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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Sun Jul 25, 2021 2:46 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
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Location: Somewhere east of Prescott, AZ along the old Santa Fe "Prescott & Eastern"
Ed Kapuscinski wrote:
Why did those organizations need to reorganize outside the NRHS?

I cannot speak directly for any of them, but:

Of the ones I saw that at least ran the idea up the flagpole, there was no actual NEED to incorporate separately. They could have just changed the name to drop "Chapter--National" and just become the "West Pennsyltucky Railway Historical Society" or the like.

In fact, a few current and former Chapters have something like that as their formal title, chartered as such under state or commonwealth law.

There were, and probably still are, Chapters that accomplish(ed) good things whether or not there was any NRHS affiliation. And if National NRHS affiliation is openly seen as pointless and unnecessary by the membership of said Chapters, why bother?

As another "Convention gone not as planned" story:

There was one interesting point of contention that erupted years ago between the National NRHS and the Baltimore Chapter. The B&O Railroad Museum had announced the Fair of the Iron Horse for 2004 to mark the 175th anniversary of the B&O and "U.S. railroading," and the National NRHS wanted the Baltimore Chapter to be the host.

After much discussion and debate, the Chapter BOD openly recognized four things:
1) It was their impression, as locals with a lot of overlap in membership with the Museum (as it turned out, accurately so), that the B&O Museum was effectively planning and promoting far more than it would be able to deliver;
2) its membership was aging, and had not been able to coordinate a mainline excursion since 1986;
3) the major railroad operators in the Baltimore region--CSX, Amtrak, NS, and MARC--were particularly unwelcoming to excursions at that point;
4) organizing a "big convention" in the 21st century surrounded with unenthusiastic railroad partners and no available pool of equipment was a financial risk the Chapter was unwilling to assume.

With that, the Baltimore Chapter declined to officially "host" the National Convention, but would be willing to assist the National NRHS were it to take a lead. The National then garnered the nearby Washington DC Chapter--which runs the private car Dover Harbor--to officially "host" the Convention in Baltimore, and functionally "snubbed" the Baltimore chapter from further participation. (There was a minor overlap in membership between the Chapters, however.)

Then, bad luck struck the Museum with the collapse of the roof of its roundhouse in February 2003, which conveniently afforded it a valid excuse to cancel the planned Fair of the Iron Horse the next year--robbing the Convention of its major attraction and seriously impacting attendance/participation.
The only mainline trip of that Convention was a run from Baltimore up to the Port Road, and north to Harrisburg, looping through Enola and over Rockville Bridge before returning--a trip with only one stop, Amfleet, Levin's PRR E8s, and I think exactly one photo op, if even that. No runbys, not even any open vestibule windows or Dutch Doors. The fact that I remember little of it except inking in the "rare mileage" in my atlas afterwards says it all. (I ended up not registering for the Convention, and secured my ticket from an attendee who had to leave early for an emergency--and as I was calling the number on the card offering the extra ticket on the convention bulletin board in the lobby, a Convention staffer swiftly removed the card seconds later so as not to let anyone buy a ticket through unofficial channels, not knowing I had just called.... that did not endear them to either me, or the seller when he heard about it....)


Last edited by Alexander D. Mitchell IV on Mon Jul 26, 2021 3:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Sun Jul 25, 2021 10:53 am 

Joined: Fri Dec 22, 2017 6:47 pm
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Location: Philadelphia, PA
We ewre hosting a Winter Gathering of railway museums in Scranton, but at the last minute NEPA got a foot of snow, capped with ice. We didn't have a working sweeper yet so we couldn't run the cars over the line.

We held the event anyway. We could get the cars out the doors of the carbarn and show our work inside. The Museum itself was open and we had meetings there.

Everybody seemed satisfied when we did what we could.

Phil Mulligan


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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 26, 2021 11:29 am 

Joined: Thu Feb 26, 2009 3:07 pm
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Location: B'more Maryland
So it sounds like the NRHS's preservation support, for those orgs that "splintered off" was "get like minded people together", right?

From looking at their website, the activities they champion are:

1. Alco Historic Photos
2. Heritage Film Collection
3. Heritage Grants
4. Historic Plaque Program
5. Operation Lifesaver Support
6. Railcamp

The thing that strikes me is that there doesn't seem to be a cohesive plan or thing that ties them together other than "we like trains".

Is anyone here "high up" at the national NRHS? If so, can you speak to the org's vision and mission?

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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 26, 2021 11:42 am 

Joined: Sat Jul 02, 2005 7:16 am
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Adding to what Ed posted, is there any printed or online archive of what has been done or shown at any "preservation conferences" they have hosted? Are they intended to be teaching events, or just "walk around and look"? If they are supposed to be a featured part of the education/preservation mission wouldn't they want to have some examples or sample materials out on the website where they can be seen by the public?

