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 Post subject: Thoughts on Railfans (a dirty word)
PostPosted: Fri Jul 12, 2013 12:14 pm 
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Location: Henderson Nevada
I pulled the following (From “Dave”) from the Baldwin 26 - B&M 3713 thread… It is too important a statement to be left and lost within that larger thread.

Quote:
I don't really want to turn them into railfans; railfans are the problem, not the solution. Until railfans start to measure by the yardstick of the general public instead of their own they aren't worth the trouble of pleasing.


I believe he has identified the core issue we fight about on this and other boards... too many of us view the world as railfans, not as preservationist or museum proffesionals (paid or not) or from a customer service prospective...

Randy

PS I think he is correct... and that we should treat this as a "great truth"

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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Railfans (a dirty word)
PostPosted: Fri Jul 12, 2013 12:29 pm 
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Location: San Diego, Ca
Meh, maybe to a small degree.

One has to sometimes take a step back and remove thy "Railfan" cape and look at things from the perspective of a regular customer and family.

Ever see the TV show "Bar Rescue" with John Taffer?

Maybe it's cheesy for me to bring up a TV show in regard to this topic, but there's a reason why he is an expert in his field.

Getting customers into a location, keeping them there, and getting them to spend money is key for businesses.

Why should tourist railroading be any different?

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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Railfans (a dirty word)
PostPosted: Fri Jul 12, 2013 1:01 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 12:08 pm
Posts: 254
Location: Western Railroad Museum - Rio Vista
Very very true.

At most museums railfans are less that 10% of the visitors. This definition includes foamers with clothes full of railroad badges and patches. But it also includes men who played with Lionel trains as a kid and have always thought trains were neat. My personal guess is that railfans are well under 5% of most railroad museum visitors today. However they sometimes spend money at the museum shop.

If a museum is intended for the general public, railfans can be a drawback for most of the visitors. Sometimes railfans expound loudly at great length often with misinformation. Or they ask about esoteric subjects that totally bore 95% of visitors when docents ask for questions.

If a musem is intended only for railroad enthusiasts, then railfans should be welcomed. However most museum desperately need income from general public visitors.

The big shortcoming of many rail museums is that members do not look at the musem the same way as do visitors. The museum has never made any marketing studies to determine how to make the museum appealing to the general public. The museum has no idea how to advertise or promote the museum. The museum management does not have a person who is an advocate for the public.


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Railfans (a dirty word)
PostPosted: Fri Jul 12, 2013 1:04 pm 

Joined: Fri Dec 03, 2004 9:42 pm
Posts: 2423
Jeff Lisowski wrote:
Getting customers into a location, keeping them there, and getting them to spend money is key for businesses.

Why should tourist railroading be any different?


Tourist railroading shouldn't be any different. Then again, what is your primary goal? Is it a for-profit business? Or is it "Railway Preservation". They don't have to be mutually exclusive, but they often are.

Keep in mind, the terms "Tourist Railway/Excursion Railway" "Railroad Museum" "Historical Society" and "Heritage Railway" all have different, though sometimes overlapping meanings.

As an example, both Disneyland/World and Colonial Williamsburg use historical themes as part of the guest experience. But they certainly don't do it in the same manner, and one of them is far more forgiving of historical inaccuracies than the other.


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Railfans (a dirty word)
PostPosted: Fri Jul 12, 2013 1:09 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 11:54 pm
Posts: 1709
... too many of us view the world as railfans, not as preservationist or museum proffesionals (paid or not)

No, no, no. The point was to view the operation from the view of the general public, not from the view of any closed society. Whatever the social deficits of the "railfan", this board has hosted the opinions of the "museum professionals", who asserted, inter alia that plenary organizational power be vested in an executive director with no BOD oversight, that operating locomotives was doing "violence" to the "artifact" and who keep asserting that tax exemption requires little or no corporate earnings, so if you have any quick find something to spend it on.

Sorry, but the "museum professional" ranks are often filled with contentious and pharistical types, who practice a strange form of idolatry, you know, like raifans, but with degrees in Museum Studies.


