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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2013 3:40 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:41 am
Posts: 3301
Location: Inwood, W.Va.
"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"--Dave

Who says it can't be both?

"Of course, I'm often astonished at the number of business things that aren't actually based in rational practice."

Whooee!! You and me both!!

Let's start and admit railroad equipment preservation and operation are inherently "irrational," at least from a corporate view or mandate that sets profits above all else. After all, Wall Street investors wouldn't give a fig about 844 on the UP or 4501 on the Southern, or for that matter 2100 and 2124 on the Reading in 1959 or 1960. Heck, profitability is why steam was retired; it cost too much money and ate up profits.

Then consider all the other negative or potentially negative things about excursion operations. They are rarely, if they ever were, self supporting. Although the amounts of money are small (relative to a typical Class I road's other accounts), the excursion operation is going to be a high visibility operation (and in fact, that may be one of the reasons for running it), and that highly visible operation may have negative connotations to some people. They might think "It's old fashioned and obsolete, and makes us look old fashioned and obsolete." Or someone will look at the smoke and say, "That makes us the worst polluters in the state!" And then there are the potential liability issues, some of which have actually played out in tragic consequences (ATV riders hit by trains at Steamtown, a suicide under the wheels of 3985).

Having said all this, let us also recall that some of the negative connotations are themselves illogical. The tragedies mentioned above could not be considered the fault of the railroads in question, yet some would use that as an excuse not to run these trains. Outside of some old, grumpy "grinches," I don't know of too many people who would complain too much about our romantic machines from the past, even if they did spit out some smoke and cinders (this isn't 1945 anymore).

Sometimes this negative outlook can go to illogical extremes. An excellent example involved a steam locomotive that was to make a ferry move over a certain unnamed Class I from its home road to another shortline road for a special event, which included steam operation on a normally diesel-powered line. The local people of the Class I were and are quite familiar with the steam locomotive in question, and in fact some of their current and former employees also work for the steam road. The steam road crews are quite competent; they have a 12-mile long mountain railroad with grades up to 3%, on which they and their steam engine run safely up, and more importantly, safely down. The run over the Class I was to be only about 10 miles or so, and a river grade division at that. Local railroad officials, who like most railroad employees are highly conservative and safety conscious, apparently saw nothing wrong in this--but the headquarters people got all tied up in knots and cancelled the move at almost the last minute. Unfortunately, the naysayers outranked the OK men, and that was that. To add insult to injury, the same bunch later essentially outlawed ALL steam power from moving over their road on the loco's own wheels, even in tow. That knocks out a lot of engines bigger than the Gramlings' tank engines.

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

That was what the Southern's original excursion program became. In that case, I believe it was Graham Claytor who said the 4501 was about "teaching a new generation what a steam locomotive was." (I'm working from memory, someone else may have a more correct version of the quote.) The late David P. Morgan thought the old 4501 and its Pullman green coaches were a great educational tool because the old girl, running on a modern railroad, heightened the contrast between the steamy past and the modern, profitable present. I personally can't help but think that the contrast would be even stronger today.

There is also the prospect of exploiting resources. Sometimes the resource is simply something to see. That's what inspired the Santa Fe to build that branch to the Grand Canyon, and what inspired others to build a shortline railroad called the Yosemite Valley from Merced, Ca. to El Portal. It's what's kept two narrow gauge divisions of the D&RGW alive and well into the 21st century. (Somebody tell me why no one in D&RGW's management wanted to keep these lines, even after the Silverton line demonstrated its profitability, and continued to do so after it became isolated.) The great theater of the New River Gorge and the show put on there by Ross Rowland with the Chessie Steam Special are what gave me the inspiration for my "Class I tourist railroad" concept--which is certainly not limited to the New River Gorge, or even to mountainous scenery. And of course, we still have the contrast of vintage steam and modern railroading, side by side. . .

It's worth mentioning that I, and I assume others here as well, are also interested in new passenger services. Gasoline is pricey, car travel over longer distances is tiring, and air travel is unpleasant, and all of these are dependent on oil in large, cheap quantities. We need an alternative, and maybe a way to get a look at the alternative is to look at our heritage. In some cases, a train isn't even needed--a group bringing pressure for a revived commuter rail service on Cape Cod would show up at meetings and just read New Haven timetables. That did get their service eventually--but how much might we get with a real train, and while at it, demonstrate how well and comfortable it could be, which also seems to be part of the effort of the new Pullman operations out of Chicago?

