Model RR Clubs

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Vic, Dec 16, 2002.

  1. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Guys,Thanks for your words of kindness and offer to help.Now after much thought I thought I would share with you the other things we do to give back to the community.Understand I am NOT blowing our whistle but,hopefully passing on some ideas that other clubs may wish to follow..

    1.Every year we have a open house for Easter seals,all proceeds go to that cause.

    2.We have a op till you drop for Jerry's kids(MDA).We go out and find spondsers for us to run trains.They pay the hours a given member operates on the layout,yes,this has gone on for 24 hours at times the record being 28hrs 12 minutes.

    3.We have a local open house for the red cross food bank,the admission is can food. This is held early November.

    4.Our next local open house is the "Toys For Tots". Admission is a new or use toy in good shape ...

    Friends,If you are in a club I urge you and your club to do the something to help your community like the Red Cross,MDA and such like.It will cost nothing but your time...

    Merry Christmas to all and may God bless you and yours!
  2. wileymc

    wileymc New Member

    A Rose By Any Other Name

    A Christmas gift has made me decide to venture into MRR (G Scale). Don't know much about railroading yet, but 40 plus years of clubs and cliques have shown them to be more about power than fun. I'm the new kid (59 years old) here but thank God for "The Gauge" where its about the trains.
  3. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Brakie, You and your fellow members are truly wonderful folk! Thank you for the nice warm feeling I experienced upon reading your comments.

    I am a little late for responding to the original question about club membership, but would like to add my comments on my experience. Sometime about 1978 I somewhat nervously joined a club. There were several in the North Jersey area, and I had seen them all during open houses. Being very shy by nature I elected to join the least impressive club so as to feel not quite so inexperienced. I should say that I was not actually inexperienced, I just had no idea where I was in relation to others. I brought along a diorama I had made to test my skills, it consisted of a Campbell truss bridge with scratchbuilt abutments, river and trees. It was given a honored spot in a display cabinet and I was welcomed warmly. I soon realized that none of the currant members had had much to do with the constuction of the layout. Membership was falling off and there was a general feeling of apathy. Two young members were excited by possibilities but were kept from doing anything. The club followed Roberts rules. 2/3rds majority was required to get permission to do anything. 2/3rds consistently voted against everything! Nothing was getting done. There was no interest in even performing maintenance. A classic case of those who have ability being ruled by those with none. The layout was well behind the times in materials used for scenery, etc. I finally got several people motivated enough to get a proposal passes at a business meeting. If we first repaired/finished three projects which were in limbo for years (one of which my small group thought was stupid anyway) then we would be able to work on the section we were interested in. Although we had some help, it was Blake and I who did most of the work, much of it in one all night marathon. In one week, between Friday meetings, we had finished the tasks of repairing a yard throat, wiring a passenger terminals trackage and some other repair task I can't recall. I also added a turnout off the main to the industrial area which was our goal. All the industrial trackage was installed in a feverish session Thursday night so as to ward off the possibility we would be told to "amend" our plans to their way of thinking. Despite all the work done in just one week (which had been waiting to be done for years!) there were rumblings about how we had exceeded our permission, although we were mpermitted to finish. The do nothing members started to leave, they were unhappy that "their" club was changing. I swear this is true, these members knew little about railroading, either real or model. They used the Friday night sessions not even to run trains, I never saw half of them behind the control panel. They came to talk, about anything but usually not trains. And they wanted stagnation! I learned later that those who had built the layout had left in disgust at the new members who had taken over. But Blake and I were on a roll we built a new yard which I designed, we started actually operating and new members started joining, having seen progress for the first time in years. Membership had dropped to 5, we were about to throw it in, but the 5 were all doers, and we soon grew. We decided to tear down the old layout and start over. Several plans were submitted, mine was chosen. I had also been elected president a year before. For a brief spell, all members were on the same page. Layout construction went well, our first annual show with the new layout offerd no scenery, which made a lot of people turn around and leave instead of paying to come in (we dearly neede funds to continue) but many stayed and watched our trains run on our plywood roadbed, offering encouragement at the sight of a fresh start. Membership grew, the layout progressed, but problems were on the horizon. Our rules stated that membership was probationary for one year, after that voting members would decide on accepting a member as a full key holding, voting member. When the sudden influx of new members reached full membershio status, the consensus of opinion we had enjoyed evaporated, and the politics became bitter. To skip ahead a bit, Blake, Jim and I left, it was hard to do, that layout was my brainchild, it was like leaving a loved one. Perhaps I had become to controlling, perhaps it was now I who wanted total control. But I don't think so, I was always willing to let those who had a similar goal or vision pursue their work, and to help or teach those who had the right attitude but no experience. It was those who had radically different ideas on what they wanted in a club or layout that I resisted, their ideas or goals were not wrong, they simply didn't match what the layout was designed for. In short (!) I believe even a club layout needs direction, it can't be everything to everyone. I now am 5 years into building the JGL, I had hoped for more help from a round robin type club, but Jim moved a fair distance away, Blake can only make it by once a month or so, and no others have pooped up on my radar screen as yet. But I hope to build a group to help operate once construction is done. Anyone on the Gauge within driving distance who is interested in coming over to check it out is very welcome to do so.

