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Heritage Railways near death experience, back from the brink

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by Robin Coombes, Feb 21, 2020.

  1. 46229

    46229 New Member

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    More than a couple of storm clouds on the horizon. I’d go so far to suggest that the 2020s will represent a major change for heritage railways with many eventually becoming unsustainable. You mention (i) increasing demands for more professionalism. It is a bit more stark than that - the regulator has ‘had enough’ and is demanding ROGS is applied exactly the same as on the National network. Compliance is mandatory. That requires a lot of work on competence management, robust assessment processes and standards. That requires skilled management and inevitably paid staff unless you are lucky to have a retired person with a background in a safety critical business who wants to volunteer to spend a lot of their spare time managing this. The SDR was the tipping point together with the increasing number of incidents and near misses across the sector.

    Linked to this is the general loss of skills as people get older and a reduction in volunteers coming forward with the right skills, given the competence standards required are higher. The golden age of early retirements of people in their 50s that many lines benefitted from is now over - many people will now end up working into their late 60s.

    Add to that the impact on coal prices and availability caused by the loss of the domestic coal market from 2022. A serious issue that could put some lines out of business.

    The way our customers react to carbon emitting heritage railways as the 2020s progress and climate change becomes a more serious and high profile issue is an unknown but a major risk. Are younger families going to be negatively turned off causing a steady decline in passenger numbers? Perception can be everything.

    Lots of major changes incoming I feel - and those that prepare and look ahead will be best placed to deal with them.
     
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  2. 30854

    30854 Part of the furniture

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    Very good point. Thinking of my own post on the RH&D [#39], real financial benefit came in the form of the line winning a contract to provide a year round school train between Burmarsh Road (reopened for the purpose) and New Romney, which also resulted in the line's first serious venture into diesel powered trains, in the form of TMA built No.12
     
  3. Tim Light

    Tim Light Member

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    That's good to hear. Sorry if I gave a wrong impression, just that on most of my visits over the years it has been very quiet.
     
  4. mdewell

    mdewell Member

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    We all know there aren't an endless supply of such people, and most such tend to be of the older generation that have some memories of steam. They are literally a dying breed, :( and their heirs are not necessarily going to continue giving to the same organisations that their (grand)parents supported.
    One off donations are well and good, but more problematic are those 'enthusiasts with deep pockets' who own assests that their heirs are likely to want to cash in. Isn't this what happened to Colne Valley Railway? There are also plenty of privately owned locomotives, and other rolling stock, around too.

    I suggest therefore that any perceived stablity of railways run as 'expensive hobbies' is short term.
     
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  5. Sidmouth

    Sidmouth Part of the furniture Staff Member Moderator

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    extending the conversation , what is the ideal length for a preserved railway , that maximises revenue whilst keeping costs manageable .
     
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  6. 60044

    60044 Member

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    "extending the conversation , what is the ideal length for a preserved railway , that maximises revenue whilst keeping costs manageable ."

    Nooooooooo! Cue PHitch!

    Actually, I think going back a couple of points, ROGS are a big threat. I think the NYMR has five or six full time staff dealing with safety; though I have to admit that I wonder what they all do I can see ever increasing numbers of such people being required across the industry, imposing the sort of overheads that will raise costs in the direction of those of Network Rail.
     
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  7. nine elms fan

    nine elms fan Member

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    The way costs are going about one mile. :)
     
  8. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    Having read the recent RAIB report into a near miss at Balham, where 15 years after protocols were being introduced they were still not being adhered to and a source of embarrassment to those required to use them, perhaps the costs on the "big railway" should be seen as the interest on a debt that has been ignored for years and is now being paid down.
     
  9. Steve

    Steve Part of the furniture Friend

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    It can b e quiet and, again, it can be busy, just like any railway. As I said in my previous post, not having to pay hire fees is a big advantage so the direct cost of a days running is simply the coal/diesel, oil and water.. We still have to maintain the locos though and that is never forgotten. We generally do most of the mechanical work in house with volunteers and will turn our hand to most things within the capacity of our machine tools. Boiler work is a different matter and that goes out to contract. We will shortly have spent £60K on contract work on HL 3860 which should, hopefully then be available until 2030 (which will see me out!) Our LNER Sentinel is set to return to service this year, having had a major overhaul, including a new boiler shell. It's already been in steam so the mythical 10 years will take that until 2029. Our aim is to have four operational steam locomotives and our ten year plan allows for this. Which loco will be overhauled next is yet to be decided and it may need a new boiler. If so, we'll buy one. We won't simply go for the easy option of the loco which needs the least spending on it. We also have 6½ operational diesel locomotives with two more being overhauled. (The half is HE 1786, which at 22hp is really just a fun loco.) Besides the locos, we've just built a carriage shed and are in the process of buying a vehicle to convert to another 4wh coach. We can keep all but two diesel locos under cover. Lack of space is the biggest obstacle to getting more under cover. The wagons unfortunately have to stay outside. Middleton may not be a big railway but being small has a lot of advantages.
    That's all the good stuff. Like everywhere, we have an ageing workforce but we do have a good number of young volunteers, as well. The biggest problem going forward as far as I can see will be the lack of engineering skills in the young generation.
     
