Start an Engine Club - Why Not!

| February / March 2008

I was lucky to be a youngster at the tail end of steam, and am forever imprinted with that experience. I put it down to being enveloped in those clouds of smoke and steam at the railway station, and then the train ride with the coach windows wide open so as to be sure to catch the engine's smoky breath. I remember steam trucks with their chain drives working at the docks and dribbling hot embers along the road. Out in the country, the road crews were still using steam road rollers. Great fun for us kids, when we got to play on one after the workmen had left for the day. Today, finding a steamer takes more effort, but take me within sniffing distance of one and I can home in on it with just as much vigor as locating that first cup of “Joe” in the morning.

Thankfully, club meets, engine shows and museums now provide the best opportunities for seeing steam. The same can be said for gas engines to some extent. While many of us have an engine or two, the shows and club meets offer the opportunity to see a wider variety of engines or to see the unique, the rare and the large. It is the place to find the parts and uncover the bargain.

Clubs are a major supporter and organizer of shows and have to be commended for this. Without them, the antique engine community would be very fragmented, probably much smaller and less interesting or exciting. So for those of you out there that are involved in supporting shows and museums, I would like to thank you for giving the rest of us an enjoyable experience. For those of you who are not in a club, I would like to encourage you to join one or help form one, which is not as complicated as might first appear.

As clubs provide the backbone to our pastime, it is worth looking at the procedure involved in forming one. Recently, such a group of like-minded enthusiasts in Vermont did just that and incorporated their club. This article provides readers with a “how to guide” as it follows the procedure taken by the “Green Mountain Flywheelers Antique Gas and Steam Club.” It is hoped that that this guide might be useful in encouraging others contemplating such a move

The first step in making a club's activities a reality is to organize it as a nonprofit corporation. States have set up this procedure just for this purpose. This form of corporation is a formal organization of people committed to a particular purpose that will benefit `that community' such as a charitable or educational concern or in our case, an engine club. It is not for individual profit and has no shareholders nor does it distribute profits. Once incorporated, the club is regarded by the law as a person, and it will have a name, a birth date, place of business and the legal status to own property. Incorporation allows the club to take on the financial responsibility of opening a bank account in its name and obtaining group liability insurance for coverage of its members and spectators at shows. It also provides formal recognition for the club.

You should then become familiar with the process and requirements. Today, this is easily accomplished by using a computer to visit the “Secretary of State” website and look for the reference to nonprofit corporations. For Vermont, there was a lot of helpful information on their site and recommended reading was “A short Guide to Vermont's Nonprofit Corporation Law.” This guide is written for the layman and devoid of legalese jargon. It walks you through the definition of a nonprofit corporation, the process of incorporating, various options, and discusses taxes and tax exempt status.


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