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 Post subject: The Next ITM? Take a Look in the Mirror.
PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2018 8:28 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:25 pm
Posts: 1886
Much-deserved hand-wringing and angst are going on in the ITM (Indiana Transportation Museum) thread, as a large, once successful museum is right-sizing and hopefully relocating in an spectacularly unflattering way.

The question is: who will be next? I propose it is a matter of when, and not if.

A series of threads and comments over the years have poo-pooed applying traditional museum standards an practice to the railway museum industry. Meanwhile museum collections of large railway equipment lanquish in various states of preservation and slow decay.

While the term "strategic planning" comes with its own baggage, the idea of taking stock and looking ahead is important if you want to keep your museum from failing in a spectacular way.

A simple exercise we have revisited over the years at National Capital is to look at the roster and prioritize our restoration projects. We currently have 5 cars in the queue, not including on-going maintenance plus repainting and the occasional traction motor rebuild on the operating fleet. Allowing an average project time of 3-5 years including fundraising, these five cars represent as much as $2.5 million dollars investment over 20 years, or an average of $125,000 per year. Thankfully we are not operating steam when these numbers are considered. And so far we have been able to keep up with the restoration program thanks to dedicated donors and successful grant writing.

With this scenario in mind, we are careful to consider any new acquisition that may come our way.

Our colleagues at IRM have done a good job with their pay-as-go requirement for track and barn space. I am not aware of similar policies at other museums.

I'd summarize this post by urging museums without strategic plans, or the interest in starting a long strategic planning process, to stop and assess your roster as we have done. Look at your collection and plot out a timeline for how you will restore what you have saved using blocks of time and money for each item in the collection. Then next step is the hard one: planning for how to care for what you have, rationalizing new acquisitions (including emergency rescues like cars from ITM), and recognizing the basket case "out back" may have truly reached the end of the line.

I'll crawl under my desk now while you sort things out.

Wesley


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 Post subject: Re: The Next ITM? Take a Look in the Mirror.
PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2018 10:48 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:34 pm
Posts: 658
Location: Union, IL
wesp wrote:
The question is: who will be next?

Make a list of what organizations don't own the land upon which they sit. The next ITM will be one of those. One need look no further than ORM and Trolleyville in Ohio to see that an organization that owns its site can suffer quite a bit but remain intact, while one that doesn't can be doing just fine and rather suddenly cease to exist.

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Preserved North American Electric Railway Equipment News
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 Post subject: Re: The Next ITM? Take a Look in the Mirror.
PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2018 12:01 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:19 am
Posts: 5660
Location: southeastern USA
But should they? Isn't surviving just because you own your place just extending the death of an unsustainable collection and / or business plan (or lack thereof) into a longer but equal result? Somehow I can't help but think that having a crisis that forces us to genuinely consider and right-size every decade or so keeps us all stronger......

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Santayana: "He who does not remember the past is condemned to repeat it."
Corollary: "He who does is doomed to watch those who don't repeat it anyway."


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 Post subject: Re: The Next ITM? Take a Look in the Mirror.
PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2018 5:59 pm 

Joined: Thu Sep 22, 2011 4:29 pm
Posts: 1393
Location: Youngstown, OH
Owning your land is a basic prerequisite for any entity engaged in preservation. Here in Youngstown both Youngstown Steel Heritage and the MVRHA owns their lands free and clear. It really is the only way to go.

Now in the case of ITM, had they along the way purchased some land along that rail line for their shop, if things got bad operating over the rail line they could always retreat back to their property. But if you got everything hanging out on someone else's land, someday you are going to be screwed.

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J&L Narrow Gauge Railroad
"The shortest and narrowest Railroad in Ohio"


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 Post subject: Re: The Next ITM? Take a Look in the Mirror.
PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2018 8:10 pm 

Joined: Sun Apr 08, 2018 10:11 pm
Posts: 10
Location: Columbus, OH
Frank Hicks wrote:
wesp wrote:
The question is: who will be next?

Make a list of what organizations don't own the land upon which they sit. The next ITM will be one of those. One need look no further than ORM and Trolleyville in Ohio to see that an organization that owns its site can suffer quite a bit but remain intact, while one that doesn't can be doing just fine and rather suddenly cease to exist.


If I may on behalf of ORM - it's not just that we own the land, so much has to do with having good relationships with those around you, especially the city you're in. For all that previous generations (excluding the founders of course) of the museum has put Worthington through, they've been amazing to us and we can only try to do the same for them. I don't want to dig in to nitty gritty details with ITM and the cities because we've all seen enough of that, but obviously there were quite a few people on both sides unwilling to try to reach a compromise for everyone and try to fix things.

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Victoria "Vickie" Broskie
Ohio Railway Museum Historian, Volunteer Coordinator and Brakeman, Lover of GE's, PCC's and Saddletanks


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 Post subject: Re: The Next ITM? Take a Look in the Mirror.
PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2018 8:11 pm 

Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2015 5:55 pm
Posts: 782
I'd like to know the history of the ITM, and how the philosophy must have changed over the years, they had a nice collection related to Indiana at one time but obviously aren't preservationists any more, what is going on there is a crime against history. We have had the discussion here about whether a focus on train rides takes away a focus on preservation, and I think ITM really affirms that theory, I'll bet what they save will be what can make them money rather than the most important endangered pieces.


