How to Kill a Model Train Club

Switchman Oct 2, 2012

  1. Backshop

    Backshop TrainBoard Member

    Built-in obsolescence, which can be in various forms. A new or rebuilding club attracts a lot of builders, guys who like making benchwork, doing wiring, laying track, etc. Then the layout gets finished, and re-doing or changing finished parts is not allowed, so builders get bored and leave. Someone also mentioned old layouts that are wearing out, or have areas needing reworking or modernizing (scenery or electrical) but the old-time members resist any change, so the newcomers with ideas leave (that's what I ran into). Or a layout is built and runs well, but when operations-minded members try to run they find the layout is set up poorly to do so. This is also a matter of what kind of railroaders get to design the layout and how it can be used: roundy-roundy types that design industry spurs (and very few of them) only as scenery they pass with their non-stop trains, or operations people who want to work every piece of layout track. The truth is model club membership interests and abilities change as members come and go, but rarely is the layout changed to reflect that. Modular clubs have an advantage in this regard. Though I've been in modular clubs where some people have very toy-like scenery and marginal trackwork, which clashes badly with somebody's super-detailed and realistic-looking module.
    Another reason is bad location. When it takes everybody a long drive to get to the club, the price of gas takes a toll on attendence.
  2. Seated Viper

    Seated Viper TrainBoard Member

    The hierarchy says that comments, queries and suggestions from a recently-joined member represent having a moan, and being generally unhelpful. It's fine if the accused member wants to sit quietly in a corner and take no part in the proceedings, but who in his (or her! - I know of several clubs with lady members, and they aren't there just to brew the tea) right mind is going to tolerate that? The time would be better spent on building the home layout. I had that situation, took advice from friends away from the group as well as family members, and voted with my feet. I'm now a member of another (very exclusive!) club, with two layouts in different scales: until I decide to scrap one of them or build a third, that is!


    Pete Davies
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 4, 2012
  3. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

    One problem I've seen is members that are perhaps not MMRs that are afraid to do any work on the layout for fear of criticism.

    I've seen this at both the clubs I've been a part of and in both cases, a large part of the problem is former members or officers that do criticize.
    This is troublesome, because even after the offending parties are removed from power or are kicked out, the damage is done.

    We have members that have beautiful home layouts, but they're afraid to touch anything at the club for fear of annoying someone. It's made worse when certain loudmouths always criticize.
    The club has a planning commitee. The committee decides broadly what gets done and big changes are put to a vote. Don't worry what Captain contrarian has to say. He's just mad, because nobody wanted him to be president any more.

    The only way I have found to fix this is to rally the people that will still work and bring in new blood and try your best to coax people back...but don't be overly critical of the guys that just wanna run either.
  4. Logtrain

    Logtrain TrainBoard Member

    This is true EXCEPT when people put a train on to run then go to the bathroom shortly there after, later to find out they fell into the abyss of the train show and/or swap meet. When they return a couple hours later they are upset and pi##ed that someone pulled their train into the yard or onto a siding somewhere on the layout.
  5. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

    Oh yeah. Or build a train so long it takes multiple long sidings to hold it and then leave it there all day so nobody else can use the yard.
  6. glakedylan

    glakedylan TrainBoard Member

    all of this sounds way too much like church
    and people have quit joining and being part of those for quite a while now

    just what i am reading and hearing...
    Gary L Lake Dillensnyder
  7. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

    Of course it sounds like Church. It's a bunch of individuals getting together in a building to experience an aspect of life together.

    Well, it turns out, other humans are generally an annoying lot. More so when you get a bunch of them together. This is really a thread about just how much each of us is willing to tolerate each other.

    Personally, I find you all only vaguely tolerable on the internet. If I had to be in a club with ya'll there would be blood. :wink:
  8. subwayaz

    subwayaz TrainBoard Member

    Deploy them all over seas; which is what happened
  9. Advertiser

    1) Schedule ALL social activities so that members that have businesses cannot attend or can barely arrive by the posted time and then have the social event (meals) completed before the posted time the event is supposed to start.
    2) Charge large dues (>$120/year) but do not let members have access to the facility when it is convenient to them.
    3) In fact give keys to only 2-3 members but have all members pay the same dues.
    4) Sign a lease that allows the landlord to charge for repairs to the HVAC when it wasn't working at the time of move-in.
    5) Cancel operating sessions because one or two members want to go out of state to operate on the layout of another organization in another scale. Only members that can afford $60+/night in lodging plus meals and mileage can participate in that activity since it is 500+ miles away.
    6) Cancel operating sessions because one or two members are worried about traffic for a large event going on 5+ miles away that is concluded about 90 minutes before the operating session.
  10. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Yeoow. All this from just one club?
  11. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

    Fascinating, yet sad. I've visited some clubs over the past fifty years, sat, observed, chatted, listened, and experienced most, if not all of what has been posted on this thread. So I work in my own world and am generally pleased with what has been developed. I will admit to getting bored occasionally without the camaradery of a small group. But then I'll fire the "people" in my mind who have become annoying, get fresh ideas and motivation, and go back to my(!) hobby with a new approach for the next year or so. OK, so I'm a Loner, and without apologies, but what I enjoy most is being able chat with my "family" on TB. I wonder how many others like me are out there?
  12. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter


    Yea...I sorta mentioned the same thing earlier. I am a 'club' of 1 and fairly happy. It is a 'club' of 2 when THE Wife decides to come out and run some trains or give some advise...LOL
  13. x600

    x600 TrainBoard Member

    Groucho Marx said, "I would never join any club that would let a guy like me be a member."

