In my experience, . . . even the most basic information about Garden Railroading needs to be updated every 2-3 years if it is to remain useful. Anything that hasn't been updated within 5 years could actually cause problems.
How Much Content is Too Much?
Ever since I started writing about garden railroading, I've tried to pay attention to the questions and concerns of new hobbyists, while I was trying to learn new and better ways of doing the same old things myself. That's why my own railroad, the New Boston and Donnels Creek, is built using several different kinds of construction; I wanted to make certain I knew what I was talking about.
Admittedly, most of my early articles were written to solve pressing problems in the hobby, but once the garden railroading community had stabilized somewhat, we decided to go by the 80/20 rule when planning new articles. That is, we are trying to focus on the 20% of information that 80% of beginning or intermediate garden railroaders need. But even that has been a huge challenge. I STILL don't have some articles written that I outlined several years ago, while several articles published in 2003 need updated, and a few others have been taken off the site because they're no longer useful at all.
When I'm searching for information myself, I have the same problem finding a balance of "tried and true" information and "timely" infomation. Books on Garden Railroading tend to leave out recently developed methods that could greatly help "newbies." Garden Railways magazine publishes important content, but anyone who didn't get that issue is not likely to be exposed to the ideas expoused. (True, Kalmbach now offers downloadable PDF reprints of certain articles at $6 a pop, but unless you know which articles you need, you could spend serious bucks getting stuff that doesn't do you any good anyway.)
Kinds of Content
So it seems that Garden Railroaders and would-be Garden Railroaders require at least three kinds of information:
Channels for ContentTo me, it seems that these different kinds of content require different communication channels to really reach the appropriate audience at the appropriate time. A few popular channels are:
Several web sites provide a good mix of features, although (in my opinion), none does all of them well. In our case, Family Garden Trains'? focus on beginners means that we hit the #1 (long term) stuff way better than we hit #2 or #3. Still, I've noticed that in our attempts to give only the most basic subjects their "due," we've created more content than you could fit in most books anyway, and written many articles that would be too long for magazines. (And we don't even have all of our planned "core" articles written yet.)
A bigger problem might be that web sites are hard to read on your patio, much less on an airplane. In other words, the harder we try to meet the most basic needs of garden railroaders, the more we contribute to the "unwieldiness" of an information repository that is somewhat unwieldy already.
What's a Garden Railroading Information Provider to do?
We have looked at other ways of providing content. For example we tried publishing new articles in an e-magazine format for a couple of years, but we couldn't keep up a regular schedule. In 2005, we were also approached by a book publisher, but the right deal hasn't happened yet.
One thing we plan to do - in addition to adding and updating articles this year - we may spend some time revising the way our Primer section is organized, to help folks get to the information they need faster, and to help them to understand better how the various topics interrelate.
We're also still looking at other ways to make our most important content more "portable." We don't have the resources or desire to produce a magazine (certainly not one that could compete with one of the best hobby magazines currently on any market), or to supply the marketplace with one more book that will be outdated by the time we've sold out the first printing. Some folks have suggested making our pages available on CD-ROM, but you still have to have a computer to use those. (And, frankly, we've have had enough problems with folks "repurposing" our content for their own commercial purposes as it is - why make it even easier for them?)
We will try to keep you posted of future developments. If you want to be certain to hear any important announcements, please consider signing up for our mailing list soon.
Also, please contact us with your suggestions, additions, corrections, criticisms, or whatever.
Have a great spring and summer (or fall and winter to Phil and Tony and others down under),
Note: Family Garden Trains?, Garden Train Store?, Big Christmas Trains?, BIG Indoor Trains?, and BIG Train Store? are trademarks of Breakthrough Communications (www.btcomm.com). All information, data, text, and illustrations on this web site are Copyright (c) 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 by Paul D. Race. Reuse or republication without prior written permission is specifically
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