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Extensions - a snare and a delusion?

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by paulhitch, Apr 13, 2013.

  1. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    Herman Goering is supposed to have observed that every time he heard the word "culture" he reached for his revolver. I get much the same feeling with the word "extension"!

    Unless a longer railway is really going to tap a new source of traffic why do it, apart from giving oneself more track to play with? The amount which can be charged per mile has to come down or customer resistance will increase and more equipment may well have to be used, thus increasing costs. There is a limit to the amount we can expect the general public to subsidise our hobby. Failure to realise this is just a self indulgence.

    The time to get a grip on costs is before an extension rather than after, when all the "deferred" (i.e. neglected) maintenance issues will have to be faced as well.

    Discuss!!

    Paul H.
     
  2. kesr

    kesr New Member

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    I think this is a very important factor. I very much agree with this issue as with Kent and East Sussex Railway Extension to Robertsbridge. Yes It woudl be great but the maintanence is at it highest peak then I have ever know and there is not enough people to keep the extension highly maintained when completed. Also the costs are very high and it will be a very long time before the income recovers the expenditure.
     
  3. Corbs

    Corbs Member

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    Suppose it depends on where and which railway it is. If the AVR was content with Bitton to Oldland Common through a housing estate then I imagine visitor numbers would soon drop off. As it stands now they have a picturesque countryside halt at Avon Riverside to contrast with the suburban nature of Oldland Common.
    Extending toward Bath in the future makes sense to tap into the tourist and shopping hub that is Bath, and to link up with the Bath Park and Ride, increasing parking capacity and allowing people to park up and start a journey from each end of the line.
     
  4. Steve

    Steve Part of the furniture Friend

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    Playing Devil's Advocate, Any organisation has to expand or contract; it cannot standstill. Granted this 'expansion' may be the building of a carriage shed but it has to be doing something. For many people, a line extension is a more exciting goal, especially if it fulfills other objectives, such as somewhere to go. It gives its members something to focus on; a challenge. As an example, the Bluebell's extension to East Grinstead is far more logical than terminating at Kingscote. Yes, it has cost a fortune and will continue to cost more than the old railway to operate but it was logical and, to most people, sensible and, above all, an inspirational challenge. The FR's deviation was a classic of this philosophy, as well. Seen as stupid by many people at the time, it brought together a huge band of volunteers who saw it as a worthwhile objective. An FR terminating at Dduallt was really an unfinished railway.
     
  5. steamdream

    steamdream New Member

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    Dear Paul
    He was not Goering but Goebbels(minister of Propaganda) who was supposed to have said these silly words in fact it is apocryphal..
    Noel (french teacher in History but not in English as you can testify!!!!!
     
  6. Reading General

    Reading General Well-Known Member

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    preserved railways are all about their members and especially the working ones. If it keeps them happy to have a project to work towards, then so be it. The alternative is that they will go elsewhere....
     
  7. Matt78

    Matt78 Well-Known Member

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    Agree with this. There is definitely a "feel good" factor involved in an extension. More interest is generated from the point of view of volunteers, enthusiasts, and the general public as well as the local community. I am involved in the sharp end of the extension to my railway, which has the reputation of being a charming small operation but perhaps needs to be longer to justify and tempt further visitors, bigger locomotives etc.

    There is no doubt that extensions today are a lot more difficult than they were 20 years ago. The price of materials (track/ballast) etc have rocketed and that is before you take into account money required for permissions and land ownership etc.

    What is important that once a line does extend that the period afterwards is managed to maximise the benefits. Post extensions are often marked with periods of consolidation and once the initial euphoria has worn off the interest of all concerned must be maintained.
     
  8. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    I understand "revolver" in colloquial German is "Browning" so it is really quite a good joke, whoever may. or may not, have said it.

    Really things have got to grow up. Track which has already been relayed once will have to be done again, ideally with new rails. Motive power which has had one general overhaul will need another and another, ideally with a new boiler and so on and so on. More sophisticated sanitation than the tree in the corner is needed.

    Extensions to the far horizon just "because it is there" (remember what happened to the person who is supposed to have said that) ought to be out of the question. Similarly the evident human need to crow on dunghills is not, of itself, justification to make more dunghills.

    That should keep things going for now!

    Paul H.
     