PC

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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 26, 2021 1:12 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
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Location: Somewhere east of Prescott, AZ along the old Santa Fe "Prescott & Eastern"
PCook wrote:
Adding to what Ed posted, is there any printed or online archive of what has been done or shown at any "preservation conferences" they have hosted? Are they intended to be teaching events, or just "walk around and look"? If they are supposed to be a featured part of the education/preservation mission wouldn't they want to have some examples or sample materials out on the website where they can be seen by the public?


The NRHS used to publish its "Society Activities Annual" edition of the Bulletin, which served both as a Chapter directory and as an annual summary of activities and efforts by said chapters, be they excursions, preservation of a car/station/line, getting a locomotive into operation, publication of books, etc. The reports were submitted by chapters, of course, and varied in quality and content--and a few didn't bother or didn't submit them by deadline.

Mr. Cook, you seem to have a bee in your bonnet about having sponsors provide "conferences" or the like so they can pay people to travel to them and present programs they have made (like, specifically, someone that worked at EMD....).

The classic response by such organizations or museums, when someone says "you should do......." is "That sounds like a wonderful idea, but we're short on volunteers and expertise; maybe YOU'D like to take the lead on this and write up a proposal for our Board of Directors to consider?"

The NRHS National Conventions in recent years have hosted an "off day," usually the Friday before the "big excursion" of Saturday, designed to have a rotating schedule of programs such as what you propose. Similarly, such programs are a staple of "T&HS" conventions of the "Technical & Historical Societies" of specific railroads like the PRR, SR, and AT&SF.
I will concede that such programs 1) suffer from a degree of society insularity, i.e. presented "by members for members" (some groups focus so obsessively on "membership" that they would refuse a program by top authorities in the field just because they're not a member), and 2) in the case of T&HS groups, focus heavily on model railroading because most of the membership of these groups focus obsessively on modeling activities, accuracy of paint shades, whether a particular car had THAT handrail, etc.
And I fully agree that such a conference, even the photo-focused ones like Winterail, Sumnmerail, etc. should be JAMMED FULL of programs such as these. Or even prepared programs that can be sent on DVD or USB drive, shown at the event, then let the presenter answer questions via online link on the screen. That eliminates issues of travel and perhaps the travel abilities of older participants.

There's an expression out there that says "Be the change you want to see"..........


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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 26, 2021 2:18 pm 

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Alexander D. Mitchell IV wrote:
Mr. Cook, you seem to have a bee in your bonnet about having sponsors provide "conferences" or the like so they can pay people to travel to them and present programs they have made (like, specifically, someone that worked at EMD....).


I stopped teaching more than five years ago. So nobody has to worry about anything costing them anything. Nothing is being offered or sold. I presently don't do any paid business with tourist railroads or museums, I help some voluntarily.

PC

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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 26, 2021 2:31 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 11:07 am
Posts: 621
Ed Kapuscinski wrote:
So it sounds like the NRHS's preservation support, for those orgs that "splintered off" was "get like minded people together", right?

From looking at their website, the activities they champion are:

1. Alco Historic Photos
2. Heritage Film Collection
3. Heritage Grants
4. Historic Plaque Program
5. Operation Lifesaver Support
6. Railcamp

The thing that strikes me is that there doesn't seem to be a cohesive plan or thing that ties them together other than "we like trains".

Is anyone here "high up" at the national NRHS? If so, can you speak to the org's vision and mission?


If you poke around their web site a bit, you'll also find info on

their mission statement
their publications (some of which are available on line)
their chapters
their discount list (at tourist roads and rail museums)
their conferences

and much more.

Bob H


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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 26, 2021 3:07 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 10357
Location: Somewhere east of Prescott, AZ along the old Santa Fe "Prescott & Eastern"
Mr. Kap. stated he was looking about the website for ACTIVITIES.

In other words, things the National NRHS is DOING, or PROMOTING.

Projects. Events. Grants.

There are also individual Chapters that have their own grant programs, libraries, museums, etc.

As for the "list of rail attractions," I invite all to peruse it. This used to be an annual list of places that offered discounts or free admission to card-carrying NRHS members (I won't get into how long it took the NRHS to actually get my card to me for the past couple years), but has evolved into simply a list of attractions in general, because to be honest few places offer discounts any more:

https://admin.nrhs.com/NRHSNews/2021NRH ... final-.pdf

Look through the list and see what's missing. There's a lot. A LOT.
I'm currently plotting a two-week trip through the West, and I know of several trips/locations I have planned for--Heber Valley RR, Promontory, Ogden's exhibits, and others--that are not on this list. Same for the two most significant attractions in Arizona, the state-run museums in North Carolina and California.............. Sierra, EBT, Cumbres & Toltec, Strasburg, Wilmington & Western, B&O Museum, Western Maryland Scenic..............

