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FR & WHR & WHHR News

Discussion in 'Narrow Gauge Railways' started by AndrewT, Jul 17, 2012.

  1. meeee

    meeee Member

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    The slate tips are now a UNESCO listed historic landscape. I expect any attempt to clear them would go down very badly with those who have spent so long trying to protect them.

    Personally I hope that railway doesn't get drawn into a mindset of making things difficult for passengers. I'm not sure it is great look when you turn up to a station, a train turns up and lots of people get off. Then you go to buy a ticket and get told actually you can't go on the train here. You have to go somewhere else.

    It will be interesting to see how the current system plays with the society members. Whilst there had been a lot of understanding about the situation. I expect the company will have to throw bones next year. Not running trains on the railway they spend decades re-building is not a very popular move.

    Tim
     
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  2. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    I take it you don't suggest market potential everywhere be discounted purely for reasons of operational convenience. Every line is unique and as always, it's horses for courses.

    Like Porthmadog, Blodge and Dinas (Llanwnda), Blaenau is there and G-y-P is there (as is T-y-G!). In fact, suggestions to reinstate double track between BF and G-y-P, with a reinstatement of much of the Dinas (BF) branch, to link up with the attraction at Llechwedd Slate Quarry Tours have already been kicking around for years. Beyond volunteer input and JGF, don't overlook that the FfR is a significant local employer, or that Blaenau is also a base for tourists.

    Thinking back to 1982, I recall the fanfare concerning the Ffestiniog once more being 'once more a two ended railway'. Can it honestly be said operations since have fully reflected that? Please do note my OP made clear any developments require a concerted and professional joint approach and emphatically not suggested the railway do anything either precipitate or in splendid isolation.
     
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  3. RedDragonofLondon

    RedDragonofLondon New Member

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    @30854 Simply put, splitting loco facilities over two sites is a non-starter. And when you have to send empty carriages up when you could fill them in Porthmadog, it simply doesn't make sense from a financial point of view.

    @meeee I suspect that the letters in the latest FR society magazine are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the opinions of the membership. Concerns about the lack of proper railway feeling, the redundancy of the intermediate stations and halts, lack of time flexibility, not being able to use the railway for walks due to the lack of the fixed timetable (a major part of the WHR argument, the correspondent notes).

    Whether the FR is right or not, only time will tell. But the GM does mention that 2022 ops will be very different from 2021, and 2023 will likely see more changes.
     
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  4. meeee

    meeee Member

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    Working out of Glan-y-pwll shed originally envisaged using the push pull set. The idea was it could be done with a bare minimum of infrastructure. The complete train and loco could be parked in the shed. All you had to do is switch it on and drive it up to the station. It would work down in the morning then back up in the evening.

    Working a normal train with a steam engine out of there is a complete faff. It's much easier just to run an early train up from Port to provide an earlier departure from the top. This was being done with some success pre-covid.

    Tim
     
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  5. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Where did my OP mention ECS working? I'll save you the time. It didn't. I'd no more suggest faffing around with routine Blodge-Blaenau ECS workings than I would advocate a timetable featuring Porthmadog-Caernarfon ECS. I'd ask you to please re-read what I wrote.
     
  6. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    I understand fully. I was just thinking about how much effort the FR is putting into its pre-preservation heritage, and also into the early preservation era heritage. With the exception of the deviation, the post 1965 period seems to get largely glossed over, or as a period to be glossed over 'down at heel red carriages, oil fired engines, etc not the sort of thing we want to talk about'.

    I saw a picture recently from an event at Boston Lodge in the 1980s and I realised that very few of the people in the photo are still alive and it struck how much memory of that period is being lost. There are obviously lots of people around who were around in the 70s and 80s but I think that there is a danger of the period becoming lost or we end up becoming dependent on the memories of a few (potentially unreliable) narrators.

    (Having discussed Boyd and the problems of the historical record).
     
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  7. meeee

    meeee Member

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    I'm not sure that is true really.

    The Heritage Group Journal contains a wealth of information on that era from a whole spectrum of people. More contributions are always welcome. The post preservation archives are in the process of being catalogued and organised so they will become easier to access. The online photo archive has a large quantity of material from that period too. As for hardware, three coaches were scrapped, 103, 121, and 100. They were all in quite a poor state. Others have been sold on but they are well looked after. Two locos are withdrawn pending overhaul. They have good following and will return one day. Fundraising is actively in progress for one of them. Lots of other interesting vehicles particularly from the devation period are stored under cover in the waggon tracks shed.

    There may be a fetish for pastiche double engines with a few board members. That's not something that percolates down though. A lot of volunteers are very proud of the post preservation history. Yes it would be nice to a coach in cherry red. There is still a tin in stores. That is just a coat of paint though. There is plenty of interest still around from that era.

    Tim
     
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  8. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    Perhaps, but I find it hard to imagine the oil tanker taking pride of place in the museum, in the way in the hearse or brine wagons would. Conway Castle is never going to get the love that Moelwyn or the Simplex get. If it turns out in 1980s Orange with the crest I will be amazed.

