Tale of Two Cities

This weekend I hosted the The American Passenger Rail Heritage’s Let’s Talk Train show from Rochelle, Illinois. I have been to Rochelle at least seven times. My wife, Mrs. Shuttletrain has family in that part of the state. I had set up the show about three months in advance, I wanted the Mayor of Rochelle, the Tourism Director and a representative from the new railcar manufacturing plant that was opening three days before the show to be on the show. All three said that they would love a to be on. Since I am involved with an new start railfan center in Pacific, Missouri. I asked the Rochelle officials if they would have time after the show to meet with some city officials from Pacific and the center’s managers. They all agreed, I went to a meeting with the Pacific officials and told them that the Rochelle officials were willing to meet. The Pacific folks seemed very interesting in learning how a railfan center would help their city.
As last week came closer and closer, I began to worry that only the Pacific railfan center folks would be the only people coming on the site visit. My gut feeling turned out to be right. Only the building owner and the center director and their wives were the only people that came. After the Rochelle officials appeared on the show. they took time to speak with the Pacific folks. I then took the Pacific group to a nearby model club that was the Club of the Month. The Blackhawk club in Oregon. Illinois was a very gracious host. I pointed the group in the right direction for their hotel, which was in Davenport, Iowa, since all the hotel rooms were full in the Rochelle and Galesburg area. Since Mrs. Shuttletrain and I had made reservations months before, we had a room in Galesburg already.
I had contacted the mayor and the tourism director of Galesburg to meet us Sunday morning around noon. I was going to show the Pacific delegation another city that had a strong Railroad Days and was just starting a railfan park at an over and under mainline double tracks of the BNSF. We arrived at the Galesburg AMTRAK station which was supposedly starting place for the meeting of the minds. The Pacific folks showed up on about hour early to watch trains including AMTRAK. As the passengers were getting off the train. three of Galesburg’s did their now famous spot inspections, or as innocent passengers call it, the harassment. The tourism director, shows up and I introduce the Pacific delegation to her. Now mind you, I had originally sent an email to the mayor, giving him the same request that I did for the Rochelle officials. The Galesburg mayor then forwarded the info to the Tourism Director. I spoke on the phone with the woman, and told her that I wanted to give the Pacific delegation, another idea, of how they handle rail tourism in their city. The mayor does not show up. The tourism director was supposed to have the railroad museum and other people that have railroad interests in town to come to the meeting. No one else showed up. The tourism director had no idea of numbers of how many people come to their town to railfan or for that matter how many people get on and off AMTRAK in their town. The tourism association is a separate entity from the city. The city collects a hotel tourism tax of 7% but most of the goes somewhere else.Now remind you, that Galesburg has four AMTRAK trains each way a day stop in their town. The Tourism Director then laid a bombshell, their tourism assn is for county not just city of Galesburg, even though the city of Galesburg is where most of the hotels are located. She brought no facts or figures to the meeting. We they went to the Galesburg Railroad Museum and were greeted by the most rude staff person I have ever meet at a railroad museum. She seemed surprised that we were coming and refused to provide any data about visitors to that museum. She kept stating that is against policy and that the board of directors of the museum must OK the release of that information, even though the tourism director was standing right next to us, One of the Pacific delegation, started to take pictures of the layout of the museum, and the women became unglued. You would have thought that he was stealing military secrets. We all left Galesburg with a very bad feeling in our mouths. I was planning on doing a episode of LTT there next year, but after the reception we got, forget it. I am very disappointed with Galesburg and how they conduct business in their city, I won’t be attending an more Railroad Days in Galesburg, or going anywhere near that museum.

Thanks for stopping by and remember to always watch for trains. Don’t wear earbuds!


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