If you register, you can do a lot more. And become an active part of our growing community. You'll have access to hidden forums, and enjoy the ability of replying and starting conversations.

West Somerset Railway General Discussion

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

  1. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2006
    Messages:
    10,508
    Likes Received:
    7,312
    Occupation:
    Gentleman of leisure, nowadays
    Location:
    Near Leeds
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    You're not wrong in what you have said. There is a 'but' to it though. Overhauls take a long time because we are a cottage industry, the various organisations employing only a few people and, often on several jobs simultaneously. It also generally suits us to do things slowly for a variety of reasons. When I said that, give me £1.5m and I'd do an overhaul in a matter of weeks, I set the financial resource very high so that I could buy other resources, mainly skilled manpower in sufficient numbers. Some specialist equipment may well be needed but there are plenty of firms out there who can do mechanical engineering work and that's largely all that we want. For example, if we want cylinders boring, there are few firms in our cottage industry that can do that but there are plenty in the big world that could, either on or off the frames. Leaf springs are usually on long lead time but making them isn't actually a long job and money can make it happen quickly. Boilers are inevitably the longest job but, if you have sufficient skilled manpower and work 24hr days they shouldn't take months, especially if you aren't talking about making and fitting a new copper firebox but simply necessary 'patch' repairs. Spare boilers were used by BR and their predecessors because they couldn't be overhauled in days, as could the mechanical parts.

    It's all academic though, in reality.
     
    andalfi1 and jnc like this.
  2. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2006
    Messages:
    10,508
    Likes Received:
    7,312
    Occupation:
    Gentleman of leisure, nowadays
    Location:
    Near Leeds
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    When limited services restarted on the NYMR last year, it was on an 'out and back' basis, two trains taking passengers from Pickering to Whitby in the morning and bringing them back in the afternoon. Finding volunteer signalmen willing to man the boxes was almost impossible as they had a 10 hour day with virtually nothing to do for eight of those hours. It was similar with station staff and, to some extent, train crews. The railway eventually started running extra trains and one of the main drivers behind this was to give people something to do during their day. This year we are running a standard 'Bronze' timetable but a couple of the trains are actually ECS and the non-Whitby trains carry very few passengers.
     
  3. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2018
    Messages:
    3,154
    Likes Received:
    6,356
    Location:
    Here, there, everywhere
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    Another good example - https://www.facebook.com/WelshpoolSteamRailway/

    Uses it to - notify of roster changes, warn people about the road works (useful if passengers are arriving for specifically booked trains and a 30 minute delay could mean a missed train), advertise late availability, promote volunteering.

    As others have said if you don't want to do it in house then you hire someone to do it. (I know people who do this for a job). You pay them they post, monitor your twitter/facebook/trip advisor etc etc respond if necessary.
     
  4. ross

    ross Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 18, 2017
    Messages:
    861
    Likes Received:
    2,132
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Titfield
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    I would point out the Corris Railway news- virtually every week there is a bright, good humoured series of photographs showing what is going on, what progress is being made, and by whom. They don't even ask for money. This approach is sufficient to get me to join the society and contribute financially.
    The Teifi Valley, for all its flaws, manages to convey a more upbeat image on its facebook than the WSR.
    It just seems to require someone to actually give a damn about what potential donors might think.
     
  5. Pete Thornhill

    Pete Thornhill Part of the furniture Staff Member Administrator Moderator Friend

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Messages:
    5,852
    Likes Received:
    3,560
    Yes, the examples are plentiful, in all honesty most railways small or large handle social media and marketing better than WSR do. It’s a shame the railway can’t learn from some of these examples.
     
    RailWest, MellishR and johnofwessex like this.
  6. Bayard

    Bayard Part of the furniture

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2015
    Messages:
    1,543
    Likes Received:
    3,339
    Gender:
    Male
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    Paying someone to monitor your social media is an admission of defeat if you are a heritage railway. This has to be the job most suited to a volunteer with time on their hands who wants to help but has no wish to travel long distances and stay away from home.
     
    jnc and johnofwessex like this.
  7. gios

    gios Member

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2012
    Messages:
    253
    Likes Received:
    630
    The weak point in your hypothesis is not simply the machining so much as the supply chain and delivery dates. Castings for cylinders, stretchers or horns can alone take weeks or months, including stress relief. Tyres from South Africa the same and forgings for motion just as long. These facilities, which in BR days were in house are now spread far and wide. Just one casting or forging required will delay everything. "A matter of weeks" for a major overall is simply no longer possible I am afraid, with the best will in the world and no matter how large your bank account.
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2021
  8. gwralatea

    gwralatea Member

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2014
    Messages:
    175
    Likes Received:
    283
    Gender:
    Male
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    Hmm - alternatively that's like saying 'anyone can do it'

    Social media is marketing (hence the temptation to load the job onto the marketing manager when they're an FTE). You can spot the lines (or indeed any other organisation) who treat marketing as (figuratively) some leaflets and a trestle table. IMO the marketing manager is the next most important person to have on a salary after the GM (once a line has anyone on a salary).
     
