Author Topic: Inviting Younger People to get Involved  (Read 6877 times)

Richard "Steam" Symmes

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Inviting Younger People to get Involved
« on: April 28, 2013, 04:20:16 PM »
Where are the "young folks" (20s and 30s)?

The pictures make it look like "duffer land".  Another ten years will make a huge difference in what can be done as far as "grunt work" goes.

This is the same problem that is spreading through all the hobbies, museums, and whatnot.  Our live steam club members average about 70 years old.  There are only one or two people younger than that and they have families to raise, so their time is limited.  The kids. . . all into virtual reality and social media, with rare exceptions.  This fact of life is going to impact all museums big time in the coming years.  

Party on!

Richard
« Last Edit: April 29, 2013, 12:46:22 PM by Ed Lecuyer »

Ed Lecuyer

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Re: 2013 Spring Work Weekend
« Reply #1 on: April 28, 2013, 06:21:40 PM »
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Where are the "young folks" (20s and 30s)?

Over my two days at the weekend, I encountered plenty of those younger than me (I'm 42, just beyond the "under 40" crowd.) In fact, I worked closely with "Trip" who is pictured with me in Mike Fox's 3rd photo replacing ties. He and his wife joined us for the weekend - and they both appeared to be in that demographic.

We also had a number of new (or newer) volunteers - "Ralph" and his dad (whose name I forget) were quick to learn the art of spiking and tamping. Ralph's dad flew in from Aurora, Colorado. "Dennis" (who is fairly new and lives locally) help me dig out the clay and wood-chip mixture that was in the gauge at Brook Crossing.

One young face that stopped by on Friday was Joe Fox. Now working for a local regional railroad as conductor - he isn't able to get to Sheepscot very often.

The *BEST* though was a 4 or 5 year old that I interacted with briefly. His favorite train? "CSX". His dad told me that not long ago, the boy asked him what "Exempt" (at a crossing) means! The future is looking bright.

I was sad that I had to leave Saturday night, after a great two days. All ages and abilities working side by side for the common good of the WW&F. I wish you had been able to join us in person - you are always welcome.
Ed Lecuyer
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James Patten

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Re: 2013 Spring Work Weekend
« Reply #2 on: April 28, 2013, 09:40:35 PM »
Up until a couple of years ago, I qualified as "young folk".  Guess I'm getting old :(

Richard "Steam" Symmes

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Re: 2013 Spring Work Weekend
« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2013, 01:09:48 AM »
The point of my comment was not to disparage "duffers". God knows they do most of the work up there. The point was, that another ten years or less will make a big difference in what can be done if the youthful element isn't developed to replace the aging veterans.  This is happening all over, and is certainly not unique to the WW&F or any particular sort of museum.

We have in the next town to me an institution called the Wenham Museum (Wenham, Mass.)  It has an entire basement filled with various model railroads which kids can run by pushing a button. All scales are represented, from G to Z. All of this was put together in the 1970s by a group of dedicated men who were into model railroading.  Most of them volunteered their time. Only a couple were part time paid personnel. There were about a dozen in all. Guess how many are active today?  3 or 4, and they are all in their 80's with various health issues. All the rest have either died or are in nursing homes.  No younger people have been found to replace them. First, because the entire railroading hobby is aging, and second, because those younger men with an interest, don't have the time to devote to the museum.

The result is that if there is a problem with a layout, often nobody is on hand to fix it, and the layout is taken "off line" until it can be attended to, which can take several days.  Maintaining the fleet of locomotives and rolling stock is also feeling the pinch, as knowledgeable people who can take things apart and fix them are no longer available as often as in the past.

Again, as we look at Stephen's usual magnificent photos of the work sessions, we see mostly gray or white hair in evidence.  This only will get worse as time goes on.  I see this as a priority subject for the museum's directors to discuss.  Pretending that these old hands will live forever, or never suffer physical incapacity is simply "whistling past the graveyard."  Deal with the situation now before it becomes too critical.  

I speak as someone approaching age 72, and my own work capability is beginning to shrink, difficult as it is for me to believe, or even admit.  I was 30 years old yesterday, or so it seems until I look in the mirror. Yikes!  Where did this old geezer come from?  We don't age like fine cheese or wine, and those are "the facts, Jack."