Look, such a list needs to be either all-inclusive, or lists only those places that are NRHS affiliated or which answered formal NRHS queries. If the latter is the case, that needs to be stated. And if it is indeed the case that you mandate formal response before listing locations, that speaks to a cliquish, "members-only" mentality that is off-putting to outsiders. (The NRHS is hardly alone in this--many even professional groups or archives, and many RR T&H groups, act the same way, refusing to recognize or answer queries from non-members or those not willing to pay steep fees for even a modest query.)


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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 26, 2021 3:20 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 10357
Location: Somewhere east of Prescott, AZ along the old Santa Fe "Prescott & Eastern"
PCook wrote:
Adding to what Ed posted, is there any printed or online archive of what has been done or shown at any "preservation conferences" they have hosted? Are they intended to be teaching events, or just "walk around and look"? If they are supposed to be a featured part of the education/preservation mission wouldn't they want to have some examples or sample materials out on the website where they can be seen by the public?


In full agreement.
There are two factors at play here, however:
1) the relative lack of technology or bandwidth to present such material online, as well as the apparent lack of volunteers tech sophisticated enough to set up such content for online presentation;
2) the overwhelming mentality among such organizations that such content should be reserved only for paying members, dismissing both the promotional value of such content for both the hobby and the organization, AND the general mission of "historic preservation" as a whole.

It's gotten bad enough that I know of an individual that has happily paid the ongoing membership dues for a college student with enough web savvy to handle their Chapter's online presence and commerce. (Their treasurer had to be beaten into submission to set up a separate checking account for PayPal transactions.........)


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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 26, 2021 5:00 pm 
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Location: Pac NW, via North Florida
Alexander D. Mitchell IV wrote:
The NRHS used to publish its "Society Activities Annual" edition of the Bulletin, which served both as a Chapter directory and as an annual summary of activities and efforts by said chapters, be they excursions, preservation of a car/station/line, getting a locomotive into operation, publication of books, etc. The reports were submitted by chapters, of course, and varied in quality and content--and a few didn't bother or didn't submit them by deadline.
Yep, and I really miss them as for years, it was the only way to see what certain chapters were up to. But in all fairness, if you keep up an online presence, it's probably easier except you have to go to each chapter to see what's what. The annual guide was fun to flip through and I really miss it to this day. That said, there probably is nowhere near as much to read now than there would have been, say, in the 80s or earlier.
Ed Kapuscinski wrote:
The thing that strikes me is that there doesn't seem to be a cohesive plan or thing that ties them together other than "we like trains".
For the longest time, that was enough.
Chapters used to be the way to do RR visits, do museums in groups, run excursions and generally foam out en mass.
Nothing wrong with that. I enjoyed such things with a chapter I belonged to when I lived in Florida for well over a decade. I have nothing but fond memories of those experiences and other than a couple of acidic members, I really liked all the folks in that chapter.
But once the NRHS stopped being the way to ride excursions, coupled with the internet, that started a downward spiral that continues today.
I think that on paper, the NRHS always wanted to be a historical association, but in real life was more of a fan group with chapters. Again, nothing wrong with that, as I joined for that reason, but they're desperately hoping to find a raison d'être in an era where they're scrambling for members.
I've been told that the membership is less than 10% of what I was when I joined in 1984. I haven't researched that to see if it's true but I wouldn't be shocked. They're doing what they can with these grants and the like, but in the end people are more and more answering their own question, "Am I getting anything out of this for the annual dues?"
In my own case, I renew each year with no real reason why. I get nothing out of it to speak of, the magazine hardly ever comes out anymore, I don't have the time to go to meetings and the nearest chapter to me lost their railroad museum a few years ago. Coupled with a tourist RR just down the road from me (that doesn't have to answer to a national organization), I just don't see the need for me to stay a member of the NRHS. I've deleted any chapter designation some time ago and for a few years I've questioned why I keep renewing. I have my 25-year pin in a box under my model railroad and can't recall the last time I even looked at it.
I seriously doubt it'll be around when I'd hit 50 years of membership, which would be in 13 years if my math is right...

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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 26, 2021 5:02 pm 

Joined: Thu Feb 26, 2009 3:07 pm
Posts: 837
Location: B'more Maryland
Heavenrich wrote:
Ed Kapuscinski wrote:
So it sounds like the NRHS's preservation support, for those orgs that "splintered off" was "get like minded people together", right?

From looking at their website, the activities they champion are:

1. Alco Historic Photos
2. Heritage Film Collection
3. Heritage Grants
4. Historic Plaque Program
5. Operation Lifesaver Support
6. Railcamp

The thing that strikes me is that there doesn't seem to be a cohesive plan or thing that ties them together other than "we like trains".

