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We had very few people dropping by Bob Starr's track at last weekend's NGRC relative to the number of people actually attending the Con. We were on a second story balcony with a couple of signs point to us.

We had a similar experience at last year's BTS when we were off to the side under a huge canopy. Compared to previous years at the Queen, where we were out in the parking lot and people had to walk past us to enter the show, attendance was WAY off!

Based upon these experiences, I've come to the conclusion that unless the live steam is "in their face," many (most?) won't go out of their way to see it. Their attitude is that they really aren't interested in live steam, and if they see it, fine, and if they don't, also fine. However, when, like it was at the Queen, they have to pass by it to get where they are going, THEN it has a chance to capture their attention as they see it, and THEN they realize just how cool it really is!

Anyone had similar experiences at shows they attend?
 

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Dwight,
This is a sad fact, but is like most of the hobby, the less the public see it directly, the less likely they are to go and find it.

Harry Quirk and a few other told me of their escapade at the NGRS convention in Reston, Vrigina..1992 I believe it was. The only level spot for the Quirk brothers to setup their track was on the top of the parking garage of the convention center.

Turns out that the day they setup, it was 105* with no shade and no relief from the heat. The only signs that pointed to the layout were far and few between inside the convention center, and hardly any people knew about it.

Finally, a melted shay boiler and sunburnt skin later, one of the steamers said, "There's got to be a better way we can enjoy this hobby". Well, that steamer happened to be Jerry Reshew, the founder of Diamondhead.

DH is a perfect example of how inexposed our niche corner of the hobby is, as the steamup is limited to word of mouth and in the few specific magazines catering to us steam nuts. It's the fact of life, much like a rare species of plant or animal, unless you see it firsthand, it's never believed, yet hardly anyone wants to breakaway from the mainstream to go find it.

Not that it's a bad thing, otherwise the prices for distilled water would skyrocket! What a shocking calamity!
 

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It might also be a problem with terminology. Most people do not understand the terms "Live Steam", or "Steam Up" (or the various spellings of "SteamUp", "steam-up", etc.).

I know when I talk to people, those terms are either completely ignored or produce a "glazed eye" look.

But, if I say I have a "real steam locomotive" they first look upwards, indicating maybe that they have some idea that a steam locomotive is "big" and would probably tower over them. I then say it is a miniature that runs on steam just like the ones the railroads used to use. At that statement, about half get the glazed eye look and I know they will never care. But the other half at least feigns some interest and some get a bit excited about it.

I know that "Live Steam" is a technically correct term, but it is an old term and few if any people know that it means steam containing energy and capable of doing work, (as opposed to just boiling off an open pan over the stove burner or the condensed water vapor that most people associate with the word "steam").

I think a sign that says "Live Steam --->" only indicates that there is a demonstration of electric trains that look like steam locomotives, and since it is a "demonstration", they probably have already missed the seating time for "this session" and besides they are at the "train show" just to wander around and look at the cute toys, not get stuck in some "demonstration".

I am not sure just what the sign ought to say, but it has to be worded in terms that the general public would have some idea of what it means. Unfortunately, it may take more words that could fit on a small sign or be read with a casual glance whilst someone is wandering around at a "toy train show".
 

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I think that was one of the biggest weaknesses of the convention--how disconnected things seemed. I actually never made it to the steam track, and I'm a live steamer!!! Heck, it wasn't until Friday that I saw one of the signs pointing to where it was. I'm still not convinced I saw all the dealer rooms, and dad and I both missed clinics because we couldn't find the rooms. I'm not trying to slam the organizers in the least--things were marked, and had I had my book with me, I could have probably navigated much easier. It was simply the layout of the hotel in general that made things a little disjointed. I do have to wonder why the steam-up track couldn't have been set up in one of the many courtyards.

I also think the schedule may have had somewhat of an impact on attendance also. If you were out on the tours, then the only time you could hit the steam-up track was between 3 and 5 pm, allowing for travel time. Since the hours on the dealer hall were similarly limited--and often competing with the steam-up track--I can see how most would opt to hit the dealers rather than the steam-up track.

Having said that, the dealer hall was noticeably vacant of live steam. Accucraft had their booth, but their stuff is as much electric as live steam. Roundhouse, Regner, and other live steam folks were noticeably (to me) absent. Even Aristo's booth wasn't pushing their live steam stuff. You could visit every vendor there and not know live steam was part of the hobby. Heck, with the exception of one railroad on tour, live steam was not present on those, either. Even if we could interest people in live steam, the opportunities for on-site commercial support weren't there. They'd likely go home with fond memories and a few cool photos, but that's about it. Without that, it's always going to be a pursuit where you have to take great steps to get involved.

