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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2012 10:41 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 9:54 am
Posts: 800
Location: NJ
Add the Gramling's engines to the Thomas equation...

GWL mentions Richmond and Norfolk, Philadelphia 30th Street and Atlantic City as possible excursion markets. I'm not familiar with the former, but did some research and a 'white paper' on the latter some time ago. While the purpose was a diesel-powered service, we had to rule out open window coaches because of the Northeast Corridor between 30th Street and the Delair bridge. The near decapitation video that ADM4 linked could easily happen. And to my way of thinking, sealed window coaches behind steam is a non-starter; why bother with steam? (As an aside, and perhaps its an urban legend, but didn't the first Metroliners suck the windows out of some of the MP-54s?).

There was a short-lived attempt at NY Penn, Atlantic City service that didn't survive, the ACES train. This was a 'Gamblers Express', funded by some of the casinos and operated by New Jersey Transit. Four luxury multi-level lounge cars, with a diesel at one end and an electric at the other, the train changed direction and mode of power at Frankfort Junction. Ridership was not up to expectations and the casinos pulled the plug.

New York City should be the biggest market in the US for just about anything you can imagine, yet this train failed to lure the gamblers from their automobiles. It goes back to how times have changed, video games, smart phones, computers, the freedom of personal transportation. To paraphrase Sinatra (New York, New York), if you can't make it in New York...

The closest anyone ever came to being able to run decent mainline excursions, recently and with open windows, at least that I'm aware of, was Ohio Central. But then the owner sold the system to G&W.

EDM


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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2012 1:05 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 13, 2009 12:10 pm
Posts: 157
Location: Soddy Daisy, TN
EDM wrote:

New York City should be the biggest market in the US for just about anything you can imagine, yet this train failed to lure the gamblers from their automobiles. It goes back to how times have changed, video games, smart phones, computers, the freedom of personal transportation. To paraphrase Sinatra (New York, New York), if you can't make it in New York...



I don't often participate in the speculation discussions here, but there's one thing nobody seems to have even have thought of, how it's marketed.

Of course it failed, its marketed as a specialized train for a specialized ridership. Probably the same reason the AOE and the like failed too. If you really want a train ride experience sort of endeavor to be successful in this country, you need to have a generalized ridership, all tourists, not just one type, and you need to make it look better than commuter options already available and not be too far beyond their fares, else people will take the other option. Marketing is the issue here. Perhaps if it was marketed also as a fun way for families to get to the beach, it would have seen greater success. Marketing a train as the "Gamblers' Express" effectively makes it for a niche market, even if it was unintentional. People likely associated gambling with the entire experience by the name alone and that effectively rules out ridership of the under-21 crowd and those associated with them, I.e. parents, grandparents, the typical family. Now I realize we're talking about a train that was funded by casinos, but let this and the failure of the AOE and its later incarnations be examples of marketing a train for a niche ridership.

That being said perhaps if you not only make plans operationally, but also how you market it, the big railroads would be more receptive to your train ride plans. Think on their terms, why waste time on something that's not presented to be a success? This should be common sense, but it seems everybody is talking more about open windows then just getting a train out there period. It's probably a big part in Iowa Pacific's Pullman service even seeing time on the rails, you need to sell it to the big guys with good marketing, else you probably won't see the light of day on the railroad. I believe it's been proven here (Tennessee), where there's no commuter or intercity passenger service, that mainline excursions are successful regardless the type of windows, with many of these NS excursions being sold out, mainly with non railfan types and pulled with steam at that. I believe it can be done elsewhere too, just have to make it look more attractive to the customer than other transport or recreational transport options.

Just my thoughts
Kyle


I realize I may have switched back and forth some from daily to occasional examples, but still I believe either way that a large part of success lies in the marketing.


