Meet Cody Grivno, Q&A with the Editors

Meet Cody Grivno, Model Railroader Senior Editor in this Q&A with the Editors. Unlimited Members can see the video in the Video section.

Man wearing glasses and plaid, collared button-down shirt.
Cody Grivno, Model Railroader Senior Editor

Steve Sweeney: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome again for another Q&A with the Editors. I’m so pleased to have Cody Grivno with us today.

Cody Grivno: Thank you, it’s nice to be here.

SS: Cody, would you introduce yourself to our audience?

CG: Sure. My name is Cody Grivno, and I’m the Senior Editor with Model Railroader magazine. I have been with Kalmbach Media for 20 years now, so I had a lot of positions over the years. Started as an Assistant Editor and have worked my way up the ranks.

SS: And you’re at the top of your game right now. So, I have five standard questions that I ask everyone. The first question, Cody, what is your favorite railroad, past or present, and why?

CG: Well, Steve, I’ve got to go with my old favorite, the Burlington Northern. I grew up about a half a block from the main line. Though curiously, it’s really not the BN I grew up with that I’m interested in. But more of 1972-74, right after the merger, when there was a lot of equipment still painted in the Great Northern, Northern Pacific, and Chicago, Burlington & Quincy colors. It’s kind of been the subject of a lot of my research, and I’ve given clinics at the national conventions plus regional and local conventions. That’s a lot of fun looking back at that, when it all started bringing four railroads into one. It was such a unique time.

SS: And it happened about the same time as Conrail, but of course completely separate.

CG: Right. So, it’s been like 72-74. The BN merger took place on March 2, 1970, but not that I keep track of that. It was just really fascinating and neat. Through my research, I’ve connected with a lot of rail fans and people who lived through that time. I was about ten years too late to see the merger take place. But through their photography efforts and just talking with them, I learned a great deal about it, and it’s been fascinating.

SS: What draws you to that time period in particular?

CG: This was the first real, big merger that ever happened and was successfully done in my opinion. It was a huge network, four different ways of running railroads, and how it pulled it all together. Just in researching my hometown, it’s neat too to see what stayed and what was done away with. Because the NP and GN was in my hometown, most of the NP went away. They kept a little bit, but mainly they kept the GN line.

SS: So, Cody, the next question, in your opinion, what is the best part about what you do?

CG: I think it’s the ability to help people enjoy their hobby. Whether it’s an article, a video or presenting at a convention, it’s just an opportunity to make someone’s hobby better. I think that’s something we’re all blessed to be able to do that. There’s a lot of stress and other things going on in life, but we have the ability to say, “Hey, here’s a hobby that’s fun.”

It’s a multifaceted hobby, and that’s something I really stress that you may think on the surface is simply we’re just running trains in circles. To an extent you could say that, but you have the construction, history, and budgeting. That’s something I really enjoy. We’re in a real feel-good business, and it’s something that makes people happy. Something if you have a long day, you can run trains, read a magazine or watch one of our videos, and just relax to be able to say, “Oh, this is fun.”

SS: Cody, tell us about something you’ve been working on lately that you find exciting.

CG: Yeah, what’s on the word bench right now? My friend just sent me some Great Northern switchers to work on, and he wants me to reletter for the Lake Superior Terminal and Transfer Railway. I think there are four or five switchers in the box that I’ll go through to take off the “Great Northern” markings and reletter them to LST&T. So, it’s something I’m excited about.

I don’t really remember the LST&T very clearly. We used to go to Duluth quite a bit because it was right across the state from where I grew up. But it’s kind of fun to do that and it’s going to be neat to see. I was looking at prototype photos in the Great Northern models, and the paint scheme isn’t an exact transfer, but it’s close enough for what he wants for his project. So that’s going to be fun.

SS: You’ll make that one work. What interests you most about the things that we do here, whether it’s railfanning, modeling, or research? What is it that you enjoy most here?

CG: Oh, I think all the above. I was a history minor in college, my brother has a Ph.D. in history, and history has always been a big part of growing up for us. We did a lot of trips visiting historic sites. So, certainly in the historical research, it’s kind of one of those things you can go down so many bunny trails.

I started the interest in my hometown, and then my parents moved to South Dakota. Well, then I found this branch line which the Illinois Central had from Sioux Falls to Cherokee, Iowa. That’s been another bunny trail of research and trying to track down images. Last summer, I went with my parents, and we just followed the old right away of that line to see what was left. We found bits and pieces of a bridge, a culvert, and some of the industries. There are also a couple of depots left. It’s fun tracking down the past, especially when it’s been gone, gosh, now for over 40 years.

