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West Somerset Railway General Discussion

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by gwr4090, Nov 15, 2007.

  1. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    @FrankC. I wouldn't wish to comment on what has been done. What you describe is clearly of merit. Neither do I have a view about the pace of change. You do what you can with the resources you have, both financial and human.

    What depresses me is the attitude of the WSSRT to the prospect of change when clearly the Railway as a whole is in a mess or has just been brought back from the brink by the chairman of the PLC, dependent on your point of view.

    There is something rather too precious for me about a charity that sees problems around it but wants to be left alone to carry on doing what it is doing because it judges that there is no way forward that might enhance its capability further. And the strident tone of it all speaks volumes for me.
     
  2. FrankC

    FrankC Well-Known Member

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    Again, Al, I appreciate it may look like this from the outside. But the reality is that the Trust is involved in a wide range of cross-WSR matters at both formal and informal levels. And the impression that all this is a cosy group of the in-crowd is also false. If one wants, there are many ways to get involved in WSR management, but most people - no disrespect - tend to back away when they find out what the work actually involves. Believe me, most of it is grinding hard work, and you need to have a pretty thick skin (this much must be evident to any reader of NP). Like most things it has its up side, but in the last few months of the pandemic they have been few and far between.

    My view is that much of the present problem has been about how the proposed involvement of the Ten has emerged. Looked at from the trustees point of view, what happened was that without warning, or any discussion, a group of ten people put themselves forward, pretty much at the last minute, on a joint prospectus which didn't seem at the time to be much about making the Trust better, but rather about pursuing an agenda which was about wider issues. In other words using the Trust as a platform for other matters. I'm afraid if you had wanted to design a strategy which was likely to cause maximum angst and opposition, this would have been a good one. I appreciate that West Somerset may seem like a foreign country to some, but generally speaking, this is not a strategy that is likely to lead to calm rational conciliatory discussion in this part of the world. One step at a time is much more likely to get results.

    If members of this group succeed in being elected, I think most of the present active group of volunteers in the Trust will simply walk away, because they will see themselves superseded and having nothing to offer - this has been what existing active Trust members have been hearing. Building bridges has rather a hollow ring. And this cannot be good for any organisation.
     
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  3. ross

    ross Well-Known Member

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    Frank, this post of yours is remarkable for its tone - few messages from the 'not the ten' side are quite so reasonable. I do understand the points you are making, and whilst I doubt the approach of the ten potential trustees was actually designed to be antagonistic, clearly that was the effect.

    May I, politely draw your attention to this part of your post:
    And simply ask where the present volunteers might have heard this from?
     
  4. Lineisclear

    Lineisclear Member

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    I fully understand the frustration. Perhaps things would be less tense if the railway were running. I won't go into the reasons why that might be the right decision in the circumstances. To be honest I don't know but I recognise that re-opening requires substantial resources and has its risks. In the meantime those who desperately want to return and to see the railway running vent their pent up frustration.
    I'm reassured that the future of the WSSRT is going to be decided by its members. There may not be a specific merger proposal on the agenda but surely everyone is aware in voting what the alternative consequences of their choice of Trustees implies? Whether their decision is, right or wrong, they have the choice at the next AGM to define the Charity's future direction of travel. I just hope that the members' verdict is accepted without further challenge.
    As to whether smaller charities can co exist and fundraise successfully alongside a larger one there seem to be numerous examples of that working on other heritage railways. On the NYMR we have a number of affiliated charities who all support and enhance the railway. They manage to fundraise successfully while the recent performance of the NYMR Trust in securing almost £7million in grants suggests the model can work very well. As has been suggested on here the most important thing is culture. Is it supportive and collaborative or confrontational? Sadly there seems to be a lot of the latter about at the moment
     
  5. Andy Norman

    Andy Norman Part of the furniture

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    John, I don't know much if anything about the NYMR, I only know they as you say can attract large grant funding amounts so clearly what they do works. Could you please define what you mean by 'affiliated charities' who support the railway?