Last edited by SR6900 on Mon Dec 31, 2012 1:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2012 1:22 pm 

Joined: Thu Oct 21, 2004 2:59 pm
Posts: 113
EDM wrote:
There was a short-lived attempt at NY Penn, Atlantic City service that didn't survive, the ACES train. This was a 'Gamblers Express', funded by some of the casinos and operated by New Jersey Transit. Four luxury multi-level lounge cars, with a diesel at one end and an electric at the other, the train changed direction and mode of power at Frankfort Junction. Ridership was not up to expectations and the casinos pulled the plug.

New York City should be the biggest market in the US for just about anything you can imagine, yet this train failed to lure the gamblers from their automobiles. It goes back to how times have changed, video games, smart phones, computers, the freedom of personal transportation. To paraphrase Sinatra (New York, New York), if you can't make it in New York...

EDM


The ACES project failed for a number of reasons. Right off the top of my head I can list terrible scheduling and limited operation. It was a weekend only service running with only two 4 car trainsets and roughly 4 departures at most. The timing of those departures quite frankly sucked. In addition those who planned that train completely ignored half of the potential customers for the train. It only served NY Penn and Newark. After that it was express to AC. I never understood why they wouldn't make a stop at Trenton or another densely populated Jersey location that could have supplemented the meager ridership from NYC. Word was that the casinos who had paid for the start-up of this service resorted to using ACES as a comp benefit to frequent casino visitors similar to how they give away meals and hotel rooms. You could never make something like that work when you're giving away rides.

So how might you ask does this failed niche train relate to preservation? Well it doesn't. But when comparing potential operations in this market area we do need to see how and why previous special operations didn't work.

Realistically I think there is a chance that a seasonal seashore resort heritage train could work. Heck Groupon even frequently has deals to stay at a 1930's art deco hotel in Atlantic City. It all comes down to marketing and making sure that you are providing your customers with an experience and not just another train ride. The potential is probably there in other markets too. It seems that UK and other European heritage operations have figured this model out. How do we?

Kevin O


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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2012 1:29 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:19 am
Posts: 5262
Location: southeastern USA
Last (and probably futile) attempt to shunt this train back onto it's intended track......

The question wasn't how to recreate the 1970-80 era mainline excursion. The premise was that that's impossible. Sandy said it well - maybe it isn't dead but here's the reasons why it is......and "artifical" reasons can shut you down as quickly as the laws of physics.

The question was - and IS - not what WE want, but what the current crop of railroad CEOs want, and anything we can do FROM THEIR PERSPECTIVE to encourage it and make it more widespread.

So, let's again try to forget about our own desires to recreate the past and focus on how we can encourage a possible new reality based on what is being tried with success by today's railroad management today. Please no more about solving technical problems to recreate the past. We all know what they are and have no workanble solutions anyhow.

First step: what do they want and what part does the modern steam program as practiced by NS , UP and CN play in it? Then we might be able to see how we can help make it more attractive to them.

dave

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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2012 3:08 pm 

Joined: Mon Oct 25, 2004 3:11 pm
Posts: 371
I have heard that in 2013 that 765 will be back out on NS and that this time there will be trips offered to the public mixed in with the employee trips. If that is true then we may have our first look at the 21st Century version of the big steam mainline excursion. Let's see how it goes as it may well be the make or break for the model.

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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2012 3:16 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 3:01 pm
Posts: 1442
Location: SouthEast Pennsylvania
EDM wrote:
As an aside, and perhaps its an urban legend, but didn't the first Metroliners suck the windows out of some of the MP-54s?
It was the ones with the older wooden sashes on a Wilmington Local. The cure was to move those cars to non NorthEast Corridor routes, and use MP-54s with newer metal window sashes on Trenton, Wilmington, and Chestnut Hill Locals. I don't know if there were similar problems in North Jersey or Baltimore-Washington. Maybe only Philadelphia had been stuck with the old windows?


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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2012 3:53 pm 

Joined: Mon Jan 03, 2005 8:33 pm
Posts: 118
steamtown observer wrote:
I have heard that in 2013 that 765 will be back out on NS and that this time there will be trips offered to the public mixed in with the employee trips. If that is true then we may have our first look at the 21st Century version of the big steam mainline excursion. Let's see how it goes as it may well be the make or break for the model.


