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West Somerset Railway General Discussion

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

  1. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    Not defeating, but bending. Volunteer organisations underestimate their scale, because they generally don't cost the labour that they get for free.
     
  2. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    There's another word that hasn't been mentioned here - "leadership". That's something that goes way beyond just management, and is something that a discussion founded in concepts of professionalism misses. We should reflect on why some railwaymen in managerial roles are so widely revered (the likes of Gerard Fiennes, or Adrian Shooter, or Chris Green come to mind) while others (Phil Whittingham, the soon to be ex-MD of Avanti trains best known for his "unofficial strike" tweets, say) are not.

    I do and have responded positively to a number of leaders in my personal and professional life, doing things that I would not have expected to have done. Mere managers, whether "strong", "competent" or whatever, have never had the same positive impact on me, and some "strong" management has repelled me due to the complete absence of leadership qualities that have been exhibited.
     
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  3. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    I see no point in kicking the WSR when it's down as 'down' it most definitely is and arguably has been for some time. It's fine for all the supporters to turn up on steaming days with smiling faces, nicely turned out locomotives and rolling stock but all of that is a 'given' for any railway. It's the background context, finances and management thinking that matter.

    I see that @Robin Moira White has recently observed (#42817) what has been blindingly obvious for some time. She repeats a solution that has been her consistent view. And yes that may be a solution....but it may not be because of all the additional factors now at play on the Railway and some of these challenges are common across the heritage world. (There are also further issues at play on the main line that fortunately do not concern the WSR.)

    My 'take' is that Galas and 'one-off' fund raising appeals probably will do little to stabilise the situation and merely delay what may come next. In the meantime one can only hope that the WSR has already worked out how to best handle the 2022 'Winterlights' event. And on that point, whilst I know that the resident population of Minehead is only about 12,000, I do wonder what the locals have done that doesn't merit them having their own 'Winterlight' train up to Blue Anchor rather than having to drive to Bishops Lydeard.
     
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  4. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    Just a point on one off events, from someone who's working up towards one in 6 weeks that is very important for our budget.

    They are really good things to do for many reasons, and can generate net income that simply isn't available any other way. But they consume an awful lot of effort and, if not kept closely monitored, can distract from delivering the basics - especially if all the work falls on relatively few and there are too few people to go round. What concerns me here is not the gala, or the organisational points that @Robin Moira White makes, but what @johnofwessex says in post #42818 about what Sir Peter Parker famously described as "the crumbling edge of quality". It will take a lot of extra profit on galas* to mitigate the effect of customers lost by that loss of edge.

    * - just to reiterate a point that's been made about the WSR and elsewhere, the profit from a gala should really be measured as the additional profit from the event days over and above what would normally have been earned on those days. Those figures are sometimes really quite depressing.
     
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  5. 61624

    61624 Part of the furniture

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    I'm wholly with you on this point. On the NYMR board some years ago we talked about "Management by Walking About" when the change in GM was imminent band certainly the new incumbent acted very positively on that, but whether it is still the case I don't know. Similarly the incoming Chairman of the Trust did much the same, but with the same longer outlook I suspect that after a time there develops a tendency to only walk to those where a positive reaction can be expected. It's called developing a bunker mentality! That's when one really sees leadership, when an ability to (to continue the metaphor) stick ones head above the parapet and continue to listen to and take on board a wide cross section of opinions really stands out.
     
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  6. Robin Moira White

    Robin Moira White Resident of Nat Pres

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    I worked directly to two ‘big Railway’ Senior Managers, Chris Green and Alec Bath. (The latter, coincidentally, spent his formative years in the house in which I now live.) I worked with them closely enough to be in no doubt as to their management styles. They were, respectively, a leader and a bully.

    Who’s name do you know?
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2022
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  7. Lineisclear

    Lineisclear Member

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    I'd take issue with that. If you only go where you're not going to be challenged then much of the benefit of "walking about" is missed. Personally I found it very helpful and, even if we might sometimes disagree, I was always made welcome. Indeed one of the principal reasons for standing down was that, having moved 200 miles away, it was proving impossible to continue being there to listen as often as I would like.
     
  8. 61624

    61624 Part of the furniture

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    Err, I don't think you are disagreeing with me at all! I tried to say that abandoning the universal approach to mbwa in favour of only speaking to a favoured few was definitely the start of a very steep slippery slope.
     
  9. Lineisclear

    Lineisclear Member

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    The disagreement was with some of those that I met! The one thing that was consistent was a desire to see the railway succeed even if agreement on the best way to do that was sometimes absent. The most important feature for me was listening to other's opinions.
     
  10. 61624

    61624 Part of the furniture

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    I'm sure that everyone wants the railway to succeed, or why would they be there? But what they want they railway to succeed as is a key point. Some just like railways and would probably work as a volunteer on one of the mainline TOCs if only they could, whilst for others it is the heritage aspect that motivates them. I freely confess to being in the latter category, and I happen to think that heritage railways should try as hard as they can to reflect the surroundings that they existed in for for almost 150 years before they closed to "proper" traffic That would go a long way to give them individual character. At the moment too many lines within the UK are essentially clones of whatever survived into Barry scrapyard and Mk 1 carriages. I think we are seeing signs of a realisation that we have to do better, but we're seeing more and more management being appointed who have no real interest in the heritage side unless it has a commercial value, where what we really need are managers who can see the commercial of heritage. There's a subtle but important difference there!
     
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  11. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    If you are going to 'do' heritage then you have to go back to something prior to WW2 for a distinctive look. That's why set ups like The Bluebell and the IoW Steam Railway work and they major on it.

    Anything else just needs to fit loosely into the 'heritage/when steam was around' mould. Enthusiasts look for specifics. For example, I can think of someone I know who will work on some rolling stock but not others. That's actually no help for a railway that wants people to help with restoration work irrespective of whether it's their favourite vehicle or not.

    As the population ages, the people who support heritage lines increasingly never knew steam or slam door coaches so anything is novel. Those who run our heritage railways have to tune in carefully to a business model that plays to the real market out there rather than the elderly market many of whom want to see what they remember.

    All the above is a gross generalisation but the challenge going forward is to make the heritage railway 'fit' into the 21st Century. This means that 'Train of Lights' and 'Polar Expresses' have to be embraced. It may mean that some locomotives and coaches never roll again but remain static exhibits simply because keeping them operational makes no business sense.

    My guess is that the WSR may be at this point currently. Whatever happens will not please everyone but at the same time everyone has to be open minded about what will work into the future and what will not.
     
  12. Paulthehitch

    Paulthehitch Member

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    Evidently, they are very short of money so loss of face is preferable to further financial losses
     
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  13. MellishR

    MellishR Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    That seems entirely consistent with the info from a few years ago that the WSR needed £500k pa to make good a backlog of infrastructure maintenance, together with the lack of evidence of any such funding having appeared.
     
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  14. alexl102

    alexl102 Member

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    I would love to see more defined local identity on some lines - e.g. an authentic midland rake on the KWVR and defo more pre-BR liveries on locos . But there aren’t enough pre-BR coaches around to do it I don’t think. Plus, for me, I like to see a variety of engines - I love that the NYMR has LNER, LMS, NER, BR, SR and Industrial locos. Sure an S15 isn’t authentic to the line but it’s the only place you can see one north of Hampshire I think!
     
  15. Windsor branch line

    Windsor branch line New Member

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    Nymr has it about right .Diesel and Steam the wsr use more steam than Diesel . It would be nice to see a variety. How ever due to the axle weight on line heavier locos are unable to run ,the class 47 is on nymr for 2 years although that could be longer, visiting steam locos aren’t able to go any further than bishops lyn Due to the axle weight .
     
  16. 61624

    61624 Part of the furniture

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  17. 61624

    61624 Part of the furniture

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    Some sweeping generalisations here that are not necessarily truisms. Although there are few lines that can get away from Mk 1s entirely there are others, such as the NYMR that could do better than they currently do, especially on "high days and holidays", and I know from my own experience that there are very few carriage restorers, for example, who can actually remember anything other than Mk 1 passenger stock in service - so interest can and does outlive nostalgia, and that is certainly true of the visitors - how many visitors can remember Warwick Castle or Stonehenge in their pomp, let these are two major attractions!

    I do agree that heritage railways have to become "more than just a train ride" and this brings with it other opportunities for, for want of a better word, "sideshows". A greater degree of theatricality as in "Polar Express" will undoubtedly place its part, but it would be good if something less American and more British in theme could be evolved! What we should also be looking at are alternative attractions such as Longleat, where visitors go for both the house and safari park, or Beaulieu with house and motor museum. It has to be remembered that we are in the entertainment business and our visitors interest has to be both provoked and retained throughout the course of their time with us.
     
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  18. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    If there were the interest in recreating lost stock, there's nothing to stop it happening. The IMR already have a couple of bogie vehicles readily (and refreshingly honestly) described as 'reconstructions' ... and a look at many posts from Mona's Isle over the past few years (including in the teeth of those lockdowns) suggests those might well not be the last .... I certainly hope not!

    The Mighty Blodge has recreated both 4w and bogie stock for their own line, plus (at least) the WHHR and WLLR (not counting newly designed product, from components to complete carriages, for among others, La'al Ratty, the TR and assorted undergubbins for the IMR and L&BR).

    ... and all the foregoing leaves such (superb) restorations as seen on the IWSR, Bluebell and the Knotty Trust (to name but three) classified thus, even where much original timber was only fit to serve as patterns for new timbers.

    A purely personal view here ..... BIG kudos here to both the IWSR and Knotty Trust for completely different and highly innovative solutions to provide new mainframes to replaced long rotted timber components. In one case, laminated wood section, in t'other a modern 'inside out' version of the old 'sandwich frames' employed in 19th century loco design.
     
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  19. 21B

    21B Well-Known Member

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    Whilst I completely understand where you are coming from and to some extend agree with the analysis I think that this statement if it were to be the only comment on the matter (and I am sure that your thinking is broader than this sound bite) it would not address either some of the issues or some of the opportunities faced by heritage railways.

    You say the business model is broken. I think it is damaged and in need of improvement. Not broken. The problem with calling it broken is that it leaves the perception that there is neither room nor hope for volunteer participation. This is a dangerous perception to leave lying around, and I have seen that it causes damage and disillusionment.

    I think - and I suspect you may agree with this - that the future entails making heritage railways truly and demonstrably relevant to the types of things that the general public believe are inherently a good thing for society. Examples would be, education, ecology and the environment and preserving history. Also training, mental well being and youth development. (To name seven I can think of off the top of my head). If heritage railways can show how they deliver against goals aligned to these things, then they will be positioned to enjoy a wider range of public and grant money.

    It is my opinion though, that delivering acknowledged public "good" is not only going to be impossible financially without a continued volunteer input (and a significant one at that), but also that without a significant volunteer input the delivery will be of lower quality and some goals would simply not be met.

    Priority one of every heritage railway board and management, must be to make the volunteers "love" the place. This means, not that it is always easy and without challenge, but that the scale nature of the challenge is more than balanced out by the feeling of achievement and "espirit de cors". Giving time for free has to be worth it in the sense of feeling something good comes of it after all the downsides.

    Priority two, is to spread that "love" outside of the railway. There is a lot of focus (rightly) on that by managers. BUT in my opinion it must be second priority because without priority one being achieved, priority 2 is so much harder or impossible.

    The trick of managing a Heritage Railway in the third decade of this century is achieve priority 1 whilst also starting to achieve priority 2, and to do so without running out of cash.
     
  20. Cuckoo Line

    Cuckoo Line New Member

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    I would suggest not just love the place but love the whole history of the heritage and love telling the public about it
     

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