All about the community of model railroading and rail enthusiasm


About the Cowcatcher

Cowcatcher Magazine, published by Ballpark Impressions, is the only publication covering local model railroad, rail enthusiast and railroad-related news.

Started in 2004 in Keller, Texas, the magazine brings to life the people, places and events of this community like no other publication in the marketplace.

Cowcatcher Magazine not only has news of interest about one of America’s favorite hobbies, it features compelling articles about regional people, places, events and history, all professionally written and edited by accomplished journalists and contributors.

Unlike other publications, Cowcatcher Magazine focuses on the people of the hobby and rail enthusiast community. Coverage includes news about the model railroad and railroad industries, as well as historical societies, museums, clubs, modelers and organizations at community and national levels.

Each issue is packed full of regional happenings within our national distribution area. Issues include a calendar of events for upcoming shows, meets and activities.

Also featured are informative capsules and features about the region’s and nation’s transit, tourist and freight railroads, complete with lively insights from top industry officials.

Cowcatcher Magazine is mailed Third Class USPS to subscribers, plus distributed at select hobby shops, shows, museums and railroading points of interests from coast to coast, with primary focus in the country’s midsection.

Cowcatcher is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Contact Us


Tim Blackwell founded the Cowcatcher as Cowcatcher Round Up in 2004 as a newsletter to highlight local NMRA and model railroading activities in Texas and Louisiana. A longtime model railroader and former award-winning newspaper professional, Blackwell conceived the idea of a local rail enthusiast publication during long car rides with fellow modelers to operating sessions. He discovered that model railroaders didn’t pass the time talking about the latest models and running layouts but took a more holistic approach to the hobby. Anything trains was game for discussion. 

Blackwell has more than 40 years experience in writing, editing, publishing and printing and as many or more years modeling N and HO scale. He began his career as a sports writer with the Citizen-Journal in Arlington, Texas, and spent nearly 25 years with The Dallas Morning News in editorial and printing sales and leadership. He is vice president of the Hobby Manufacturers Association Model Railroad Industry Division council, and also serves on the HMA board or directors. 


Watch Ken Patterson’s interview with Cowcatcher Publisher Tim Blackwell in the May 2019 “What’s Neat in Model Railroading” video podcast!

Tim speaks at length about Cowcatcher Magazine, beginning 22 minutes into the show. Our thanks to Ken and Model Railroad Hobbyist for helping us to tell our story!

Gold Rail Awards

From 2009-16, the Cowcatcher’s Gold Rail Awards recognized the best of the best in model railroading and rail enthusiasm in the areas we cover. Winners in 13 categories ranging from model railroads to prototype railroads were selected by our readers. Categories include: Best Train Show; Best Club Layout, Permanent; Best Club Layout, Modular; Best Excursion Railroad; Best Excursion Railroad, Theme Train; Best Railroad Museum; Best Rail Special Event; Best Regional Freight Railroad; Best Railfanning Spot; Best New Model Railroad Product; Best Passenger Rail (Passenger Regional and Commuter/Light Rail); and Best Model Train Store.

Nominees were selected by Cowcatcher staff and others, and winners announced in the January/February issue.

Current Issue: September/October 2023


Bright, shiny freight cars are showing in greater numbers on the North American rail network. New orders and deliveries increased in 2022 following a decline beginning in 2019 that the pandemic worsened in 2020 and 2021. According to a report from the Railway Supply Institute's American Railway Car Institute Committee, new freight car orders last year were significantly greater than the combined total of 2020 and 2021. Deliveries increased nearly as much.

But car builders are not out of the woods yet, as the first half of 2023 saw some ups and downs.


Too much of a good thing can be hazardous to model railroad operations. Adding more cars to a layout can place more pressure on yards and industries when running the railroad like the real thing. Three veteran operators share their thoughts about how to avoid logjams in yards, sidings and at industries. 


Computer-based applications that complement DCC are driving the new frontier of model rail road operations.


The Sunset Limited ranks as Amtrak's worst train in on-time performance, prompting a Surface Transportation Board investigation. The Southern Pacific's Coast Daylight, with its brilliant colors, was among the most beautiful trains during the golden age of passenger rail. A BNSF test locomotive that set the stage for future developments in alternative energy motive power technology arrives at an Oklahoma railroad museum.