Indeed, it may. I know of a few employees at NS who talked with Wick Moorman about the program, and ways to improve the experience (both for employees, and the public) while maintaining NS's safety needs. I would not be surprised to see some of them implemented down the road.

But, as was stated elsewhere, it depends on who is running the show. All of the current NS programs, be it executive F's, the heritage locomotives, or 21st Century Steam, all come down to one person being on board ... Wick Moorman. There is no shortage of historians in ANY of the Class 1's ... heck, I know of 40-somethng of them (both active and retired) who are traveling together cross-country by rail through Canada in February ... but if the decision makers aren't on your side, it is more than an uphill battle.

To see a return on big mainline excursions, it will require cultivating a "can do" attitude not only at the top, but down through the lines of succession to insure sustainability.


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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2012 4:22 pm 

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Might want to talk to RER about this stuff. After all, he did the actual market research by running those 614 trips on NJT. After the initial "new" wore off, ridership went downhill, and this in a HUGE population area.

I'd like to know where the idea comes from that there is a huge, pent-up demand for excursions in the first place. Maybe among foamers, yes. But there are not enough of them to make it work.


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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2012 8:26 pm 

Joined: Tue Jan 25, 2005 4:03 pm
Posts: 722
wesp wrote:

Certainly a dead head move to Steamtown by connecting railroads has its issues, but but there seems to be some PR upside to allow a ferry move under controlled circumstances. Maybe Kelly or others from Ft Wayne could add some insight into what financial resources would be required from the owner/operator perspective to compensate for use of the engine on a host demonstration railway.

Wesley


It's the overhead that ultimately decides what types of operations can be pursued or what is worth pursuing.

Steamtown has been on the radar for years, but with any operation it ultimately comes down to:

- cost of deadhead and host railroad availability
- cost and availability of passenger vehicles (less the immediate case at Steamtown)
- ability to recoup costs and generate revenue that justifies not just the expense, but the planning, administration, railroad support and pay off
- ability to make additional revenue during deadheads/layovers/display times or nearby opportunities (such as a short line)
- availability of crew, most of whom would be volunteer (we did have two paid contractors on board with the engine and train)

For the 765 to visit Steamtown, a significant stay that consists of a variety of revenue generating opportunities (3 months worth, perhaps) would be required. Which isn't impossible or impractical, but recently the 765 has been committed to Steamtown, CVSR, Norfolk Southern, and other clients. The case will be the same for 2013.

Personally, I think designing specialty programming and events around the 765 being at a place like Steamtown would be be like running a mini-museum/railroad unto itself for the duration, as it just can't be "the visiting engine." It could be cool to create events around it being present or to overlap with other events like RailFest, and count me in for being someone who would welcome those challenges/opportunities, but maybe when we haven't got our hands full with decisions on whether or not the Mars light will go back this year... ;)

But, it is worth noting that with the 765, 261 and other mainline locomotives without a dedicated railroad to their name, the Steamtowns of the world could be the only option. It's a troublesome business model depending on another entity to be able to make bread, which is why its key to make significant and meaningful gains (and not just all financial) when you can while you can.


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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2012 8:44 pm 

Joined: Sun Jun 11, 2006 12:57 am
Posts: 66
Location: DC Metro Area
My meager contribution is merely an observation, but in my experience in the rank & file railroad operations field, these railroads (like the public) are now ran by people who have little to no connection to railroad history ( steam, or excursions).

In the days of running special excursions, there was always a contingent of current employees that volunteered their time and skill to help run and manage these trips alongside which ever organization was trying to pull them off.

Now, with the exception of a precious few overt foamer-employees, I'm sure it's not just the managers at these railroads that are not willing to run these excursions; Almost everyone from the dispatchers on-down has no need for an extra train out there, and all the potential problems. Nobody really seems interested in anything related to railroad history (partly because of how badly they feel they've been treated by the carrier).

