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West Somerset Railway General Discussion

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by gwr4090, Nov 15, 2007.

  1. 60044

    60044 Member

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    What makes a premier league railway? Everyone will have their own opinion and will feel that the line they support is naturally a member of the club, but for me it;s a combination of factors that include length of line, scenery, use of pre-BR locos and coaches that are appropriate to the line - and year-round consistency.
     
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  2. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    I think it is mostly 'self declared'. A bit like how fans of some teams declare them to be 'sleeping giants' because they were good in the 1930s.

    I think the length argument is a red herring - and as everyone knows it isn't size but what you do with it that counts. For example, I'd class the IOWSR as Premier League not because of length but because of the quality of its restorations, its rolling stock etc.

    The Ffestiniog for example is nearer to a Barcelona, in that it is world famous and the sort of line where you can put on your local PBS in the midwest of the US and the travel show will be doing a feature about the UK and Wales and lo and behold a feature on the FR. I'd maybe class things like Durango and Silverton, Kicking Horse Pass, the Swiss mountain railways in that group. ie lines transcend railway enthusiasts and for which ordinary tourists will make a detour to ride on because it is something to tick off on your visit to the UK, Switzerland etc. (A bit like Stonehenge, Tower of London, Niagara falls).

    To be honest, I think such self proclamations of status, are pretty silly because it sets unrealistic comparisons. They also show up how bad things are on the WSR. Maybe they are reflections of insecurity, like the Black Knight who keeps on challenging King Arthur to a fight. It all has more than a whiff of machismo.

    The story of the 'quiet rundown, local line' reminds me of a wouldbe authoritarian in Europe, it used to be that his state's economic performance was compared to Germany, Austria, but when it started doing worse than them, the comparison shifted to how it was doing compared to Poland and Czech republic, when it started doing worse than them it shifted to Romania and Slovakia, these days the benchmark is Serbia and Bulgaria. The news always trumpets how well the country is doing and here to prove it is a comparison with Serbia (and we will forget any comparisons with Slovakia, Poland and definitely not Germany).
     
  3. Bikermike

    Bikermike New Member

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    Personally, I couldn't give a monkeys about age of stock or locos - perfectly happy with a 9F and Mk 1s all day long, as long as there is steam and it's being worked reasonably hard, that's what I come for.
    Also scenery. Length is important (albeit with a small child, I don't get to travel too far on them now) Service pattern helps
    I think "professionalism" is part of the business test of a "premier league" railway (I don't think you can be premier league without the business infrastructure to back it up), it's not run on a shoe-string, has facilities and scale to take on big projects

    At the end of the day (Brian), I suspect there is no specific test, but it's a combo of things.
    I doubt anyone would disagree with NYMR and Severn Valley being in there. KVYR?, Welsh Highland (length and scenery pretty unarguable), Mid Hants, Bluebell? In some ways, the Tallylln has an argument for an mention by virtue of age and importance
     
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  4. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    I think they're all factors, but there's also something else - I'll call it an "x" factor - which talks to somewhere that's at the top of it's game, and offers an A grade experience. So for me, the line I've not seen mentioned in this company is the NNR - friendly, good facilities, interesting to the enthusiast and just worth visiting.

    Thinking back to my last visit to the WSR, I didn't get that sense. Most of the ingredients were there, but not that something else. And I'd be cautious about wanting to be premier league - I don't think it's much fun for the likes of Aston Villa.
     
  5. Bikermike

    Bikermike New Member

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    As a friend of several Villa season-ticket holders and some-time frequenter of the Holt End, I'm not sure "fun" is the purpose of being a Villa fan...
    Re "X-factor" - I think a lot of that is what I have tried to put under "professionalism" - espirit de corps perhaps?
     
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  6. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I've never been very fixated on notions of "premier league" - it always feels a bit of a meaningless term since different aspects of lines will appeal to different people. As an example: just on this page there are two people asserting that pre-BR rolling stock is a sine qua non of being premier league; yet a third poster above has said they absolutely couldn't care about that; and a prominent WSR poster has on occasion professed a dislike of wooden compartment stock. Which really just goes to show that if you come up with a shopping list of what is a requirement to be in the premier league, not everyone will agree.

    Still, if we must have sporting analogies, perhaps "punching above your weight". One of the most enjoyable trips to a heritage line I have had in the last couple of years was to Tanfield, which I doubt anyone would say was premier league, but had a certain intangible appeal lacking from many other lines.

    Coming back to the WSR: most of the big league lines have, at one time or another, had some form of operational crisis, typically caused by a shortage of locomotives; shortage of carriages; or struggling to stay on top of infrastructure issues. The unique difficulty of the WSR is that it seems to be suffering multiple such crises simultaneously, which makes it much harder to recover from any one of them. The Governance structure makes any recovery harder: an operating company without the funds to solve its problems, but seemingly unwilling to engage properly with the human and other resources needed to get itself out of that situation.

    Tom
     
  7. Flying Phil

    Flying Phil Well-Known Member

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    I think nearly all of those "Premier lines" listed......and I would certainly put the GCR in with them, have had serious factional problems in the past, but they have overcome them and moved onwards and upwards! I just hope that the WSR can move forward too.
     