Later,

K
 

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Actually, in some ways I disagree with you Dwight. I did go into the show not expcting many people steaming and was surprised and pleased that as many came. But, I had people that came upstairs and were pissed when they found no trains running at the very moment they arrived. My theory on that is that they expect something to be running all the time like electric trains do. The biggest problem is the vast majority of the public has no clue how our trains work and can certainly make you smile with the questions they ask (I am trying to be diplomatic here). And this includes the people attending the show that run electric trains! That being said, Dwight, you missed our busiest day, Saturday, and we had quite a few people. At one point Stan counted 68 people standing around watching. And we also had a nice core group of people who just came up and sat; talked or whatever while we ran trains. You could tell they just prefered to be there sitting in the shade and would ask a question every now and then; they were not all steamers. I agree that the show was a bit too spread out. My feet are sore from all the walking I did just to get to my bungalow room!
From my experience in the retail business, I have become a bit cynical. When you are dealing with the public, you have to slap them in the face with what you are selling or they just don't see it. That also goes for being out of the way. This is why I am going to have more banners for the BTS this year. Steam at the QM was not as popular in the first years either until I took over the track. Nobody had a clue nine years ago what live steam was and Accucraft did not even exist then!
What it boils down to is promotion and devotion! We will get there at the BTS and the crowds will find us!
And, yes Kevin, I was looking for you to come up to the track tsk tsk
 

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Dwight brought up a good subject.. We have open houses and a group get-together course ours is track power but we talk to a lot of visitors that don't know about trains. They go goggle eyed when they see something the size of our scale running out doors.
So we talk to them and they ask a lot of questions and a lot of them are about steam Eng's. They tell stories of what their Dad's told them or old timers have seen in their days.. We tell them that there are clubs all over to show all scales of trains running and on home layouts like ours.
They starting telling us how they use to have a Lionel or American Flyer when they were kids but they seem to go around in a loop and gets boring after 30 mins. or so.
Then one couple told me, ya.. we seen some live miniature steam Eng's. going around and around until it ran out of steam. Like a Wind up train. Runs down and wind it up again.
Ya... when they have shows or conventions they alway have them out in the hottest area they can find. (No Shade.)and always away from the other trains. Guess some organizers think they will catch things on fire if in a building.
Have you ever seen steam Eng's in our scale working switch yards or moving cars around?. (I think someone on here in MLS com. not to long ago showed how to work Kedees with a radio controlled steam Eng.and thats about it.)
So most people that go to these shows want to be inside where it's cool and can talk to the clubs that have extra people to promote the hobby. And most are not Steam powered.
To get people out to see them lots of advertising is needed. Have club member to tell them just what is going on to run a Steam Eng. and to ans. question at the tables or etc. Maybe on what it takes to run like the real steam Eng's. had to do to get a wheel turning.
On the Elect. motor side of the hobby, there is more on operations and rolling stock that is being pulled. Long trains, working the sound card like a real Eng. whether it is a Diesel or Steam Eng.
So this is the comments of live steam we have heard. and its a shame at these shows that they put them outside away from the main traffic and the other side is promoting the ability of what a STEAM UP is. And not just going around in a loop until it runs down.
I've been to some home layouts that have steam and I seen what they can do, and the sound when starting up a small grade. It's like the real thing that the operator has to work that Eng. to get it to pull or slow down on a small grade. Like we can with our elect. power Eng's.
I seen Dwight's Cab forward at a train show here in Sacramento Conv. Center. and it took me about 20 mins. to look it over on a siding on how he built it.. And thinking to myself, lots of work to make it a running model that works on Steam.. And Ya. indoors and cool too.
The bottom line is, Steam needs to be more advertised and do more with them to show that there not just a Ruby going around until it winds down.
So asking other, when at a show or being a host, did you see the steam trains.
A lot of people seeing a sign to the stream trains figure they are riding trains.
They will also ask, where are they at? Is there a Steam train layout?
I personal think Steam UPS get a bad rap due to the location they set aside for them at shows. These are fascinating machines and need to be more promoted with more signs and doll up the running tables and have members to talk to at the site to promote them puffies. /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/whistling.gif
 

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I remember one added thing I hear at a train show in Roseville, Ca.
A woman told me she didn't like the kids getting around Steam ups areas due to the kids can burn them self by touching a live stammer going by.
I told her I wish I have a electric fence transformer to put on our (track power) track when the kids put there finger on the rails to derail a $600.00 trains.
She grabbed her kids and left the table. /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/crazy.gif
 

