Docent Ray Crist shows passenger Ted Walker how to find his coach. Photo: Tom Cardin.
A docent is a greeter of guests as they arrive to ride the train. A docent is a person who enjoys people by going out of his/her way to help guests enjoy their experience while visiting the C&TSR. That might entail answering questions, helping passengers to board or disembark from the train, pointing out points of interest along the route, and any number of other helpful tasks as needed. A docent must have a good knowledge of the book Ticket to Toltec and the Friends Walking Tour brochure.

There are several levels of participation in the docent program:

A docent has expert knowledge about the C&TSR as a living museum. The docent has knowledge not only about the railroad, but also about flowers, wildlife, geology, the history and culture of the area. Docents also act as trainers and mentors to new volunteers entering the program.

A yard host is someone who is assigned to either Chama or Antonito to help greet passengers in the morning. During the day yard docents are available to talk to people who are driving through and stop to investigate. A yard docent is available to give personalized tours of the train yard area and to explain the various exhibits.

A train host is someone who will greet passengers in the morning and then ride the train all the way through to the other end of the line and use the bus for completing the round trip. Train docents will make themselves available to the passengers on the train throughout the day by answering questions, pointing out features along the way, and providing help when needed.

BECOMING A DOCENT

Bob Hey talks with Ken and Helen Hart from Amarillo, Texas. Photo: Tom Cardin.
Individuals interested in becoming a docent or host should enjoy talking with people in a one-on-one environment. They should have a passion for customer service and for helping railroad guests enjoy their experience.

To become a docent or host, you must be a Friends member, you must register as a volunteer as you would for a work session, and you must complete a training program. Once training is completed, you will be qualified as a train or yard host. Further training and experience will qualify you as a docent.

Every train host/docent is expected to know at least the following reference works: Ticket to Toltec, Friends Walking Tour Guide, and the information in the Trip Map.

Training for new hosts needs to be scheduled ahead of time to ensure that an experienced docent will be available to mentor the new host for a minimum of five working days. The training starts with an orientation covering safety issues and general policies when working with train crews, and most importantly helping our guests enjoy their visit to the railroad. This is followed by five days of working with the mentor and as many experienced hosts/docents as possible. After successfully completing this training period, the new host will be eligible to work alone either in the yard or on a train.

For further information about the docent program, please send email to carhosting@cumbrestoltec.org.

TRAIN/YARD DOCENT SEASON

Unlike the work session program, the train/yard docent program needs volunteers daily from opening day (Memorial Day weekend) until the closing of the railroad (usually mid October), whether the train runs or not. Historically, we have found that July and early September are times that we need more volunteers to sign-up for work as docents.

DOCENT SCHEDULING

Chuck Heroneme talks to Ron and Barbara Sievers of West Frankfort, Ill. Photo: Tom Cardin.
To help with scheduling, a web site calendar is available to let volunteers know when other docents are planning to be in Chama or Antonito. This is meant to be primarily a trip-planning calendar, not an actual schedule of work. The Friends have an "on-site" coordinator who is responsible for scheduling day to day assignments and handling other issues as they occur.

We know from past experience that we must limit the number of hosts to two per train. Too many docents distract from our guest's experience on the train. We encourage you to pick days and weeks where we need help the most. Should the need arise to limit the number of docents on the trains, we will rotate daily assignments to give everyone an opportunity to participate. Those not riding the train may be asked to work in either the Chama or Antonito yards.

To keep docents informed of the most current happenings with the program, periodic e-mail newsletters will be sent. Access to the Internet, especially e-mail capability, is important to fully participate in the docent program. Please make sure that we have your current e-mail address.