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 Post subject: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2021 1:12 am 

Joined: Tue Jun 01, 2021 6:40 pm
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I often hear stories about things going wrong, but details of HOW it went wrong vary.

What happened that made it such a big disaster?


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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2021 1:51 am 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 8:44 am
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Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
If you have a Trainorders subscription there's a thread about it here.

https://www.trainorders.com/discussion/ ... 11,1897300

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David Wilkinson
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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2021 6:42 am 

Joined: Thu Sep 22, 2011 4:29 pm
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Location: Youngstown, OH
A subscription is not needed to read the first page of a TO thread.

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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2021 8:20 am 

Joined: Tue Jun 01, 2021 6:40 pm
Posts: 19
Wasn't there also stuff involving biting off more than they could chew?


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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2021 8:29 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:19 pm
Posts: 2176
Location: Sackets Harbor, NY
Bottom line is that it was " organized " by a committee from the Tri-State NRHS chapter who were well meaning but incapable.

The entire event was filled with poorly executed events that left lots of people angry.

The 765 group took part of the blame when the poorly planed steam excursions ran very late, ran out of food & water, a/c failures etc.

In a word, a disaster.

When we approached NJT in 1995 with the concept of running a series of 614 powered excursions to help promote the creation of a NJ Transportation Museum the senior leadership in the operating department issued a " over our dead bodies" ultimatum because of the horrendous 1988 fiasco.

Fortunately we had the backing of the governor ( a closet foamer) and were able to over rule the operating guys.

When the first series of 614 excursions ran sold out ( 1200 coach, 100 1st.class) and arrived back in Hoboken either on the advertised or early we were able to convert the railroad operating guys from " never againers" into " believers".

Ross Rowland


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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2021 9:53 am 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 11:07 am
Posts: 621
TheDukeofDank wrote:
I often hear stories about things going wrong, but details of HOW it went wrong vary.

What happened that made it such a big disaster?


Why are you bringing up something that happened over 3 decades ago ????

and have you tried doing a Google search on something like "1988 NRHS convention"

Bob H


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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2021 10:23 am 

Joined: Wed Jan 19, 2011 7:48 am
Posts: 37
Ross, I remember very well the time when, in the mid-1990s, your proposal was in circulation at Conrail and NJT to run what became a series of excursions between Hoboken and Port Jervis. At the time, I was responsible for CR's Operating Contracts, including NJT's use of CR's Southern Tier Line between Suffern and Port Jervis.

At that time, there were a number of associates in senior operating management at CR with well founded doubts that predictably would elicit a "no" response to such an inquiry.

Your plan was sufficient to approve for CR's part, once NJT became willing to allow you to effectively "stand in their shoes" with respect to liability and related indemnity. We had a good working relationship with NJT and Bill Herkner in particular, and were confident those excursions with 614 would be well managed with no ill effect upon CR's service or other interests.

In those days, we were able to permit other steam powered movements on parts of our system under the strict proviso of "non-interference" with CR's own service, and with such movements standing "in Amtrak's shoes" with respect to liability and related indemnities.

I first met you in 1967 on an excursion over the CNJ to Jim Thorpe and have since held you in high regard for the planning and execution.

You have my warm best wishes.

R. Paul Carey
Reedville, VA


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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2021 11:06 am 

Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2018 9:02 am
Posts: 19
Heavenrich wrote:
Why are you bringing up something that happened over 3 decades ago ????


With your logic in place, does this mean discussions about anything not contemporary shouldn’t be brought up? Even those pertaining to past restorations and/or operations? Because all of that happened XYZ years ago.


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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2021 12:40 pm 

Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 4:22 pm
Posts: 401
Knowing what went wrong can be a great help in getting things to go right. Even when an event is in the (relatively) distant past, it may be instructive. The bigger the event, the more detailed and redundant planning needs to be. 1988 sounds like a case of rosy optimism that nothing would go wrong, when nearly everything did.

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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2021 3:20 pm 

Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2012 4:49 pm
Posts: 227
Location: Los Altos, CA
I lived in Noo Yawk in the late 1980s and remember this ill-fated convention like it was yesterday. Bottom line, Tri-State tried to out-do the enormously successful 1987 Roanoke convention and failed miserably. I remember the infamous "Readingburg" trip was a miserable experience.

If you have access to magazine back issues, Passenger Train Journal and Railpace had good coverage of the event. If you want to read more, I'd recommend finding copies of those two magazines.


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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2021 5:03 pm 

Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2004 10:28 pm
Posts: 278
psa188 wrote:
If you have access to magazine back issues, Passenger Train Journal and Railpace had good coverage of the event. If you want to read more, I'd recommend finding copies of those two magazines.


