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What is preservation ?

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by zigzag, Nov 13, 2012.

  1. Ploughman

    Ploughman Well-Known Member

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    There is also the group of tourists on a day out run by various coach companies that happen to include a couple of hours on a railway in amongst the rest of the venues on that day.
     
  2. guard_jamie

    guard_jamie New Member

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    Interesting turn this thread is taking. One of the points I made in my dissertation on visitor expectation when visiting a heritage railway is that volunteers are a form of visitor - an audience - and a railway management discounts them and their support at their peril, as like so many heritage organisations - the National Trust springs to mind - volunteers are essential to the operation of heritage railways, with the exception of the PDSR (would we classify this as a heritage railway? Personally I would). So they must be kept happy.

    That being said, obviously the money comes from the bums on seats who've given up their hard-earned for a ride. So what do they want? Well, the enthusiast audience is a minority, but again they are valuable at crunch times when the begging bowl comes out, as they are more likely to donate money. So they can't be forgotten.

    And then after that we have the vast majority of heritage railway visitors, the 85-95% who at best are vaguely interested and think their Grandad drove the Flying Scotsman (train? loco? Confused!) down to the ones who do it as a day out and genuinely have no actual interest beyond the choo-choo. I do not wish to denigrate this demographic - they are our valued customers. As with the volunteers, and indeed the enthusiasts, they are crucial to heritage railways' survival.

    Heritage Railways are pulled in a great deal of directions by these different audiences. It can be very difficult to effectively compromise, but compromise we must to survive.

    The discussion on interpretation is very, very interesting. Incidentally, an educational element to a project is essential if it is to receive HLF funding, they won't give out funds without it. I think the idea of audioguides on board the train is a good one, and I think interpretation is something that could be improved on generally. Walking around Beamish there are plenty of information panels, it wouldn't be hard to apply to a heritage railway - indeed the IWSR has done something I was impressed with when I visited there a summer or two back.
     
  3. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Only up to a point. Bums on seat pays revenue costs - coal, water, heat, power, rent, rates and so on. But it doesn't really pay capital, and most of the preservation goodies we want are essentially capital projects. On the Bluebell we are about to get to East Grinstead - that will be £4million or so just for the last bit from Kingscote, and none of it has come from fare revenue: it is all essentially donations, ranging from coins in collecting boxes up to five-figure donations from HNWIs. Some of the other projects, in progress or planned - such as the Kingscote Goods Yard project, or the dummy telegraph pole run suggested in the draft long term plan - will only get funded by fundraising, not from company revenue. The same goes on the SVR: all the plans (whether you like them or not) for work at Bridgnorth and elsewhere are essentially from donations, not fares (I count the share issue as really just another kind of donation, though the City regulators may disagree!). Without those donors, heritage railways would be perennially running out of capital and collapsing, because the revenue income doesn't even really keep up with the spiralling costs of keeping 100 year old infrastructure in good condition.

    We have a neat example at the viewing gallery of our C&W works. The handrail / barrier is made of many different types of wood used in carriage construction, so you can see how they appear when polished and varnished - teak, mahogany and so on. There is a door (to a staff toilet I think!) that from top to bottom shows how scumble is applied from base material to finished appearance. There is a fragment of carriage roof showing the stages in canvassing, from bare board to finished article, and a carriage seat from bare springs to ... well, you get the idea. Add in a couple of video screens and some informative panels (which, neatly, have little cartoons at toddler eye level, but are more informative up high) and it turns a quick "in and out and take a snap" to a twenty minute educational diversion between trains.

    Tom
     
  4. 10640

    10640 New Member

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    'Enthusiast', like 'preservation' is a broad term, including everyone from 5 yr olds who like railway engines to railway historians and researchers. Many indeed progress through the ranks and could be included in any or all of 21B's market segments. The 'public' are not necessarily uninformed, any more than 'enthusiasts' are just gricers in duffle coats. Is there a danger of stereotyping by over-rigidly sectorising the 'market'?

    David

    [HR][/HR]
     
  5. guard_jamie

    guard_jamie New Member

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    Indeed, and I did say that enthusiasts are important from a donating perspective, although perhaps I did not emphasise the importance of donation for capital projects enough. But day to day costs are covered by ticket, merchandise and catering revenue - often the latter far more than one would think - and that is the point my sentence above was trying to emphasise.

    There are not dissimilar displays in the Engine House on the SVR. My point, again, perhaps I should have been clearer, is that interpretation in these museum/visitor centre annexes is all very well, but the actual interpretation on the platform, in the carriage, on the railway itself is an area that has real potential that has not been fully capitalised on, to my knowledge, by any railway.
     
