Posts Tagged ‘ARRC’

ARRC’s Signal Changes to Advance Approach

January 8, 2018

Last year I gave a state of the club address at the March meeting of the Akron Railroad Club in which I laid out a number of challenges facing the organization.

Nearly a year later, the club is in much the same position than it was a year ago, although a few details have changed, some in a positive way.

I titled my presentation last year “ARRC Faces an Approach Signal” A few changes since then have meant an upgrade to an advance approach. It is a more favorable indication, but uncertainty and potential adversity still lie further down the rails.

As was the case in 2017, there will be a full slate of activities in 2018 including railfan outings, picnics, monthly programs and maybe a surprise or two.

We started 2018 with a full complement of officers, which was not always the case in 2017.

As I indicated a year ago, 2018 will be my last year as president of the Akron Railroad Club. Mary Ann and I plan to move to Indianapolis late this year or in early 2019.

Last year at this time I wasn’t sure I’d be able to serve as president for all of 2018 if re-elected, but as things stand now I expect to remain in Northeast Ohio through at least October.

Marty Surdyk said last spring that when I stepped down as president he would retire as Bulletin editor, a position he has held since 1993.

It remains to be seen if Marty will carry through with that. At times he has signaled he might change his mind and delay his retirement.

He has his own life challenges to deal with and at some point those are likely to affect the contributions he makes to the ARRC, most notably his overseeing the merchandise the club sells at train shows. It is not a sure thing that anyone else will agree to take on that task.

I talked last March about the potential for a chaotic transition if numerous officers stepped down at the same time and few, if any, members volunteered to step up to replace the departing officers.

The potential for that still exists, although I can now foresee the path forward being less rocky than what I feared it might be a year ago.

If Marty retires it remains to be seen if anyone will agree to take over publishing the paper Bulletin.

Once I’m no longer president, the Akron Railroad Club blog will be taken down at I am thinking about retiring the eBulletin well in advance of the end of the year.

However, even if there is no paper Bulletin or a blog, the club will continue to have a communications mechanism that it didn’t have last year.

Vice President Todd Dillon has taken over a Facebook page operating under the Akron Railroad Club name.

Some members still prefer learning of club activities on a piece of paper they received in the mail, but the Facebook page could be used as a communications channel absent a paper Bulletin.

If Todd is agreeable to continue serving as vice president in 2019, if not as president, the club will continue to have leadership during any transition period.

Things might change under a new administration, but change is inevitable in the life of any organization. It will be a matter of degree.

I continue to believe that long term the ARRC will fade away. I can’t predict when the tipping point will come, but it is going to happen.

Our membership is almost exclusively north of 40 with much of it beyond 50. We are relatively stable at around 80 members, but that number can be expected to erode over the next few years.

Nevertheless, the club could continue to putter along with a much reduced membership provided that it has competent leadership.

We’ve taken in one new member in the past two years and the trend in interest group organizations is of falling not rising membership.

I haven’t closely reviewed our finances of late, but we seem to be holding our own for the most part. We’re going to be able to pay out bills for a good while.

Dues income still doesn’t cover basic club expenses and I don’t see that changing anytime soon absent imposing a dramatic increase in dues or making major changes to the paper Bulletin.

We’re fine so long as we supplement dues income with train show and silent auction revenue.

But we can’t count on those sources of revenue being there long term. As early as 2019, that revenue may begin going away.

Our largest expense, the Bulletin, could be addressed by ending it or charging extra for it, but that could lead to a decline in membership and some disgruntled members.

I’m looking forward to a fun slate of activities in 2018. You should be, too.

Montana, Steam Focus of April ARRC Program

April 24, 2017

The program at the Akron Railroad Club meeting on April 28 will be a digital presentation by Edward Ribinskas that will feature railroading in Montana and steam locomotives in Pennsylvania.

In July 2016, Ed and his wife, Ursula, celebrated their 25th anniversary by taking Amtrak’s Empire Builder to Glacier National Park, where they stayed at the Izaak Walton Inn.

While there Ed captured BNSF freight operations as well as Amtrak trains against the backdrop of mountains and glaciers.

He and Ursula had made virtually the same trip in 1991 shortly after their wedding.

This segment of the program will also feature a few views made from the train en route.

Rounding out the program will be views of steam locomotives in action on the Everett Railroad and Reading Blue Mountain & Northern. Ed photographed those locomotive during a September 2016 journey to Pennsylvania.

The meeting will begin at 8 p.m. with a half-hour business meeting followed by the program at approximately 8:45 p.m. The club meets at the New Horizons Christian Church, 290 Darrow Road, in Akron.

Following the meeting, some members gather at the Eat ‘n Park restaurant at Howe and Main streets in Cuyahoga Falls for a late dinner, dessert or an early breakfast.

Visitors are always welcome at Akron Railroad Club meetings.

ARRC September Meeting Moved to New Date

September 14, 2016

Due to construction in the parking lot of the New Horizons Christian Church, the September meeting of the Akron Railroad Club has been moved back a week.

