Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Three Days of Thomas or He's a Useful (to the bottom line) Blue Engine

Al writes...

As I did last year I volunteered to be part of the boarding and master of ceremonies team for the Day Out With Thomas event.

Day 1

We got out to the museum early on Friday to make sure everything was in place and working.
Sure enough there were some bits and pieces that were missing, like the ropes to hold the crowd back when the Thomas train departed and returned.  It was soon realized that these were things that Jim Nauer  had taken care of and they weren't on a to-do list anywhere.  Another way he is missed.  Anyway after a bit of scrambling things got organized.

It wasn't too much after the 9 o'clock opening that the crowd began lining up for the first trip at 10. Part of the schtick that Harold Krewer and I developed was for me to act as the man on the street, to go out and fire up the crowd for the ride, then to do some "man on the street" interviews after the train returned.

Friday's crowd started out fairly heavy with the early trains sold out. But by around 1 the crowds began to thin.  It's been noted that Friday was the first day of school for a number of districts around Chicago land, so something to consider for future years?

As usual we did provide a lunch for the train crew and other volunteers helping with the boarding process.The lunch was the healthy selection of burgers, cheeseburgers, brats and hotdogs as well as pizza from the cafeteria.

As usual we had 4 cars on the car line as well as three mainline trains running.

And there was a familier face operating the 415.

Day 2

Arrived a bit later this AM as things were hopefully still set up from Friday.  The day was once again beautiful with a nice temperature , low humidity and not a cloud in the sky.   Things proceeded fairly well through out the morning.  One of our duties is to handle the missed connections {those that missed their assigned train times) and with a few "held back" seats on the train I think all were accommodated on the next train.  But we did have a few missed days, folks with Friday tickets arriving on Sat.  I was waiting for someone with a missed year, binging a set of 2012 tickets.   I took a little time off to take care of my crew that were out to enjoy the day.

We had sold out trains through the 3 o'clock trip, the 3:30 was about 75% and the 4 about 40% so a good solid day attendance wise. The funniest incident of the day was the 4391 getting stopped on the section insulator on the south side of the car line.  There's no wire on an adjacent track to swing the pole against to get the car moving again.  Several riders (members in this case) ended up pushing the car to get under live wire.Wish I was able to get a photo.

Day 3

 Sunday was pretty much a repeat of Sat.  Beautiful weather and good crowds. Loading was about the same as on Saturday.  Did get a chance to get over to the station to get a photo of the crew on the NSL cars.  Again a familiar face along with his motorman Ron Seavers.

After the crowd went home the 141 did make an appearance for the benefit of the volunteers.
Restaurant reviews

We ended up each day with a group dinner. So here's a quick review of 3 places within striking distance of IRM.

The first evening we went to Cafe 20 in Marengo. They had a bit of trouble handling a group larger than 4 but after a considerable wait we did get seated, it was worth the wait.  Dinner for me consisted of a pint of Haufbrau lager, some all you can eat walleye and potato pancakes with apple sauce.  The German genes in me were quite satisfied.

On Sat. I'm not sure why, but we did a repeat of last year's disaster at the Marengo bowl.  In contrast to last year the staff was ready, the orders were correct and the checks were available promptly. They didn't do too badly for the sudden appearance of a group of 30 or so. I had some teriyaki salmon (should have been called wasabi salmon), it opened by nasal system pretty well and was quite tasty.  The only thing that didn't change from last year was the quality of the live music but we were able to exit quickly without too much ear damage.

Sunday night was at Alexander's on Rt 31, just north of the tollway in Elgin. After a spot of bother over seating arrangements, things got better.  This place is typical of the Greek owned family restaurants so common in the Chicago area.  Lots of variety, good food and reasonable prices.  After being a good boy with fish 2 nights in a row I opted for the small cut of prime rib.  Not the best I have ever had but good value for money as my British friends would say.

I do have to say this weekend was a test for my newly regained stamina, the most intense I've worked since the transplant.  The long days, leaving the house around 7:30 getting back at around 10, was a bit taxing, but it is great to see the kids enjoying them selves so much.  Hopefully we have planted the seeds for a few future volunteers and contributors to help ensure the future of IRM and the contribution to the bottom line doesn't hurt either.

The downside of all of this is the ear worms of Thomas music that gets stuck in your brain. If I hear "He's the Director of the Railway" in my head one more time I might scream!

No comments: