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 Post subject: Current future outlook for North American Rail Preservation
PostPosted: Sun Oct 06, 2019 2:04 pm 

Joined: Sat May 07, 2016 1:12 am
Posts: 108
I would like to start a discussion about the current outlook for the future of rail preservation in North America. I myself am not versed enough actively in rail preservation to offer much insight into the topic, however I do have a few things to point out.

In the last 20 years I have seen many discussions about concern regarding the lack of youth getting drawn into rail preservation and many of those groups now are lacking manpower and public support. I see new plans such as the Ravenna facility, Headwaters Junction, the statewide support for 1309, and worldwide support for 4014s overhaul as evidence that rail preservation has more public support and backing if plans are suitable for good public success. I see many US groups, museums, and organizations falling into 2 basic financial groups: The ones who openly are acceptable to change and encourage youth involvement and their ideas and are open to city, community, and state influence and those that dont. The latter leading to failing institutions like the ITM disaster among others. The former leading to opportunities possibly opening up like the Fort Wayne group and Jason and others with CSX, state, and many others help with the Ravenna Railyard.

I know its much more difficult and complex then that, however I see more opportunities opening up to rail preservation if the groups align their vision with public opinion and change due to the more exotic nature of historic rail heritage then it was 20-40 years ago.


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 Post subject: Re: Current future outlook for North American Rail Preservat
PostPosted: Sun Oct 06, 2019 5:12 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:19 am
Posts: 5697
Location: southeastern USA
Going down the right path, but it's not about being open to surrounding influences but proactively involving your group within the larger community. Join with arts and educational institutions rather than railfans exclusively. Partner with local nonprofits and engage in joint activities. The more integral you are to your communities identity and brand, the more the support and the less the NIMBYs interference. Find ways to say YES more than reasons to say NO.

As businesses, seek to discipline your expenses and liabilities to those which support you mission or bottom line - don't grab every bit of rusty junk you get offered since even housing it and moving it costs resources. Seek funding other than earned revenues at the ticket booth. Use hired expert help to allow volunteers to best apply their time and energy within their skill sets to maximize productivity and limit frustration and mistakes. Manage any operating strategies to minimize required personnel.

Marketing isn't my area of expertise, but always seek to be doing noteworthy things not only to attract visitors but develop public interest and encourage joint ventures with other community institutions.

Youth involvement - demonstrate that reality is far better than digital versions once removed of reality. Good luck.

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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: Current future outlook for North American Rail Preservat
PostPosted: Mon Oct 07, 2019 5:07 am 

Joined: Thu Oct 08, 2015 11:54 am
Posts: 569
Location: New Franklin, OH
Dave hits quite a few nails on the head.

I ain't no expert but in my experience, to survive, generally: Try to stay relevant. Recruit new members constantly, partner with other organizations and businesses, recruit new members, join and work with your Chamber of Commerce, recruit new members, apply for grants, recruit new members, keep your name out there so people don't forget (https://thebargainhunter.com/online-edition/wayne-bargain-hunter), recruit new members, get creative with the use of your facilities and/or equipment, recruit new members, delegate tasks to people that have the expertise - have oversight but no micromanaging, list goes on and on.

Don't just talk, also listen. Sometimes you'll be surprised at the good ideas you pick up just by opening your ears and paying attention to the world outside your organization. In my book, there's no such thing as a dumb question and all ideas deserve at least some consideration.

Doing all of this with a smaller organization sometimes feels like a mad scramble, but ya got to do it or whither away. Having to reinvent ourselves and changing our focus from primarily an excursion operator to restoring/operating interesting or historic pieces of rolling stock as well as our depot has required a major shift in thinking. It's not been an easy transition. We've dropped off the map a little while focusing on our infrastructure, but now we're starting to shift back towards high gear. It would be nice if we became an example of how to survive a critical blow to your business plan. Fingers crossed....

If we gather up all the threads on this topic from over the years, we could probably assemble them into a how-to manual.

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Eric Schlentner
Orrville Railroad Heritage Society
Car Knocker, Gandy Dancer & Hog Jockey
http://www.orrvillerailroad.com


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 Post subject: Re: Current future outlook for North American Rail Preservat
PostPosted: Mon Oct 07, 2019 6:10 am 

Joined: Fri Mar 26, 2010 11:28 am
Posts: 134
Never underestimate the charisma of a single individual or a cohesive group of individuals to motivate your volunteers and staff, as they can be the solitary drivers of positive, forward thinking momentum.

I have served in paid and non-paid efforts at several organizations across the US. Organizations where the key leaders and volunteers exude a culture of inclusion, humility, humor, and professionalism seem to find new members, stable revenues, and operating opportunities with relative ease. Organizations where battles of personality, age and "know-it-all-ism" struggle to capture the spark because they aren't friendly, don't embrace those outside their comfort zone due to youth, seniority, or background and overwhelm new members with their apparent mastery of all things in railroading.

This isn't to say that there isn't a happy middle ground, just to point out that many organizations lack true leadership and the ability to secure human capital. Leadership isn't about telling people what they are going to do. It's about developing a vision and steering others to success.

Proper business management is key. Where you see success, you will find this type of leader in place. People are your best asset, not your locomotives.


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 Post subject: Re: Current future outlook for North American Rail Preservat
PostPosted: Mon Oct 07, 2019 9:14 am 

Joined: Fri Jan 08, 2010 10:08 pm
Posts: 315
Location: Amherst, Oh
IC382 wrote:
Never underestimate the charisma of a single individual or a cohesive group of individuals to motivate your volunteers and staff, as they can be the solitary drivers of positive, forward thinking momentum.


And never forget how much that same individual or group of people can damage your organization too.

Unfortunately all of this can be a double edged sword.


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 Post subject: Re: Current future outlook for North American Rail Preservat
PostPosted: Mon Oct 07, 2019 9:58 am 

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2016 1:15 pm
Posts: 491
Do what you do at 100%. People can go to Disney world, the smithsonian, broadway shows, professional sports events, national parks, etc. Realize you are competing with world class entertainment and destinations and be sure you deliver a high quality product. Clean restrooms, good food, good service, and deliver what people expect. If you are marketing a steam locomotive, don’t think the public “won’t notice” when a rusty diesel pulls up. It doesn’t take a railfan to realize that rusty gp7 isn’t the smoking 4-4-0 on your brochure / website. (Naturally a non-railfan doesn’t know its a gp7... but you get the point). That goes with the coaches too.... make sure they are clean, attractive, comfortable.

If you advertise a dining car experience.... don’t serve it in plastic picnic dishes, make it a proper experience or don’t do it all. (That was a recent personal disappointment).


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 Post subject: Re: Current future outlook for North American Rail Preservat
PostPosted: Mon Oct 07, 2019 3:46 pm 

Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2005 9:34 pm
Posts: 2323
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
This is an old topic. There are other threads (see the recent one about car museums) talking about this.

If you distinguish preservation from just collecting or warehousing, I think the industry is doing quite well. More equipment is stored inside, protected, than ever before, and more organizations have functioning workshops with specialized tooling than ever before. The better museums are professionally managed and have learned how to access large donors and grants to perform major capital projects.

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Steven Harrod
Lektor
Danmarks Tekniske Universitet
Institut for Systemer, Produktion, og Ledelse


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