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2999: Lady of Legend

Discussion in 'Steam Traction' started by Ian White, Oct 31, 2017.

  1. Johnb

    Johnb Nat Pres stalwart

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    There are probably people who actually believe that!
     
  2. Matt McFarlane

    Matt McFarlane New Member

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    I love Didcot, but it hard to ignore its current state. The last 2 visits were for the 2017 gala with 813 and Captain Baxters visit in August this year. Note how visiting locomotive have been the main reason of visiting. I don't believe that Didcots home fleet is currently able to sustain itself. The king spent most of 2018 travelling, its known that 93 is expensive to run and 4144 was on the brink of failure.

    The 2017 gala was a disappointment due to the lack of people attending. The weather was fine. 6023, 813 and 4144 were on the go yet the other visiting loco No.11 wasnt in operation despite apparently being in condition to run (pls correct if wrong).

    2018 held no gala which was disappointing yet the captain baxter visit once again saw a lack of people, staff and locomotive operations to keep people happy.

    My point is that Didcot appears to have got itself into a state where it doesn't know what its doing anymore. It seems to follow a formula of operation that run dry. I believe the new build fatigue that's gripped it has turned attention away from its home fleet. Which means less locomotives, less people, less money for restorations thus repeat.

    The saint being complete will hopefully save it, and im hoping for a better 2019. This is my opinion on the matter :)

    (Pls note I'm no expert in anything amd sorry for poor english in places )
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2018
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  3. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    I seem to recall No.11 was in steam and used to drag dead locos out of the shed for display purposes, will check photos later.
     
  4. 5944

    5944 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Not sure it's that expensive to run, but the hire fee is apparently pretty high.
     
  5. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Hi Martin - playing devil's advocate (and assuredly with no axe to grind against you or the GWS), but we have only your side of the story on this. We don't know what precipitated the events you describe, or why. To judge the GWS without the full facts would not be fair, likewise to assume any wrong doing on your part would be equally unfair.

    May I refer you to the above John. It is very easy to throw accusations around without knowing the whole story. The industry we are in does this rather more than is good for it.

    Matt above has made a good point regarding "what are we doing". It is a question a number of preservation groups are asking themselves. It is something we should always be asking ourselves. What's the ultimate aim? Where are we going? What are we doing? How can we do better?

    Ultimately those questions can only be answered by having difficult conversations and by being honest with ourselves. If something isn't working, or is perceived as not working, why? If we know the whys, and where we want to go, it becomes easier to do things.

    I speak only for myself but I have observed from the groups I am involved in that there are people willing to take the bull by the horns and change. Not for change's sake, but for the good of the ultimate aim of the group. If you are a locomotive group, you take decisions that ultimately will decide the outcome of the locomotive's future. If you are a preserved railway, you take decisions that ultimately decide if you are still a going concern by the end of the financial year. If you are a museum, any decisions you take ultimately will decide whether anyone visits and puts money in the coffers.

    The Saint was a missing gap in the Great Western Railway's story. Not a small gap: a great big obvious and necessary gap to fill. Adding it to the home fleet and making it a steamable asset that may also be allowed to travel occasionally away from the home railway adds value to Didcot's ability to tell its story. Some here will say it has lost its way: maybe it has, maybe it hasn't.

    Ultimately the underlying issue is that we have to be prepared to change to meet the changing world around us. It is constant, it is unforgiving, and people will fall out over it. That is natural. As long as we pick ourselves up, shake hands, and get on with trying to achieve the ultimate aims, that's for the greater benefit of the heritage railway industry.

    Firmly stepping off the soapbox now - I look forward to seeing the Saint in her GWR livery in due course. I am mulling over buying tickets once I have my wage packet at the end of the month. Even an LNER fan could not resist seeing the ancestor of all modern two cylinder locomotives up close!
     
  6. michaelh

    michaelh Part of the furniture

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    My point is that Didcot appears to have got itself into a state where it doesn't know what its doing anymore. It seems to follow a formula of operation that run dry. I believe the new build fatigue that's gripped it has turned attention away from its home fleet. Which means less locomotives, less people, less money for restorations thus repeat.

