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PC: Museums and Collections

Quite often, musems wind up with equipment that does not match their
targeted areas of coverage. When passenger service was being cut, many
groups scrambled to save whatever equipment was available. Today's
problems of unfocused and unmaintained collections is the result of
yesterday's tremendous effort at saving our nation's rail heritage from
the scrap yard.

Some museums are facing this problem. One good example is the B&O museum
in Baltimore. They had quite a bit of equipment that didn't fit their
theme, so they started selling and trading equipment. A GG-1 or Little
Joe will be missed, but their loss means that the B&O EA or C&O
streamlined steam engine or the WM BL2 will have a more secure future.
(Not to mention that the Little Joe and GG-1 will probably get more TLC
at their new homes.)

While many museums have limited budgets, they are really hurt by a lack
of labor. A museum can scrounge a few gallons of primer and paint, but
actually painting a car may cut into other preservation and operating
(income producing) activities. One suggestion is to identify important,
but neglected, equipment and volunteer to work on it. An offer could be
made to paint the car if the museum furnishes the supplies; more affluent
persons could even offer to furnish paint. (I know restoring a car is
more than a coat of paint, but I'm only using this as an example.) For
the true restoration adventure, one could offer to purchase a piece of
equipment. I know of one museum that buys equipment from scrappers
because they are easier to deal with than railroads; an insider tips them
off when equipment is surplussed and they contact the scrap yard. A
scrapper would just as soon sell a car to a museum as to a steel mill as
scrap, as long as they make their money.

There are many other problems I see at museums. Here in the South, it
breaks my heart to see Southern, L&N and NC&StL equipment rusting at
museums, while the museum concentrates on foreign equipment that
initially arrived in slightly better condition. Another preservation
turn-off is the creation of made-up railroads. My model radilroad will
feature a fictional Alabama and Tennessee Valley, but if I were to get
the money to buy a real car it would never wear ATV marks. 

Politics can be a problem at some organizations, but a person interested
in preservation should toe the preservation line. If enough people say
I'm going to do something right, or I will do nothing at all, the museums
will have to listen. They need you more than you think.

A PC Historical Society can be an asset to preservation. While funds will
be limited, a good use of dues would be to encourage PC preservation. A
couple of hundred dollars for a matching grant may not seem like a lot,
but it may be the prod that a museum needs to restore, or at least
stabilize, a car or building.

Finally, be on the lookout for Conrail goodies in the near future. I'm
sure Big Blue has lots of goodies that NS and CSX will not want. This may
be the chance to see the friendly worms on an SD40 one more time.

Bryan Turner

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