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 Post subject: Re: The Next ITM? Take a Look in the Mirror.
PostPosted: Thu Jul 05, 2018 1:19 am 

Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:41 am
Posts: 3540
Location: Inwood, W.Va.
One thing that should be mentioned, while many here advocate that we own our fixed plant (and it certainly improves our odds), it's not necessarily proof against political interests.

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=2198

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=22852

http://www.dupyrail.com/kmrr.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPfq8fUFkRM


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 Post subject: Re: The Next ITM? Take a Look in the Mirror.
PostPosted: Thu Jul 05, 2018 10:18 am 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 9:18 am
Posts: 566
Location: Wall, NJ
While property ownership is important, it still comes down to people. You need good people on the board and on site. Period.

14 years ago this month I walked out of an organization, not to be named here, as Chairman of the Board of Trustees. Why did I walk out? Plenty of well documented financial reasons really. We had a good thing going at the time with a planned return of steam, coach restoration on going, lots of volunteers, etc. Today, the place is stagnant. Steam is dead. Restoration efforts are dead. Any real maintenance has to be done by paid contractors. It looks like a junk yard. There are other issues as well.

If this does become another ITM can you blame the current board? Good question. The knee jerk reaction is yes, its the current Board’s fault. Chances are the lawyers will feel the same way at some point when it comes to any required environmental clean up and such.

A fairly new member asked me a couple of years ago, why did I leave and not fight for the place and for what I believed in? The easy answer is that I got tired of fighting, the issues behind my decision to leave were simmering for a year or more.

As I thought about his question though, I realized I was certainly not the first to leave. Going back to when I first became a member in the early 1970s, a lot of good talent walked out, ultimately culminating in 2004 with today’s board, essentially the last man standing.

As I look at ITM, I have to wonder, where is the membership in all this? Has anyone looked at the ITM site inspection report? How did it get so bad?

Granted we do not volunteer to fight. Fighting at this level is just no fun. Been there, done that.

My hunch is that there is a natural life span of a volunteer organization such as ITM. Start strong with well educated people with a solid vision. Over the years, they die off, replaced by others who’s vision may not be as sharp. Disagreements erupt and over a period of decades, little is left of the organization. No vision. Not attracting new members. Driving off people with good ideas.

Again, this can happen whether you own the property or not. Its a people problem.

Can this be averted? I’d say yes and there are examples. Key to me is board turn over, rotation of officers in particular. The biggest issue driving organization failure is a stagnant board. Every member must have the feeling that his opinion counts and could even one day run the place.

Trustees/officers for life = death to the organization.

J.R. May


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 Post subject: Re: The Next ITM? Take a Look in the Mirror.
PostPosted: Thu Jul 05, 2018 10:46 am 

Joined: Wed Jan 25, 2006 5:00 pm
Posts: 808
Location: NJ
Many good thoughts and comments here. In my previous volunteer life, the facility had a nice chunk of grant money available but the hook was it could only be used for real property, not equipment revival or the like. I suggested that we buy a nearby old station. It was in range of the grant and would have given us our own property. The president didn't like the idea so the trustees went along with him. The property was sold and when it came time for us to move years later, it was again up for sale, at twice the price and the grant money was gone. That group is gone as is most of it's rolling stock.

So regardless of how good a relationship you have with your landlord, there is no substitute for owning your own land and, as stated above, a good solid business plan. Sadly, more and more facilities will close for lack of the two biggest needs to continue in business.

Later!
Mr. Ed


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 Post subject: Re: The Next ITM? Take a Look in the Mirror.
PostPosted: Thu Jul 05, 2018 11:31 am 

Joined: Mon Mar 14, 2011 4:10 pm
Posts: 50
First time I visited ITM, it was 1978. Glenn Brendel of Fort Wayne, and myself of Ohio, were looking to buy IC betterment coach 2678 (later 721) from an individual for use behind NKP 765. The car was stored at Noblesville. There was a fairly nice small area for visitors around the Singer electric locomotive but most of it was just rusty junk-junk-junk- even from the city park driveway.

Years later I worked as a village and city manager at several towns in the Lima, Ohio, area. It was no surprise that the city of Noblesville got sick of their junk collection in their city park. It was obvious even forty years ago.


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 Post subject: Re: The Next ITM? Take a Look in the Mirror.
PostPosted: Thu Jul 05, 2018 12:20 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:28 am
Posts: 2528
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Wes,

We can't talk about that! Nobody on this forum wants to have a serious discussion that causes them to look into the mirrors and evaluate their own organizations. That'd be considered negative, or a "personal attack." You keep this up, and the moderators may issue you a board warning.

Instead, the use of this forum is to put forth jailhouse lawyer-like legal theories about how ITM was screwed; talk about how "government" or "corrupt government/mayor/city council/port authority/judge" was the real reason behind the situation at ITM.

