I bought my copy of MRJ 195 yesterday and it's a stonkingly good issue. Guest editor Chris Pendlenton seems to have managed to revive something of the feel MRJ had in its early years. I don't know what it is exactly, but there's just a feeling of it all being a bit more hands-on, getting-stuck-in, practical, that used to characterize MRJ a bit more than it has of late. There's a strong theme of railway operation running through all the articles, which ties the whole issue together in a way that I can't remember seeing before to quite the same extent.
Two small things, which may be coincidental, but which get my approval are (1) the fact the the editorial 'standfirsts' (the bits in italics at the head of each article) seem to have been revived (under Tim Shackleton's editorship these seemed often to be one liners or done away with altogether) - I always think it gives a sense of cohesion and personality to the magazine as a whole when there is a little more to these seemingly insignificant lines. I realise this is down to editorial style so with the current run of guest editors this may be a one-off. And (2) a return to good old serif type for the most part. I may be a stick-in-the-mud, but I really don't like the sans-serif typeface that's been making its way more and more into MRJ recently. I imagine it's a bit of a design experiment, but I just think it looks wrong, particularly for a magazine that has always maintained a slightly traditional image (which, by the way, I think is a big selling point as it sets MRJ apart from the rest of the modelling press, as with the rest of Wild Swan's output).
Dave Bradwell's article is particularly good. I really like his 'just get on with it' approach, and by the looks of things it is paying dividends with his layout, which, for all its incompleteness, already captures the atmosphere of a real working railway amazingly well. As a minimalist modeller (by force of time and space constraints), reading his article gave me a bit of a longing to have a proper big model railway with long trains and lots of track! Oh well, one day maybe!! (Shame there isn't anyone I know of locally with a nice big finescale model railway I could get involved with.)
Oh... that photo of the station entrance on Chris Pendlenton's layout on page 295 is just incredible. No matter how long I stare at it I can't for the life of me find anything to convince my mind into believing it actually is a model I'm looking at! Incredible!