert in the field, shortly after the end of the war.

“The magazines were mimeographed with no pictures, but with handwritten illustrations only,” Ishibashi said. “They were even like today’s ‘dojinshi’ (amateur-published magazines).”

In 1947, they launched what became the first issue of Tetsudo Mokei Shumi. At the time every issue had to clear the Occupation censors, but no issue failed to receive the green light, according to Ishibashi.

He said that as metals were less available back then, empty cans and other materials were used to make trains.

“Even so there were some fans who made model steam locomotives from scratch on their own, referring to this magazine,” he said. “There have always been real enthusiasts.”

After Yamazaki died, Ishibashi succeeded to the posts of editor-in-chief of the magazine and president of the publisher in 2003.

“I wonder if the magazine will last until it issues its 1,000th edition. I’ll be surely older than 100 by then,” Ishibashi said.