Train Host/Station Host

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McLeansvilleAppFan

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North Carolina has a nice Train Host/Station Host program. I think a city in California has a program for their station. I can't remember which program has been around the longest though I did read about it a few months ago. Does anyone else have a program where volunteers ride a train and/or hang out at the train station as volunteer greeters for riders?
 

Cho Cho Charlie

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The last time I took the Vermonter to/from White River Junction, the station was staffed only by volunteers.
 

the_traveler

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Although Plattsburgh, NY is unstaffed, it is manned by volunteers who have the indoor waiting room open and available, and notifies you when the Adirondack has departed from the border - about 20 miles north.

This has been for the numerous times I’ve been there for the past many years.
 

Bob Dylan

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Kirkwood,Mo has a Volunteer Station Host Program @ the Historic Station. Fine group of Folks!
 

crescent-zephyr

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The Downeaster in Maine had a volunteer train host when I rode it several years ago.

Also the state of Maine operates the Amtrak owned cafe car with non-Amtrak employees and non-Amtrak, local food options.
 

McLeansvilleAppFan

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Are these volunteers at the stations mentioned true volunteers or getting paid a small wage on a no benefit/part-time basis?

The reason I ask is that a few weeks before Covid shut down my daughters college my wife and I drove to the college one evening and dropped off a car for our daughter as she finally got her driver's license. We picked her up at her dorm and drove to the Kannapolis, NC station and arrived with about 90 seconds to spare.

I only had time to ask the person at the station one quick question but I asked her is she was paid to be there. I thought I knew the answer but I wanted to ask anyway. I asked is she was paid and she said yes. I think she is a part-time NC DOT employee. They don't pay these folks much and the hours are small enough that I assume there are no benefits like time off or health insurance. A nice job for a retiree that needs neither of those benefits. I was hoping to probe a bit more but we had to jump on the train.

I think that is the arrangement for Kannapolis, High Point, and Burlington, NC for all trains and maybe a few stations on the other side of Raleigh and Gastonia west of Charlotte. I assume the job of cleaning restrooms and seating area is another job.

I was planning to be a station host in Greensboro and have my training in late April. Of course that was cancelled. The program is for the stations at Charlotte, Greensboro, and Raleigh, though if one would ask to volunteer at an different station every now and then, I am not sure if they would say "No." I was not planning to be a train host as I don't have that sort of time as I have two jobs already but that allows hosting on the Piedmont and Carolinian from Charlotte to Rocky Mount. The Piedmont and Carolinian are owned by NC DOT which plays a part in the train host program. There is no train hosting on the Crescent and not station hosting when the train comes through in the wee hours of the morn. Again if one insisted on volunteering at the station when the Crescent came through I am not sure if would say no. They may say no. With the hours the Crescent comes through NC in both directions a train host would only be an interruption to everyone sleeping.
 

crescent-zephyr

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As someone who used to work at a tourist train both on-board and at the station I always thought it was a really weird thing when people asked me if I was paid to be there or a volunteer. Was a pretty common question actually.
 

McLeansvilleAppFan

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As someone who used to work at a tourist train both on-board and at the station I always thought it was a really weird thing when people asked me if I was paid to be there or a volunteer. Was a pretty common question actually.
The lady in Kannapolis and a few other stations in NC are referred to as station attendants. I think there are three stations in NC (Gastonia, Southern Pines, and one more I read about last night after my last post) are are 100% unstaffed by either Amtrak or NC DOT and these would also have no volunteers either.

I assume asking about the pay was a way to see if what may be a fun job, in really being a job that brings in income, versus a volunteer position that some not not be able to afford to give away the free time.

My regular job is a high school science teacher and my current school is near downtown and the station is close enough to my drive home that I could drop by for 45 min to an hour on the way home once a week. It would not really be a huge increase in my carbon-footprint either. My weekend job at a local science center starts late enough on weekends that I could drop by the Greensboro station on the way into work. Of course that was all based on schedules pre-Covid. I am enough of a night-owl I could even drop by every now and then for the Crescent if they let me.

For NC they expect a day of training and the the train hosts have to ride, I think, about once every other month on average. For station hosts, if I did some volunteering about every other week I would be doing enough to stay in the program. Even station hosts have to do at least three train hosts rides as part of the initial training. My plan was to use my summer as a chance to get the 3 train rides in.

To ride from Charlotte to Rocky Mount and then return is about a 15 hour day though when the Piedmont is back to full schedule there are ways of making that a shorter day. I have talked with train hosts about 50% of the time I have been on one of the NC DOT trains but I have actually never run into a station host at any station.

