History 2018-03-16T18:36:51+00:00

Kalmbach Media started with one man’s passion for trains and his entrepreneurial talents.

Even as a young child, Al Kalmbach was fascinated by trains. He spent hours hanging around the train yard near his house in Milwaukee, and his interest continued to grow over the years.

In 1922, at age 12, his entrepreneurship emerged. He bought a hand printing press and type with money he saved from odd jobs, and the next year, he started the Milwaukee Sun, which became an award-winning monthly neighborhood newspaper that he continued publishing until he was in college. It was during college that Al put his train knowledge to work, building his first extensive model railroad in the family’s attic.

When Al couldn’t find a job after college because of the Great Depression, he and two of his friends started a printing business that specialized in church papers. But Al just couldn’t get trains and model railroading out of his head, and he dreamed of publishing magazines about them. In summer 1933, Al’s ideas for a model railroad magazine started to percolate, and he decided the first issue of his magazine would come out in January 1934. He printed 272 copies of The Model Railroader for his charter subscribers, carrying them to the post office on a streetcar to put them in the mail. That first issue was the beginning of Al Kalmbach’s magazine publishing business, and it was just a few months before he committed himself to running the magazine full-time.

Despite the difficulties of publishing a magazine during the Great Depression, Al persisted in his vision, growing his Model Railroader customer base and planning for a new magazine. In 1940, his second dream came true when he started publishing Trains magazine. In addition to providing excellent publications to his customers, Al’s goal was to provide excellent customer service as well.

In the decades since then, Kalmbach Media continued to broaden its audience, bringing specialized content and inspiration to people with many different interests, including astronomy, science, scale modeling and jewelry. At the same time, Kalmbach Media has become increasingly sophisticated in its ability to deliver enthusiast content to fans all over the world by expanding its offerings with a wide variety of websites, digital magazines, videos and podcasts; and by holding consumer events to bring these enthusiast communities together.

What remains simple is the company philosophy that Al Kalmbach believed was the foundation of a good business:

Treat people fairly and offer them the best possible customer service.