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Kevin's observation speaks volumes:
"Having said that, the dealer hall was noticeably vacant of live steam. Accucraft had their booth, but their stuff is as much electric as live steam. Roundhouse, Regner, and other live steam folks were noticeably (to me) absent. Even Aristo's booth wasn't pushing their live steam stuff. You could visit every vendor there and not know live steam was part of the hobby. Heck, with the exception of one railroad on tour, live steam was not present on those, either. Even if we could interest people in live steam, the opportunities for on-site commercial support weren't there. They'd likely go home with fond memories and a few cool photos, but that's about it. Without that, it's always going to be a pursuit where you have to take great steps to get involved. "
One would think that Accucraft would have at least an operating treadmill but better yet team up the the "real steam" track getting those who visited their vendor table out to the track (even if it took a personal escort). I was disappointed by Aristocraft at the ECLSTS not having any "real steam" on display this year.
Bob is correct "show and tell" in their face is the only promotion that works. Yet, there is a need for operational aspects and accessories (like icing on a cake). The problem with operations is that trains need to stop, get the orders, etc and without the "Lionel type" actions then the audience is not interested in time table operations. Seem that they do like "fast" trains, coal fired and RC (some observations).
Yet, if one does get someone interested then comes the sticker shock. Accucraft seems to have responded with the new 1:29 offering but that is only one choice in a relative introductory level price range. Live steamers are competing against many other aspects of the hobby with lots of choices and bang for the buck. Oh, by the way- kids are key to the wallet. A better way to explain to a parent relative to concerns is to ensure adult supervision is available as with electric sets- given a young person could be harmed playing with electric trains also.
Great to hear about the effort made at the show, keep the steam up!
 

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Most people that stop by to watch the trains don't have a clue of what they are looking at. Even with all the signs, steam from the stacks, whistles, and even the smell of coal or alcohol doesn't change anything. I've spoke with people that had been watching us run for some time before they got that dumb, surprised look on their faces and say something like "you mean these are real steam engines?" Then the questions and comments start. What fuel do we use? How long do they run? I NEVER KNEW SOMETHING LIKE THIS EXISTED! How much do they cost? Where can I learn more about them? WHO SELLS THEM? (I would guess that we hand out several dealers cards per show) And of course they insist on putting their hand over the smoke stack to verify that there is heat coming out of it.
The last show I brought the H.O. steamers. That was also fun to hear the comments. Good thing the runs were flawless! Made it look easy.

The Michigan Small Scale Live Steamers have picked up several of our members from shows that we were exhibiting at when they saw us. We have been treated well by show sponsors in the past and are lucky that they understand our requirements. Most of the time we are even given spots by the main delivery access doors for easier loading and unloading of track and equipment. We just have to keep getting the word out to people. Just remember........... STEAM THEM AND THEY WILL COME!
 

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Ok my brain is not totally engaged today but let me share some thoughts....I know it's very dangerous to do that but here goes anyway.

Iv'e been aware of live steam models from a very young age. Fascinating but it seemed unatainable. Too dangerous too expensive and just simply to "keep your hands off kid" for me. Had someone in my family or a close friend been involved I likely would have been much more involved at a much earlier age. I can remember a friend in high school having a live steam steam roller from Mamod or Wilesco? It beigna very expensive "toy" for him from his father I was only allowed to watcha dn not touch. Ok that's cool, he wasn't even allowed to run it without supervision (we were in high school and it ran on pellets) so let go play with something else then? Many years later I'm working at Niagara Hobby in Buffalo and they sell a little of everything including some Wilesco and Mamod. At times I got to play with some of the many things they sold but I never got to play with those toys. Not for lack of interest but it ws more a limited supply issue. That store did a big "show" in the fall and a few years we had the local WNY Live Steam club come a do demos and in the many hobby related shows that I attended and worked those guys had their ride on live steamers usually running on compressed air if at all but they were not very approachable and I was on the clock anyway. It still seemed in the realm of much too much time to engineer and build one for the amount of free time I had. Keep in mind for me at that time I was working 3 jobs and still wasn't making ends meet really. There was NO extra time and very little extra money. That consumed my 20's and a good share of my 30's. I ahd attened the Trian races at Ridge Road station towards the beginning of my 30's and watched Tom Bowdler with his portable layout and at that this I relaized that live steam would run with and on my paltry little amount of large scale track and trains. They were still out of my price range BUT it was something I could get into without a huge investment in time or money, eventually. As time went on and my life changed. I found I was no longer working 3 jobs to survive, and had a little extra money from time to time. I've no longer got time to attend the Train races (sorry Tom & Scot) it's simply falls the wrong time of year for me! A few years ago thru the efforts of those folks ehre in MLS I purchased a Ruby kit with the intention of bashing it. Sometime shortly after that I had the opportunity to purchase a used Ruby and did so and Iv'e been steaming that up from time to time for any and all that are interested. In the meantime my participation at ANY shows where there are live steam demos has been lacking. I hope to change that at some point soon but it's all in the timing. Tom was always very gracious and open about his setup at the Train Races and I can only imagine that it's continued? Reagardless of the weather good or bad.