Modeling certainly is exciting too. We’ve seen such rapid changes in the industry. When I started here, it was kind of the early phases of sound locomotives. A lot of times, it was very basic diesel rumble where now we have actual recordings of “pick your favorite prototype” engine. We’ve gone from one-size-fits-all models to having very specific locomotives, whether you want your SD40-2 to look like the Rock Island, the Northwestern, the Soo Line, or whatever. These companies are dialing it into that level. And even now with road numbers specific detailing. How amazing is that where it’s not just a BN GP9, its BN GP9 in whatever road number it looked at a specific point in time?

To me, that is what’s fun with the creativity in this hobby and the different ways we enjoy it here. There are different people that are really more into the technology aspects. I look at what Ben Lake does where he takes craft cutters and what he’s gone through to cut out parts. Or a lot of the stuff he does with Raspberry Pi, and programs like that, and how he sets up turnout routes. To me, that’s just amazing. It’s really fun how our skill sets all really complement each other here, and that’s the fun part is just working as a team to make things happen. We come from so many different walks of life, our interests, and things like that. But at the end of the day, we all come together to get the job done and I think we put out a great product.

SS: As I’ve gotten to know you in the past almost ten years, if our audience doesn’t know this, I hope they understand by watching this interview, of not only how knowledgeable you are about model railroading and railroading in general, but just how positive you are, overall. You’re just such a nice guy.

CG: Again, Steve, it’s a hobby we’re trying to make people happy. It’s something where you want to have fun. Whether it’s just an individual going down in their basement at the end of the day and running their trains for a half an hour, or it’s a group of modelers getting together for an operating session. I think a lot about that with the national conventions. We had the one in St. Louis last summer, which is the first one that we had in a couple of years because of the pandemic. And it was just fun to catch up with people. It was that interaction with people: “Oh, what are you doing? How you been? How is the family?”

In a way, it’s kind of like our class reunion but we don’t have a specific year we graduated. We’re part of one big class that always gets together. And it’s neat too, because there’s people you’ll run into at regional conventions. I ran into a gentleman a couple of weeks ago in an antique store here in Waukesha, who’s also a modeler, and spent 10 minutes catching up.

SS: You know, if you’ve been here long enough and when you go out, people recognize you.

CG: Oh yeah.

SS: How does that make you feel when people see you on the street and say, “Hey, Cody from Model Railroader, how are you doing?”

CG: It’s more fun to watch my kids or my wife react to see it. I remember, one time, I conveniently take the routes home that follow Canadian Pacific, Canadian National, and Union Pacific. It’s the short route. Anyhow, I was taking some pictures on the CN and the brakeman was out. He’s like, “Hey, I love your videos.”

I didn’t know the guy from the man on the Moon, but it’s one of those moments where it’s like. “Wow, what we do really resonates with our viewers and our readers.”

And it really reminds you that we have an impact on people’s lives for the good.

SS: It’s humbling.

CG: It is. It really is.

SS: Cody, my last official question. If you were working for the railroad, what position or craft do you think best describes you?

CG: I’d probably say la section labor. I’m the kind of person that’s like: Just tell me what you need done, when you need it done by, and I’ll get it done. It’s kind of always how I operated, and I think it’s a lot of how I grew up. My dad and grandpa for almost 50 years ran an autobody repair shop and it was the same thing. You get in, get the job done. I remember my dad getting up at four or five in the morning, working till five-six at night. Just that kind of blue-collar work ethic: Get in, get your job done and do your best.

SS: Outstanding.

CG: And I think that’s so important that, hey, we’re all we’re all here together working together. And that’s the fun thing is I think we all have that mindset of if someone’s overwhelmed or has too much work going on, someone’s there to pitch in. I guess that’s always kind of been my mindset, “Can you do this?”

“Sure. When you need it by? Okay, here we go.”

SS: Is there anything in our conversation today that you would like to add to anything that I didn’t ask you that I should have, or anything you’d just like to reiterate?

CG: I think it’s just we have a very fantastic crew here at and that’s the thing I really like. We have a lot of different interests and it’s just fun when we pull all of our skills together, whether it’s to do a video, make a layout, and put together a magazine. And all the work you’ve done on and developing that, it’s been a real team effort making it work.

It’s cool to work here.

SS: Thank you so much for your time today, I appreciate it.

CG: Thank you, Steve.