Trains.com

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Club Quality Control

1665 views
10 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    March 2019
  • 183 posts
Club Quality Control
Posted by reasearchhound on Friday, November 3, 2023 11:45 PM

I am the president of an active and growing club (currently about 37 members) with half a dozen of them being new in the club. Many of the new members are expressing an interest in building structures for the undeveloped areas. It's great that they want to jump in and start participating but some of the established members are advocating for at least some form of quality control to try and ensure that the high level of craftsmanship that has been achieved by past members is continued. 

However, many of the rest of us, although we can certainly understand that desire, feel that trying to implement such a form of quality control would be exceedingly difficult - at least without the risk of offending some members and driving them away. Plus, although we take our modeling seriously, we don't want to lose track of what the club should be mainly about and that is having fun and enjoying our hobby.

So, my question is, do any of you use any form of quality control within your club layouts that you feel allow you to achieve and maintain a certain level of quality in your members' modeling without being so draconian in nature that they feel put off by it? And if so, what does it look like and how does it work?

Thanks  

Dan

  • Member since
    May 2002
  • From: Massachusetts
  • 2,890 posts
Posted by Paul3 on Saturday, November 4, 2023 1:40 AM

Dan,
I am a member of an HO club that has ~65 members that's been around since 1938.  We are a 501(c)3 Not For Profit group with a 10,000 sq. ft. building.

The way quality control works at our club is that we have various layout committees (scenery, mechanical, benchwork, trackwork, electrical, operations, registration, etc.) that any member can sign up for.  Each committee has a chairman who is appointed annually by the club president and appoved by the Board of Directors (and the BOD minutes are then approved by the members; the members always have the ultimate say on everything by voting the minutes up or down).

The committee chairmen have an annual budget and must make monthly committee reports to the membership on progress made and money spent in order to get reimbursed by the club.  At any monthly business meeting, any member can question the chairman in front of all the attending members about anything they want.  If necessary, the chairman can call for a committee meeting at the club where committee members can discuss and vote on actions to be taken (even against the wishes of the chairman).

The chairman, who is constantly answerable to the members as above, is the one that decides on the quality of any particular item under their baliwick.  If you make some trees for the layout and the scenery chairman doesn't like 'em, they won't get used.  If you build a car kit that has glue all over it, the mechanical chairman can reject it.  However, if the chairman is a jerk about it, he won't last long as the members won't stand for it.

That being said, the main authority on quality at the club for all areas of the layout is an elected annual position to our 9-member Board of Directors: the Chief Engineer.  He represents the layout to the BOD and is responsible for maintaining the standards of the club.  He's usually a well-respected expert on model railroading who keeps an eye on everything layout-related.  For example, our layout standard is a 40" min. mainline curve radius.  When the benchwork committee chairman made a mainline curve that was too tight, our Chief Engineer told him to re-do it.

If the Chief Engineer is too brash & abrasive, he'll be voted out at the next election.  So in our case, a good Chief Engineer has tact as well as skill.

As you can see, we have a lot of checks and balances built into our system.  We've learned not to give total authority to any one person.

One more thing: in addition to our By-Laws, we also have "Rules and Regulations" which state certain things like, "Kadee or compatible couplers must be used; split-knuckle couplers are banned." or "Metal wheels are to be used for all rolling stock." or "The minium mainline switch frog shall be #8."  All new members are handed the Rules & Regs upon signing up, so there's no excuse.

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: Bradford, Ontario
  • 15,575 posts
Posted by hon30critter on Saturday, November 4, 2023 5:10 AM

Hi Dan,

I am the past President of the Barrie Allandale Railway Modelers, and to put it simply, I think that Paul has given you a pretty good solution. Make sure everyone understands that there are certain standards that must be maintained, and encourage the members to discuss their ideas and maybe show some examples of their work before they plunk their stuff down on the layout. If their work isn't up to par, find someone in the club who can teach them.

You have my utmost respect for taking on the job of President. I could only stand herding cats for a couple of years.Bang HeadSmile, Wink & GrinLaughLaugh

Cheers!!

Dave

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

  • Member since
    September 2014
  • From: 10,430’ (3,179 m)
  • 2,277 posts
Posted by jjdamnit on Monday, November 6, 2023 12:55 PM

Hello All,

First, let me state upfront I am not a member of a club.

If the more experienced modelers are concerned about the quality of the models, rather than taking the "Rules & Regulations" or "You've Been Warned" path perhaps you could adopt a "Modeling With A Mentor" program. 