Chas
 

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I was introduced to live steam by Kevin about 12 years ago and we began our association with the RRStation train races shortly after that. Our first ground-level efforts were a disaster, leading to tables and then to constructing two raised portable layouts.
I've heard every dumb question and sometimes have been embarrased not knowing the answer but overall everyone who visits our layout seems fascinated with the concept of live steam. Our offer to run at a twice-yearly train show in Rochester was turned down since "live steam is too esoteric...we concentrate on what the public might have at home...I can't imagine running live steam on the living room rug around the Christmas tree" but other than that we have been very well received at even non-railroad events like the recent Chick Day, a garden center open house and a local Fourth of July celebration.
My tactics are to try to draw folks in by asking them questions about their interests and I even let kids (and sometimes adults) blow the whistle and set the throttle to get the locomotive going. We have a display table where we put the locos that aren't running so the public can see the wide variety of live steamers available. At the Greenberg show this winter I gave a seminar "Intro to live steam" and it was well attended, folks intently watching as I prepped a loco to run on rollers and talked a little theory while it built steam. I guess the term "steamup" can be a little misleading as I see on another MLS forum that a "steamup" was held but all I saw in the pictures were sparkies with sound systems.
Due to effort required and cost considerations I don't think live steam will ever be mainstream model railroading but for those with the ability and wherewithall it can be an enjoyable aspect of the model train hobby. Many times we're asked the cost and my answer is anywhere from $250 to 20 grand. Normally that's enough but sometimes they want more so I'll point to an A-craft Shay or Mogul and tell the approximate street price. One questioner nodded very knowlegably telling me he was into On3 brass, similarly priced, no wonder On30 is so popular.
At least I and the folks who help me have a great time getting together and running our trains and if we can get one or two others hooked then the efforts are worthwhile. Now if we could just guarantee good weather each time we set up out doors.
Come join us May 17 at Ridge Road Station.
Have fun,
Tom
 

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Posted By Bob Starr on 05/06/2008 12:16 AM

«snip...» From my experience in the retail business, I have become a bit cynical. When you are dealing with the public, you have to slap them in the face with what you are selling or they just don't see it. That also goes for being out of the way. «snip...»
Bob et al

I know I'm not a "Live Steamer", but off the top of my head. It seems that the main point being expressed is lack of Attention.

Well, I think you've overlooked the obvious. In the days when steam powered locomotives were doing the work. Just what was it that first grabbed your attention? I'd bet dollars to donuts that it was the Steam Whistle. Have you ever considered getting hold of an actual 1:1 whistle. While I realize that running one off steam is impractical, couldn't you run it off compressed air. Heck even if they can't see anything, they sure can hear it, and pique their interest in finding out "What was that?"
 

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To start, yes, I have brought one to one steam whistles to shows and stationary steam engines too. The problem with running a whistle on air is that you need a very large air tank to be effective; impractical at this time for all that I already carry.
As far as running operations at a show, it is a bit impractical too. It takes quite a bit of time just to set up my oval of track and adding more switching capabilities would be hard. As it is I have six switches on my layout and getting people to remember to reset them......... Anyway, a bit of the beauty of steam power is merely the operation of a piece of good machinery working on it's own. I would say that more than 90% of the electric train people just run their trains thru a layout anyway; at least that is what I see. Turn on the power, grab a beer, and watch the trains go thru the yard. I don't think that people stop and think that we are involved when we operate our engines in a totally different way. The aspect that it is a piece of machinery dependent on it's own power does not occur to them.
 

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Every year, the O. Winston Link Museum (the famous B&W train photographer) http://www.linkmuseum.org/ has a rail fan day. The Museum is in the old Roanoke N&W passenger station. There are sparky setups, ride-on 7-1/2 inch live steam, rail cars to climb on, and lots of other train related stuff. I usually run a live steamer or two on rollers. Three years ago, the museum had a 1:1 whistle driven by live steam on display. It drove all the attendees nuts because it was so loud. Even though Roanoke is a railroad town, the whistle has not been invited back.
 