  9. Pete Thornhill

    Pete Thornhill Part of the furniture Staff Member Administrator Moderator Friend

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Messages:
    5,852
    Likes Received:
    3,560
    I’d agree. Social media marketing isn’t always as simple as some are making out. That is why there are specific qualifications for it these days. It’s an industry in itself.
    That only works if you can find that volunteer. They also need the right skill set. Evidence suggests WSR cannot.

    As I said in my earlier post, social media marketing can be obtained at a fairly low cost meaning it’s cost effective to outsource in this situation.
     
    The Dainton Banker and gwralatea like this.
  10. gwralatea

    gwralatea Member

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2014
    Messages:
    175
    Likes Received:
    283
    Gender:
    Male
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    I'm always a bit wary of professionalising things for the sake of it because it can too easily turn into gatekeeping, or make-work.

    However, in the case of social media I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of training and professionalism. It's like Jellicoe at Jutland - he couldn't win the war but he was the only man at risk of losing it in a day.

    Social media is powerful, social media is dangerous. It's a wonderful tool, but even more so than engineering failures, social media has IMO/IME got more potential than anything else on a railway to get people fired, or destroy people's hard work.

    It's not something that should be left to someone sitting at home with time on their hands, unless they're prepared to put in serious hours and get good at it fast.
     
  11. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2011
    Messages:
    16,476
    Likes Received:
    13,473
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Grantham
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    I think that overstates it - there are good examples given here of where railways have used social media effectively, but obviously using volunteers. But what's also obvious is that they have a clear strategy for what they're trying to do.
     
    jnc likes this.
  12. Pete Thornhill

    Pete Thornhill Part of the furniture Staff Member Administrator Moderator Friend

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Messages:
    5,852
    Likes Received:
    3,560
    It’s not impossible to use volunteers but you’ve got to find that willing volunteer, it also takes a lot of work to achieve that strategy, which again boils down to the issue of finding someone suitable.
     
    35B and gwralatea like this.
  13. Martin Fuller

    Martin Fuller New Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2006
    Messages:
    37
    Likes Received:
    158
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Engineer
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    Unfortunately the skilled hands are not there in quantity waiting for an opportunity to work for the heritage railway industry, recruitment is a big problem. In fact I'd say loss of engineering competence is one of the biggest threats to the movement, far more of an issue than coal supply.

    If you want to attract more engineering talent into the heritage railway sector we need to pay better, and improve conditions. When the sector is already struggling for cash and has mounting issues maintaining the PW and infrastructure, that proposition seems unlikely.
     
    MellishR and jnc like this.
  14. Pete Thornhill

    Pete Thornhill Part of the furniture Staff Member Administrator Moderator Friend

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Messages:
    5,852
    Likes Received:
    3,560
    I would agree, it’s a big problem. SVR acknowledged this some years ago and launched their apprentice scheme- https://www.svrtrust.org.uk/Apprentice-training

    Covid presents an opportunity for railways to consider such schemes due to the funding available that is to get under 25 back into work. Done correctly, it could be a double positive in that it not only helps a young person on the route into work while gaining a qualification. At the same time it’s potentially a source of young blood for the future. The schemes currently available contribute to funding this, it’s almost a once in a lifetime opportunity.
     
    Sunnieboy, jnc and Greenway like this.
  15. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2018
    Messages:
    3,154
    Likes Received:
    6,356
    Location:
    Here, there, everywhere
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    I would just say that there are lots of different ways to skin a cat. Not every line has to be the Bluebell or IOWSR nor do they have to be PDR or SMR.

    In some cases lines are constrained by being late starter or geography. Being 'heritage' can be good but it can mean issues - ie do you preserve a 483 etc

    I think that what lines such as the FR and MHR do well is that they use the commercial stuff as the foundation for the heritage stuff. If you want to see a gravity slate train, or the freight train then you can. Both lines know their audiences well, know what they want and give it to them.

    I'd argue that the FR and PDR have always had a very clear vision as to what they are and who their audiences are. For the Welsh lines I'd suggest that this is probably because each line has to create a USP because there are so many. WLLR, Bala, Llanberis, TR, VoR all operate slightly different models to try to pull in punters that other lines might have missed. If what they are offering is not for heritage buffs then it is because it is not intended for heritage buffs.

