That's Nice. Choo. Choo!
While in Montreal Central Station recently, I visited the Bookstore and magazine racks to get something to read on my return to Ottawa. There wasn't one magazine on a railway subject so I looked for a book. There wasn't even a railway book. Somewhat disgruntled, I boarded the train and decided to do some work instead!
This started me thinking about how difficult it is to find out about our hobby. There were magazines about boats, cooking, photography, planes, the opposite sex, and even the same sex, but nothing whatsoever about railways. Don't forget this is in one of the busiest stations in Canada. I get my magazines by subscription and there are very few bookstores in Ottawa that carry any decent books about our hobby. There are a few that have the expensive, facile and mostly inaccurate coffee table books while others retell the, by now, boring account of the romance of the rails and the last spike.
This seems to be a general problem throughout the country and it poses a serious threat to our hobby. If young kids can easily find out about cars, motor bikes, planes or the opposite sex, they are much more likely to become interested in these subjects than inrailways if for no other reason than it is easy to do so.
Look at the average railway passenger. Chances are it is either somebody who is getting on in years and who has fond memories of when the railway was THE way to travel or it is somebody who is afraid of flying, or it is a railfan. There is a whole generation out there who have not experienced trains. Many otherwise sane people, when told that you are interested in the study of railways, will grin inanely and say;
"That's nice. Choo, choo!"The public perception of railways ceased to develop thirty years ago. Now trains are antiquated and only newsworthy when they kill somebody. Just ask yourself how newsworthy was the new CN SD60 or the new VIA locomotives?
The plain truth is nobody cares.
What can we do about it?
It isn't much use complaining to the book dealers. They only stock the magazines and books for which there is a demand. It might help contacting the local radio or TV stations to ensure accurate reporting but don't be surprised if all you get from the Newsroom is;
"That's nice. Choo, choo!"It is important to take every opportunity to present the case for the railways at every opportunity. Take the opportunity to speak or give a presentation. If you don't like doing it yourself find somebody who does. It is almost as if we are fighting for our survival. The average age of our members will increase and this will eventually doom our hobby.
We are fighting an uphill battle and I am not optimistic about our chances.
I would like to be proven wrong but I am afraid that on my grave stone will be the following:
"Here lie the mortal remains of ------------
Bytown Railway Society, Branchline, May 1987.