kilroy wrote:Thanks JSF, I never considered the age gap to be something contributing to the reason younger railfans do not join the historical societies but you bring up a good point.
I am a bit surprised that Thomas the Tank Engine hasn't had a bigger effect. I would think some "closet" railfans or guys who had an interest in trains 20 years ago and are now fathers with a Thomas crazed todler would have the spark rekindled and would be interested in joining us. I guess it comes down to the time issue we all raise.
I look forward to your suggestions on atracting the younger genratoin to our groups.
While Thomas the Tank Engine might be a spark it is not enough to become a burning fire of interest. It's like a single spark landing on a log, it's not going to light that log on fire.
Thanks for this explanation.... I feel the same way as you do in most cases....
I was once a member of Tri-State, and was even on the Board for about a year, but i was the youngest person by at least 25 years.... The bottom line is I felt really left out and had many disagreements within the group so I left.....
Do you know of any other preservation groups that have a lot more younger members of mostly men in their 20's and 30's???
Unfortunately I do not know any other preservation groups with a lot more younger people, and I am not sure if there are any.
Here are my recommendations. These recommendations are for all the different Historical Societies, and it is my personal opinion the more that follow these recommendations the better shape the community as a whole will be. The purpose of these recommendations is not limited to just increasing the number of young people today joining but also increasing the pool of people that would be interested in joining in the future.
1. The different historical societies need to work together more to put on bigger events.
This does a couple of things for you. First a bigger event is more likely to capture the public's attention so more people will show up, as well as increase the people's interest that do attend. Out of that larger you will find more people willing to join. Second it makes the event a lot more memorable, which will help make a much more positive impression on kids, which will help keep their interest in trains alive until they reach adult hood.
2. Be apart of more events
Set up booths or displays at more preexisting events. fairs, parades, large holiday celebrations, etc... Like I had said before I believe one of the problems you are facing is the fact that the railroads impact has become a lot less obvious. In order to get people to start thinking about railroads and railroad history, you need to become a lot more obvious. There are probably many people that enjoy trains and railroad related items but on a day to day basis never give them a second thought or the fact there are even rail historical societies, much less joining one. Those people are not looking at railroad forums, publications, and they are not going out looking for railroading events to see. Since they are not coming to you, you need to go to them. By increasing your visibility to the public, you increase the odds someone that has the interest but never thought about joining. Just figure out a way to relate the event and railroads. For example there is a large car show, create a display around a Hi-rail vehicle. While at the event pass out information about future events.
3. Hands on activities
Hands on activities allows kids to feel more of a connection with history. This will help fuel kids interest in railroads so when they get older they will still be interested in railroads, and be far more likely to join historical societies. The same is true even for young adults, people will find things that they can participate in far more engaging and interesting than simply looking at some old pictures, or some railroad artifacts. Just tailor activities to different age groups.
4. A Historical Society for people in their 20's and 30's
People tend to prefer to be in groups with there peers. With existing Historical Societies there are very few young people so young people tend to be less comfortable in those groups, just like how most 40+ year old people would not feel very comfortable in a group of nothing but 20 year olds. In order to attract younger members you need a group of younger members, and since it does not sound like any existing Historical Societies have a large group of younger people you create one. Best way to do that is have the different Societies come together and the couple of younger members that they do have form one new group that while affiliated with all the Societies, is it's own independent group. Maybe they cycle around helping out the other Historical Societies, maybe they do their own thing. Being made up of younger people greatly increases the likely hood of another younger person joining. When some one joins they become primarily a member of that society but they can also choose to be a affiliated with one of the original groups. Eventually enough people join the original groups that the originals can start attracting young people on their own.
5. Engage the schools
Talk to different schools/teachers. Figure out away to tie in their lessons to the railroads. Support them with planning class trips, or create interesting presentations to show the classes. While this type of thing may have the least immediate impact attracting people in their 20's and 30's, it will help to increase the pool of people interested in railroads in the future, and be much more effective in the long run. It will just take 10-20 years for it to pay off.
6. High school shop classes and vo tech schools
Engaging with these two will have two benefits. For one since most students prefer to class trips to normal school, you can find a great source of labor and help for restoration projects, which I believe most historical societies could always use more of. Second some may find that they really enjoy doing the work and will want to come back on there own time to continue helping. Just find the shop class/ vo tech trade that is related to what you are currently working on. Need an old passenger car rewired, find the electrician vo tech or shop class. Need to repair an old wooding box car, find a wood shop/ carpenter class. Maybe you need a locomotive painted find an auto detailing or auto hobby shop class.
Competitions are both exciting to watch and participate in. If you set up rail rod themed competitions you get people thinking of railroads in conjunction with an enjoyable time. The idea is to get people to start thinking of the railroads and the historical society more often to hopefully attract more new members. Even if you do not get any new members from such events, you can turn the events into a fund raiser by selling food and drinks. Some possible events would be a team boxcar pull, or carrying railroad ties from one location to another in the fastest time. Giving enough thought you might be able to come up with a way to have a competition that also can accomplish actual work that needs to be done. For example suppose the Pine Creek Railroad wanted to extend its line, hold a team competition to see what team can assemble a section of rail first. You could get free labor done, attract a crowed, part history lesson, and a fund raiser all in one.
Many groups have BBQ's, which you can use to help with your out reach for new members. Next time you have a BBQ pick a public part that is usually quite busy to have it in. Not only put up a banner identifying yourselves but also put up a display. With a display you will help attract curious people to you guys to look at the items you have and be able to talk to them. Maybe offer those that are especially interested in what you have to say some food. Your goal again is fanning the kids and adults interest in railroads, and you may even find a new person or two who ends up joining, all while bringing existing members closer together.
9. Expeditions/Excursion trips/Hikes
Organize trips to historic sites for the public, even better if they can be organized to allow access to places the public is normally not allowed. This makes it more special and hopefully gets some people that will want to do more tours and maybe eventually join. Excursion trips been covered a bit before, so I'll just add that for me personally it was train rides when I was little that really helped with creating my interest in trains. Hiking is another good one, I remember hiking along a section of The Blue Comet's line when I was 10 and I really enjoyed it. Such a activity can be done for cheep or even free which makes it perfect for young families that do not have much money to spend. All three are very valuable for fueling a continued interest in the railroads.
10. Mass Media
This one is probably one of the most tricky ones to pull off. Things like Facebook and YouTube are great for reaching out to the public and can be done for pretty much free. Most of us in our 20's and 30's use a lot of mass media, so it can be a great way to reach people of our age. The tricky part comes from the fact that if you do not know how to use it properly it is not going to help. As some general rules Facebook should be updated often, if not people will lose interest. When using YouTube you need to create well shot and well edited videos, otherwise people will not watch just like if a television or movie is poorly produced. On both you need to interact with your fans as much as possible, if they ask questions try to answer them. It makes it more personal to them and leaves them much more interested.
Like I said the more of these that you can do, I believe the better luck you will have in recruiting people both now and the future. So hopefully this will help you all out some.