    Sometimes we're our own worst enemy.

    Great clubs can't be orchestrated, they just happen. Get the right group of people together at the right time and Bingo!
    The trick is not how to kill a club, but how to keep one fresh and interesting. Getting young people involved and keeping up with technology,
    while not alienating other members.
    So as not to high jack this tread, I'll start one on keeping a club going and vibrant.
  14. Geep_fan

    Geep_fan TrainBoard Member

    I have been a part of 4 clubs in my life, Ironically, all belonging to an entirely different category.

    The first one was the La Mesa Club in the San Diego model railroad museum. Very strict operational rules (prototype roads only, OIC decides what era is to be operating that day, etc), a full on committee for scenery and trackage. The layout operated extremely well and we were all happy for the most part. Occasional disagreement on operation procedures between the modern era and transition era modelers.

    Second was a 7 1/2" scale club in Chula Vista, CA. In this scale you simply cannot afford to have it "your way" all the time and had a few red headed moments, not anything too severe.

    The third was the pikemasters in Colorado Springs, now this club did/still does have its share of faults. They had a very interesting hierarchy and the older founding members seemed to have total sway over what occurred. If something came up at a meeting that they disagreed with, they would force the topic to be tabled and it was not brought up again. This was partially due to the fact that our membership was too afraid to stand up to these "know-alls". Fortunately this issue got taken care of and now when something goes up that an old hand disagrees with, we take a majority vote on it. Yeah, we lost a few of these people when there "superior ideas" were outvoted, but at least progress was made. We have a split club, with some wanting to just run trains around in circles and talk, and we have a few operators. Originally the trackage only satisfied the round-the-loop guys, all the mainlines where blocked, however they had no way to have selected packs or to move off the mainline. This made a dramatic turn around in the past 2 years, with some modifications that give the roundy-round guys more trackage to run their trains on the main, and a way for us operators to do our switching and timetable operations. Big improvement, but we still have some of the old hands that gripe whenever we install controls to operate a coal mine on a hill that was "just for looks" and that we ruined it when we added a crossover to the far end to make switching easier.

    The final club I belonged to for a year and was in Athens, Ohio. One of the most close knit clubs I belonged to, maybe 5 regulars. It was more than just the model railroad club though, we usually all went to breakfest together before we started work, all piled into the van when we heard a train horn in the distance, went on railfanning trips carpooling in one van, and did majority of the work on the layout. We had about 15 members, on Tuesday nights we had our meetings, and then the casual running guys bought in their trains to run on the layout, they could care less what we did to the layout, so long as they could run. Then on Saturdays us 5 would go to the club and work on the layout to our hearts content and run whatever we wanted. Was a good arrangement, the club had rules and by laws but for the most part these were not referred to or followed. Our business meeting basically consisted of "how much money do we have?" "enough for this months rent" and then our plans to move the modules to the next show. President, Secretary, Treasurer, were all just titles, didn't really change what they did at meetings besides were they sat. In fact our club president during the first 6 months or so that I was there only made 2 appearances at business meetings, usually arriving 20-30 minutes late.

    Basically you have a whole spectrum here from the really strict tight club, down to the loose and easy going.

    As for what I think will ruin a club:
    -Following rules to the letter and running the club like a business without any leeway to allow members and guests to have a good time
    -Creating job like time goals and "completion due dates", never accept a club president who was a manager for half his life!
    -Creating Seniority rules. Quite honestly, if any dispute arises it can normally be taken care of by a simple 10 second conversation, not by a rule book and a club officer.
    -knocking up benchwork at lightning speed, buying track from thrift stores, and slinging scenery on a 20x60 layout so it would be operational by the first thanksgiving after the room was received (a mere month and a half after we got the place) and then wondering why stuff operates poorly and benchwork seems to collapse after some scenery is applied (we actually had a member that climbed on the benchwork to change a bulb and had the table buckle under him).
    -as mentioned earlier in the thread; when equipment doesn't operate properly, blame the track and yell at anyone who offers help
    -in the reverse, when a section of poor trackwork causes derailments, its the equipment's fault and yell at the person who suggests that the track could be a little bit more level.
    -blow up the clubs DCC system by performing a wiring task that had been struck down at a previous meeting. Then say "thats the same way I do it at home, it must work here!"
    -table items at meetings to satisfy members of age or because they throw a fit to appease them. Just like how Hitler managed to claim half of Europe without intervention.
    -regardless of how good the idea is in comparison to what has been presented elsewise, the kids idea will never work and that he has "much to learn", come back in 6 months and find that they went with that idea anywhey.
    -if your the club president, the entire engine facility, house track, and passenger terminal on the north end becomes your place to store your equipment and gripe when somebody moves something to perform maintenance on the 30 some odd feet of track he's blocking 24/7.
    -become infuriated when somebody moves your train off the mainline after you left it there during an open house and vanished to go to lunch.
    -When a corner module develops a few kinks in the track and is replaced by another corner module that was in storage, scream a fit that the module that had the useless, broken turntable needed to be brought back.
    -during an operating session, follow the exact prototype rule of holding MOW trains in sidings for hours on end, leaving the poor operator to sit in one spot for 2 hours real time, and then complain when he finally walks off for lunch. (yes, seen this happen)
    -or from another perspective, get stuck out on the mainline in the front of the club with your privately owned train that you take home every night while a rookie dispatcher in at the helm, when it comes time for you to leave, your still stuck after an hour and half, so you take the train back to the yard without dispatchers authority to pack it up. Then get a written notice of suspension from the club for moving without dispatchers permission.