    I've of course explained what I have been told in that its not good to have 'competing charities', i.e. two or more Charities who hold the remit for fund raising 'for the railway' and cross over on the core remit as the WSRA & WSSRT currently do.

    However nobody I've spoken to has seen an issue with other charities fund raising for their own but associated remit on the railway, i.e. the S&DRT, DEPG etc. which could be described as 'affiliated'. It's a small but important difference and it could even allow the WSSRT in the future to do if they decide to, i,e, they could give the WSR Education/heritage/museum remit back as a part of the 'railway remit' but perhaps become the "GWR Carriage Charity" which would not compete with but could support the WSR.

    Is that what the NYMR have, or do you have two Charities that could be seen by funders as competing but still somehow make work, and if so how do they do that ?

    Regarding your preference for talking things out over a pint, clearly we are not going to agree with each other in many things but when Covid is over, the pubs open again and you are down this way I'd be more than happy to buy you a pint or three.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2020
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  6. 60044

    60044 Member

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    There is only one main charity linked to the Plc in the case of the NYMR - the NYMHRT with the York Area Group a separate one that has done a lot of fundraising but has not played a major role in grant applications; The other charities associated with the NYMR such as the LNERCA, NELPG and H &BRSF are independent but support the Trust and Plc.
     
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  7. D1039

    D1039 Well-Known Member

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    It's not uncommon on heritage lines Andy, here's another example with 10 plus the main trust

    Patrick
     
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  8. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    To give you a counter example (to show there isn’t a one size fits all), on the Bluebell, I believe the only independent charity based at the railway is the Howlden Trust (who own the GNR Directors’ Saloon).

    There are several independent Loco-owning groups (notably the Maunsell Loco Society; Bulleid Society and Camelot Society) which are not charitable. However, donations to those groups can be routed via the Bluebell Railwaay Trust into designated funds. So in practical terms they gain the benefits of being a charity but without some of the administrative overhead.

    Interestingly, there were until comparatively recently two independent loco-owning charities on the railway. Separately, both of them wound themselves up and transferred their assets (Nos. 263 and 592) into the Bluebell Railway Trust. In doing so, they enhanced the objectives of the original charities by unlocking funds to see their locos overhauled more rapidly. Certainly what seems to work for us is to have a single large, non-membership, charity with individual groups having their own ring-fenced funds within the overall charity.

    Tom
     
  9. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    Just dropped in to check that not too many people are tearing their hair out on here and have discovered a whole range of recent, measured and information comments drawing on real life scenarios about the way that charities work on other railways.

    Wouldn't wish to 'side' with any particular view but it is refreshing to see the open exchange and you do begin to hope that even at this late stage people may be able to stand back a bit from what is being said to, as I said earlier, not take such a precious view about their particular solution to the current difficulties.

    It strikes me that it would help so much to be able to isolate those who are intransigent and narrow in their outlook from those from across the range of opinion and influence who are prepared to consider all options, even the nuclear ones, to vote for what is genuinely the best way forward rather than apply the 'not invented here and don't want it' rule.

    Good luck with that.
     
  10. Platform 3

    Platform 3 Well-Known Member

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    I think that we are likely to see a continuing process of consolidation of railway-based charities, particularly as loco owning groups decide that they don't have the energy or resources for another overhaul and fold into other larger groups. The recent acquisition of 5164 by the Erlestoke Manor Fund being an example, whilst other railways seek to purchase locomotives themselves - the IOWSR and NYMR showing this route.

    Of course there is a significant difference between charities BASED on a railway, which may provide resources to it, to charities which exist to SUPPORT a railway. This is where I cannot think of another railway where two charities have such similar objects in support of the same railway as at the WSR with the WSRA and the WSSRT. They clearly have to be seen in a different light to, in the WSR's case, the DEPG and SDRT.

    Sent from my SM-G770F using Tapatalk
     
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  11. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Quite, you have said it much more clearly than I could.

