Philmont Train Etiquette

Date: Mon, 09 Jun 2003 09:01:19 -0500
From: Ron & Janelle Dunaway
Subject: [Philmont]: Scout Behavior
Just a word about something I have yet to see discussed on the list. We have dissected and heard hundreds of opinions on things such as water filtration and the sandals vs. close toed shoes. While safety is always important, if we read the materials provided us and not try to change everything to suit us, we will be just fine.

Some things I witnessed on our trip to our trek in 2000 on Amtrak from Kansas City to Raton on the Southwest Chief and the return trip was what I would call reprehensible at worst and very sad at best.

We boarded the train as I said in KC at 11PM . I believe the train starts in Chicago and ends in LA. The Amtrak people (after we loaded our packs on a baggage car escorted us to the last passenger car on the train), I should have realized what was going on but it did not click as of yet. After we were underway the steward made an announcement and mentioned that there was a sightseeing car a few cars up. Probably 70-80 scouts (none of which was from our group. We had 4 Adults and 6 Youth. ) took off like a rocket for the sightseeing car. Keep in mind we were on the last passenger car on the train. The sightseeing car was 2-4 cars up. It is 11-midnight pm, people are trying to sleep, and lots of families with small children were resting and sleeping in the cars between us and the SS car. I think you get the picture. These scouts were like a herd of bulls without any regard to their fellow passengers. The steward then realized what he had done and went to the SS car and told them to come back to their seats and they could visit the car at daybreak in the morn.

We rode on through the night and other than a few scouts not cleaning up behind themselves in the snack bar area and some not listening to the authorities on the train it was a pretty uneventful trip on to Raton arriving at around 10am.

We rode the bus on to Philmont, did our trek and life was great.

What really got my goat was on the return trip. We arrived at the Raton Amtrak station on a Saturday eve to find that the train was 3 hours behind schedule minimum and maybe as many as 5 hours. Not much to do in Raton @ 5pm on Saturday eve. All businesses were closed except for a couple of restaurants ( thank God ). There were scouts and scouters numbering 100 + around the station waiting for the train. Thank the Lord also for the scouting museum just around the corner from the depot another great place to hang out since the train did not arrive till 11:30 pm.

There was a letter posted in the train station behind glass from the management at Philmont stating to be on our honor and on our best behavior while waiting for the train. Clean up after ourselves and please leave the train station better than you found it. The letter went as far as saying that there had been lots of complaints from Amtrak towards Philmont concerning scouts behavior and the complaints were serious enough that drastic measures were imminent if it did not stop. We did everything we could think of to kill the time and it was just a boring wait. What I am relating could have been a lot different if Amtrak would have showed up reasonably on schedule.

We ended up waiting the last couple of hours in the depot. Several crews must have run out of cash when they came off the trail or did not realize there were laundry facilities on the Philmont property, as they smelled like a dead armadillo. Please leaders before going back out into the public after your trek,make sure these kids have bathed and have laundered their clothes. I cannot fathom why leaders overlook this but believe me 2-4 crews on this train did. The stench was awful.

People (mostly leaders ) read newspapers that were in the depot and magazines and such. The train was purported to be close and people got up and left the building for the train platform. Leaders and scouts dropped what they were reading where they were reading it ( please understand this is a small place) people were on makeshift pillows on the floor an in all corners relaxing. It was a brutal wait. When all were gone outside to wait for the train it looked like a Midwestern tornado had hit the depot. It was embarrassing. We looked at how it was left and was just shocked as to how leaders had no regard for this public place and did not lift a finger to straighten anything up. There were pizza boxes,,pop cans ,,,newspapers and magazines ,you name it everywhere. I asked our crew and we agreed it needed to be cleaned up.

The 10 of us chipped in and had the area cleaned up in about 15 minutes.

The final slap in the face came when I was standing in the depot alone and a leader came in to look for something he possibly left behind. I had just earlier put some newspapers over a newspaper rack for the next patron to look at if desired. The leader lifted up said papers and looked under them, they fell off the rack scattering all over the floor beside the rack and he just walked off like nothing ever happened, leaving the papers I just picked up all over the place. I said nothing ,let him leave the area and picked them up again. The train then showed up and after negotiating with the train crew we were put in our own little area in the general population of the train and saw very little ( purposely ) of the other crews on the train. By then I was absolutely beside myself.

What I am trying to say here is this. We need to keep the safety of the crew in mind. We need to do what Philmont and our ranger tell us to do and everything should be fine. I have since had civilians tell me "Yes, we have rode that train, while on vacation with those scouts, the trip out was ok ,but the smell from them on the return trip would gag a maggot." Can't something be done about that ?

Our crew brought home clean clothes and clean equipment. I went straight to my dresser and unloaded my clothes out of my pack and was ready to go again. It took an hour in Philmonts laundromat for some of our crew, but the crew started and the other finished. Well worth the 30 minutes invested. Remember, leaders, the actions of your scouts speak volumes to the general public. If you walked on a plane and was seated near someone who had not bathed for a couple of weeks, would you not be appalled ? If you were trying to rest on your family vacation on whatever means of public transportation and 14-18 year old boys were running and jumping with no regard to you and your family would you not be offended ? Have fun, let the boys have fun, but remember what your group represents.

We leave for a trek this coming Friday ( yes, the 13th) and we are all jazzed. No, we are not riding the train. I would love to again, but was outvoted and we will drive out ( about 600-650 miles). Also I am not an old stickinthemud scouter. I am 46 yrs old, I have been around scouting since 1992 when my son brought a flyer home from school one day. We went to Philmont together in 2000 and right after we got back he reported to the US Navy. He is jealous he cannot take leave and go with us. Climbing Baldy and hugging him there was one of the highlights of my life and hopefully his. I have trained leaders in Boy Scout basic and served twice on a Woodbadge course. I am not as stiff as this letter sounds, I just cannot stand for total disregard of public property and tolerate leaders standing by and doing nothing or worse yet participating in the disregard.

Ron Dunaway
Asst. Scoutmaster
Troop 34

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