  9. domeyhead

    domeyhead New Member

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    It's a good topic Paul but I also think Steve said it very well. We must surely all be ambitious in our hearts for our particular railways to grow despite what our heads may tell us? I honestly can't conceive a mindset that would be content to preserve a status quo ad nauseam.
    In purely economic terms 10-15 miles or so seems to be an optimal operational length yet other railways such as the SVR, WSR, NYMR and now the FR/WHR have shown that there is in fact no barrier provided the railway is managed professionally. I'd be very interested to see the division between fixed and variable costs in a railway's overall balance sheet. After all the 10 mile railway needs nearly the same capital equipment and locos as a 20 mile railway, except the latter uses the same equipment and rolling stock more intensively. THe marginal costs associated (say) with the Bluebell operating its new extension must be relatively small once the capital infrastructure is in place.
    The one lesson I remember from past experience is that expansion should be serviced organically via donations, profits or share issues, and not via bank loans and overdrafts.
     
  10. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    With the possible exception of one or two narrow gauge lines, preserved railways have not even begun to address their repair and replacement costs over the long term. The longer then line the greater the problem.

    This is what I mean by "growing up". In other words to enthuse a new generation with the maintenance of what has already been achieved and regard this as much a challenge as the Ultima Thule extension, recreating the Invergarry and Fort Augustus or building a replica of the L&Y 2-6-2T!

    Cynically yours

    Paul
     
  11. M59137

    M59137 Well-Known Member

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    Dare I suggest a "minimum length" for a worthwhile railway being a reasonable reason to extend, even if it to a "nowhere" destination?

    I feel railways below about 4 or 5 miles long do feel short and are consequently limited in what they can do i.e. the length of time you are on the train for a Santa Special for example (how fast can you hand presents out?!?).

    I'm not saying every railway has to aspire to be as long as the WSR (far from it, Worth Valley pack far more into 5 miles than several railways twice their length) but I do think all those 2 mile railways out there with one station would benefit from having a bit of a longer run so that a few round trips can fill up an afternoon nicely for a visitor.
     
  12. TB3

    TB3 New Member

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    For what it's worth my local heritage line, the Gwili, is very much in need of extension. Although a premier tourist attraction for the area, laid along part of the GWR's former Carmarthen-to-Aberystwyth line, the railway is very much constrained by its current setup and needs to burst that mould if it is to develop itself further.

    At the moment, the line is about 2 miles in length, with three stations, one of which (the current northern terminus) is essentially a platform and run-round-loop in the middle of nowhere. The headquarters of the line, Bronwydd Arms, is the only station with road access, and despite improvements, the car park in the former goods yard fills up quickly in busy periods (in fact, during extremely busy times, the railway has access to a large field about a mile up from the station which becomes a replacement cr-park, with a temporary platform providing a place to board trains).

    Two miles further south however, the trackbed reaches the edge of the county town, Carmarthen. An extension in this direction has been persued for some years now and is almost within spitting distance of a site behind West Wales General Hospital that has been set aside for development as a new terminus. Due to funding issues the original plan to build a completely new station has fallen through; despite this, planning permission has been obtained for another basic platform and run-round loop.

    Now, this is both a boon and a potential trap: the extension will bring the line down to the edge of town through some very pretty scenery that cannot be appreciated from the valley road, and will almost double the length of the ride, thus giving passengers more bang for their buck. The new temporary platform and run-round loop will also be right alongside an offshoot of Carmarthen's Eastern bypass - the sight of trains running past what is a major main road will certainly help draw in more traffic.

    However, the new station will have, for the moment, no road or footpath access, thus ensuing any potential passengers will have to continue using Bronwydd Arms, further taxing the limited parking facilities currently in place. However, this increased attention and (hopefull) increased ridership levels is the only way to get the funding in place necessary to build the grand terminus and car-park the railway ultimately needs.

    It's a double-edged sword: the railway needs to extend but will have limited facilities until siad extension brings in the funds to allow for further development - it will certainly be an exciting time however, but one that will need to be handled with great care.
     
  13. I think you'll find some of our "heritage" lines have invested heavily in repair and replacement. The WSR will re-lay up to one mile of its running line each year; it has strengthened all its rail-over bridges and culverts and completely refurbished some bridges; buildings, canopies, platforms, pathways, car parks, level crossings, footpath crossings, signals, points are all subject to regular repair (and replacement/upgrade as appropriate). Not The expenditure is well into the seven-figure level. Without this expenditure, the railway simply could not operate safely. And I'm sure the WSR is by no means alone in this kind of proactive maintenance programme.

