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Photo Charters and Photography on Heritage Railways

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by I. Cooper, Mar 4, 2021.

  1. Gladiator 5076

    Gladiator 5076 Part of the furniture

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    At the risk of continuing the drift into photo charters there are many lines SVR, MHR, Bluebell, and my local Swanage spring to mind as a few where if the existing lineside access is not available would folks still support an event "from the right side of the fence", say from farmers fields if permission had been obtained. You could probably do all the same things, run pasts, station shots, night shots, the stock you want to make it all "look right" or is it purely the access to normal no go areas that appeal?
    I must admit I stopped attending a few years back when the prices began to rise significantly so unsure what does attract folks these days.
     
  2. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    I was thinking along similar lines, but I imagine (not ever having been on a photo charter) that the need to clamber up and down from the brake van whilst on the line would still be a no go, even if you're not setting up your tri-pod actually lineside. If the local roads are favourable then a minibus might be feasible I suppose, but that's going to increase costs and decrease flexibility.
     
  3. Gladiator 5076

    Gladiator 5076 Part of the furniture

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    I was thinking of access on by vehicle or on foot, no trains, some of that certainly used to go on even on old style charters.
     
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  4. Sidmouth

    Sidmouth Resident of Nat Pres Staff Member Moderator

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    you may wish to consider the practical issues of 20+ cars trying to park nearby to get access , hence the appeal of travelling by train .

    twenty four years and I have not had an issue with using ladders and alighting in section

    from an SVR perspective though the suggestion doesn't resolve in their mind the broader commercial issues .
     
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  5. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    That suggests to me that they just can't be arsed for the minimal financial return, which is a shame, because a lot of the best bits of heritage railways are the bits that don't give much financial return. :(
     
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  6. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    I read the quote from RailAdvent in a slightly different, and potentially more worrying, light.
     
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  7. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Indeed, it can be taken in different ways, with varying degrees of disappointment.
     
  8. Sidmouth

    Sidmouth Resident of Nat Pres Staff Member Moderator

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    the irony though is that they set the price (not me as event organiser)
     
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  9. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I'm not really sure that is viable.

    I haven't done a photo charter with a camera, but have done a few from the footplate. My experience is that the organiser (one I have worked with in particular, for obvious reasons) will have a number of locations in mind, typically thought out in terms of the light at the time of day you plan to be there. You go to the first, do a few run pasts, then everyone gets on board and you get to the next, which might be five minutes or so away; then repeat the process, slowly working your way between the planned locations. The issue with people driving / walking to a location is two fold. Firstly, convenient access might be a couple of miles away - so what is five minutes run by train becomes perhaps a twenty or thirty minute walk to the nearest road bridge; decamp into car or minibus, then drive to next access point which could itself be fifteen or twenty minutes walk away from the planned location. What starts as a few minutes between locations could easily turn into an hour between photos - I don't think it would be viable.

    Then the second, safety point, which is what do you do with the train if its next move is to head in the same direction as your photographers are walking to get to road access? You end up in a very uncontrolled situation in terms of being able to keep accurate tabs on where everyone is. I think if you did a risk assessment, the risks of climbing up and down using a ladder to gain access to a train would score significantly better than having a requirement for participants to walk between locations or access points.

    Ultimately I don't have much skin in the game, though I would be a bit sad if photo charters in particular were to disappear: I doubt they contribute anything much more than a nominal covering of costs in financial terms, but the goodwill is considerable. [A hard-pressed journal editor speaks...]

    Tom
     
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  10. Sidmouth

    Sidmouth Resident of Nat Pres Staff Member Moderator

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    I cannot add a great deal more to that . What I will say is that as organiser I have operating statements and risk assessments and I work very closely with the lines concerned to make sure the event is safely run . It is also worth adding good friends in Network Rail have given me a great deal of input and also I was very grateful to an ORR inspector for reviewing and sharing their thoughts too

    I do get the impression at times that we are seen as rank amateurs with no railway or maybe even business acumen who turn up at a railway , cause mayhem , totally oblivious to any safety matters and then leave , leaving a mess to be cleared up . Nothing could be further from the truth
     
  11. oldmrheath

    oldmrheath Well-Known Member

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    Every railway will make its own decision on the value of charters but when people talk about the value of filming contracts, charters surely represent a great way of advertising what a railway has to offer to film makers, be it a period scene at a station or classic locos and stock in the best locations a railway has to offer.