  6. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    That's one of the great challenges - how do you convert a visit into additional spend (without being too intrusive)? I've heard it said before that tickets alone don't pay the way: you have to have the "add-ons", even just to make the revenue budget. Which is why restaurants -love them or loathe them - are so important. I can think of one or two railways which really shoot themselves in the foot in that regard. I think it is also a challenge for railways that actually go somewhere (and pretty soon we will move into that camp) - how do you keep the visitor on the railway (and hopefully eating in your restaurant!), rather than using you as a means of transport to get to the town and spending their money there? Which I think is where additional attractions - whether it is the Engine House, or your loco shed, or the Kingscote Goods Yard, or anything else similar, have a vital role to play, in turning you from a half day attraction to a whole day attraction. So actually the development of the heritage / preservation aspects over and above the basic "train ride" might prove to be of increasing importance as an attractor in revenue terms.

    We (and the IoWSR, and no doubt others) normally have information panels in each compartment of each carriage explaining the history of that particular vehicle. I've seen a few lines that have companion "from the lineside" type booklets (notably the SVR) but never one that does an audio tour. But with one of the sensory pleasures of a trip on a steam railway being the sound, I wonder how popular they would be? I also wonder if they would be popular with other passengers in your compartment not wired for sound!

    Edit: Best picture I could find at short notice of how you can have an information panel on a carriage relative unobtrusively - in this case, on the IoWSR. Ignore Mrs Jamessquared and the two mini Jamessquareds, and focus on the partition wall behind!

    DSC_0044.jpg

    Tom
     
  7. guard_jamie

    guard_jamie New Member

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    Additional spend is a biggy in heritage and I have seen it focussed on by heritage railways and other attractions.

    The SVR too has information panels in its carriages, usually in the corridors and they make for interesting reading, often their post-passenger history being the best bit - we've got at least one and I think two or three LNER carriages that were part of a top-secret Civil Defence control train, for use in event of war with Russia, until the late 70s! But they are unobtrusive - easily passed by.

    I just wonder if there is more that we - as a movement - could do. I think audioguides might be an option, the info booklet could be built upon - the SVR booklet as I recall is generally more about the view and landscape than about railway history. Any other thoughts?

    But we're back to the old chestnut of what the visitor's want - do they want the sort of railway-wide interpretation I'm thinking of? My gut feeling suggests 'no'. They want a nice, nostalgic ride, and maybe to learn a little bit about the railway - which if they are interested enough to do they can ask a volunteer, who'll usually have the answer or know a man who can, or visit an establishment such as at SP or The Engine House. Maybe I'm thinking up interpretative options that aren't required, or needed. The element of choice is absolutely essential.
     
  8. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Interesting - there were two 3-coach trains in the south of England for similar purpose, used by the Ministry of Defence supposedly with some telephony purpose in the event of nuclear war. Each consisted of two Restriction 0 Maunsell brake 3rds and a Restriction 0 Maunsell composite. (Restriction 0 carriages were built ultra-narrow for the Hastings line, so could in effect go anywhere). Of the six carriages, the Bluebell has one of the Brake 3rds under active restoration and the underframe of a second, and I believe the Rother Valley Railway has another of the Brake 3rds.

    Tom
     
  9. Peter James

    Peter James New Member

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    Following a conversation in the Swanage Railway thread, I have sought out this thread. Of course everybody has their own priorities and these must be tempered with economic and practical reality. Here are some of my thoughts which are no more valid than anybody else's.

    I don't think that preservation is any of the following: 1) an original material obsession which can detract from the overall feel of a carriage or the practicality of a locomotive. If our railways are museums then they are living ones. More skills are nurtured and better outcomes acheived with newly-fabricated parts and the life-expired items can go into a static museum somewhere. 2) Absolute authenticity of a particular period. Not only is this impractical, but it rubs up against the horrible, dirty and unlovable elephant in the room: British Railways. If we were to seek out a historical feel which was in keeping with the mark 1 carriages and BR standard locos, then we would have to make everything filthy, the staff unhelpful and everything as badly-run as possible. You may be able to tell that I find BR era nostalgia baffling! 3) A genuine public transport service.