    Tom
     
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  12. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    Perhaps the form is not so important but the governing culture of the railway? You can have all these different forms and they work because there is a positive culture. No one is looking over their shoulder worrying that they might be turfed out. Senior officials serve the railway rather than see the railway as serving them.

    There was also this thread a while back looking at different structures on railways.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2020
  13. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    Any sign of preparations to reopen the railway for the Santa Specials?
     
  14. mdewell

    mdewell Member

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    You are apparently assuming that someone on the HRA Board, or otherwise empowered to speak on their behalf, reads this forum. . . .
    AFAIK neither myself or Lineisclear are in a position to do so. If you want a formal response from the HRA, then I suggest you contact them via their website https://www.hra.uk.com/contact-1
     
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  15. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    Ironic I suppose that at the top of the home page on the WSRA website is a very nice picture of Washford station will full S&D trimmings
     
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  16. Andy Norman

    Andy Norman Part of the furniture

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    I totally agree that the culture is the issue and you and @Jamessquared are right in saying there is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution.

    To focus for a moment on the one large scale grant funding piece of this giant jigsaw puzzle which is the WSR, that somebody needs to put back together.

    We are all viewing this from our perspective where we see a need for many Charities which suit our internal purposes, locos, coaches, museums, stations, the potential combinations are endless and that’s fine. But if we focus on the need for large scale grant funding alone we have to see it from the Grant Funders view. They don’t know who any railway is, how they are made up, what the history is, they also don’t see the need for the complexities and perhaps they don’t care. All they see is ‘A Railway’ as one entity with investable resources they can use their money on.

    They only want to know:
    • Who is the XXXX Railway ?,
    • Who’s in charge and who controls it ?
    • Who are we dealing with and are they the people who can carry out our project ?
    • How do we ensure we deal with the Charity with the best chance of success without somebody else re-directing it into something we didn’t agree on ?
    • Does the Charity we are dealing with represent ‘the railway’ and control its direction ?
    These are important because their money needs to be used on their project (which of course we design for them), the minute they get confused it instils doubt and the potential of another competing charity running the railway who they don’t have a relationship with.

    Looking quickly at the replies here for the NYMR, SVR & Bluebell I can see a theme, that is: If a large funder asks “I have a £1 million for a project, who is the main controlling Charity who can make this happen without another Charity or the Operating Company being able to ‘trump’ them and stop it or change it ?” I think the NYMR, SVR & Bluebell from what I see here could say: “its xxx”. The fact that there are other Charities doing other good works supporting the Railway is not a concern to the funder. And indeed the fact they do and can also issue letters of support for the main charity saying they can do things in support is an advantage (I had letters of support from all internal charities & groups for the HPC bid and it helped).

    The issue in my opinion is that with the WSR you don’t have that either culturally or operationally. Two examples are:
    • The WSRA accepted the HPC bid as ‘the railway Charity’ with the PLC agreeing in writing, and to complete the activities in the bid and receiving the money for that as a part of the bid. The project started and then something changed in the PLC, they when just said 'no' and the WSRA did not have the authority or control or power to stop that happening. We internally can say it was right or wrong for the PLC to do that, but the outcome was the same, the Grant Funder paid their money but didn’t get their project as they intended and due to the stalemate within the WSR nobody could alter that and that lead to failure.
    • The WSRA had its HPC project and the WSSRT had its HLF project, they conflicted in parts. Both Charities had as a result their own ‘Community Engagement Managers’ each funded under separate competing projects. They competed with each other for the same schools (of course a whole other story in how the schools were treated) and the same ‘customers’ in the community as both were community engagement projects in overview. The WSR just about got away with that this time because the two ladies concerned were good, saw the issues and dealt with it between themselves, whilst the two Charites Managements were arguing by saying “we have the education remit, no we do, etc.etc.”.
    As I see it and I’m happy to be corrected whilst I’m sure nothing on any railway is perfect this situation of two competing charities neither of which can manage the operating company would not happen on the other railways here?