    The best way to have a good time at a club is to remember the number 1 rule of model railroading : Have Fun!

    For some reason, I find clubs that are setup with rules and no sufficient structure to back them become extremely agonizing. While those that have really strict very outlined rules and a good background structure tend to actually be pretty fun and enjoyable.
  15. nscalerone

    nscalerone TrainBoard Member

    I have been a member of this little band of outlaws for quite a number of years, and we have NEVER had a BS political disagreement.

    I have never been much of "club" person anyway, because it seems you run into that wherever/whatever it might be...............there are always a "core" group that wants to work and make things succeed and have fun, and everybody else is just "along for the ride". Then it deteriorates into cliches and nonsense.

    In our little group, we trade ideas, run trains, have fun, and come and go as we please.........we DID use "Roberts Rules of Order" (or whatever that is) as fuel to warm the place one night!! :teeth:
  16. railnut49

    railnut49 TrainBoard Member

    I joined the Sun N Sand ntrak club in the Phoenix AZ area even tho there were a couple of young guys who said I couldn't join, these two trouble makers continued to harrass me. I love operation and was told by a member that some of em were going to have run days for operation oriented runs. Never happened, those guys are content to just set up their trains and let em run for the public's enjoument. I did it for a while, but no one pays me to use my own equipment for the benifit of the comunity, so I left the club. They do have a nice layout, and can run either DC or DCC on any of the three lines so that was nice.
  17. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

    Interesting. I considered the opportunity to run trains for the public to be a benefit, not a curse.
  18. ArtinCA

    ArtinCA TrainBoard Member

    True, but if your layout is blah scenery with trains running, the public will leave. Like the N-Trak clubs that set up, put 1 train on each line and then hide inside the layout.

    I've had the pleasure to work with a group that's 100+ miles from me in SoCal for a number of years that is one of the best clubs I know. They run trains, stick the engineers outside the layout and talk to people. They will even do switching on modules, which will attract people and make them stick around a little longer.
  19. Bendtracker1

    Bendtracker1 TrainBoard Supporter

    This is what we do with our Bend Track modules. Since we do not have "A Pit" per se, we work the layout from the outside right next to the crowd.
    When we pull a train from the main to the yard or vise versa, it always draws a larger crowd at the yard throat. Several of the guys who have switching opportunities on their modules will get a larger crowd as well when they start working them.
    This also helps to keep the interest and activity levels high of the members. It's helped to keep our group fluid and draw new members.

    Seems like the crowd gets bored seeing the same train running by all the time as well.

    Variety is the spice of life.
  20. WPZephyrFan

    WPZephyrFan TrainBoard Member

    I've been a member of two clubs.The most recent was a local N Trak club that had just started. I was really enjoying it as the other members were somewhat more experienced and were willing to teach me and answer my questions. The gentleman that started the club was the owner a hobby shop and enthusiastic and was great at leading the group. Unfortunately, he was killed in an accident and there was no longer a center for the club and we drifted apart. There's now a new N Trak club here, but my working hours would prevent me from coming to meetings.
    The first club I joined is a pretty big group in the Bay Area. I lived an hour away and was still in my 20s. I went to one of their open houses and talked to a really nice member who encouraged me to join. I came to a couple of meetings and was getting to know the other members. It was about the time for club elections and it seemed like members were more worried about getting elected, making sure that this person gets elected because so and so is not right for the president and and on and on. This is not what I joined for. The next thing was another member was making these beautiful trees. I asked him how he made them and was told, "I'm not telling you. Then you'll have trees just like mine." I thought he was joking but he was totally serious! The last straw came when I was at an open house. About halfway through the first day, I was asked to operate one of the inbound yards while the other operator was on a break. The throttles that the club used were the three button affairs, one to accelerate, one for brake and I think the middle was stop. I had never used a throttle like this as I was used to one with a knob. It was confusing for me and as I was trying to get the hang of it, I had a guy screaming at me over the headset that I was running the trains too fast. At the end of the day, I collected up my stuff and never went back.

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