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 Post subject: Why Could Not Steamtown Have Stayed Private?
PostPosted: Sun May 06, 2012 9:23 pm 

Joined: Fri Apr 27, 2012 6:30 pm
Posts: 209
First, I would like to offer my profuse apologies to the moderators for creating yet another Steamtown thread. Long before I joined the forums here I did extensive reading on all the Steamtown-related threads I could find in the name of research. I've long been fascinated by the entire saga of Steamtown from the days of F. Nelson Blount to today.

I know full well what a touchy subject this is here so, again, my apologies to the moderators, but there is a burning question in my mind none of my research has answered, so here goes:

Why could not Steamtown have stayed private? Was there no other way short of government intervention to save it? I value the preservation of steam locomotives so it is no sweat off my back government money funds Steamtown, but still, wasn't there any way Steamtown USA could have stayed just that and not have to have swapped the initals "USA" for "NHS"?

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 Post subject: Re: Why Could Not Steamtown Have Stayed Private?
PostPosted: Sun May 06, 2012 9:51 pm 

Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2005 9:34 pm
Posts: 1885
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Take a look at Strasburg. They make enough money to run the working trains and maintain the track. Imagine their finances if they had to support the museum across the street as well.

AND, they have an enviable location and business plan. There is just no comparison.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Could Not Steamtown Have Stayed Private?
PostPosted: Sun May 06, 2012 10:06 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8354
Location: Baltimore, MD
Steamtown's foundation, which ran it after Blount's death, had long wanted to move it out of Vermont and to a location with 1) more tourist traffic and 2) less snow. (One Steamtown pole shed collapsed under heavy snow in Vermont.) There had been an earlier proposal to move it to Kingston, NY which did not happen, and then Scranton came wooing.

Scranton continues as a classic case of what happens when you mix politics with rail preservation, for better or worse. Having said that, I can think of NO plan or proposal, short of a well-endowed billionaire wanting to subsidize it, that would have retained the Steamtown collection intact at any location, especially after the subsequent development of museums like the RR Museum of Pa., the massive improvement to places like the Illinois Railway Museum, etc.


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 Post subject: Re: Why Could Not Steamtown Have Stayed Private?
PostPosted: Sun May 06, 2012 10:14 pm 

Joined: Mon Oct 25, 2004 3:11 pm
Posts: 371
Steamtown USA made the decision to move to Scranton for a number of reasons. One big one was that they felt that Vermont was not supporting them. The often cited ban on billboard advertising comes to mind.

It did not appear that they ever got a large following in Scranton. The trips I remember riding had very few passengers. The move was planned by Don Ball who passed away before it happened. Much like Blount's untimely death Don's death also took away from what might have been.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Could Not Steamtown Have Stayed Private?
PostPosted: Sun May 06, 2012 10:28 pm 

Joined: Tue Sep 14, 2004 7:52 am
Posts: 1238
Location: Strasburg, PA
softwerkslex wrote:
Take a look at Strasburg. They make enough money to run the working trains and maintain the track. Imagine their finances if they had to support the museum across the street as well.


If I understand the hearsay correctly, the museum across the street operates at a profit, the only one in the PA state museum system to do so.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Could Not Steamtown Have Stayed Private?
PostPosted: Sun May 06, 2012 10:30 pm 

Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 8:47 pm
Posts: 475
wouldn't surprise me, given the 10 dollar admission fee.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Could Not Steamtown Have Stayed Private?
PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2012 7:17 am 

Joined: Fri Apr 27, 2012 6:30 pm
Posts: 209
steamtown observer wrote:
It did not appear that they ever got a large following in Scranton. The trips I remember riding had very few passengers. The move was planned by Don Ball who passed away before it happened. Much like Blount's untimely death Don's death also took away from what might have been.


Don continued his involvement with Steamtown even afrer resigning his post as Executive Director in August, 1984?