  8. Bikermike

    Bikermike New Member

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    An interesting question would be who the railway business think are the big players.
    (by analogy, if you were a footballer, if you get a phone call from Accrington Stanley and Arsenal at the same time, you are always going to return the Arsenal call first).

    Size/scenery etc won't come into it for that market as much as revenue and capability. I bet there'd bee some surprises.
     
  9. Triumph 2500S

    Triumph 2500S Member

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    The answer is read and observe and if you wish to comment do so elsewhere!
     
  10. Triumph 2500S

    Triumph 2500S Member

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    and forget about reopening the WSR - the friends page is more important!
     
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  11. Triumph 2500S

    Triumph 2500S Member

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    It can't compare if it is the only one that has not reopened even partially!

    Or has it accepted it has been relegated from the premier league?
     
  12. Triumph 2500S

    Triumph 2500S Member

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    But at least Aston Villa avoided the 'drop'!!
     
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  13. Sim

    Sim New Member

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    Thanks for that info, Phil-d259. I wonder how many people on heritage railways, and maybe on NR, who are responsible for the operation of level crossings are fully aware of these rules, and have instructions of what to do in such circumstances. From personal experience, I can tell you that when I was operating a level crossing when there was a failure with the wig-wags continuing to operate, in the queue was a uniformed policeman in a marked police vehicle who gave me no such information, then proceeded across the crossing after I had told them that there were no trains running. Clearly some of them don't know these rules, either!
     
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  14. Alan Kebby

    Alan Kebby Member

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    As long as they don’t find out there is a spy within their midsts.
     
  15. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    Absolutely, there is an air of 'keeping up with the Joneses'

    When I go on the Bluebell or the GWSR, FR threads etc, I don't see anyone saying 'We are a premier league line and doing so much better than the Lavender line' or if someone says 'I went to the Spa Valley and it was great and I had a better time than I had on the Bluebell' there aren't howls of anger and accusations of wanting the Bluebell to fail.

    There is in the case of the WSR a sense of entitlement to a status, that it should be treated and talked about like some of the best known lines in the country. I get that no one likes criticism or to be criticised, and god knows we see it often enough around us but sometimes, just sometimes, the criticism is valid.

    There are lots of lines up and down the country that get on with what they do in the best situation they can. They have dedicated volunteers and they turn out good, solid trips out. They make enough money to survive. Some do better than others, some stagnate a bit, some have a few problems (hello Peak Rail looking at you here). But most get on with it without constantly comparing themselves to others. I don't see the Bala Lake comparing itself to the Brecon Mountain, MHR comparing itself to the Bluebell or Swanage.

    The WSR has a lot of problems but most of them are of its own making. When you have so many problems, comparing yourself to x, or y and saying how much better you are doing than them is missing the point. The WSR needs to be fixing its own problems not telling everyone how much better it is doing than a 'run down local line'.

    I did include the NNR in my original list :)

    What I would say is that the 'x' factor is often the 'nice things' about a line. Not something specific but often the things that don't have an obvious financial value, but do have a large cost input - time, effort, so for example with the NNR it is carriage restorations, with the GWSR it is the work on Broadway. Ironically, the sort of issues that do cause conflicts between volunteers and management where there is a clear idea about how things should be versus the costs associated with it. (I am not aware of any issues about carriage restoration at the NNR but I recall Broadway being a major source of contention). They no doubt have their fights but having those nice things is IMO part of the 'x' factor.

    As regards Aston Villa, it could be worse, they could be Birmingham City.
     
  16. Robin Moira White

    Robin Moira White Nat Pres stalwart

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    During my management training year with British Rail I spent a week with the British Transport Police. We spent a full day on level crossings and associated road traffic law.

    The recommended work-around with defective flashing lights if they couldn’t be fixed was to cover them...

    you can’t commit a traffic offence of passing a flashing red signal if it isn’t being displayed.

    Robin
     
  17. Robin Moira White

    Robin Moira White Nat Pres stalwart

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    Yes, and yes.

    Robin
     
  18. Snifter

    Snifter Part of the furniture

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    Now that we have some degree of clarity on which sections of track are serviceable, there's a blindingly obvious opportunity to generate some revenues and help the splendid people at the DEPG. With all of the steam apparently isolated at MD, a service topped and tailed by pairs of diesels could run from BL to Williton or perhaps as far as Watchet. A pair or 33's or Hymeks could alternate on different days or even be mixed so the diesel fans could be guaranteed both forms of traction. Topping and tailing would remove the need to run-around at Watchet. Running the service would also provide some trade in the BL shop / cafe. It's not possible to predict how popular this would be but one thing can be predicted with 100% certainty, if you are not taking money then you are not making money.

    We see other lines doing everything they can to turn a buck, we could try running some trains.
     
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  19. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    That sounds a bit like an Eric Morecambe comment "all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order". And to continue the analogy it's the management of the notes that gets it right. Speaking as someone who once lifted my piano playing from zero to less than mediocre, I can assure you it is not an easy thing to do and needs everyone to help with it.
     
  20. Sidmouth

    Sidmouth Part of the furniture Staff Member Moderator

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    that isn't really a report
    to build on this one line I know are on track to make a similar profit this year to last year . The reason even though they are not currently running trains is the cafe which is in operation for outdoor consumption . limited operation of trains is in the pipeline not to make a return but for the benefit of the volunteers too
     

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