The Club will now meet on Friday, Sept. 30 at 8 p.m. at the church.

ARRC logoThe change was made after the church canceled all meetings set to be held there during the week of Sept. 19 due to the parking lot resurfacing and other work.

The program will still be presented by Don Woods. The paper edition of the ARRC Bulletin will be mailed the week of Sept. 18 but the eBulletin will not be distributed until the week of Sept. 26.

Members are also reminded of the picnic, weather permitting, that the ARRC will have at the Columbia Run Picnic area in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park on Sunday, Sept. 25, weather permitting.

The club will furnish hamburgers,  hot dogs and buns along with condiments. Members are encouraged to bring snacks, small side dishes and desert items.

The picnic hours will be noon to 3 p.m. The picnic site is adjacent to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad along Riverview Road south of Peninsula.

Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765 will be making its final runs on the CVSR on Sept. 25.

We also need volunteers to staff the ARRC table at the Berea train show on Saturday, Oct. 1. Contact Marty Surdyk at for further information or to volunteer.

The Rest of the Story About ‘Foreign Ideas’

March 24, 2016

In a column about the finances of the Akron Railroad Club that was published in this month’s issue of the eBulletin and reprinted in the paper issue of the Bulletin, I told an anecdote involving the Rev. Michael Lavelle.

It happened in the middle 1990s when Lavelle was president of John Carroll University where I was teaching at the time.

I was attending a meeting at which Lavelle was speaking. I no longer remember the purpose of that meeting, but an off-hand comment that Lavelle made stuck with me.

I didn’t have enough space in my eBulletin column to finish the anecdote so I’ll do that here.

ARRC logoLavelle mentioned that whenever he met with the then-mayor of University Heights, Beryl Rothschild, he would bring up the prospect of closing Belvoir Boulevard.

Belvoir cuts through the JCU campus and many of the college’s residence halls are on the east side of the busy street.

Hordes of students cross that street going to and from classes and other campus activities.

In Lavelle’s mind, that created a safety hazard. It may be, though, that he had something else in mind.

Closing Belvoir might result in JCU being able to buy the land on which the street was situated, which in-turn might gain land-locked JCU some precious space for expansion.

The mayor, though, opposed closing Belvoir. In explaining why he continued to bring up the matter, Lavelle said that the more you mention something the less it sounds like a foreign idea.

To a mayor, the prospect of closing a busy thoroughfare was a very foreign idea. Closing a lightly-used side street is one thing, but severing one of the busiest streets in town, well that’s impossible.

It isn’t, but when something seems foreign it seems to be impossible or at least unthinkable.

Lavelle understood, as probably did the mayor for that matter, that a lot of “foreign ideas” eventually become reality as people warm to them and see their benefits or the need to do them.

It takes a lot of continued selling to get to that point. “No” is the answer you often get the first time you ask for something that someone else sees as “foreign.”

Lavelle might figured that the mayor might not go for closing the street, but in time she might support a plan to build a pedestrian bridge over it.

The JCU president died not long after that meeting at which he laid out his strategy for overcoming opposition to a “foreign idea.”

Subsequent presidents of JCU apparently have not shared his priority about closing Belvoir through the JCU campus. Maybe that was a foreign idea to them, too.

A presentation that I gave at the February ARRC meeting about the future of the ARRC paper Bulletin contained a number of “foreign ideas.” Among them is abolishing the paper Bulletin in favor of an electronic version.

Some of those at that meeting pointed out that not all club members are online and eliminating the paper Bulletin would leave them without a newsletter.

That’s a valid point, but ending the paper Bulletin is not my primary objective.

I only mentioned it because it is an option and one that will get the attention of the members when I talk about a “foreign” issue.

What I really see as needing to happen is that those who want a paper Bulletin should pay for it. At the heart of this issue is the core “foreign” idea that change is coming to the paper Bulletin.

That alarms some ARRC members because they cannot yet imagine not getting an eight-page paper Bulletin in the mail every month.

I can’t either, but after looking at the club’s financial picture of the past five years and projecting the future, I can easily see that happening because the club will no longer be able to afford a mailed paper newsletter.

Unless the ARRC stops spending more than it takes in, it will run out of money and be unable to afford to send a paper newsletter through the mail.

Although that might not happen for a few years, if the club’s financial problems are not addressed it will occur.

Club members also cannot envision a situation in which there is not someone around to create an eight-page paper newsletter every month.

Producing the Bulletin is a lot of work and not everyone has the skills or equipment to do it.

Marty Surdyk has been editor of the Bulletin for more than two decades. What if he decided to stop doing it or was unable to continue putting out the Bulletin?

Would someone else step up to take on the responsibility of producing the Bulletin?

I don’t know, but I do know that if on one volunteers to be editor the Bulletin it will die no matter how much some members might wish to continue receiving it. I’ve yet to see a publication assemble and distribute itself without human intervention.

It would not matter how much ARRC members want something tangible for their dues or what they think about electronic newsletters.

The day that the ARRC no longer has a paper newsletter is not a foreign idea even if it is unlikely to come about in the short term.