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SVR General Discussion

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by threelinkdave, Aug 20, 2014.

  1. Cuckoo Line

    Cuckoo Line New Member

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    I would suggest maybe the more successful ones are tourist attractions that recreate the past. If you,re not a tourist attraction then there won't be a railway to play with. Being a tourist attraction that recreates the past means interacting with the public to explain the past etc. Certainly some railways seem good at this and have volunteers who seem to love to talk to the public.
     
  2. Gladiator 5076

    Gladiator 5076 Well-Known Member

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    And to a point I guess it depends which "past" you are trying to create.
    I suspect the grandparents generation may be looking to show what the world looked like when they were young.
    Parents and non enthusiast tourists may well just want a ride "on a steam train" on coaches that do not look like what is in use on the modern railway . i.e. that actually have a level of comfort and some fresh air.
    I doubt either of those two groupings much care if the stock is a BR Mk 1 or a GWR coach.
    The disconnect is that enthusiasts may want more and may support/join to achieve more. That may as Martin pointed out just to take photographs (although personally I am surprised any line still allows lineside passes in this litigious world).
    I do not know how you bridge this disconnect as most of the monetary income will come from the former rather than the latter these days I suspect.
    The model of the late 20th century probably no longer works, but I am not sure what replace it, although I guess the P&DR makes a success of the "steam train ride concept", although in their case they also have the boat option to add on as well.
     
  3. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    I'd suggest a leitmotif seems to be creeping managerialism and the ideology of New Public Management to make railways more 'business like'.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2021
  4. 61624

    61624 Well-Known Member

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    I see it as much the same thing. Perhaps there's something about railways that makes them more difficult but I look at places like Beamish, Crich and the Black Country museums as being commercialised tourist attractions that haven't sacrificed their core preservation values in search of commercial success.

    All but the oldest heritage railways were founded post 1968 and hence had little choice but to fill their operating needs with locos from Barry and Mk 1 carriages so all too many lines offer much the same but we have moved on since and it has been demonstrated that although it takes time the earlier vehicles that were saved can be restored and used to increase the local flavour. I'm not necessarily suggesting that they are ideal for everyday use or that they should be used in that way most of the time but it would be a good selling point for any railways able to run their services using pre-BR stock on special occasions - and this comment applies to goods wagons as well as carriages. Obviously its harder with locos given the limited selection that made it to Barry, but most lines have at least a couple of engines typical of the one that worked there in steam days.
     
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  5. 3ABescot

    3ABescot Member

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    Yes, afraid so. Just count the buzzwords and try to think what it really means:e empire building, more managers than doers, inflated costs and the replacement of common sense by box-ticking. Not that it didn't focus minds to start with, but got out of hand as the plausible wafflers took over. I'm thinking of my own experiences in other areas but it's certainly there in preservation too.
     
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  6. mdewell

    mdewell Well-Known Member

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    I can sympathise with that viewpoint. I'm less fussed about the regional differences, but my nearest heritage railway often runs 4-6-0 steam locos and Co-Co diesel electrics on what used to be a light branch line that never had anything bigger than small tank engines. Nice to see stuff being preserved but it doesn’t float my boat.
    (Which is a bit hypocritical of me as I spent several years driving a DMU along the same line in the early days. Hardly authentic, but it was all we had at the time.)
     
  7. 21B

    21B Part of the furniture

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    Not sure I understand your point. Do you think heritage railways shouldn't be managed? Is it a bad thing if they focus on their stakeholders? Most of this forum surely argues the opposite?

    I think the task facing most lines is to become relevant to as wide a group of people as possible. Only by being first and foremost successful educational charities can we hope to survive to the future.

    Most heritage railways have been under managed. Most are not successful enough in their "museum" function.

    More management is needed and it needs to be stakeholder focussed. Because we all want these lines to be there 50years from now and there are many challenges to face.

    If you are claiming that there is poor management out there then I don't doubt that. If youre suggesting that we need to make sure that it remains fun, I completely agree. But the focus on the stakeholder....surely that is essential?
     
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  8. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    Hi, no I agree with you. I think the focus on the stakeholders is being lost to a culture of management that does not value stakeholders (volunteers, members, shareholders, passengers (in all their forms)). To be concise - the point about managerialism is that it prioritises the values of managers above stakeholders and NPM comes from the public sector from the 1980s onwards when managers started to try to make organisations such as say the NHS more 'business like' and lost sight of the raison d'etre of the organisation.