  10. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    The decline in engineering skills perhaps being a reflection of the deindustrialisation of the UK since the late 1970s with the loss of engineering skills in every day work that could be transferred across to heritage railways. That is again a structural issue that there is no quick fix, I think it puts more onus onto the lines themselves to do the training up of young volunteers.
     
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  11. Tim Light

    Tim Light Member

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    Great summary ... thanks for this.

    As an aside ... why doesn't the little Hunslet have any cab sheeting? Did it run like this in its industrial days?
     
  12. Steve

    Steve Part of the furniture Friend

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    HE 1786 (officially 'Courage' but generally known as 'Sweet Pea') was built like this. It spent all its working life at the Courage brewery in Alton where it was used to move the odd wagon around. In preservation it has visited the Mid Hants Railway and I believe made a trip along the full length of the line; without doubt this will have been its longest single journey. It used to feature on a pub sign in Alton. Apart from a visit to the NRM, I don't think it has been anywhere else. I'm open to correction on this but I think that it is the smallest surviving standard gauge locomotive, powered by a Lister 2 cylinder engine.
    IMG_0010.jpg
     
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  13. toplight

    toplight Member

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    I agree, I think that will be a issue in future. I don't really work much on Mark 1s but from what I have seen, many underneath the skin have body frames and skins that are rotting away and will sooner or later need serious surgery, especially if stored outside. I suspect many other parts underneath like brakes will again will be slowly wearing out. In some cases the very reason they were withdrawn from BR was due to a fault. At the Swindon and Cricklade they have had to do a lot of work on one bogie of a Mark 1 where the brakes weren't coming on properly and clearly the fault had been there since BR days and probably enough for BR to have withdrawn it from service in the first place.

    Another issue is going to be seats that get more and more worn and damaged and need recovering. Not cheap if paying a contractor. For my own project I have been doing the upholstery myself but it is time consuming work as a volunteer.
     
  14. Daddsie71b

    Daddsie71b Member Friend

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    About 10 miles long, preferably with a main line connection and a seaside resort, an historic monument about half way along the line with a park and ride thrown in for good measure :)
     
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  15. MattA

    MattA Member

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    For some reason, the Dartmouth Steam Railway springs to my mind as being reasonably close to that ideal...
    Length: 7 miles-ish. Okay, it's not quite 10, but there's not so much demand on infrastructure and the same company offers boat rides if you're looking for longer trips.
    Main line connection: Yep.
    Seaside resort: Goodrington Sands station is right beside the seaside. Also, not a seaside resort, but Dartmouth makes for a nice day trip too.
    Historic Monument: Okay, this is a historic House rather than a monument, but there's Greenway House and a dedicated halt along the line to serve that.
    Park and Ride: If your idea of "Park and Ride" involves a ferry from Dartmouth, a vintage bus from Totnes or just the main line train into Paington, then yes.

    If anyone can think of anything closer, feel free to put it forward! EDIT: maybe Swanage? Unfortunately I'm yet to visit the SR myself so I don't know...
     
  16. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Given @Daddsie71b has close association with the Swanage I suspect he was describing that exactly!
     
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  17. Steve

    Steve Part of the furniture Friend

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    What's missing from this is both a starting point and a destination at both ends so that traffic is two-way and not tidal. I'm struggling to think of any line that has this ideal. The NYMR gets somewhere towards this but Pickering is not the most wonderful destination.
     
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  18. D1002

    D1002 Well-Known Member

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    How about the Severn Valley?
    Two tourist hotspots in Bewdley and Bridgnorth plus a good railway connection at Kidderminster.
     
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  19. Steve

    Steve Part of the furniture Friend

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    I guess so but I was thinking more about the terminal points.
     
  20. Forestpines

    Forestpines Well-Known Member

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    Kidderminster does have the Museum Of Carpet as a visitor attraction!
     

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