    David Pollock has largely been airbrushed out of history and so on.
     
  9. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    'Active 40 The Next Generation'? ;)

    Clearly, with finite resources, any historic line is a balancing act between heritage and the exigencies of timetabled operations ..... and they don't come much more historic than the Ffestiniog!

    The last two seasons have, it's fair to say, been taxing. Whether the manner in which services have been provided continues into the next seasons currently seems in the lap of the gods. The Ffestiniog has been fortunate to retain so much heritage stock, both original and recreated (pastiche?) and boy, has that ever been a lifeline in the circumstances.

    In less extraordinary times, with the main service provided by purpose built modern stock, unless regular double heading occurs, the solution provided by Messrs Fairle and Spooner seems as good a fit for the line today as a century and a half ago. Now, as then, unless double heading becomes the norm, full-line operations means either more short trains, or locos sufficiently powerful to do the job. Even were it practical, I can't imagine increasing the loading gauge at Rhiw Plas or Garnedd Tunnel would be seen as remotely desirable. If not double Fairlies, then what?

    A mischievous thought: Would a distinctly 'non-pastiche' double engine fit the bill? If only there was such a loco (even if in need of some expensive tlc) kicking around .....
     
  10. meeee

    meeee Member

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    Well for starters we don't have a museum. The oil tanker is part of the same heritage fleet as the brine tank and the hearse. Like those vehicles the intention is to be able to run them. Not have them stuffed in a museum. Moelwyn despite its age is still very much part of the working loco fleet. Conway Castle is no different. Loco liveries usually get decided by those who do the work on them though. Upnor Castle and Linda appearing in lined green for example. We can't represent everything all time. That doesn't mean that history is airbrushed.

    Tim
     
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  11. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    I must have missed the appraisal of the Pollock era then.

    You are right, they aren't stuffed in a museum, they are stuffed in a shed.

    You can't represent everything all of the time is true, but the 1970s and 80s aren't represented any of the time.
     
  12. meeee

    meeee Member

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    Yes apart from all the locos, coaches, signalling, track, and buildings there is nothing left from that era.

    Tim
     
  13. Hunslet589

    Hunslet589 New Member

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    When I first started firing on the FR in the mid 80s (just a couple of years after the BF reopening) it was obvious that much of the infrastructure of that time was rather - shall we say - "agricultural" in nature. The reason was not hard to see either. Just about every penny the railway had went into the deviation and return to BF and most other work was dealt with on a shoestring and 'that will do for now until we can afford better" basis. And (most) everyone accepted the decision to set the priorities in that way.

    As a result much of the facilities put in place were never intended to last all that long and were considered disposable. Once the full line matured the railway had the opportunity to go back and replace much of this temporary environment with something better suited to its long term heritage and modern day operational requirements. For instance, TYB water tower used to consist of a cast-off road tanker sat on a pile of sleepers. That was one of the first things to go. The recent cladding of the tunnel faces is the most recent item on what could be expressed as a very long list.

    So yes, most of these temporary items had reached the end of their anticipated short life and have now been replaced. The accepted poor quality of these items means that it is not a period that is particularly celebrated. Inevitably people want to preserve a 'golden age' and are less interested in a slump. Meantime, is there a case to be made for some of these items to be retained? Possibly - but I believe few people were all that sad to see them go. The railway is in a much better state now than when these were an expedient solution to short term problems - and never intended to be anything more.

    Does that mean that the pendulum has swung against these items too far? Again - possibly. The judgement of were to draw the line on junking something that is known to be rubbish vs preserving it because, despite that, it's a part of the lines history anyway, is very much a subjective one. Where that line gets drawn will always be a source of argument.

    But in reality,while one may want to preserve some of that period on principle, most of it was always fragile and little now remains.

    It is noteworthy that when the WHR was rebuilt, it was decided not to follow the same pattern. If an item could not be put in place of a reasonable high quality then the line would manage without rather that 'make do'. I would not want to decide which approach is 'correct'!!
     
  14. meeee

    meeee Member

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    Having talked to some people from that era at the weekend. They are proud that they did what they did to keep the railway running, but they certainly have regrets about the way it was done. They would much rather things were done again in the right way, rather than be frozen in time. Does anyone really want The Square to be assembled with nuts welded onto studs because you don't have any bolts. That would be authentic for the period after all. Is anyone really proud of what was done to the Prince? Or does the attempt to soften that over the years tell you it was the wrong course of action.

    Tim
     
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  15. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    I agree, I just think that the skills and effort to keep the railway running in that shoestring era ought to be given more credit. I don't doubt that anyone who had to use the old infrastructure misses it. It was every bit a reflection of the line adapting to circumstances as it had done for all of its previous history. A tank off a tanker and some sleepers - cheap and it did the job until something better could come along. That is actually something that people should be given credit for. And I agree that not everything can be preserved or kept, but when something needs to be replaced it ends up being replaced by something 'more traditional' and a little bit more of that era is lost and a modern pastiche goes in its place. For example RG signal box.