    People paying you to allow them to create your promotional material for you - worth a bit of time and effort to most businesses I would have thought?

    Jon
     
  12. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    How eloquently put!
     
  13. Fred Kerr

    Fred Kerr Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    As one who has attended many of Sidmouth's charters - and only stopped due to personal health reasons - I always found safety to be at the heart of the organisation whether it be in choice of locations or time taken for photographers to arrange their spots. Whilst saddened that the SVR has chosen to withdraw from the photo charter "market" I can only add my regret at the action but am aware that this is the result of pressure from outside the SVR hence the effect on photo charters may become more widespread as that pressure is exerted elsewhere. That means IMHO that the affected railways (and organisers) should receive sympathy for having to take this action and gratitude for having created past opportunities.
     
  14. I. Cooper

    I. Cooper Member

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    I think, as is often the case, claims about risk/safety are being used as a convenient excuse not to do something rather than a real reason. Risks can be mitigated or removed if there's a desire to do so. Having staff fall off locos in the shed can be addressed by simply using portable work platforms with steps and rails so staff aren't needing to clamber over locos and work from running boards directly.

    Ignoring that some photo locations can be accessed by walking off the end of existing platforms, having people detrain via a ladder shouldn't be seen as a massive obstacle seeing as every train carries such a ladder for an emergency evacuation of passengers should the need arise during normal operatioins. So a charter sees a day of practicing the railway's normal evacuation procedure at a variety of loctions along their property to ensure their procedure runs smoothly...

    If there's a concern about having 'large' numbers of non-railway personel trackside, then take steps to ensure they aren't! On Network Rail it isn't unusual to see temporary plastic fencing errected where they have contractors working clearing undergrowth from embankments/cuttings etc. which means where they're working is fenced off from the running lines and therefore workers are no longer 'track side'. Similar temporary fenced photographic compounds could be errected at the pre-planned locations, either in advance or hastily on arrival at the location and it becomes part of the procedure that railway operations/movements do not recommence until the fenced area has been errected and the location of all non-railway personel accounted for (eg. either inside it, or still on the train).

    Clearly such a situation won't help the two or three people who what to take photos in a different location, but it would remove any concerns of having a mob of 'untrained' people near running lines who might decide to cross operational lines just as a train's approaching etc.. I've been at events where a mob of photographers have sought permission and rushed forwards to strip out crowd barriers and fencing, manually ensured other passers by don't stray beyond permitted areas - taken photographs and then just as rapidly flocked in to rebuild the fencing back to how it was, so I'm sure if it became the solution to allowing a charter to go ahead there'd be (possibly too many!) willing hands to get things set up and taken down at each location. Obviously where the photographic view point is on adjoining land there's no problem other than ensuring the location of personel is ascertained before trains start moving again.

    It seems in this instance the railway has simply decided the financial income to the business's annual profits is too insignificant to bother supporting - their core money making business is selling train tickets, running a cafe and selling merchandise, so focus on that.

