Article From the Spring 2004 Issue of


The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation


We’re not always successful in coaxing our dedicated volunteers into the spotlight to share their checkered pasts with our readers. So, following a suggestion from one of these shrinking violets, we’ve decided to put this group spotlight together to at least recognize their fine current contributions. Meet four people without whom our museum operations would grind to a screeching halt.

First up is Marie Miner. Marie and husband Bob are familiar faces at NYMT, as we said in their joint spotlight in the Spring 1995 issue of HEADEND. And it’s even more true today. Back then, we credited Marie for expressing interest in helping with our archiving work and for serving time at both the Gift Shop counter and the ticket desk. We took her up on the archiving offer and she created a valuable card file of all the items in the many large lawyer boxes full of documents, photos, timetables and other small items. At the time, all we had was an inventory list by box, and if a researcher wanted to look for a particular item, he or she had to scan down the many pages in the inventory list, hoping to spot something of interest, and then paw through the box. Marie took each listed item and made out a file card for it, so that we ended up with an alphabetized file for much easier searching. Marie’s card file has since been superseded by our computer system, but for several years it performed a valuable function, and still does today when questions arise.

Serving time in the Gift Shop naturally led to a "promotion" for Marie—she took on the task of staffing the shop and ticket desk. To start with, she collected all the instructions and work methods that had evolved over the years into a set of written training materials. She did some recruiting and set up annual briefings for the staff to familiarize them with the routine. Finally, she continues to handle the scheduling, arranging the dates when each volunteer will be on duty to be sure we always have people on hand to serve our visiting public.

We can’t talk about Marie Miner without asking our members to consider volunteering for time in the Gift Shop and/or at the ticket desk. More than a round of applause or a plaque on the wall, Marie would like to have enough trained people to fill all the slots throughout the year. Give her a call at 671-3589. She’ll appreciate it as much as we appreciate her!

Next up is a man who not only puts in his time, but has a wealth of knowledge to share as well. Bill Chapin has become a major contributor in the model railroad room over the past few years, where his interest and skills in model railroading are an obvious asset. During the Thursday work days, Bill pitches in with debugging of circuit problems as well as in the gradual effort to get more of the mainline and yard tracks operational. He’s also a part of the most recent project with the small gauge guys, creating an N-scale version of the Rochester Subway, and is part of our substation team too.

But "working on the railroad" is just part of the job. We need trained volunteers to run the layout whenever visitors drop in on Sundays, and for the many group tours we host each year. Bill is always willing to make the drive to the museum for such duty, keeping a major attraction at NYMT in operation. By the way, more than once Bill (and the other model rails too) has been called on to help out with a "situation" during group tours. Versatility is the key to successful group visits, and when a track car balks or more people show up than expected, it’s great to have a versatile guy like Bill around to help solve the problem.

Bill’s background reaches back to the steam days on the New York Central as a tower operator. His knowledge of railroading is expert, of course, and any time we have a technical question or just want to hear some tales from the "old days", Bill Chapin is the man to talk to.

We last met Anna Thomas standing beside her husband, Ted, in the Summer 2003 issue of HEADEND when the pair were helping Gift Shop Manager Doug Anderson cut the ribbon for the shop’s grand opening. Anna and Ted (in addition to a lot of woodwork and carpentry by Ted) had donated the carpeting for the shop and richly deserved the museum’s Certificate of Appreciation they received that day.

Since then, Anna has adopted not only the Gift Shop but the office and rest rooms in a personal campaign of cleanliness.

More than we could ever hope for (and probably more than we deserve), she comes in every week, toting a vacuum cleaner and assorted cleaning materials, and cleans these rooms from top to bottom. With an eye on keeping things looking good, she will often offer to touch up something she’s noticed or suggest an improvement for the general appearance of things.

Anna is a master seamstress, and has applied her talents many times at the museum. The curtains in the model railroad room, so important to our "railroads at night" portion of a visit there, were made by her, as were the cushions on the seat in the visitor entryway. Several of her handmade dolls are on sale in the Gift Shop too. Quilting is just one of Anna’s pastimes when she’s not helping out at NYMT. She’s also active as a volunteer at WXXI, and helps Ted with babysitting duties for their two grandchildren. We’re pleased that Anna Thomas is so willing to help at the museum, and only wish we could find more folks like her!

Harold Russell is another one of our key people, and one with many talents and interests. Maybe someday he’ll let us tell you all about himself, but for now we can say that without Harold, we’d be up the creek on Sundays. He handles the job of staffing our track car operations, and many times can be seen at the controls, taking his turn too. An engineer by training and employment, Harold brings the organization and discipline of that trade to the staffing job, creating spread sheets, sending out reminders, and fostering a professional attitude in this important part of our visitor operations.

Several of our volunteers are published authors, and Harold is unique in that area for the frequency with which his works have hit the press. This is because he produces scale drawings of railroad cars and structures for publication in model railroading magazines, often accompanied by an article written by him. He takes the measurements, does the research, writes the article, and creates the drawing (formerly in pen and ink, but now mostly computer generated), and has been doing this for most of his adult life. The name "Harold Russell" is a familiar one to modelers around the world.

      Harold and grandson Kevin Miller are about to head for
      Industry Depot with a weekday group of home schoolers.

Harold’s interest lies in O-scale model railroading, and he’s currently building a layout in his new home in Pittsford. His expertise was put to good use recently when he cleaned and repaired our nice collection of trolley models representing our area’s interurban lines. From time to time, he can be found in our HO-scale model railroad room, helping solve a problem or just joining in the fun. On the track cars, Harold enjoys talking with the passengers, adding to their enjoyment with details about the museum and warnings to watch out for "mug wumps" en route. His grandchildren can occasionally be found helping with the track car operations, and we suspect they’re being groomed for future volunteer work! We couldn’t ask for a better combination of fun, knowledge, and contribution than what we get out of Harold Russell.

In fact, all four of our Spotlight victims are unique combinations of talents, skills, and willingness to help. We’re glad we had the chance to introduce them to you, and we’re proud to have them on the team.