    Mery Christmas, Gary
  4. MCL_RDG

    MCL_RDG Member

    Too many losers, too little time!

    Too many losers, too little time!

    I belonged to a great club- as far as space, operations but, there were 2/3 people out of 20 members that were interested in running trains. Heck- we waited for the "regular members" to leave so we could actually operate a 20 X 40 railroad. The "regular members" couldn't fathom running 200 car trains with mid-train helpers and pushers on the end on a railroad that could support that kind of operation! 'magine???!!! We (the 2/3 of us would run trains from 11:30 PM 'till the break of dawn Saturday morn'- moving more traffic in one night than the rest of the club did all year.

    When there's too much talk and no action- adios is what I say. Association is OK- There may be a few (or less) people that share actual operating and building interests other than RR Club politics in that situation. But, that's what happens when "being" someone in a club "happens". And that happens in any "committee" driven society. Bullracracy- at its worst/best- How to be a big chief, puffing and blowing smoke.

    It's been my experience that clubs can't help but rely too much on leadership by popularity. Whether it's an "operations" guy or a "Club (kiss my ring) Politician", there will be a conflict with one or the other because there are people who will side with one or the other.

    That's why you'll build your own railroad and send traffic to points East connecting with the Manayunk Canal Line.

    Too many skilled modelers are stifled by the ignorance of wannabe politicos.

    I only want to be in a situation where trains are run. If all you're running for is election- You missed the train!


    Oooops! Did I say something wrong? There was a time when a president of the club I belonged to was elected. He was 1 of the 3 of the 2/3us that actually wanted to operate. More scenery got done, super details were placed, club grew, yard was always changed out- trains were going everywhere, doing things. But, we grew tired of the lax state of affairs and with "new" elections- the 20 others elected a politician. The railroad hangs on and no one is interested anymore- that cared. It's still there, looks good, but not without a lot of grief.

    Here I say- Let's run trains, not lips!

    Since you're in "training" make the wise decision- "connections" with other railroad concerns are always positive. Just don't count on their traffic to fill your yard.


    P.S. (Sorry for exposing true life)
  5. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    Merry Christmas to you too Gary!

    Your story reminded me of an incadent in the local club that I spoke of in my earlier reply...
    The club operated an aging HO layout, which had been originally constructed by one of the members, & his father, who had passed away, before I joined.
    The layout had one of those runaround "spagetti bowl" track plans which offered little in the way of any kind of realistic operations.
    The layout did have beautiful handlaid track, & was great fun, as far as just running the trains...
    The scenery was however, to put it nicely, pathetic...someone, at some point, had sprinkled some green stuff on the plywood base, & that was about the extent of it. There were also some assorted plastic Revel kits sitting around that looked like they had been assembled & painted by 6 year olds.
    Me, & two of the other newest members (we were the only guys in the club under 60) in a burst of youthful enthusiasm, started dreaming up these schemes for up-dating the layout...we were going to add scenery, using newer methods, & materials, & we had this idea for sort of a theme...we were going to get rid of all those little boxcar-sized industries, scratch-bash a large mining complex on one side of the layout, & a small town on the other.
    We thought that the older guys would welcome this idea with open arms...
    I was about to learn a valuable lesson in perceptions...
    When we presented the idea to the voting members at a meeting, man, it didn't even rate a vote! It was as if we had suggested dynamiting Mt Rushmore!
    Anyway, it was this and some other things that eventually drove me back into my own basement, to persue the hobby on my own terms.

