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 Post subject: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Sat Dec 29, 2012 10:38 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:19 am
Posts: 5260
Location: southeastern USA
Despite the UP and NS successes, there's an overwhelming feeling that the traditional business model that supports the capitalization to restore and maintain large fast steam locomotives through excursions operated on mainline railroads is dead, based on posts to some other threads......

I'm not going to even go into the likelihood of it ever having been self sustaining. That's for another thread. Or not....

But, OK, let's say it is dead and gone, RIP, never to return. The good news is we can stop worrying about the long string of coaches now. The bad news is we can also stop worrying about a future for mainline steam in any other than mainline sponsored captive programs.

I happen to like the mainline sponsored programs, I think they are very well produced and offer a quality experience to the public and help us build interest in our passion. We haven't always done anywhere near as well left to our own devices. We lack the resources and can't compel the commitment from the shops and ops on the mainline host.

OK, so some of our toys get put in a big toybox for a while.......but might we not be better off doing what we can to support the efforts of the mainline programs and encourage their growth that try to produce programs of our own anyhow since they do it better without the limitation of arguing with themselves? Can we morph into a national program support movement that builds and encourages the mainline railroads' programs?

I think we may be overlooking the side benefit that, without the need to fund a mainline operating program that gets a minimal number of uses per year, we can then have the resources to do a better job of simpler things....like short, slow operating of smaller equipment on shortlines or our own trackage, building decent housing and display facilities.......and not building a train of mainline excursion cars to AMTRAK standards.

Yes, I'm again recommending we take a larger view and work on strategic partnerships for mutual benefit.

Ideas and discussion welcome.

dave

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Andrea Hairston


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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Sat Dec 29, 2012 11:01 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:25 pm
Posts: 1814
I'll jump in here with an idea I worked on for a Trains Turntable piece.

Steamtown has a passenger train set, adequate yard and support facilities, and a decent run to Moscow. So what is the business model for allowing a repeat of MILW 261, RBN 425 and (fill in blanks) to visit Steamtown for an extended run?

Grand Canyon has also played host to visiting big steam, and IRM has hosted Leviathan (delivered by truck). So there are other demonstration sites for consideration

Certainly a dead head move to Steamtown by connecting railroads has its issues, but but there seems to be some PR upside to allow a ferry move under controlled circumstances. Maybe Kelly or others from Ft Wayne could add some insight into what financial resources would be required from the owner/operator perspective to compensate for use of the engine on a host demonstration railway.

Wesley


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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Sat Dec 29, 2012 11:40 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
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Location: Baltimore, MD
I'm not willing to concede just yet that "mainline steam is dead." There may come a time when the youngest steamer is 250 years old and cannot be fired safely, but we're not there yet.

The reasons we don't have mainline steam (at least more widespread) in 2012/2013 are entirely artificial, not mechanical or logistical. The coach supply problem is a chicken-or-egg problem--either we don't have a trainset because we don't have employment for it, or we don't have mainline steam because we don't have coaches. The "Super Seven" systems either don't want the bother of passenger excursions (CSX), claim a lack of capacity, facilities, or equipment, or don't want competition usurping their own programs (UP, CP, NS). Simply put, the will isn't there.

It's not impossible that someone like, say, the Florida East Coast, Kansas City Southern, Metra, Amtrak, CN, or whoever could be talked into considering excursions, steam or diesel, as a valid public relations tool and outreach. We're starting to see it again with the Pullman trips out of Chicago, the NS employee trips, and the like. But there probably needs to be a constructive dialogue or "bull session" between TRAIN/ARM, AAPRRCO/etc., the FRA, potential serious operators, and the railroad industry and past players (NS, NJ Transit, American Orient Express, etc.) as to what specific concerns need to be rectified, and how. I doubt we're going to be able to do anything if the obstacle remains a liability-phobic legal department that will insist on demanding $500 million in liability insurance (and thus effectively make excursions impossible), but if we can address other concerns in a professional manner, things might happen.

There are a scant few people in this field with the "political" ability to sell the proverbial sand to the Arabs and snow to the Eskimos. We need them to convince the reluctant that this can be a good idea. In exchange, we also need to hear and address what legitimate concerns they have, be they traffic levels not conducive to slotting excursions or having been "stiffed" on bills by past operators.


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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2012 2:51 am 

Joined: Thu Nov 22, 2007 5:46 am
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Location: S.F. Bay Area
Michigan. Huge contiguous network of shortlines and regionals, including the primary passenger line, all outside the control of Class I's and some state-owned.