There was a good article by Jim Boyd in Railfan & Railroad also. Overly ambitious planning (2-3 events on the same day), then massive cancellations of trips just before convention-time trying to cut it back to a manageable level. That just created a huge mess when it came time to run it.

The lesson is to have people around who are competent in dealing with the complexities of a big event so you simply don't bite off more than you can chew, and keep your expectations reasonable as to what you can actually pull off with the group you have. If things start going pear-shaped, you can end up with a cascading domino effect, which is what happened here.


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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2021 6:12 pm 

Joined: Fri Sep 20, 2013 2:34 pm
Posts: 164
I am re-posting my post from Trainorders. I think it sums up the convention fairly well:

Half of the attendees never got their tickets - trips canceled at the last minute. Because a number of trips were cancelled the schedule was juggled causing people to have the schedules changed (with no advance notice) and conflicts where they didn't get back from one event in time to get on the next. At one point on the day before the official activities started there were several hundred people in line in the hotel with trip problems that led to a near riot (the A/C was not keeping up and it must have been near 100 degrees in the hallway. Every trip ran late. Every trip had 2 times the number of 1st class passengers as there were 1st class seats - there were some rather ugly "downgrades" executed. The Reading Circle trip featured the infamous "Pennsylvania Dutch Lunch" (served around 4pm) that shows how desperate people will eat anything (did I mention 20 seats for 300 people?). The trip on the NYS&W featured a grade crossing collision with a Euclid truck that bashed in the front of the weeks old B40-8. Cars running out of water. The speaker at the banquet mumbled a few words for about 2 minutes and then walked away. And the grand finale was the "Readingburg" trip, so named because it was so late the decision was made to cancel the trip at Reading rather than go to Harrisburg as advertised and turn back to N.J. Problem was that about 20 people were counting on getting to Harrisburg to connect to the westbound Broadway Limited (as had been promoted ahead of time). After an initial "we reserve the right to alter equipment and destinations" someone came forward and paid for a bunch of taxi cabs to take those unfortunate souls on to Harrisburg.

There were several "dreamers" who were running the convention. They are all gone now (deceased) and the Tri-State Chapter has long since recovered from a disaster that nearly destroyed it.


In fairness, there were several events that went off well. The trip from Bound Brook up the River Line (West Shore) to Selkirk Yard pulled by Morristown & Erie Alcos went off well. The second NYS&W trip without a grade crossing incident also went well, except it was held up for a considerable length of time at Saddle Brook, unable to cross the outbound NJ Transit traffic and causing people who were ticketed for that night's harbor cruise to miss it. Some of the short line trips - Morristown & Erie and Winchester & Western were very worthwhile.

The funniest (to me) activity was the bus trip to follow the route of the NYO&W. When several people on the bus realized that there was no NYO&W (abandoned 31 years before the convention) and only a trip to see the right of way, they got off the bus and demanded a refund!


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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2021 7:20 pm 

Joined: Thu Sep 22, 2011 4:29 pm
Posts: 1652
Location: Youngstown, OH
Heavenrich wrote:

Why are you bringing up something that happened over 3 decades ago ????

Bob H


The entire purpose of rail preservation and history is to bring up things that happened in the past so that we can learn from those events. The ENTIRE PURPOSE.

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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2021 7:25 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:19 pm
Posts: 2176
Location: Sackets Harbor, NY
In short an unmitigated disaster which sadly left a stink behind that lasted for years in the minds of the operating men on the railroads affected by the steam trips from hell.

If there's a silver lining at least it convinced following NRHS Convention sponsors to not repeat this disaster.

Ross Rowland


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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2021 7:36 pm 

Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2012 4:49 pm
Posts: 227
Location: Los Altos, CA
diningcartim wrote:
The second NYS&W trip without a grade crossing incident also went well, except it was held up for a considerable length of time at Saddle Brook, unable to cross the outbound NJ Transit traffic and causing people who were ticketed for that night's harbor cruise to miss it.

The funniest (to me) activity was the bus trip to follow the route of the NYO&W. When several people on the bus realized that there was no NYO&W (abandoned 31 years before the convention) and only a trip to see the right of way, they got off the bus and demanded a refund!


My recollection of the NYS&W trips was that the fist trip was OK (except for possible delays I do not remember since I didn't book the cruise) and it was the second trip that hit the truck. Had it been the other way around, I suspect that the second trip would have been cancelled account lack of motive power.

As for the stupidity of the NYO&W pax, there is no cure for stupid.


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