    Perhaps the arrogance of the WSR in thinking that it was the only game in town means that it has been slow to adapt. It is no longer them or the ESR. You know have the GWSR, DFR, revived ESR, L&B, the AVR has potential as well.

    I think that the WSR's problem is that if you want a true heritage recreation of a West Country branchline then the SDR is much better, or more locally, the L&B's commitment to recreating the line in as authentic manner as possible means that the WSR will always fall short in that respect. If you want a package then the PDR does it better, if you want a long train ride then the GWSR does it better, if you want a short train ride for an afternoon then the AVR, ESR are better if you are in Bristol/Bath/Wells.

    To me, if I wanted to beef up the WSR's heritage appeal and authenticity I would not be messing around wasting time with semaphores on level crossings but investing in the unrestored heritage carriages. I would be thinking about how they could be i) restored, ii) kept secure and safe once restored and iii) how they could be used and marketed. The WSR has the materials for a really good heritage offering alongside its bread and butter of tourists from Minehead who want a day out. But there is no vision, no plan and no action, just a begging bowl with 'support us or the line will die' but as I've said before, I've yet to read a compelling reason why the WSR should be supported over every other heritage line in the country.

    Just as an example of moving with the times but maintaining a heritage vibe, I came across this video from the RHDR about DiBloC System which I found really interesting



     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2021
    35B, Paulthehitch and Matt37401 like this.
  16. Martin Fuller

    Martin Fuller New Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2006
    Messages:
    37
    Likes Received:
    158
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Engineer
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    I agree with that Pete, apprentice schemes are definitely attractive, particularly when funding is available. Unfortunately apprentices are a bit of a lottery, will you get a good one? And is there a job for them at the end of their apprenticeship? Much of the time apprentices don't work out, they're not that interested in the work, or they leave for better pay and conditions. Of course when you get to retain a good one, and they become invested in the railway as a volunteer also, that's when you have a real success on your hands.
     
  17. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2018
    Messages:
    3,154
    Likes Received:
    6,356
    Location:
    Here, there, everywhere
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    There is an interesting interview with the GM of the RHDR. In it he says that last summer they were able to operate at about 40% capacity. Even when running they still had a net loss of about £1 million. Do we actually know what the financial shortfall was for the WSR stemming from not running at all last year?

     
    bluetrain likes this.
  18. Pete Thornhill

    Pete Thornhill Part of the furniture Staff Member Administrator Moderator Friend

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Messages:
    5,852
    Likes Received:
    3,560
    That’s a very valid point, you need to sort the wheat from the chaff, correct screening of potential candidates could minimise the risk. You’d also need to build an attrition rate into the program, there is no way they would all complete the course, that’s part the gamble. What makes the risk worthwhile is that you can currently take that gamble using someone else’s money.

    Looking at WSR, you could even possibly apply the same thinking to the social media, there are recognised qualifications these days, there is a possibility that there is a young individual out there who wishes to embark on a career in social media marketing. The railway could offer to employ this individual on an apprenticeship basis, with a view to gaining their qualification.

    In return, the railway would get someone who understood social media. They could even pass that knowledge on in the future. This is the kind of out the box thinks the railway needs to be doing if they are genuinely going to turn things around.
     
    Matt37401 likes this.
  19. goldfish

    goldfish Resident of Nat Pres

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2009
    Messages:
    11,836
    Likes Received:
    7,516
    Willing and able… you need someone with the time and aptitude to do it. That doesn't mean a professional, but some basic feel for social media is necessary to get it right, particularly as, as much as anything, it's likely to be a broad church of potential readers/viewers that you need to be able to deal with. The best have a light touch, know when to engage and when to leave alone, and can create accessible and interesting content to a reasonable quality. We're fortunate that modern kit in phones is so good that there are few technical barriers for those who know how to use them, so it's the softer skills of writing, taking photos, and presenting a positive voice for the organisation that's the biggest challenge.

    Simon
     
    ghost, jnc and gwralatea like this.
  20. Pete Thornhill

    Pete Thornhill Part of the furniture Staff Member Administrator Moderator Friend

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Messages:
    5,852
    Likes Received:
    3,560
    Indeed they do have to be capable, there is more to social media than just writing posts, you need to understand the various channels to be fully effective. What’s good for Facebook isn’t necessarily the same for Instagram. You also need an understanding of the algorithms in use to ensure you post reaches the maximum reach. Sure whatever you post will be on your page but that involves people having to take the time to visit your page. What is far better is your post appearing in their news feed. This is why understanding algorithms is so important.

    When I did my course in social media, we were told to aim for three decent posts per week. These three posts had to have engaging content and the advice was to work on these three posts as the priority, as if the content was rubbish you quickly lose the engagement which is the life blood of social media.
     

Share This Page