Work, work, work…

This past weekend was the first time I have had the chance to get up to the museum this year due to work, weather and family commitments. I was very pleasantly surprised to see a virtual army of “Willing People” doing all sorts of hard work to get the museum ready to rock for the 2012 season, despite several setbacks and obstacles. Thank you is not a big enough word.

As most of you are already aware, due to financial issues with the society, we have had to forgo a paid staff this season, and are running our gift shop with a volunteer crew.  Gail McClure has taken on the monumental task of getting the gift shop reorganized and inventoried and had a lot of help from members Debbie Reynolds, Alicia La Brecque, Loren Ross, Tim Carter, Matt Elems, & David Elems, with input and assistance from Eugene Vicknair, who was regrettably ill (Feel better soon brother!) and Bruce Villeaux via telephone.  Though we are not completely finished yet, they managed to get most of it done and will continue this coming weekend.  Counting inventory is a huge pain in the neck, a boring, monotonous job.  I know, I once did that for a living right after high school.  These folks did it with a smile though and though some of the tasks at the museum are really crummy, they did a fantastic job and have our sincere appreciation for a job well done.  Gail has been pulling orders for the webstore and working daily to get the Point of Sale system figured out and running to its full potential.  We are also working to figure out and expand our online store, so many exciting new changes are coming in the “Western Pacific Store” and the online store, so check back often and please consider us for your shopping needs.

Bob Sims has been a blur of activity working on the “Silver Debris” lounge car and with a lot of good help from many folks, has the new volunteer lounge car nearly completed.  Bob reports that the car will be finished and open soon for the volunteers and he and many others have personally spent thousands of dollars of their own money, and hundreds of man hours to create a nice, clean, comfortable place to relax after hours and enjoy each other’s company, cook a meal, watch TV, and use the computers.  On a personal note, the more and more I see what a beautiful place the car has turned into, I am liking the nickname “Silver Debris” less and less.  The car really deserves a better moniker.

As I’m sure you have heard by now, our beloved shop cat of 21 years, “Hotbox” has joined several of our railroaders friends who have tied up for the last time, and Bob Sims is working on a new memorial marker for her out in our memorial grove where she will join her old buddy “Zephyr” the cat and “Flower”, the deer we found deceased out in the balloon last year.  Bob’s memorial is a ¼ scale WP style cross buck sign that will make a very fitting tribute to our furry friend.

Rod McClure and Steve Habeck led a crew of workers cleaning up the grounds and preparing for this week’s Steam Department Work Session.  Charlie Spikes, the Elems brothers, Rick Grunninger, Tim Carter, and several others spent part of their weekend cleaning and reorganizing the grounds and shop, and Debbie Reynolds took on the huge task of cleaning and reorganizing the storage container and filled many dumpsters of old outdated junk.  We even had a visit by our old friend “Noodle”, who spent one of his rare days off Sunday with us getting recertified for this years Operating Season.  He was a little hard to recognize at first in his “Yoko Ono” sunglasses and the fact that he has been working so much, we all started to forget what he looks like, but it was great to see an old friend.  Jennifer Habeck stopped by as well to visit and we had a great time laughing and joking and making plans to have some fun this year, despite the heavy workload.  See?  The museum is not ALL boring, dirty work.

Speaking of crew training, Saturday and Sunday was spent by many folks sitting in the “Silver Plate” Dining car going through crew training and recertification exams.  We had 17 personnel total both days, and now two of the four crew training sessions are in the books.  Kerry Cochrane has returned as “General Superintendent” of the Operating Department, and with Operating Department Superintendant Bill Parker and Assistant Superintendent Rick Grunninger, our Western Pacific train crews are ready to carry on the traditions of the great WP Train & Enginemen before them.  There are two more crew training sessions coming up next month, Saturday May 12th and Sunday May 13th.  Both Sessions start at 10am sharp, and currently, we do not have any more scheduled.  Please be advised that it is required of all Operating crew personnel & RAL engineers to attend a rules class and exam.  There will be NO EXCEPTIONS this year.  If you do not attend, you will not operate, per Roadmaster Rod McClure.  Our liability insurance requires this.   If you have not done so yet, I encourage each of you to make plans to attend one of these last two sessions next month.  Everyone is welcome on the crew, no experience necessary, we’ll train you.  My sincere gratitude goes out to the entire WPRM Operating Crew.  I travel to many railroad museums and tourist railroads in my travels at work and you folks are the best.  You embody the spirit and dedication of the Western Pacific and other museums and tourist roads look up to you guys as the best in the business.  I thank you for the honor of allowing me to be your crew trainer and I look forward to working with you folks for many more years to come.

Long time Assistant Roadmaster (and FRRS Director) Wayne Monger has “passed the spike maul” to Longtime FRRS member and WP Employee Greg Elems as our new Assistant Roadmaster.  We thank Wayne for his many years of passionate work to keep the railroad running and thank Greg for taking on the new role.

It’s Election Time again, and the ballots and candidate statements for this year’s nominees will be in your mail boxes soon.  I highly encourage all members of the FRRS to take a few minutes to read each candidate statement, make your decisions and vote.  Remember, this is YOUR organization, and as Directors, we represent YOU.  Please do not simply “mark the boxes”, without first reading the candidate statements, and asking questions if you have any.  Our voter return numbers have been pretty decent the past few elections, however, we’d like to see each and every member of the FRRS make their decisions known and return your votes.  Let’s set a new record this year for election returns!  Our sincere gratitude goes out to Russell Johnson for again handling the duties of “Elections Chairman”.

I know we all get busy with our work, family and daily lives outside of the museum, but unless you’ve been living on a deserted island, you’re all well aware of the recession the country is in.  It’s been hard on everyone, the FRRS included.  We’re in a very tight spot financially, and 2012 is really going to test the resolve of the men & women of the “Modern Day Western Pacific” to get us through these tough financial times.  I implore each and every member to periodically as yourselves “What can I do to help”?  Please, help us out financially in any way that you can, if you can.  If you cannot, that’s ok.  We understand, times are tough right now.  That doesn’t mean though that you can’t help in other ways.  Volunteer hours are just as valuable to us as money, and even simple tasks such as turning off lights when not in use, or shutting the locomotives down rather than letting them idle all helps in the grand scheme of things.  If you are out shopping and notice a great deal on supplies, please consider picking up some extras for donation to the museum.  Remember, most of the items that your average household requires to operate, the museum requires to operate and more.  Items like Copy paper, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, etc. are all required to keep the place presentable to the general public, and those that aren’t donated have to be bought using what little money we have available.  And most importantly, tell your friends and family about us.  Our revenue is dependent upon donations, admissions and gift shop sales, so spread the word!

In closing, though we worked hard this weekend to get the museum ready for our 2012 operating season, despite the financial difficulties, I am VERY excited and optimistic about this coming year thanks to the hard work and dedication of the “Willing People”.

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