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 Post subject: Re: The Edge of History
PostPosted: Sun Nov 19, 2017 10:04 am 
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On the internet, it just takes an instant, or a wrong keystroke, to erase what you are reading.

Some of the infatuation with the internet has now diminished, but it certainly has had a major effect on the railroad history and preservation fields, both positive and negative. It has provided a display point to share information with the entire world, it has given us the ability to reach out and locate documents, manuals, and artifacts. And maybe most important, it has provided a new means to quickly communicate with retirees from railroads and equipment builders. All the “common” manuals you can find on eBay are never as good a reference as a set of the company’s management conference notes from a retiree. There is no "interpretation" as good as the information the Engineering Department presented to the Sales Department explaining why they were doing what they did.

The internet has its disadvantages. It is a “free theft” zone where anything and everything that is posted can be stolen, including the credit for doing the work. Incorrect information lives on forever with little chance of being totally corrected. Information that is incorrect or stolen gets posted right next to information that is accurate and properly presented. And if the treasurer of your organization fails to pay the bill for the domain, somebody in another country will eagerly grab it and ransom it back to you.

The internet has in some respects helped, but it also has undermined, the established historical groups and the print publication industries. Let’s look at the last 25 years. In 1992, US population was 256 million people, in 2017, it is 325 million. In the same time span, membership in some of the largest railroad historical groups has declined significantly. How many members does your organization REALLY have now? Forget the number “for show” on the website, which is probably years old, take a look at the treasurers report or the IRS 990 and divide the income from dues by the cost of membership. Some of the decline is due to changing interests, but a lot is due to people wanting stuff and entertainment handed to them for “free”, a service now provided by the internet.

How about the market for print books, the far more “permanent” archive of railroad history? The print run for popular railroad books back in the 1990s could approach 5000 copies. Now a print run of 1200 is “large”. That is a 75% drop in 25 years. That decline happened in a period when the total US population grew, and much of the decline was due to competition from the internet
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How many people are still interested in this "stuff"? Well, if you follow the bidding in eBay auctions, which can be a pretty good indicator, you will notice that many auctions for “railroad paper” are now ending with just one bid, or no bids at all. Sellers who select high prices for “Buy-it-Now” are having their auctions run long times without a buyer.

The hobby and the market seem to be in decline. It is ominous – and the preservation community needs to take notice and prepare, before they find themselves on the edge of history.

PC

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 Post subject: Re: The Edge of History
PostPosted: Sun Nov 19, 2017 10:25 am 

Joined: Mon May 24, 2010 10:22 am
Posts: 431
Quote:
How about the market for print books, the far more “permanent” archive of railroad history? The print run for popular railroad books back in the 1990s could approach 5000 copies. Now a print run of 1200 is “large”. That is a 75% drop in 25 years. That decline happened in a period when the total US population grew, and much of the decline was due to competition from the internet


In this case I disagree, the print runs may be shorter, but the number of Titles has exploded, the cost of producing books has dropped to the point that you can make money at 1000 copies.

- Hudson


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 Post subject: Re: The Edge of History
PostPosted: Mon Nov 20, 2017 4:32 pm 

Joined: Fri Nov 16, 2007 10:21 pm
Posts: 73
PCook wrote:
A recent flurry of inquiries from individuals who want to contact and talk with people who worked in the industry in the 1930s through 1950s leads me to this posting, some of which I stated before in a discussion of the EMD F40PH locomotives.

PC



I want to know more about this discussion on the F40's....

Eric


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 Post subject: Re: The Edge of History
PostPosted: Mon Nov 20, 2017 8:19 pm 
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Previous F40PH discussion:

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=40876&p=263545&hilit=F40PH#p263545

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 Post subject: Re: The Edge of History
PostPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2017 12:18 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:18 am
Posts: 111
Location: B'more MD
This has been an interesting discussion, perhaps made a bit more interesting because I am personally acquainted with a couple of the folks making posts. Preston's original comment about oral histories especially rang home, as I was at a meeting of regional Nickel Plate rail fans in suburban Baltimore/Washington DC, a few months ago, when two of the attendees spontaneously began talking about participating as part Ross Rowland's crew who worked to originally return the NKP 759 to service, back in 1968, at the former NKP Conneaut (OH) roundhouse, as well as the early runs up through it's breakdown on a trip over the Western Maryland Ry.

What a wonderful back-and-forth discussion it was, between two guys who were there, almost 50 years ago. There was a lot "Do you remember when", and "Yes, this is what happened". I was privileged to even be able to interject a question or two during the discussion from my memories of the time, as a distant but interested NKP fan/observer, from Cleveland area. It all seemed particularly relevant, as even while this discussion was happening, the good folks from the Mad River and NKP Museum, in Bellevue (OH) were an hour or two up the road in Strasburg (PA) working on preparing the NKP 757, for it's move, next year, to their Museum.

