How to keep a club alive and healthy

x600 Oct 5, 2012

  1. Jim Wiggin

    Jim Wiggin Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    I think the number one thing to remember in a club is moderation. Too many rules, too many guidelines and the club becomes stagnant. Not enough rules and it becomes a loose group of people that slowly each go off on their own thing.

    Lets not forget one of the reasons why a club should exist. That is to make the public aware of this great hobby, promote and bring in new modelers and members. If you just want to run trains, stay home with your layout. If you don't want to build a layout, take up another hobby.

    A club president in my hobby (shudder, model airplanes) was often quoted as saying "Participate and enjoy your hobby." I understand there are members who are in rough times, I've been there where the last $20.00 has to pay for two weeks worth of groceries. So spending money on my trains was not an option. However I had time, so working on club modules or the layout could be done. If a club member does not have the skills to any one of the things required, HELP HIM or HER learn. If your club member is challenged by a medical problem and can not do any hard physical labor, yet is excited to run trains, you have a great public relations person right there!

    The problem with society today, is everyone is so tuned into their iPhones, iPads, social media and reality TV, they loose sight of one of the most basic human skills, COMMUNICATION. Which by the way requires verbal, listening and comprehension skills. A group of guys can't pick a guy out of the membership and say, "He is not a good club member, he just runs his stuff and does not contribute to the club." Find out why. Maybe he needs to learn skills on building a layout, but for what ever reason, hasn't talked to anyone. Someone should talk to the member and see what they can do so he can further participate and enjoy his hobby.

    It is real easy for people to stand back and judge someone. It is important to know the membership body, find out what their strengths are and use them. You will always have the guy that thinks participating in a club is showing up AFTER the modules are set up, sets up his massive freight and is gone all day, showing up just in time to grab and pack his stuff, leave without helping tear down and the next time you see him is not at a meeting or work party but the next show. Human nature. If that guy doesn't want to contribute, with money or time, show him the door.

    I think everyone needs to step back and ask the question, what is the purpose of a club? What do you get out of it? Remember, clubs are a SOCIAL activity. If you are an anti social or just not really into dealing with the wide range of human traits, than a club may not be for you. We all have to deal with all kinds of attitudes, being a human means knowing when to pick your battles. All to often people make up petty arguments on why this railroad is better, this track is better, blah blah blah. Moderation, learn to bend a bit, learn to find common ground with your fellow modeler. As a wise Canadian has said, "Where all in this together."

    With that, I'm off to participate and enjoy my hobby as I go solder drops on the club module.
  2. FloridaBoy

    FloridaBoy TrainBoard Member

    This is an important thread

    This is probably one of the most important and readable thread to occur in a long time. Every contribution was extremely valid, as I have seen or experienced every positive and negative attribute toward clubs and their role in our hobby and community.

    First, the most sacred ingredient in any club is communication and respect for each other as Wiggin said. Without that nothing can be accomplished nor pride in the organization ever exist. The absolute best "club" I ever belonged to was a round robin weekly informal work group where we visited each other's home and either worked on his layout or performed a project for the host. We all arrived with our tools, and the host provided the scope of work, and the materials. If work was not completed within a couple of hours, we just repeated the visit the next week. Very informal, no rules, no dues, no sargeant of arms like other clubs have, but we lasted 10 years with 11 regularly attending members with no fighting of any kind, no politics, and teamwork abounded. We communicated.

    Over the span we were the completed 8 layouts were among the layout tour hosts at a NMRA national and several regional conventions. On one convention my visitors log registered over 200 visitors, as did my fellow club members and we weren't even on the host club's roster.

    But over the time we made several road trips to railroad locations, train shows, famous layouts, long distance train stores and other places that tickled our fancy. We broke up because we are located in South Florida, and experienced the dynamics of what happens, move for work, ill health, death, and those of us who remain are still close and in touch.