Richard

Fred Morse

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Re: Inviting Younger People to get Involved
« Reply #4 on: April 29, 2013, 07:22:43 PM »
I think there will be plenty of young people to take our places, I don't expect many people raising families,However, I don't look a the 50 and early 60's as old. every year we've a lot more" younger" people working the machine shop, and when we start laying rail again we will see a big influx of people. Working on buildings isn't as grand as laying track.Were lucky now that we're getting more local talent that come every week.

Ira Schreiber

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Re: Inviting Younger People to get Involved
« Reply #5 on: April 29, 2013, 08:23:33 PM »
Well stated, Fred.
Ira

John McNamara

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Re: 2013 Spring Work Weekend
« Reply #6 on: April 29, 2013, 08:36:55 PM »
I was 30 years old yesterday, or so it seems until I look in the mirror. Yikes!  Where did this old geezer come from?  
Richard
This is just more evidence that they don't make mirrors like they used to. ;)
-John

Richard "Steam" Symmes

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Re: Inviting Younger People to get Involved
« Reply #7 on: April 29, 2013, 08:45:16 PM »
Maybe the mirrors in the "Fun House" at the carnival?

BULLETIN FOR FRED:  60s may not be old, but in a short ten years that turns to 70s.  Your abilities diminish quite a lot in those 10 years.  See my earlier comments about the Wenham Museum.  And that only concerns working on model railroads.  That's not humping ties and rail and shoveling carloads or gravel.

You make light of this situation at your own peril.

Richard

Fred Morse

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Re: Inviting Younger People to get Involved
« Reply #8 on: April 29, 2013, 09:13:54 PM »
t 77 I think 60 is quite young.W e have a crane and tractor to help us now. One thing older people have always have helped us with is money. Its always a great help. We also get a lot of tools from older people which is great.

Mike Fox

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Re: Inviting Younger People to get Involved
« Reply #9 on: April 29, 2013, 11:32:12 PM »
A lot of our volunteers are like fine wine. They get better with age. Our oldest volunteers have done a lot of work, and often still do. These guys have retired and are willing and able to commit time to the museum. THEY make the museum what it is. Their dedication shows the younger generation what can and needs to be done, day after day, to keep the museum looking good and making progress.

There are about a dozen of us that are regulars that are around 40. 10 years ago, there was probably about a dozen around 40, and 20 years ago, the museum still in it's infancy, there were people in their 40's, most likely about a dozen.

It is nice during the work weekend to see the younger crowd. There were some there, just not pictured.
Mike
Doing way too much to list...

Stewart "Start" Rhine

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Re: Inviting Younger People to get Involved
« Reply #10 on: April 29, 2013, 11:51:45 PM »
Without trying I can think of at least 3 regular museum volunteers in their 30's, two of them are at Sheepscot every week.

A few facts -

From my 39 years in the fire service (with 20 in administration), I can note the trend for volunteers. We would get 18-19 year old volunteers who would stay for an average of 5 years.  When they reached their mid 20's some would get married and start familys. Most of the members with kids left or cut back their volunteer time at that point.  Some would come back in 5-10 years, those were the members who had a good experience at the fire house when they were young.  The ones that came back were good firefighters and we would have them as active members for another 30+ years.  

We know it's tough rasing a family and giving time to a fire company or museum.  Fred made the point that most 20-30 somethings are too busy with kids in school and all their activities to volunteer and the WW&F is no exception. I think we should try to get new members of all ages. Introducing children and young adults to the railroad will plant a seed of interest but I don't think we will ever have a large crop of 20-30 somethings.  What we do have is a broad range of people who bring skills and energy to the railroad.  BTW, if you don't think a 70 something has energy, spend a day with Fred.

Stewart  
« Last Edit: April 30, 2013, 02:35:37 PM by Stewart Rhine »

Ed Lecuyer

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Re: Inviting Younger People to get Involved
« Reply #11 on: April 30, 2013, 12:59:33 AM »
If we want more young people to be attracted to railroad preservation (or any hobby) we must be willing to invest in them.

We also have to be prepared when they go off to college and start a career and family – knowing that the seeds planted will bear fruit. This may be elsewhere.

For example, I did not get involved with the WW&F until I was about 30. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I've loved trains since I was born. Some attribute it to an early Amtrak trip from Providence to Florida when I was an infant, circa 1972. Maybe its because both of my parents are from Bellows Falls, VT. My middle name is after Charles Herbert "Bert" Preston, the conductor for the Woodstock Railroad in Vermont and my great-grandfather. Whatever the reason, I got bit by this bug a long time ago – but didn't have the opportunity to get truly involved until much later.

