• NRHS Dues increase

  • 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: Miketherailfan, rob216

  by mxdata
 
Well Otto, since you asked, here are my thoughts. We have discussed some of these before. From my perspective and based on the experience with the chapters in my area, they really need to get their act together and appeal to a larger group of people. A good start would be to recognize that the demographic of the potential membership pool is changing and try to appeal to a wider range of interests, particularly diesel enthusiasts. :wink: They have done a little more of that lately with the recent issues of the Bulletin (very nice diesel photo feature in the latest issue), but I wonder how much of that was intent and how much was desperation to try to catch up the years-late publication schedule by using the resources available, which now are primarily diesel stories and photography. Perhaps it is a good thing though, that it is finally forcing them into a world that includes diesels. The Railcamp and membership flyers remain almost totally steam, and younger railroad enthusiasts who see them tend to laugh at them. The themes and focus of their national conventions remains steam oriented, apparently the management likes it that way, but they are missing a big portion of the members interests. I recall a review of the presentations at their national conventions over the last ten years that found numerous steam and specific-railroad programs, and very little appealing to diesel fans.

Beyond that, as was mentioned previously, a number of the older members of the local chapters have commented that they hate the midsummer conventions and the overheated fan trips that nearly kill them. The NRHS obviously isn't appealing to families, you can see that in the chapter meetings, so why not put the conventions later in the year after the kids have gone back to school and get some liveable temperatures and decent weather for photography, particularly since photography often seems to be the primary aspect of railroad history that gets attention in the organization.

And then there are the legendary business meetings. Maybe they should consider setting a limit on the amount of time for the business meeting and limiting every person who wants to get up with a news item to one or two minutes. If you can't say it in that amount of time then practice a while and come back and see if you can say it in that amount of time next month. Cut the trivia short rather than having it waste the evening with foolishness. The business meeting overruns make it very difficult for any guest speaker that has an organized program that tells a story, the speaker can never be sure how much time is really going to be left for the program. So and after investing their time and effort to visit, they often get rudely asked to cut their program short. As a result the NRHS has an absolutely terrible reputation among presenters in the enthusiast hobby and the railroad industry, for their lack of respect for speakers.

And how about making an effort to get the word about meetings out beyond the immediate membership. Most public library speaker programs do a better job of announcing their events to the general public than the NRHS chapters do with the backing of the national organization. Get a notice in the local newspaper, maybe even print some flyers and drop them at local hobby shops or railroad theme restaurants. And how about cleaning up the many dead and dying chapter web sites, perhaps by having the national host a site for each of the chapters that does not have the talent to manage their own site. Provide contact and meeting information that is at least somewhat up to date. In recent years their directory and internet listings for the chapters have contained lots of inaccuracies.

They also need to reach out to the model railroaders and the NMRA organizations in their area. The NMRA isn't attracting a particuarly young crowd either, but they are usually a generation younger than the NRHS. And they could learn a lot from the NMRA folks, they are usually much better organized and more public oriented than the NRHS.

The problems are not universal within NRHS, they vary from chapter to chapter. There are a number of chapters whose meetings I have attended, that are extremely well organized and do a fine job with their activities. Unfortunately the chapters all seem to function within a vacuum. The national organization has not made much of an effort in past years to help improve the groups that are NOT working well by providing guidance based on the experiences of the groups that ARE working well. They are the only ones that are in a position to be able to do this. The recently published article by one of the officers about membership issues and concerns was the first thing on this topic I have seen them print in many years. It was certainly a step in the right direction. With membership dropping rapidly you would think there would have been a bit more concern shown before now.

It is a matter of their own survival, and of having future members to take care of the collections and artifacts they have acquired. If it continues to be an organization of old men, then they are finished, it is just a matter of time. "Steaming to Oblivion" will have become a reality.

MX
  by mxdata
 
I might add to the above that I noticed recently that a NRHS chapter that often has difficulty getting their upcoming program announcements posted on their website in time for the monthly meeting, and sometimes ends up posting no program descriptions at all, had no such problem when a national officer of the organization was going to be their guest speaker. The notice was posted well in advance of the event. It was an interesting comparison with publicity provided for their other recent visiting speakers.

MX
  by Noel Weaver
 
More bad news from the national NRHS, another dues increase for 2010, this time $3.00 but not even a letter explaining just
why this increase is necessary.
After over 40 years of membership, I am considering dropping it this time. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!!
Noel Weaver
  by mxdata
 
I understand that the NRHS has "contracted out" their office functions, and membership administrative process to an "office support" company. This of course requires still more money to do. Meanwhile about half the internet websites of NRHS chapters are months to years out of date and do not give accurate current information or meeting information. Providing the chapters with support for their efforts to communicate with the general public is a function that the national organization could provide through their own internet site and their office support, but it seems like growing the organization is low on the list of priorities. Meanwhile the group at the meetings is getting smaller and smaller, and older and older. Makes you wonder where they are going to get the members to support their collections in the future, or maybe they are just planning on this being the last generation of membership. :(

MX
  by Steamtown Observer
 
These problems began in the mid to late 1980's when a decade of self-serving, arrogant leadership was in place that took no member advice and simply knew everything. Aside from the obvious trouble this caused, a long term problem was people who might be the leadership today decided to not put up with it and left - note that the boom in single railroad historical groups really took off around this time as the talented people took their skills where they were appreciated. When the last generation of high and mighty NRHS leadership died off those that were left were those who didn't mind being the back benchers. While I don't question their good intentions they were not (and are not) equipped to lead the national organization nor the many chapters in good times let alone when external events make a bad situation worse. My prediction is that within 10 years there won't be an NRHS. About a third of the current chapters will break away like the NYO&W chapter did last year, the rest will fade away. Indeed about a third of the current chapters aren't much more than a PO Box and a moribund website.
  by mxdata
 