    I think that's a very fair summary
     
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  7. Mr Valentine

    Mr Valentine Member

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    93 is in fact very cheap to run, and ideal for the site. It will, however, likely need a fair amount of bodywork doing at the next overhaul, so perhaps some wires have been crossed somewhere?
     
  8. GWR4707

    GWR4707 Nat Pres stalwart

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    (not specifically aimed at the post above)

    I will repeat my question to many, what should Didcot do then with a severely constrained site, there seems to be a lot of negative criticism (which I suspect may have certain foundation that we are not aware of) but ultimately the site can never be the SVR/GWSR etc, plus it does not have the wider draw of saw York in people being able to make a day of cultural resources in a geographical area.

    Its not perfect in any way (and does seem to attract an unduly large amount of criticism) but change is a foot and perhaps its a question of wait and see.
     
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  9. huochemi

    huochemi Part of the furniture

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    That's a fair question. I think however one should compare Didcot with Crich rather than the SVR, with (IMHO) Crich having the advantage in most categories, although it is not as easy to get to as Didcot by public transport. In general terms, I would say this is due to having rather more than purely tram attractions e.g. its old (non-tram) reconstructed buildings etc which appeal to non-hardcore enthusiasts. The tram museum is also well presented. As the NRM allows you in for free, it is also difficult to compete with the NRM if you want to see a collection of locos (and I think the NRM has worked out that a bunch of locos is not that interesting or educational for many people). I wonder if Didcot falls between stools as I am not convinced it is the first stop if you are really interested in GWR research either. Can you access Charles Gordon-Stuart's ticket collection? Can you get from Didcot a drawing of 102 La France' bogie or the equalisation arrangement on Prairie tank pony trucks? Can they provide ready access to a full set of GWR annual reports 1923-48? (I don't know the answer to these questions, I might be pleasantly surprised)
     
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  10. Mr Valentine

    Mr Valentine Member

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    I'm afraid I fail to see how it was necessary. The GWS already has an example of a Hall, and the differences between the two are really very trivial in the great scheme of things. It's hardly a case of 'Puffing Billy meets Mallard.' A project such as this is a luxury, not a necessity. To be fair, at the time it may well have been perfectly justifiable. But let's not get carried away.

    Oxford is a 12/15 minute train ride away. And why would the place need to be the SVR? It's a working museum, there are plenty of those around. Surely they would provide a better model for development?

    I think people are just frustrated that things have been allowed to go down the pan as far as they have; plenty of people have seen it coming for a long time. My own experience of Didcot was that people with drive and creative vision tended to be stifled, or worse still, branded as troublemakers. Apparently in order to be responsible for the place's direction, you needed 1) to be old enough to remember steam, and 2) have no knowledge of the heritage industry outside of railway preservation. There seemed to be a collective prevailing attitude of 'I have no ideas, therefore there are no ideas to be had.' You do see instances of the same attitude on this forum. They have lost a lot of capable people over the years, and, together with the general dearth of volunteers, it has made it increasingly harder to do anything. Nothing is more demoralising than to put your heart and soul into something, only for it to fail through lack of internal support.

    Fortunately there are changes afoot; partly as a result, I would hope, from my contribution to the AGM a couple of years ago. But the lack of capable people is very real, and I feel that this is reflected in some of the new board choices. I really do hope they succeed with recruiting a Chief Exec who is capable of injecting some energy back into the place.
     
  11. toplight

    toplight Well-Known Member

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    I think personally Didcot should take a look at what Tyseley and Carnforth have done and try and develop more contract commercial restoration, then they could employ more people. Maybe also a Shakespeare express type operation. Regular trips to say Oxford, or London to Oxford via Didcot. Not sure whether even such a train would generate them funds or lose them ?