West Virginia, ditto.

But yes, anyone who is fixing up a steam engine that's only going to shine on the mainline... is off their nut unless they have a solid line on a route to run it on.


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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2012 3:48 am 

Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:41 am
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Location: Inwood, W.Va.
At the risk of sounding repetitive because I've said this before, I will largely concur with Mr. Mitchell on his assessments, and repeat some of my own for part of the record and the current discussion.

In addition to the things Mr. Mitchell has brought up (particularly the almost paranoid legal departments), I will add that the traditional excursion program has never been financially self-supporting, at least not since the 1960s. Even then, I would hazard a guess they were only self-supporting in the sense that the excursions of a Burlington or a Reading continued only as long as the locomotives didn't need class repairs, and as long as the shops still had men who were proficient in steam, and as long as the railroad was still in the passenger business and had idle rolling stock the steam locomotives could pull. That a Southern Railway (and Norfolk Southern), Union Pacific, and Chessie System once did such things speaks more for what the management thought about public relations than anything else.

In my opinion, there are two other important factors, one that is partially generational in nature, and one that is an unfortunate effect of our capitalist system.

The generational aspect is perhaps best illustrated by observations made by me when I was trying to promote a light rail/modern interurban alternative to a four-lane highway in my area. This proposal included the idea of a "dual purpose" transit line, one that would be both a tourist attraction and a working transit line. Part of that called for using replicas of classic high-speed interurban cars, along the lines of Cincinnati & Lake Erie Red Devils or Indiana Railroad high-speed cars. I put together a 17-page cost study on this that suggested, if done properly, the system would reduce the cost of construction by something like $60 million, largely because a two-track railroad is skinnier than a four-lane highway. I later found a number of mistakes I made, the biggest one being that I overestimated both the amount of highway mileage and the amount of railroad mileage that would have to be built (the old road that was being proposed for replacement had so much curvature that the distance to be traveled would be reduced by five miles or 10% on half of the route alone), but this didn't change anything like cost ratios--and nobody ever questioned those. Indeed, the Department of Tar--er, Transportation--actually acknowledged everything in my paper in the comments in its Environmental Impact Statement. This included multiple comments along the lines of "Rail service is certainly safe, but will not fit the transportation requirements of this area," and "Rail service is efficient, but will not fit the transportation requirements of this area." Really, there were several instances of that in the EIR, all apparently aimed at what I had to say.

About the generational aspect--when I was doing this and talking with people about this, I noticed a generational pattern. Those who liked this modern interurban proposal were, at the time, either under 40 or over 70; those who hated it were between 40 and 70. The latter even accused me of trying to take their cars away, of wanting to bring back the horse and buggy, and of trying to make the USA a Communist country. Some even seemed so angry as to almost seem threatening. A head of the state transportation department in question would later say, when he was working in another state and was speaking about a proposed light rail line across the Ohio from him in Cincinnati, that if cars had been around in the time of the Founding Fathers, that driving would have been part of the US Constitution.

An interesting thing that has since turned up (and which I was seeing during the lengthy time between the road proposal and its actual construction) is that others have made this same observation--and that everyone is now older. The group that was over 70 before is now over 90, the group that was between 40 and 70 is now between 60 and 90, and the youngest group is essentially under 60 (Gasp!! And I'm 57!!) My assessment of this is that the group over 70 and now over 90 is the last remnant of the generations that grew up prior to the Interstate highway era, and is nostalgic for how things used to be, including trains as part of the landscape, almost as much so as tap water. The younger crowd, under 40 before and under 60 now, grew up with cars as part of the landscape, and perhaps don't properly appreciate them, but are aware of their shortcomings, including environmental damage; in terms of generational labels, they are the later two-thirds of the Baby Boomers plus the Generation X and Generation Y crowd. The group in the middle, which would be primarily Depression babies, war babies, and the first third of the Baby Boomers, came of age at a time when trolleys were from Toonerville, when the big highway was the future, and when cars got bigger and faster and (for a while) even tried to look like fighter planes with high tail fins. That's important, because that is the generation that is largely still in leadership positions today--and it would have included that highway official who made those remarks about how driving should have been part of the Bill of Rights.

