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Will there be enough volunteers for preserved railways in a few decades time ?

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by toplight, Aug 18, 2017.

  1. big.stu

    big.stu Well-Known Member

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    How about joining the team at Audley End :) Openings for drivers, lots of flexibility on what you commit to and very civilised hours given you are pretty local (my steam shift today, for example, was notionally 09:00 - 17:00 although I actually ended up booking 09:00-17:45 on my timesheet).

    PM me if you are interested or want more details.

    (Disclaimer - I am a steam/diesel driver at AEMR.)
     
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  2. Matt37401

    Matt37401 Part of the furniture

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    Cheers Stu, it's something I'll bear in mind.
     
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  3. 3855

    3855 Member

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    No there won't...
     
  4. Sawdust

    Sawdust Member

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    Time will tell.

    There is no way to predict what world events will take place and how they will effect society, in ten or twenty years time people might find themselves with more or less free time than we have now.

    Sawdust.
     
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  5. 21B

    21B Well-Known Member

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    I quite agree. My point of view though is fundamentally optimistic. After all heritage railways evolved during the cold war, survived half a dozen recessions, a couple or three wars, and a long domestic terrorism situation. If we want to survive, we will. If we throw up our hands in despair, we wont. I think given the last 60 years of history, the propects are reasonable for the next ten or twenty.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2017
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  6. martin1656

    martin1656 Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    A lot depends on legislation and how the railway industry can adapt to it, and how Management, copes with a voluenteer workforce, Some are very good, some are not, some railways are open friendly and welcoming, others are beset by internal fractions and people who have ulterior motives that impact the department , very often effecting people who are not involved in the situation that caused the problem, and of course, not everyone has a railway first point of view, lets say, you have an financial interest in a group of engines that are not a top proirity to the railway, but you think they should? how would you react? do you say ok, i understand, and make the best case you can, or do you throw spanners in the works only working on your own engines? not helping other more urgent jobs?
     
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  7. Matt78

    Matt78 Well-Known Member

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    One thing is certain, that many railways will end up employing more staff in a paid capacity. The fundamental question is whether a line's business model can sustain a "mainly" employed staff ratio supplemented by volunteers. There are only two (SG) lines that presently manage this as far as I am aware, the Lakeside and P & D. We can speculate that many railways may well benefit from increased capital in the form of legacies from some of their loyal volunteer/supporter base in the next 20 years, so in my humble opinion what lines need to think about is getting the business model right now and making sure that they are in the best position possible to capitalise on legacies. The prospects of alternative sources of capital (eg grants or bank loans) would be dependent on the business model being accurate and sustainable.

    regards

    Matt
     
  8. Tim Light

    Tim Light Member

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    I'm confident that a lot of lines will adapt and survive. But many will go to the wall, because the business case is not there to sustain the enterprise when the volunteer labour dries up.

    When this happens there will be an even bigger surplus of locomotives and rolling stock that the independent preservation movement will not have the resources to even own let alone restore. With no takers a lot of it will be scrapped. With a growing population, former preserved lines will become housing estates, retail parks and cycleways.

    It's a sad prospect, but on the other hand, the survivors will go from strength to strength, and will be leading lights in Britain's tourist industry, on a par with Beamish and the Eden Project.

    Many of us will be long gone by then.
     
  9. Steve

    Steve Part of the furniture Friend

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    I'm not so much concerned about a reduction in volunteer numbers as a loss in expertise to maintain the equipment. The Country's industrial base is contracting quite rapidly and even fewer people in industry get any training or experience with steam. Locos and coaching stock on heritage railways is now nothing like that on the big railway and the expertise in them is essentially only available in the heritage movement and fast disappearing. Deltic 55022 has recently failed and the owner has written on his website (http://royalscotsgrey.com/0/2017/08/20/latest-loco-news/):
    "Personally, I believe the future is bleak as there is literally nowhere left whatsoever anywhere in the world with experience of working on 18 cylinder Napier engines. Since B.R. there has only been one engine overhauled, this was Power Unit 406, which is still in D9016, however, that did not have a full overhaul as the liners were not bored and liners re-chromed due to the massive costs involved. Fortunately Mike Baker, now well in his 80’s and a legend in Deltic circles has offered advice and assistance with our current endeavours, which is much valued and appreciated, Mike is probably the only remaining ex-Napier/Paxman technician."
     
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  10. threelinkdave

    threelinkdave Well-Known Member

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    I am a little more optimistic. There are quite a lot of young volunteers I work with. One of our recently passed TTIs came down with his TTI grandfather for many years before passing out in his own right. There are however two groups underrepresented, women and the ethnic minorities. The latter is a bit strange as they are well represented on the big railway and we are located near to Birmungham
     
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  11. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    I suspect that it will be diesels that prove the hardest to maintain
     
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  12. 21B

    21B Well-Known Member

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    I agree, but would focus it slightly. There are some types which will be relatively straightforward to maintain. Those where the power unit is straight forward, and have minimal electronics, or very similar to vehicles that remain in service. But the challenges are greater than with steam. Steam locos are essentially an old and simple technology that can be well understood working from first principles. You need more people, but a lower skill level and lower precision and complexity of engineering.
     
  13. Bean-counter

    Bean-counter Resident of Nat Pres

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    Try reading NGC on here and you will get an idea perhaps as to why not everyone might feel welcome working on a preserved railway! Sadly, steam engines are the only 'old' things that get preserved - so can certain attitudes!

