A Message from the President[Webmaster's note: This column appeared in the September 2017 issue of the society's newsletter magazine, the Cannonball.]
The 2017 Fair Week and Museum Open House is now behind us. I want to thank all of the officers and volunteers who participated in making the week the success that it was: John Muchler, Bob Sanders, Lee Gridley, Martha Roberts, Russ Allen, Dana Guinnip, Michael Connor, Larry Kilmer, Bob Husted, Craig Braack, Joe Leo, Kathy Garrison, James Feldbauer and our newest and youngest member: Mason Fleischman.
If I were to sum up this year’s fair (as far as our museum is concerned), I would describe it as one of more depth, if less breadth. By this I mean that the total number of visitors appeared to be down from previous years, however, for those who did visit us, they dwelled longer, asked more questions, heard more stories in great detail and left with a much greater appreciation for the railroad, its history and our society.
One theme that again was apparent this year was an increased awareness of the PS&N from a genealogical perspective. We averaged one or more visitors each day that had a grandfather or great uncle that had worked for the railroad. For many, this was their first contact with concrete information about the railroad. As John and I had pointed out the last two years, we believe easier access to genealogical information on sites such as Ancestry.com is probably a factor driving this increased interest in family histories.
John Muchler, our treasurer and museum curator, spent much of the spring and early summer setting up the museum for Fair Week. I had requested John to consider moving some artifacts around the museum with the idea of grouping like items in the same location. Some of my suggestions included moving all employee and “person related” items to the station waiting room, moving all “paper” items to the station freight room, moving the large “tools” to the caboose and consolidating the lanterns and small tools in the coach. These were merely suggestions; I left the actual implementation completely to John.
When all was done, Coach No. 278 turned out having the most change: the mannequin with the conductor’s uniform was moved to the station and one of the old display cases that was set on saw horses was retired. This permitted the remaining cases to me moved further towards the Clara end of the coach and the standing photo flip board to be moved to other side of the remaining display case. This also permitted the power packs for the model layout to be moved from behind the end door to the other end of the layout in the center of the coach.
These subtle but important changes made a significant impact on the flow of visitors through the coach. The new placement of the displays meant that visitors were more spaced out within the coach; whereas in the past, they tended to congregate near the photo flip board and telegraph display, causing a bottleneck. Similarly, by moving the power packs for the model layout, the end door of the coach near the tender was left open the entire time and John and Mason were now stationed in the center of the coach, not at the tender end. Again, this was a subtle change, but its impact to our visitors was important. Many of the questions regarding the Shawmut tend to happen near the display cases and the two pairs of original coach seats. By having our docents grouped closer to these conversations, we had more people within earshot to handle these questions.