    On the other hand, there are a number of things that (to my mind) are in the spirit of preservation and which could be easily acheived by the major steam railways: 1) The right feel for a particular location and era. As mentioned above, there have to be compromises and I am not about to criticise Sheffield Park for being over-developed. A nicely preserved Sussex station building with an LBSC locomotive alongside and a tasteful minimum of paraphernalia of the right era ticks the boxes for me. I adore the Swanage Railway but just think how much nicer it could be if they played up the LSWR side of things a bit and stopped painting the M7 and T9 in BR black. 2) Locomotives which are relevant historically and practically. As most of our steam railways are branches or secondary routes, pre-grouping and big-four tanks are the traction which was most common in the past and most useful now. There are the longer railways and the mainline tours who can make good use of the big tender locomotives. Whilst there will always be some requirement for diesel shutters and rescue locomotives, I also think we see far too many diesel-hauled services. With a really good long and short term locomotive strategy, this shouldn't be necessary. Didn't the Bluebell have a steam-only policy at one time? Likewise coaching stock. The one big change I would like to see when time and money are available is more historical carriages. Have a look at the IOWSR and some of the Bluebell's stock to see how much more in keeping they are with the locomotives. 3) Proliferation and length. While I would love to see the Meon Valley Railway restored or the Bluebell return to Lewes, time and effort is better spent consolidating and improving what we have.
     
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  10. 60044

    60044 Member

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    I agree with much of what you say, but the sad fact is that there is insufficient restored stock, and interest in it from those responsible operating our largest railways, to meet passenger demand. Mk 1 coaches will always provided the bulk of heritage (tourist, if you prefer) railways because of standardisation and availability of parts. There is a compromise to be struck but few lines are in a position to do so. In the case of the line I support, the NYMR, the teak train is enjoyed and recognised by passengers as something special, but is not loved by the operators because of its lower seating density. Even when its seating capacity is increased by the substitution of the lower capacity carriages by more TTOs it is still limited to Grosmont-Goathland services and the NYMR have indicated that they are not interested in any further vehicles. I don't think their attitude is probably going to be very different from that of other lines. I find this disappointing in that there seems to be no consideration given to meeting the parent charitable trust's obligation to education by operating occasional services using alternative stock such as non-corridor vehicles which were the backbone of services in pre-preservation days. It's really a case of commercialism being dominant over preservationism. The balance is currently wrong but I cannot see it changing. Very disappointing and its not what I became involved with the railway for.
     
  11. nanstallon

    nanstallon Well-Known Member

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    Nostalgia = what you grew up with. I agree that BR in the 60s was a pretty miserable place, and morale was poor, with a stench of inevitable decline. However, I much prefer to see locos in BR livery.
     
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  12. Johnb

    Johnb Resident of Nat Pres

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    I’ve been a bit worried about the NYMR for a while, they have never been very enthusiast friendly but it seems to be getting worse. The latest is the cancelling of the pre Gala charter, no explanation given but I'm hoping it's down to manpower rather than some silly H&S excuse. This is happening to several railways where the original passion is going with the demise of the senior generation and the men in suits take over. The SVR, unwisely in my opinion, appointed a GM from a museum rather than a railway background and one of the results was the horrific proposal for the development at Bridgnorth. Thankfully there is A powerful members association who wouldn't condone it and common sense finally prevailed. The WSR nearly went under a few years back and many of us donated to the rescue fund but it still remained one of the most enthusiast unfriendly lines in the country so I will not be sending anything to dig them out of the current crisis. A railway ignores its roots at its peril.
     
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  13. 60044

    60044 Member

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    What worries me about the NYMR is that the I can understand the need to make money, and the emphasis of the PLC on doing that - it is what they are supoosed to do. What seems to be desperately lacking is a Trust Board that occasionally remembers that the line existed before the mid-1930s and wishes to make more of an effort to portray that. It wouldn't take a lot of imagination to run trains of a different composition on set days in the low season but even consideration of that as part of a future plan seems to be anathema. I have posted on the NYMR forum of the need to have aspirations to offer different types of servicein the future but, sadly, there seems to be no interest. Imagination has always been in short supply on the NYMR though!
     
  14. Johnb

    Johnb Resident of Nat Pres

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    Agree, they are probably too big to have the totally democratic management like the KWVR but a set up similar to the SVR, where the membership can keep what I call the men in suits in check would be ideal
     
  15. M59137

    M59137 Well-Known Member

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    I don't particularly hold the "reduce diesel involvememt" view. Pushing a railway to be 100% steam in the pursuit of the original founders' ethos is probably as dangerous as attempting a "community service". Time and time again it has been proven that the best lines all put on services that are appropriate for the running costs and the passenger demand for that given day. And in 90% of cases, that means diesels in some form or other. Diesel preservation is often maligned, or at best tolerated, but if there weren't guys interested in tinkering with heritage diesels, our railways would be closed for many more days than they currently are. All my favourite lines (bar one, but I won't say which!!) all run steam and diesel, often together, in different levels appropriate to the time of year etc. Steam is king, but diesels have more than earned their share.

