Railway Preservation News

Volunteer Staffing-Experienced RR Industry Vets
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Author:  superheater [ Wed Nov 15, 2017 4:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Volunteer Staffing-Experienced RR Industry Vets

Over the years; Steamtown had the very good fortune to have had some experienced RR veterans among our ranks; for example the late Bernie O'Brien, Tom Wyatt and Norm Barrett all had extensive careers on the "high iron".

Out of curiousity:

Does your operation have RR industry veterans?

Do you make an effort to recruit them?

Do you recruit active employees (or do you find that changing schedules and hours of service preclude a volunteer commitment?) or retirees?

Does somebody used to the latest and greatest equipment enjoy the old stuff or grow to love it or grow to despise it?

If you have recruited experienced RR employees-what methods have you used and found productive?

Author:  QJdriver [ Thu Nov 16, 2017 3:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Volunteer Staffing-Experienced RR Industry Vets

I haven't gotten any hate mail lately, so I'm going to give you an honest answer to your post....

In my own personal experiences, most rail museums or train clubs try to run off experienced railroaders. I've never dealt with one that didn't, but I know THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS to this.

There are also several reasons that experienced guys don't participate, which have nothing to do with being turned off or run off by hobby shop railroaders. One reason is burnout, by the time a guy puts in 40 hours a week (often much more, often on call) for a few decades, he might just have had enough choo choos to last him. A lot of guys are just too busted up. (I had five surgeries this summer, I'm hoping I can get back to work next summer.) Also, some guys finally have time for their families, or other interests besides trains, or maybe a long list of honey-dos, none of which they had time for while they were living the Class I dream.

The real reason I replied to this post was your last question. If you want help from the old heads, LISTEN TO THEM. Many retirees love to tell stories, or help interested newcomers. They DON'T want to be told what such and such magazine guy or cyber railroader thinks about it. PAY ATTENTION when you get them to talking, take notes, or video it.

The vast majority of old steam heads I've known told me that nobody listens to them (I was a rare exception). They took the best stuff to their graves with them.

Take Care & WORK SAFE

Author:  PaulWWoodring [ Thu Nov 16, 2017 6:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Volunteer Staffing-Experienced RR Industry Vets

Echoing Mr. King - a big AMEN to the way to treat "old heads". It was suggested to me once that tourist roads might consider those of us with Class I experience a threat because we can see what they are doing wrong. I don't know how true that is, but it might be.

Author:  Alexander D. Mitchell IV [ Thu Nov 16, 2017 6:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Volunteer Staffing-Experienced RR Industry Vets

There is another factor I've heard of at work. I cannot honestly say I've experienced this first-hand, but have been told about it at more than one place.

It's the opposite extreme of the situation described above. The old head "knows" how "we did it back then" and persists in operating in that fashion.

The problem is, that's when "the comp'ny" had a whole yard full of Baldwins, or PCCs or Harrimans or MP54s or whatever, at their disposal, and there was an entire army of fellow union employees dedicated to keeping them in good repair. The way they ran the Podunk Local or the #12 Trolley Line is not the way to keep Ol' No. 97 or the last PCC from that system going another century. And the habit can't be beaten out of them.

The steam-powered Gettysburg RR before its crown-sheet failure was the most "authentic" old-time short-line operation I ever saw. I don't believe we want to expose the general public to that degree of "authenticity" in 2017 and beyond.

Author:  exprail [ Thu Nov 16, 2017 7:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Volunteer Staffing-Experienced RR Industry Vets

After many years as a railroader I retired a couple of years ago and began looking for ways to help out at a local museum. Because one of my duties aside from being a conductor and engineer, through the years was training/testing new and experienced folks I looked for a way to offer my services. I soon realized that the safety/training person (not a rail) was a pretty controlling fellow and I didn't want to get involved in "politics". There were also others which already had their own folks and didn't seem interested services.

Finally I offered to teach an annual rules class at the museum which I have been a member for 50 years even though it's a couple of states away and they accepted, readily.
The reason I wanted to share my experience and knowledge of the safety/operating rules was that I had been sucessful building power points and using videos along with many stories of my time on the rails to explain why complying with the rules was not only necessary but life savings. I also wanted to thank all volunteers for their service for without them there would be no railroad to enjoy. In addition I prepared for the class by reviewing their rule books and inquiring about any non-compliance issues the previous year so I could focus a portion of the class on correcting those situations and building a power point which not only was interesting but fun. After all, these folks were giving up their day to spend in a classroom so I wanted to make worth their while to attend.

This has turned out to be a satisying and rewarding experience and I look forward each year to teach the class. I only wish there were additional opportunities to share closer to home.

Just one man's experience.