    Other clubs seem to have one commonality, is that leaving is usually bitter in content for one reason or another, and I'll leave it at that, but some of the negatives displayed on this thread are very familiar. I would suggest that clubs that are not fun to go to, is to either try in introduce some fun into their agenda or just leave it.

    My last point is that when I was a gung ho member of a large club, I often wondered why many model railroaders didn't join, and after a couple of years, I learned why. Don't let that happen to you.

    Ken "FloridaBoy" Willaman
  3. nscalerone

    nscalerone TrainBoard Member

    The best way(s) to keep a club alive and well that I can think of are these:
    1) Get off your butt and get involved, don't just take benefits and take up space.
    2) Invite some kids in to play trains will drive the "old grouches" crazy!! (but, it will pump new blood into the club eventually, and you might even have some fun).
  4. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

    The one thing I think helps is to all play under the same rules, and allow the civilized discussion of ideas without condescending remarks like what happened with Capitol City NTrak (now defunct but resurrected under a different name, same dictator though)

    It is all about giving fair time and a fair exchange of ideas!
  5. kalbert

    kalbert Guest

    Of course you have to follow the legal rules for whatever you're doing. Rules governing the legal entity vs rules governing the fun are independent things though. We're talking about the fun rules, the ones that you make up as you go and set the tone for the club!
  6. x600

    x600 TrainBoard Member

    Hey, I want to thank those that replied. It is always interesting to hear others experience with clubs.
    Maybe a few of you missed the point I was trying to get at, or I didn't make the question quite clear enough, which is more likely.

    A little more background to help fill in some blanks.

    Our club is 501corp. We have a charter and an 8 page book of bylaws to cover our a$$ets. Our membership hovers around 16. For the most part we don't have a lot of political stuff. Some one will suggest something, we beat it to death from both sides and then we vote. Our dues are modest and have been suspended at times because we felt we deserved it. Over all the club is a success. We do have fun. We encourage fun, and we make every effort to ensure that you will have fun, or else. We, as a group have accomplished some lofty goals, to be where we are at, and to have the layout and equipment we have. Most of the members worked hard to build what we have and we don't have any real Pigeon Members. (Thanks for that one Doug.)

    It's not so much about the rules, it's about leaving a legacy and keeping the club alive and relevant in the years to come.
    A good point by Kalbert and Bendtracker1, both Modern and Historic, encouraging what is current.
    Technology is another area. Keeping up with the times. It's hard for some of us dinosaurs to Blog , Tweet, and Google. We mostly Burp, Toot, and Dribble.
    Not to say we are not Tech Savvy. We are just a few sparks away from being able to run trains with a smart phone.

    So what I would like to hear is suggestions on ways to entice or induce or otherwise encourage younger people to be interested in joining our club.

    And Thanks, Ken, I agree!
  7. casmmr

    casmmr TrainBoard Member

    You need courtesy, the ability to listen, the ability to respect other opinions, and to accept that your way is not always going to be what the final decision of the club on what or how something is to be done. I have seen over the years that more and more people cannot respect the opinions of others and cannot accept that there is more than one way to perform the same task. Fortunately, these people usually leave the club after a short time. If not, that is where trouble come to the club. At that point in time, the club must make a decision on whether or not the disruptive member is allowed to stay or invited to leave. Harsh, but, necessary.
  8. PaulBeinert

    PaulBeinert TrainBoard Supporter

    The best way to encourage kids is to give the sufficient lattitude to make mistakes, after all, that is what they will learn.
    When they make mistakes, help them understand why it was a mistake and then help them figure out how to fix it.

    Kids are what keep us young so get them involved.
  9. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

    I have a friend that always sets out a train for kids to run at the shows. He hands them a UTR throttle and talks them through the train movements and explains why. He then walks with them around the layout and points out scenic interests and other trains going by. Lots of happy faces on both the kids and the parents.
  10. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

    First of all I never said it had to be, "IT'S MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY" so don't try to put words in my mouth. Okay?

