FOSTORIA - A civic group that wants to capitalize on Fostoria's reputation as a prime place to watch trains is paying for billboards that invite train buffs to the city to see for themselves.
Two billboards, one on Tiffin's Market Street and the other along State Rt. 12 west of Fostoria, are part of a marketing campaign to increase awareness of the city of 15,000, about 35 miles southeast of Toledo. “We first want to remind people why Fostoria is such a good place,” said Carol Boos, community relations coordinator for a group called Community Framework for Progress. “This is just the beginning.”
Ms. Boos said the “Be a Train Tracker” billboards are designed to get people to think about Fostoria in a different way. Plans call for extending the campaign to a billboard along I-75 to attract motorists on that major artery.
“We hope to get people off 75 to come to Fostoria for the glass and shopping,” she said.
Downtown Fostoria includes buildings that date to the city's late 19th-century heyday as a center of glass production and railroad lines. Fostoria focuses on glass because of its history as the birthplace of Fostoria Glass.
Fostoria Glass as an industry is long gone. But train traffic remains a visible, if not annoying, fact of line here.
Three major railroad lines intersect just south of downtown Fostoria, carrying an average of 100 trains daily through the junctions.
Ms. Boos said one goal is to convince residents that the train traffic can benefit Fostoria.
“We see them as an annoyance,” she acknowledged. “but to these [train watchers], they're a wonderful thing. You just don't have to wait long to see a train here.”
The community relations task force has developed radio and newspaper advertising, and plans to air a “Fostoria commercial” that will air on cable channels in Fostoria, Tiffin, and Findlay.
The billboard and advertising campaigns, budgeted at $20,000, will focus on more than just train traffic.
The money is provided by the city, its chamber of commerce, and from Seneca County. Expanding the advertising campaign will require more funds, particularly when a single billboard along I-75 will cost $15,000 a year.
Fostoria is exploring other avenues to make the city an attractive location for train watchers. Several motels have bought advertisements in Trains magazine to promote the city's train-watching opportunities.
Additionally, the city is surveying locations near rail lines for possible development into “train parks” where train buffs could stand on viewing platforms. The sites under consideration are former industrial sites, or so-called brownfields, that could be converted for that use.