No. 37 - p61

© JUNE 1971


    Enthusiast talk recently seems to centre around preservation schemes. Naturally enough the smaller industrial locomotives are the most popular, and if you happen to have a narrow gauge steam locomotive lying around you are sure of being able to find an eager buyer. Locomotives that one could have bought for £30 scrap value ten or twenty years ago now change hands for something like £1,000. It is all a little hectic, and a number of the more venturesome have imported locos from overseas, so that if anything, the narrow gauge steam locomotive population has gone up over the last two years!

    This is good news, except that money and reason do not always go hand in hand. Appeals for funds continue to appear, the most amazing aspect (to our way of thinking) being the size of the sums requested. Good news again, perhaps, if sound schemes can be run to keep a representative selection of industrial locomotives in working order. However, certain weaknesses appear in many preservation schemes.

    Back in 1950 when the Talyllyn set the preservation ball rolling, the aim was simply to keep the railway going. The Festiniog followed, and was among the first to receive ‘white elephant' locos on its premises in the shape of the Peckett from Harrogate Gasworks and KIDBROOKE. The Talyllyn meanwhile succeeded in containing all its non-working stock in a museum, where they are well kept, but nearly all other schemes have suffered from an abundance of non-working exhibits (many unworkable), which have been collected without the corresponding ability, finance and equipment to maintain them. There are signs of an awakening realisation of the danger of collecting without due thought to future upkeep, and one or two locos without a home look like being broken up to pay the costs that they have incurred.

    But we feel organisers could well give thought to one further point. There is now an increasing tendency to treat preservation schemes as personal hobbies where officials and society members can go to play trains and "tinker", The Leighton Buzzard scheme is one which we have commended, and still commend, but we have heard of enthusiasts being cold-shouldered when offering to help on much needed track maintenance; and we could instance other lines with a similar outlook. Perhaps we are wrong, and all these lines are giant "N" gauge lines on which we have to pay to work. Perhaps it is no longer a labour of love alone to be rewarded by the sight of steam at work, but the new form of recreational toy. But if we are right then wake up any errant officials and societies wherever you may be. Appeals for donations don’t go down too well if one knows that help is not wanted in other forms: you should be able to utilise all help offered. One has only to look around most preservation depots to see a multitude of jobs that need doing. It is quite clear that more hands are required to do the work, but at the same time there needs to be much better organisation of effort. The results show clearly on the professionally-managed lines, and the Societies would do well to emulate them. People pay to ride behind working locomotives but. contrary to optimistic belief, few prefer to see a collection of unkempt static exhibits.

    "The Manchester Ship Canal, it is officially announced, will be opened throughout on the 1st of January next. Mr W. H. Bailey stated at a recent meeting of the Salford Town Council that the company was fishing dead dogs and cats out of the canal at the rate of 250 a month."

("The Railway Engineer." November 1893.KPP)

    "A FAKIR, wearing more than a hundredweight of iron chains and bands on him, recently left the cantonment station at Meerut. The railway authorities declined to allow him to travel as a passenger, but sent him as goods by weight, in spite of his argument that native women were never charged for their anklets and bangles. The iron absorbed the heat so much that the man had to be incessantly sprinkled with water."     ("Iron," 17th June 1892.KPP)

    "SHIPLEY COLLIERY.After a train has left Nutbrook Junction for the Colliery, a second train must not be allowed to leave for the Colliery until the first has returned to the full sidings and is clear of the running line. The engine of the Colliery Company will take wagons between the Colliery and the sidings at Nutbrook only. it must not at any time be upon or foul the Railway Company’s running line, nor must it be upon or foul the sidings when the Railway Company’s engine is there or due to be there."

(LNER. Southern Area, Sectional Appendix dated 1st November 1947.KPP)