The good, the bad and the ugly

“Dear Mr. Lee,

After at least two failed attempts to send you a narrative with photos of my current layout project, here are some individual photos. Hopefully you will enjoy them.

The layout is an 8.5 inch by 72 inch Inglenook that folds into an 8.5 inch by 36 inch space. To be more specific, it is a “proper” 3-3-5 Inglenook plan using Peco turnouts and Atlas track. The structures are all designed to “Plug-in” to specific areas on the layout. Two of the six structures are kitbashed and the balance have been scratchbuilt from plasticard and styrene strips. Most of the photos were taken outside in with the morning sun lighting the layout; the last photo is of the layout in its normal home.

If you enjoy these, I can also send you photos of my other layout — Mischief –. Mischief is a Timesaver that is 12 (or 14) inches wide (need to check again) by 72 inches long and also folds into a 36 inch long package for easy transport.



“Hi Alastair,

I just thought that I would send you some pics of my layout. I think it’s interesting because it’s actually a hornby trakmat layout (as I don’t have that much space for a massive layout) but I’ve added a whole new section, aswell as a canal and other small bits. It might interest people with smaller layouts.

Many thanks,


And now on to the good, the bad and the ugly.

They are, of course, the comments I got after announcing what I’m doing with the mailing list.

Because it’s costing me too much, I can’t mail everyone any longer.

Monday will be my last mailing day – then I’m just mailing the folk who have bought the ‘golden key’.

The good: Most folk understand and sent some wonderful messages of support, like David’s

“…Now I come to the purpose of this email. Your web site and all those contributors is an inspiration and I have signed up to Golden Key to ensure I continue to be inspired. I hope, as our layout develops, I will be able to share our puny efforts with you and all your other satisfied subscribers. Thank you so much for all the work you devote to our enjoyment.


The bad:
Many people mailed me saying they’d like to carry on with the mails, but they just can’t afford it. It does sadden me, but that’s why I’m doing this – I’m in the same boat as them. I can’t afford to carry on doing what I’m doing.

“To whom it may concern:

Thought I would be formal about this seeing how you have become all about business and not about the hobby,I have been a faithful subscriber for 4 years, I cannot afford to purchase your golden key nor would I want to as a condition of receiving your post.

It is unfortunate that it has come to this, I really got a lot of good tips for my layout from your mails and will miss reading them. I have been on disability payments for the last 4 years and my model railway is all I have left in my life that brings me happiness,But with my current financial status I do not have the money to spend more than a few dollars here and there, so I find ways to do my scenery using reused household Items,coffee grounds for ballast,limb clippings for trees, so forth.



And now on to the ugly. No point publishing them. But it’s safe to say some out there think I’m a “money grabbing shit”.

I do feel stuck between a rock and a hard thing.

My priority now is for the folk that have bought the ‘golden key’. They will still get the mails as normal. Everybody else gets them once in a blue moon. I shall try a couple with ads on, as Walter suggested, to see if they can pay for themselves, but please don’t hold your breath.

If you’d like to carry on getting the mails, click here to buy the Golden Key.

Lastly, on to Dangerous Dave.

It really has been a big week for me, so his latest cheered me up no end. I think you have to be familiar with his other stuff to find it funny. But you all are, aren’t you?



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

43 Responses to The good, the bad and the ugly

  1. David R says:

    Just ignore the negatives, they do not appreciate all the time you have given to help us learners make a better layout. They are pillocks, thanks a bundle and happy to pay up.

    David R

  2. Ol' Puffer says:

    I am also happy to pay up, although I feel sorry for the folks who genuinely cannot afford it.
    As for the rest of the moaners…..sod ’em all.

  3. Maurie May says:

    G’day Al,

    Just ignore the bad & the ugly. Some folk just do not know the facts of life, like the one that if you have expenditure, you must also have income to meet same.
    I’m a pensioner, which means that I’m one of those who does not have a whole lot of excess cash to throw around. But over the years I’ve had a lot of enjoyment from your site, and that alone is worth the rather small sum you are asking.
    So I’ve bought your Golden Key, and give you my sincere thanks for the work you have put into the Model Railway hobby. I also thank your good lady for her patience & perserverence. Having been married for over 40 years to the one good woman, I can appreciate the value of her contribution.
    I paid for this by PayPal, which uses a different email address, so my future contact with you will be through my email address.
    All the best Al. in this new direction.