    One reason may well be that the same has been true of passengers for ethic minorities, but I have over the past few years noticed an improvement in this area, albeit a small and slow one.

    Steven
     
  14. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    I'd agree with that, but also ask about the backgrounds of those who do get involved - and where the germ of interest in railways comes from.
     
  15. threelinkdave

    threelinkdave Well-Known Member

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    Have you seen the TV series Bombay Railway and Hill Railway. The enthusiasm shown for the job appears second to none. This is in spite of the railways being government run.

    These programs show that a liking for railways it is not just confined to the white middle class. Does this enthusiasm cross continents and because of the way some minorities were treated in 50s and 6s, transport often being the only job they could get, there is some form of stigma attached

    One area of recruitment which, if enthusiasts were all bigots would not survive, is the LGBT community. Many volunteers are from the rainbow community who are simply friends and colleagues
     
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  16. 21B

    21B Well-Known Member

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    We must all try harder to reach out to everyone and actively invite them to visit and experience the wonder of steam. Hopefully then they too will be smitten. It does seem to be the case that fewer people from ethnic backgrounds other than white British "connect" with heritage railways. I think that not nearly enough effort has gone into understanding why.
     
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  17. 30854

    30854 Part of the furniture

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    Interesting thoughts from Dave and 21B. Of course, I'd rather be discussing railways, but the points raised are far too important to ignore, so Hey! I'll join in shining a light down this rabbit hole.

    Health issues have kept me away from anywhere much for nearly 20 years now, but for the decades up to then, both visitors and staff were almost exclusively homogeneously ethnic white, with nearly all of those under 50, being couples with kids in tow. I'd hope that, by now, the heritage sector can claim to have become more welcoming to a broader cross section of society. From the evidence of photographs in every magazine I read, it often seems that change hasn't been all that one might expect.

    I've seen far too much casual racism and homophobia across several forums and recall all to well around too many lines visited in the past. Usually, such charming behaviour is confined to one or two people, but it too often has gone unchallenged. Regrettably this is still true too often in society at large, but is a trait I'm glad to see isn't indulged in on any threads I've read on NP.

    It's undeniably true that quite a bit of that past our lines seek to recall aren't periods which many from either ethnic minorities or the LBGT community would particularly want to remember. Before any significant support is forthcoming from either demographic, visitors from both need to feel not merely tolerated, but welcome. I firmly believe that the overwhelming majority who care for our lines strive to do just that, but it only takes one numptie to undo it all. Put simply, bigotry isn't something we can or should tolerate.

    It's good to see these issues raised and discussed. If I thought for a minute that the heritage sector was no more than a safe refuge for racists and homophobes to indulge behaviour which any reasonable person would find utterly abhorrent, then with a heavy heart, it would be time to move on, with never a backward glance. Well, I'm still here and the heritage sector is still here. Though there are (and probably always will be) those who hate and fear anything outside their comfort zone, I believe that, on the whole, things do seem to be improving, albeit with the odd hiccup.

    I sincerely hope to see some replies to the effect that my concerns are a thing of the past, but Dave's thoughtful post reflects the fact that issues remain. As a movement, we either adress them or ignore them. If we ignore them, then never mind recruiting volunteers, we would become, at best, no more than an irrelevance.... along with our railways. That's not an appealing outcome.

    Howard
     
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  18. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    Firstly, I am glad to say that there appears to be a particular increase recently in the number of non WASP visitors to the railway I volunteer at. Secondly, it was good to meet, only yesterday, a new young volunteer with the sort of people skills needed for a present day tourist attraction.

    As for us old f***s, there is always something we can do. Some while ago I had a health scare which made me realise I ought to ease off from the sort of boiler washing out, coal shovelling and oiling round activities previously indulged in. Hence my getting involved in a tourist railway which has a small but decent quality museum. I knew nothing about clocks and watches, silverware and railway steamer services. Now I know a little more!

    Above all, it has taught me that we need to talk to people more and I don't mean talking at them via gabby loudspeaker announcements. That rather genteel lady may know nothing about trains but she knows full well about "regulator" clocks, Graham's "deadbeat" escapements and so on. Someone else will be aware that the best C19th mass produced pocket watches came from the U.S.A. such as those by the American Waltham Co.

    Even if you think a four minute mile is a little beyond you now, there are always things you can do to assist.

    Paul H
     
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  19. 21B

    21B Well-Known Member

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    Absolutely....and find ways to talk to people we never thought about before.....outreach is a "buzz" word, but perhaps not to be ignored because of it. The Can Pac project involves a lot of outreach work, it may not be a coincidence that our visitor numbers are up.
     
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  20. Charles Parry

    Charles Parry New Member

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    I was reminded of this thread during my visit to Buckinghamshire Railway Centre today. Today was a gala day with plans to have 5 locos on steam. Unfortunately only three were operation, not due to locomotive failures, but simply lack of staff to operate them! I then discover that the neighbouring Leighton Buzzard Railway had to deputise a diesel today due to lack of a fireman. The volunteer shortage is starting to have an effect.

    That said, Buckinghamshire Railway Centre were doing a lot to bring in young people. There were adverts up for under 25s to join a newly formed group, and this group were found hard at work restoring a small rail mounted crane. Hopefully this will keep the proverbial wolf from the door.
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2018
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