    I would say the number of volunteers there must be falling. I see coaches there like the Dreadnought and think wouldn't it be nice to see it restored, but fewer and fewer people are even interested in these things let alone want to spend time working on one.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2018
  12. GWR4707

    GWR4707 Nat Pres stalwart

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    As both Tyseley and Carnforth are essentially closed commercial sites (albeit in one case with very occasional managed access) there is not really a comparison to be made there, I don't know where they could fit a commercial workshop on the site, plus if they did more contract work people would just whinge about the home fleet not getting attention. I think the Oxford idea could have worked really well in the past, now its possibly one of the most congested pieces of line in the country so I would suspect a non-starter.
     
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  13. Mr Valentine

    Mr Valentine Member

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    I think this falls into the 'nice idea, in theory' category. It would take a huge amount of initial investment to set the above up, you'd have problems with road access which other organisations (competitors) don't have, although it would be more feasible if you concentrated on a more bespoke, niche area, rather than general restoration.

    I just don't think they're even remotely in a position to do any of this, and they would be arriving late to the party, even if they did. I think because of the promotion of so many mega-projects, people over-estimate the strength of the place.
     
  14. michaelh

    michaelh Part of the furniture

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    I am certainly not convinced that producing a replica Saint was an essential - and since it has taken more than 40 years to get it to this point, I think my view must have been more widespread than yours.
     
  15. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    You are all welcome to disagree with me, of course.

    But I would wager that the person who looks at the overview of locomotive development in the united kingdom would look at 4-6-0s - one of our most numerous wheel arrangements after 0-6-0s in terms of the main line companies - and would find that pretty much all modern interpretations of that wheel arrangement owe something to the GWR Saint.

    For my part, I see it as the only necessary gap to fill in GWR locomotive development outstanding. A County is a nice to have. The Saint - the genesis of that line - necessary. That we have one now is something we should not decry as not being important enough - and certainly it is perverse to claim a Hall more important.

    But we will agree to disagree on the matter. I say this as an interested, and very much apple green coloured, outsider.

    (On the point of views being more widespread - populism rarely equates with being correct on things).
     
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  16. GWR4707

    GWR4707 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Not aimed at anyone in particular but does it really matter, its built now.
     
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  17. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Well, quite! :)
     
  18. toplight

    toplight Well-Known Member

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    Both Tyseley and Carnforth started off the same as Didcot essentially as railway museums. I recall visiting Carnforth in the 198os when it was 'Steamtown' and it had open access to the public then. Same with Tyseley. In the case of Carnforth the public access stopped when it changed hands and West coast started. With Tyseley probably the change was more gradual to move towards commercial work.

    As for a commercial workshop at Didcot, they already have workshops, they just don't use them commercially. It means even when they got a Lottery grant to say do the Steam railmotor, it had to go to Llangollen and Tyseley to be done. That could have been done in house if they had, had the employed staff.
     
  19. Mr Valentine

    Mr Valentine Member

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    At Didcot, the entire history of 19thC GWR engines is represented by two early broad gauge engines. You could, at a push, include the bottom ends of the panniers as 19thC technology. What we do have several examples of, however, are Churchward-derivative, 2-cylinder, superheated 4-6-0's. Now against all that, the important question is, what does a Saint show you, that a Hall doesn't?

    It is of course done now. And it is a bit different, it provides a working pre-WWI express engine, of which there are few (in fact any?) It will hopefully stimulate more interest in the place, and increase visitor numbers, even if only by a bit. But it never hurts to ask why things have been done, even after the event. If anything, it's worse not to.
     
  20. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Emphasis on larger driving wheels, the general uncomfortable nature of a much more open cab and footplate, the attention to detail on the looks of the locomotive in hiding piping (such as steam pipes), and when fully painted the difference in approach to branding and cleanliness of the Edwardian era of the 1900s compared to the change in approach in the 1930s, the ability to convert to an Atlantic to fully appreciate the experimental nature of locomotive development on the GWR at that time...

    ...I could go on. I won't, but the point I am making is that the devil is in the detail and by recreating a Saint we are not just replicating that we can see with a Hall. One is derived from the other and incredibly one has been built from one back into another form, but they are not the same and they do not represent the trends of the other's time frame absolutely.

    Any more so than claiming two broad gauge engines represents all of the entire history of 19thC GWR locomotives (which is, frankly, not true at all).

     
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