I hear you loud and clear re: few passengers on the trains. I've watched videos posted to YouTube from Steamtown's early days in Scranton and the trains to Moscow seem lightly patronized half the time.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Could Not Steamtown Have Stayed Private?
PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2012 9:46 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 4:00 am
Posts: 170
Location: Philadelphia, Pa.
Honestly I really truely believe that if Steamtown had remained private you'd still see a roundhouse that was falling in on itself, no displays, no immaculate groundskeeping, no operating turntable and quite possibly no operating steam by this point. What is so bad about the National Park Service? They have funding. They have a budget and in the past ten years I've seen them gain ground. Everybody gripes about how long its taken them to finish the 26 or the 3713. Look at the scope of these rebuilds. The 26 is probably one of the most thorough overhauls that's been done in twenty years and will be for years to come. It doesn't happen overnight and this was all done while maintaining two other steamers and a diesel along with a host of train cars with a shop crew of maybe 15 people. Steamtown truely is a wonderful place that without that funding would have sank a long time ago. Is there red tape? Of course there is! Afterall it's big government but in the long run, that rep tape pays off because at the end of the day, the lights are still on and the trains still run not to mention there is still a world class museum to walk through.


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 Post subject: Re: Why Could Not Steamtown Have Stayed Private?
PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2012 11:25 am 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 2:14 pm
Posts: 457
Location: Essex, Connecticut, USA
Dear Railfan 261:
The short answer is that Steamtown was bankrupt.
For it to survive a government takeover was necessary.
Note, I did not say bailout. One of the purposes of the second Steamtown auction was to payoff the loans from the local bank.
After we moved to Scranton, virtually all the money needed for payroll, insurance and the like came from our line of credit, secured through the good offices of a number of important members of the Scranton business community.
The City of Scranton helped pay for the move, but Steamtown Foundation was expected to be self supporting.
J.David
(Steamtown Foundation Bellows Falls CMO 9/1981 through 1/1986)


Last edited by J.David on Mon May 07, 2012 11:41 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Could Not Steamtown Have Stayed Private?
PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2012 11:40 am 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 2:14 pm
Posts: 457
Location: Essex, Connecticut, USA
Dear Steamtown Observer:
We were in the midst of moving when Don Ball was replaced as Executive Director by Jim Gillespie.
Don was kept on as a consultant, but really had little influence, it was Scranton people in power, running things.
The first fall (1984) that we operated, business was great.
The budget for 1985 was based on a projection of the 1984 ridership over a full year of operation. To say that this was unrealistic would be a gross understatement...
J.David


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 Post subject: Re: Why Could Not Steamtown Have Stayed Private?
PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2012 1:02 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 3:57 pm
Posts: 162
Location: Eastampton, NJ
Kelly Anderson wrote:
softwerkslex wrote:
Take a look at Strasburg. They make enough money to run the working trains and maintain the track. Imagine their finances if they had to support the museum across the street as well.


If I understand the hearsay correctly, the museum across the street operates at a profit, the only one in the PA state museum system to do so.


They do take in more than they spend, but they don't get to keep it. They are in effect subsidizing the other museums in the PA State Museum system.

-Mark


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 Post subject: Re: Why Could Not Steamtown Have Stayed Private?
PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2012 2:09 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:19 am
Posts: 5252
Location: southeastern USA
Although it has been several years since I visited RMPa, I'd have considered $10 to be a relative bargain for a lot of entertainment and archival access. Way better than a movie ticket and bag of popcirn.

dave

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 Post subject: Re: Why Could Not Steamtown Have Stayed Private?
PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2012 2:52 pm 

Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 8:47 pm
Posts: 475
Dave wrote:
Although it has been several years since I visited RMPa, I'd have considered $10 to be a relative bargain for a lot of entertainment and archival access. Way better than a movie ticket and bag of popcirn.

dave


You know of a place where one can get a movie ticket and a bag of popcorn for $10? Please, share this knowledge with us.

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 Post subject: OT - Movie Theatre reply.
PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2012 4:00 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:25 pm
Posts: 1806
Quote:
You know of a place where one can get a movie ticket and a bag of popcorn for $10? Please, share this knowledge with us.


Historic Clayton Theatre in Dagsboro, DE is one locale I know of. It is a vintage 1940s theatre with 200 seats still showing first-run films.

Wesley

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 Post subject: Re: Why Could Not Steamtown Have Stayed Private?
PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2012 4:37 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 12:05 pm
Posts: 329
Location: Philadelphia, Pa
I'm happy Steamtown survives in any form. And don't forget Electric City's trolley. THAT was a major accomplishment.


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