Over the many years I have been representing the VRA to the URHS I have heard a lot of people inside and outside our group talk about the URHS as though it was some standalone group with no connection to any other group. I have also heard many people say things about the URHS not finding a place for the Transportation Heritage Center. I am here to set the record straight.
First and foremost, the URHS is nothing more than the fifteen member groups all put together with a common cause. Each group is represented by a delegate and an alternate. In our case that is Joe Mele and I (KC Smith). Once per month the group gathers to go over the business set before them and decide what to do and what not to do. Each representative has the responsibility to vote on whatever is presented as they think their group would like them to vote. In some cases, but not most, the representative is asked to go back to their group and get direction.
Each rep is supposed to give a report to their group about what is going on, which in some cases does not happen, but at least in ours we have had a URHS report be part of our newsletters and on our web site for years. If any member group has a problem with a decision they have always had the right to question what is going on and have their rep either answer the question or present it at a meeting, which has occurred a number of times over the years. In these cases the rest of the reps get to discuss the objection and decide what to do.
Why am I telling you all this? Recently I had yet another discussion with someone about something the URHS did that they did not like. This conversation centered on the color engines were being painted, the choice of engines being “restored” and why the URHS was doing any restoration without a place to display them.
The first two are good questions, but also questions that long ago were decided on and have been posted on the URHS web site for years [ Statement on Preservation ] . The answer as to why a certain railroad was chosen is because it was decided that we should try and represent as many railroads that ran through the state as possible. However, since much of the equipment donated to us was not from most of the roads, a recreation was necessary. To date almost every engine in the collection has either been completed or will be shortly.
The question of color is a little more complicated but the simple answer is a few key people in the group chose the colors to represent a certain time, and the reps voted to approve. When these and other decisions are made it is known that some people might object. But because the member groups’ reps approved the decisions, we need to accept the outcome and try and look at them in the best possible light. Does that mean we should not try and get what we think is best? No, on the contrary we should always look to do our best.
On the subject of location for the Heritage Center, the URHS was never intended to be the group that was in charge of finding a location. That job was in the hands of the Friends group and, early on, the Museum Commission set up by the State. Unfortunately those two entities never found a location that materialized into a home. They got close a few years back when Phillipsburg was chosen, but the town pulled the property out from under them and suddenly they were back to square one.
Only after that happened did a few of us in the URHS decide we needed to get involved. We made a proposal that was accepted by the Friends board to create a joint committee to search for a site. For a year or more the new committee looked at quite a number of sites, made a report to the board, which took no real action. When that happened, the members of the committee from the URHS made a decision to dissolve the committee and received approval to create a site committee from the URHS to at least find a home for the railroad equipment under its care.
Since that time, we have been looking at any site that came to our attention and chose the ones we felt had the most potential. We currently have a few possibilities that we are moving forward with, and with any luck we will have a site or two to announce in the coming months. We are not announcing where those sites are until a decision is made, because in the past sites have been undermined because someone outside the committee said or did something.
I hope this helps everyone who has any questions about the process. I also encourage anyone who has any questions or concerns to ask Joe or me. If we do not have the answer we will get it for you. Please continue to support the URHS and its efforts to finally find a home.