Author:  Alan Walker [ Fri Nov 17, 2017 1:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Volunteer Staffing-Experienced RR Industry Vets

TVRM had a few active and retired railroad employees in our Operating Department when I was there. These were people who were extremely devoted to the work of preserving the railroad for future generations.

With retirees, there is an additional consideration-if they receive Railroad Retirement, they cannot work for another railroad for compensation. If they do, they lose their Railroad Retirement. One of our longtime volunteers brought that to our attention when the railroad offered to pay him for some services (he was an electrical engineer in addition to a locomotive engineer). He was in his early seventies then and had worked for the DL&W many, many years ago. He and his wife lived in Knoxville, Tennessee at the time and volunteered three days a week at the time. He'd drive down on Sunday night, stay in the railroad bunkhouse and drive home Wednesday night after work. He did that every week for years.

Author:  superheater [ Fri Nov 17, 2017 5:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Volunteer Staffing-Experienced RR Industry Vets

Thanks for all the replies.

Author:  JimBoylan [ Fri Nov 17, 2017 6:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Volunteer Staffing-Experienced RR Industry Vets

You lose your Railroad Retirement pension for any month in which you work for a railroad.

Some railroaders may have come from a culture where Labor was so expensive that it wasn't worth carefully saving or preserving anything for reuse. This can be the opposite of a place where volunteer labor is "free" and used material is made of "unobtainium".

Author:  exprail [ Fri Nov 17, 2017 8:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Volunteer Staffing-Experienced RR Industry Vets

Yep, that's true about the RRB benefits once you retire. I always volunteer and never expected any pay for what I do, just happy to help out especially when it comes to safety. A volunteer railroader can get hurt just as easy as a paid one. A car or engine moving as slow as 5 MPH can knock you down and you won't have time to get up before it rolls over you.

Interesting though, I was told by RRB that I could make all the money I wanted by consulting after I retired with no loss of benefits. However, my long,years of service has provided very generous benefits plus a pension from one road so even though I enjoy teaching/training/testing I haven't set up a consulting business yet.


Author:  RaySoderberg [ Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Volunteer Staffing-Experienced RR Industry Vets

I have over 25 years RR experience on class I and short line operations. I have worked in almost every area of the railroad business: track, equipment, sales, training and operations including locomotive engineer for most of the 25 years. I have never been disciplined or suspended or charged with any violation.

My experience on tourist/museum railroads vary. At one operation I was paid (a minimum amount) and treated like a valued team member. My ideas and experience etc were welcome. My time and participation was respected. There were times we butted heads but we always came to a solution after discussion. I left that RR to spend more time with my young children.

On a second tourist RR as a volunteer, my experience meant almost nothing. From the beginning, some of the officers of the organization were difficult to work with. Its my best guess they were intimidated by my years of RR training and didn't like me in their "kingdom". There were no other professional railroaders at this operation, lots of weekend warriors and hobbyists. They needed train crew members, so they accepted (or put up with me) for the RR's benefit. I didn't hurt that I invested some cash too. I tried on many occasions to help them and while they did listen and implement a few of my ideas, most were ignored. On several occasions I was told: don't worry about it or that's not your area or go run the train or work on the track or shut up.

Safety is a big deal to me as I worked with two men who died in RR accidents and I've hit several cars at road crossings. Those events changed my life forever. So when I see a safety issue, I talk about it. I said many, many times "Don't walk in the gauge" and "When in doubt, the safe course must be taken". This second RR did not have a healthy safety culture. They weren't careless and they trained for safety. However years of no big issues had made them complacent in some areas. No eye protection, no hard hat, no hearing protection, no safety vest or shoe or clothing requirements and some unreported FRA violations are just a few.

I greatly reduced my participation in train service and spent most of the last couple of years on the property making the track as safe and compliant as possible. Your're probably thinking, If it was bad, why did you stay? Answer: I really felt I could contribute to make the operation safer, better, more profitable. Additionally, several of the volunteer members expressed their appreciation on a regular basis and said "why didn't they teach us this" or "What you showed me has been really helpful".

Many of the negative situations I've shared here have also been expressed to me by other railroaders at other organizations. A few professional railroaders told me they will not risk life and limb on any marginal operation, so they don't volunteer. So it appears the environment I participated is not unique.

Today, many museums, preservation groups (in any area of interest) and tourist railroads are finding it difficult to find good, reliable talented free help. The volunteer base is shrinking. It would greatly benefit these groups to respect any level and any area of experience that walks through their door. Show greater respect to the volunteer who donates his time and money to the organization.

Author:  Bill Jensen [ Sat Nov 18, 2017 10:53 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Volunteer Staffing-Experienced RR Industry Vets

I never worked for a railroad; I did work doing wreck clean up.
I have found many places have a small group in charge and it's their way or the highway.
These last few years I have not put the effort or the money into any RR work. [other than my own]. For now, my equipment, money and myself stay home.

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