    Steve
     
  14. jnc

    jnc Well-Known Member

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    I think this is a good point, but it has been made before: the heritage community must be practical and make sure things are on a sound business footing, and not do anything unless the numbers add up right.

    For example, if the extension results in a connection to the national system, there are probably actual advantages to that. And, as many posters have pointed out, it definitely gives a focus for the volunteers which are so key to any heritage operation.


    I'm not sure this is an iron law of nature, just something that's highly likely, because the environment in which anything operates is never static, so for something to stay the same over a long period is unlikely. Yes, in times past, something like the village pub or parish church might go on for generations without significant change, but that sort of static societal situation is very rare in these times.

    The Other Noel
     
  15. pennysteam

    pennysteam New Member

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    Depends, if you are starting out or have short line, then it is not so much of an extension, more completing the line. However once you have operational size, with logical destinations, then you need to be carefully. Firstly extending beyond you shop, cafe, etc to nowhere is simply taking customers away at your own expense, away from the station you have invested in. On the hand if you have a situation like at peak rail, then connecting back to bakewell will bring a prize worth the investment as bakewell to Matlock links up to of the top visitor centres.
     
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  16. The Decapod

    The Decapod New Member

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    It all depends how desirable and achievable an extension is, and that obviously varies from one railway to another. Many shorter lines would obviously benefit from extension as visitors get a longer ride. An increasing number of larger railways probably regard themselves as 'complete', in terms of route mileage, so expansion ambitions would take other forms like improved facilities. I'm guessing that, with fixed costs included, it costs more per mile to run trains on short railways than on long ones.
     
  17. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    But you can charge more

    P.H.
     
  18. domeyhead

    domeyhead New Member

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    I can see some P-way wrath heading your way Paul! I don't share your fears in the area of track and signalling, since almost railways have a vibrant P-Way gang who spend all or almost all their time on "maintaining and renewing" what is already there (and then grumble about being unappreciated). Loco departments have long since had to deal with 10 year overhauls due to 10 year boiler tickets and so on, rather than on restoration, which is why so many engines have yet to be restored for the first time.
    Where I do entirely agree with you is civil engineering. There will come a time on all lines when a bridge or embankment becomes unsafe and the costs of repair are enormous. This has already crippled a couple of prosperous lines and it could easily kill a smaller line altogether so I agree with you entirely.
    Perhaps the only solution is for all preserved lines to pay into a common regeneration fund and also agree to share and collaborate on expensive machinery rather than duplicate their capital spending on similar items. I suspect such collaboration already takes place since preserved railways do not really compete with each other (yet).
     
  19. Ploughman

    Ploughman Well-Known Member

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    I think that on the NYMR we do have an appreciation of the work and cost involved in maintaining or renewing the infrastructure.
    Over the last couple of years on top of the well known Bridge 30 renewal
    We have also renewed another Bridge (7 in Pickering Platforms)
    Completely relaid in new material a crossover by the Troutfarm.
    Relaid with new rail and second hand sleepers on 3 sites.
    Reballast and increase the sleeper count on 2 more sites.
    Repadding, reinsulating and reclipping on 3 sites.
    Renewed lineside fencing.
    Rebuilt dry stone walls.
    Drainage work.
    Vegetation clearance.
    Then more routine maintenance such as plate oiling, inspection and patrol work.
    That is just on the PW side let alone any mention of S+T or Buildings etc.
     
  20. 21B

    21B Well-Known Member

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    One factor not mentioned so far is availability of money. Most railways probably experience the fact that people will donate readily to "totemic" projects, whether they be an extension or locomotive or whatever, but are less likely to give the same amount to the boring and mundane, such as repainting a station, or repairing a bridge. I am not saying they won't donate to those things, but ask most fundraisers, it's a harder sell. Providing that the "totem" doesn't deflect money that would have been available for something else more important, I don't have a big problem. The difficult part is ensuring that degree of separation.

    Regarding infrastructure spending, I think rather more of that is happening than you might think Paul. It doesn't tend to get much publicity though. It is also true to say that the rail wear issue is much less pronounced on std gauge for the most part, and the occasional visit from the rail grinder (on loan from the manufacturers for trial or recalibration) works wonders which are less available to the narrow gauge.
     

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