    In short in NPM and managerialism the only stakeholders who matter are the managers.

    So what I am saying is that there is a creeping management culture which has lost sight of the raison d'etre for the railway(s) and also no longer values the stakeholders, or indeed credits their views with any weight, and instead prioritises the values of managers. Hopefully that makes sense.
     
  9. 46137

    46137 New Member

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    You're absolutely right - well said! To go back to something I said in an earlier posting, you have to blend commercialism and romance for these railways to work. They are the sand and cement that make up the mortar without which the edifice will collapse.

    By all means go for family day visitors and family-oriented extravaganza events, but don't forget that these people are largely ephemeral, and that it's the volunteers - stakeholders, if you like - who provide the backbone. Not to understand this is dangerous - and incomprehensibly stupid.
     
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  10. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    The primary purpose of the majority of heritage railways is quite simply to provide enjoyment for its volunteers and supporters as, without this, they wouldn’t exist.
     
  11. MellishR

    MellishR Part of the furniture Friend

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    How about a batch of cast iron warning notices with some such wording, to be placed on a wall in each meeting room used by the boards/trustees/directors/whoever of certain railways? This forum makes very clear that a few railways are surviving at present by the efforts of the volunteers and supporters despite the managements.
    Obviously paying visitors are equally essential for anything more than an extremely small scale operation, but all managements do seem to understand that, even if they are less effective than they might be in achieving it.
     
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  12. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    I think there is an inherent tension between hierarchy and inclusivity. On the one hand railways are very hierarchical (formally and informally) and dependent on deference to authority. On the other they are diverse organisations with a multitude of stakeholders without whom the railway would struggle to function. Stakeholders is everyone from the volunteers (including those who do the unsexy stuff like staffing shops), members who maybe never visit, shareholders, the regular visitor, the families who visit for a day out, all of whom the railway is for and can not be without.

    And of course bills have to be paid to have trains to run and to have the nice to haves. Safety and financial issues need to be managed in a professional manner.

    As we can see people are very passionate about things but at the same time, as the WSRA AGM shows, there is also a lot of low/non-engagement with anything that is seen to be 'politics'.

    With so many and often divergent interests, management is a careful balancing act. Sadly, some railway managements are failing to do this.

    Against a backdrop of covid, railways have been asking more from members, supporters, visitors (higher prices and less flexibility) and I think some may think 'You can not keep treating me like a cash cow to be milked and then reduce my feed and still expect me to still produce more.'

    As a counter-point an example of good management - there is another line which recently appointed a new GM from outside, one of the first things they did was to try to meet with all volunteers individually by phone, email, zoom, not only to introduce themselves but to listen to concerns, establish strong individual relationships, build trust and to make people feel valued.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2021
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  13. gios

    gios Member

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    In simple terms I would call that 'playing trains'. That requirement alone will not maintain a Heritage Railway into the future. In fact just the opposite.

    The most important consideration is the bottom line. Without the figures being robust and significant there will be no Railway to enjoy. The whole scene has evolved in time from the original ambitions of hundreds of thousands of wonderful enthusiasts determined to preserve some Railways in the way in which they remembered them. A commendable aim and eventually a very significant achievement.

    Time, evolution and legislation unfortunately waits for no man or Railway. Whilst the ever decreasing number of enthusiasts who remember steam play a very important role, the industry has to make changes if it is to survive into the future. 41637 has made the point very eloquently. Why not maintain and keep the historical aspect as much as possible - pole lines anyone? Enthusiasts and supporters demands and enjoyment needs blending with the casual visitor to make the finances work. Many volunteers and supporters enjoy making visitors to 'their Railway' have an enjoyable experience. These days visitors demand and expect much more than people did 70 odd years ago on their day out -toilets, food, a BR sandwich is no longer acceptable. The outstanding point is that Management understands the importance of support away from the fare box, from volunteers who's efforts run a great deal of the Railway, and reduce costs, and those, sometimes also volunteers who are prepared to put their hands in their pockets, some repeatedly in times of need to support their Railway. These people deserve great respect and support, as do those who went before.

