as out with a person I know the other day. He was going on and on about his RC sailboat club. Now, I remember when they’d have a half-dozen or more hulls in the local lake on Sundays, even more. But their members have been dying or moving away. So now there are two people (sometimes) or just him (more often or not). One thing is for sure – if you are the only boat out there, yes, you win a lot of regattas.
I listened to about fifteen minutes of carping about this and finally noted that I’m a member of a model railroad club. Like his club, we have older members who occasionally pass on. Some quit or move away. Happens. Some day I’ll die and be gone*.
But unlike this sailboat group (where people occasionally pull over out of curiosity and watch) they have no external presence. Our club, on the other hand, has a good website. We also have fliers in the local hobby shop (and Jim the counter guy refers the curious to us). We also do four shows a year at a popular train show where we have fliers, show specials and applications at the ready. We let kids run our trains and answer all questions (including “How fast will they go?”, “How much do they cost?” and “Do you run them into each other?” (Question 2 usually is the answer to Question 3)). We get a lot of donations and a lot of new members, and those new members (once they get established into the club and run ops with us (with an experienced member as a conductor)) end up inviting their friends. In our last session, we ran with nearly thirty members (not including the two guests who watched).
So yes, we put ourselves out there. For those four shows, we get $200 each (which breaks even on gas for towing the trailer over) but we do it for the potential members – you get a member interested, that represents thousands of dollars into our club (as well as undiscovered skill sets that make us even better).
We also welcome the public on any Wednesday night, and hold open houses the first Saturday of the month.
Yes, it’s easy to show up once a week and run trains at the club. It’s harder to get up really early on show-day, get to the doughnut shop by 5:30am and then up to Deland, forty miles away by 7am, to get the layout built and running by 9am, the run trains and front for the club all day. Then it’s break down time (pretty quick, actually) and then run the trailer back to the club for an unloading. Yes, that’s tough. But we have new members join every month or so and all of our club functions are filled and busy (one of our members took fifteen of us to an airshow last weekend).
So yes, I told him all this, how his club could place fliers in the hobby shops, maybe hold public shows and “open houses”, to get people interested and expand their club.
But he didn’t want to hear that. He just wanted to complain some more.
When I drove by Sunday (on my way to the airshow meet-up location) the lake was empty.
Breaking eggs for the omelette, right?
* a little club joke – since I’m always the guy at the club who has to take the plaque to the award shop to get a new name added when someone passes away, the question was who would do my name if I died. The general consensus is that I should put my name on it now, then put tape over it. When I die, they peel the tape off. Swell.