The D&L Blog

Delaware & Lehigh - Behind the Curtain

Behind the Curtain: Adventures in Facilities Management

Written by Tim Cramer, DLNHC Facilities & Infrastructure Manager 

Scouting the access routes into Hugh Moore Park and the D&L Trail up the bank; Tropical Storm Ida damage, 2021

When thinking of the word “exploration,” my mind immediately forms visions of kicking through the brush in search of industrial ruins, or the pure joy of combing through archives in search of clues to solve unanswered questions. While these are activities well documented by my colleagues, my official duties at DLNHC are somewhat different. I offer a peek behind the curtain, a snapshot of a day in the life of a facilities manager. Come inside and enjoy a glimpse of the inner workings that support the mission of our organization. 

My responsibilities at the DLNHC include managing and maintaining our physical buildings and equipment including the Emrick Technology Center, which houses our main office and the National Canal Museum. We also have a barn, an additional archives facility closer to downtown Easton, and the Josiah White II canal boat. In addition, I manage all our computers, networks, and other technology. A special pleasure of my job is being the caretaker for our mules, Hank and George. 

*Note: City of Easton owns Hugh Moore Park and Section 8 of the Lehigh Canal. We appreciate working in collaboration with their Hugh Moore Park staff to operate our canal boat rides and museum within their park.

I often think of my role as consisting of predictable tasks and demands punctuated by completely unpredictable occurrences that keep life interesting. On most days, I experience the expected: time spent checking emails, paying utility bills, coding invoices, and ensuring supply cabinets are stocked among many other things. Most of my work consists of the necessary administrative tasks that support the work we all do.  

Sometimes though, this routine is interrupted. The interruptions often present problems to be solved or challenges to be overcome. Maybe a computer has crashed. Perhaps the barn door will not close, or a mule has gotten loose. It could be a fire alarm in the middle of the night, or my perennial favorite…. a plumbing issue. The challenge of my role is in learning how to add the unpredictable to the mundane and still make it equal progress. So how do I accomplish that arithmetic? 

I lean on the strength of the many partners involved with our organization. When I need to, I call for help. And I live for the interruptions. I have learned that the interruptions are where life happens. As tough and frustrating as they can sometimes be, I recognize their worth. Interruptions are my opportunity to be at my best, to figure out a solution, and to feel really useful. I certainly do not wish for problems; there’s nothing better than smooth sailing. Yet challenges are inevitable, so you might as well learn something from them.  

DeSales Volunteers at DLHNC Barn.

By far the best part of my job is that I get to work with everybody. I interact with all the DLNHC departments and with a host of partners. When I started in this position three years ago, I would never have guessed the variety of expertise and the network of people I would come to know. It runs across the spectrum from farmers who provide hay and boarding for the mules, a farrier to keep their hooves trimmed and shod, to the United States Coast Guard who has jurisdiction over the Josiah White II. There are public officials, private contractors, the press, volunteers, board members, and my fellow staff. I have contracted with people having expertise as shipwrights, carpenters, IT technicians, and security experts. Woven together, they form a rich tapestry of knowledge and experience which is indispensable to our success.  

I hope that I’ve been able to provide a small glimpse of how I experience my role at the DLNHC. If you want to experience a bit of the magic behind the scenes, I’m always looking for volunteers to bring on board to help with various projects. If you have specific skills related to facilities, or you just want to help out in whatever way you can, you can contact me via email at [email protected]