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 Post subject: Time to End the Steamtown Debate Once and For All
PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 12:06 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 11:54 pm
Posts: 1733
Ok, Ross:

Tell you what- you believe this so much, how about a public debate? Instead of just throwing bombs in newspapers desperate for controversy to generate circulation, Lets see how good you are at finding a venue, working with an external partner. You get say, the University of Scranton, Wilkes U or any other public institution to host the debate at a suitable time with an appropriately scoped topic and then PM me, I’ll provide the necessary personal details. A man of your abilities should have no problem getting this stuff done, right? Debating a mere civil servant ought to be no problem either.

You bring a clock and I'll bring the cleaning cloth. Put up or….


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 Post subject: Re: Time to End the Steamtown Debate Once and For All
PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 1:42 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:25 pm
Posts: 1806
Taking a different tack on the title of this thread, I submit that we are right back at the same issue that has been rehashed before. That is: our vocation/avocation simply cannot get organized on a consistent basis like the folks in other areas such as the arts and rails to trails crowds. In the former case a fair number of arts-based non-profits in my locale have well established "friends" groups to supplement the public tax support of their parent institutions.

Perhaps a grad student in Scranton or elsewhere might be inspired to undertake his or her thesis on why this is so in the case of Steamtown and across our industry.

Wesley


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 Post subject: Re: Time to End the Steamtown Debate Once and For All
PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 3:39 pm 

Joined: Sun Dec 10, 2006 5:18 am
Posts: 50
Location: Portland, OR
Before we launch into yet ANOTHER furr-fest, can someone PLEASE put some facts on the table?

As I asked in the other thread (and everyone was too busy debating and ranting to answer):

1.) Who manages the park? NPS staff? A board of directors? What?

2.) Is there an individual or group of individuals with expertise in railroad preservation who are officially part of the NPS decision making process, such as an advisory commission, or a consultant, or so forth?

And I'll add:

3.) How many derelict pieces of equipment are stored at Steamtown, vs. the collection size as a whole?

4.) How many derelict pieces are stored off-site?

5.) How is Steamtown funded? Lets have an *accurate* answer here, not one of those "by pork!" kind of comments.

If the intention is really to have a public debate, then how about some facts to debate about instead of just opinions? I honestly don't know the answer to any of these questions, but I feel (as I would bet many others do) that I might have something worthwhile to contribute *if* we could talk about facts for once. just because not all of us live and breathe Steamtown doesn't mean we don't have something worthwhile to contribute, if this were actually an inclusive public debate and not just (please pardon my language) a bitchfest.

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~AC


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 Post subject: Re: Time to End the Steamtown Debate Once and For All
PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 5:38 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:19 am
Posts: 5250
Location: southeastern USA
I'm willing to keep an open mind - but I haven't seen a supported, specific plan proposed that demonstrates privatization will work or that it won't. Until meaningless comparisons and broad generalizations are replaced with real information, we really aren't discussing anything, just talking about discussing something. Meanwhile, it may be not all we wish it would be, but at least NPS is doing something up there. Until I'm shown anybody else can do it better with concrete, supported busines plans, I've got to stick with the status quo.

dave

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"Techies never minded eating bits and jots of their work. They were grit and grease inside and out and could turn a pile of junk into a magical kingdom."

Andrea Hairston


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 Post subject: Re: Time to End the Steamtown Debate Once and For All
PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 8:05 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8353
Location: Baltimore, MD
Absent any actual expressed interest by the NPS or any other authoritative controlling interests--say, Lackawanna County, City of Scranton, etc.--in changing the status quo, I would ask:

Why bother with such a pointless p*ssing match? You might as well go out in the back lot of Dunder-Mifflin and have a rock-paper-scissors competition for all the good it would do.

I always persist in answering any whine or crabbing--be it about politics, religion, society, humankind, government, or changing the flavor of Coke--with "Propose a viable alternative." Rowland has repeatedly proposed one for Steamtown. Its viability or lack thereof will not be aided by the proposed debate. Rather, it is dependent most largely upon factors pretty much set in stone and beyond the control of us: the NPS conditions, Scranton's location/economy, the collection involved, the options available to the NPS, etc.

This is similar to all the blather regarding the East Broad Top: Until such time that the current owners are willing to sell the property or agree to ceding some control in exchange for outside money, we shouldn't waste our time talking about grandiose proposals.


