Article From the Winter 2004 Issue of
The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation
Over 20 years ago these pages spotlighted a volunteer who was even then a major factor in the success of the museum. Since those early days, Ted Strang has steadily contributed to our growth and continues to play a key role in our progress and in the leadership at NYMT.
Back in 1982, HEADEND reported that "Ted devotes so many hours to NYMT that it seems like he is always there; we are tempted to hang a sign on him and make him a permanent exhibitÖ" His involvement with the museum began in the winter of 1977 when he stopped in for a visit and noticed our Rochester Subway Plymouth gasoline locomotive. The hook was in, and he soon came back to help, eventually to lead the restoration effort. The report back then noted that the work so far bore "his mark of thoroughness and quality", something weíve learned to count on from Ted.
Like just about any boy, Ted had his share of toy trucks and cars in his early years. Enthusiasm for transportation vehicles and just about anything mechanical grew, and he remembers taking pictures of some "doubles" (a truck with two trailers) on the Massachusetts Turnpike when he was 10 years old as one of his earliest transportation memories. A large family picnic took over part of the Arcade & Attica tourist train each summer and gave Ted his first train ride at about that time. After high school he held several jobs in local companies, trading on his mechanical skills, and by the time he joined the museum Ted was a mechanic at Monroe Tractor and Implement Company in Henrietta, New York.
Tedís a great student, interested in many things but also eager to learn about them in detail. He took factory training at J. I. Case, Drott, and Sullair and became a specialist in Drott and Poclain heavy excavation equipment and diesel power units. Business demanded machines that were up and running, and people with Tedís skills and knowledge in the technology were extremely important and just as rare.
But business success involves more than smooth running equipment on the sales and rental lot, and Ted expanded his skill set through night school courses at Rochester Institute of Technology, earning college credits in marketing and small business management. In the years since, NYMT has relied not only on Tedís ability to repair and operate bulldozers, backhoes and the like, but also on his business training and management skills.
As the museum established a steady course in the early 1980s, there were a lot of plates spinning. Keeping the place open to the public was Job 1, and right behind were repairs and restoration. By the mid-80s, responsibility for all this fell to Ted as he took over as President. The fact that the museum is here and prospering today can be attributed largely to Tedís steady attention to Sunday hours, with then-girlfriend-now-wife Karen Gibson running the Ticket Desk while Ted took care of whatever else needed doing.
"Whatever else" meant taking over the bookkeeping and setting up annual 3-ring binders that he still maintains today. It meant learning to take care of the reams of paperwork pertaining to insurance for the museum, our (then) lease with the New York State Division for Youth, annual reports to Albany, sales tax reporting, and so on. It also meant trying out advertising (one of many things he paid out of his own pocketÖthere just wasnít any money for that kind of thing back then).
Ted and Paul Monte also took on a major project for Regional Transit Service, building a photo display of city transportation images as part of Rochesterís "Main Event" in the 1980s. Ted garnered some publicity for the museum when he was interviewed by WXXI-TV as part of this city event.
But there was still the mechanical aspect of the museum to deal with. Ted had inherited the newly constructed gift shop and visitor entry, but there were many things that were still needed. The original milk processing room at the back of the building suffered in the winter when pressure relief valves let go, spewing water that then froze in huge formations. The problem, which threatened our archival storage, was dealt with by installing a 5000-watt heater. Then, he and Larry Kastner remodeled the room into a legitimate archive, with drop ceiling, proper lighting, racks and shelving, and storage of our paper items in large, uniform cartons. A dehumidifier was added and the paper items inventoried.
The adjoining rear office also got the Strang treatment, with a new outer door, a paint job and carpeting, and a built-in work table. Today this office and the archive room are the nerve center of the museum, housing our computer, operating files, and all our archived historical photos and documents. Itís hard to imagine how we got along without such facilities, and the comfortable space has led to great progress in the archives by Shelden King, Ted Thomas, Paul Monte, Charlie Lowe, Charlie Robinson, and many others over the years.
Outside, do you remember the days when entrance to the museum meant driving in on the grass, then walking up a steep hillside to eventually find oneís way to the front door? Ted saw the accessibility problems in that arrangement and put in the driveway that we all now take for granted. His business sense helped here, but so did his skills at operating a backhoe! Meanwhile, he and the small crew of faithful volunteers kept the track car rides going in the summer, kept the grass mowed, and kept the place standing.
At Monroe Tractor, Ted worked in the service department until 1985 when he joined sales and rentals, becoming Sales Manager in 1990. His most recent responsibility is Milling and Heavy Highway Specialist, covering the sales and leasing of the Wirtgen product line of highway milling machines, Vogele paving equipment, and Hamm compaction equipment (road rollers). His territory is most of New York State, and it keeps him busy, especially during the paving season, demonstrating, training, and sometimes making quick field repairs around the state. Tedís enthusiasm for learning serves him well, as he seems to know more about this complex equipment, how it works, how to operate it and how to fix it, than anyone else there. Monroe is lucky to have him.Did we mention Ted Strang is pretty good with a computer too?
Weíre lucky too. Despite his heavy work load and travel schedule the museum can still count on Tedís mechanical skills and knowledge, as well as clear thinking when it comes to our business decisions. Over the years, weíve also benefited from the expertise and time contributed by Tedís brother, Chuck (the Gallery/Gift Shop heating system), sister Pat (design for the reinforcing beam in the main barn), sister Mary (drawing of the museum floor plan), and the support of Tedís parents as well. Ted married Karen in 2000, and they have a new house in Rush, shared with cats Tinker and Trouble. When not involved at NYMT or at work or at home, Ted is an active and successful Kart racer, driving a slick racer powered by a 2-cycle engine that produces 19 horsepower at 12,000 rpm. You can catch him racing at the club track in Avon, but he also races all over the state. In fact, he finished 6th out of a field of 14 in the 2003 Northeastern Nationals. When not involved in all of the above, youíll find Ted working in his state-of-the-art garage, catching up on the latest Formula One races around the world, or delving into one of his many other interests (lake boats, mining equipment, historic trucks, planting Karenís fruit treesÖthe list goes on and on).
As Ted Strang starts his 27th year with the museum, we thank him for all heís done over this time, and look forward to the accomplishments heíll be a part of in the next 27!