The more experienced- -and concerned- -modelers could pair up with enthusiastic new members, decide on a model that fits with the club's vision, and build the model together- -either at club meeting times or on their own time.

Alternatively, a model could be chosen by the new member to add to their home pike, to get the experience of what the club considers up to its standards.

Once that model is complete, you could invite the newly experienced member to build a model on their own; under the guidance of the mentor.

Depending on the modeling experience sought by the new member this could be a commercial kit, kit-bashing or scratch-built.

What many new modelers don't grasp is the need to invest in quality tools.

A mentor can guide the newly initiated on not only modeling techniques but also what tools are a "must" and which are "optional."

Hope this helps.

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

  • Member since
    August 2011
  • From: A Comfy Cave, New Zealand
  • 6,079 posts
Posted by "JaBear" on Tuesday, November 7, 2023 4:01 AM
 
Good advice already given.
 
Here in New Zealand, as an incorporated society the Club, I was member of, had an official constitution, so our main stated goal was “The objects of this Society are to encourage and assist its members in the various aspects of model railroading, and to promote the hobby by whatever means are available.”
 
This is very achievable when there is a like minded group who are prepared share ideas and individual skills, but unfortunately Club membership changes over the years, and we found it became necessary to add a ratified set of policies, as very little was getting achieved, and often what was done was counterproductive, which does not make for Fun and Enjoyment!
 
jjdamnits’ “Modelling with a Mentor” is the ideal method of ensuring a standard, but unfortunately some highly skilled modellers don’t necessarily make for good mentors, and some individuals mistakenly believe themselves not to require mentoring!
 
I hope Dan that you don’t find yourself in this position, but sometimes, as a last resort, it is necessary to step on recalcitrant types, especially if a quiet word in their shell like fails!
What you have to decide, as President and I hope you would have the support of your executive /committee, is if the risk of loosing a member(s) by offending them, while an unpleasant task, is actually a benefit to the Clubs general sense of Fun and Enjoyment.
 
Have Fun! 
 
Cheers, the Bear.Smile

"One difference between pessimists and optimists is that while pessimists are more often right, optimists have far more fun."

  • Member since
    November 2013
  • 2,669 posts
Posted by snjroy on Tuesday, November 7, 2023 9:24 AM

At our club, we have a committee structure, but they don't work. Structures are only as good as the people that make them work. It's all about leadership and good membership. For years, our club had a low number of members who were dedicated to quality. Then something happened: we "finished" 80% of the layout, and a bunch of new members joined to operate their trains like they were toys. And some of these newbies want to contribute to the scenery work, without having the skills to do so. And as mentioned by others, they don't realize it and won't listen to the more experienced modellers. To make things worse, one of the senior modellers has been working on the layout like a runnaway train, ignoring all committee decisions. He gets away with it because he's the president's buddy.

So yeah, it's a challenge. The only thing that keeps me going there is that there are some really good people at the club. I learn a lot from them and they have become good friends. I try to focus on that. And thank god there are some really nice-looking scenes on the layout that make me forget about the ugly.

Simon

  • Member since
    March 2019
  • 183 posts
Posted by reasearchhound on Tuesday, November 7, 2023 9:43 AM

Thanks to all of you who responded. 

Our club is a relatively laid back organization. More than once I have made the observation that it is more like a group of friends who share a common hobby than the other way around. With that said, it had almost become too laid back with some of the by-laws becoming mere suggestions rather than rules by which the club should function. I was pretty much elected (unopposed) with that knowledge and because I would be willing to tighten things up a bit. Nothing heavy handed, just a return to how things should be handled. I was fortunate to have almost an entirely new board elected at the same time that largely feels the same way.

We are also fortunate to have a core group of excellent modelers who are very willing to mentor. In fact, one of the new ideas that we enacted in our first year as a board was to have monthly workshops run by different members in which some aspect of the hobby has been covered. Because of that general attitude, I think the best way for us to proceed, at least initially, would be to encourage those members who are hesitant about jumping in to model to seek help. A set of basic principles that encourages good modeling skills (have a good work station, proper tools, how to glue cleanly, picking a kit commensurate with their skill level, etc.) could also be drawn up and posted. Considering the makeup of our membership, I believe that approach would work better than having a set of rules drawn up that would need to be adherred to and where the results would then be judged. To be clear, I could function under that type of system, as could several others, but overall, anything rigid like that just wouldn't be well received by a majority of the members.

One area we have tightened up on is what goes where on the layout. Previously it was pretty much anything goes and it was really only the good sense of our core cadre of modelers who kept things on track and realistic. But as our club has grown, we became increasingly concerned that could change so the process by which projects are decided, which has always been in place - just not adherred to, has now been beefed up and brought back into the forefront of the memberships' awareness.