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 Post subject: Re: Time to End the Steamtown Debate Once and For All
PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 9:17 pm 

Joined: Sat Dec 22, 2007 1:38 pm
Posts: 527
Location: New Jersey, Central
AC,
I'll give you some of the "facts" I do know. Now I'm new to this whole preservation thing. I'm 38, in the military and loved steam trains since a young 7 year old when my dad took me to Strasburg and then a field full of engines and derelicts across the street--aka PA Railroad Museum.
OK so now you know alittle about me now about Steamtown. I'm working on going up with my squadron to help so we did a site survey and we had a great behind the scenes tour by the exhibit manager at Steamtown. I'm not going to give his name. He is the person who decides what gets worked on. Now remember he is only working with 5 million dollars total, that includes salaries, electric (15K a month), fixing the exhibits, the engines and cars, supplies for the offices, and anything else they need. That budget is a fact! The exhibit manager is also the shop foreman and has been spending a money on the shop to get the machinery working and new machinery in to help with the repairs. What he showed us was awesome. They are in the process of replacing all the cars with new brake shoes, these shoes are upgrades from the standard style, can't remember now what he called them. He isn't getting any new hires due to the budget. So he has a limited staff. Daily he moves the shop guys to the help with the train rides. So progress is slow on everything else.
I'm not sure if he has everything in the yard but its alot of stuff. Some of the stuff is on flat cars that was donated or sold to other railroads but hasn't been moved yet. He is stuck with it because the new owners can't afford to move it out. Nice huh?
There is no board or council. The National Park Service is in charge of the park. So they compete for money against all the other parks out there. If he wants to do something, he goes straight to the director and works out the details for things or ideas he wants to do.

Funds are US government funds straight from Washington. Just like the military we get what we get. It sucks but that the way it is. They can't just go ask a bank for a loan or grant to help out if 2317 is damaged in a derailment that money comes from the 5 million. So he has to plan for stuff that comes up. He can ask Washington for emergency money but that can take awhile and that means a steamer could be down for weeks that would take Strasburg a few days to fix cause their management goes to the bank asks for a loan for #90 and they get the money to fix her up.

He is really dependent on volunteers. He is working on the B&0 steamer with the local chapter of E&L. He couldn't do it without them. I hope this helps. I know its not a perfect answer but it what I know about the facts. So if you can help that's great.

His near future plans are to get the front statics painted looks really good this year! Keep your fingers crossed on that. By 2010 they are going to get budgeted to remove the asbestos from the engines. That's why many of the displays are moved out in the yard. They are leaking the asbestos and can't be in the roundhouse for health reasons. I can't even work on them because I'm not certified to remove it. So even volunteering is limited in that aspect.

So we can have this debate, I would love to be there. But if the right people, politicians, civic leaders and the NPS the debate is a bitch fest. I've said it before and will say it again but we, the public, need to write and call our congressmen and bitch to them about Steamtown and get them to fund it better. Or volunteer when you can. Mr Rowland can say what he wants but Steamtown has to follow the law to the letter for everything. That includes removing lead paint on the cars and locomotives and the asbestos. Where Mr Rowland and his gang probably decided on a weekend when nobody was around and removed it and threw it in a dumpster. And if was the one to win the contract to run the excursions he would then have to play by those rules and trust me its not fun to deal with the OSHA rules.


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 Post subject: Re: Time to End the Steamtown Debate Once and For All
PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 10:07 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:51 pm
Posts: 1483
Location: Southern California
AC wrote:
Before we launch into yet ANOTHER furr-fest, can someone PLEASE put some facts on the table?

As I asked in the other thread (and everyone was too busy debating and ranting to answer):

1.) Who manages the park? NPS staff? A board of directors? What?

Last week during the ARM conference I was in a evening discussion that covered a number of topics. Steamtown came up, and a knowledgeable person described part of the problem there as being that it is run by NPS staff and they want to make everything into their National Park mind-set.

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Brian Norden


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 Post subject: You'll Notice No Post by the Individual It was Addressed to
PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 10:26 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 11:54 pm
Posts: 1733
I hear the clucking of poultry.

Ever notice how some people run and hide when they know their argument wll be exposed as a cheap happy-meal toy?

As for the diagnosis of "a knowledgeable person", there's a word for that- its "hearsay".

Ultimately, people will believe what they want to believe, irrespective of the persuasiveness of any argument, the quality of the source, etc.

However, once again I tell you a little story. Back in '98 or so, Ross came poking around Steamtown, hoping to bring C&O 614 to Scranton, maybe drop the wheels on the drop table. Walked around checking to see if the engine could go from the West End where the wye connects with CP, to the East end where the shop leads run into the backshop. He stopped by the CN 3254, made conversation and left with the comment "its a good engine for what you do" with a little sarcastic rise in his voice. As he walked away, one of our engineers, who doesn't suffer fools gladly snickered to the rest of the crew "yeah, we run it" . Obviously, he ended up somewhere else. His "critique" is not dispassionate or informed. Its personal animus, pure and simple.


Last edited by superheater on Wed Sep 17, 2008 10:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: You'll Notice No Post by the Individual It was Addressed to
PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 10:50 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8353
Location: Baltimore, MD
superheater wrote:
I hear the clucking of poultry.

Ever notice how some people run and hide when they know their argument wll be exposed as a cheap happy-meal toy?


Ye gods. You've only given the bloke ten hours and twenty minutes.

It took my wife and I over three times that long just to find, choose, and book a campsite in New Jersey last week. You're asking him to book, and presumably pay for, a meeting room or the like in another state.

I mean, I HAVE a life (not that you'd know it from here!). And a job. And a paid writing gig. And a wife. Take a number and get in line, bub.

