• Tourist Railroad Promotion

  • General discussion related to all railroad clubs, museums, tourist and scenic lines. Generally this covers museums with static displays, museums that operate excursions, scenic lines that have museums, and so on. Check out the Tourist Railway Association (TRAIN) for more information.
General discussion related to all railroad clubs, museums, tourist and scenic lines. Generally this covers museums with static displays, museums that operate excursions, scenic lines that have museums, and so on. Check out the Tourist Railway Association (TRAIN) for more information.

Moderators: rob216, Miketherailfan

  by Steam3713

I'm starting a new thread in direct response to the question you posed in the Conway Scenic thread regarding "how does a company in the tourist industry plan for an upcoming season when its brochures have to be printed a year or more in advance?". That's a very good question, and I commend for wanting to take this forum beyond the normal "why do they operate this way?" and "the equipment isn't painted right!" mentality that often works its way into discussions here. Yes, there is a lot more to the success of a tourist railroad/museum than what it operates for equipment and/or how it is painted. Promotion plays a key role in getting the general public to visit a railroad attraction--and despite what some railfans want to believe, it is the general public that "pays the bills" at most tourist railroads. The information that a tourist railroad provides to the general public is critical in getting them to visit. Put simply, the tourist railroad MUST sell itself to the general public or people won't come to visit.

Yes, brochures must be printed well in advance of the next operating season. It's not just brochures that fit in this "advance promotion" category; off the top of my head, I can add information for travel guides, state and attraction association travel maps, bus tour operators, and travel magazine articles as examples that require a long lead time. And I'm sure there are others. So how does a tourist operator provide accurate information when the exact scope of operations for the next operating season may not be fully known? My answer is: the best thing to do is provide generic information based on your best "educated guess" of what your company believes it CAN do during the next operating season. If a company evaluates its current operating season on a regular basis, it should be able to predict fairly reliably what the next operating season will be like. For example: if the economy is poor like it is today, a company may want to reduce the number of excursions it operates the next season. Or if certain equipment is due for an overhaul and you're not sure when the work will be completed, don't advertise it as 'guaranteed' for next season. If you're planning something 'new' for the next season, be sure you'll be able to "deliver" as promised. Know your financial position well--are you going to be able to "afford" what you want to promote; if you're not reasonably sure the money will be there to make "something" happen, don't promote it. In short, emphasize what you know you CAN do. The general public WILL be much more receptive if you advertise a few things that you CAN DO and make them "happen" than if you advertise a lot of things you either can't do or are "questionable" and don't happen.

The most important thing as far as promotion goes is to be TRUTHFUL. Unfortunately, it seems to be a pretty common practice among certain companies in the tourist railroad industry today to use deceptive advertising: either knowingly or unknowingly using pictures and/or written word to entice the general public to visit when the company has no intention of fulfilling what is implied. I say to those designing a brochure or website, THINK about what your customer will "see" when he or she views your work. Are you being truthful in what you're promoting--or are you simply more worried about what will best get you "the almighty dollar"? When it comes to advertising, via whatever means, I believe a company owes it to perspective customers to portray its 'product' as it really is. In the long run, its more important for a company to have happy customers rather than disgruntled ones. HOW WELL A COMPANY IN THE TOURIST RAILROAD INDUSTRY ADVERTISES WHAT IT HAS TO OFFER GOES A LONG WAY IN DETERMINING WHAT MOST CUSTOMERS END UP RATING THEIR VISIT UPON.

Frederick G. Bailey
  by Cosmo
Good points.
I remember back in they day the CC&H brochures had photos of the B&M 2-6-0 that never ran while in their possession.
  by Otto Vondrak
A good topic, outside the scope of just New England, so I moved it to the Museums, Tourist Lines, and Historical Organizations Forum.

  by b&m 1566
Very good topic!
I'm not going to get into it a whole lot but for the sake of the Conway Scenic Railroad, there is stuff that's not intended for public knowledge that is being release to a guy who is trying to destroy the place. More than likely, they have some employees leaking information to that individual (biting the hand that feeds them) and when you called to get information about the 7470, it just so happened to be that one individual and a few of his buddies were also trying to get information on the 7470. It's still not an excuse but the reason I just mention might be why you were given the run around.
  by Steam3713
B&M 1566:

I find your comments on why Conway Scenic wouldn't respond to my inquiries regarding #7470 interesting, to say the least.

I'm well aware of the individual who has a personal vendetta against the Conway Scenic's owner and some of his employees, and I'm well aware that there is certain information that shouldn't be made public. I certainly identified myself when I asked my questions--with my reason(s) for doing so; I don't believe I asked anything inappropriate or that I couldn't have gotten the answer elsewhere if I really wanted to know. I have to wonder: is the Conway Scenic management so scared of a certain individual getting information that they won't answer legitimate questions from the general public?

I worked for Steamtown for a number of years under an Executive Director by the name of Bob Barbera--and Bob was notorious for "hating railfans" (though he really didn't). Bob very quickly would file libel or defaminazation of character suits against anyone who questioned publically the way he ran his business or made personal character attacks. Yes, he won several cases against individuals who "thought" they knew everything--and many other individuals simply "backed out" on what they were saying publically about Bob and Steamtown. He never lost a case! It's serious business when someone makes accusations about the qualifications of a railroad company's employees, and the condition of its equipment and track. Personally, I wonder why Conway Scenic's management allows an attempt to destroy their business to go on. With as many "hits" as there are on that individual's web site, Conway Scenic takes a big risk by allowing his mission to continue IF HIS CLAIMS ARE INACCURATE. All it will take is to have a good investigative reporter with a major news connection who is looking for a story to happen across his site--and Conway Scenic WILL end up having a lot of information they didn't want out in public revealed!

Frederick G. Bailey
  by GSC
A little off-topic, aren't we?

Back to the subject at hand: A museum rail line I was involved with for over 40 years would plan next year's schedule based on previous years. For most years, we'd open on Palm and Easter weekends for Easter Bunny runs, then regular service on weekends afterward. For many years we had a Civil War reenactment on Father's Day, an open house Railroaders Day on the weekend after Labor Day, and four weekends of Christmas Express starting on Thanksgiving weekend, plus weekday service through July and August. Other events were added, such as a machinery display day and a Halloween night event, and everything was planned before the end of the year, for the year following, so accurate brochures and handouts could be printed up in January.

We didn't promote any particular locomotives or rolling stock, and used the old "we reserve the right to substitute" in case diesel was running instead of steam.

Simple, and it worked.
  by tellu_whut
Another thing to think about when a railroad, or really any organization plans an event is to figure out who your audience is. If you want families of little children, then go to where the mothers are. If you have a rare-mileage train trip, promote to the railfans. Don't rely on one base of fans, no matter what you do. Retirees like children in small doses, so if you have a time of year when school groups overwhelm your trains, don't expect the older folks to be happy with that. If possible, promote some trains as "school specials" to give the empty-nesters a little warning. You can please all of the people, but not all at the same time. All it takes is a bit of thought.
  by GSC
I agree, tellu_whut.

Our Easter and Christmas events were kid-oriented and family friendly. Civil War reenactment was general family, and our open house event was more adult-themed, including shop tours, equipment demonstrations, and the like. Our Halloween event is advertised as "not for the younger ones", with some nice scary stuff in the dark woods, with our cast of "ham" actors and crew playing ghost and goblin.

Except for Halloween, all events were family friendly, including the occasional antique car show or hit & miss engine displays.

We seemed to attract older folks during regular operating days with no special events going on.

As I said above, the events are established to take place at certain times of the year, and easier to remember.