I will add, that some of this entire issue stems from our club having moved to a new, larger location just before the pandemic so we now have a redone version of our old layout which has a fair amount of new open space needing to be developed. The benchwork and track laying is largely done with the focus now primarily involving scenery and structures.

Again, thanks for your feedback and I hope more suggestions are still forthcoming. But for now, I believe the best approach is to become more proactive in encouraging good practices while also actively offering to assist and help. But also, in the case of brand new members who wish to build structures or do scenery, I am going to propose that the project manager and his team ask them to either show some photos of their modeling projects, or bring in actual samples to share. I fully trust them to handle their task in a positive and constructive manner and doing that right at the start would not be out of line and should help head off some potential issues.

Dan

  • Member since
    March 2002
  • From: Milwaukee WI (Fox Point)
  • 11,426 posts
Posted by dknelson on Tuesday, November 7, 2023 9:46 AM

Sometimes these quality control standards and efforts can tear a club apart - I've seen it happen.  Sometimes it is the standards, sometimes it is the enforcement, sometimes it is the tone of voice and the communications.

My own feeling is that quality control is needed but you have to pick your battles.

Things like benchwork, track laying, wiring, rolling stock standards (weight, couplers, coupler height, that sort of thing) need to be rigorous or nobody has fun.  But subpar structures can be replaced or sometimes moved to inconspicuous places; scenery can be redone, usually pretty easily.   

Dave Nelson

  • Member since
    March 2019
  • 183 posts
Posted by reasearchhound on Tuesday, November 7, 2023 10:06 AM

I hear you Dave. All clubs have to have some standards in place but how those are conveyed and enforced can vary greatly as can the ramifications. We try to keep in mind that the hobby is meant to be fun - not a job. Nobody is going to die from a substandard structure or piece of scenery that is installed. But still, the entire subject can become an emotional one for some people and is one that sometimes requires a bit of a tightrope act from those charged with steering a club through it.

  • Member since
    February 2008
  • 277 posts
Posted by AEP528 on Tuesday, November 7, 2023 10:34 AM

reasearchhound

I hear you Dave. All clubs have to have some standards in place but how those are conveyed and enforced can vary greatly as can the ramifications. We try to keep in mind that the hobby is meant to be fun - not a job. Nobody is going to die from a substandard structure or piece of scenery that is installed. But still, the entire subject can become an emotional one for some people and is one that sometimes requires a bit of a tightrope act from those charged with steering a club through them.

 

Clubs, if they have assets and collect dues (or have other income) are businesses and membership is indeed a job. 

Yes, model railroading is supposed to be fun, but in a club that "fun" comes with rules and club member are expected to follow the rules. 

  • Member since
    March 2019
  • 183 posts
Posted by reasearchhound on Tuesday, November 7, 2023 10:53 AM

AEP528

 

 
reasearchhound

I hear you Dave. All clubs have to have some standards in place but how those are conveyed and enforced can vary greatly as can the ramifications. We try to keep in mind that the hobby is meant to be fun - not a job. Nobody is going to die from a substandard structure or piece of scenery that is installed. But still, the entire subject can become an emotional one for some people and is one that sometimes requires a bit of a tightrope act from those charged with steering a club through them.

 

 

 

Clubs, if they have assets and collect dues (or have other income) are businesses and membership is indeed a job. 

Yes, model railroading is supposed to be fun, but in a club that "fun" comes with rules and club member are expected to follow the rules. 

 

 

As President, I fully understand the importance of rules. And our club certainly has them in the form of it's constitution and by-laws. My reference was more about the tone in which those rules are enforced.

Members are all volunteers, so unlike a true job, there is generally not much to keep members wedded to an organization if they are not enjoying themselves or that they are feeling disrespected. Many of our new members all came from another club north of us which was largly run by one individual and although I never met him, it is pretty clear from what has been shared, the defection, and ultimate demise of the club was due to the way he ran it. It appears to have been more of a dictatorship rather than one in which members were consulted and valued. It is a lesson worth noting.

Still, very few clubs, if any, can effectively operate very long as an "anything goes" type of organization - at east without detrimental consequence. Hence my interest in how to effectively infuse more structure into the quality control aspect of things. For now, considering the nature of the club and the makeup of it's current members, slow and steady, positive encouragement, along with offers to mentor, seem to be the best way to proceed. Whether that proves to be enough, or not, will need to be evaluated six months from now.

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Users Online

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!