How does this apply here? Well, I ran into a fellow at a hobby shop in Pennsylvania who said he was a retired Western Maryland Railway officer (and this was confirmed by the hobby shop owner). I brought up this generational business to him, and he said he saw the same thing in regard to the steam program on the Chessie System and successor CSX. As I recall, he said that the management of the railroad had come in during the mid to late 1960s, by which time steam was long dead, passenger trains were dying, and the only thing that mattered was survival and money. He said these people were obsessed with money, and didn't care about public relations at all (this is essentially the bad side effect of capitalism--that the only thing, the ONLY thing that matters is money). The current management he was referring to thought things like a steam program were a waste of time money and was convinced passenger service wouldn't have any future at all. This did make sense from a perspective of 1970 or so, but considering that our horrible Amtrak has been racking up ridership gains for about 10 years now also suggests a generational shift is under way. The problem is, how many people in railroad management are aware of this?

All this was in the future when I was trying to promote a steam program myself. I was aware of the fact that the Southern/Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific programs certainly weren't self-supporting, and certainly didn't expect that a CSX would want to take a flyer on this themselves. The problem then became, how do you make big steam and Pullman heavyweights pay for themselves?

One thing that stood out was that a traditional excursion program, such as Southern's, was in many ways more like a circus than a railroad. What I mean by this is that this show comes to town, sets itself up for an engagement, and then goes on to the next town. For an excursion program, that means ferry moves for the equipment, special arrangements for coal and water, hotel and restaurant bills for a crew that is knowledgeable about steam (you don't normally want just anybody running steam), away-terminal payments for the crew, and some additional crew members who can help in the case of breakdowns of a locomotive that will be away from its shop and essentially running on last winter's repairs and a grease gun. Those who are veterans of the Southern and Union Pacific programs, and even some who are not, are aware of the heroic measures that have been needed at times to make sure those steamers would run. I would say the best documented case of this was a collapse of the dry pipe in Southern's 4501 that was written about in Trains as part of a profile on the late Bill Purdie. Management takes a look at things like that, takes a look at the money and operational hassles (threading a passenger extra between coal trains and intermodals), and says, "Why bother?"

My response--and I still think this is the only way we can support main line steam--is to take a page from the successful members of the heritage railroad business, and indeed from the definition of a railroad itself.

What I'm referring to is that a railroad has been defined as a "transportation factory." That implies mass production, doing the same thing over and over, and spreading out the fixed costs over a larger base, resulting in lower unit costs. For a railroad, that means regular operation. That's essentially what Cass, Strasburg, Durango & Silverton, Wilmington & Western, Cumbres & Toltec, and all the others do. Operationally, this "Class I tourist railroad" has a lot of advantages--no messing up intermodal and other schedules because this becomes just another scheduled movement, no fussing with fire departments or scrambling for coal because you have a traffic base that can justify a partial installation of coal and water facilities, and perhaps most important of all, you reduce stress on the machines and men alike by having both home at night, the crews in bed and the locomotive in a proper repair shop.

That leaves the question of where to run something like this. Like the real estate people say, it's about location, location, location. We know that most people won't come for just a train ride, not something like the longish trip you want if you're talking about allowing a heavy Pacific or a 4-8-4 to stretch out those legs. You need a good traffic source, like a city or at least access to an Interstate highway system at one end, and a destination at the other; possibly several potential destinations along a route are even better. My personal favorite, or at least one that I see as having potential, would be the former C&O line between Huntington, W.Va. and Clifton Forge, Va. In between those two places, on a railroad running up the New River through what has been called the Grand Canyon of the East, are what is or was West Virginia's most beautiful city (Huntington), the state capital (Charleston), several state parks (Hawks Nest, Kanawha Falls, Grandview, Pipestem--off line, but easily accessible, along with Bluestone Lake), whitewater rafting (Thurmond), and two world-class resorts (The Greenbriar at White Sulfur Springs, and the Homestead--the latter off line, but close, and once actually connected by a railroad that sadly is at least partially abandoned). No doubt readers here can think of others.

I have to admit that I failed at this. I'm not some millionaire, nor am I an excursion operator with a track record. I couldn't get anyone to back this, although the State of West Virginia actually did commission an outside study to review the idea. (I do wonder about the competency of the study outfit, which advocated for something like a conventional excursion program, but I can't claim to be a professional either, so what do I know?)

Anyway, that's what I tried to do, and what I saw. Maybe somebody here can use this.

Best of luck to you if you do!


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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2012 10:23 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:19 pm
Posts: 1607
Location: Pottstown,Pa.
Mainline steam excursions were never money makers even in the best of times. When you include all the true costs ( reserve for long term loco. maintenance, depreciation), direct and indirect above rail operation costs etc. they all lose money, some more than others.

Since the start ( 1959?) there has had to be someone willing to justify other reasons ( p.r., corporate community relations, shipper relations, etc.) for operating them to justify the investment.