    btw, Brakie, it's wonderful to hear of a club that is helping & encouraging young people, rather than stifling them & pushing them away!
  6. absnut

    absnut Member

    All the above stories relating problems with clubs are so true to life. I think it was Plato who said words to the effect that democracy was a poor form of government but it's the best we have!
    In the mid 70's, there was a sign-up sheet at a nearby train shop for anyone interested in forming a club. Being the social animal that I am :D , I readily signed up. After the sheet had collected about 20 names, the shop owner provided a time and place for a meeting. It was a rather diverse group, mostly older fellows (of which I are one now), I being one of the younger fellows there at 35. We agreed that we would meet weekly to get things off the ground; we few N scalers (reluctantly in our hearts) agreed that the club's layout would be HO; we agreed that the club should have a constitution and that a constitution committee would be formed; and we agreed that until such constitution was written and accepted, that a simple 2/3 majority vote would govern all activity. And, that was the last thing we agreed on. After two years of mainly trying to get a constitution passed, most of the proposed membership just sorta faded away into the sunset and the non-club died. We never laid a piece of track.
    I came to several conclusions as a result of this learning experience: 1.) all members should be about the same age group; 2.) there should be no self-styled "experts" who by virtue of their own assesment, are better modelers than you are; 3.) leadership qualities should be assessed by the membership and not by the person who wants to be "leader"; 4.) organiziation should be as simple as it can be; and, 5.) everyone should have the same agenda/goals in order to make it work. Unfortunately, society and human nature being what they are, it is difficult to get all these things wrapped up in one package (club) and so many fail.
    I have visited several clubs since then, unfortunately too far away to travel to regularly, but have practiced my hobby as a lone wolf. I am the president, chief planner, chief operator, and majority of one when it comes to making important, and not so important, decisions. Perhaps, if I'd had a more pleasant beginning with a club, I'd feel more kindly towards being a member of one. Having been in education for 40 years and a member of several non-train organizations, I've found the same problems experienced by train clubs exists in all organizations!

    I've rambled quite a bit. Sorry. I have found this forum to be a very good one... friendy, helpful, and laid back. My kind of club!:)

    Happy Holidays,

  7. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Charlie, Your initial experience sounds exactly like mine. Only in my case, along with several others we were able to turn the club around only to lose it in the end. BTW, welcome to Mark, who was one of the members of that club when I joined. He and Blake and I would stay all night and operate, no one else was interested. Good to have you here Mark. Mark is an artist in that he can see a potential scene and descibe and draw it so well(in seconds) that you would be amazed. The three of us would spend hours running trains and developing plans for improvements. The fact is we would have been (are) better off on our own.

  8. MCL_RDG

    MCL_RDG Member

    Thanks for the welcome.

    Hey Gary,

    Thanks for the welcome. Heh- (I crack me uP). I came back to the thread to see if I went a little too far in my rant. I didn't even read the names with the other replies. There you are, just above me.

    Hello to all the others who have read this.

    ...catch ya trackside.

  9. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I just want to give a potted history of the club I'm in.
    We broke off from being the local branch of a national society. We've since had several clubs break off from us.
    They (I joined a few months later) set it up as a round robin/visiting type club. There was no club layout, although members could exhibit their own layouts under the club name. It was also designed as hard to get into but easy to get out of -- just forget to pay your buck every 4 months.
    Much of the reason for not having a layout was that we have great diversity of prototypes and scales. We also acommodate toy collectors and scale scratchbuilders. (like the Gauge).
    We have had a number of dissident and spin-off clubs where the fellows wanted to build their own layouts.
    And some members remember the guy who got so upset that he stormed out of a meeting ... that was being held in his house.
    We get 20 to 30 members (out of 80 to 100) to meetings. And we usually manage to insult each other without any hard feelings.
  10. TR-Flyer

    TR-Flyer Member

    Clubs, of any sort, demand a high degree of cooperation, read "compromise", if the membership is diverse. If you're all second cousins then this is not as great a problem. (However, the gene pool might be an issue.)

