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Steam Trains vs. Steamboats

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    Lexie points out something very important: copious amounts of A-type people with well-compensated jobs being readily available to volunteer. As in real estate: Location, Location, Location!
    And yes, the UP does still run excursions, but the folks that get on board are VIPs; local business folks, politicians, and (last year at least) a very limited number of folks willing to pay $1,000 to ride from Sacramento to Portola as a fund raiser for the Western Pacific Railroad Museum (who has a very close relationship with the UP). This is the first time I've heard of them allowing that. Back when they did allow local groups to sell excursion tickets on their train, I worked some as a car attendant. Somewhat like a riverlorian/tour director/cabin attendant job--all three rolled into one. It wasn't always easy too--once we ran out of food and were delayed by other trains. . .
    After that experience, the museum rented some AMTRAK equipment for an excursion, and I had enough influence that we had extra food brought on board--always better to have left-overs to give the volunteers than to run out! (Hmm, shades of the DQ's last public trip--we started kidding about the faux menus towards the last few days!)
    David D.


      I was a Discovery Guide (I hated that title) on the AQ in 2007. One problem with the otherwise cushy job was that some passengers didn't want the truth. They wanted entertainment, even if that meant perpetuating a lot of misinformation. I found that very frustrating.

      There were scheduling problems as well. For example, many passengers became frustrated because the pilothouse tours conflicted with shore tours. And sometimes the pilothouse tours were so popular that I had to take them up there in shifts. You can't fit thirty people in a pilothouse.

      My daily presentations in the Grand Saloon often ran afoul of other activities on the boat or on shore, which meant that a lot of passengers missed out on information that would have made their trip much more interesting. Then they would come up to me later and want to know why I hadn't mentioned something. I had mentioned it, but they weren't present to hear it. And sometimes I had to abruptly end a presentation because the (real) entertainers needed to get the stage prepped for their next show.

      I could also sense that some passengers were jealous that I had the job. They would go out of their way to show others that they knew more than I did. Sometimes they were right, but they were just as often wrong.

      I could go on and on....

      It was, to be sure, a very interesting job. Would you believe that I still have dreams (nightmares, occasionally) that I'm back there?


        Just got back from two schools on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad: one for firemen and one for engineers. It was a fundraiser for them and limited to 6 participants in each school. Each was a three day school with a day off in between so I was out there for a week shoveling coal and working the throttle on their 4% grade with a 9 car freight train. (9 cars is about all one of their K-36 Mikados can handle on that grade.) It was a great experience and I hope to do it again. We had classroom instruction, hands-on instruction, back up help if needed, and a great time. Perhaps the best $ 3,000 I've spent recently although I did the same in Poland in May but for less money. I was the first "student" to do the two courses in one week and I spent my 68th birthday in the cab of a hard working steam engine. What could be better?

        As for operating railroad museums vs: an operating steamboat museum, I see a lot of similarities. Each would be based in a specific location but the steamboat would have the option of visiting others, a plus in my book. I founded a railroad museum in 1982 and ran it for 23 years. (It is still going but I'm not active any longer.) During my term as president we located and leased track to run on, acquired a lot of rolling stock, restored enough of that to begin operation and set up marketing plans, special events and all the other aspects that go it running and formed the foundation that it still uses to keep running. It took more than 40 hours a week of my time, all without pay, to accomplish. More than just a hobby, it was a second career. I think you will find a person like this behind every such operation that exists.

        Along with someone to spearhead the operation and just as important is the board of directors. The board members need to contribute to the goals and success of the museum and that should be via their expertise, connections and cash (if they don't have it, they need to be able to raise it.) A proper business plan needs to be written and used as a guide to the operation. In some cases, volunteer members are good for board membership and in some cases they are not. Our museum suffered because some of the members were elected because they were "good guys" who volunteered a lot but who did not have much "clout" in the community. It takes "clout" to get what you need to succeed. This has changed in the museum lately with the addition of more professionals on the board. However, keep the politicians out or at least to a minimum.
        Be sure to get one lawyer as a member, two or more may lead to heated arguments!