In my case I gladly underwrote the net operating costs of the High Iron Company excursions ( 1966-73), the AFT ( 1975-76), Chessie Steam Special ( 1977-78), Chessie Safety Express ( 1979-81) and the Iron Horse Enterprises ( 1996-98) mainline programs because I recevied sufficient personal pleasure from them to justify, in my mind, the monetary contribution needed to see them happen.

Therefore, in todays world it comes down to a corporate policy matter and that's why who is the CEO is so critical. If the CEO believes that making the relatively minor capital investment needed to see steam run on his railroad makes sense towards furthering the overall goals of the corporation then everyone else in that railroads command structure will also see it as a good idea and it will happen. If the CEO is not on board everyone will think it's a lousy idea and it has zero chance of happening.

I think we need to be thankful that there's at least a couple of enlightened CEO's now in charge so we can enjoy seeing these magnificent machines strut their stuff, and who knows, perhaps one or two more will ascend to the top in our lifetimes??

Hope springs eternal.

Happy New Year.....Ross Rowland


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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2012 1:20 pm 

Joined: Sun Sep 12, 2004 1:41 pm
Posts: 814
Location: Bowling Green, KY
co614 wrote:
Mainline steam excursions were never money makers even in the best of times. When you include all the true costs ( reserve for long term loco. maintenance, depreciation), direct and indirect above rail operation costs etc. they all lose money, some more than others.

Since the start ( 1959?) there has had to be someone willing to justify other reasons ( p.r., corporate community relations, shipper relations, etc.) for operating them to justify the investment.

In my case I gladly underwrote the net operating costs of the High Iron Company excursions ( 1966-73), the AFT ( 1975-76), Chessie Steam Special ( 1977-78), Chessie Safety Express ( 1979-81) and the Iron Horse Enterprises ( 1996-98) mainline programs because I recevied sufficient personal pleasure from them to justify, in my mind, the monetary contribution needed to see them happen.

Therefore, in todays world it comes down to a corporate policy matter and that's why who is the CEO is so critical. If the CEO believes that making the relatively minor capital investment needed to see steam run on his railroad makes sense towards furthering the overall goals of the corporation then everyone else in that railroads command structure will also see it as a good idea and it will happen. If the CEO is not on board everyone will think it's a lousy idea and it has zero chance of happening.

I think we need to be thankful that there's at least a couple of enlightened CEO's now in charge so we can enjoy seeing these magnificent machines strut their stuff, and who knows, perhaps one or two more will ascend to the top in our lifetimes??

Hope springs eternal.

Happy New Year.....Ross Rowland


We really do need a "like" button. Well stated Ross!

Cheers, Jason


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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2012 1:44 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:19 am
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Location: southeastern USA
OK, interesting drifts.......some good points made, some good points that aren't to the point also made.....

so, back to the question: what, if anything, can we collectively do to both support the current mainline operating programs and encourage more mainline railroads to start programs of their own?

Remember, this is about what works from THEIR POV, not what we would like to see in a perfect dream world.

Ross seems to have a hold on what they want - but perhaps that "corporate goals" thing can be expanded upon or made a more concrete concept to work from.

dave

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Andrea Hairston


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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2012 1:47 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 9:54 am
Posts: 797
Location: NJ
I've going put on my old fart hat here, but point out something that seems to have been overlooked: times and tastes change. The railroads are now run by the beancounters, lawyers and actuaries. Very few of them care about history. The same goes for the public (and by extension) the media. How many people today, general public, that is, really know or care what makes a locomotive run? And the media will write about the crossing 'arms' coming down as the 'conductor' on the train blows its 'whistle'. Sad-

Tastes- I worked my way through college, and paid part of my mortgage after that, by playing trombone and euph (lots of polkas-) in a 9 piece ballroom band. We were almost guaranteed every Saturday evening, every other Wednesday evening, every other Sunday evening, plus a few other dates. Not any more; the people that did that kind of dancing are dead and buried, the ballrooms closed and even bulldozed. And a younger generation of dancers never emerged.

You also have to remember that the railfans don't support any of the tourist operations ar even those rare excursions; the general public does. And unfortunately the general public seems to prefer sitting home by the computer, playing games, instead of getting out and doing something, going somewhere. Again tastes have changed, its now all about 'instant gratification' (not my term, BTW,but I'll borrow it-).