Even myself, who is an un-ashamed railbuff, would be mighty reluctant to volunteer on account the hassle of potential bs. Many of us want to stay below the radar...and dread any special move of any sort. It's part of the "new" culture it seems.

Not that I don't wish to see "mainline steam", far from it. But it seems like resistance is met at every level...and I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere that even people as low as t&e might lament having to do anything other than run "predictable and familiar" freight trains...


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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2012 9:05 pm 

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FWIW, E Hunter Harrison and Wick Moorman are both up from the ranks railroaders. Harrison came from the operations side of the Frisco...and Wick was a track foreman.

DPK

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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2012 10:03 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:41 am
Posts: 3054
Location: Inwood, W.Va.
Link to a parallel thread:

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=34250


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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2012 10:28 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:41 am
Posts: 3054
Location: Inwood, W.Va.
"The question was - and IS - not what WE want, but what the current crop of railroad CEOs want, and anything we can do FROM THEIR PERSPECTIVE to encourage it and make it more widespread.

"So, let's again try to forget about our own desires to recreate the past and focus on how we can encourage a possible new reality based on what is being tried with success by today's railroad management today. Please no more about solving technical problems to recreate the past. We all know what they are and have no workable solutions anyhow.

"First step: what do they want and what part does the modern steam program as practiced by NS , UP and CN play in it? Then we might be able to see how we can help make it more attractive to them."--Dave

Whew!! In a lot of ways, this is asking us to be mind readers and psychiatrists!

First, I think we have to say that, in most cases, we are going to be dealing with people who are absolutely and severely allergic to spending money on anything that doesn't directly contribute to the bottom line. Part of that will be their own business instincts, and part will be concerns over certain stockholders who may be even more severe on the subject of steam and excursions than the executives are. To answer that, you have to come up with something that won't cost them money, and won't cost too much extra effort.

There is also the question of operational impact. You run one of these trips, and guys like trainmasters will have to be on duty when they would normally be at home for the weekend. They are on straight salary, so they don't get any extra pay for this. They will understandably not be enthusiastic about a train run for enthusiasts. For that, you need something that isn't too far out of the ordinary, like a scheduled train. (Notice my soft sell to regular operations!)

Finally, in some cases, the management may want to run excursions because the CEO is interested in history, and also thinks his railroad is something to be proud of and to celebrate. This is the enlightened attitude we like to see, even if it doesn't manifest itself in steam. Here, we simply must have the right CEO, and ideally, he will also embed his spirit of history into the executive ranks below him, so his replacements will also be enthusiastic about history and heritage.

Otherwise, you're going to be dealing with cats. As anyone who owns a cat knows (and I've got four of the things!), cats do what cats want to do when cats want to do it, and cats don't do what they don't want to do when they don't want to do it!

Now, how do we reinforce those jewels of executives who appreciate their railroads? Well, I've had this up once before, and now seems like a good time to bring it back:

http://www.ted.com/talks/omar_ahmad_pol ... paper.html

http://blog.ted.com/2011/05/10/remembering-omar-ahmad/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omar_Ahmad ... politician)

As Ross Rowland likes to say, "Hope springs eternal. . ."

(Lyrics aren't quite right for the context here, but the sound is great)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2s4UztLuTo


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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2013 10:24 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:19 am
Posts: 5262
Location: southeastern USA
Interesting....I see this as a part of a greater business strategy, J sees it as an embodiment of an executive's personal interest made manifest. Of course, I'm often astonished at the number of business things that aren't actually based in rational practice.

Perhaps the strategy exists with a mission to fulfill, and the choice of this mode of carrying it out is the personal choice?

If that's the case, then making it a more popular choice of modes is our new goal.

So, any idea as to the strategy and mission it is supporting?

dave

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Andrea Hairston


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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2013 3:02 pm 

Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2012 7:32 pm
Posts: 46
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Last edited by prosser on Tue Jan 01, 2013 5:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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