NC seems to have a good program and I am not sure of the budget but it seems to be very small for the benefits provided. They spend some on printing and have a few webpages and purchase part of a uniform. I think the NC DOT employees that help with the training do so twice a year and they may be volunteering themselves or maybe get some comp time off. The main contact I have been in touch with has a gmail email so I assume she is not an employee of NC DOT either.
 

the_traveler

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I think station host and station attendant are 2 different things.

Perhaps a station attendant may get paid something to work the building and keep it clean. However, I think a station host may be a true volunteer.

Look at an event like the Super Bowl or Olympics. There are paid positions, but they also ask for volunteer hosts to assist visitors. Yes, perhaps they may be ”paid” by given tickets, but they do not receive any other compensation most likely.
 

railiner

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This 'hosting' seems like a whole lot more involved than the "caretaker's" that I recall Amtrak having at some unstaffed stations. Their job was mainly to open and close the waiting room, and clean the station and rest rooms. They were specifically instructed not to dispense any train related information, but to refer inquiries to the toll-free number. That I believe was in the agreement with the clerk's union, that allowed their use. I have no idea of what if any agreement allows this current setup.
 

McLeansvilleAppFan

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I think station host and station attendant are 2 different things.

Perhaps a station attendant may get paid something to work the building and keep it clean. However, I think a station host may be a true volunteer.

Look at an event like the Super Bowl or Olympics. There are paid positions, but they also ask for volunteer hosts to assist visitors. Yes, perhaps they may be ”paid” by given tickets, but they do not receive any other compensation most likely.
For NC that is exactly what the case is. Station staff are Amtrak employees and I assume union members in the IAM/TCU. Station Attendant seems to be a part-time paid position to open and close a few stations in NC that have a need for at least that level of service. I have no idea if they also clean the place, but my gut tells me that is a different job for someone else. What NC DOT calls a station host is truly a volunteer position. NC DOT pays for the Amtrak ticket to get you to Raleigh for the training and the return trip home but outside of that no comped tickets or any other perks. I guess if you have family/friends in a city that could provide a layover for the return trip you could make a short visit from a free ride there and back but that is about it.
 

McLeansvilleAppFan

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This 'hosting' seems like a whole lot more involved than the "caretaker's" that I recall Amtrak having at some unstaffed stations. Their job was mainly to open and close the waiting room, and clean the station and rest rooms. They were specifically instructed not to dispense any train related information, but to refer inquiries to the toll-free number. That I believe was in the agreement with the clerk's union, that allowed their use. I have no idea of what if any agreement allows this current setup.
The "hosting" done in NC stations is more about being a voice for the CVB at some level. One rule that was mentioned in the preliminary phone interview was not to handle luggage. I think the main reason was that NC DOT does not want a volunteer trying to pick something up and messing up their back and then suing NC DOT over the injury. There could be a clause in the union contract that volunteers can't do union work and I hope there would be to be honest. I am a huge supporter and believer in the union movement (it is one of a few reasons I love Amtrak) and I would not want to get in the way of being used to lessen the need for actual union members at a staffed station.

For me hanging around the station and talking up Greensboro and answering a few questions about the station and locations of things around the station and city is not getting in the way of the Amtrak employees. That was one consideration I thought about before I decided to join the hosting program.
 

GaSteve

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The National Park Service and Amtrak have a program called Trails and Rails on certain routes mainly in the summer time in which trained volunteers ride trains, engage passengers and provide presentations and dialog about things along the route. The program is suspended right now account of COVID-19.
 

McLeansvilleAppFan

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This 'hosting' seems like a whole lot more involved than the "caretaker's" that I recall Amtrak having at some unstaffed stations. Their job was mainly to open and close the waiting room, and clean the station and rest rooms. They were specifically instructed not to dispense any train related information, but to refer inquiries to the toll-free number. That I believe was in the agreement with the clerk's union, that allowed their use. I have no idea of what if any agreement allows this current setup.
I think the "caretakers" are the ones that are paid in NC to open/close a station though I am not sure if they clean the stations and restrooms. That is what NC DOT calls a station attendant it seems. They may also have a strict schedule to follow of when they work. My future "hosting" also comes with the idea that I do this when I like around my own schedule and needs as long as I meet some minimum amount of time each year, or they will request the uniform back.
 

McLeansvilleAppFan

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The National Park Service and Amtrak have a program called Trails and Rails on certain routes mainly in the summer time in which trained volunteers ride trains, engage passengers and provide presentations and dialog about things along the route. The program is suspended right now account of COVID-19.
I have heard about those as well.

The Greensboro Science Center is a neighbor to the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park and the idea is to make that area a cultural/educational/historical area for the city and used as a tourist draw even more than it is now with a more unified approach. One problem I have is that city transit does not run on the weekends in that area and during the week the service is limited more than I would like it to be. We offer a free bus pass in NC for a transfer to city transit along the Carolinian route and there is some history beyond Guilford Courthouse but in this case it is not very useful for one of the biggest attractions in the city.