To get back on topic, maybe now is the time to think a bit smaller, more locally. Not to take anything away from Ross and his big power, but I thought that the Mainline Steam Foundation had a good formula back in 1975 with the 148 and 972. Those two engines were like GP-9s, and could go just about anywhere, lots of out of the way places that a 759 or 614 would be too big and heavy for.

A pair of 630s, 722s, 750s or 4501s could do the same now (if you can find the appropriate coaches). The UP and NS are the exception, but going back to my first statement, none of the big roads will want to touch steam or perhaps even diesel excursions. The solution would be to cultivate some of the larger shortlines and regionals.

Then, perhaps, after a few years of safe operation, and by marketing to families, the larger roads could be approached.

Stepping off soapbox now-

EDM
Looking Back, NJ


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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2012 5:07 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:41 am
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Location: Inwood, W.Va.
This discussion is interesting in that most of the responses seem to confirm others think the way I do, although from different perspectives. Some almost random thoughts. . .

EDM's points are the most interesting, and in a way, are also the most similar to mine. I'm referring specifically to his comments about current railroad management being all lawyers and bean-counters, and to changing tastes over time. Both tie into my generational commentary.

I will be cautiously--cautiously--optimistic about the "changing of tastes." Despite the comments about young people being too much into instant gratification and texting and all that other stuff, there is also a strong faction in there that cares about their world and their neighbors. Some are into history and heritage and real technology--consider that we do have younger people here who have just turned up recently. They may need guidance and support, but they are coming.

Now, and important question might be, what about the general public's and the media's supposed lack of interest in our story? Perhaps an alternative question should be "How much of the public do we need to be interested in our history and our story to support a certain level of activity?" Put it this way--if something suddenly changed, and the level of railroad enthusiasm jumped to levels of professional sports, we would be swamped to the point of drowning! Actually that would be a good thing--but my main point is, how many people do we actually need? Can we get just that? Does it have to be that focused? OK, so most of your passengers won't know the difference between steam and diesel power, and some will make some stupid remarks about a lack of air conditioning or something, but they will want a nice train ride, perhaps a nice ride to someplace, and the last I checked, their money would look the same as the money from the hardest hard-core rail enthusiast. I wouldn't turn it down if it helped keep anything from a Shay to a 4-8-4 in coal and tubes and pin grease.

Continuing on the change in taste theme, I'm going to repeat something I've mentioned before that apparently bears repeating--we are seeing a generational change in regard to tastes in transportation. Driving today is a chore, it's no longer fun, not to mention too expensive. Younger people aren't buying cars at the rate their elders did, and they aren't driving as much as their elders did, and it's not entirely due to the economy; it's a trend that's been apparent to those who study such things for at least 10 years now. It's been the subject of a study that was summarized in an Advertising Age article some years ago; the study was reportedly underwritten by Ford Motor Company and the auto insurance industry, and supposedly the results have these businesses spooked. Interestingly, the internet and texting are seen as part of the reason for the decline in interest in cars, and part of the reason for an increase in interest in trains. Seems it's a little hard to text and drive at the same time, but if a train has wireless access, that's something you can do while in transit--along with web games and just plain work while riding. In the process, they are rediscovering how pleasant a train ride can be. I would regard them as potential customers.

I see this as coming down to basic marketing. We have a wonderful advantage, with a well run railroad, of being able to cater to several demographics. We can cater to people wanting to relax, we can cater to people with an interest in history, and we can cater to people who want a family-friendly outing (which is something that seems to be harder and harder to find these days). Depending on location, we can also cater to people with outdoor interests such as bicycling and rafting. And their money all looks the same and spends the same. . .

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

We do have something of a simulation of my "Class I tourist railroad" concept, in fact several. These are the Durango & Silverton, the Cumbres & Toltec, to a certain extent the White Pass & Yukon, and the Grand Canyon (when it was in steam). It's interesting that three of these happen to be narrow gauge, but to those who have worked around them, railroading is railroading. There isn't any difference in firing up and oiling around a Mikado, whether it's standard gauge or something else. All of these railroads are fairly long; the two Colorado roads are essentially full-length divisions, one has true terminals at both ends, and now even has a standard-gauge connection at one of them.

If they can make enough money to survive in what is essentially nowhere, shouldn't something that is somewhere do at least as well?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

For information purposes--the Advertising Age article on the decline of interest in cars:

http://adage.com/article/digital/digita ... re/144155/

Some other commentaries on this; can we somehow take advantage of this?

http://grist.org/article/fewer-and-fewe ... g-but-why/

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/arc ... s/255001/#

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/23/busin ... ed=1&_r=2&

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Not rail related, but nostalgic anyway for this crowd, and it ties in with my generational commentary.