        You need a force of volunteers, especially those with the skills to restore, maintain and operate the vessel and they need to live close enough to the museum to attend regularly scheduled work sessions. Others who aren't as close can still participate as added labor when they can be available but a basic core group needs to be big enough to handle the day to day and week to week requirements.

        The Cumbres & Toltec, for example, has paid workers that keep the trains and engines running but it also has a very large support group called the "Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad". They have hundreds of members from all across the country and hold regular work sessions at the railroad. They do things such as restorations, replace old signs and mile posts, painting, buildings and more and they have their own budget and raise their own funds. All are volunteers and they were working during the week I was there. I would suspect many of our steamboaters would be interested in forming a similar group for, say, the DQ or JBS if it could be acquired for a museum.

        Just some thoughts as to what might be required to put together an operating riverboat "museum". It certainly seems do-able to me but it will take someone capable to lead the effort.

        -Jim Herron


          Success through working relationships


          Well put. All enterprises, public or private, require a leader with a vision and the energy to orchestrate the employees and/or volunteers.

          You mentioned "FRIENDS". The Clermont State Historic SIte is owned by New York. There is a staff of state employees that is complimented by a group known as "The Friends of Clermont" Friends of Clermont Web Site. If you click on "Friends Membership" it will give you a little bit of information on the group.

          As I approach retirement I am trying to figure out just how I can fit in to the Clermont Operation. At present I and my Fulton Followers Group are independant volunteers building and donating a museum quality engine display to be enjoyed bt visitors to Clermont.


            So did one of the trestles really catch fire and shut down part of the Cumbres and Toltec route?


              Yes Lexie, the Lobato trestle, 4 miles from Chama, caught fire a few nights ago. The ties burned and the rails bent from the heat but the steel structure has been inspected and has been judged to be ok. The railroad says the repairs will be done in "a matter of weeks".

              Meanwhile, trains are operating from Chama to Lobato and back as well as from Antonito to Osier and back which is the normal run for that train. They have one steam loco on that end of the line and two in Chama until the bridge is re-opened. So the railroad is still in business, albeit curtailed for awhile.

              -Jim Herron


                I'm glad it's not as bad as it could have been. I have only been on the Antonito part of that ride, so would like to do it all some day. In bad need of a steam fix.


                  Another bridge that caught fire.

                  Back in 1974 the Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge was heavily damaged by fire.

                  The Great Bridge at Poughkeepsie

                  Last year the bridge was rcycled...

                  Walkway over the Hudson



                    Kudos to Pete Baker for posting this most useful and interesting link!!!

                    [QUOTE=Pete Baker;22037]Here's a link to Steam trains in the USA.

                    Surviving Steam Locomotives in the USA


                      I'm afraid so. Here are the links to it:

                      Train trestle burning outside of Chama | Chama, New Mexico | KRQE News 13


                      Originally posted by Lexie Palmore View Post
                      So did one of the trestles really catch fire and shut down part of the Cumbres and Toltec route?


                        Steam boats and Rail

                        I,d just like to comment on some of the posts in regard to JBS and volentiers.There are people who like to vollentier for projects that they are interested in.I have did that for Steam shows for over 30 years.I had a Steam traction steam engine and ran it at many shows.All vollentered.Any thing that is run by steam draws people.All you have to do is look along the river when the Queens were coming by.Same with Steam Locomotives,people crowd by the tracks to see them run.Its our Heritage.I dont think any steam boat or locomotive you see running doesnt have some vollenters in some capicity.The problem is the cost of running Steam.And its because of the high cost of Insurance.Not because it has steam as power.As for the JBS get a group going with Vollenters to help in restoration and using the boat.Example,The city of Duluth was owner of the Coastguard ship the Sundew.It was a Ice brecker.The city used it as a museum but didnt get enough people to go on it.The City put it up for sale and a private party bought it.The fellows wife said what are we going to do with it.He said take tours out on Lake superior.It takes so much crew and he advertized for vollenters.People who use to be on the ship came, from Pilots to Engine room personal. All Vollenters.And are doing tours out in the lake on Weekends.It can be done.Lets see that the JBS and the Delta Queen dont fade away in the sunset.