Club location

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Club location

Post by DianneB » Tue Jan 12, 2016 7:05 am

The club I belong to is looking at location options. We are an older club without much money so we are looking for economical alternatives.

What arrangement does your club have for the land you operate on?


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Re: Club location

Post by SteveM » Tue Jan 12, 2016 8:16 am

If you don't own the land, you are always going to be at someone's mercy. My guess is that's the situation you are in.

If you buy more than you currently need, you could develop some, sell it and use the money to pay for the part you are keeping.

You could also rent out part of the extra land for farming, and if you ever need to expand, you will be able to without having to uproot the entire operation.


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Re: Club location

Post by Dick_Morris » Tue Jan 12, 2016 3:38 pm

The Alaska Live Steamers have been in three locations during my association. In an unused area of the Alaska State Fair grounds. During the fair we would carry passengers and that was most of our annual income and good exposure. Use was donated. A second site was on an unused area of the Wasilla Airport directly adjacent to the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry. We carried passengers there on Sundays and that location also gave us good exposure. Use was donated. The current site is on land owned by the City of Wasilla. We have it on a 10 year lease with an option for a 10 year extension and pay nominal annual rent. We also carry passengers and get good exposure on this site. A large part of the parcel is designated as wetlands. Most isn't covered with water but the ground is saturated. Because of the designation there are substantial restrictions on making improvements. We were permitted to install "foot paths" but must there is a restriction on the percentage of the surface which can be covered by paths. For our purposes, foot path = road bed. (There was prior site in Anchorage at a museum near the airport, but it was just a loop of track and was removed when the museum closed.)

When deciding on our most recent site change we discussed the possibilities of a land purchase, and some members strongly advocated for a purchase. We finally vote was to lease instead of buy. I don't remember precisely what land costs would have been, but my recollection was several tens of thousands, quite a bit for a group with about 20 active members. Although owning the land forever had its advantages, for many of the members, twenty years was about as "forever" as they expected to see.

In my opinion, the community support we have worked for over the last 35 years went a long way towards getting access for the previous and current sites. We may well be seeing riders who are grand kids of kids who have good memories of riding the trains 30-35 years ago.

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Re: Club location

Post by Fender » Wed Jan 13, 2016 9:45 pm

You might approach any hunting clubs on private land in your area, to see if they might be willing to lease a portion of their land. Hunting clubs are generally on undeveloped land, and there wouldn't be any interference between their use for hunting and that of a live steam club, except during hunting season. The track would need be closed then. Of course, it would be better if you already have a contact with someone in the club.
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Re: Club location

Post by pat1027 » Sun Jan 31, 2016 9:14 pm

We lease the land for a token payment and offering free rides to the public. We are on private property and the railroad compliments the landlord’s commercial venture. Many other clubs on leased land are using public parks in exchange for offering free rides. The favorable lease for free rides arrangement has pros and cons. The pros are you can get use of a piece of property without the obligation of a mortgage. Most clubs offering public rides can fund a good part of their expenses from donations. The cons are you don’t own the land, commitment to regular running and liability risks. While our club has been in our current location for 30 years the club had to pull and move once. Other clubs have as well. There is always the risk the owner’s situation will change and the lease won’t be renewed. The schedules I look at for clubs operating on park land are usually once a month. In the commercial setting we are in our landlord always wants us to operate more often and two weekends a month has become common. It can be a bit much by the end of the summer. There is a concern too with public running and the liability risk. Include good safety rules and liability insurance if you offer public rides. If purchasing land isn’t an option for the club, all things considered leased land is better than no land.

Owning land offers permanence. What you build will be there as long as there is a club to maintain it. The purchase can be funded with dues or also public run donations if you choose. This usually takes a group of members willing to be responsible for the mortgage should the club’s revenue fall short.

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Re: Club location

Post by ChipsAhoy » Wed Feb 10, 2016 1:19 pm

DianneB wrote:The club I belong to is looking at location options. We are an older club without much money so we are looking for economical alternatives.

What arrangement does your club have for the land you operate on?

I have some first hand experience in selecting new sites. There are some very dangerous pitfalls which were encountered, and I'll attempt to share with you.
I've sent you a PM.

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Re: Club location

Post by Glenn Brooks » Fri Feb 12, 2016 11:31 pm

We have two clubs here in western Waahington. The oldest, Kitsap Live Steamers has a nice facility at a regional park in the Kitsap Penninsula Puget Sound area. The park is owned by a local park district who granted the necessary land use agreement to the club 30 years ago. Things have gotten more complicated over the years, both regarding park board membership and conflicting priorities and various land use and environmental regulations. The big issue currently is our very favorable grandfather renewal clause, which the current park board does not much like, hence a track expansion has been held up for years pending renegotiation. Mostly settle now, but touch and go for a while.

The other club is a newish organization 60 miles out of town up,in the cascade mountain range. It is located in a small mountain town having a population of 250 soles, more or less. As the RR is right down town, it's a summer tourist attraction of sorts, so the City is happy to let the club use the land. They even moved an old Northern Pacific RR building into the site as a club house. So lots of support.

If you can find a public agency with land to sponsor your club, you might be able to avoid land costs. However, this avenue seems always to leave some uncertainty about the future, and changing whims of public administrators or oversight boards.
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Re: Club location

Post by schwinncoll » Wed Mar 02, 2016 10:13 am

We have been located in a county park for the last 25 years. We don't pay rent and give rides to the public on the 3rd weekend of the month. The county and park manager loves having us there as its $1.50 per person to get in the park on weekends. The park is usually empty otherwise.

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Re: Club location

Post by Pontiacguy1 » Thu Mar 03, 2016 11:22 am

As long as you can purchase and afford liability insurance for your club, a public park is a great place... No lease, don't have to buy the land, free grass cutting, police and park patrols, power, water, lighting, and lots of public exposure.

However, there are some drawbacks as well: You open yourself up to a lot more liability from sue-happy passengers who may be the cause of the derailment and may or may not even be injured, the grass cutting people will damage your track and roadbed, you have to worry more about vandalism and theft, and almost nothing that you do is ever really 'private'.

There are pros and cons, and it would be the best thing to get everything agreed to and put into writing before you decide to build in a public park. There have also been private tracks and owners who have been sued by their own members when a derailment happened, so there is always the possibility. Also, having to give rides to the public on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually, or whatever), can cut into your track work and building time and become a burden over time, especially if the park expects you to do it more frequently or a certain number of days per year. What might seem like a lot of fun the first 2 or 3 times you do it during the year, might seem like a lot of work and drudgery during July and August when it is hot and humid. Also, coming up with enough equipment that is reliable and can do the job might be more of a problem than you think.

Communication and a good relationship with whomever runs the park is a key to success. Those people will change over time, though, so be aware that your great relationship this year could be a terrible one next year because you are now dealing with a different person with a different attitude and a different ego. Things that have happened to us are things like: the park running new electrical and water lines right through our track area and not letting us know anything about this plan at all. Some of our members found the damage that was being done to the track, and that's how we found out that there was anything even going on. Again, communication is the key and it is a 2-way street. For the most part, things have gone well over the years, with only a few exceptions.

There WILL be some people who don't like your track being in the park! They might not say or do anything about it, but some might. We had a lady that complained about it constantly, and even had it brought up to the county commission that we shouldn't be taking up all that area in the park with our little train tracks. There were about 2 or 3 people, at most, who had a problem with it, and about 100+ people, both from the club and from the local community, who showed up to the commission meeting to defend the track being there. Good relations with the general public and the community are a must. If we'd have been viewed as a non-friendly group who didn't welcome the public to our events, we might have been gone.

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