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Railfans (a dirty word)
PostPosted: Fri Jul 12, 2013 1:33 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:19 am
Posts: 5233
Location: southeastern USA
OK, thanks Randy for taking this seriously.....it was meant that way. I'm tired of watching us be our own worst enemies.

First and foremost, we're in the entertainment industry whether we are a theme park, tourist railroad or museum. The differences are how we entertain. Museums entertain by honestly recreating an earlier reality and representing it, kind of like stealth education. Theme parks provide a multitude of attractions aligned on a common concept, even if just a cosmetic overlay. Tourist railroads have a narrower focus of attributes, usually some combination of scenery and nostalgic hardware in operation.

So, think like theatrical producers, not like museum professionals or railfans, then hire the museum professionals if you are a museum as you need them to keep your standards and practices honestly appropriate for a museum. History isn't boring, and if we make it seem boring we've already failed.

dave

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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Railfans (a dirty word)
PostPosted: Fri Jul 12, 2013 3:24 pm 

Joined: Wed Aug 25, 2004 6:27 am
Posts: 139
For what it is worth, we at Strasburg try very hard to make our railroad a worthwhile place for as broad an audience as possible, yet still conduct ourselves as responsibly as possible in the preservation arena.

You can't please everyone all the time, but you can try to please most of the people most of the time. The earlier reference to Disney and Williamsburg is quite good. Very different approaches by two top notch organizations.

For little operations like ours, survival is a matter of compromise. Nothing gets done as well as we would like, everything gets done the best we can with the resources at hand, and continuous evaluation leads to prioritization on those things that promise the greatest benefit to the long term success of the railroad. All of this is done within the framework of maintaining a reasonable facsimile of an early 20th century railroad.

Railfans are people and it has been my observation that the vast majority of them are no different than anyone else. Probably a far less percentage of railfans with weird outfits will be found than you will find football fans in any given stadium with painted faces, foam fingers, and unintelligible signage. Of course, that makes me wish there were as many railfans as there are football fans. It would be great for railroad preservation.

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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Railfans (a dirty word)
PostPosted: Fri Jul 12, 2013 3:40 pm 

Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 2:22 pm
Posts: 1209
When people start classifying behavior into groups such as the group called "railfans," I think we need a working definition of what a railfan is. What is the definition of railfan?


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Railfans (a dirty word)
PostPosted: Fri Jul 12, 2013 4:13 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 26, 2010 11:28 am
Posts: 124
The definition of railfan probably has several variations.

I am going to give my personal variation and then the variation of how my friends/family often see it. Maybe the right definition is somewhere between.

Railfan (#1) - an individual who is interested in railroads, railroad lore, railroad equipment, railroad operation and/or restoration, railroad history and the impact that railroads have had on our country as a whole, a specific regional geographic location, a state, or just their hometown rail line.

Railfan (#2) - an individual that is un-kept, overweight, railroad know-it-all, in many cases obnoxious photographer, owner of a "Way-Back Machine", opinionated about how all railroads, railroad museums, and railroad operations should be done, financial non-contributor, and socially/fashionably dysfunctional.

I am sure there are other variations.


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Railfans (a dirty word)
PostPosted: Fri Jul 12, 2013 4:39 pm 

Joined: Mon May 24, 2010 10:22 am
Posts: 422
(2a) Always whining that all the equipment is not running, especially the steam engines, needs a complete schedule of the excursion so he can chase, can carry on for hours about the pinstripe being 1/2 inch high on the recent restoration, wants all the Historical Societies photos online (he is not a member of any), tells everybody LOUDLY that if he was running the railroad, he would do it better, etc. etc.

-Hudson


Last edited by HudsonL on Fri Jul 12, 2013 5:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Railfans (a dirty word)
PostPosted: Fri Jul 12, 2013 4:49 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 26, 2010 11:28 am
Posts: 124
Hudson,

Sorry for leaving off (#2a) - thank you for completing that variation. My sides are splitting wide open right now from laughing!

There are no points for historical/hysterical mistakes on paint jobs and pin stripes.