    To ignore those simple requirements would be less than courteous and a grave error of Management responsibility. The future of Heritage Railways demands this understanding for their future survival.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2021
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  14. MellishR

    MellishR Part of the furniture Friend

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    "Playing trains" alone will of course not achieve survival; but neither will paying visitors if there are no trains to ride on. Both are essential; and so are various behind-the-scenes activities such as safety management. Neglect any of these components and you're in serious trouble.
    This thread suggests that the SVR management has recently allowed attention to stray away from the volunteers. Some other railways' managements have neglected their finances, their infrastructure or their contractual obligations. It may be difficult to give sufficient attention to every component, but neglecting any of them invites failure of the whole enterprise.

    Edit: corrected a typo
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2021
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  15. Bikermike

    Bikermike Member

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    I think the successful railways are the ones that create an image of the past. It's not the truth, if any railway was that busy, it wouldn't have closed. Where are the goods trains, the pollution, the industrial accidents, etc? The past was nothing like as nice as our rose-tinted spectacles make it seem. There is a very insidious nostalgia industry that panders an idealised idea of a rural, propserous society that was free of all manner of imperfections that actually existed. My Grandad worked on the railways and was traumatised by seeing a friend of his crushed to death in a shunting accident, you don't see that being reenacted do you? Terry Essery talks about working himself to almost collapse, and of colleagues losing toes.

    It's railway as theatre/entertainment. And there's nothing wrong with that, but don't ever confuse it with historical accuracy.

    The management point is interesting. There is more management than before. That's the same everywhere. To keep trains running, the railways have to engage with regulators, insurers, local authorities etc. You can't do that unless you speak the language they do. You have to have safeguarding policies, health and safety policies etc, if you don't a single incident could bury you (the South Devon is a particularly lucky example there). People learn best from experience, but the stakes are too high on this stuff to do that.

    Let's turn the question round - do volunteers give management the credit they deserve? How many trains could you operate if the ORR/HSE shut the railway down? There is a communication gap, but all parties need to come to the table
     
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  16. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    Visitors are a means to an end. They provide the income for me to enjoy my hobby and I can't think of another hobby where others pay for you to enjoy it and take part. I can get plenty of enjoyment working an empty stock train and those doing PW, S&T etc can also get their enjoyment without them. If we were multi-millionaires, we wouldn't need them. I aren't so I need them . However, part of my, and many other peoples' enjoyment, is giving others an enjoyable time and, for some of our volunteers, visitors are essential to give them that enjoyment. Because I/we need them, we have to play by the rules. It is a complex interaction but I still stand by my previous statement.
     
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  17. Bikermike

    Bikermike Member

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    Even Bob McAlpine needed cash to fund his trainset.

    I think it's also worth noting that most railways also need at very least the goodwill of local authorities, who expect a return on their support in terms of ammenity.

    This doesn't change the validity of Steve's statement, but it's worth remembering who you are beholden to.

    It's like when I went bike-racing. It's annoying to have restrictions on when we can run race engines (doubly so at Donington), but when you can hear a racetrack many miles away, it's important to remember we are imposing on others.
     
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  18. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    I don't think that anyone is disputing the need for professional management. (professional meaning competent not necessarily paid). There are enough horror stories out there. The days of gifted amateurs muddling through is long gone. H&S, large grant applications, legal responsibilities etc all require a lot of skills most volunteers do not have.

    But let's take it back to first principles - the issue here at the SVR is how stakeholders are being engaged with and communicated with by the current management. No one is disputing the need to plug the financial black hole, however, when there is no obvious engagement or discussion and just a policy imposed, then those who are subject to it are going to feel alienated, taken for granted and ignored. Given that lines do depend on volunteers and punters (including photographers who give lines lots of free publicity with their photos), that is not a good way to manage tricky issues. If you are managing a difficult situation you want to bring people with you, not alienate them.
     
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  19. 46137

    46137 New Member

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    I wonder if this thread is being looked at by some of the folks who should be taking it to heart. I hope so.
     
  20. 61624

    61624 Well-Known Member

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    On top of that it's also important to recognise that there are quite a few subsets of people in the category of volunteers/supporters, many of whose interests span different areas, so it would be a risky strategy to favour one group over another.
     

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