Author Guidelines

Article Guidelines

Anyone may submit articles for consideration. We’re always interested in seeing material from new writers. Right off the mark, don’t be afraid to submit. We’ll help you look good and sound good; it’s our job. Occasionally, we will commission articles, but for the most part OST depends on your submissions. We want new, fresh, unpublished material for OST.

We are looking for articles from model builders who feel their models and/or modeling techniques and experiences would be of interest and benefit to others. In evaluating articles, we look at the quality of accompanying photos and illustrations (diagrams, drawings, etc.), content of the how-to-material, and to a much lesser degree, the writing style. If the photos and content are good, the article can be reworked by an editor to enhance its readability.


Most articles should be brief; usually less than 1500 words. However, if you have a topic of 2000 words or more, don’t think we’re not interested. We might turn it into a multi-part feature.
OST is a model magazine, not a literary journal. However, you should try to follow these guidelines:

  1.     Let your personality come through in your writing and keep it simple and direct. Readers want a clear description of what you did, how you did it, and what tools and materials you used. The best way to do this is to write as if you were telling a friend how to duplicate your modeling project.
  2.    Organize your article in a step-by-step manner. Start at the beginning and end at the end. (Or, as my high school English teacher used to say “Don’t count words. Make words count.”)
  3.    Don’t be afraid to tell how specific products performed for your project. Also, it is very helpful if you include a list of references and a list of sources for the materials you used. We do not limit the mention of products with respect to advertisers, non-advertisers, or even our own competitors.

Before submitting an article, re-read it and make any corrections or changes before sending it. Are product names spelled correctly? Are your instructions in the correct order? Don’t worry too much about grammar and punctuation. We’ll polish all of that in the editing stage.

Photo quality and photo content are very important when considering an article for publication. An otherwise good article might be rejected because of poor photo quality. Are your photos well lit? Are they in focus? If they aren’t, retake them before submitting the article.

Don’t try to “desk-top-publish” your submission, because we would have to deconstruct all that layout, decouple the photos again, and otherwise redo from scratch to fit in whatever multi-column form we might be using, around adverts, etc. Worse, some programs like Word are the very devil to clean up of all the little tags and artifacts during a deconstruction. Just send it as a single file for plain text, one for captions if any, and each photo as a separate file onto itself. No headers, footers, pagination; just plain text and photos.

Text Requirements

Manuscripts must be typed using upper and lower case letters. Text must be submitted in electronic format either by email or on a CD. We prefer text written in Microsoft Word but any word processor will produce a text-only file if you do not have Word. Do not waste a lot of time formatting text with bold or italics. Use single spacing, 12 point Times New Roman font if you can.

We will not consider hand-written manuscripts. We may consider short typewritten manuscripts if they are done on white, unlined paper, double spaced.

Photo Requirements

Digital photos are required, with the exception of wet-film-era historical photographs. Digital photos must be a minimum of 1.3 megapixels for construction and “how-to” articles. If you are submitting a layout or construction feature that might appear on the cover, we need cover photos that are at least 6 megapixels. Remember to take cover photos in “portrait” format (camera on edge so the image is taller than its width). If in doubt, contact us by email and we’ll review your digital photos for suitability. We are also happy to walk you through some basic technical photography techniques for high depth of focus and clarity of image. Email to set up some “phone-time”.

Do not send us inkjet prints of digital photos. Do not manipulate the photos in any way before sending them. If you have a preferred crop, send it as one of your images (say as mill_2) and we will try to honor that preference. However, you must also send the uncropped image correspondingly labelled as original (ex. mill_2orig) in case we cannot use your preferred crop for reasons of size or proportion; we want the photos just as they came out of the camera. Digital photos should be either submitted on a CD or you may email them in groups after you let us know they are coming and we agree to receive them. Photos must be submitted in JPEG or TIF formats.

Wet-film photos must be printed on plain glossy paper, 4×5 inches minimum, and larger is better. Textured or “silk” print can be problematic because this makes the images fuzzy when we scan them. OST currently has the ability to digitize prints by scanning and to digitize slides in-house. Because of the time and expertise required for the equipment, acceptance of wet-film images will be limited to historic prototype and model images that cannot be reasonable reshot today.

Photos must be clearly labeled and noted where they go in the text. Do not make up long fancy names for photos. If you are building a model of a mill, for example, number the photos in sequence like this: mill_01, mill_02, mill_03 with the last digits being the photo number referred to in your text.

Indicate the photos in your text like this, “Photo 1 shows the overall layout of the mill floor.” “Layout the floor as shown in Photo 2.” “Glue the chimney next (Photo 3).” This way, we know exactly where each photo goes in your article. A few extra photos of the completed item should be included to use as a lead photo for the article.

