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 Post subject: The forgotten elements of running a railway museum
PostPosted: Mon Oct 13, 2014 6:52 pm 

Joined: Tue Jul 31, 2012 5:05 pm
Posts: 114
While we frequently discuss hardware, acquisitions, painting, etc questions here, which are all good, we (almost) ever discuss the "non-sexy" pieces which are actually more important to keeping an all volunteer museum open. Ones like board meetings, writing checks, keeping minutes, dealing with government officials, ordering tickets, washing the floor, repainting the depot, cleaning the toilets, cleaning the cars, fueling the locomotives, changing the oil and the list goes on and on and on.

I just spent five days doing work which my own volunteers will hardly recognize. Three days of three volunteers feeding branches and bushes into a very large 12 inch chipper. HOT, dusty, tiring, back breaking work. Followed that up with two days of site clean up, 400 feet of trenching, laying 2 inch water pipe and all that goes with that.

So, for all you hard working, behind the scenes volunteers - THANK YOU and recognize that someone like me appreciates all the hard work YOU do to keep your museum open to the public, and make improvements, all for the occasional THANK YOU. You are my hero. Keep it up - everything stops when these jobs are not completed.

Jim Lundquist
Director of Museum Services
Pacific Southwest Railway Museum
"grunt"
unpaid volunteer and proud of it!


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 Post subject: Re: The forgotten elements of running a railway museum
PostPosted: Mon Oct 13, 2014 10:24 pm 

Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 4:22 pm
Posts: 339
And that's the stuff that really, really shows. You can have all the beautifully restored equipment you want, but if the place looks ratty and weedy, potential visitors will drive right by.
No matter what the museum features, somebody still has to mow the grass and mop the floor!

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--Becky


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 Post subject: Re: The forgotten elements of running a railway museum
PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2014 10:15 am 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 9:48 am
Posts: 347
Location: Clayton NC
That's why there's this page on our web site to show volunteers at work! You'll see lots of work on things other than the trolleys and subway cars:

http://www.tmny.org/tmnyvol.html

And here's me with a partial list of what I do at the museum. I'm sure many of you have a list as long as your arm of what you do at your organization!

Image

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 Post subject: Re: The forgotten elements of running a railway museum
PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2014 12:27 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 12:15 am
Posts: 483
Jim,

Know exactly what you are talking about, we had 2 years of infrastructure installation at our museum in the late 90's. Dig a trench, install conduit, fill back up,... dig a hole, install sonotube, fill with concrete ... cut trees, stack the branches till fall and chip the pile (turn a pile of branches the size of a boxcar into a few pails of chips), etc...

Visitors would actually ask us what have we been doing since it looked almost the same as the last time they were there. But all that doing nothing visible has made the museum look better.

Now it is just fix, run, fuel equipment, trim branches, mow grass, trim branches (didn't we just do that), scrape and paint. Seems like 3/4 of the time is spent on invisible work (that quickly gets noticed when forgotten). Oh and don't get started with the leaves...

One thing is for sure, after working at the museum for a few years, I now understand why all the photos show zero trees or grass in the wye or the rail yard, ... it was so they could actually get work done...

Rich C.
Ct Eastern RR Museum
Willimantic, Ct
http://www.cteastrrmuseum.org


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 Post subject: Re: The forgotten elements of running a railway museum
PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2014 3:28 pm 

Joined: Tue Jul 31, 2012 5:05 pm
Posts: 114
Your are all hero's.

Be proud of your volunteer efforts.


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 Post subject: Re: The forgotten elements of running a railway museum
PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2014 9:03 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jan 20, 2007 5:40 pm
Posts: 342
Location: Hamilton, Illinois
Don't forget other "hidden" tasks -- building and maintaining web sites; maintaining a Facebook page; approaching potential donors; getting publicity into local media; designing logos and letterheads; producing and distributing brochures; ordering and marketing T-shirts, caps, or other souvenir items; scheduling and hosting events in the facility; applying for grants; applying for and maintaining tax-exempt status; etc. etc.

People in our group have to do these things, and more, in addition to on-site volunteer activities as described above. We turn in our volunteer hours to our treasurer, who records them in a monthly report by individual. Last month I logged the third-highest number of volunteer hours (out of around 20 people), and I haven't worked on-site for several months.

(We're not actually a museum -- not yet -- but I suspect those of you involved with working museums could tell a similar story.)