Also, people will use this forum will not want to talk about real strategic planning, non-profit financial management, community and government relations, best practices, ways to legally protect your organization. That's just not helpful. Instead, it's more important to talk about the above.

The dirty truth is that most railway museums are still run by railfans who think like railfans. Concepts like "the business of railway preservation" and "sustainability" will make the eyes roll in the back of the heads of the board members of said organizations. Instead, let's focus on paint color and happy things only!

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David M. Wilkins
<Insert Impressive-Sounding Job Title Here>
<Insert Impressive-Sounding Organization Here>

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


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 Post subject: Re: The Next ITM? Take a Look in the Mirror.
PostPosted: Thu Jul 05, 2018 7:31 pm 

Joined: Sat May 07, 2016 1:12 am
Posts: 99
With the recent developments I think a concerted effort should be taken for other failing groups/museums in the area to join the Kentucky Steam Railyard and prevent another ITM incident BEFORE getting the boot. Having several groups with separate funding and manpower with 1 combined goal equals a better outcome for all involved. They will/do have the land and rail, but need manpower to make it work. This can truly be a safe haven for historic rail equipment in danger, and it's already being planned as a tourist magnet.

Am I to optimistic? Maybe, but if the events with CSMRR and ITM taught us anything it's to own the land you walk on or at team up with those who do and strengthen your position. This is a war after all in a way. War of time and land. This SHOULDN'T have happened yet it did. Because of poor management going back decades or just incompetence there will be Lord knows how many irreplaceable relics cut up. Combining resources, talking, joining partnerships like Kentucky Steam and ITMs mikado did should have been long ago and selling off non core items to actually preserve what would have benefited the museum. Alas it's to late for, however it saddens me and frustrates me to think such a large collection was for no good reason neglected for decades is at least part of the reason they got in that mess. Be good tenants when renting space and take very seriously the landlords feelings about your operation.


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 Post subject: Re: The Next ITM? Take a Look in the Mirror.
PostPosted: Thu Jul 05, 2018 10:37 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:19 am
Posts: 5660
Location: southeastern USA
It's not about "getting the boot." It's about the circumstances that led to being booted, then being unable to appropriately deal with the boot when it happened. Until you grasp that, the entire lesson is wasted.

_________________
Santayana: "He who does not remember the past is condemned to repeat it."
Corollary: "He who does is doomed to watch those who don't repeat it anyway."


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 Post subject: Re: The Next ITM? Take a Look in the Mirror.
PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2018 1:19 am 

Joined: Thu Nov 22, 2007 5:46 am
Posts: 2543
Location: S.F. Bay Area
Dave wrote:
But should they? Isn't surviving just because you own your place just extending the death of an unsustainable collection and / or business plan (or lack thereof) into a longer but equal result? Somehow I can't help but think that having a crisis that forces us to genuinely consider and right-size every decade or so keeps us all stronger......


There are no unsustainable collections. Only missing carbarns.

Talk about how a collection must be "rationalized" invariably happens when the collection is stored outside.

Now, notice how ITM, KyRM and Catskill were able to explosively grow their revenue when their back was against the wall. I've done that too, it's a blast... though my back wasn't against the wall, I just knew that the "sense of urgency" which drove those people was not caused by their predicament, but sourced from themselves because of their own perceptions and beliefs about their predicament. So I sourced it from myself. No predicament required.

These organizations were able to bump their revenue by as much as a million dollars. IRM's carbarns go for about $200k. OERM's enormous Ruffalo Carhouse was $800k IIRC. WRM's deluxe Car House 3 was $2M iirc, but it included the campus wide waterworks to support the sprinklers. OERM is on city water.

So, #1 stop the talk, #2 explode your revenue like it's 1999, #3 buy railroad, land and carbarns in that order.

Of course the triage process of selecting what goes in the earlier carbarns will tend to expose certain truths about your collection. This might have the effect of a rationalization, but it's not required to, you can just keep building if you prefer.


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 Post subject: Re: The Next ITM? Take a Look in the Mirror.
PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2018 3:18 am 

Joined: Thu Nov 22, 2007 5:46 am
Posts: 2543
Location: S.F. Bay Area
Don't forget Dallas's state park museum, the one that moved to Frisco... And Golden Gate Railway Museum, which had been double-bunking with Pacific Locomotive Association at the latter's site in Niles Canyon at Brightside/Sunol. Both were large collections, even more distinctive than Noblesville, and both were asked to leave.

The only difference is in these cases, the landlord was willing to cooperate and accept the 2+ year time frame to locate a new site and move a monster historic fleet.

Both were dangling in dire peril: if their landlords had not been nice, the collections would have been scrapped and seized, respectively. Frisco was successful obviously, and the Golden Gate hospital move is imminent.

Then there's the National Capitol Trolley Museum, who got bumped for a hyperspace, er I mean freeway bypass, but was able to work out something with the highway authority so they still had a site.

The point is the problem is bigger than it seems. We aren't counting the happy endings.


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