There is not tons of stuff of that nature along the route but there is a little bit to talk about in most of the major cities. That could be a nice addition for certain marked schedules.
 

joelkfla

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As someone who used to work at a tourist train both on-board and at the station I always thought it was a really weird thing when people asked me if I was paid to be there or a volunteer. Was a pretty common question actually.
Why? A rail museum at which I volunteered was non-profit and run mostly by volunteers (including train staff & ticketing), but IIRC had a couple of paid employees to keep the place open during the week.
 

crescent-zephyr

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Why? A rail museum at which I volunteered was non-profit and run mostly by volunteers (including train staff & ticketing), but IIRC had a couple of paid employees to keep the place open during the week.
Just seems like an odd thing to ask a person. Do you walk into a coffee shop and ask what the barista makes or what kind of benefits they receive?

I always answered politely of course... my standard reply said in friendly tour guide voice “well I started out as a volunteer but I ended up out here so much they decided to pay me!”
 

McLeansvilleAppFan

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Just seems like an odd thing to ask a person. Do you walk into a coffee shop and ask what the barista makes or what kind of benefits they receive?

I always answered politely of course... my standard reply said in friendly tour guide voice “well I started out as a volunteer but I ended up out here so much they decided to pay me!”
At non-profits (and I work at the Science Center running the planetarium part time) there is often a mix of paid and volunteer. Assuming most every coffee shop is a for-profit business I would expect 100% being paid. Knowing which is which at a museum or zoo or such does not seem unreasonable.

I also realize pay is a touchy thing in this country. We have a local conservative rag in my area that publishes the pay of every county and city employee every year and it happens to my wife in a neighboring county. We are both public school science teachers.
 

lordsigma

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Someone mentioned the White River Junction station. I believe there is an Amtrak caretaker there, though they may also have volunteers as well. In Vermont, Brattleboro, Bellows Falls, White River Junction, Montpelier, Waterbury, Essex Jct., and St. Albans are the stations where Amtrak is responsible for the station building and has caretakers at each. Randolph VT, Windsor - Mt. Ascutney, and Claremont NH are completely unmanned platform-shelter stops and Amtrak has much less involvement in those stops. Claremont at least does have volunteer hosts. At least in the case of Claremont the city maintains the stop but I don't know if that includes everything including platform snow removal or not. Will see if I can find more info.
 
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Bob Dylan

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At non-profits (and I work at the Science Center running the planetarium part time) there is often a mix of paid and volunteer. Assuming most every coffee shop is a for-profit business I would expect 100% being paid. Knowing which is which at a museum or zoo or such does not seem unreasonable.

I also realize pay is a touchy thing in this country. We have a local conservative rag in my area that publishes the pay of every county and city employee every year and it happens to my wife in a neighboring county. We are both public school science teachers.
And way under paid for what yall do!
 

railiner

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Someone mentioned the White River Junction station. I believe there is an Amtrak caretaker there, though they may also have volunteers as well. In Vermont, Brattleboro, Bellows Falls, White River Junction, Montpelier, Waterbury, Essex Jct., and St. Albans are the stations where Amtrak is responsible for the station building and has caretakers at each. Randolph VT, Windsor - Mt. Ascutney, and Claremont NH are completely unmanned platform-shelter stops and Amtrak has almost no responsibility other than that they stop the train there. Claremont at least does have volunteer hosts. Responsibility for the Claremont stop (parking, accessibility, etc.) is by the city. In Randolph I believe it is the same with the town being responsible for the station.
I would imagine that even at the bare platform-shelter stops, someone has to be responsible for snow removal, if nothing else....
 

lordsigma

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If the city owns the station I imagine the city would or could use normal city employees that deal with snow removal.
I'm guessing either Amtrak, the city, or the owner of the bike shop that is in the old station building (in the case of Claremont) is responsible for snow removal. It says the owner of the platform is NECR so it may be Amtrak or NECR that has to pay someone to clear it so I may need to amend my previous post if I find more info - I will look into it. Not 100% sure. The city did build a little covered seating area at the platform in the last few years. The parking lot and land is owned by the owner of the bike shop that's in the historic station building. The state of New Hampshire provides zero funding for the Vermonter, and as a result the Claremont stop is 100% a city initiative. I did find that ADA responsibility for the platforms is listed as Amtrak so I stand corrected on that - I could swear it was the city across the board for these stops, so with "ADA responsibility" perhaps Amtrak is responsible for snow removal.
 
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the_traveler

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If the city owns the station I imagine the city would or could use normal city employees that deal with snow removal.
I took a train from FED last winter.

It was the morning after an overnight storm. The station is unstaffed, but there was a path plowed from the parking lot to the train! So maybe the town does it.
 
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