Saturday, September 10, 2016

And I thought SF/F fandom was graying....

On Friday and Saturday, I attended the Hoosier Traction Meet, a gathering of fans of electric railroads of the Midwest.  

It is a small event, averaging about 150 attendees most years.  I was one of maybe twenty people below the age of fifty.  The average age is probably somewhere in the mid-60's.  The youngest person making a presentation was 45.  The children attending with their parents were 50/60-something guys attending with their 70/80-something fathers.  Many of the attendees are old enough to remember WWII - and too old to get one presenter's pub about the man named Shrek not being an ogre.  At least this year no ambulances had to be called because of a person who collapsed in the doorway to the theater.

The organizers clearly recognize the need to attract more young people, based upon a few brief speeches before some of the presentations, but the only plan for doing so that they had was to ask us bring more friends and tell more people.  I'm not sure that'll be enough to save them.  I hope so.  And they encouraged staying at the hotel so that they continue to get enough room nights to avoid having to pay for function space.  Anyway, enough about demographics.  

Much like a science fiction/fantasy convention, the Hooiser Traction Meet featured a room for vendors and displays.  That room wasn't quite filled, unlike the first time I attended, four years ago.   The only other function space was a small theater that was used for the presentations.  Most of the presentations were either (literal) slide shows or PowerPoints.  Some were little more than picture shows with a little narration, while others were more detailed presentations enhanced by they photos and maps.

Whatever its problems, the meet was filled with great presentations, and the vendors had books and models I was interested in. Some were on streetcars, others were on interurbans.  There were also two presentations on buses (which do not interest me, and were the first of the morning each day, so I skipped them) and a brief but interesting presentation on a strangely-routed steam railroad commuter service in the Chicago area.  

Presentations on the Laurel Line interurban in northwest Pennsylvania, Cincinnati's still-born subway, and two of the Detroit United Railway's interurban lines were all excellent.  Eastern Missouri Traction Oddities and Obscurities was also interesting.  The Current Transit Industry News is an perennial feature, even if the commentary would tend to frustrate the politically doctrinaire of any sort.

Given the buckets of rain that were failing from the sky throughout the region, this year I was even more glad than usual that I made the decision to attend.  Amazingly, I managed to miss the rain for most of the drive to and fro.  I also managed an excellent dinner Friday at the Rathskeller in downtown Indianapolis.  Beef rouladen, red cabbage, potato pancake...  yum!

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