  4. jim c says:

    So sad to bad i cant stay on i to am on a very low income do to breaking my neck but i thank you for all the time and effort that u have put into this great site. Have to say sure am glad i kept all the ones i have receaved over the years.
    Thank you for the reads and the fun

  5. jim c says:

    Maybe one day in the future i will be able to sign on and continue to injoy the reads and the fun.

  6. John you have done a great job there with the portable railway think a lot would like to do similar especially where lack of space is a problem , and Al well if they carnt afford $19 or just £11 in English , it is time for them to pack in , bet it there computers went down they would be willing to pay $40 -$50 to get it fixed , with this programme of yours its like having a model railway ..”how to” encyclopedia on hand and up to now totally free..

  7. Jaaques Shellaque says:

    Many thanks, John and Mark. Boundless creativity.
    Alistair, just ignore the “whiney a….holes” who will
    complain because they enjoy doing so.
    How about a “fund” to help chaps like the one on
    disability, to keep getting the “messages”. I’d be
    willing to kick in a few bucks, myself, and would guess
    that others would do the same.

  8. Dave Roberts says:

    Al, just a thought – what if, further down the line (!), any of we previous non golden key subscribers decide to cough up the readies ?
    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all the contributions which range from excellent to stunning. One day I’ll find a space to restart after a gap of 40+ years. Thanx for everything Al……….d

  9. Geoff Chowles says:

    Hi Al,
    Sorry to here that there are so meany selfish/negative model Railway people out there. That’s after all the free info that they have had. They Just need to think of the cost of CD’s and books it would take to get all that knowledge that was for free. Plus the entertainment from “Dangerous Dave”
    I’ve been a fan ever since I Purchased the track plan CD some 5 or 6 years ago. I’ve now subscribed to the “KEY”
    Good luck and keep up the good work.
    Ps. I hope that you are looking after your top contributors.
    Cheers, Geoff from NZ

  10. brad says:

    Thanks for all your hard work and the time you have put into this web site it was all greatly appreacated

  11. Andrew says:

    Just bought the “Golden Key”, sorry you are struggling to make ends meet. The modelling tips are great and I couldn’t do without them.
    Also loved Dave’s new model railway, should keep him occupied for hours by the time he’s finished landscaping it!

  12. Colin says:

    Hi Al,
    It might help to explain, without too much detail, why you are having to reduce the mailing. This might reduce the number of disgruntled comments, but it might also challenge some of your more inventive members to come up with a solution. I feel for Tator’s comment in particular as I’m sure why this site of yours is so successful is that many people can’t afford the subscription sites and don’t want all the relentless advertising and not so free “Free offers” we are bombarded with. Just plain, amature, good tips and photo sharing is what draws us to open your mails with keen expectations!

  13. PeterH says:

    I’ve just signed up, it’s not easy on a fixed income but some things are worth holding on to! I have friends who spend more on coffees each week and complain about costs! It’s a great resource and where would we be without Dangerous Dave and all the other great inspirations.

  14. William says:

    In my opinion some of the grass is not the right color so it looks
    Not real.
    I have a track that I’m building, but I’m stuck, trying to decide
    What I want it to be like, so I just picked some where I had been,
    cause how can I try to do a some what realistic model if I’ve
    never even been there. I have limited space and monies, ass we all do
    I’ll send pics of the basic layout as soon as I take them

  15. Dr. Steve Kemper says:

    Great job – really a lot o work. Say, I have a gallery in my home 25×30 and I would like to run a track around the room ( one track) say about 6 feet from floor – there would be bridges for the window an oor. Have you ever heard of such a project. I already have a beautiful murial. Steve Kemper

  16. Fred W says:

    You have been carrying advertisments for as long as I have been reading your column but like one of the previous writers I am on a limited ‘fixed’ income and am sorry to see it end, bye

  17. David Leech says:

    I would like to thank you Lee for all the tips and hints that you have posted on your e mails. I have found them usefull and have used quite a few.

    I have payed up and I am looking forward to receiving your further e mails.