Why the relevancy? Included was the story of the crew driving to Strasburg (PA) and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, after the Western Maryland breakdown, to "borrow" parts from the on-display NKP 757 to return the NKP 759 to service. A number of years ago, I had heard Doyle's description of the trip, and here were two other participants telling the same story, from their points of view.

I wish we had the foresight to have a tape recorder or a video camera or even a cell-phone recorder going, but the discussion just spontaneously happened and none of us thought to start a recording. The best I can say is, wait until our next get together, we will have those resources, at the ready Happily, both of those guys, have indicated they would sit down with the Bellevue folks to tell what they remember.

G.F.Payne
B'more, MD

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George F.Payne
Baltimore, MD


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 Post subject: Re: The Edge of History
PostPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2017 1:47 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8393
Location: Baltimore, MD
Quote:
I just opened up a book published 94 years ago. It recalls the opening notice of the Stockton & Darlington Railway Company. The notice of the opening is dated September 19, 1825. Using daylight, it required no electricity to read the book contents.

What’s the likelihood this very conversation in this thread will be around… say, 50 years from now?

This real question has to be extrapolated against another aspect: accessibility.

You had the opportunity to find, hold, and open that book published in 1923(?). You either were in the right place at the right time, or had to go seek it out. Did you go looking for it specifically for that information, or did you just blunder into it? If I went looking for that specific book and its information, am I going to find it on some publicly-accessible library shelf? Or will I have to hunt down a private archive and travel there, or buy a copy? Or pay some archive to look it up, copy it, and send it to me so I can see if it's even relevant to my needs?

Online content suffers from the uncertain future of the content, but also the vastly superior capability of the information to be shared and personally preserved. We've seen examples of this in personal collections we have had donated that include printouts of sometimes embryonic, ancient (by modern standards) web pages printed out to be preserved by self-appointed historians. Similarly, I have friends scouring online photo sites and saving relevant images posted to railroad photo sites, because we all know that it simply takes some unplanned death, merger, or noxious threat of litigation to wipe out the whole thing.

Factor in such projects as Google Books, Archive.org, and Project Gutenberg, and the situation is less dire and/or dependent upon a friendly landlord, custodian or philanthropist than we might make it out to be.

As for hard-copy libraries, two of the largest railroad history libraries in the United States--the Kalmbach Library of the National Model Railroad Association, and the library of the National Railway Historical Society--have been shut down to public access, and as I type are in the process of being merged with other archives (California State RR Museum in the case of the NMRA, and T.B.A. for the NRHS). Among the problems are the costs for shipping a couple tractor-trailer loads of materials more than halfway across the country, and their storage and the manpower for cataloging and placement. What are the odds that someone will still be willing to pay those costs, say, fifty years from now?


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 Post subject: Re: The Edge of History
PostPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2017 3:22 pm 

Joined: Mon May 24, 2010 10:22 am
Posts: 431
As someone who has done a few 100,000 scans, that's the easy part.

It's the curating, sorting, indexing, data entry, and storage that take the man power.

-Hudson

Old joke: What's faster then fiber optics?

A station wagon full of hard drives.


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 Post subject: Re: The Edge of History
PostPosted: Sat Nov 25, 2017 6:31 pm 
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HudsonL wrote:
As someone who has done a few 100,000 scans, that's the easy part.

It's the curating, sorting, indexing, data entry, and storage that take the man power.


This is an area where a lot of us have fallen down, and particularly with age, and as the collection grew. I can still remember when I used to have all the slide labeling up to date, descriptive printouts in sleeves on the inside of the 16mm film cans, and the paper collection neatly in file cabinets with folders and tabs. But it was a long time ago. Then came electronic images, and it was lucky if I had the time to put them in folders with the date and location. The paper collection outgrew the file cabinets, and as it did, the labeling and indexing did not keep up.

Then came age, work and travel, and other hobbies. The electronic images and the PDF scans still get sorted into labeled and dated folders once in a while, the paper collection and slides are long since out of control, and the 16mm is still up to date only because I haven't shot any in a couple decades.

PC

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 Post subject: Re: The Edge of History
PostPosted: Sat Nov 25, 2017 7:11 pm 

Joined: Sun Apr 02, 2017 3:13 am
Posts: 11
HudsonL wrote:
Old joke: What's faster then fiber optics?

A station wagon full of hard drives.


I'm old enough to remember when it was "Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes"


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