    Am I right in saying the solution taken from the one separate Grant Funding aspect alone needs to give the external funders a clear line of sight to guaranteed success with a Charity who have the ability and authority to ensure nobody else derails their project, not a PLC controlling a charity, or two or three 'railway charities'. Whilst the detail of how many Charities and how they support the main railway/charity is not that important and can be much more flexible to suit the needs of each railway group internally.

    Personally I think after having discussed this with many people behind the scenes in the WSR, this is the bit some don’t appreciate and has driven such comments as; ‘If the 10 get in then we can never fund raise ever again and we will have to close the museums’, which is simply wrong, but perhaps it stems from each side not listening to the others views and the fear of change.

    Much more debate and understanding is required, perhaps everybody is not as for apart as they think and I personally can see a situation where the current people in the WSSRT who are concerned somebody else is going to stop them doing what they want to do in Volunteering (which they should be allowed to do) can be defused to the satisfaction of all.

    Steps off a rapidly wearing out soapbox, yet again.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2020
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  17. martin1656

    martin1656 Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    Its certainly project fear, support us( me) or the railway folds, Support us ( me and my friends) or the ten new trustees will close everything down, its chicken and egg situation, for there to be change those blocking change have to be removed, some have gone voluntarily , some such as the board members of the PLC will have to be forced out , then and only then can a new chapter begin, that's why I feel the two charities that have shares in the PLC have to act together, to bring about a new board, and then, and only then can the railway move forward, ideally then the idea off either having one charity including the shareholders be put to a vote of all members and shareholders, possibly have two, or three options, stay as things are, but with more working together, a steering group to take care of grants etc, a whole new charity replacing all support organisations, and the merged WSRA/ WSSRT renamed and with representatives of outside groups, having a voice at the table through a representative.
     
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  18. D1039

    D1039 Well-Known Member

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    Thinking back, the GCR had the MLST and David Clarke Trust. The MLST merged itself into the David Clarke Trust so that was one charity.

    Patrick
     
  19. MellishR

    MellishR Part of the furniture Friend

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    A lot of good sense has been written in the last day or so (so thank you to all those contributors) but some things remain unexplained.

    The end point apparently desired and intended by all parties is to have a body that represents the interests of volunteers, donors and grant-givers and has overall control of the company that runs the railway.

    One possible structure to achieve that (the one that some of us perceive as "evolution") is for the controlling body to be formed by merging two of the present charities which, between them, hold enough shares in the present PLC to give de facto control. There seems now to be a variant of that plan, with a newly constituted charity that absorbs the present two, but the effect seems much the same. Only two objections have been raised to that plan: that it would cause all manner of problems that are not clearly explained; and (the fear on the part of the WSSRT Trustees) that it would amount to the end of the WSSRT, which could no longer carry out its objectives. Several of us on here have asked for this fear to be explained and pointed out that the new, enlarged, charity would be better able to procure resources for restoration of coaches, but the Trustees have failed to respond.

    The other possible structure is a new charity with a new operating company as its subsidiary. That has very obvious drawbacks. The PLC itself has stated that this scheme would cost a lot of money. Some of the PLCs supporters have argued that the PLC "is the only show in town" with the authority to run a railway, so the new company would need new authority; perhaps that is why this scheme would be so expensive. It has not been clearly explained how the money would be found, but it seems to involve borrowing money to buy the freehold, then using the freehold as security to borrow even more money. How would those loans ever be paid off?
     
  20. martin1656

    martin1656 Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    In answer to the last question, by selling off increasingly larger plots of railway land to developers, I would imagine the initial money to purchase the freehold will come with strings, the railway could potentially be owned by a redevelopment company, that will take things like station sites, if the loans were not repaid, when due. the larger sites would certainly be profitable, the narrow strip of land the railway runs on, possibly not so, either way it's a very risky option,
     

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