    Do not take the negitive replys to heatr and just carry on the good job you have been doing.

  18. done says:

    I am in similar situation to Tator… on a fixed income and can’t see my way to afford golden key. I had to give up my model RR some time ago and have really enjoyed your contribution. I guess I’m still modeling from an arm chair though. Very often I sit a design new layouts, mostly in G scale, but a few in HO. I was most interested in John’s Inglenook. Lately I have been using my grandkids wooden trains to build various “puzzles” for them to solve and enjoy. Anyway, I’m going to miss your emails. Like David R. says: ignore the negatives. Focus on those who contribute, but know that there are some of us out there who really appreciated your efforts. Most respectfully, done

  19. StJohn says:

    yeh what a shame. This is interesting stuff.
    I really look fwd to this blog and will miss it.
    sorry but I cant’ afford the golden key either.
    good luck and cheers!!

  20. Mike Wilson says:

    I have to agree with David R. – IGNORE THE NEGATIVES. I haven’t been with you as long as some of the people who have written to you but have been saving all your emails so that I can read back over them. I’m glad I was able to buy the “Golden Key” when you first offered it and like most who have written I am also on a disability pension. I think it is a disgrace that people would write such emails to you after all the help that you have given to so many of us.
    As to the bad and the ugly, forget them, if that’s how they write to you I don’t think that they are worth worrying about.
    Please keep up your damm good work.

  21. Doug C says:

    he he a very good one D Dave and David is right I can not pay now but I will pay when I can save up to get the golden key if YOU CAN NOT GET IT NOW SAVE UP FOR IT and or tell famly and frends what they can get you for berthday or Christmas KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK WE ALL NEED YOU Thank you for all you have done KEEP IT UP (sorry for the bad spelling ) Doug

  22. Dear Mr. and Mrs. Lee.

    Please forgive and then ignore those people who have treated so cruelly about your very reasonable request. Although I have loved your website and each email, a service like yours is very costly. It takes so much time, energy, patience and dedication. All of these qualities belong to you in buckets full. You have given your time, attention, and financial resources to this audience, but they first belong to your family.

    Most of us who cannot afford your membership fee at this time because of our situations are able to place ourselves in your shoes. Outside of your personal circle of loved ones, you do not owe anyone your time and attention. You have given all of us a beautiful gift for many years and now your investment is simply too expensive.

    Everything in life costs something and prices continue to be raised. Some people are not thinking about the cost of Internet Service Providers’ services that connect us to the World Wide Web. My monthly ISP costs have doubled in the past ten years because their costs increased. It had to be passed along to customers for them to stay in business and grow. This is life and definitely not a fault or a conspiracy to do wrong to anyone else. It is simple reality based on the world economy.

    I imagine that you have needed to upgrade your computer equipment during these past years. You would have needed to increase the random access memory (RAM) capacity of your computer systems merely to distribute the content the photos and videos included in your emails. Photos and videos consume enormous amounts of RAM where simple text does not. There are always other expenses involved also. I can easily believe your financial health has been stressed due to the two issues above alone.

    Most of us feel very bad for the lack of understanding and kindness shown to you by a few individuals. Sometimes people strike out thoughtlessly when they believe a loss is meant to hurt them. They may not realize that the phrase “this is not personal, it is totally my dilemma” means exactly those words. They may never realize or even understand the high cost of their fierce anger at ordinary disappointments. The Internet allows people to be anonymous to act badly where they would never behave in such a manner face-to-face. The only hurtful issues I can see would be to allow strangers to injure you when you are guiltless of offense.

    Ads are a great resource to raise support funding along with your one-time purchase for the Search capacity is great. You could also offer a less expensive annual membership level of $10.00 for R & R to only include “receiving and reading” your emails? It would bar any active participation of (1) posting advice and/or photos/videos, (2) asking public questions, and (3) receiving public answers.

    For some of us, this would be enough until we can afford more involvement. It could help provide stability for your situation as your expenses will always change. At this time I can afford that level of annual membership fee to pay for the opportunity to read the emails and to look at the postings with no other expectation. I will have no need to participate fully until my grandson is a few years older.

