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Bluebell Railway General Discussion

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by Jamessquared, Feb 16, 2013.

  1. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    [QUOTE="Jamessquared, post: 2733769, member: 2811]
    More prosaically, I'm also not sure how it will be crewed. Not all steam drivers can drive diesels, so you've got a limited pool of diesel drivers doing a duty with an early start, late finish, and a whole lot of nothing in the middle.

    Tom[/QUOTE]
    Welcome to my world, Tom;)
     
  2. Martin Shaw

    Martin Shaw New Member

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    Gradually and therefore not greatly obviously the Bluebell Railway is changing from the concept of a preservation organisation keeping something of the past alive into a commercially driven heritage tourist attraction. It may be inevitable but I've no doubt within my lifetime, I'm nearly 70, it will be just another BR std and Mk1 operation with a few more historical artefacts allowed out so long as they don't get in the way. Most of the large heritage operations have gone that way so I see no reason why the Bluebell won't succumb. Even the KESR nowadays owes virtually nothing to it's origins in Colonel Stephen's empire. I suspect preservation, outwith museums, has had it's day.
    Martin
     
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  3. 61624

    61624 Part of the furniture

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    Sadly, I'm inclined to agree with you although the Bluebell is by no means the most threatened in that regard. It does at least have a sizeable fleet of pre-BR locos and carriages, and a relatively small fleet of Mk1 carriages, and it is something of a leader in the pre-BR goods wagon field as well.
     
  4. Cuckoo Line

    Cuckoo Line New Member

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    I think they need to be a commercially driven heritage attraction to survive but if they act on the volunteers workshop output as described in the latest Bluebell times they will retain a lot of the heritage I believe but maybe explain it a bit better to today's generation.
     
  5. Cosmo Bonsor

    Cosmo Bonsor Member

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    I don't think the Bluebell will become another mainly BR Std and Mk 1 railway because of the popularity with our visitors of our interesting older loco's and coaches. This makes running whole vintage trains viable commercially, because we can use smaller and older engines on them.
    There is also a strong liking in the loco dept for smaller engines, I'm one of many who like operating them. There is also a desire of many C&W volunteers to work on the wooden stuff.
    As for cl 33 Drivers, I think I will ride on of my classic motorbikes to the railway, do a round trip, then go out for a nice ride at the other of the county from where I live, then drive the last train. Or my partner can follow me over, then we can both go out for the day. I'm looking forward to it as it goes.
     
  6. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I was at the first of the volunteer workshops, during which there was a discussion about what heritage meant, and what surprised me was the degree of support for a wide range of eras up to the 1960s - I thought there would be much more adherence to wanting an older image, but seemingly views are more diverse than that. I suppose it is worth noting that a Mark 1 now is far, far older than a Maunsell or 100 seater was in 1960.

    One trend I look on a bit warily is the extent to which we are becoming a "special events" railway. It's great that we can run extended events like Santas and Steam Lights profitably, but they are becoming ever more financially dominant. That has some knock-on consequences. One is about Mark 1 carriages (because commercially, the desire is to have standardised sets that can be pre-sold). The other is about duty length, and the impact that has on training. One of the untold stories in loco mileage last year is that the average miles per steaming day was rather lower than normal - I think about 52 miles, whereas it is normally up close to 60. I think that reflects a lot of mid-week Steamlights duties that were very short (essentially two light engine trips to Horsted and back; and two trips with a train - 40 miles in total). At the weekends, the same engine would do an additional two Santa trips, so you'd be up to 60 miles but split between two crews. there were also a much higher proportion of dining / cream tea services, which are always short: probably no-more such services than we'd run in a normal year, but a much higher proportion because the core service was stripped back. The effect of that is to limit the opportunities for cleaners to fire; and firemen to drive, relative to getting 66 miles in a normal three trip day. It makes money, but I can see it causing unintended problems in crew progression in years to come. Of course, we do still need to have a solvent railway in years to come, but I worry if we cut back the normal daily two train, six trip service too much.

    Tom
     
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  7. Mark Thompson

    Mark Thompson Well-Known Member

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    Personally, I'm not quite so pessimistic, although I do share some of your sentiments.
    Probably as far back as the 80s, I was aware that the Bluebell was moving further away from the classic Wealden branch line it was, and that the likelihood of seeing an E4 tank at the head of a Birdcage trio set was becoming less likely as time passed. However, the materials still exist, and such is still possible, though maybe not in my lifetime.
    That said, there is a proven market for "vintage", of there can be no doubt. Time and again we've heard how, given a choice, average Joe Punter will head for the older, more opulent looking rolling stock over the more everyday. Bluebell has the luxury of being able to market itself in a number of guises.
    Having worked in the trade for many years, I have always believed that ultimately, the future of our passion lies in the concept of the railway as "theatre", ie. a more immersive experience than we currently market. We have the sets, we have a thriving "props" department. Those "railways at war" weekends, although a little threadbare now, were a way forward of the kind I'm thinking, but more varied. Maybe along the pattern of film or television favourites? Perhaps Downton Weekends, Brief Encounter evenings, the railway presented in a Film Noir setting? We've all seen how atmospheric the railway can be at times, and this needs to be exploited.
    It needs to "envelop" our visitors- pull them into the past, rather than have them just as the floating, disconnected observers as they are currently. Volunteers who are prepared to dress in period, and behave as extras. Murder Mystery evenings in the setting of the Pullmans have, albeit for the better-heeled, been successful for this reason- it's escapism, and as our own contemporary world becomes ever grimmer and restrictive, the past as a means of"escape", I believe, will become increasingly popular. It's why people go to movies after all, and will so often see our railway up there on the big (or not so big) screen, so why not bring the movies to the people?
    And I appreciate that this approach will not be to everybody's taste, but I'm just seeing the direction that the wind is blowing.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2022
  8. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I agree with a lot of that. To an extent, events like Steamlights are about theatre, just not very much about heritage. The question then is can you get the theatricality, but also tie it more closely to a heritage experience, not just an experience. Places like Beamish show it is possible, it would be interesting to know the comparative economics. They certainly have visitor numbers that I suspect would drown most heritage railways.