    But yes, no one wants to celebrate the late 1930s on the line either. I think we can safely say that the FR will never have a war on the line weekend.

    I note that David Pollock is the first GM to not have a full bio on Festipedia (the others being Ken Allen (can't say I am surprised by this) and Peter Randall). I do think that this is reflective of an overall attitude towards that period.

    All of which (with the exception of the Hunslets) are running around looking nothing like they did in that era. Tracks and signalling is scraping the barrel tbh.
     
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  16. MuzTrem

    MuzTrem Member

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    If I were being really annoying (which I usually am!:p) I would say that there is a strong historical case for presenting Prince in its 1980s condition, as the final evolution of the England design. The attempts to soften its appearance in recent years, whilst understandable, to my eye produce an engine which looks wrong...it is trying to look Victorian, but, because of the larger cab, smokebox etc., it is obviously not authentic. The 1980s rebuild was certainly uncompromising, but it was, arguably, an original design to suit the railway's needs in that era, and didn't really try to hark back to any earlier age.

    But then again...if I were to make a heart-over-head choice, what I'd really love is to see Prince restored as closely as possible to its original dimensions, to match Palmerston and Welsh Pony. Similarly, though I fully respect the historical importance of The Square, to my eye it was always an ugly engine, and the attempts to prettify it with round smokeboxes and tapered chimneys just looked incongruous, IMHO. In principle, I'm all in favour of conserving the Earl's remains in their current state and allowing JSII to take its place in the working fleet, although I accept that conserving out-of-use locos in perpetuity will always be a burden for any heritage railway.

    As you say, Tim, no railway can represent everything all the time...and to my mind, the FfR's real historical importance lies in its pioneering achievements during the Victorian era. On that basis, I think there is a strong case for prioritising an authentic recreation of that era, whereever that is possible; and accepting that in other eras, the railway will continue to evolve and develop as it always has done.
     
  17. meeee

    meeee Member

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    The trouble is the old Rhiw Goch signal box was a glorified garden shed. It wasn't fit for purpose. It was just there. It was quite literally falling apart and the nature of its construction made it impossible to maintain. The new box was built around the old one. The whole project was brainchild of someone who had worked in that box for decades. The signalling system inside and out is still the same one from the 70s. A real tribute to the resourcefulness of the people who built it. Much more so than the cheapskate afterthought it all lived in. And now it is adequately protected in building that is fit for purpose. So will be around much longer.

    I would say vehicles like 110, with its stressed skin and centre spine underframe are much more a tribute to the skills of the people working at the time. Than some flimsy wooden shack. It was still built under the same conditions with the same resources. Ok it doesn't have bus seats or cherry red paint any more, but the fabric of what makes it important is still preserved.

    Tim
     
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  18. meeee

    meeee Member

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    Festipedia is curated by the Heritage Group and is entirely a volunteer project and anyone can contribute. If you want a bio of David Pollock or Peter Randall then feel free to write and upload one. The only reason there is any info on there at all is because people gave up their spare time to make it. There are still a great many gaps in it across many subjects and a lot of pages are placeholders to encourage people to contribute.

    Tim
     
  19. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    It might have been a garden shed, it might have been flimsy, it might have been a cheapskate afterthought but it is representative of the signal boxes of the 1970s and 80s. And it is still a tribute to the resourcefulness of those who were working on it. Representativeness does not necessarily mean cherry picking the 'best' bits especially if you want an honest historical narrative.

    I look forward to the second half of the push to Blaenau getting the same amount of attention that the first half gets. Proof is in the pudding.

    I am pretty sure that there are people already involved who are better able and more skilled to write a bio of David Pollock than me. Considering everyone else who has a bio his lack of a bio is quite striking considering his role and things that happened during his tenure.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2021
  20. meeee

    meeee Member

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    What was the solution then? The building was no longer fit for purpose and detrimental to the safe running of the railway. So what could be done differently?

    The signal box Dduallt was removed in the 80s, obviously they were trying to airbrush the 60s and 70s. Don't get started on the shanty town at Blaenau. Clearly an attempt to create an inaccurate historical narrative.

    This is constant dilemma that faces railway preservation. You can't simultaneously run a railway and keep preserve it as it is. There is always a compromise. We quite simply cannot kept everything that ever existed. What we can do is record what we change, keep the things we can keep and find homes for the stuff we can't. The railway has constantly replaced stuff as it needs to. It doesn't single out the 70s and 80s for that. They demolished buildings and burnt slate waggon 50s. Was that airbrushing history?

    We couldn't keep the strowger telephone exchange for example. People tried to pass on the knowledge to maintain it but it was a tall order. Its condition was detrimental to the safe running of the railway. In the end we donated it to Beamish. They have a none safety critical use for it and people to look after it. This is the reality that we have to work with.

    I'm saying this as someone who helped retrieve the Squares old dome covers from a skip after someone else decided they were scrap.

    Tim
     

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