However, I am forever grateful to the older generation who encouraged my interests at such a young age. Please let me honor some of them here:
Mr. Harrison.
He was a member of the Pioneer Valley Steamers in Southwick, MA. He also ran "Davis Store" in Wrentham, my hometown. Davis' had a few copies of "Model Railroader" on sale, and somehow one was slipped into my bag whenever I stopped in for ice cream. Mr. Harrison took me to the Pioneer Valley Steamers several times, which I never forgot.

Howard Topham.
A former railroader turned newspaper reporter, Mr. Topham had a large collection of books, films, and railroad ephemera – especially Boston-area traction. When his health started to fail, he made me an offer I could not refuse – show up at his apartment with my bicycle and he would let me have as much as I could safely carry home. I made dozens of round trips with my basket jammed full of magazines, books, etc. Years later, I donated much of this to the WW&F for our archives, or trade/sale for other museum needs.

Adolf Arnold.
Mr. Arnold had a toy train museum in Middleboro, MA. My dad brought me there several times during its construction so that I could help out. Dad worked 2nd and 3rd shift, so he would sleep in the car while I swept floors. Mr. Arnold was always patient with my questions and ideas.

Howie Gunnison.
Dad worked with Mr. Gunnison at Walpole State Prison – both as steam boiler engineers. Mr. Gunnison also lived in Wrentham and had a collection of switch stands proudly displayed on the top of a hill in his front yard. He was also a regular engineer at Edaville, and one day gave me the run of the park as his "nephew." Between that, and other visits, I somehow managed to ride in the cab of all 4 of the Maine steamers around the bogs. I had no idea how special that would be in later years.

Mr. Gunnison obviously loved the Maine two-footers and moved away soon after he retired; his switch stands disappeared. Dad told me that he moved somewhere in Maine – and was somehow involved with some trains up there. He died not long after. It was not until many years later that I learned that Mr. Gunnison was an early member of the WW&F, and his collection ended up as ours. Even though the south switch at Alna Center is a PITA to move, I pray for Howie every time I throw it – for I know he would be proud of its resurrection from a hilltop in Wrentham to be back into service.

Alvin "Mac" and Helen McClintock.
But no one invested in me like "Mac" and his wife, Helen.

Summer vacation is dreadfully boring to a pre-teen. Not old enough for a job, and not anything to do. I spent many summer mornings with Mac, and learned more than just about model trains.

Mac's property had a big barn and one day they were having a Yard Sale. Mac and his wife lived in an in-law apartment in the barn, their son and his family lived in the adjacent house. At the Yard Sale, I wandered into the barn to discover an elderly man selling a wide variety of Lionel, Marx, and American Flyer trains. After an hour of talking, Mac instructed his son to "take the boy to see the collection." His son was hesitant to let such a young visitor into his home, but Mac insisted that I knew what I was talking about and could be trusted.

I had never seen such a display.

Walls covered with Lionel, Marx, Flyer. O gauge, S Gauge, even some HO. Matchbox cars too. And a small layout under construction.

Mac told me to call him any time to visit. A lifelong friendship was born.

For the rest of the summer, and for many more summers to come, I would call over to let them know I was coming, then pedal my bike as quick as I could to get there. Mac was already in his basement workshop, tinkering away at something. He'd send me to fetch boxes in storage. A common trip was to send me to the Liquor store nearby to pick up boxes. He wanted a specific kind so that they would stack evenly. Then he would cut them to size and put the trains away in them.

At lunch, I would help him up the stairs. This was a major undertaking as he had injured his legs as a young man in a motorcycle accident. Helen would have lunch ready for him. I would usually head home, not wanting to wear out my welcome, but sometimes Helen would fix me a grilled cheese.

Mac "adopted" me so that I could attend the swap meets for the Train Collectors Association. The rules stated that only children of members could attend. They broke them for me, and no one cared. Oh the treasures I would find when not helping man his table.

Mac's health started to fail and he could no longer navigate the stairs to the basement workshop. So, I became his legs, fetching boxes from the basement, then putting them away. But it was the time we shared talking that helped shape me from an enthusiastic boy into a polite young man.