    One very good reason for a club, especially a club that creates a public display/layout, is to expose the joys of the hobby to others. It's less costly to create a large and interesting layout with others than it is to do it all by yourself. Even if you can do a better layout on your own, not many folks will run an ad in the local newspaper stating that they are having an open house for the weekend, the entire public is welcome to come!

    All group endeavors are tricky. Shoot, just look at your own family’s dynamics if you want to see how hard it sometimes is to reach an acceptable compromise. (“Oh come ON Dad, we had pizza last night!!!”, “ If I have to eat pizza on more night I’ll ….”)

    Y’all remember Groucho’s famous words? Forget the movie, but they go something like this, “I’d never be a member of any group that would have me as a member”.

  11. interurban

    interurban Active Member

    Hi folks,

    I can only count my blessings that our Traction in Action small group get along O K,
    We have No meeting unless its to see what the lads can manage as regards the upcoming M/R shows.
    We each have our own layouts,ranging from Erine`s British Steam / Diesal and now some Traction stuff .
    Brain`s North American layout, Glenn who now has a neat Traction line within His North American lay out.
    Andy who has the makings of a Niagara St Thomas Traction modual.
    Dave a Traction Nut yep soly Traction layout,
    and meself who you know about:eek:
    We have known each other for many many years, and last year decided to put our differant strenghts ( in modeling) together and build a small Traction layout to enjoy, and take to shows.
    Why Traction??? I think mainly because it is now a rare thing to see.
    We each throw $20 in a month and meet every Friday we can, just to work on the layout or just to play have coffee and enjoy.

    Attitude is everything:D
    We also hope to encurage folk to consider modeling traction for a change:D

    And now we have THE GAUGE and all you nice folk to chat to.

    And that`s our small "Group" not club:):D
  12. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Chris, I think the key to your groups success is the fact that you all have your own layouts. When that's the case I don't think the layouts need to have similar themes at all. Each persons layout is HIS, and while he may ask for input, the final decisions are his, and this is the important differance. Blake, Lackawanna Jim and I have this "round robin" type thing going, but unfortunately we don't get together as often as I would like due to schedules and distances. When I started my layout I had counted on quite a bit of help but it has been more of a solo effort than I intended. This is not a bad thing, it is just taking longer than I originally intended. But I'm having a blast!

  13. Partsman

    Partsman Member

    When I was a teenager, I was interested in HO model trains. I wasn't deeply focused on the hobby, but did set up the tracks on a piece of plywood and ran the trains once in a while.

    In my mid twenties, I tried to develop an interest again and attended a few sessions with an older local club which modelled in O scale. The members did not seem terribly friendly toward younger people and after just a short time, I decided I did not need that kind of negatives in my life along with being married and helping to raise two children, so I never went back.

    Now that I am in my sixties, and have more time on my hands, the hobby has reared its head again. I am slowly progressing with the learning process toward having a small railroad at home. I am hesitant to join any group as I am not, and never will be, a perfectionist. I prefer to do my own thing, with the help and knowledge of the members at The Gauge and other on-line support directly related to my specific choice of gauge.

    This attitude may change, perhaps, for I can see the benefits of the social aspect of the hobby.

    Time will tell.
  14. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    An Update

    Well I took Val's good advice and paid a visit to the club to see if anything had changed. Sadly I have to report that I didn't see a great deal of change. The layout was looking good from a construction standpoint but it lacked a continuity or a theme...more or less a hodge-poge of various scenes.

    Noticed that some of the people that I knew formerly from there were not in attendance. Saw a couple of folks that I didn't know too. Didn't see a great deal being accomplished as far as actual work on the layout but of course its the holidays and what could I expect. A couple of guys ran some trains but no real operations.

    In all honesty I sorta felt there was a "tension" in the air because I was there and when I asked about a couple of guys that I used to work with a lot when I was a member I was told that they were P----- O---- and didn't come anymore. There was a lot of bragging about who had what and how much more they were going to get.

    Well I guess somethings just don't change...they just exist... so like many others here I'm just going to stay to myself...think that would be best.

    Thanks to all who replied to my question and the insight was certainly appreciated.
  15. interurban

    interurban Active Member

    No worries

    Hi Gary ,
    You are dead on when you said "we have our own layouts"
    Thats what it is about realy even if you can only manage a shelf layou.

    Take all the time you can on YOUR lay out because it will never be finished;) ;) ;) ;)

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