If they fail to attarct a new generation of members, the inevitable result is a lot of equipment and collections are going to get sold for scrap. :(

MX
  by Noel Weaver
 
I agree with the two previous. I do not think the nation NRHS is going to be around too much longer. More and more of the thriving chapters will pull out like the O & W did, and I
don't fault them one bit. The chapters that have their act together, have something to show for themselves will do just fine with out the national and the rest of them, well, who
will really miss them.
There are still some leaders in the NRHS who are doing a good job but unfortunately they are in a minority and not be backed up by the rest.
Noel Weaver
  by chuchubob
 
Anybody who thinks there is no new generation of railfans coming along should ride the NY Transit Museum "Arnines". They are the fleet that was built from 1930 to 1940 and will run in revenue service ($2.25 fare) on the V line Sundays in December. You'll see many young railfans on board.
  by Steamtown Observer
 
chuchubob wrote:Anybody who thinks there is no new generation of railfans coming along should ride the NY Transit Museum "Arnines". They are the fleet that was built from 1930 to 1940 and will run in revenue service ($2.25 fare) on the V line Sundays in December. You'll see many young railfans on board.
No one is questioning that there are young railfans out there. The point is they are NOT joining the NRHS - nor is anyone else thus the downward spiral in chapters and membership.
  by mxdata
 
The least expensive and most direct way to reach the younger railroad enthusiasts is to have an interesting and up-to-date website, something that fewer and fewer NRHS chapters are providing. A recent look through the websites of the local chapters (if you can find them at all) showed more than 50% are out of date or do not have event and meeting information readily available to the public.

I participated in a discussion of this recently across the table at a banquet, between a couple of chapter officers. The sob stories were quite impressive. "Our webmaster quit (or died) and nobody knows the password for the website (or) nobody in the chapter has the time to do this (or) the software is too difficult to learn."

I noticed that some of the folks who complained that it takes too much time to maintain the website are often on the computer at all hours of the day and night posting to discussion groups, finding fault with the other participants, and nitpicking every minute detail of railroad history. It is not surprising that they do not have enough time for their website when they are putting so much time and effort into discussion groups.

There is nothing very difficult about maintaining information postings on a website or keeping them up to date. I had the inaccessible website problem handed to me a few years ago in a group where I am a member. It took a couple minutes on the phone with the tech at the internet provider to get the problems worked out and set up my access to the site. It took an hour with the tutorial for the software to learn how to edit and set up pages, and doing the work only requires the determination to spend the time necessary. Once you are familiar with the software it is no more complicated than using Microsoft Word or PowerPoint. So I have absolutely no sympathy whatsoever for the groups that tell you their members are too busy to keep a website up to date, while they all find plenty of time to spend at their computers bickering with everybody else on the internet.

One thing I can tell you though, the condition of the website is usually a good indicator of the condition of the chapter.

It amazes me that some of these groups will call up an author, an editor, or a railroad official, and ask them to put on a program at their meeting that is going to require three or four hours of travel in each direction, plus three hours or so at the meeting, when nobody in their group can be bothered spending ten minutes to post an announcement of the program on their website. Yet you see this happen over and over. :(

MX
  by Noel Weaver
 
Maybe one reason the dues went up is to pay for the half page color advertiseing in both Trains and Railfan/Railroad for the
past couple of months. This stuff costs money.
After over 40 years of continuous membership, I probably will not renew again.
Noel Weaver
  by mxdata
 
Yes, isn't it remarkable that they can afford that expense, but so many of the chapters don't seem to have the time to keep their websites up to date, which are essentially free advertising since they have paid the internet providers fees already. The all time record for a chapter seems to be one that was finally removed recently, it still had their 2003 banquet notice greeting viewers in 2009.

The other problem the national organization has, is a noticable bias towards steam and the open disdain of diesels on the part of some of the officers, which has been carried into the appearance of their website, brochures, the focus and content of their national conventions, and to some extent their publications. Their failure to encompass the interests of a large segment of current day railroad enthusiasts isn't helping them at all to recruit new members, but I don't think they realize how silly it makes them look when they issue brochures that are 90% illustrated with steam locomotivesin a hobby where 3/4 of the participants are primarily diesel enthusiasts. If they are going to continue to be dinosaurs maybe they have earned the right to become extinct. :wink:

MX
  by mxdata
 
At a recent chapter meeting the national delegate announced that the Railcamp program is going to be conducted only at Steamtown NHS from now on. Anyone know any details of this cutback?

MX
  by Noel Weaver
 
mxdata wrote:At a recent chapter meeting the national delegate announced that the Railcamp program is going to be conducted only at Steamtown NHS from now on. Anyone know any details of this cutback?

MX
I hadn't heard of this but I am not surprised by this development. As I have been saying, I think the NHRS nathionally is on
fairly short time but the better chapters are fully capable of going it alone without the national and I think they will.
As for equipment, I don't think the national owns any or at least not much, chapters that own equipment are probably
mostly OK with the exception of the Mohawk and Hudson outfit in Albany, NY. I hate to think will could well happen to their
collection which has been allow to deteriorate for a long time in the weeds just outside of Albany. It is a shame that they
didn't make arrangements to move at least the better things in this collection some years back where it would have been
appreciated and cared for. It might be too late at this point for anything but the torch, I hope I am wrong though.
Noel Weaver
  by mxdata
 
Hearing rumors now of more dues increases on the way.

Also heard that the upcoming convention includes only a one day pass to Steamtown NHS despite the NPS being central in many activities and the seminars.

MX