    What percentage of people fit into any of the categories you mentioned above? 1%? 2%? how about 5%? You can't tell me that the people who have bonafide disabilites make up 100% of those who make no contribution. Conversely, I have found that most people with disabilities will contribute what they can. Being disabled is not the same as being a slackard. I know of an HO club who has three members with disabilities. One man has only one leg. He uses crutches but he has two good arms and can still sweep the floor and mans the table at the door during open house. Another man is a deaf mute but makes trees and foliage for the layout. The third indivdual has a withered hand but will eagerly help with anything he can. So don't think that people with disabilities are the same as slackards because they aren't.

    Once again you try to put words in my mouth. I'll tell you again, don't do it. I am perfectly capable of saying what I mean without passing it through you as a filter. But you hit on one truth when you said, "I thought the purpose of a club was to help and share in the hobby?" It is. Now show me how someone with selfish motives who joins a club either "helps or shares in the hobby" when they don't "help or share" with the work that goes along with it?

    Obviously you were too young for that club. Funny you didn't mention anything about your p*ss poor attitude as you exemplify here. Maybe that had something to do with it. Maybe the older members saw you as some smart a$$ and decided they didn't need the aggravation. But we only have your side of the story, too bad we don't have the club's side. I would be very surprised if they matched.

    Not at all. I am fully cognizant that I stand in a line of succession taking what I have learned from older club members and passing it on down to newer ones. And by doing so I have every right to expect, nay demand, that they do likwise. But slackards won't do it because they are selfish and have the 'me first' attitude. One of the things I learned about clubs very early was that a club does not continue in existance unless everyone is pulling their weight. No free rides. We do not expect our older members to lift and carry modules but we do expect them to assist in setting up and tearing down the layout. There are tasks that need to be done that do not envolve heavy lifting and carrying.
  11. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    And later:

    OK. Right here and now we turn the heat down.

    TrainBoard Administrator
  12. Ike the BN Freak

    Ike the BN Freak TrainBoard Member

    The "club" I'm in here in Spokane is loosely based on Ntrak standards...

    The dues are really $0.

    We're more or less a group of guys who meet weekly to run trains. When we do our shows, we bring the modules, and again, a group of guys who run trains.

    Some local N scalers aren't fans of the "club" as most of the guys are older, they are more reluctant to change. However, a few of us have pushed the issue, and we're adding modules for the October show. Hopefully we'll have a few more by the February show.
  13. Fotheringill

    Fotheringill Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    I only wish there was an N Scale club that wasn't forty five miles away and didn't meet once or twice a month during the week at 7:30 PM. I still work and get rather peckish when I get home.

    As to this thread, everyone is entitled to an opinion and a response............ as long as it is civil and respectful to others here.
  14. Allen

    Allen TrainBoard Member

    Thank You, Sir! My wife, Susan, is VP of the UNW Ntrak Division. We were asked to form this division by UNW back in 2008 since I had been involved with Ntrak since the mid-1980's (primarily in KY, SC, and GA). When we first started, we decided that we were going to make the club enjoyable for all and NOT have a lot of rigid rules. The one thing that we decided on was that we would have the ability to run either DC and/or DCC (Susan is our DCC-meister, so as not to restrict membership and this has worked beautifully. While Susan and I do personally own a good portion of our Ntrak layout, other members have been steadily building modules to supplant ours. Unfortunately I've had health issues in the past 18 months that forced me to basically "retire" from the hobby and not attend shows or work on projects.
  15. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Easy to see from reading your reply why it all works.

    Sorry to learn about your health stuff. Unfortunately, I am all too familiar with that aspect of life. My modeling took a big hit a few years ago. But I keep the dream alive and do what I can.
  16. kalbert

    kalbert Guest

    Folks who intentionally provoke negative responses from others seem to often plague an otherwise fun place. Ever notice how every time there's a fight in a club there's one member who always seems to be involved and somehow whenever he's around there is trouble? Having a procedure to remove that them from the club is just as important as having methods to recruit new member. Sometimes ignoring their attempts to instigate a negative situation works, sometimes they are more persistent and must be asked to leave.

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