An earlier poster in this thread suggested that this would be "steam with a purpose." That is an excellent distillation of all that I have said, and I wish I had thought of it! Then I wouldn't look so much like a gas-bag!

Again, though, and as Dave suggested, how do we make this vision visible to decision makers? I admit I have no real answers here, having failed in doing just that. Perhaps someone else can answer to this. Perhaps the best person would be Kelly Lynch, with that Fort Wayne project he's working on. That's something I would have tried and failed at, too, but he and his group are doing something. Maybe they know the secret.

And maybe they're just lucky that enough decision makers in Fort Wayne could see the vision, too.

Happy New Year.


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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2013 4:47 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:19 am
Posts: 5448
Location: southeastern USA
[quote="J3a-614Let's start and admit railroad equipment preservation and operation are inherently "irrational," at least from a corporate view or mandate that sets profits above all else.

Again, though, and as Dave suggested, how do we make this vision visible to decision makers? .[/quote]

That discounts tha value of intangable benefits, which is where I see this as fitting in. Intangable benefits can be pursued very rationally. Just because there isn't a ready metric doesn't mean it isn't worthwhile. I think if we left Peter Drucker's ideas limiited to the easily quantified areas in which they can be applied and avoided using them for all others we'd have smarter managers and a much more interesting and colorful business world.

The original Southern Steam program is defunct. Why is the NS running a new one? That's the question - and other similar questions need to be asked and answered. If there's a common reason among the very few that run them, perhaps there's a universally appealing reason we can exploit to encourage growth. I don't think there's much to be gained by using old world concepts as benchmarks when trying to encourage new world ideas.

Ummmm......to the guy who posted the thing about the size of the market and hurting Strasburg et al......did you read what the subject of this thread was before you posted that irrelevancy? Didn't think so....but since you did, I'd encourage you to consider the differences between people who choose to visit a destination like Strasburg and its surrounding area, which was once a small bastion of 18th century life surrounded by the industrial northeast, and is now shopping malls with a few horses and buggies. People visiting there visit a lot of attractions, including an impulse priced train ride with a short duration of committed time as part of their nostalgia tour. People who buy tickets for a mainline steam excursion are seeking ONE experience.......and commit for funds and time for that purpose. Apples and oranges. It has been shown that people who have a good experience riding ANY train are very likely to want to ride other trains, so it actually strengthens the appeal rather than diluting it - unless we show them a bad time, in which case it scares them away from us all.

I'm not at all sure that selling tickets to the public is what the new world mainline steam is about. I see it as a more visible sort of public outreach, or way to share good feeling with employees, or a part of branding. I'm more interested in what modern railroad managers think it is...and could be.

dave

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Corollary: "He who does is doomed to watch those who don't repeat it anyway."


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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2013 5:31 pm 

Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2012 7:32 pm
Posts: 46
Sorry for posting irrelevancy Dave. I will try not to plug up the site with garbage anymore.


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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 11:17 am 

Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:41 am
Posts: 3301
Location: Inwood, W.Va.
"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"--Dave

"Who says it can't be both?"--Me

After thinking about this some more, I think it really has to be both. The CEO has to have an interest in this to even contemplate it, and he also has to be careful with his company's money, which is to say he has to figure out if this is worthwhile for his firm or not.

Leasing engines, as was originally done on Southern in the 1960s, by D&H and Chessie System in the 1970s, and by NS today, is a good way to test market this, whether it be for a potential operation, outreach, or improving customer, labor, and general public relations.

Incidently, I do regard my regular operation proposal as the best option to guarantee that this sort of thing stays around. It's harder to argue against profits than against anything else--provided the operation is profitable, of course.

Now, how do we encourage a CEO to at least have an open mind to this subject? If I knew the answer to that, I wouldn't be writing this here. . .


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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2016 12:33 am 

Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:41 am
Posts: 3301
Location: Inwood, W.Va.
New thread touching on new and old perspectives, and an older one, attached as reference.

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=39551

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=31783


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