Illustration/Drawing Requirements

Photos are always preferred to sketches, but there are times where only a drawing will do. The same naming rules apply for illustrations and drawings, except that illustrations and drawings are called out as Figures, e.g., Fig. 1, Fig. 2, etc. Illustrations/drawings should be done in a computer drawing or CAD program whenever possible with each view as a separate file. Formats that are acceptable are EPS, PDF and native Adobe Illustrator (AI) with PDF preferred. We can no longer explode DXF or DWG compilations into views.

We can accept hand-drawn sketches for illustrations as long as they are clear and neat. Usually we will have to get them redrawn. Hand drawings in A4 or 8-1/2” x 11” each view can be handled here, and some have been works of art themselves, so don’t be shy about asking.

How To Mail A Submission

If wet-film photos are included, place a stiff piece of cardboard in the envelope so the photos won’t bend. Slides should be boxed. If you are sending a CD, please include a printout of the text so it can be cross referenced when necessary. If you want any of the materials back, please include a large envelope with sufficient return postage.

“How-To” Articles

We are looking for articles from model builders who feel their models and/or modeling techniques and experiences would be of interest and benefit to others. In evaluating articles, we look at the quality of accompanying photos and illustrations (diagrams, drawings, etc.), content of the how-to-material, and to a much lesser degree, the writing style. If the photos and content are good, the article can be reworked by an editor to enhance its readability.

So far, the feedback we’ve been getting says readers like how-to material; how-to paint, how-to scratchbuild, how-to kitbash, etc. Basically, readers want to know how to make their own models better. Therefore, any help or advice you can offer is what modelers want. Features on your own modeling projects make great articles. A step-by-step write-up with clear close-up photos can relay techniques and shortcuts to other modelers.

For how-to articles, make sure to take pictures during the actual course of the project. It is difficult, if not impossible, to write and photograph a how-to article after the model has been completed. Photos should be taken against a plain background if possible; neutrals, light grey, and light blue are good backgrounds. Also, the more photos you send, taken from a variety of views, the better choice we have in selecting what best to use with your article. Send more photos than you think is necessary to illustrate the article. You can’t have too many photos.

Layout Features

Layout features are also very popular, and often the hardest category to keep “in stock”. We like about 20 good views to show, so send extras. Usually the cover is chosen from a layout feature submission, so four or five good six-meg views in portrait format (see the photo requirements section) are also desired. The text should address the things everyone asks when the visit your layout, all about the benchwork, track, turnouts, control system, locos, rolling stock, structures, where are we and why the builder loves the good ol’ Pecan & Peanut in 1956. Try to get the same sorts of views in your photos as you would shooting the prototype, and you are there. Captions are almost a requirement in a layout feature.


ROTS are Really Obvious Tips, one pagers that show a simple project, tool, something from another hobby discipline, a couple photos and a little text about something that makes modeling easier.

Top Tips and Modelers Showcase

A Top Tip is a one liner, such as “Build your models on a sheet of glass to insure they sit square.” Modelers’ Showcase submissions are usually a single photo with a caption just to show off what has pride of place on your workbench or layout at the moment. Items used for either are assumed to be supplied to OST gratis.


O Scale Trains pays for submissions featured in the print edition after publication. Payment will be processed upon publication of the printed edition. Rates of pay are determined by White River Publications. WRP cannot process your payment until we have your signed Release Form on file.

Submissions to the O Scale Trains web site are contributed gratis.

Rights to Distribute

Currently, submissions are considered to be under agreement for exclusive right to distribute to OST/WRP from the date of acceptance until six months after publication.

What that means is:

  1. You certify the material submitted has not been published in print, electronically, or otherwise unless otherwise stated by you upon submission. Generally, but not always, if you have previously published your submission in print or online anywhere, we will not pay to republish it in OST.
  2. You assume responsibility for having permission to use material that belongs to others; photos, images from the net, from books, etc. BTW, using images in a paid article rarely falls under what people think of as “fair use”.
  3. After that six months exclusive right to distribute has expired, all rights to the material only as you submitted it return to you and you can post it or publish it wherever you want. Know that the form taken during edits, layout, proof, and publication are actually the intellectual property of those who performed that work, including editors, artists, OST, and WRP, so check with us if you need clarification.


OST also pays for product reviews. If you have a new item and you would like to write a review for OST, contact OST first to make sure that a review has not already been arranged. Read the Review and News Policy section on the website for more information.

Submit your article to:

Article and Review Submission:
O Scale Trains Magazine
250 Arendtsville Road
Biglerville, PA 17307
Phone: (301) 335-7301

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.