Dr. Richard Leonard
Vice President, Keokuk Union Depot Foundation
http://www.keokukuniondepot.org
http://www.depot125.org

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Richard Leonard's Rail Archive
www.railarchive.net


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 Post subject: Re: The forgotten elements of running a railway museum
PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2014 10:05 pm 

Joined: Sat Jan 21, 2012 10:03 pm
Posts: 137
Location: Pennsylvania
This isn't just limited to non-profit museums. I work part time on a for-profit tourist line and am frequently assigned as Red Cap, who is mainly the station janitor on this railroad. Keeping the areas intended for visitors clean is a never ending job.

Probably the most memorable story I can tell was a few months ago we had a cat (we think) get into our train's first class parlor car, in which it had defecated. Cleaning it up was not fun, and we ended up spending a good half-hour mopping it up (thankfully, it was in an area of the car that had no carpeting). By the time the first train had left however, the only hint at this unpleasant surprise was a lingering sent of pine-sol.


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 Post subject: Re: The forgotten elements of running a railway museum
PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2014 11:34 am 

Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 4:22 pm
Posts: 339
Psst. About the cat (and sometimes human) messes...

There are commercial products for that, as any school bus driver knows. However, they're mostly a pricier version of scoopable cat litter.
If you keep a jug of the cheapest unscented scoopable around, anyone who needs it in a hurry can dump it directly on the offending mess. It'll attract the moisture from whatever hit the carpet and turn it into a solid lump that can be removed easily. As a bonus, if you have a smelly mess and a passenger car full of people who might contribute to it, the litter covers the puddle and deodorizes it. It will also prevent liquids from sloshing around.

Also in the pet aisle of your friendly local deep discounter is a product called Nature's Miracle, or one of its numerous clones. It's safe for most, if not all, fabrics and uses an enzyme to remove stain and odor. Dump, scoop, vacuum (later on, when everything's dry), souse in Nature's Miracle/My Pet's Friend/Pet Fresh/etc. and let dry.

One of the best hints for maintaining small sections of walkway, steps, etc. I heard was to save large laundry detergent jugs when they're empty. If you fill those with salt, sand and/or ice melter, you can fling salt on a section of walkway while holding onto a railing with the other hand.

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--Becky


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 Post subject: Re: The forgotten elements of running a railway/transport mu
PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2014 1:00 pm 

Joined: Sat Sep 04, 2004 10:54 am
Posts: 754
Location: Tucson, Arizona
As an officer and Director of our museum, I spend quite a bit of my time working on various administrative tasks, attending meetings and planning various activities. We just completed the mechanical work on our 1960 GM TGH-3102 and returned it to operating condition in five weeks. That involved coordinating various operations with our available volunteers, obtaining supplies and such. I spent many hours arranging the funding and coordinating with various people to see that the work was done.

Much of what I do that is not on the visible side of things is related to planning. You can have all the volunteers and resources and that means nothing if you do not have a plan on how you will effectively use them to meet your organization's needs. Members ought to be openly invited to sit in on a Director's meeting to see what really goes on, versus what some people think goes on. Steering an organization is no easy task and that is exactly what the Directors do.

The restoration of the TGH-3102 was a direct result of a decision that I made along with our Bus Division Vice President. We had been discussing what the division's needs were and which coach should be the next restoration project, now that we are making good progress on the two in the shop. We determined that we needed a second coach to serve as backup for our restored 1938 Yellow Coach and that it was needed as soon as possible. We had already determined that we wanted to do a short term restoration versus a long term one-one that volunteers could quickly see measurable progress on. Doing a complete evaluation of our collection, we zeroed in on Old Pueblo Transit Company No. 135. The 135 needed new tires (6), fuel lines replaced, air brake lines inspected and replaced, engine tuned up, gas tank removed for cleaning and inspection, new battery and ignition system wiring, air motor repaired (1), parking brake adjusted, turn signals and hazard flashers fixed and a few other things. Basically it had a laundry list of items to be attended to. I worked with our vice president on the cost estimate and obtained the funding for the materials. The first the volunteers heard of the project was when the vice president contacted each of them with a task that met their skill sets.

All I can say is that the response was awesome! My time and effort were well worth it as the volunteers got the jobs done and we completed the work on time and under budget with enough left over to register the coach and obtain insurance.

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"When a man runs on railroads over half of his lifetime he is fit for nothing else-and at times he don't know that."- Conductor Nimrod Bell, 1896


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 Post subject: Re: The forgotten elements of running a railway museum
PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2014 2:26 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8599
Location: Somewhere between Baltimore, MD and Prescott, AZ
Among the most important things any preservation group, or indeed ANY non-profit, can do is effectively undertake to ease volunteerism, in whatever form it takes. This takes many forms, from procuring the proper tools/materials and setting up an effective shop space to setting up the proper protocols to allow, for example, the guy willing to mow the grass to have access to the "garden shed" whenever he can get to it. Don't undertake to force every step or process through a committee decision, for example.