    Tom
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2022
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  9. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Will that be a preservation era 'first'? I've seen no.72 in Newhaven Black and Marsh Brown (didn't it also have a stint as 32636 in BR MT black?), never in gamboge.
     
  10. Mark Thompson

    Mark Thompson Well-Known Member

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    Absolutely, and looking forward to seeing it.
     
  11. TheModster

    TheModster Member

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    Camelot chiming her way through Sharpthorne on the last run of the day today, caught on my way home from my unrostered cleaning turn. 'The Lancastrian' headboard was apparently added in memory of someone related to the railway who lived in Lancashire, if anyone has any details please do provide.

    [​IMG]
     

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  12. Dan Hill

    Dan Hill Well-Known Member

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    I think it'll be the first time 2 have been operational in ochre and I think Fenchurch carried BR lined black for a stint in the 80's.
     
  13. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    It was the memorial train for Bob John, a long-time volunteer and chairman of the rules committee. He died last year but I think Covid prevented holding a suitable memorial until now.

    Tom
     
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  14. A1X

    A1X Well-Known Member

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    To be fair I highly doubt any heritage railway can claim to be entirely authentic unless it's running the same timetable which wsa used in pre-closure days. Which I imagine in most circumstances is commercially unviable.

    "Hello, when's the next train due?"

    "Oh in about 4 hours...if you're lucky."
     
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  15. oliversbest

    oliversbest Member

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    Without coal this is going to be a moot point! I do not think numbers will return to pre-covid levels on most Standard Gauge Heritage Lines due to the increasing demands on family budgets and ever escalating fares.
     
  16. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    (Hopefully) it's too early to predict visitor numbers. A spokeswallah for the big railway was on TV claiming their passenger sorry, customer numbers had reached 80% of pre-covid levels. The coal issue is another matter entirely.

    Beyond posts bewailing the cost of shipping from down under, that's a source which isn't getting much attention. Perhaps the reluctance to discuss decent coal, albeit expensive, is down to the risk associated with the uncertainty over passenger numbers?
     
  17. 61624

    61624 Part of the furniture

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    I don't know how it relates to a normal year but the NYMR claim to have already taken over £1M in pre-bookings for this year, o there seems to be an appetite out there, considering we haven't yet reached Easter, leaving plenty of time to improve on that figure. and supplement it with "walk-ups", where they can be fitted on. As for the increase in cost of ling etc., we'll just have to see. My personal view is that this will actually be quite a good year for most heritage railways, just as the last couple of years have been surprisingly good too. Even though overseas holidays are returning it appears that the airlines , and to a lesser extent, the ferry operators (or some of them!) are busy shooting themselves in the foot and providing ample incentives to staycation.
     
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  18. Gladiator 5076

    Gladiator 5076 Part of the furniture

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    The ferry companies and airports may be, the airlines are really just showing, like the NHS, what living with Covid means. Lots of staff off sick leading to being unable to cover planned operations or care. Now it may be magnified by the high covid levels currently, but if it leads to transport operators having to employ more staff long term to cover for a now higher sickness level that will lead to increased fares and may benefit the staycation sector.
    All far to early to know yet when added to the inflationary pressures recently imposed.
     
  19. Paulthehitch

    Paulthehitch Member

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    I am not certain if you are trying to say that Santa trains bring some kind of pressure to use Mk.1 stuff. If so then you are not correct.

    The main issue is the pressure on those in the red suit and their elves to deal with excited children as individuals and not in a sausage machine. Mk.1s be b******d!
     
  20. 61624

    61624 Part of the furniture

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    Much as I like pre-Mk 1 carriages, as usual you are talking utter twaddle! If there is pressure to pre-book allocated seats and a railway is using more than one set of carriages then Mk 1s usually have the advantage that there are a lot of them about and they have standard seating arrangements, so multiple sets with identical seating arrangements can be marshalled, thus simplifying the booking software and process. But that doesn't mean children can't be dealt with as individuals and not in a sausage machine. What's more the vast majority of Mk 1s in use are the gangwayed types so entertainments can move up and down the train. In contrast, much pre-Mk 1 stock is of non-gangwayed types and there's no mobility once the train is in motion. Perhaps you would like to explain why you think, as you clearly do, that MK 1s are "sausage machines" on these particular occasions?
     

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