:)


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Railfans (a dirty word)
PostPosted: Fri Jul 12, 2013 5:09 pm 

Joined: Sat Jul 16, 2011 10:56 am
Posts: 28
These are my thoughts. You asked so here it is.

I’ve noticed that this board seems to take jabs at Railfans and brings up the topic more often than any other board. Everyone has their opinion on this and that’s fine however, the topic never seems to die here.

There are two types of Railfans; those who admit it and those who don’t. Few of us want to admit it because it’s considered a dirty word these days. Why do I say this? For myself and many others if you have more than a passing interest in trains you’re a Railfan. It does not matter if you are into preservation, working for the railroads, rail photography, modeling, historian, or just someone who can’t get enough of riding trains, you are a Railfan. To me it’s not a dirty word but a word that best describes our passion for all things railroading.

I know many Railfans who are respectable, knowledgeable, and contribute to the preservation side with their dollars if not their time. Some of them are overweight. Well guess what half of Americans are. Some of them wear funny cloths and if they made foam fingers for their favorite railroad they wouldn’t hesitate to get one and walk around with it. Well so do the sports junkies. Some go bananas when they see their favorite locomotive coming down the track. Well some folks go bananas when they meet their favorite race car driver?

Well so what? Why does this bother the snobs in our hobby, interest, or whatever you want to call it? Why do some look at these folks and automatically assume they are not interested in preservation, the survival of a museum, or supporting these institutions with their dollars just because they carry a camera or have opinions?

In my experience I have found that the snobs are the ones who won’t open their wallets in support because they don’t like something that such and such organization did or a person working for that organization. And more of these snobs than you think work on the preservation side too. For me the snobs are a problem not the guy with the two dozen patches on this shirt.

There are too many snobs out there and we should call them what they are; snobs rather than Railfans. Hey how about Railsnobs? Gee I just invented a new term. :)

Railfans have been blamed many times for just about everything and it will continue so I just don’t see the point in revisiting this dead argument.

And finally what’s with this 10% or less of our visitors/support are Railfans? How does anyone know this? I have yet to visit a place where they ask for research purposes if you are a Railfan or not? I wear just normal cloths so would I be considered just an average Joe walking into a rail museum or a Railfan? Until someone produces hard proof to support this number its guesswork so why state such a number? Answer, because some love to put Railfans into this class of people who only care for themselves yet I have run across many in the preservation world who are the same way and think they know better than everyone else.

The point here? There are bad apples on both sides so there is no point in generalizing, grouping, or taking jabs at one another. Most of us are respectable and do care.

Pennsy Power - AKA the evil and dirty Railfan, foamer, nutjob or whatever folks want to call me is fine.


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Railfans (a dirty word)
PostPosted: Fri Jul 12, 2013 5:16 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 8:10 am
Posts: 2329
I respectfully submit that this thread (not the topic, but the venom within) is not becoming of RYPN. I get Dave's point loud and clear, but this thread is tantamount to putting out a welcome mat for the worthless whining and vitrol of the "fake name" contingent.

RYPN is better than this.

Rob


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Railfans (a dirty word)
PostPosted: Fri Jul 12, 2013 5:17 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 10:24 am
Posts: 44
Location: Livermore, CA
The issue always has been and always will be competition for the disposable income in your market. Your organization needs to come to that conclusion no matter if you are a depot museum or an operational one. The competition isn't another rail operation, it is the local McDonalds. Anywhere cash is spent takes that possible revenue away.

Railfans are always going to be the minority of your visitors. As for your members, I have seen behaviors in all kinds of interest groups that prove that railfans do not have a monopoly on strange actions. Face it folks, people are people and some don't do well with others.

The best you can hope for is a happy medium, all around.

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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Railfans (a dirty word)
PostPosted: Fri Jul 12, 2013 5:34 pm 

Joined: Sat Apr 01, 2006 5:19 pm
Posts: 387
Location: Bowie, MD
Bobharbison wrote:
Tourist railroading shouldn't be any different. Then again, what is your primary goal? Is it a for-profit business? Or is it "Railway Preservation". They don't have to be mutually exclusive, but they often are.



What is amazing about the Strasburg is how well they balance these two, often, completing things.

Bob


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