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  16. Peter James

    Peter James New Member

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    Perfectly fair enough! It is - after all - a subjective matter. I would say though that the pro-BR contingent have very much had it their way with locomotives and buildings. The buildings are justifiable as the condition they were abandoned in was that of BR but I have never been able to accept pre-grouping and big-four locomotives painted in BR colours; it makes them look bland and seems to celebrate the saddest chapter in our railway history.
     
  17. Peter James

    Peter James New Member

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    Hmm, yes I certainly understand the practicalities at work. It is another subjective matter of course; what is appropriate to preserve? Diesel shunters go back a long way and I concede that (outside of galas) steam shunting is an expensive indulgence. Likewise, there will always be a need for rescue locomotives. Despite this, preserving any rolling stock is expensive and consumes time and space; I would sooner preserve something else! Steam railways have to decide where to draw the line (and it will be different for each railway) because the alternative is our already crowded spaces becoming home to anything vaguely old and railway related.
     
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  18. Fred Kerr

    Fred Kerr Part of the furniture

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    A growing problem IMHO is that many railways see themselves as THE attraction of the day hence ignoring the fact that it is ONE of the attractions of the day; in simple terms the best heritage lines are those which "go from somewhere to somewhere" and offer further attractions in addition to the principal one of the train ride. Without showing favouritism, the WSR starts at Minehead, offers the beach at Blue Anchor, the S&DR at Washford and car parking at Bishops Lydeard; this is not to ignore the attractive stations en route but whilst attractive they do not offer sufficient interest to consider stopping awhile. In the same vein the SVR offers Bridgnorth as a town with regular markets, Hampton Loade with access to the river for river walks, Highley with its Engine House and facilities, Arley with its access to the river, river walks and pleasant village, Bewdley with its nearby town and riverside and Kidderminster with its town and connections to the wider West Midlands. The KWVR similarly offers both Keighley with its connections to the local Metro area by frequent train service, Oakworth with its "Railway Children" connect of station buildings and adjacent cottage and Haworth with its Bronte connection. In each of these lines the railway offers attractions additional to the basic train ride and - whilst the locomotive of the day may be worthy of interest - visitors will consider the full attraction and not just the train ride.

    This expectation means that the heritage line has to both identify itself with - and be identified by - the local tourist and commercial interests as part of the tourist offering and not THE tourist offering. Sadly many councils fail to appreciate the value of a heritage line to the development of a (valuable) tourist industry; the ELR - for example - has been the catalyst for the development of the Irwell Valley between Bury and Rawtenstall but I know of many heritage projects which have failed through lack of local council support which subsequently wonders why it gains no benefit from tourism.

    Heritage lines which forget that they are part of a whole - and not the whole - are fighting a losing battle IMHO and it matters not what traction they preserve or services they operate if they fail to become part of that bigger whole. Even the much reviled PDSR succeeds because it is part of a whole - the Dartmouth Transport infrastructure - that comprises both rail and river transport catering for tourists centred on Dartmouth and Paignton. IMHO it is a proper heritage line but it gears its operations to the tourist industry hence its success. Even the Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway is geared to the local (Lakes) tourist industry by operating services in conjunction with the Lakeside steamers thus complementing - not competing with - the basic tourist facility of the area.

    It seems to me that many observers look at heritage lines in isolation and forget to look at them in the context of their position as part of the attractions of the area - instead considering them as THE attraction of the area. Perhaps this is THE basic problem ?
     
  19. 21B

    21B Well-Known Member

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    Mostly what we have is not preservation at all. There are railways that operate primarily as a tourist attraction with heritage education bolted on, and lines which are heritage education with a train ride. These latter tend to be closer to preservation than the former. I would single out IOWSR and KWVR as examples of the latter.

    For the most part the attention and money has been expended primarily on the acquisition and restoration to running order of steam locomotives. It has tended to leave a much smaller amount of attention and money for anything else. The voracious appetite for money has driven huge compromises from "preservation" for pretty much everyone.

    We have some marvellous stuff, but it isn't preservation. To find preservation you would have to look at the FR for an example. The whole company still there, albeit without the goods traffic which drove it to begin with.



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  20. mdewell

    mdewell Member

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    If you want preservation in it's truest sense, then look in a museum. Not places where the artifacts are being used, worn out and parts replaced on a regular basis.
    Similarly the words 'classic' and 'vintage' tend to be interpreted differently by different people (especially PR and journalists!)

    I remember the debate about the name when AIR and ARPS merged to form what is now called the Heritage Railway Association.

    'Heritage' is nicely ambiguous and covers both the artifacts (of whatever age) and way of displaying/working with them. It can cover both organisations who's main reason for being is the 'preservation' of historical artifacts, and those who just use old stuff because it helps draw in more visitors (Most heritage railways will of course have an element of both).
     
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