    I'm not really convinced of the true value to the railway of the results from such charters, you'll see some photos published in heritage magazines, but the readers of those are the enthusiasts who already know of the existence of a railway and seeing a nice photo of an obviously staged night-shoot or freight charter might attract them to book on another similar charter, but probably isn't going to draw them to just visit the railway as a standard customer, especially when it's obvious they aren't going to see that scene for themselves! If you look at the SVR's publicity in recent years, now their pamphlets and adverts feature smiling happy families - that's the image they want to portray, and that hasn't come from enthusiasts donating snaps, they'll have commissioned a commercial photographer and models/actors for the day to shoot a TV commercial for regional airing and staged photos of smiling happy picture perfect children running down a platform and enthusiastically climbing off the train after an amazing journey. In a similar manner, I don't think location scouts for the film/TV industry are going to pay much if any attention to the enthusiast photos from charters - they already know they can create whatever they want. With a larger lighting budget than your average charter organiser they can turn a branch line station into the appearance of a main line terminus, a few sidings can be shot to appear like a large marshalling yard, or in the case of Arley, a complete street of houses can appear across the station yard built on scaffolding. If they want to gauge the scenery around the line, well once again they don't need to see charter photographs for that, which is just as well because I suspect the vast majority of photographs taken at charter events are never published (which includes placing them on view online).
     
  15. Fred Kerr

    Fred Kerr Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    Whilst reasonable points are raised, the external bodies exerting the pressure have legal backing which enables them to take action which could more than wipe out any profit that a charter generates whilst also causing unnecessary use of time and finance that heritage lines could make better use of. This may be the "thin edge of a wedge" (or a hammer to crack a nut (sic) !). Whilst it is true that rules are "made for the guidance of wise men and the blind obedience by fools" there are occasions when the bullet must be bitten and appropriate action(s) taken. Sadly IMHO this is one such occasion.
     
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  16. Macko

    Macko Member

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    No Fred I am sorry, but that is absolutely not the case here. I will give a more considered reply, but the general manager of the SVR was extremely clear in her words "The income we receive from lineside passes and privately-run photo charters is insignificant when compared to the potential risk these activities naturally contain" (MY words RISK not actual issues, risk can be managed). "This means that to continue them makes little financial sense."
    Everything else is a smokescreen, the commercial side of the SVR clearly feel there was not enough margin so have put a ban in place. I also have to disagree with Martin, this is very much the SVR's decision and the level of sympathy is zero, it is simply following a theme of many decisions of late that at the SVR enthusiasts are not seen as an asset and clearly are just getting in the way of making more money.
     
  17. Fred Kerr

    Fred Kerr Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    I feel that you have not understood the full situation - given that the SVR has not (for commercial reasons IMHO) given the full background to the decision. The rationale for "insignificance" AIUI is that any income will be less than the penalties which will be incurred should legal action be taken hence the assessment that the risk of such action being taken outweighs any potential benefit of allowing both lineside passes and photo charters to continue. This is the SVR "risk assessment" and I presume that other heritage lines will take note of the SVR decision when making a risk assessment for their centres; in many cases the SVR is noted as a responsible body and their (measured) responses will be taken as a guideline by many other heritage lines in a similar situation.
     
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  18. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    This is a housekeeping note to say that discussion about photo charters and wider photography matters have been moved to this dedicated thread as a result of the SVR announcement linked to its Spring Event/Gala
     
  19. 1472

    1472 Well-Known Member

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    That comes across as if you somehow believe that individuals benefit financially from operating the SVR. Nothing could be further from the truth and the whole operation has to be based on generating sufficient ££s to keep the whole show on the road. To do that a whole range of (positive) financial inputs is necessary including folk putting their hands in their pockets. It has to be fully recognised that the enthusiast contingent of paying visitors is by far the minority. Thankfully though there are plenty of "normals" out there who are prepared to pay to ride who, in reality, are helping to underwrite our hobby on the scale at which it currently operates. The same applies to just about every heritage railway in the country (except the P&DR).
     
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  20. lostlogin

    lostlogin Member

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    Slightly perplexed by this as I would have though if they were making little financial sense the first option would be to increase charges so they do rather than just stop completely. Either those charges are to high so nobody books or some are still happy to pay and you get an acceptable financial return.

    I would have thought that the costs to run a photo charter are not much greater than hiring out a train for a private function or running a footplate experience that runs the line length with carriages. If they make economic sense I would have thought a photo charter at similar rates would but it may be that it is thought nobody would pay those rates for a photo charter.

    Ultimately it is up to each railway to decide what it wants to do/offer
     

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