    Whether or not you want to incorporate your website as a not-for-profit or a for-profit business is totally up to you and your family. It is a completely legitimate decision. Being “a business” in either sense is not joining the “dark side of the Force” or even doing anything wrong. I am not familiar with the British tax system about income laws. In some countries it is permitted to recover expenses without creating additional taxation. An accountant could help with those matters.

    Please accept my deeply sincere appreciation for your generous contribution these past years for the joy and passion you have for train modeling. Your emails and the many participants have been a great comfort to me.

    Sherrill Hendrick
    Washington State, USA


    Perhaps you eventually might think of the one-time Search fee ($19.97) as the entrée’ in allowing people full participation with their occasional postings, public discussion, and public responses and the annual support as covering the bases. Most of those who paid the Search fee would agree in a year that it is realistic.

  23. Ralph-Eureka, MO USA says:

    Hello Al,

    I published a newsletter for many years, and know that is a lot of hard work to keep it fresh and full of timely and interesting posts. Cover your costs, and then some, because there is nothing wrong with being a capitalist. Speaking as a new Golden Key member, keep up the good work!

  24. Greg Rebman says:

    Dear Al:

    I want to thank you for all you have done for modeling. Your report have been interesting and informative. I understand the cost factor and cannot see how anyone could be critical of you and your efforts. Much success and continue your work with members of the Golden Key

  25. Pete Evangel says:

    Al.. I too wish I could afford to pay you for all you have done. I really do appreciate the effort you have put into this blog. I know I have gained lots of wisdom from the folks that post. You have to do what you have to do. dont apologize for not being able to continue making this free when it cost you money. I dont think you’re into it to make a living, just to have it pay for itself. Perhaps in the future I too will have enough extra to purchase the Key and continue. I will not delete any post I have, just in case I get the funds.

  26. Bill Allen says:

    Dear Al…I can truly understand your situation. After collecting European N scale for the past 35 years I have finally started a layout. A short while back I sent some pictures. Most of the inspiration and all of the stimulation to begin has come from your emails. I look forward to each and every one. I was quick to sign up for the Golden Key because I realized what a value it is. However I have lost the information on how to access it! One thing that I have real trouble understanding is, how someone can spend the kind of money it takes to build even a small layout and not be able to sign up for such a valuable asset. You are doing a fine job, Keep up the good work.
    …Bill Allen

  27. Dave DeCarlo says:

    Thank you for all that you do.

  28. Tom says:


    Everyone that has contributed to this site and of course you bringing the instruction, transfer buildings, e-bay sheets, pictures, video. I have been on for two years now and this site has been amazing. I have saved every e-mail and I my self have set up a way to retrieve them.
    Al, I will not be purchasing the “Golden Key” however what a world of knowledge I have received. I thank you for what you have done for me.

    I will miss this e-mail but I know with the cost of things other options have to be taken into consideration. You did that and even how touch it was I truly admire you. You will always be # 1 in my book. Al, in your future may all that you wish for be the least that you receive. Continued great success. You are a diamond in the rough.

    best wishes … warm regards!


  29. Chris says:

    Al, Happy to pay the $22.72 Aussie. People should look at this “Life Time Fee” as a lead into saving money through using the search engine to get tips into how to do things the right way first off. In this hobby it is very easy to stuff something up that costs far more than $22.00 odd dollars for the life time membership.

  30. Old Trainman says:

    I have gained a lot of useful tips and inspiration from your site and would happily have paid more if the option was there.
    If you give your time freely there are always people who expect more without contributing anything. I wonder how many of those claiming not to be able to afford the fee have contributed to the site with articles or useful comments ?

  31. Tom Schenck says:

    I will be resubscribing to the golden key subscription under a different e-mail. It has been a very welcome email to read in the morning when I get to work but as time changes so don’t everything else including employment.

    I am going to transfer my member ship to my personal email where I will now be able to enjoy it in the evenings.

    As per Jaaques Shellaque response, I too would be willing to help others, but as we all know there will be more individuals who will abuse this offer, therefore I would recommend that be for you help or donate for others, do your research and help ones that really need it and not the ones who just want a free ride. I have help many seemly people who just want a free ride. (Been burned a lot). Still willing to help but being wise from now on.

    Look for me under a new email address.

    Tom S.