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We'll see what happens at this year's BTS Bob. I may have missed the busiest day (though I did catch part of it), but I still didn't see crowds of observers like we used to get at the Queen where we were much more part of the show. And I wasn't talking about people steaming on your track - I was talking about non-steamer show attendees. I do know that you and I spent a fair amount of time by ourselves, and another fair amount of time with other steamers, but few onlookers. :)

Anyway, like I said, we'll see what happens at the BTS. If JJ's gonna make you a bigger sign, perhaps Semper has a point and instead of saying "Live Steam" it should say "Come See the Real Steam Locomotives." Anyway, I'll leave that up to you. :)

Glad you made it home okay BTW.
 

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Lots of it has to do with presentation. People coming to train shows go to them to see detailed layouts. Layouts fitted with every scenery imaginable, with trains that run like they have a purpose, with stations, goods yards, towns, lots of trees, grass that looks freshly mown etc. They do not come to see an engine running on a plywood table lying on some track.

When our club as an open day, there are no people running h0 or N at home that come. Those coming are interested in engineering, metalworking etc. Or just passer-by's that hop in to see what is happening. We get more interested reactions from them than from "railroadmodellers".
 

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Posted By weaverc on 05/06/2008 11:16 AM
Every year, the O. Winston Link Museum (the famous B&W train photographer) http://www.linkmuseum.org/ has a rail fan day. The Museum is in the old Roanoke N&W passenger station. There are sparky setups, ride-on 7-1/2 inch live steam, rail cars to climb on, and lots of other train related stuff. I usually run a live steamer or two on rollers. Three years ago, the museum had a 1:1 whistle driven by live steam on display. It drove all the attendees nuts because it was so loud. Even though Roanoke is a railroad town, the whistle has not been invited back.
I hear what you're saying Carl, but that only tells me they really don't have railroading in their blood. /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/hehe.gif:D

When I was a young kid, I lived on E. Lane Ave. in Columbus, Ohio. The house sat just a little bit farther than the length of a football field from mainline tracks of the NYC & PRR, and I can still remember falling to sleep listening to the Pennsylvania J-1 & J-1As pulling long coal drags north out of Grogan Yard headed to the coal docks in Sandusky. From those days to present day I still find little sweeter than the sound of a locomotive's whistle.
 

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A few comments -

-First, if you are looking to get more interest in live steam, you might want to post this in the Public forum instead of the Live steam forum. Most of us 'sparkies' usually skip over this forum. This is also part of the reason for a lack of interest. The live steam guys usually segregate themselves often with an air of superiority. There tends to not be a lot of interaction.

-The live steam tables set up at events don't tend to be terribly interesting. Not even a hint of a garden setting. Adding a bit of scenery could go a long way to correct that, either a modular set up or teaming up with a club display.

-Scott Loomis (chama) hosted the club last fall and it was the first time I had to get a look at live steamers up close. Usually keeping folks at arms length is the rule. Its tough to be interested if the only way you'll get to try something is to buy your own. A bit more reach out is in order.

-Most folks have a hard enough time keeping the sparkies running. A simple, easy and ready to run live steamer that doesn't cost an arm and a leg could get more folks interested. The Aristo Rodgers or 0-4-0 might fix that.

-Brian
 

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Brian
While several aspects of your observations merit consideration, I have never seen a group of real steam engineers that are stand offish or having an air of superiority. Particularly, given the vast majority of live steamers grow up with sparkies!
"First, if you are looking to get more interest in live steam, you might want to post this in the Public forum instead of the Live steam forum. Most of us 'sparkies' usually skip over this forum. This is also part of the reason for a lack of interest. The live steam guys usually segregate themselves often with an air of superiority. There tends to not be a lot of interaction."
Though a level of safety is prudent, most everyone is able communicate and interact during a meet. As I indicated in the prior post the aspect of "Lionel style" layouts on our "portable" vs. modular layouts is limited in structure and running time as per the schedule board.
As to posting in the other forum, not likely given the format of the website has section as per interest, so stop by-lots of things are discussed that will allow even a "sparkie" to become better informed.
Finally, if one can RC a sparkie, then it is just a step away from RC live steam. As to cost, the new 1:29 Accucraft offering and the Ruby are within most sparkie budgets.
Good to have you offer suggestions
 
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