Is anyone here "high up" at the national NRHS? If so, can you speak to the org's vision and mission?


If you poke around their web site a bit, you'll also find info on

their mission statement
their publications (some of which are available on line)
their chapters
their discount list (at tourist roads and rail museums)
their conferences

and much more.

Bob H


I saw some of that. But everything I see looks more like a social club than a preservation organization.

Yes, I'm being critical here, because one of my fiduciary roles for a historical society is ensuring its future for another 40 years, and so I'm very interested in how some of the preservation community's supposed leaders are tackling similar tasks.

The only thing I see the NRHS doing on that front is Railcamp, which I will admit, is a fantastic farm team system. I know a number of people in their 30s who are either volunteers or professionals in rail related activities (or both).

But you know what those folks aren't involved in? The NRHS.

I've got a question about the perception of the org open on some groups of modern railfans on FB. I'll share the interesting replies.

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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 26, 2021 5:06 pm 

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Just for information,my recollection is that present NRHS membership is about 5100, and that is about 20% of their all-time peak in the late 1980s/early 1990s.

The website still shows 13,000 members, that would appear to be long out of date now.

PC

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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 26, 2021 6:08 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 3:01 pm
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Location: SouthEast Pennsylvania
Alexander D. Mitchell IV wrote:
The classic response by such organizations or museums, when someone says "you should do......." is "That sounds like a wonderful idea, but we're short on volunteers and expertise; maybe YOU'D like to take the lead on this and write up a proposal for our Board of Directors to consider?"
A variation sometimes heard:
"That's something only our Officers or Directors can do, they're doing too much already, and you're not one of them."


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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Tue Jul 27, 2021 8:54 pm 

Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2012 4:49 pm
Posts: 227
Location: Los Altos, CA
Heavenrich wrote:
Ed Kapuscinski wrote:
So it sounds like the NRHS's preservation support, for those orgs that "splintered off" was "get like minded people together", right?

From looking at their website, the activities they champion are:

1. Alco Historic Photos
2. Heritage Film Collection
3. Heritage Grants
4. Historic Plaque Program
5. Operation Lifesaver Support
6. Railcamp

The thing that strikes me is that there doesn't seem to be a cohesive plan or thing that ties them together other than "we like trains".

Is anyone here "high up" at the national NRHS? If so, can you speak to the org's vision and mission?


If you poke around their web site a bit, you'll also find info on

their mission statement
their publications (some of which are available on line)
their chapters
their discount list (at tourist roads and rail museums)
their conferences

and much more.

Bob H


All of the above criticism of NRHS is noted. Some of it is well-deserved.

However, one could argue that the glass if half full, instead of half empty as the naysayers believe. Bob H mentions some of the items on the web site. and items such as the Heritage Grant Program and Railcamp are good causes worth promoting.

The Bulletin is an interesting publication. Someone in this thread was highly critical of it, saying it only appears 2x/year. Looking back at my notes, it seems to be 4x/year although last year they went with a 1Q/2Q double issue. As for content, it really ranges all over the map. When the new format was introduced about 15 years ago, they did an excellent retrospective on Conrail. More recently, Elrond Lawrence did an excellent biography of Steve Lee of UP steam fame. Other articles of interest included Walter Zullig's history of Metro-North and Mike Schafer's biography of Jim Boyd. And Oren Helbok's story on Black River & Western motivated me to dig out and scan my 1988 trip brochure for NJT's "Museum Limited." The fact that they publish some of my book reviews is purely coincidental.

But the surprising thing is the fun I had since taking over editing the Central Coast Chapter publication, The Ferroeqinologist. The chapter is pretty reasonable about subject matter, who else would let me publish Frank Stenvall's "Mixed Train through the Sahara" about an 1980s trip to Morocco. Also, reviewing Pennsylvania Railroad Advertising Art was the perfect excuse to illustrate 10(?) pages of material from old PRR timetables. I've been doing "The Foo" for about 5 years now and don't have the problems finding material that other editors of chapter publications have.

So I hope NRHS lasts a bit longer.

BH


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 Post subject: Re: What exactly happened at 1988 NRHS Convention?
PostPosted: Tue Jul 27, 2021 9:21 pm 

Joined: Fri Dec 22, 2017 6:47 pm
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Location: Philadelphia, PA
Back in the day, our NHRS Chapter had the luxury of 2 Class I's headquartered within blocks of the meeting site. We had members from both Class I's. We got addressses from people of both roads.

Although when they did a survey of their favorite Class I a plucky smaller road about 85 miles to the East won.

Now both Class I's have been swallowed by the same megaroad and the meetings are in a passenger station in the suburbs. Meetings are disrupted every 20 minutes or so when a train makes a passenger stop. I guess there are worse ways to disrupt an NHRS meeting.

Phil Mulligan


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