© October 18, 2009
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Automate your Safety Announcement
Make Passenger Safety take the Front Seat
Written by Justin Binns
Photos by Bruce Moffat
Running for the public is one of the joys and jobs in our hobby. Public runs can be exhilarating, bringing new people into the hobby, opening their minds to the joys of large-scale model railroading, and seeing kids of all ages excited about trains. They can also be a lot of work, especially when trying to explain, over and over again, that the large-scale model railroad is not an amusement park ride, and safety rules and regulations must be followed for everyone's well being.
For safety and liability reasons, it is highly desirable to have a standard set of safety rules and regulations, and a standard presentation of those rules for your trainloads of passengers. Amusement parks have gone to automated announcements, outlining the rules and regulations for riders while they wait in line. In the past, these automated announcements have been expensive, difficult and time consuming to produce. Now, however, with modern technology and only a little bit of know-how, even the smallest club can set up an automated system to make sure their public riders get all the important safety information clearly, completely, and in a timely fashion. Not only will your riders be more familiar with the rules, but load times will be shortened as lengthy manual presentations of the rules can be eliminated.
To start with, any organization that is interested in an automated announcement must put together a script. The script for the announcement must include all of the important information, but must be less than a minute, preferably between 30 and 45 seconds. This is vital – if the script is too long, patrons will stop listening. The Prairie State Railroad Club just west of Chicago recently put together an automated safety announcement with the following script:
"Welcome to the Prairie State Railroad Club! We operate a large scale model railroad, not an amusement park ride. For safety, you must follow the safe riding rules posted on the sign near the station. To summarize: Follow train crew instructions at all times; always face forward and keep your feet on your car; do not lean out, attempt to grab anything, take photographs or video while riding or you may disrupt the balance of the train; when the ride is over, do not get off until the conductor blows his whistle and says it is safe to do so. Finally, have fun, and consider leaving a donation to support our operations. Thank you for riding!"
Once you have established your script, you need it produced into a professional audio voice-over, suitable for use in public. In order to present a professional image, you should consider using one of the many voice-over services available on the Internet. For the Prairie State Railroad Club voice-over, we chose the service offered by voicetalentnow.com. For the low price of $49, you can have any of a wide variety of professional voice actors read your script and return the produced audio to you via e-mail within a couple of hours. We chose 'Kevan R.' to read our script, with the result available below. For voice direction, we simply asked that the script be read 'clearly and authoritatively, in a tone similar to amusement park safety announcements'. Our experience with VoiceTalentNow was fantastic and flawless – their service is highly recommended.
listen to the finished announcement
(this is a normal mp3 file and should play on your computer by clicking it)
Once you have your audio, you need some way to play it. We were fortunate in that one of our members had available an old electric guitar amplifier and an old iPod that he could donate for our use. If you are not so fortunate, a PA amplifier or electric guitar amplifier can be had inexpensively from a variety of sources or you can use an old set of computer speakers if they have the built in amplifier which most do. As for playing the audio, an iPod is by no means necessary (though the lack of moving parts and the built-in 'repeat' functionality is handy!). The same result can be obtained with a simple portable CD player, as can be found at your nearest mega-retail store for under $20. Simply record your audio to an audio CD and set the CD player to repeat play. Plug it into the amplifier, hit play, and you have your automated announcement. All Aboard!
Written by Justin Binns
Photos by Bruce Moffat
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