GGMRC Turnover to Randall Museum

To follow up and conclude the ongoing negotiations with the Randall Museum, the GGMRC President and the Chairman of the Negotiating Committee met on December 17th, 2015 with the Randall Museum to deliver the following letter:

December 17, 2015

Golden Gate Model Railroaders, Inc.
P O Box 14933
San Francisco, CA 94114

Cassandra Costello
Chris Boettcher
Nathan Robinson

Re: The Randall Museum/Golden Gate Model Railroaders, Inc.

Dear Cassandra, Chris and Nathan,

This letter is directed to the three of you in your respective capacities of authorized representative of the San Francisco Department of Recreation and Parks, The Randall Museum and the Randall Friends respectively.

After almost two years of negotiations we have been unable to reach an agreement with you regarding our Club, the Museum and continued operation of the existing model train layout that is acceptable to our Membership. It appears that we have come to an end of our 54 year relationship.

Nonetheless, all of us have repeatedly expressed a strong desire that the model train operation remain in the Randall and be open and operating for the public’s enjoyment. To accomplish this goal Golden Gate Model Railroaders, Inc. hereby gives the layout together with the tools, supplies and materials needed to maintain and repair the layout , all of which are in the train room, to the Randall Museum for the enjoyment of the public. Golden Gate Model Railroaders, Inc. hereby disavows any and all responsibility for maintenance, repairs, and operations as well as any changes or improvements to the layout. From this point forward any and all repairs, maintenance, changes, alterations, improvements and operations that the The Museum desires to undertake shall be in its sole discretion and solely at its own expense.

We request two things from the Museum:

  1. That those Club Members who desire to assist the Museum in operations, maintenance, repairs or improvements be allowed to do so and to operate their private trains on the layout; and
  2. That if the Museum for any reason decides not to continue operation of the layout, that Golden Gate Model Railroaders, Inc. be permitted to salvage any usable items from the layout and train room for donation to other model railroad clubs.

As we believe you are aware, all engines, rolling stock, vehicles, power supplies and throttles have been removed from the layout for safekeeping during the Museum’s renovation. Once the Museum re-opens and the layout is up and running Golden Gate Model Railroaders, Inc. will donate the stored engines, rolling stock, vehicles, power supplies and throttles to the Museum to the extent it desires to accept the items.

Please note that we are closing our Post Office Box and all written communications should be addressed to James R. Willcox, P O Box 1382, Ross, CA 94957. You have the email addresses for the Negiotiating Committee.

Very Truly Yours,

Golden Gate Model Railroaders, Inc.
By James R Willcox
Secretary/Treasurer and Chairman of the Negotiating Committee

[PDF Version: GGMRC Turnover to Randall Museum 2015-12-17.]


[Update 2018/01 by Raphael] The opinion below is solely my own and not the official views of the GGMRC. It is based on my own recollection of events and my own biased opinion on such events.

The club members held a Special Session on November 2015 to discuss the latest contract being negotiated with the Museum. It was noted that:
  • The contract is essentially a modified commercial lease. As-is, it is extremely verbose with many clauses not pertinent to a club, such as requirements to hold insurance at commercial levels way in excess of what the club can financially support. Several attempts were made to point this inadequacy, each time met with the same bureaucratic tone deaf of it being their "default" contract.
  • The contract recognizes the Train Layout is an important asset of the museum. It does clearly states that the club recognizes the City gives them permission to run trains only on the condition that the layout be of public utility to the museum.
  • The contract mandates the Club to install two automated routes so that the public can see something when club members are not running trains on the layout. However after two years, the section indicating what should be automated and who should pay for it is still left blank and undecided.
  • The contract stipulates that any alteration to the layout which may impact the automation can only be done after review by the Museum. Failure to design or modify the layout in a fashion agreable to the Museum would result in default. Since at the time of negotiation the automation was only vaguely defined at best, this essentially meant the Club as a whole is loosing any creative direction and decision making on their very own layout.
  • The contract adds that the club must guarantee the automation runs. If something were to break, the club has one week to fix the issue (extended to two with written request and permission), during which the members' permission to use the layout for their own benefit would be suspended. Failure to fix the automation on time would result in default.
  • The contract stipulates that the club members must run trains on Saturday as a form of public entertainment. Failure to do so would result in default.
    During negotiations, this was clearly spelled out as a promise the club could not necessary hold since members availability could not be guaranteed. A compromise was proposed, allowing the club to be absent one Saturday per quarter depending on people's availability. That compromise was flatly rejected by the City person in charge of negotiations.
  • The contract stipulates that the club members must staff the Junior Engineering Day event held every other month. Failure to do so would result in default.
  • The contract allows the Museum to collect 10% of the club members fees, with a complex system of late charges and default interest.
  • "Default" in the contract is defined as a termination of the Club rights to use the room. The Club should then "remove the layout" from the room (either move it or demolish it). Anything left in the room shall be considered "abandonned" and the Club would bear the cost of the City having to remove it.
From the Club members' interpretation of the contract, it is both untenable and unbalanced. In exchange for allowing the Club to run on their layout, the Museum is getting a free fee whilst not having to maintain anything. The Museum also gets free labor from the Club Members by imposing running days.
The Club essentially looses any rights to decide on modifications to their own layout, these now being under the discretion of the Museum's direction, yet the Museum does not bear any cost of maintenance or the cost of such modifications. Written as such, it is oddly balanced in favor of the Museum who has ultimate power of decision without having to bear any burden.
The requirement to have someone running every Saturday is deemed simply untenable given the handful of active members -- although likely, it cannot be guaranteed, and the contract makes that an unquestionable default clause. It is also unbalanced since the Museum gets to decide which Saturdays are open to public.

The "default" clause is considered absolutely innapropriate since the layout's construction made it inherently impossible to remove without severely damaging it. We also all know that no member would be willing to physically demolish it. And of course the club would have nowhere else to go.

In my personal view, the "negotiations" (or lack thereof) really helped sinking whatever little morale was left in the long-time club members. The lady appointed by the City was particularly adamant that no clause could be negotiated in the Club's favor, even when platry compromises were presented such as allowing a missing Saturday every quarter. In my view, there was really a lack of meeting of the minds, one side viewing the contract as already generous and the other side as constrainous beyond reason.

Since this was the result of two years of "negotiations", it was the members' belief that the museum was trying to appropriate themselves the layout and boot the club out. I personally saw no obvious cause to believe this was really what the museum's direction wanted, as in this case I would not attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by apathy.
However I would say that, it they had wanted such an outcome, it would have been a good long term strategy as they did achieve to really ingrain an unhealthy level of fear, uncertainty and doubt in the Club up to the point where the Club was no longer seeking any new membership, was literally not striving, and eventually just gave up.

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