In college we still kept in touch when I would come home, but my visits were not as frequent. One day I got the phone call that Helen had died. Mac was heartbroken to lose his companion of more than 50 years. Mac's legs would not permit him to attend the wake, funeral, or burial – so his son asked if I would sit with him during that time. We talked of life and death, and he reminded me that if we truly believe in God and Heaven, death is not a sad event. While we morn, we remain hopeful.

When Christmas vacation came about 11 months later, I had someone special to introduce to Mac, my fiancée Michelle. We drove to his house unannounced – to learn that he had just been admitted to the hospital. When we arrived, it was clear that his journey on this earth was coming to a close.

I asked Mac what his secret for such a long and faithful marriage was. He opened the drawer on the hospital table to take out a book I had never seen him with before – a well worn book of prayers. He opened to a page, handed it to me, and asked me to read:
Quote
Lord Jesus, grant that I and my spouse may have a true and understanding love for each other. Grant that we may both be filled with faith and trust. Give us the grace to live with each other in peace and harmony. May we always bear with one another's weaknesses and grow from each other's strengths. Help us to forgive one another's failings and grant us patience, kindness, cheerfulness and the spirit of placing the well-being of one another ahead of self.

May the love that brought us together grow and mature with each passing year. Bring us both ever closer to You through our love for each other. Let our love grow to perfection. Amen.

Our visit was all too short. With a "goodbye old friend" we left. He died the next day.




I share these stories, honoring these "rail heroes" because we often forget what a difference we can make in the lives of young people. Sometimes its inconvenient to explain something for the 20th time. It's easy to lose patience and understanding. It's hard to trust someone so young. And sometimes rules need to be broken to create opportunities. (Not only in the stories I share above, but I recall the times I was invited into cabs for rides on Conrail and the Cape Cod and Hyannis by nameless train crews that saw this young kid hanging around the yard.)

So to those reading this forum who are "young" – please know that I will share whatever patience and understanding with you that I can muster. If you live near me, you are welcome to hitch a ride to the WW&F whenever we can go together.

And to the rest of us, let us know that it is our duty to raise up these young people. Let's not only teach them about the trains we love, but also share with them the lives we have lived.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2013, 01:23:07 AM by Ed Lecuyer »
Ed Lecuyer
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Dave Buczkowski

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Re: Inviting Younger People to get Involved
« Reply #12 on: April 30, 2013, 03:48:47 AM »
Well said Ed. Between you and Fred there's nothing left to be said on the subject. You indeed are a lucky man.
Dave

Bill Sample

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Re: Inviting Younger People to get Involved
« Reply #13 on: May 01, 2013, 03:08:42 PM »
Wow - that's quite a nice story, Ed.  I had some similar fond memories growing up, starting with my Dad taking me to trainside. Although he had just a passing interest in railroads he brought me to Edaville and explained what the 2 footers were, lighting the fire so to speak.  My Mom also endured my interest providing "taxi" service in my pre-license days.  Both of them later had the favors returned with side trips to Portland, Sheepscot and Albion while visiting my sister in Maine with me being the "taxi driver."
Richard brings up some important concern and if I remember correctly he has introduced some of the next generation to rail preservation at the WW&F.  
In my observation the WW&F has done relatively well in attracting young members.  The "heritage railways" seem to have had varying degrees of success in attracting younger members but overall they seem to have been better in this regard than the "armchair" clubs which deal mainly with discussion and video presentations.  I believe the "hands-on" activity can not be easily replaced by being on-line, where as the armchair groups have suffered from the newer sources of information that can be found on-line.
I have been involved with heritage rail groups such as the Connecticut Electric Railway Association and after that the RMNE since around 1966 when I was 16. Like Ed I visited the Pioneer Valley Live Steamers, this starting around 1962 for me.  I remember a number of people who encouraged me through the years at each place, and at the RMNE I have gone from one of the youngest to one of the Old Goats over the decades, and have seen an entire generation pass on as the time went by.  And those now gone were among those who helped to create our own history within the heritage railway movement.  Thankfully Harry Percival is well remembered even by those who never had the pleasure of meeting him.    
Ed, thanks again for stirring the memories.  And thanks to Richard and all the others that have recognized the importance of encouraging the next generation.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2013, 01:49:42 AM by Bill Sample »

Fred Morse

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Re: Inviting Younger People to get Involved
« Reply #14 on: May 01, 2013, 04:48:19 PM »
Our normal,every week, group is about 50-50 under 40 and over 40, we gain new people every year. We're one of the few 2 foot gauge R.R. growing in workers.