First, a glimpse of what the highway future was supposed to look like;I get the impression trains were supposed to disappear:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8jZtwRJnRs

What we really got stuck with, made worse today by cell phones, texting, etc.:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZgiVicpZGk

No wonder younger people are interested more in transit services, if not necessarily in our old stuff. . .

Have fun, and Happy New Year.


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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2012 5:26 pm 

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To carry on with EDM's thoughts vis a vis a somewhat less ambitious but possibly more productive model, let's think for a bit about what the preservation movement in Great Britain has wrought. Leaving aside red or green or maroon or brown locomotives, peanut whistles, no headlights and all the other things American railfans seem to hate about British steam power, they manage to get it out on the main line with amazing frequency. And once they do, they seem to run the wheels off the things, often at 75 mph or better.

I admittedly haven't been over there since 1980, but even back then, there were a couple of operations that made me sit up and take notice, and those might be the model that could work here. For instance, during the peak summer months, a regular steam-hauled service between York (on the main north-south main line) and Scarborough (seaside summer resort) operated two or three days a week, down to the beach in the morning and back in the afternoon. What about a similar service between Philadelphia 30th Street and Atlantic City? Or maybe between Richmond and Norfolk?

A similar train runs between London and Canterbury and London and Salisbury, a day trip that includes visits to amazing cathedrals and castles. With the sesquecentennial of the Civil War upon us, how about train from Washington Union Station to Antietam or Gettysburg or Appomattox Court House?

None of these trips require a 12-hour marathon, and they might not be exactly what we railfans would want to ride, but it would be a start. There are a number of Pacifics that could be readily employed on these trains, and certainly a 10-car train of compatible equipment could be rounded up. Borrow that streamlined coach that was modified with wire across the window openings for Ross Rowland's Port Jervis trains for the cinder catcher brigade and work out a deal with the Erie-lackawanna dining car folks for food service cars. The rest of the train could be air-conditioned for the tourists.

Obviously, these are all northeastern US examples because that's where I live. (It's also where much of the population lives, too.) But I know there are other places in the country where a similar model could work. We know it works -- just look at the Grand canyon RR or the Durango & Silverton. Out and back in the same day, no sweat, no fuss, no bother.

The real ideal is to find a triangular or circular route where it isn't necessary to turn the engine and/or train, since turntables and wyes are endangered species.


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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2012 6:27 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:41 am
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Location: Inwood, W.Va.
Thanks, G. W., that's thinking like me--and as you noted, we have examples that work.

The big problem is that this would still require cooperation from a Class I or perhaps a transit agency, as Ross Rowland did in New Jersey. As Ross suggested, we need enlightened management somewhere for this to work or else some really rich rail enthusiast has to be able to take the place of, say, Warren Buffett, and own the whole Class I or large regional, and hope it's in the right place!


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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2012 9:41 pm 

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Posts: 635
I'm all for it, and I think the genesis is first we need a willing railroad, in a place which has the potential to draw riders who not only come for the train, but for where the train operates. Motive power and coaches are the easy part. I can think of several examples of where this concept could work....


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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2012 2:46 am 

Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 8:47 pm
Posts: 475
The gist I'm getting from all the responses is that, in order for mainline steam to once again work, the steam in question needs to go back to what it was made to do. I personally feel the days of grandiose steam excursions are gone, but to have steam once again serve a function other than the tap which turns on the foam would work out. This isn't a new idea either; in the infamous study "A Failed Mission: Steamtown National Historic Site," the author, Donald Pevsner, mentions the fact that the direct link between Steamtown and the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area has never been exploited by either group, despite the several million people that visit the Gap each year (that whole study is an interesting read, if anyone is looking for such: http://www.concorde-spirit-tours.com/steamtown.htm).

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Mark Z. Yerkes
Amateur Rail Historian


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 Post subject: Re: Mainline Excusion model defunct?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2012 7:29 am 

Joined: Wed Oct 22, 2008 8:18 pm
Posts: 2095
ooh blame the diesel, or we wouldnt have this conversation.... 8-D

Some of the eastern states have signed a consortium of resolutions to improve railroad education and awareness, that might have been part of the NS's motivation to return to steam, hope Chessie follows suit.

Finding purpose to use steam on a practical level is a good thing, part of the issue of mainline is increased traffic and abandoned lines that funnel existing traffic thru thickening the traffic.

I guess as long as we have Thomas the Tank engine.....


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