So long, Winterail. Today, 3/14/15 /Gail, Alicia LaBreque and I set up, sold merchandise, renewed some memberships, and visited and networked with old friends at the last Winterail railfan event held in Stockton, CA. The FRRS has been attending the event for most of the 37 years it has been in existence. As of this year, the event will no longer be located in Stockton, CA instead moving to Corvallis, OR, the new home of event producer Vic Neves.
This may also be the last one the FRRS attends for reasons beyond the distance involved from Portola. Let me explain. I’m sure most of you have heard of an ongoing crusade by a small, vocal, and boorish group of FRRS members that want to throw out the existing incumbent Board of Directors and officers by spreading misinformation and untruths to anyone who will listen and replacing them with their three candidates. Well as of today, they have gone public with their fantasies and untrue statements about the existing Board members (with a few exceptions). And unfortunately the people who produce Winterail have begun allowing it to be used as a one-sided political stumping platform by allowing this group to set up a table and spread their blather to anyone who would listen. This includes a couple of interesting hand outs that are posted here:
As you can see, the three members responsible for these claims are also candidates for this year’s three open Board seat elections running against the current incumbents, Steve Habeck, Gail McClure, and Eugene Vicknair. These three members were also sporting name style badges stating “S.O.S. Save our Society”. It was noted that current Director Wayne Monger was wearing one in support of their crusade.
In order to make this post as short and to the point as possible, I will address a few of the untruths with FACTS, and leave my personal opinions out of this forum. I am sure that we will hear from the incumbents on all of this as well as other items in the very near future. In response to the items they present under Item 2 of their hand out: Build an open and welcoming environment. Last time I checked, we have this environment already and most of us go above and beyond to welcome new volunteers and bring them in to the family, explaining to all that our goal is for everyone to have a safe and fun experience at the Museum.
(a) Reopen the WP Historical Archives to the membership and visitors FACT: the FRRS Archives have never been closed. A new policy was adopted by the Board a few years back addressing access and use of FRRS Archives. For reasons that can only be called selfish, some are against this new policy because it prevents prior problems including of a lack of accountability and reporting. No longer can certain members rampage through our Archives unsupervised. In September of 2014, I had long discussions with Mike Mucklin regarding the policy, its intent and the responsibilities of the Historical Department to protect our Archives from loss or abuse. Mike agreed to take on the temporary position of Department Head. Along with instituting these new guidelines and policies, he is working with me and others to refine them and include an easier form of access, while protecting the contents of the collection and improving accountability. During these discussions, Mike suggested that Kirk Baer become the “custodian” of access to all the archives with he and Mike being the only ones with access to the collections along with Dave Pires, the editor of our Headlight Publications, unless someone requests access under the terms of the policy. I agreed and Kirk was given keys to all the Archive storage locations. Kirk has been vocal about the previous department head not doing anything or cooperating with people wishing access, so now he has the responsibility for access requests and has told the Board he is planning on work parties to begin identifying and sorting the archives located in multiple places into an organized, easy to find subject library. According to the previous department head, he received only two requests for access during his tenure: One from Wayne Monger to bring a visitor in to see some of the archives, and a request from Bill Meeker and his brother to access the Meeker collection. Wayne Monger was provided with the access requested and the materials that the Meeker’s stated they wanted to see was brought to a mutually agreed upon meeting location and they were allowed to review it. Both requests were honored and no other requests were made.
It is important to note that prior to the last department head, there were few, if any, controls over what came and went into the collections nor were any regular reports regarding the status and use of same made to the Board despite requests that such reports were to be provided. And the TRUTH is that access has always been available to those who have asked, just like most other railroad musuems where appointments must be made to do research within their archives.
(b) Develop cooperative partnerships with other museums/organizations. FACTS here are simple and easily confirmed. We have great relations with the following museums/organizations: Golden Gate Railroad Museum, Western Railway Museum, Niles Canyon/PLA, California State Railroad Museum, Illinois Railroad Museum, Association of Tourist Railroads and Railway Museums (TRAIN/ARM), Railroad Passenger Car Alliance (RPCA), Oregon Railroad Foundation (Friends of the 4449) , Central California Traction Company, Union Pacific Railroad, Virginia and Truckee Railroad, California Zephyr Railcar Tours, and others. I guess these don’t count?
(c) Build programs that include involvement of the local community. FACTS here are simple also. Recent meetings and conversations with Portola City Manager and Portola Public Works department regarding our plans for the future expansion and working with the City to provide them with a couple of pieces of our rolling stock for display at each entrance to Portola on Highway 70 to promote the Museum. The City’s ordinance waiver allowing us to paint “Railroad Museum” on the roof of the shop in full view from Hwy 70 through town. The City Manager along with his staff have recently offered their help in obtaining grants for our expansion projects by instructing their Grant writers to work with us and help us with any of our projects needing grants and funding. Also, we get help anytime we need it from J’s equipment rentals, ACE Hardware, NAPA auto parts among other local merchants. If this does not qualify as including the local community in helping each other make Portola a better place for all of us, I don’t what is.
(d) Make improvements to the FRRS property to attract visitors. FACT: This is an ongoing project that is easy for someone who does not understand or ask why things are where they are on the property. It not only includes placement of equipment for display, but things temporarily stored in the parking lot, in the shop, or other locations that don’t fit into the uninformed mind’s understanding. Things are usually where they are in view of the visitors because it has no permanent home yet, or is a heavy or big item that needs to be moved with the Derrick or other heavy equipment. One of the selling points to our visitors is that we are an operating railroad museum and most of our visitors enjoy this presentation. Those who call for placing our “pretty” rolling stock where some feel it would look really nice don’t realize there are reasons for this: The museum is not a model railroad in someone’s basement. It is easy for people to say “pave the parking lot” or “plant grass here” or make other “improvements”, but there is usually a good solid reason why it is not that easy or simply cannot be done. We have an approved Master Plan that includes improvements which take into account legal restrictions on the property, shared ownership with the City on a portion of the parcel, safety and security, track requirements and restrictions, and other issues that cannot be ignored and which is often not taken into account with many of those advocating visual change or equipment placement. Running a railroad museum is not the same as running a theater or arts group.
I believe I have provided facts to the accusations that were presented. Not all of the accusations or in complete detail, but as short and simple as I can. Please note that of the three new candidates, Reininger has never been to a Board meeting or has been seen on the property to my knowledge, Meeker has attended two Board Meetings that I know of, but has not asked any questions of the Board or Officers in regards to the allegations their group has made, and Mason had been the FRRS Treasure for around two years , has been on the property many times and knows the facts as well as most of us, but chooses not to acknowledge, twists or fails to remember these facts.
I am sure you will hear more from them and others before it is over. But if you want FACTS, just contact me anytime.
For now…and with more to follow,
WP Lives (and also fought off two hostile takeover attempts),