One thing critical for many "out of the way" places like Rockhill, Cass, or Cumbres is to give volunteers a place to crash, be it a "bunk house," a caboose, or arrangements with a local motel or B&B. In extreme cases, I've seen full kitchens where a volunteer's spouse or parent helps cook for a crew of volunteers-dinners and breakfasts. That's a huge improvement in morale over a microwave and bottled water.


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 Post subject: Re: The forgotten elements of running a railway museum
PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2014 5:17 pm 

Joined: Sat Sep 04, 2004 10:54 am
Posts: 754
Location: Tucson, Arizona
TVRM has a bunk house and also has corporate rates available at a local motel (or at least they did when I was there). The bunk house was for men only, but other accomodations could be made in advance. Occasionally, the business car would be spotted outside the shop for use as volunteer accomodations.

Keeping things as uncomplicated as possible for volunteers is key. The more enjoyment they get out of participating, the more likely they are to remain active. The person responsible for managing a project or facility is the one that ought to work out the issues that may complicate a volunteer's tasks.

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"When a man runs on railroads over half of his lifetime he is fit for nothing else-and at times he don't know that."- Conductor Nimrod Bell, 1896


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 Post subject: Re: The forgotten elements of running a railway museum
PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2014 5:31 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:28 am
Posts: 2485
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Alan Walker wrote:
TVRM has a bunk house and also has corporate rates available at a local motel (or at least they did when I was there). The bunk house was for men only, but other accomodations could be made in advance. Occasionally, the business car would be spotted outside the shop for use as volunteer accomodations.

Keeping things as uncomplicated as possible for volunteers is key. The more enjoyment they get out of participating, the more likely they are to remain active. The person responsible for managing a project or facility is the one that ought to work out the issues that may complicate a volunteer's tasks.


IRM has several places for out-of-towners to bunk. I've slept in an Illinois Terminal caboose in the past. This year, after Member's Day, I availed myself of Bedroom C in the 10-6 Pullman Pacific Peak. IRM also has shower facilities on site for volunteers. Makes life easier.

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--
David M. Wilkins

"They Love Him for the Enemies He Has Made!"


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 Post subject: Re: The forgotten elements of running a railway museum
PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2014 5:41 pm 

Joined: Sat Sep 04, 2004 10:54 am
Posts: 754
Location: Tucson, Arizona
TVRM's "bunk house" is actually a large room at the rear of the climate controlled shop area. One door exits to the locker room and the other exits to the air brake room. The crew room adjacent to the locker room has one long table running the length of the room and has a full kitchen. The locker room has two showers.

Only cars that we have that could be used as quarters are the 8 section, five compartment sleeper and the business car.

The only time I've been on the property overnight was when I was overseeing a BSA Railroad Merit Badge campout. We had to have the Grand Junction depot open for facilities and I spent two nights there.

_________________
"When a man runs on railroads over half of his lifetime he is fit for nothing else-and at times he don't know that."- Conductor Nimrod Bell, 1896


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 Post subject: Re: The forgotten elements of running a railway museum
PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2014 10:05 pm 

Joined: Tue May 14, 2013 11:36 pm
Posts: 19
Today, for example, I was the engineer for six passenger trips. When we shut down the museum and train for the day I then paid bills. I compared printed checks from our CPA with the invoices received. If everything matched, I signed the checks, put them in the envelope, put on stamps and return address labels, and then dropped them off at the Post Office on my way home.

We have a 17 page Finance and Accounting Manual that describes the process and responsibilities for money coming in and money going out, including payroll. It also covers restricted funds, accounts receivable, etc. Just checking daily register and credit card totals and doing bank deposits takes 8 to 12 hours a week. Accounts payable takes 4 to 8 hours a week. And so on. Yet people wonder what staff does. [I am not staff, just the treasurer and responsible to the board for the process and financial reports.]

My favorite pet peeve is people who say "let's do X and earmark all the money for Y." Doing X requires the use of our premises (rent), involves staff time to plan (payroll), requires insurance (premiums), and will burn fuel. How do we pay for those items if all the money goes to Y? I usually suggest we net out X revenues and expenses and apply the "profits" to Y - which is usually a very modest number.

A final and unrelated thought. Most of us need someone fulltime to just answer the phone and provide information. Yes, many people use the internet, but we suggest people call to make sure trains are running. Weather, equipment and personnel issues sometime lead to train cancellations. We are all businesses, and need to answer the phone.

We also need clean bathrooms.


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