  32. Marion says:

    I would just like to echo all that Jacob’s Grandmother has said to you so eloquently. Thank you, Ma’am, for stating what so many of us feel for this wonderful man. I cried, Al, when I read that some ignorant, selfish, bitter person called you a “money-grabbing shit”. That is unconscionable, weak and, well, I could go on, but you get it.

    We would just ask that you keep up the good work as long as financially possible, putting you and your family first, especially your lady. I would love to meet her!

    Thank you, thank you!

    Marion in Mississippi

  33. Ken says:

    They keep telling us the economy is improving. If you have to charge to share ideas, I’d say that isn’t so. I’ve shared your mails with friends from time to time, and I’ve shared some ideas back to you as well, including the 130+ page collection of ideas I’ve collected or written over the years. Right now, I’m putting my money into my bookstore and coffee shop, to keep it from failing so I won’t be buying a key. I wish you the best of luck.

  34. THOMAS says:


  35. THOMAS says:


  36. Gavin says:

    Hi Al

    Don’t be hardhearted by the “Ugly”. – You have done a grand job over the years, no-one has a right to complain at all. I was only too happy to buy a key when it first came out, as I well know how expensive in both time & money such a venture becomes.

    All the best
    Gavin D

  37. Herman says:

    Thanks for a great service – will try to some time in future sign up – but at present also one of those disability guys [FROM CAPE TOWN SOUTH AFRICA ]
    My Disability income is only just under $200.00 per month. So 10% is going mess with my Lunch money [Laughing]
    Problem is I have saved all your e-mails from years past to use whenever I would need them – So I will now lose access to all those archives once you shutdown the ”BRASS” keys holders like myself
    I started scrambling over last few days to browse through all the old e-mails to see what articles I can download before you shutdown – but as you know there are literally Hundreds PLUS.

    I do understand though and definitely do appreciate all you have done for us – Do wish you all the best I just know most of the serious modelers will definitely scrape up the cash eventually and you will be up to close to the original subscriptions in short time
    Best Regards
    Herman Moore
    Cape Town
    South Africa
    still have a few more days to see what I can salvage from the past.
    Might need to get a few buddy’s to try help me [ LAUGHING ]

  38. Dennis RPaquette says:

    I to am also retired on a limited budget, but the price is low and more than acceptable for the wealth of information available, truly enjoy seeing what other people are doing. I have a small latout HO scale layout in a 10 X 14 spare bedroom, and belong to a free moment modular club which let’s me run longer trains when we meet monthly. Hope you get a chance to use the pictures I sent along.

    Thanks for all the work

  39. Barry Pearlman says:

    Al –
    Can you post a link to the Golden Key order website; perhaps at the top of the page. I lost it somewhere in a block of text. Do a little “free” advertising for yourself.

    To the positive responses, please allow me to ditto all of them.

    For the negative commenters, I will quote my father: “Take it from whom it comes and charge it up to ignorance!”

  40. Peter P says:

    Hi Al
    It did not occur to me (until you mentioned it) that you were meeting all the costs of your e-mailing efforts. How very commendable but not sustainable (unless you are very well heeled).
    You have every right to at least break even, and dare I say it, make a small profit as well! In a nut shell, tell any detractors to “get stuffed”.
    Well done on your previous efforts and good luck for the future.

  41. Rick says:

    Hi Al,
    I usually don’t post comments, just lurking here trying to fight my wife for more space for my N layout. However, that being said, I was shocked by you comment of receiving notes suggesting this was a money grab. As one who has hosted web sites and done mass e mailings I think those who wrote that should try it for a while.

    Actually, although I enjoy the newsletters, I like the search feature better. It allows me to look specifically for what I need. I love Dave’s videos buy really very little of his massive layout is transferable to mine.

    I live in Sun City, Huntley IL. If you are ever in the area please drop a line. I would love to show you are KVEC model railroad club. We have G, O, HO, N & Z layouts. Again great job, keep it up.

  42. Lynn Taubeneck says:

    The question that we all want answered is “what is David’s favorite sherry?”

  43. Lynn Taubeneck says:

    Earlier I meant Tator; pensioners need consideration and I will cover his gold key in respect for his years of service. We are all standing on someone else’s shoulders that’s how life works. the ones that go before us pave the way as we now pave the way for those coming after us.

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