This blog thing may just be turning into a rant thing…
Still if it helps vent my spleen on things who cares.
Why is it that this project has to battle against everything? We’ve an idea, we’ve a reasonable amount of support, and its growing, we have a clear plan, and, given the means to do it we have a very high chance of doing it, as planned, and in our timescale.
How many other railway preservation projects can say that? Possibly lots, and that’s the point…
News arriving to me is that the board of Llangollen Railway are less than accepting of our project. They have asked for a business plan, which is OK, but we are the first such group to be asked to do this, and not just because of the uniqueness of the project. At this stage in the job we don’t need anything from them more than an accepting face. Yes in a few months we need 30′ of space, and later we need 60′ of space, but this is in a shed that we (5199 project) have contributed to, in a workshop we have helped negotiate 40,000 pounds worth of business over the next few years, NOT including the contract work we plan on offering to them. Its as though these, and other things, that have gone before now count for nothing.
They talk of being more commercial, of having less ‘crap’ on the sites, but have forgotten that the railway preservation scene relies on volunteer labour, over many years, in projects that are done purely for love (read commercial disasters) to survive. They, the Railway, have to provide attractive stations, clean carriages, safe and inviting environments both on and off train. They have to entice the customers back by providing the ‘entertainment’ whether that be special events or unique ‘customer experience’, but, there is really only one thing that attracts the paying visitor, and that is a steam locomotive at the front of the train.
Granted, a proportion of the customers any railway attracts are enthusiasts, and is a market that we intend to tap into with our project, and a proportion, maybe even a growing one, are diesel orientated, but the overwhelming majority of customers that any heritage railway needs, or wants, on its seats are Joe Public, and Joe Public wants to see a steam train on the front of the train.
That steam loco at the front will almost certainly have been restored and maintained with a very high proportion of donated money via a variety of sources. It is almost certainly be at the very best breaking even, including the donated part of its income, and is the very reason that many people are involved in preservation. Customers want to see it, enthusiasts want to see it, photographers want to see it, people are often members of the locomotive owning group, and by spin off maybe members of its ‘home’ base, and finally the crew, including maintenance, are there because of the locomotive.
We are backing a project to create, not restore, a new steam loco. Not a unique project, but one that still has a very high ‘novelty’ value. We are creating a unique locomotive, there are no longer any originals, that fact appeals to the enthusiast. We are creating a named tender locomotive, immediate ‘Joe Public’ appeal. We are creating a locomotive type that is ideally suited to the heritage railways for operating requirements. We are immediately offering the status of association to our project, ‘home of the ‘Grange’ project’ or ‘come and see a NEW steam locomotive being built in our workshop’, and any associated draw (read commercial opportunities here)that this can provide.
But this, it appears counts for nothing at Llangollen.
For me the salt in the wound is the acceptance to use the railway workshop as our registered company address 12 months ago, and the board level acceptance of the project a few years ago, and now the demands on justification to be based there. This, to me goes against any professional, commercial, or business, sense or acceptable practice. Quentin, Will and others are equally disappointed because of the work, time, money and involvement that they have put into Llangollen over the years in various projects now count for nothing.
EGH and the tiny minds on the board may yet get to see their commercial dream of a railway running over 7 miles of spectacular scenery, from point A to nowhere, with motive power provided entirely by diesel railcar, run by paid staff, offering no customer facilities other than the thrill of a 1950’s DMU, run down stations and no paying customers.
Shades of BR circa 1955 – 1985 anyone?
On one thing I’m sure, this project, and proberley several others, will not be based there, and if it was to go to the vote now, I’d be taking a long hard look at our commitment to staying there. If a good option was to appear now, would give it very serious consideration.