I'll be honest: I'm not the person you're addressing, and I'm certainly not adverse to public debate and discussion, but the attitude presented by you here would make me simply write off you and your proposal, if only for your rudeness and impatience.


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 Post subject: Re: Time to End the Steamtown Debate Once and For All
PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 11:30 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 11:54 pm
Posts: 1733
You're asking him to book, and presumably pay for, a meeting room or the like in another state.

Hardly. It takes two seconds or less to type "you're on". I also think the right institution could host it for no cost, if the RFP was written so they could keep the gate.

As for rude, I refer you to the article that started this.

He is really dependent on volunteers.

Yes, and for those of us that get our backside out of bed at 5:30 on a Saturday, drive 100+ miles (one way), sign in and get to it, we'd like not have people dismis our efforts as inadequate because they don't meant some unspecific, imaginary and unattainable standard of perfection proposed by people that haven't contributed any sweat to the project. So get involved.

There's an old saying about making the perfect the enemy of the good.


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 Post subject: Re: Time to End the Steamtown Debate Once and For All
PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 11:44 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:51 pm
Posts: 1483
Location: Southern California
superheater wrote:
As for the diagnosis of "a knowledgeable person", there's a word for that- its "hearsay".
So you refuse to believe my answer that Steamtown is run by National Park Service staff.

As for being "heresay" I will put considerable weight to what my source would say about Steamtown. And out of respect for the individual I will not name him or hint as to his identity.

Your fight may be with others, but not with me.

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Brian Norden


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 Post subject: Re: Time to End the Steamtown Debate Once and For All
PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 1:47 am 

May I ask a question? Why do you worrie about who runs Steamtown? It's a NHS!
And asking Ross the questions you want to know, even if he answers the questions, you people continue to bug him. You people act like young children, Grow Up. we are Adults or at least you should act like one.
I feel the Mod. should lock theses two threads.

Leonard


  
 
 Post subject: Re: Time to End the Steamtown Debate Once and For All
PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 7:05 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:55 pm
Posts: 686
Location: Warren, PA
This won't 'solve' anything, but I do like to remind people that most publicly-owned sites work under an entirely different reality than the rest of us.

You have an expense budget, that usually looks at little if any separation between capital investment and operating cost. Bucks are bucks. So an "X million" budget may or may not include significant money into the site that shouldn't be factored against an operating analysis. And, sometimes the accounting between capital and operating cost is nonexistent, particularly for labor.

Then your revenues usually go to the general fund of the entity. Most people are shocked to find out that the "X million" budget is not NET, but GROSS. The majority of publicly-owned operations I've worked with follow that, and there are two budgets - revenue and expense, and they don't necessarily get put together.

That approach creates some real problems when you're trying to solve problems in the field; i.e. to close the gap you need to spend money - do a new event, focus on the gift shop, etc. If you're purchases in the gift shop are locked by your expense budget, well, the gift shop empties out.

So as a shot-up veteran of trying to analyze this stuff from an accounting perspective, make sure you know what you're talking about, because it's a parallel universe that sometimes has no relationship to typical business analysis. Check your numbers, and budgets, carefully.

That disconnect of budgeting sometime creates its own problems, and putting a site under a 'net' budget that encourages spending money to make money is one of the better results of putting an operation under independent agency public control (like an authority).


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 Post subject: Re: Time to End the Steamtown Debate Once and For All
PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 7:12 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8353
Location: Baltimore, MD
superheater wrote:
Hardly. It takes two seconds or less to type "you're on". I also think the right institution could host it for no cost, if the RFP was written so they could keep the gate.


Not to get personal or anything, but you specifically said

Quote:
You get say, the University of Scranton, Wilkes U or any other public institution to host the debate at a suitable time with an appropriately scoped topic and then PM me


Now, had you made this challenge to me, were I the big talker, I wouldn't get back to you without a venue, cost, and list of dates/times available.

Furthermore: GATE?!? You actually expect us tight-fisted, ham-headed, moronic railfans to actually PAY to hear all this worthless blather--half of it from a guy who hides behind an alias and half from someone who can't manage to keep a 4-8-4 active or get the YRE up and running? Hell, how much would you have to PAY me to attend this?? (I reiterate: absent a RFP from Steamtown NHS and the NPS, this is ALL a waste of time!)


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 Post subject: Re: Time to End the Steamtown Debate Once and For All
PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 9:02 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:19 pm
Posts: 1603
Location: Pottstown,Pa.
I accept the invitation to participate in a public debate on the subject of outsourceing the operation of SNHS, subject to the following short list of qualifications;

1. "superheater" dumps his alias and becomes a real person so we can know who the principals in this are.

2. the debate will only go forward if the then Superintendant of SNHS and the Mayor of the city of Scranton, agree to be participants.


If those qualifications are met I will gladly participate and will take the responsibility of organizing the event and underwriting its costs so that admission will be free to whomever wishes to attend. We'll also provide refreshments gratis.

Seems to me the very nice theatre within the SNHS facility would be the perfect (and very appropriate) place to hold the event!!

I look forward to moving ahead with this interesting opportunity!!

Thank you, Ross Rowland


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